Genealogy of (Jesus) Christ
See also Jesus Christ
GENEALOGY OF (JESUS) CHRIST
Of the house and lineage of David.
The genealogy in Matthew.
Certain distinctive features stand out in Matthew’s genealogy. Two high points in OT revelation figure prominently in the list—David and Abraham, both men being partners to God’s covenants with Israel. Matthew intended that the pedigree of Jesus stand out sharply at the very beginning of his gospel, and it holds the first place of honor. His genealogy is structured in three sets of fourteen generations each. He arrived at this scheme through selection and omission in accord with OT practice. The device served to aid the memory, and indicated the main line of descent without sacrificing accuracy. Matthew may have chosen the number fourteen because it matches the numerical value of David’s name in Heb. letters, but this is no more than a theory. Another peculiar feature of Matthew’s list is the inclusion, almost incidentally of four women—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Rahab was a Canaanite from Jericho, Ruth was a Moabitess, and Tamar and Bathsheba were famous chiefly for their participation in public scandal. Quite apart from the character and nationality of these women, the very occurrence of their names in an official Jewish genealogy is a distinct feature. Undoubtedly, Jesus was known by His enemies as the son of an illegitimate union. He was known as the son of Mary, not Joseph (
The genealogy in Luke.
The Lukan genealogy is less official and legal in form. It is not placed at the beginning of the gospel, but is tucked away in the third ch., after the baptism of Jesus. The order is inverted, proceeding backward in time from Joseph to Adam, and includes almost twice as many entries. The most startling feature of the list is its total dissimilarity to Matthew’s in the period between Joseph and David, with only two names common to both (other than Joseph and David), namely, Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. Luke traced his line through Nathan, son of David, and named Heli as grandfather of Jesus, whereas Matthew traced his line through Solomon, the royal son of David, and named Jacob as grandfather.
Two solutions to the discrepancy.
Attempts have been made from earliest times to resolve the apparent contradiction. Assuming no colossal mistake in either gospel, two valid explanations are possible. Either both lists are properly those of Joseph but reckoned in a different way, or one is the family tree of Mary, not Joseph. Annius of Viterbo (c. 1490) proposed a theory that whereas Matthew gives the legal descent through Joseph, Luke presents the physical descent through Mary; a method that can be traced back to the 5th cent. a.d. Certainly, Mary is the chief figure in the birth narrative of the third gospel, and belongs herself very prob. to the house of David (
THE TWO GENEALOGIES
Adapted from A Guide to the Gospels (London 1948) by W. Graham Scroggie
The second possible explanation considers the Lukan genealogy to be the family tree of Joseph, as Matthew’s is. Both gospels stress that Joseph was of the house of David (
A final solution to so intricate a question may never be found. Enough is known, however, to show that the apparent discrepancy between the two genealogies is not insoluble.
A. T. Robertson, A(1922), 259-262; J. G. Machen, of Christ (1930), 203-209; E. Stauffer, Jesus and His Story (1960), 22-25.