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The Two Genealogies of Jesus

How do you explain the two different genealogies of Jesus?

The New Testament provides two genealogies of Jesus. One genealogy is found in Matthew 1:1–17. The other genealogy is found in Luke 3:23–38.

Matthew traces the line from Abraham to Joseph. Luke, on the other hand, moves into the more distant past from Jesus backward in time to Adam. Both genealogies show that Jesus is a descendant of David. And both genealogies are pretty much in agreement with each other until they come to David and his descendants.

Matthew 1:6 says that “Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon.” Luke 3:31, on the other hand, says that Nathan, not Solomon, was the son of David.

This is not an error in Luke’s genealogy. Second Samuel 5:13–14 tells us that David had several sons. One was Solomon and another was Nathan. They are the heads of the two branches of the Davidic family. This is where the genealogies split. Matthew traces the line through Solomon, but Luke traces the line through his brother, Nathan.

Matthew’s genealogy is the genealogy of Joseph. Luke’s is the genealogy of Mary. Joseph was the legal father of Jesus, but not the literal, or biological father of Jesus. Matthew’s genealogy mentions Jechoniah (vss. 11–12). A curse on Jechoniah’s descendants disqualified any of his descendants from the throne of David forever (Jeremiah 22:30). If Joseph had been the literal father of Jesus, Jesus would have been disqualified. On the other hand, since Jesus is a physical descendant of Mary, having Solomon’s descendant, Jechoniah, in the genealogy would have been problematic.

What about Heli? Joseph was the son of Jacob, according to Matthew 1:16, but Luke 3:23 says that Joseph was the son of Heli. So, was Joseph the son of Jacob, or was he the son of Heli?

Once again, we have to remember that Matthew’s genealogy traces the line of Joseph, while Luke‘s traces the line of Mary. In Luke’s genealogy the word “son” is in italics and is not in the original-language document. Heli was not the son, but the son-in-law of Joseph and related to Joseph by marriage.

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