Genealogies of Jesus

The genealogies recorded by Matthew and Luke show how the birth of Jesus fulfilled the promises made to Abraham (Gen 12:2-3; 22:18). Matthew, writing for the Jews, begins his genealogy with Abraham, father of the Jewish race (Matt 1:1-2a). Luke, writing for non-Jews, traces Jesus’ genealogy back past Abraham to Adam, to emphasize Jesus’ union with the whole human race (Luke 3:34b-38).

Between Abraham and David the two genealogies are the same (Matt 1:2b-6a; Luke 3:32-34a), but between David and Jesus they are different, as they follow two lines of descent that started with David and came together in Jesus (Matt 1:6b-16; Luke 3:23-31).

Matthew’s genealogy shows that Jesus had legal right to the throne of David, for he was in the royal line of descent that came through Solomon and other kings of Judah down to Joseph. Jesus therefore fulfilled the promise that the Messiah would be one of David’s royal descendants (2 Sam 7:12-16; Jer 23:5). But both writers point out that though Joseph was Jesus’ legal father he was not his natural father (Matt 1:16; Luke 3:23).

The genealogies do not necessarily list every person in the line of descent. As is often the case, they may be selective and stylized, to make them fit a simple scheme. Matthew, for example, omits some names to produce an arrangement of three sets of fourteen (Matt 1:17).

Luke’s genealogy gives further proof that Jesus was descended from David, by tracing his ancestry through the line of another of David’s sons, Nathan. This may represent another line of descent from David to Joseph, or it may represent the line of descent from David to Mary (but Mary’s name is not shown, since the genealogies record only the names of the males). If the latter is the case, Joseph was the ‘son’ of Heli only because of his marriage to Mary (i.e. Mary was the daughter of Heli, Joseph the son-in-

 

law). It is possible that Mary’s mother was from the tribe of Levi and descended from Aaron (cf. Luke 1:5,36) and her father from the tribe of Judah and descended from David (cf. Luke 1:32,69).

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