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These questions keep me wondering:

Firstly, how is it possible that Matthew and Luke came up with completely different genealogies of Jesus ancestors, if they are both following the masculine line?

And more importantly, if I'm overlooking something and both Matthew and Luke were right, how can this 13-generatons gap be justified?

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There have been several proposed reconciliations of the Matthew and Luke genealogies. Among the popular ones are:

  • Matthew's genealogy traces legal heirs; Luke's traces biological ancestors.
  • Matthew's genealogy traces the ancestry of Joseph; Luke's traces the ancestry of Mary. This view takes the phrase "as was supposed of Joseph" in 3:23 as a parenthetical expression.
  • Matthew's genealogy traces the ancestry of Mary; Luke's traces the ancestry of Joseph. This view assumes the phrase "Joseph the husband of Mary" was originally written as "Joseph the father of Mary". This view is much less common than the previous two; no existing ancient biblical texts read "Joseph the father of Mary".

The reason Luke has more generations than Matthew is because Matthew has left some out in order to split the generations into three sets of 14. We can see evidence of this in the middle section, tracing Solomon to Jechoniah:

Matthew 1:7-11

…and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

Compare this to the same genealogy in 1 Chronicles;

1 Chronicles 3:10-16 [emphasis mine]

The descendants of Solomon: Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son, Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, Amon his son, Josiah his son. The sons of Josiah: Johanan the firstborn, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. The descendants of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son;

Asaph in Matthew is Asa in 1 Chronicles and Uzziah in Matthew is Azariah in 1 Chronicles. However, Joram's great-grandson Azariah from Chronicles is listed as his son in Matthew. This technique for shortening lengthy genealogies is known as telescoping.

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The idea of leaving out names (for whatever reason) is an interesting one. But shouldn't the names Matthew leaves in all be in Luke's "more complete" list? – user453 Feb 28 '12 at 21:36
@Freed, we can't know definitively why the two lists are so different; the most commonly suggested ways to reconcile them are at the top of my answer. – Bruce Alderman Mar 2 '12 at 14:58
$Bruce The more difficult problem, is why did Matthew say there were 42 generations when only 41 are listed? ;-) The answer is in the riddles... there is a hidden 'generation'. – Bob Jones May 27 '12 at 21:17
@BobJones: The missing name is Jehoiakim, between Josiah and Jeconiah. (I Chronicles 3:15-16) – Daniel ben Noach Dec 1 '15 at 3:10

I think Matthew was speaking about periods of time not just speaking about how many kings.

First of all, The word Generation can also mean an age (i.e. the time ordinarily occupied be each successive generation), a space of 30 - 33 years

Kings names were being used to represent some generations or some periods of time; names have not to be counted. (Count the periods of time themselves Matthew mentions.)

To understand Matthew is to begin with reading his words to know what he was thinking in generations and how and when it begins and ends.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations... (Matthew 1:17 KJV).

So if we look closely to the first period Matthew speaks of to know its beginning and end, we will see Matthew says it begins with David and ends with a period of time, a moment, an event (did not end with another king's name) and Matthew mentions the event and it is the Babylon Captivity or as the KJP puts it the carrying away into Babylon.

So the generation here is from David to carrying away into Babylon.

In this period Jechonias and his brothers were born. (Matthew 1:11 KJV)

Another period or generation Matthew speaks about also begins not with a king but with another period of time. Matthew describe this period as "from the carrying away into Babylon ".

From carrying away into Babylon unto Christ was another period

that caused another dramatic and different experience to the people. In this period Jechonias and his brothers were brought to Babylon. (Matthew 1:12 KJV)

If we want to count kings (as represent generations) like many do, we have to count Jechonias two times as he represented two different periods and generations. This might also was in Matthew mind; but basically as we see Matthew used GENERATIONS as PERIODS OF TIME in his mind when he was meditating in Jesus' time of birth and relating that to Israel history as it is so clear in (Matthew 1:17 KJV) and less clear when he mentioned the Babylon Captivity when he mentioned Jechonias.

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interesting, thanks and well done for mastering the 'edit' feature so quickly! I've added in some formatting, hope that is OK. – Jack Douglas Sep 7 '13 at 19:56
The reason the number 14 is important is that is the numeric value of the name of David in Hebrew. – Revelation Lad Jul 17 at 11:52
New information for me, interesting, 14 also is 7+7 which may indicates another things. – Gamal Thomas Jul 17 at 11:56

The genealogies split apart and come together again twice, if you compare Matthew and Luke. They split apart after David. Matthew follows Solomons royal line down to Jeconias, whom he says begat Salathiel. Luke follows Nathan down a nonroyal list to Neri, whom he claims to be the father of Salathiel. Both Neri and Jechonias could only have been considered the father of Salathiel according to the precept which God commanded, " if a man die having no son, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother". The firstborn son would then be considered the son of the sterile brother who died. We know that Jechonias did not die childless, because 1Chron. 3:17&18 lists other sons to him. So it must've been Neri, from Nathan's line. Then Jeconias marries Neri's widow, & the firstborn son was Salathiel, the father of Zorobabel the king who returned from captivity & rebuilt the temple. Then Matt says Zorobable begat Abiud, & follows his descendants down to Jacob, father to Joseph. But Luke follows Zorobabel's son Rhesa, & follows his descendants down to Heli, whom he claims to be Joseph's father, and supposedly grandfather of Jesus, who spiritually brought again the captivity, and rebuilt the true temple which was cast down(Am. 9:11).

The reason for the precept in the law was to be a picture of what Paul says in Rom. 7:4, "Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that he should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring for forth fruit in to God." The law was the sterile brother who couldn't enable us to bring forth fruit unto God. But now in Christ Jesus, our bridegroom, God works in us "both to will & to do of His good pleasure" (that is, His law). Therefore we are able to "work it out with fear and trembling". The fertile husband puts in the seed, the wife brings forth its fruit. As Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, and brought forth Jesus. Which takes place spiritually in all the elect. And so Paul says again, " for what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." I don't see any other way two men could be the father of the same child, or how the genealogies could split apart and come together twice as they did.

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There's some things I'd like to edit, but I'll leave it. – Mike bowling Jul 23 at 17:07

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