Jesus had one earthly parent and one heavenly parent…and let’s not forget to include Joseph, too.
Jesus’ lineage is listed in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 …but a careful reading of these two passages raises a few questions. Matthew lists names from Abraham to Jesus, while Luke lists names from Jesus back to Adam. The lists are virtually identical between Abraham and David, so I’ve posted only names between David and Jesus, reversing the order of Luke’s list for convenience.
Why do both list Joseph, but show different ancestors? While this has been the subject of some debate, it appears that Luke gives us Mary’s ancestors. To avoid going into great detail, here’s a simple explanation: Luke’s mention of Joseph is parenthetical. Compare:
[Jesus] was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli…
[Jesus], who was thought the son of Joseph, was the son of Heli…
- It appears that Heli was Mary’s ancestor, not Joseph’s. This explanation fits the available facts:
- Luke’s writings are known for their accuracy. The Chronicles were available to him, and it seems unlikely that he would make the serious mistake of listing the wrong geneology.
- Matthew’s list shows that Jesus had a legal claim to the throne of David, which could reasonably come from a legal parent instead of a physical parent. Luke’s list isn’t concerned with legal lineage, but physical.
- The Greek rendering of Joseph’s name grammatically differs from all other names listed, making the parenthetical nature apparent. As Luke wrote about Jesus’ miraculous conception two chapters earlier, it’s unreasonable to conclude that he would list Joseph as Jesus’ physical ancestor.