Why Does Jesus Have Two Different Genealogies listed in Matthew 1 and Luke 3?

By COGwriter

Some have been confused about the genealogies of Jesus listed in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. The short answer is that Matthew provided a legal genealogy through Mary’s husband Joseph, while Luke provided a physical genealogy through the family of Jesus’ mother Mary.

(Note: Here is a version of this article in the Spanish language: ¿Por qué Jesús tiene dos genealogías diferentes las cuales aparecen en Mateo 1 y Lucas 3?)

Part of the reason for the confusion is that both the KJV and NKJV make an error with the Greek in Luke 3. They insert, in italics, the expression "son of" multiple times, whereas that is not in the original Greek. Basically the genealogy listed in Matthew 1 pertains to Joseph, whereas the genealogy listed in Luke 3 has to do with his mother Mary.

Various commentators are aware of this. Notice:

Which was the son of Eli; meaning, not that Joseph was the son of Eli; for he was the son of Jacob, according to Matthew 1:16, but Jesus was the son of Eli; and which must be understood, and carried through the whole genealogy, as thus; Jesus the son of Matthat, Jesus the son of Levi, Jesus the son of Melchi, &c. till you come to Jesus the son of Adam, and Jesus the Son of God; though it is true indeed that Joseph was the son of Eli, having married his daughter; Mary was the daughter of Eli: and so the Jews speak of one Mary, the daughter of Eli, by whom they seem to design the mother of our Lord: (Luke 3:23. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)

Being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli — That is, the son-in-law: for Eli was the father of Mary. So Matthew writes the genealogy of Joseph, descended from David by Solomon; Luke that of Mary, descended from David by Nathan. In the genealogy of Joseph (recited by Matthew) that of Mary is implied, the Jews being accustomed to marry into their own families. (Luke 3:23. Macnight. Benson Commentary)

Here is the the answer that the old Worldwide Church of God used to send out related to the passages in Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38:

These two chapters, both giving genealogies of Jesus, at first appear to be contradictory. Actually, however, they complement each other.

The genealogy in Matthew 1 is clearly that of Joseph, Mary's husband. Matthew records it for legal purposes. He is writing to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Jews' custom in keeping records is to trace descent through the father. Legally, the Jews of Jesus' day looked on Jesus as a son of Joseph (John 6:42). Also, Joseph's lineage is given to emphasize the fact that Jesus had been born of a virgin. Because of a curse that God placed on one of Joseph's ancestors, Jesus could never sit upon the throne of David if Joseph had been His natural father.

Jechonias (Matthew 1:11-12), called Coniah in Jeremiah 22:24-30, was so evil God cursed him and his descendants, saying, "Write this man down as childless, . . . for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah" (verse 30). Jeconiah, as his name is spelled in the Old Testament, had children (I Chronicles 3:17), but he was childless insofar as none of his descendants ruled as king over Judah.

How, then, could Jesus be a descendant of David and qualify to sit on the throne? Enter the genealogy in Luke 3, which is Mary's. According to Jewish usage, Mary's ancestry is given in her husband's name. The original Greek merely says Joseph was "of Heli" or Eli (verse 23). In fact, since Joseph's father is said to be Jacob in Matthew 1:16, Heli is most probably Mary's father. Joseph, then, is his son-in-law.

Unlike Joseph's lineage, there was no block in Mary's genealogy to Jesus sitting on the throne of David. Mary's descent from David comes through his son Nathan, not Solomon or one of David's other children (Luke 3:31). To fulfill His promise to establish David's throne forever, God honored Nathan by making him the ancestor of the promised King who would sit on David's throne throughout eternity (Luke 1:31-33).

But how could Mary transmit David's royal inheritance—the right to the throne—to her Son, since all inheritances had to pass through the male line? According to Israel's law, when a daughter is the only heir, she can inherit her father's possessions and rights if she marries within her own tribe (Numbers 27:1-8; 36:6-8). There is no record that Mary had any brothers to inherit her father's possessions and rights. Thus, Joseph became Heli's heir by marriage to Mary, inheriting the right to rule on David's throne, even over Judah. This right then passed on to Jesus.

Both genealogies had to be recorded to establish Christ's right to rule on David's throne. Joseph's genealogy shows that Christ was a legal descendant of Jeconiah and thus legally could not sit on the throne of David in the nation Judah by inheriting the right solely through Joseph.

Further, the genealogies prove the virgin birth: The curse on Jeconiah's line would have passed on to Christ if He were Joseph's natural son, but He was not—He was the Son of God the Father, begotten by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was Mary's son descended from Nathan. Jesus can inherit rule over Judah because of Mary's marriage to Joseph, whose genealogy shows he was Heli's son-in-law. (L116. Personal Correspondence Department, Worldwide Church of God)

Some others hold a wrong view of this based upon a false premise.

Some of those that believe that the New Testament was written in Aramaic, and not originally in Greek (see also Was the New Testament Written in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic?), claim that the differences are because the Greek contradicts itself and that this is solved by an Aramaic text (Lasater R. Was the New Testament Really Written in Greek? A Concise Compendium of the Many Internal and External Evidences of Aramaic Primacy. 2008, p. 214-216). Yet, the argument is in error.

Steve Caruso also addressed this (http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/) but he then also explained that the Peshitta/Aramaic argument is in error:

Hundreds of theologians have spilled rivers of ink taking on this apparent “problem” trying to find different ways to harmonize it, but in the end, Matthew’s genealogy only has 13 actual generations in its last set rather than the 14 described.

Now within the Peshitta Primacy movement, the argument goes that in the Syriac Peshitta, the word for “husband” or aramaic gavrā can also mean “guardian,” and therefore the Joseph listed here is Mary’s father or legal guardian. This would make Mary the next generation on the list, and round out the third set of 14 evenly.

Unfortunately gavrā has no such meaning.

There is not a single ancient lexicographer in any dialect of Aramaic that attests to this, nor a single ancient Syriac-speaking theologian who brought this possibility up, nor a single modern lexicographer that attests to this meaning either. However, plenty of ancient sources attest to the fact that gavrā — in the relational context of a genealogy — exclusively means “husband” (just like the word ἄνδρα andra does in Greek). (Caruso S. Problems With Peshitta Primacy. http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/ accessed 08/18/17)

Furthermore, let me add that since the Aramaic text used was not the language of Jesus or His disciples, this eliminates Aramaic anyway (see Was the New Testament Written in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic?).

Here is one explanation of the 13 vs. 14 generations:

In the listing of Jesus' forefathers, there is a name missing. Excluded from the list is Jehoiakim (a.k.a. Eliakim), who was Josiah's son and Jeconiah's father (1 Chronicles 3:15-16). The reason for his exclusion may be that he was a puppet king, given his rule by the Pharaoh of Egypt. The first phase of the captivity of Judah by Babylon began at the end of Jehoiakim's reign, prior to his son Jeconiah coming into power. Thus, the 3 groupings of 14 generations would include: 1. Abraham to David; 2. Solomon to Jehoiakim (he is not mentioned, but was among the first to be carried off into Babylon); 3. Jeconiah to Jesus. (Is there an error in the counting of the generations in Matthew chapter 1? https://www.gotquestions.org/14-generations.html access 11/11/17)

There is no contradiction in the Greek text. This issue also does not prove that the New Testament was not written in Greek, as the Aramaic also does not list 14 generations--despite the claim (see also Was the New Testament Written in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic?).

Notice also another possible explanation:

I. 1. Abraham; 2. Isaac; 3. Jacob; 4. Judah; 5. Perez; 6. Hezron; 7. Ram; 8. Aminadab; 9. Naasson; 10. Salma; 11. Boaz; 12. Obed; 13. Jesse; 14. David.

II. 1. Solomon; 2. Rehoboam; 3. Abijah; 4. Asa; 5. Jehoshaphat; 6. Joram; 7. Uzziah; 8. Jotham; 9. Ahaz; 10. Hezekiah; 11. Manasseh; 12. Ammon; 13. Josiah; 14. Jechoniah (ἐπὶ τῆς μετοικεσίας, Matthew 1:11).

III. 1. Jechoniah (μετὰ τὴν μετοικεσίαν, Matthew 1:12); 2. Salathiel; 3. Zerubbabel; 4. Abiud; 5. Eliakim; 6. Azor; 7. Zadok; 8. Achim; 9. Eliud; 10. Eleazar; 11. Matthan; 12. Jacob; 13. Joseph; 14. Jesus.

In the third division we have to notice that in any case Jesus also must be counted, because Matthew 1:17 says ἕως τοῦ Χριστοῦ, in keeping with Matthew 1:1, where Ἰησοῦς Χριστός is announced as the subject of the genealogy, and consequently as the last of the entire list. If Jesus were not included in the enumeration, we should then have a genealogy of Joseph, and the final terminus must have been said to be ἕως Ἰωσήφ. (Meyer's NT Commentary. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/meyer/matthew/1.htm accessed 11/11/17)

The generational count is not some error that Aramaic fixes. Aramaic claimers need to understand that their explanation is not possible according to the Aramaic. There are various possible explanations and two have been shown. It is wrong to conclude that an Aramaic original text resolves this as it does not.

"Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).

Luke's account is showing the genealogy of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Whereas Matthew's account is showing the legal genealogy through the legal father, Joseph.

Thiel B. Why Does Jesus Have Two Different Genealogies listed in Matthew 1 and Luke 3? http://www.cogwriter.com/jesus-genealogies.htm (C) COGwriter 2014 2017 2018 0516

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