The genealogies of Jesus

If you read the Bible regularly you know that much of it consists of genealogies.  Many of us find them uninteresting; we skim through them and wonder why they are in the Bible at all.  But if we believe the Bible was inspired by God we must also believe that the genealogies are important or God wouldn’t have included them in the Bible in the first place.

We live in a culture which emphasizes individual rights and freedoms.  Sometimes we focus so much on individuality that we forget we are also connected to others.  The genealogies remind us of one of the most important connections, that of family.

Biblical accounts of outstanding people often tell us not only what these people did but who their ancestors were.  This is true of Jesus.  In fact the Bible gives us two genealogies of Jesus, in Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38.

If you read the genealogies carefully you will find a problem.  Both reveal that Jesus was descended from King David.  But Matthew’s genealogy says he was a descendant of David’s son Solomon.

David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.
Matthew 1:6

Luke’s genealogy says he was a descendant of Nathan, another of David’s sons.

The son of Nathan, the son of David,
Luke 3:31

Unbelievers claim that this proves the Bible contradicts itself and therefore isn’t inspired by God.  In reality there is a simple explanation for this apparent contradiction.

Solomon succeeded David as king and the genealogy in Matthew shows that Joseph was the heir to the throne.  He would have been king if David’s dynasty had remained in power.  Although he wasn’t the biological father of Jesus he was his legal father because of his marriage to Mary and this meant that Jesus inherited from him the right to be king of Israel.

(Perhaps this is why God allowed Joseph to die before Jesus began his public ministry.  If Joseph were still alive Jesus wouldn’t yet be king.)

Matthew wrote his gospel mainly for Jews.  That is why he emphasized the kingship of Jesus and included many quotes from the Old Testament that showed that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah.  His gospel was the only one that recorded the visit of the Wise Men who were seeking the King of the Jews.

Luke was writing for a different audience and so emphasized different aspects of Jesus’ life.  A comparison of the beginning of Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts shows they were addressed to the same person and so must have been written at about the same time.  Here is the conclusion of Acts.

Paul lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Acts 28:30-31

Paul was under house arrest in Rome and Luke was with him.  This must have been the time when Luke wrote his gospel.

Since it was written in Rome it was written for gentiles rather than for Jews.  Gentiles wouldn’t have cared whether Jesus was king of the Jews.  They would have been more interested in his biological ancestry.  That is why Luke describes the events surrounding the birth of Jesus from Mary’s point of view rather than Joseph’s and gives us Mary’s genealogy rather than Joseph’s.

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,
Luke 3:23

Heli must have been the father of Mary.  Joseph was considered his son because he was married to his daughter.

Jesus had two different genealogies for the same reason everyone else does.  He had two parents.

Posted on September 5, 2014, in Bible study and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Yes, many people may find genealogies uninteresting, but they’re so very important.


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