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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.

  • 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
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    $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
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    You have identified the name, but the riddle? Jehoiakim means "Jehovah raises up" the hidden generation is the one that Jehovah raises up through the resurrection of Christ. – Bob Jones Aug 23 '16 at 12:09
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How many kings or how many generations?

I think Matthew was basically counting "periods of time" not how many kings. Kings' names were being used to represent or name some generations or some periods of time. (but not in every case).

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 https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1074&t=KJV

Look at the next verses to understand how Matthew was thinking in the number of generations or ages and how and when it begins and ends for him.

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).

The first generations as we see are from Abraham to David , they are 14 generations or periods of time and they were represented by 14 kings.

For the second group of generations, if we look closely to how Matthew determined its beginning and end, we will see Matthew says it begins with David time and ends with not a king's name but with another period of time, a moment, an event which is the Babylon Captivity or as the KJP puts it "the carrying away into Babylon.

It is clear then that Matthew meant by generation periods of time and was counting depending on that.

So the generation here is from David to carrying away into Babylon. And they are 14 generations (periods of time).

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

The third and last group of generations 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 group of generations which are 14 generations (periods of time).

That period (from carrying away into Babylon) carried another dramatic and different experience to the people than the period of Captivity in the second group. 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. He represented the period of the begining of the occupation of his country as he was born in that time and he also represented the time of carrying away to Bablyon as he was brought to Bablyon in that time.

Generally speaking, 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).

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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 says try topanswers.xyz Sep 7 '13 at 19:56
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    The reason the number 14 is important is that is the numeric value of the name of David in Hebrew. – Revelation Lad Jul 17 '16 at 11:52
  • New information for me, interesting, 14 also is 7+7 which may indicates another things. – Gamal Thomas Jul 17 '16 at 11:56
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Yes, David can be placed as the 15th name, thus concealing the 28th name or generation. However, this name hath been manifested; and being set up by God it doth uphold the sequence of Matthew 1:17.

Joseph of Egypt was the son of Israel. Even so, Joseph of Galilee was the son of Jacob; this one also being in Egypt for a space. This is recorded in 1 Chronicles 2:1 and 2:2, and in Matthew 1:16.

Joseph of Egypt was deemed by law the son of Potipherah priest of On. Likewise, Joseph of Galilee was deemed by law the son of Heli or Eli. These things can be concluded from Genesis 41:45, and from Luke 3:23. So be it known that Heliopolis was the ancient city of On in Egypt; it being identified as the place of pillars.

Samuel was the son of Elkanah. Yet he abided with one Eli priest of Shiloh by whom Samuel was deemed the son of him, as if it were by law. He is called "my son" in the scripture 1 Samuel 3:6 and 3:16.

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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.

  • There's some things I'd like to edit, but I'll leave it. – Mike bowling Jul 23 '16 at 17:07
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Matthew 1 gives the physical genealogy of Jesus Christ by way of Joseph, leaving out three generations between David the king and the Babylonian removal, and no telling how many generations between the Babylonian removal to the Christ, if any.

The author does so apparently to make a point regarding three distinct legs of the genealogy: from Abraham to David, who is specifically identified as the king; from David to the Babylonian removal; and from the Babylonian removal to the Christ, as demonstrated by verse 17.

That genealogy reveals the physical father of Joseph to be Jacob, whereas Luke reveals his legal father (not his father-in-law) as being Heli. It appears that Joseph is a product of a Levirate marriage.

According to Deuteronomy 25:5-6:

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. (Deuteronomy 25:5-6 KJV)

According to Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, Jacob and Heli were brothers by the same mother:

Thus we shall find the two, Jacob and Eli, although belonging to different families, yet brethren by the same mother. Of these the one, Jacob, when his brother Eli had died childless, took the latter’s wife and begot by her a son Joseph, his own son by nature and in accordance with reason.

Wherefore also it is written: ‘Jacob begot Joseph.’ Matthew 1:6 But according to law he was the son of Eli, for Jacob, being the brother of the latter, raised up seed to him. (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: Book 1, Chapter 7, Verse 9 http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250101.htm )

  • Or Jacob was Joseph's grandfather on his mother's side, i.e. his mother's father. Jacob having no sons would require he be listed as the father of her children in the genealogical record. The many fewer names in Matthew's list would mitigate towards such a thing happening many times as Matthew pieced together his list. Matthew's pursuit of a connection through Solomon must have been way more complex than Luke's assumption that Joseph was Jesus' natural father -- by a miracle of course, no less wondrous than that of a virgin having giving birth to a son. – enegue Mar 19 '18 at 3:30
  • Why would Joseph's mother's father be listed in his physical genealogy? I could see multiple generations being skipped in Matthew's record, but those would all be generations of men. – Messyanic Mar 19 '18 at 3:45
  • In Matthew's endeavour to make a connection from Solomon through to Jesus, encountering a man who had no sons would be resolved by listing the daughter's sons as his own. Under such circumstances, Jacob must have had only daughters, of whom Joseph's mother was one. So, in Matthew's genealogical record Jacob is listed as having begotten Joseph. Joseph's father, who we know as Heli from Luke's record, was immaterial in Matthew's pursuit of a connection to Jesus through Solomon. Together the two genealogies inform us that Jesus was connected to David through both his mother and his father. – enegue Mar 19 '18 at 4:42
  • Genealogies are always reckoned through fathers and sons. If a man has no sons, then his inheritance can be passed down to his daughter, but any children that daughter would have would be reckoned through that daughter's husband, not through that daughter's father. Matthew's genealogy is a physical genealogy of Joseph. The author wasn't endeavoring to make a connection from Solomon through to Jesus; that was Jesus' physical connection to David. Luke's list of names is a legal lineage for Joseph. Luke was endeavoring to make a connection between Jesus being called the Son of God. – Messyanic Mar 19 '18 at 5:12
  • Yes, genealogies are reckoned through fathers and sons, but they have nothing to do with inheritance. The genealogical record didn't just stop when it arrived at a man who had no sons, but continued with the sons of the man's daughter reckoned as his own. My only intention in commenting was to share an alternative point of view. I had no expectation that you would agree with it. – enegue Mar 19 '18 at 6:06

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