Jesus’ Geneology

HomeChristianity and the BibleJesus’ Geneology

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.

Matthew’s
List
Luke’s
List
DavidDavid
SolomonNathan
RehoboamMattatha
AbijahMenna
AsaMelea
JehoshaphatEliakim
JehoramJonam
UzziahJoseph
JothamJudah
AhazSimeon
HezekiahLevi
ManassehMatthat
AmonJorim
JosiahEliezer
JeconiahJoshua
ShealtielEr
ZerubbabelElmadam
AbiudCosam
EliakimAddi
AzorMelki
ZakokNeri
AkimShealtiel
EliudZerubbabel
EleazarRhesa
MatthanJoanan
JacobJoda
JosephJosech
JesusSemein
 Mattathias
 Maath
 Naggai
 Esli
 Nahum
 Amos
 Mattathias
 Joseph
 Jannai
 Melki
 Levi
 Matthat
 Heli
 Joseph
 Jesus

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.

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