GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST
In the first chapter of Matthew we find the genealogy of Jesus running from Abraham forward. At Luke chapter 3 is a genealogy back to “Adam, son of God.” Jesus’ genealogy is the only one given in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Part of his genealogy appears at 1 Chronicles chapters 1 to 3, running from Adam through Solomon and Zerubbabel. The books of Genesis and Ruth combined give the line from Adam to David.
The latter three lists (Genesis/Ruth, 1 Chronicles, and Luke) agree fully from Adam to Arpachshad, with minor differences as to certain names, such as Kenan, which is “Cainan” at Luke 3:37. The Chronicles and Genesis/Ruth lists agree down to David, while another “Cainan” is found in Luke’s account between Arpachshad and Shelah.—Lu 3:35, 36.
From Solomon to Zerubbabel, the Chronicles record and Matthew agree in the main, Matthew omitting some names. These differences and differences in Luke’s account from David to Jesus will be discussed later.
Under GENEALOGY, we have shown that besides many private family records, the Jews kept public records of genealogies and that the chroniclers, such as Ezra, had access to these when compiling their lists; also, that the public registers existed in the first century evidently up until 70 C.E. The matter of the descent of the Messiah from Abraham, and through David, was of prime importance to them. So we can be confident that both Matthew and Luke consulted these genealogical tables.
Reliability of the Gospel Genealogies. The question arises: Why does Matthew leave out some names that are contained in the listings of the other chroniclers? First of all, to prove one’s genealogy it was not necessary to name every link in the line of descent. For example, Ezra, in proving his priestly lineage, at Ezra 7:1-5, omitted several names contained in the listing of the priestly line at 1 Chronicles 6:1-15. Obviously it was not essential to name all these ancestors to satisfy the Jews as to his priestly lineage. Similarly with Matthew: He doubtless used the public register and copied from it, if not every name, the ones necessary to prove the descent of Jesus from Abraham and David. He also had access to the Hebrew Scriptures, which he could consult alongside the official public records.—Compare Ru 4:12, 18-22 and Mt 1:3-6.
The lists made by both Matthew and Luke were comprised of names publicly recognized by the Jews of that time as authentic. The scribes and Pharisees as well as the Sadducees were bitter enemies of Christianity, and they would have used any possible argument to discredit Jesus, but it is noteworthy that they never challenged these genealogies. If either Matthew’s or Luke’s genealogy of Jesus had been in error, what an opportunity it would have been for these opponents to prove it then and there! For until 70 C.E. they evidently had ready access to the public genealogical registers and the Scriptures.
The same is true regarding the first-century pagan enemies of Christianity, many of whom were, like those Jews, learned men who would readily have pointed to any evidence that these lists of Matthew and Luke were unauthentic and contradictory. But there is no record that the early pagan enemies attacked Christians on this point.
Also, both Matthew and Luke achieved their objective, and that was all they needed to do. To prove that Jesus was descended from Abraham and David, it was not necessary to make a new genealogy. All they had to do was copy from the public tables that the nation fully accepted regarding the lineage of David and of the priesthood and all other matters requiring proof of one’s descent. (See Lu 1:5; 2:3-5; Ro 11:1.) Even if there was an omission in these tables, it did not detract from what these Gospel writers intended and indeed accomplished, namely, presenting legally and publicly recognized proof of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.
Problems in Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus. Matthew divides the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus into three sections of 14 generations each. (Mt 1:17) This division may have been made as a memory aid. However, in counting the names we find that they total 41, rather than 42. One suggestion as to how they may be counted is as follows: By taking Abraham to David, 14 names, then using David as the starting name for the second 14, with Josiah as the last; finally, by heading the third series of 14 names with Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) and ending with Jesus. Notice that Matthew repeats the name David as the last of the first 14 names and as the first of the next 14. Then he repeats the expression “the deportation to Babylon,” which he links with Josiah and his sons.—Mt 1:17.
As stated earlier, Matthew may have copied his list exactly from the public register that he used, or he may have purposely left out some links with a view to aiding memory. However, a suggestion as to the omission here of three kings of David’s line between Jehoram and Uzziah (Azariah) is that Jehoram married wicked Athaliah of the house of Ahab, the daughter of Jezebel, thereby bringing this God-condemned strain into the line of the kings of Judah. (1Ki 21:20-26; 2Ki 8:25-27) Naming Jehoram as first in the wicked alliance, Matthew omits the names of the next three kings to the fourth generation, Ahaziah, Jehoash, and Amaziah, the fruits of the alliance.—Compare Mt 1:8 with 1Ch 3:10-12.
Matthew indicates that Zerubbabel is the son of Shealtiel (Mt 1:12), and this coincides with other references. (Ezr 3:2; Ne 12:1; Hag 1:14; Lu 3:27) However, at 1 Chronicles 3:19 Zerubbabel is referred to as the son of Pedaiah. Evidently Zerubbabel was the natural son of Pedaiah and the legal son of Shealtiel by reason of brother-in-law marriage; or possibly, after Zerubbabel’s father Pedaiah died, Zerubbabel was brought up by Shealtiel as his son and therefore became legally recognized as the son of Shealtiel.
A Problem in Luke’s Genealogy of Jesus. Available manuscript copies of Luke list a second “Cainan,” between Arpachshad (Arphaxad) and Shelah. (Lu 3:35, 36; compare Ge 10:24; 11:12; 1Ch 1:18, 24.) Most scholars take this to be a copyist’s error. In the Hebrew Scriptures, “Cainan” is not found in this relative position in the genealogical listings in the Hebrew or the Samaritan texts, nor is it in any of the Targums or versions except the Greek Septuagint. And it does not seem that it was even in the earlier copies of the Septuagint, because Josephus, who usually follows the Septuagint, lists Seles (Shelah) next as the son of Arphaxades (Arpachshad). (Jewish Antiquities, I, 146 [vi, 4]) Early writers Irenaeus, Africanus, Eusebius, and Jerome rejected the second “Cainan” in copies of Luke’s account as an interpolation.—See CAINAN No. 2.
Why do the genealogies of Jesus Christ as given by Matthew and by Luke differ?
The difference in nearly all the names in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus as compared with Matthew’s is quickly resolved in the fact that Luke traced the line through David’s son Nathan, instead of Solomon as did Matthew. (Lu 3:31; Mt 1:6, 7) Luke evidently follows the ancestry of Mary, thus showing Jesus’ natural descent from David, while Matthew shows Jesus’ legal right to the throne of David by descent from Solomon through Joseph, who was legally Jesus’ father. Both Matthew and Luke signify that Joseph was not Jesus’ actual father but only his adoptive father, giving him legal right. Matthew departs from the style used throughout his genealogy when he comes to Jesus, saying: “Jacob became father to Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” (Mt 1:16) Notice that he does not say ‘Joseph became father to Jesus’ but that he was “the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” Luke is even more pointed when, after showing earlier that Jesus was actually the Son of God by Mary (Lu 1:32-35), he says: “Jesus . . . being the son, as the opinion was, of Joseph, son of Heli.”—Lu 3:23.
Since Jesus was not the natural son of Joseph but was the Son of God, Luke’s genealogy of Jesus would prove that he was, by human birth, a son of David through his natural mother Mary. Regarding the genealogies of Jesus given by Matthew and by Luke, Frederic Louis Godet wrote: “This study of the text in detail leads us in this way to admit—1. That the genealogical register of Luke is that of Heli, the grandfather of Jesus; 2. That, this affiliation of Jesus by Heli being expressly opposed to His affiliation by Joseph, the document which he has preserved for us can be nothing else in his view than the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. But why does not Luke name Mary, and why pass immediately from Jesus to His grandfather? Ancient sentiment did not comport with the mention of the mother as the genealogical link. Among the Greeks a man was the son of his father, not of his mother; and among the Jews the adage was: ‘Genus matris non vocatur genus [“The descendant of the mother is not called (her) descendant”]’ (‘Baba bathra,’ 110, a).”—Commentary on Luke, 1981, p. 129.
Actually each genealogy (Matthew’s table and Luke’s) shows descent from David, through Solomon and through Nathan. (Mt 1:6; Lu 3:31) In examining the lists of Matthew and Luke, we find that after diverging at Solomon and Nathan, they come together again in two persons, Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. This can be explained in the following way: Shealtiel was the son of Jeconiah; perhaps by marriage to the daughter of Neri he became Neri’s son-in-law, thus being called the “son of Neri.” It is possible as well that Neri had no sons, so that Shealtiel was counted as his “son” for that reason also. Zerubbabel, who was likely the actual son of Pedaiah, was legally reckoned as the son of Shealtiel, as stated earlier.—Compare Mt 1:12; Lu 3:27; 1Ch 3:17-19.
Then the accounts indicate that Zerubbabel had two sons, Rhesa and Abiud, the lines diverging again at this point. (These could have been, not actual sons, but descendants, or one, at least, could have been a son-in-law. Compare 1Ch 3:19.) (Lu 3:27; Mt 1:13) Both Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies of Jesus vary here from that found in 1 Chronicles chapter 3. This may be because a number of names were purposely left out by Matthew and possibly also by Luke. But the fact should be kept in mind that such differences in the genealogical lists of Matthew and Luke are very likely those already present in the genealogical registers then in use and fully accepted by the Jews and were not changes made by Matthew and Luke.
We may conclude, therefore, that the two lists of Matthew and Luke fuse together the two truths, namely, (1) that Jesus was actually the Son of God and the natural heir to the Kingdom by miraculous birth through the virgin girl Mary, of David’s line, and (2) that Jesus was also the legal heir in the male line of descent from David and Solomon through his adoptive father Joseph. (Lu 1:32, 35; Ro 1:1-4) If there was any accusation made by hostile Jews that Jesus’ birth was illegitimate, the fact that Joseph, aware of the circumstances, married Mary and gave her the protection of his good name and royal lineage refutes such slander.
[Chart on page 913, 914]
BIBLE LISTS OF JESUS’ GENEALOGY
Genesis 1 Chronicles Matthew Luke
and Ruth Chaps 1, 2, 3 Chap 1 Chap 3
Adam Adam Adam
Seth Seth Seth
Enosh Enosh Enosh
Kenan Kenan Cainan
Mahalalel Mahalalel Mahalaleel
Jared Jared Jared
Enoch Enoch Enoch
Methuselah Methuselah Methuselah
Lamech Lamech Lamech
Noah Noah Noah
Shem Shem Shem
Arpachshad Arpachshad Arpachshad
Shelah Shelah Shelah
Eber Eber Eber
Peleg Peleg Peleg
Reu Reu Reu
Serug Serug Serug
Nahor Nahor Nahor
Terah Terah Terah
Abram Abraham Abraham Abraham
Isaac Isaac Isaac Isaac
Jacob (Israel) Jacob Jacob Jacob
Judah (and Judah Judah Judah
Tamar) (and Tamar)
Perez Perez Perez Perez
Hezron Hezron Hezron Hezron
Ram Ram Ram Arni (Ram?)
Amminadab Amminadab Amminadab Amminadab
Nahshon Nahshon Nahshon Nahshon
Salmon Salmon (Salma, Salmon (and Salmon
1Ch 2:11) Rahab)
Boaz (and Boaz Boaz (and Boaz
Obed Obed Obed Obed
Jesse Jesse Jesse Jesse
David David David (and David
Solomon Solomon Nathan 1
Rehoboam Rehoboam Mattatha
Abijah Abijah Menna
Asa Asa Melea
Jehoshaphat Jehoshaphat Eliakim
Jehoram Jehoram Jonam
Azariah (Uzziah) Uzziah Matthat
Jotham Jotham Jorim
Ahaz Ahaz Eliezer
Hezekiah Hezekiah Jesus
Manasseh Manasseh Er
Amon Amon Elmadam
Josiah Josiah Cosam
Jeconiah Jeconiah Neri
Shealtiel Shealtiel Shealtiel 3
Zerubbabel 4 Zerubbabel Zerubbabel
Jacob Heli (father
Joseph Joseph (Heli’s
(foster son) (Mary’s son)
1 At Nathan, Luke begins reckoning the genealogy through Jesus’ maternal line, while Matthew continues with the paternal line.
2 Zerubbabel evidently was the natural son of Pedaiah and the legal son of Shealtiel by brother-in-law marriage; or he was brought up by Shealtiel after his father Pedaiah’s death and became legally recognized as the son of Shealtiel.—1Ch 3:17-19; Ezr 3:2; Lu 3:27.
4 The lines meet in Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, afterward diverging. This divergence could have been through two different descendants of Zerubbabel, or Rhesa or Abiud could have been a son-in-law.