Last week we looked at Jesus’ divine origin. This week we are going to examine his human origin. Specifically we will consider his genealogy which is recorded in Matthew 1:1 and Luke 3:23-38
I have pasted the two genealogical lists side by side so you can more easily see the similarities and differences in these two recordings of Jesus’ family tree.
To minimize confusion, notice that Matthew begins with Abraham and moves forward through history until he comes to Jesus. But Luke begins with Jesus and moves back through history until he comes to Adam.
1A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of
David, the son of Abraham:
17Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.
He [Jesus] was the
son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
What’s the Point of These Genealogies?
Matthew begins his book with the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew wrote to Jews who had a great interest in genealogies because God had promised several people (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David) thousands of years earlier that the messiah would be a descendant of theirs. To prove this descent, it was important to maintain accurate genealogical records.
Matthew's genealogy emphasized Jesus' legal right to the
throne of David, presenting Jesus as King of the Jews. This fact is immediately
set forth in verse one, which states Jesus was the "son of David, the son
of Abraham." His kinship to David the King of Israel is mentioned before
that of Abraham, the father of Israel.
The placement of Luke's genealogy is after Jesus baptism. When Jesus was baptized, God said "This is my beloved son." Immediately following this event, as if to prove God's declaration, Luke inserted the genealogy.
The original readers of Luke's works were Greek Christians. Since Luke's readers were less concerned about the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, his genealogy focused on Jesus' descent from God. The genealogy culminated by showing Jesus was the "son of Adam, the son of God" (Luke 3:28). This emphasized the humanity of Jesus, and that Jesus came to save all peoples, regardless of ethnic backgrounds.
Does “Son” Mean a Literal, First Generation Son?
Well, yes and no. In these genealogies, the word “son” could be applied to one who was not a literal, first generation son. It could mean a descendant; which could be a grandson, great grandson, or son of a more distant generation. For example, Matthew 1:1 states Jesus was the "son of David, the son of Abraham." This does not mean that David was the father of Jesus, and Abraham was his grandfather. First century Jews knew that Matthew did not mean there was only one generation between these men; but that Jesus was a descendant of David, who was a descendant of Abraham.
Joseph Jesus’ Father?
Although Jesus was a legal descendant to Joseph, he was not a physical descendant. Luke's genealogy directly addressed this issue by stating Jesus “was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,” (Luke 3:23). By virtue of being Mary's husband, Joseph was considered the father of Jesus. Since Jesus was born into Joseph's family, he was a legal heir. Through Joseph, Jesus obtained a rightful claim to the throne of David.
Why Are There
Differences in the Two Genealogies?
Matthew and Luke did not record the same names in their genealogies. Matthew traces Joseph's line through Solomon and the successive kings of Judah.
But Luke traces Joseph's line through Nathan, Solomon's brother. Several explanations are possible as to why the lists diverge:
Matthew and Luke
traced two family histories. Matthew recorded the ancestors of Joseph, the
legal father of Jesus. Luke recorded the ancestors of Mary, the biological
mother of Jesus.
2. Matthew gives the legal line of descent from David, giving the legal heir of the throne in each case. Luke, on the other hand, gives David's actual, physical descendants.
3. Both genealogies are through Joseph. Luke records Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph's father. But Matthew records Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph's maternal grandfather. Matthew’s genealogy does list five women lending some support that this might be a woman's genealogy.
Who Are the Women Listed in Jesus' Genealogy?
Matthew included five women in his genealogy of Christ. This is notable since it was not customary for Jews to include women in their records. Even more remarkable is the fact that Matthew included some women who had disreputable histories. The five women included were:
Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah. She was a childless widow, who was given to her brother-in-law after her husband's death. But he refused to impregnate her. He was then killed – and she was widowed again. But Judah would not give Tamar to any of his other sons. So Tamar disguised herself as a harlot and seduced Judah (her father-in-law), and he impregnated her, and she became the mother of Perez.
Rahab was a harlot who lived in an enemy city - Jericho. She hid Jewish spies. Because of this, the Israelites spared her life when they conquered Jericho. She later became the wife of Salmon, and the mother of Boaz.
Ruth was a foreigner from the land of Moab. She was the widow of a Jew. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, also lived in Moab. Naomi journeyed to Israel after her family died. Ruth left her own country to follow Naomi. While in Israel, Ruth was married to Boaz, one of Naomi's relatives. Ruth later became the mother of Obed, the grandfather of David the King.
Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was a soldier in the army of King David. She and David had an adulterous affair. When David discovered Bathsheba was pregnant, he sent word to his army to set up Uriah to be killed in battle. After Uriah was slain in this manner, David took Bathsheba as his own wife. God punished them for this by allowing their first child to die. Bathsheba later became the mother of Solomon.
Mary was a virgin who was engaged to Joseph when she became miraculously impregnated by the Holy Spirit. This was scandalous. Some suspected they had sex outside of marriage (not a big deal today, but a huge one then), and Joseph, knowing he hadn’t had sex with her, concluded she had cheated on him. However, an angel told Joseph what had happened. So Joseph took Mary as his wife, and kept her as a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus.