why all the names?

Many people are starting to read the Bible right now.

There isn’t a sudden revival. It’s just that at the beginning of the new year, many people decide to start being more spiritual and they start by reading through the Bible.

Maybe they start with Matthew. Suddenly,  good intentions run into a list of names. (Matthew 1:1-17.)

Why all the names? I mean, a good writer doesn’t start with a list of unpronounceable names. It is off-putting to a reader. It is not good marketing.

Unless, however, you aren’t actually starting the story with a list of names.

Think instead of a forward to a book.

For the first readers, who knew many of the names,  this is like a biography where the forward says, “This unknown person is in the tradition of expert a and b and c.” A book of popular philosophy where the forward says, “I’ve known this person and can attest to his credentials.” The infomercial kind of book where all the degrees of all the people who use this product are listed on the cover.

The first sentence is a claim, a title: Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham.

The next sentences show how the claim is true, a list of relationships. Every name is a story. Every name is identity. Every name is passing on the promise and the dread and being a nation.

Some stories aren’t happy. Some stories are skipped (a generation or two). Some stories are controversial women.

But this is a way of starting a story with a context.

The first chapter isn’t to be interesting prose or compelling narrative. It’s to make a link for the audience that first read it.

The adventure starts in verse 18: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.”

2 thoughts on “why all the names?

  1. Pingback: Looking at the context. | 300 words a day

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