Jesus’ genealogy

Now that we are in the Christmas season, I have been spending some time in the margins of What He Said. The Gospels of Mark and John begin when Jesus is an adult, but Matthew and Luke both give accounts of Christ’s birth. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting about some aspects of the two birth stories that interest me.

The New Testament begins with the genealogy of Jesus, as told by Matthew. Jesus is the son of Joseph who was the son of Jacob who was the son of Matthan who was the son of Eleazar… But, Luke (in Chapter 3) tells us that Jesus is the son of Joseph who was the son of Heli who was the son of Matthat who was the son of Levi… What’s going on? Was Joseph the son of Jacob or Heli?

I’ve read that Jesus’ ancestry in Matthew is through Joseph and His ancestry in Luke is actually though Mary. When Luke says that Joseph was the son of Heli, he really means “son-in-law.”

This seems to be consistent with another difference in the two accounts of Christ’s birth story. Matthew has an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph (whose ancestors he has just listed). The angel explains to Joseph the circumstances of Mary’s motherhood and tells Joseph to name the child Jesus. But, Luke tells us that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to reveal the mystery of her being with child and tells her to name the child Jesus. So, it makes sense to me that Luke would trace the genealogy of Christ through Mary.

I would love it if a more astute Biblical scholar would step in to let us know if my thinking is off-base.

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One Response to “Jesus’ genealogy”

  1. Marc Tumeinski says:

    I’ve been meaning to respond, but the ‘astute Biblical scholar’ comment was enough to scare me and probably others off! Here’s a few thoughts though… All of Scripture is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) which means it faithfully communicates truth. Scripture also includes many different kinds of literature, like poetry, history, drama, stories, and so on.

    Some elements in Matthew and Luke’s infancy narratives are in agreement, which may indicate these elements are historical. Other elements though were chosen to communicate particular truths from Matthew and Luke to their intended audiences, which were different.

    As Raymond Brown points out, both Matthew and Luke trace Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, which would make Jesus a descendant (son) of David, an important title which the prophets of Israel predicted that the expected Messiah would have. Both authors also indicate that the Holy Spirit played a key role in Jesus’ conception; hence, Mary’s virginity. Both accounts include a proclamation by an angel. In both descriptions, the news of Jesus’ birth is shared with others. In both accounts, some kind of trouble either occurred or was predicted (e.g., the massacre of the innocent children, lack of room in the inn, prediction that Jesus would cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, etc.)

    So much more to say but maybe this will inspire readers to compare the 2 accounts for themselves.

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