Posted in Luke, Matthew

Different Genealogies

Matthew 1:16 “… and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

Matthew 1:6 “… and to David was born Solomon…”

Luke 3:23 “And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Heli…”

Luke 3:31 “… the son of Nathan, the son of David…”

Critics of the gospel accounts of Jesus birth have often pointed out the different genealogies given by Matthew and Luke. How do we reconcile two completely different lists that have nothing in common except for David and Joseph? The answer is quite simple if we look at the goals of the two authors.

Matthew is writing to Jews and wants to present Jesus to them as their king. He traces the lineage of Jesus from Abraham through David and then through David’s son Solomon all the way to Joseph. Joseph was a direct descendant of the kings which means that Jesus Himself is in that line. Matthew tells Joseph’s story – how the angel appeared to him when he was going to divorce Mary; how God spoke to him to flee Bethlehem after the visit of the Magi; and how God spoke to him again when they were in Egypt and it was time to return to Israel. It is only fitting that he gives the genealogy of Joseph which is what he does.

Luke is writing to Greeks and presenting Jesus as the Son of man – the ideal man. He traces the lineage of Jesus from Adam through David and then through David’s son Nathan all the way to Joseph: “the son of Heli.” Luke says Jesus is “supposedly the son of Joseph.” Supposedly, yet he isn’t really; he’s only the son of Mary. Luke tells Mary’s story – how the angel appeared to her and said she would carry the Savior; he tells of her trip to Elizabeth’s and about her famous prayer; and then he tells of the visit of the angels at the birth and how Mary, “pondered these things in her heart.” It is only fitting that Luke would give the genealogy of Mary who is also a descendant of David and that is what he does.

There is no word in Koine Greek for “son-in-law.” If you were describing someone as a son-in-law you would just use the word “son” which is what Luke does here. Joseph’s father was Jacob; his father-in-law, Mary’s father, was Heli. In the Greek, Joseph could be described as being both the son of Jacob and the son of Heli with no contradiction.


Pastor at City Church in Madison, Wisconsin