Jesus’s grandmother is not named in the Bible, but based on the genealogies provided, she likely was one of two women: Estha or Melcha. We will explore what the Bible tells us about Jesus’s ancestors and make inferences about who his grandmother might have been.
Genealogies of Jesus in the Bible
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew traces Jesus’s genealogy from Abraham down to his father Joseph. It divides Jesus’s ancestors into three groups of 14 generations each, demonstrating how Jesus is the culmination of God’s covenant with Abraham and King David (Matthew 1:1-17).
The genealogy establishes Jesus’s credentials as the Messiah. A key detail is that Matthew only mentions four women – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and “the wife of Uriah” (Bathsheba). These were outsiders and sinners, foreshadowing how Jesus embraced society’s outcasts.
According to early Christian tradition, Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anna, who are not mentioned in the Bible.
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of Luke presents a different genealogy, tracing Jesus’s line all the way back to Adam. But instead of starting with Abraham, Luke begins with Jesus and works backwards to Adam and then God (Luke 3:23-38).
This universalizes Jesus’s ministry, establishing him as the redeemer of all humanity rather than just the Jews. Luke’s genealogy differs substantially from Matthew’s, but both establish Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s covenant.
A key detail in Luke is the mention of Jesus’s maternal grandfather Heli, presumed to be Mary’s father. But the Bible provides no further information about Jesus’s grandmother or other ancestors on his mother’s side.
Key Women in Jesus’s Genealogy
Not much is known about Estha, but she was believed to be one of the ancestors of Jesus mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. As the grandmother of King David’s father Jesse, Estha played an important role in the family line that eventually led to Jesus’s birth.
Estha likely lived during the 11th century BC in Bethlehem. During this time, the Israelites were transitioning into a monarchy after being led by judges for over 300 years. Estha raised her family during a pivotal time in Israel’s history.
Though details about Estha are scarce, we do know the names of her husband, son, and grandson. Her husband was Obed, the son of Boaz and Ruth. Together Estha and Obed had a son named Jesse, who later became the father of King David.
As David is a key figure in Jesus’s ancestry, Estha was his great-grandmother.
Estha set an important foundation for her family line. Though not mentioned often, she played a vital role as an ancestor to both King David and Jesus Christ.
Based on extra-biblical texts, Melcha was the grandmother of Jesus’s earthly father Joseph. She was married to a man named Levi and had a daughter named Matthat.
Melcha and her husband Levi were descendants of Solomon, one of King David’s sons. As descendants of David’s royal bloodline, Melcha’s ancestral line retained its status even after the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 BC.
Later, the family line intertwined with the line of Zerubbabel, who led the first group of Jews back to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile in 538 BC. Further down the line, Melcha’s daughter Matthat married a man named Matthan or Matthat.
Together they had a son named Jacob, who became the father of Joseph, Jesus’s earthly father.
As the grandmother of Jesus’s earthly father Joseph, Melcha played an important role connecting the messianic bloodline of King David to Jesus. Very little else is known about her personal life or story.
|Gospel of Luke 3:23-38
|Genealogy of Jesus through Joseph
|The Catholic Encyclopedia
Social Historical Context of Jesus’s Grandmother
Jesus’s grandmother on his mother Mary’s side was traditionally believed to be Saint Anne. According to apocryphal writings, Anne and her husband Joachim were a pious Jewish couple who longed for a child in their advanced age.
After many years of praying, an angel appeared to tell them they would have a child who would be dedicated to serving God. Their daughter Mary was conceived immaculately and born to them as a miracle late in their lives.
Saint Anne is revered by Catholics as the matriarch of the Holy Family and patron saint of mothers, women in labor, grandmothers, and Christian women.
In the first century AD when Jesus lived, Jewish society in Roman-occupied Judea and Galilee was patriarchal and centered around the nuclear family. Girls were betrothed and married at young ages, often soon after reaching puberty.
After marriage, a Jewish woman’s primary roles were bearing children and running the household while men worked and studied scripture. Many women did not receive formal education, instead learning domestic skills from their mothers.
Gender segregation between men and women was common in synagogues, public events, and daily life. However, women were active participants in religious life and some traveled with Jesus as disciples.
Jesus’s relationship with his grandmother Anne is not described in the Bible, but he likely knew her given the tight-knit nature of Jewish families. As a child, Jesus may have heard stories from Anne about miraculous events surrounding his mother Mary’s birth.
As Anne aged, her grandson Jesus and his mother Mary probably cared for her physically and financially. Jesus’s respect for his grandmother can be seen in the Gospels through moments like when he healed Peter’s mother-in-law, showed compassion to the widow of Nain, and encountered the persistent woman seeking healing for her daughter.
Jesus’s grandmother Anne lived during a dynamic, turbulent period. During her lifetime, Roman control over Judea intensified, taxes and inflation rose, Messianic expectations flourished, and rebellion was brutally suppressed.
Anne likely witnessed or heard about major events like King Herod’s reconstruction of the Jerusalem Temple, Judas the Galilean’s revolt over taxation, and the Roman crucifixion of thousands. Jesus’s birth to Anne’s daughter offered Jewish people hope during difficult social conditions.
While little is known about Jesus’s paternal grandparents, his grandmother Saint Anne left an indelible legacy. Revered by many Christians today, Anne set an example of faith, perseverance in prayer, and motherly devotion.
For two millennia, grandmothers following in Anne’s footsteps have played invaluable roles passing down faith, caring for grandchildren, and shaping family identity.
The Significance of Jesus’s Female Ancestors
When examining the genealogy of Jesus, it is striking to note the inclusion of several women along his family tree. In a society where women were rarely acknowledged, the Gospel writers Matthew and Luke go out of their way to mention Jesus’s female ancestors.
What might be the significance of highlighting these women?
Women as Models of Faith
Some of the women noted in Jesus’s genealogy exhibited extraordinary faith and trust in God. For example, his great-grandmother Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute who hid two Israelite spies and aided their escape during the conquest of Jericho.
She came to believe in the God of Israel and married an Israelite man named Salmon. Her daring actions and belief marked Rahab as a model of faith and assimilation into God’s people.
Ruth, another ancestress of Christ, was a Moabite widow who left her homeland out of love and commitment to her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth’s famous declaration “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay” expresses the kind of wholehearted devotion all believers should imitate.
As a foreign woman fully incorporated into God’s people, Ruth also foreshadows how the gospel will spread beyond Israel to include all nations.
These women’s stories display surrendered trust to God’s purposes and plan. Their examples of faith likely encouraged early believers and remind Christians today about the blessings that come through steadfast commitment to God.
Scandalous Women, Scandalous Grace
Other women noted in Jesus’s family tree prompt scandal because of their controversial actions or ethnic origins. For instance, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute to trick her father-in-law Judah into sexual relations after he did not provide her the customary levirate marriage.
The resulting twin sons born from this ruse made it into the lineage of Christ.
Rahab, Ruth, and Tamar’s inclusion signals God’s amazing grace at work throughout history, often through societally marginalized women. That three foreign women number among Jesus’s ancestors also hints at how his life and ministry will incorporate despised groups like Gentiles and “sinners.”
Just as God worked through the morally dubious actions of Tamar, he can also bring redemption out of humanity’s failures and messy lives.
The prominence of these outsider women in Jesus’ lineage helps convey an important theme: no one stands outside the bounds of God’s grace and the scope of his redemption. As the apostle Paul declared, “…there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
While the Bible does not definitively name Jesus’s grandmother, by examining the genealogies and cultural context, we can make inferences about who she likely was. Jesus’s grandmother represents the integral role women played in salvation history.