In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, he traces the lineage through four women who might have been stoned had people applied the Bible literally to them. Rahab was a prostitute, Tamar posed as a prostitute to seduce her father in law, Bathsheba was an adulteress, and Ruth, as a Moabite, was eternally barred from the temple because of incest in her history. Why would Matthew go out of his way to put these women in his genealogy?
The four women Matthew listed were brave souls struggling to survive in a patriarchial, sexist culture. Each one of them was faithful within the choices open to her. Biblical literalism condemns them, but the eyes of grace realizes that for humanity to be whole, every person is an irreplaceable piece of the puzzle. Matthew wanted the church to forever remember that, while literalists would cast these women out as “unclean,” grace knows we would not have Jesus without them.