The One Genealogy of Great Importance
GENEALOGIES are of concern to some people today, who would like to discover the roots of their family tree. But there is really little practicality in tracing one’s family tree into all its branches and identifying our ancient ancestors. Christians, in fact, know that all men are imperfect and there is nothing to boast about or to be humiliated about as to their distant ancestry. The apostle Paul wrote to the young man Timothy that he should not “pay attention to . . . genealogies, which end up in nothing, but which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith.”—1 Tim. 1:3, 4.
Timothy was then in the Asian city of Ephesus. There were many Christianized Jews in that city, and some of them still hung onto the Jewish customs. They loved to trace back and discuss their ancestral connections and those of others, more from a sense of pride or show of knowledge than from any practical or constructive motive. The Jewish Encyclopedia, speaking of the early centuries of the Common Era, says: “How prolific these Biblical books [Chronicles] were in provoking genealogical conceits is shown by the statement [in the Babylonian Talmud, Pes. 62b] that 900 camel-loads of commentary existed on I 1 Chron. viii. 37 to ix. 44. . . . Much mischief must have been done by this speculation on family origins and pedigrees.”—Vol. V, p. 597 (1910).
So, while a person’s genealogy might be of occasional usefulness in legal matters, to argue over or take special pride in our ancestry is a waste of time and a detriment to faith. There is only one genealogy that is really important. That is the line of descent of Jesus Christ. Why is it of such great importance? And why should we now be concerned with it?
One of the strongest reasons for concern is that it serves to establish and strengthen our faith. We need everything that God has provided to this end, in order that we may not weaken during trials and under attacks by those who try to destroy our faith. Moreover, we want to be able to prove to others that Jesus Christ is the Messiah—to present a strong basis on which others can exercise faith.
Now, with regard to Jesus’ genealogy, there are a few problems, all solvable. This very fact gives weight to the authenticity of the genealogy. For, although the Hebrews, who kept the genealogical records through the ages, knew that the Messiah was to come in Abraham’s line of descent, they at first did not know that it would be restricted to the line of Judah, Abraham’s great-grandson and, later, to the descendants of King David. Further, they did not know ahead of time that the legal kingly right would be through David’s son, Solomon. Neither did they know when and how the Messiah would arrive. If the genealogy was perfectly smooth, with no difficulties, no legal adoptions, and so forth, we would have good reason to have strong suspicion that the genealogy had been “doctored.” So some difficulties in untangling the line of descent gives greater evidence of its being an honest record.
It is good, therefore, to consider this most important genealogy and to see the amazing accuracy and extent of it, for it is more detailed and comprehensive than any other ‘family tree’ in human history. We will be convinced that God carefully watched over this line of descent and saw that it was properly recorded, at times by men who had no idea of its real importance.
GENEALOGICAL LISTS ESTABLISH CHRIST’S MESSIAHSHIP
There are four primary lists of Christ’s line of descent, three of them beginning with Adam, and they appear in the Bible as follows: (1) Genesis and Ruth; (2) 1 Chronicles, chapters 1-3; (3) Matthew, chapter 1; and (4) Luke, chapter 3 (Luke actually runs back from Jesus to Adam). With one exception,* they agree exactly from Adam to Solomon, the son of David. Then, parallel to Solomon, Luke lists Nathan, another son of David. To this point Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus from Heli, the father of Mary, the wife of Joseph, thereby proving Jesus’ natural right to the Messiahship as a son of David, for Jesus had no earthly father, being the foster son of Joseph, but the actual Son of God by a miracle.—Luke 1:34, 35.
REASONS FOR DIFFERENCES IN ANCESTRAL LISTS
The account by Matthew traces Jesus’ descent in the line of Solomon, through which the legal right to the throne of David ran. Therefore Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts purposely differ on lines of descent from David down to Jesus. It is noteworthy, however, that both writers take care to make it clear that Jesus was not actually the son of Joseph, but was the true natural son of Mary. Matthew says: “Jacob became father to Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” (Matt. 1:16) Luke says: “Jesus himself, when he commenced his work, was about thirty years old, being the son, as the opinion was, of Joseph.”—Luke 3:23.
There are different names in the Chronicles account from those of Matthew, who follows Solomon’s line, as do the Chronicles. These names appear after Zerubbabel, the nineteenth after Solomon. This difference can easily be explained by the fact that in many Bible genealogies some links are left out. A good example is found in Ezra’s genealogy, in which he showed that he was a priest. (Ezra 7:1-5) His list omitted several names that are found in a parallel listing at 1 Chronicles 6:3-14. Why did Ezra leave these names out? He likely did this to avoid unnecessary repetition and to shorten the long list. Also, he may have used only the best-known names, just as today, a person wanting to prove that he was a descendant of some famous man, such as George Washington, would need only to name a few of the most recognizable, acknowledged descendants of the famous man, and show that his own father or grandfather was one of them. Ezra used what was needed to serve his purpose, and achieved it. This practice appears in some other Bible genealogies.
JESUS’ OPPONENTS COULD NOT CHALLENGE PUBLIC RECORDS
As to Matthew’s and Luke’s listing of Jesus’ genealogy, they doubtless got their list from the public register in the town of Bethlehem of Judah, where Jesus was born. (Luke 2:1-5; Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:1-6) There is a remarkable fact that should end any doubt about Jesus’ being both the natural heir of David, and the one having the legal right to David’s throne, since he was the firstborn son (actually foster-son) of a man descended from King Solomon. It is this: None of Jesus’ enemies among the Jews ever challenged his descent from David, either on the side of his mother or of his foster-father. Now we know that the Pharisees and Sadducees were as eager as a pack of wolves, seeking any possible way to discredit Jesus. But they could not deny the official birth registers, well known to the people and available for anyone to check. Neither did the pagan enemies attack Jesus’ genealogy until after the Jewish records were destroyed when the Romans invaded and destroyed Jerusalem. Then, of course, no one could check their lying claims with the public records.
Jesus, being the long-looked-for Messiah, fulfilled and closed the Bible genealogy. He gained the throne of David, to sit on it without successors. (Luke 1:31-33) He was used by God to establish a new priesthood, he now being in heaven as a “high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek forever,” not of the Levitical priesthood of the Jews. (Heb. 6:20; 7:11-14, 23, 24) The Biblical record of Jesus’ genealogy remains in the Bible as part of the foundation of our faith and as a testimony to the sureness of the word and promises of God.
Luke lists a second Cainan between Arphaxad and Shelah (Luke 3:36). This is regarded by most scholars as a copyist’s error. This name is not found in this position in the genealogical listings in the Hebrew and Samaritan texts, nor in any of the Targums or versions except the Septuagint, and possibly not in its earlier copies, for Josephus, who usually follows the Septuagint, lists Selah (Shelah) next as the son of Arphaxad. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chap. VI, par. 7) Early writers Africanus, Eusebius and Jerome rejected it as an interpolation. Another possibility is that “Cainan” is a variant of “Chaldean.” Hence, the Greek text may have read, “the son of the Chaldean Arphaxad.”
[Chart on pages 14, 15]
BIBLE LISTS OF JESUS’ GENEALOGY
Adam Adam Adam
Seth Seth Seth
Enosh Enosh Enos
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 Arphaxad
Shelah Shelah Shelah
Eber Eber Eber
Peleg Peleg Peleg
Reu Reu Reu
Serug Serug Serug Matthew
Nahor Nahor Nahor Chap. 1
Terah Terah Terah
Abram Abraham Abraham Abraham
Isaac Isaac Isaac Isaac
Jacob Jacob Jacob Jacob
Judah Judah Judah Judah
(and Tamar) (and Tamar)
Perez Perez Perez Perez
Hezron Hezron Hezron Hezron
Ram Ram Arni (Ram?) Ram
Amminadab Amminadab Amminadab Amminadab
Nahshon Nahshon Nahshon Nahshon
Salmon Salmon (Salma, Salmon Salmon
1 Chron. 2:11) (and Rahab)
Boaz Boaz Boaz Boaz
(and Ruth) (and Ruth)
Obed Obed Obed Obed
Jesse Jesse Jesse Jesse
David David David David
Solomon Nathan* Solomon
Rehoboam Mattatha Rehoboam
Abijah Menna Abijah
Asa Melea Asa
Jehoshaphat Eliakim Jehoshaphat
Jehoram Jonam Jehoram
Azariah (Uzziah) Matthat Uzziah (Azariah)
Jotham Jorim Jotham
Ahaz Eliezer Ahaz
Hezekiah Jesus Hezekiah
Manasseh Er Manasseh
Amon Elmadam Amon
Josiah Cosam Josiah
Jeconiah Neri Jeconiah
Zerubbabel* Zerubbabel Zerubbabel
Hananiah Joanan Abiud
Arnan Mattathias Azor
Obadiah Naggai Zadok
Shecaniah Nahum Achim
Shemaiah Amos Eliud
(Mary’s son) (foster son)
At Nathan, Luke begins reckoning the genealogy through Jesus’ maternal line, while Matthew continues with the paternal line.
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.—1 Chron. 3:17-19; Ezra 3:2; Luke 3:27.
The lines meet in Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, afterward diverging. This divergence could have been through two different descendants of Zerubbabel, or one here in the three lists could have been a son-in-law.
[Pictures on page 14]
[Picture on page 15]
Genealogical records clearly affirm JESUS as the Messiah