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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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up vote 10 down vote accepted

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 three periods of time not speaking about how many kings.

…fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (Matthew 1:17).

So here its 14 from the time of David to the time of the exile and 14 from the exile (the time after the exile) to the time of the Messiah.

So what is exactly these periods and are they parts of the two 14 ?

First, let us see the third group . As Matthew clearly says:

After the exile to Babylon,Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel (Matthew 1:12).

Thus,the third group is 14 generations began with the time called "After the exile period" or the Babylonian captivity period which starts with Jechonias (Jeconiah orJehoiachin) as Matthew says clearly enough.

That leaves us with 13 names in the second group time which is between David and this king in the last line OR the last period (which just preceded the Exile).

So if we look closely to what Matthew says :

And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon. (Matthew 1:11 KJv).

So we understand that Matthew was speaking about another period of time, the period called "about the time of the exile" its the time which just preceded the "After the exile period" and its the time when Jechonias was born. This period can not starts with Jechonias ,as we have seen Jechonias was the first king in the first period of the third group.

So we have TWO periods in Matthew mind. The "about the time of the exile" which saw the birth of Jeconiah AND the "after the time of the exile" which began with Jeconiah. And he uses these two periods to divide his genealogy to 14 periods in each group. So he says:

…fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (Matthew 1:17).

Matthew did not say from David to Jechonias or even to Jehoiakim but from David to a period. A period just precedes the Exile and was a prelude to it. It was the time when Jechonias born and the end time of the second group and Matthew counts it as a generation as he said. Also he counts another period that is from the exile to the Messiah, that period starts with Jechonias. Matthew has generations or periods in his mind when he was speaking about Israel history and the Messiah not just kings.

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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

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