2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
(Matthew 1:1-17, NIV)
Seems pretty straightforward. But if you look carefully at our English translations, cracks begin to appear. First off, Luke gives his own genealogy for Joseph:
23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josek, the son of Joda,
27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
the son of Salmon,[d] the son of Nahshon,
33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,[e]
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,
the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.
(Luke 3:23-38, NIV)
Within the Matthew 1 genealogy, there are 3 generations missing between David and the Babylonian captivity. And even though there are meant to be 14 generations between the captivity and Yeshua/Jesus, there are only 13.
There are more than one solution to all of this – all in the Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts of Matthew. (See The Original Language of the New Testament.) Of the two Old Syriac texts of the Gospels, one of them includes the 3 missing generations, while the DuTillet Hebrew text of Matthew excludes the phrase “from David to the exile to the exile to Babylon were 14 generations”.
What about the problem of the last set of 13 generations, rather than 14? Two of the main Hebrew texts of Matthew give a solution: in the DuTillet text, an extra generation – Abner – is inserted in verse 13, in between Abihud and Eliakim.
However, two manuscripts of the Shem Tob tradition provide a more tantalising solution: instead of “Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary” in verse 16, they read “Jacob fathered Joseph, the FATHER of Mary”. Here’s an article explaining why this is likely the original reading (and why Luke 3 is therefore Joseph’s ancestry, rather than Mary’s as is commonly assumed):
Why Are Jesus’ Genealogies In Matthew And Luke Different?
Original Text solves the issue of Jesus’ Genealogy Differences in the Gospels
The New Testament provides two accounts of the Genealogy of Jesus, one in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17) and another in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 3:23-38). Matthew starts with Abraham, while Luke begins with Adam, but that is not the only difference.
The text in these passages presents several problems in every Bible version and translation currently available, enough to leave the reader perplexed and confused. The Word of God is perfect and God does not contradict Himself. If passages appear to contradict one another, or we find inconsistencies, it is our responsibility to delve deeply and uncover a correct understanding.
It is extremely important that we get the Genealogy of Jesus right, understand the difference between the two genealogies and find the answer to all problems with the text. Thanks to modern technology and the internet, the answer has been found and the problem is solved!
First things first! Let’s start by exploring in depth the contradictions, inconsistencies and problems with these passages.
Seven Problems with the Genealogies of Jesus
If we take a close look at these two accounts, we immediately encounter seven problems:
1. Six kings of Judah are omitted from Matthew’s account: three consecutive kings – Ahaziah, Jehoash, and Amaziah, and three other kings, who were brothers – Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. This problem is minor and can be quickly solved. We know that the first three consecutive kings were from the bloodline of Ahab and Jezebel through their daughter Athaliah, and the other three were the sons of Josiah and reigned at the end of the Kingdom of Judah, right before the Babylonian captivity. They were all very wicked, heavily involved in idolatrous practices and “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord“. By omitting these names, Matthew clearly indicates that these men were blotted out by God as they never had existed, and thus, were not considered as belonging to the bloodline of Jesus or counted among His forefathers. Their names were excluded “according to the Law” (Deuteronomy 29:20 – “The Lord would not spare him; for then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the Lord would blot out his name from under heaven.” ). Click here for our Kings of Israel and Judah Chart.
2. In Matthew 1:16 (Textus Receptus) – Husband (of Mary) is the Greek word andra, which means man (= man of full age), essentially; it can also be interpreted as husband in certain contexts, but the primary meaning is man. If that Joseph in Matthew 1:16 was the husband of Mary, we would have 13 generations from the captivity in Babylon until Christ. This poses another problem, as we should have 14 generations according to Matthew 1:17.
3. If we read Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 carefully, we can clearly see that both Gospels present the Genealogy of Joseph, who is the adoptive father of Jesus, not His biological father. The first question that arises is: if Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus, why do the writers of both Gospels provide his bloodline, instead of providing the bloodline of Mary, who is the biological mother of Jesus and, therefore, the only one biologically related to Him?
4. Additionally, since both genealogies are presented as the family trees of Joseph, one might conclude that he had to be somehow involved in the conception of Jesus, thus denying the virgin birth of Christ. This would make Joseph the biological father of Jesus, instead of His adoptive father, and Mary not a virgin at the time of conception. And if it were so, since Joseph and Mary were only engaged and not yet officially married, they would have been found in fornication and both would have been stoned to death as transgressors of God’s Law.
5. Similarly, since both genealogies are presented as the family trees of Joseph, who was the adoptive father of Jesus, not His biological father, you cannot actually prove that Christ is a direct descendant by blood of King David, or that He is from the Tribe of Judah. Jesus, as the promised Messiah, is expected to be from the Tribe of Judah and a descendant of King David, and Matthew begins by calling Jesus the son of David, indicating His royal origin, but fails (…based on current translations) to prove that Jesus was a biological descendant of King David. If you cannot prove this, you cannot prove that Jesus is in fact the long-awaited Messiah and we would have to throw away the New Testament all together! And this is a BIG PROBLEM!
Genesis 49:10 – “The scepter (symbol of kingship) shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”
Jeremiah 23:5-6 – “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
6. The genealogy of Joseph that Matthew records and the one that Luke records are identical from Abraham to David, but differ completely from that point on. We know that the Messiah had to be a descendant of David according to Isaiah 11:1 – “There shall come forth a rod (= shoot) from the stem (= trunk) of Jesse (= David’s father), and a Branch shall grow (= be fruitful) out of his roots.” , and both lines do go back to King David, but they do so through two different routes and don’t line-up. In Matthew’s account the bloodline goes back to King David through his son Solomon and in Luke’s account through his son Nathan. Matthew has twenty-seven generations from David to Joseph, whereas Luke has forty-two. The two accounts also contradict each other on who Joseph’s father was: Matthew says he was Jacob, while Luke says he was Heli. They are two completely different genealogies and they contradict each other. Click here for our Genealogy of Jesus Chart.
7. If we cannot prove the true genealogy of Jesus and that Jesus is a blood relative of King David and therefore the Messiah from our available sources, then Christianity falls apart, as it wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. It would be just another false religion and Christ another Messiah. So, this is a HUGE PROBLEM!
THE DIFFERENCES IN THE GENEALOGIES OF JESUS AS EXPLAINED IN CHRISTIAN HISTORY
The Genealogy of Jesus is an age-long problem in Christian history and over the centuries different people have come up with different creative explanations in the attempt to offer a possible solution to the dilemma.
One explanation, given by the church historian Eusebius (265-340 A.D.), is that Joseph’s father was married to his brother’s widow in a Levirate marriage, a Jewish practice according to which, if a married man died childless, his brother was to marry the widow, and their eldest son would be legally considered to be the son of the deceased. So one genealogy would be for Joseph’s uncle and one genealogy for his biological father. According to Eusebius’ theory, Heli and Jacob were half-brothers, Heli died without an heir, and so his brother Jacob married Heli’s widow, who gave birth to Joseph. According to this elaborate story, Joseph was the “son of Heli” legally but the “son of Jacob” biologically. Thus, Matthew and Luke are both giving Joseph’s genealogy, but Luke follows the legal bloodline, while Matthew follows the biological. This interpretation is totally made-up! The Greek text does not substantiate this theory.
Another explanation is that Matthew’s genealogy is the royal bloodline of Jesus and Luke’s genealogy is the natural bloodline of Jesus, but there is nothing in the text that would indicate that. This interpretation is totally made-up, as well!
Even if there was some clever explanation like one of these two, we still can’t prove that Jesus was a blood relative of King David and a descendant of the tribe of Judah, and, therefore, eligible to be the promised Messiah.
Another creative explanation is that the Gospel of Luke is recording Mary’s family line while the Gospel of Matthew is recording Joseph’s. They say that, since there was no Greek word for “son-in-law,” Joseph was called the “son of Heli” by marriage to Mary; this would make Mary the daughter of Heli. This view is held by some conservative Christian Bible scholars, who find it inconceivable that the bloodline of a man would be traced through his mother’s side in a patriarchal society, and when it was, the husband would be named instead of her, and she would remain invisible. Unfortunately, this explanation is also totally made-up! The Word of God had already plainly stated that the Messiah was going to come from the woman back in Genesis 3:15 – “I will put enmity between you (serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” , so why would it hide it now? The text doesn’t say anywhere that Mary was Heli’s daughter, because she wasn’t and to say that Joseph was called the “son of Heli” by marriage to Mary is pure invention and a desperate way to find a solution where the text clearly provides none. On top of that, Israel was not a patriarchal society like other pagan societies of that time, but this is another discussion for another topic. Additionally, although this interpretation is the only one that would prove that Jesus is a descendant of David, it still wouldn’t make Him eligible to be the Messiah, as the Gospel of Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus to David through his son Nathan, but the Messiah had to be a descendant of David through his son Solomon, according to 2 Samuel 7:12-14 – “When your (= David) days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name (= Solomon built the Temple, not Nathan), and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.” So, this explanation doesn’t hold water, either!
None of these possible explanations is convincing, they don’t make sense in the context, the text does not support any of them and each poses another unsolvable problem.
When we have so many discrepancies and nothing makes sense anymore, the Spirit of Wisdom and Truth indicates us that we are dealing with some textual issues, whether it be something lost in translation or an error that was reproduced over and over down the centuries. God’s Word is perfect, but when we change or remove one piece, we have a ripple effect with everything falling apart and we start spinning in circles. That’s exactly what’s happening here!
How can we explain the Differences in the Genealogies of Jesus?
The answer can only be found if someone goes through the trouble of doing some research, goes beyond all available translations and looks at some of the original texts of the Gospels with the intention of finding the answer. When this answer is found, everything falls in place and makes perfect sense, like it should, as the Word of God is perfect.
As it happens in many cases, when the Bible seems to present a discrepancy, the culprit is one single word! Many times translators have mistranslated one word (purposely or accidentally), and that word has changed the meaning of an entire story, concept or principle in the Bible, or sometimes the text simply doesn’t make sense anymore. These types of errors are common and we find them in several passages. So, when we come across a new manuscript or one that was ignored or overlooked before, and we find the word that provides the only logical explanation, solves all the problems and makes sense in context, we can say that we have found the solution.
According to Papias of Hierapolis (70-130 A.D.), the Gospel of Matthew was written in the Hebrew language and some Christians translated it into Greek, which was the lingua franca in those days, and perhaps other languages. Eusebius preserved the excerpt from Papias on the origins of the Gospel of Matthew in his writings: “Matthew put the logia in an ordered arrangement in the Hebrew language, but each translated it as best he could.”
After learning that some Hebrew manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew, or containing parts of it, had been preserved over the centuries, we began our research and found two very interesting ones containing the full genealogy of Jesus.
1. We found one single page of the Gospel of Matthew – Chapter 1 in Hebrew from a manuscript dating back to 1576-1600 AD, whose place of origin is Italy, and which is now available to view on-line at the click of a button inside the digital library of Bodleian Library, which is the main research library of the University of Oxford and one of the oldest libraries in Europe.
In the Hebrew text of Matthew 1:16 we find that the Joseph mentioned there is NOT the husband of Mary.
As you can see in the picture below, the Hebrew text reads:
Yoseph abi Miryam = Joseph father of Mary
Click on the picture to enlarge
This manuscript page (and the entire manuscript that contains it) can be viewed on-line Here.
2. We also found a second witness of the Gospel of Matthew – Chapter 1 in Hebrew, from a Hebrew manuscript dating back to 15th-16th century AD, whose place of origin is also Italy.
As you can see in the picture below, the Hebrew text, just like the previous one, reads:
Yoseph abi Miryam = Joseph father of Mary
Click on the picture to enlarge
Mary undoubtedly married a man named Joseph, who was the adoptive father of Jesus, but also had a father whose name was Joseph, which was a pretty common name in Israel.
How could the Gospel of Matthew have been preserved in Hebrew?
As mentioned above, some church fathers had stated that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in the Hebrew language and was later translated into other languages. It is no surprise that some copies of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew made their way among Jewish people of Asia Minor, as we know that one of the first places that Paul would go to, when visiting a new city during his missionary journeys, was the local synagogue. Some copies were preserved over the centuries by some Jewish people and scribes, sometimes as part of a manuscript containing parts of other books, sometimes as a whole, as was the case of the so called “Shem Tov Hebrew Matthew”, and many of these have survived to this day.
In the Middle Ages Christian manuscripts had official centers where they would be copied, but Hebrew manuscripts were different. They were commissioned to a scribe by rich Jewish men who wished to study and increase their knowledge about certain subjects. The Jewish men, usually wealthy merchants or doctors, would pay a scribe to copy a whole book for them, or sometimes they would ask him to put together a manuscript for them containing parts of different books pertaining to a specific topic that they were interested in studying and wished to keep as reference. In the specific case of the two manuscripts mentioned above, the scribe included a portion of the Gospel of Matthew – chapter 1, in Hebrew, as well, as the subject of the manuscript pertains to Jewish-Christian polemics. These types of Hebrew manuscripts containing Christian books, or portions of them, were collected and studied by Jewish men living in Europe for the purpose of defending themselves from Inquisition tribunals and interrogations, or to prepare themselves for theological debates and discussions with Christians and Christian authorities. One of the best ways to defend themselves from forced conversion was to learn all the problems and inconsistencies with Christian Scriptures, should a dispute arise. In fact, the problem with the genealogy of Jesus is, to this day, a favorite argument of Jewish scholars, when asked why they do not believe in Jesus; they point out a key factor, which is that Jesus was not eligible to be the Messiah, as His bloodline cannot be traced back to King David through Solomon in Christian Scriptures.
How does this solve the Problem?
Now that we have learned that Joseph in Matthew 1:16 was the father of Mary and not her husband:
1. We have 14 generations, instead of 13, from the captivity in Babylon until Christ, as we should according to Matthew 1:17.
2. There is a good reason why Matthew’s genealogy and Luke’s genealogy don’t match: because they present the bloodlines of two different people. Matthew’s genealogy is without a doubt Jesus’ biological mother Mary’s line and Luke’s genealogy is His adoptive father Joseph’s. Mary was married to a man named Joseph, who was the adoptive father of Jesus, and also had a father whose name was Joseph. Joseph was a common name in Israel!
3. We have now full proof that Christ is a direct biological descendant of King David through Solomon, and from the Tribe of Judah through His biological mother Mary, who was the daughter of a man named Joseph. And we can finally prove without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is in fact eligible to be the long-awaited Messiah and we can put this dilemma to rest!
4. The virgin birth and conception through the Holy Spirit is true and Biblical: Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and Joseph adopted and raised Jesus as his son, even though he was not his biological father.
5. Last, but not least: Christianity still stands and the New Testament is alive and well!
Is Jeconiah a problematic issue in Matthew’s Genealogy?
King Jeconiah (a.k.a. Coniah and Jehoiachin) is listed as a forefather of Jesus in Matthew’s genealogy. Some raise their eyebrows over this, because they say his descendants were disqualified from ever being kings of Israel, so the Messiah could never have been a biological descendant of this man. They claim that Jeremiah spoke a curse against him in Jeremiah 22:24-30, due to the fact that “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord“, but so did King Manasseh when he led Israel into sin, however we know from Scripture that they both repented. In reality, when Jeremiah 22:24-30 is read in context, we clearly see that the prophet was speaking not directly to or about King Jeconiah, but was prophesying about the entire royal house who descended from King Josiah and the end of Judah as a kingdom (in fact Israel from that point onwards was never again an independent sovereign state with its own ruling king), so this is not a valid argument to dismiss Matthew’s genealogy and reject it as the legitimate biological family tree of Jesus. Click here to learn more about King Jeconiah and this curse.
Why does Luke record the Genealogy of Joseph?
The Gospel of Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus through His adoptive father Joseph and by whom He was raised, to simply show that God made sure that even His adoptive father was carefully chosen from the bloodline of David, as it was important for God’s Son to be raised in a godly household by a God fearing man. God found such a man in Joseph, son of Heli.
Why should we accept this as the correct text for Matthew 1:16?
Because the Word of God is perfect: it does not contain any error, or contradictions, and it does not need us to add our own fantasies to it and make stuff up in order to make things fit. When we do, we create a domino effect that ends up destroying everything and nothing else fits.
This explanation (based on and supported by the text and not by imagination!) is the only one that solves all the problems without creating new ones and makes perfect sense from whichever point of view you look at it; everything falls in place, the text flows, it lines up with and fits its context, in a simple, and yet, logical and perfect way.
This also explains how at least 2 early “church fathers” (Clement of Alexandria and Victorinus of Pettau) believed Matthew‘s lineage to be Mary’s (which is impossible if the reading of the Greek and most other manuscripts is correct) AND why the apparent “contradiction” between Matthew and Luke went unnoticed until the 3rd century.
Anyway, this is my (and others’) take on the issue. I could be mistaken, but for now, I believe Matthew 1 presents Yeshua’s biological lineage through His mother Mary (Miryam), while Luke 3 presents His legal lineage through His stepfather Joseph (Yosef).