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I ran into a YouTube video that claims the Gospels of Luke and Mathew contradict on the name of Joseph's father. Luke claims that Joseph's father was a man named Heli but Mathew claims that the father of Joseph was a man named Jacob. Evidence from the Bible

Luke 3:23

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli.

Mathew 1:16

and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

How did this contradiction come about? What does this imply regarding Matthew's knowledge of Luke's work or Luke's knowledge of Matthew's?

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    As originally written, this question was likely to be closed as a duplicate. However, you also asked how did this contradiction come about? This is a question of source criticism relevant to the Synoptic Problem. I have expanded the question to focus on this so that your question is less likely to be closed. Commented Mar 6 at 18:27

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The genealogies

There have been many explanations proposed to answer the contradiction. The 2 most popular are:

  1. Matthew gives Joseph's genealogy and Luke gives Mary's (the inverse is sometimes proposed as well)
  2. Jacob & Heli were half-brothers (same mother). Joseph's physical father was Jacob, who married Heli's wife after Heli died (Levirate marriage), making Joseph the son of Heli according to the Law of Moses. This theory comes from the work of early historian Julius Africanus, see further discussion here.

The Synoptic Problem

Some see the difference in genealogies as evidence that Luke did not know Matthew's Gospel, and solve the Synoptic Problem in such a way that these 2 documents are literarily independent.

I disagree. Many hold that Matthew was not the first Gospel written. I respectfully hold a different view. My study of the Synoptic Problem has led me to the conclusion that both Mark and Luke were dependent upon Matthew. For a much more extended argument (if that's of interest), see my work on Matthean Priority here (Matthean Priority = Matthew was first).

I recognize that most scholars believe in Markan Priority; I also recognize why they do so. For a brief discussion, see this post under the heading It’s the majority view among New Testament scholars: this is unremarkable given the history of the Synoptic Problem.

But this also creates a conundrum. If Luke used Matthew as a source--and I firmly conclude he did--why are the genealogies different?

As demonstrated on this site and many others, a definite answer on the differing genealogies is not universally acknowledged. But if Luke knew Matthew's Gospel and used a different genealogy anyway, that means one of two things:

  • Luke thought Matthew was wrong (unlikely since he quoted hundreds of verses from Matthew)
  • Luke had access to a different family line

I find the most parsimonious solution to be that Luke - who has just provided an extensive account from Mary's perspective - is providing Mary's genealogy (therefore using a different family line).

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  • Was this person Luke, a member of Jesus twelve? Because it's been proven that he accompanied Peter and learned from him
    – Dong Li
    Commented Mar 6 at 18:40
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    Isn't the obvious question: why didn't the author of Luke specifically say it's Mary's genealogy he's relaying? Commented Mar 6 at 19:14
  • I'd add the possibility that they are simply two names used by the same person. There are other examples in the NT of a person having both a Hebrew name and a Greek name. (Saul and Paul, Simon and Cephas/Peter, etc. Perhaps Heli is short for Heliodorus Commented Mar 7 at 12:48
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    @AviAvraham a number of answers have been proposed to this question, but we do not know. A common view is that Luke wanted to list only male names in the genealogy. Some see in Luke 3:23 a hint that he's not actually providing Joseph's genealogy. Also, in Greek Luke doesn't explicitly say Joseph was the "son" of Heli, just "of Heli", which is the Greek he uses for tracing generations through most of the genealogy. Commented Mar 7 at 13:40
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    @DongLi I think it likely that Luke interviewed Mary - see my thoughts in this answer Commented Mar 8 at 17:54
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Answer

There is no contradiction because these are partly two different genealogies.

Explanation

Luke gives the list right from Adam and Matthew gives the list from Abraham.

The list is the same from Abraham to David in both Matthew and Luke.

However, the genealogies move away in two different directions from David onwards.

“These are the names of those born to him (King David) in Jerusalem: Shammua, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon” (2 Sam 5:14).

Matthew continues the list from King David through King Solomon (Matthew 1:6) while Luke does so through Nathan (Luke 3:31)

So, Jacob and Heli cannot be half-brothers in this sense.

Multiple names of Heli/Jacob for the same person also cannot solve the issue because, as is clear, these are two different genealogies; one from King Solomon and the other from Nathan.

Comparison of the Two

One thing is sure:

Jacob is the biological father of Joseph, the husband of Mary:

“Jacob then begat (Greek – egenneisan = procreated) the Joseph the husband of Mary” (Mat 1:16; Biblehub).

This is according to Matthew.

Luke simply says:

“Joseph of the Heli of the Maththat” etc (Luke 3:23-24; Biblehub).

[In the English Bibles, the above is given as "Joseph the son of Heli, the son of Maththat". In some, the term "son" is given in italics. This is because the term "son" is added by the translators. It is absent in the Greek manuscripts]

Now, Joseph can be of Heli in different ways:

  1. Could be a biological son;

  2. Could be an adopted son;

  3. Could be a son-in-law; etc.

Conclusion

So, it is clear that Matthew gives the biological genealogy of Joseph through King Solomon.

Luke gives the genealogy of Joseph through his marital alliance with Mary’s family.

Since these are two different genealogies from David through Solomon and Nathan, there is no room for any contradiction.

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  • I do not understand you, both move in the same direction towards Jesus. I just truncated to the grand father bit.
    – Dong Li
    Commented Mar 9 at 12:59
  • I'm not saying Julius Africanus' theory is correct, but the half-brother theory is based on the premise that they had the same mother and different fathers...so it's possible (though not certain) that Jacob's father was a descendant of Solomon and Heli's father was a descendant of Nathan. But I do think the person_name of person_name of person_name of in Greek leaves open the possibility you've mentioned, +1. Commented Mar 9 at 13:39
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    @DongLi – Both moved in different directions until Joseph steps in. He is biological son of Jacob and became “of Heli” through either adoption or marriage alliance. Commented Mar 9 at 16:43
  • @HoldToTheRod – Appreciate your up-vote. I am sure you are aware of the curse on Jehoiachin (Jeconiah/Coniah) in Jer 22:30. None of his seed will sit on David’s throne. So Joseph is disqualified as king through him. But Joseph, through (adoption/son-in-law) Heli, is eligible to be a king. Commented Mar 9 at 16:43
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The other plausible reason that explains the difference is that Biblical entities are known to have multiple names like Jacob who was also called Israel, Peter is also known as Simon and so it follows that Joseph's father had two names Jacob and Heli

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  • The different chains of names all the way back to David shows it's not so simple as this.
    – Jed Schaaf
    Commented May 25 at 5:52
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Why do Matthew & Luke report that Joseph (Jesus' stepfather) had two different fathers?

As it was already said, Jacob in Matthew 1:16 might be the biological father of Joseph.

As for Heli in Luke 3:23, this could be a variation of the name of Mary's father Joachim. At the time of Jesus the expression "the son of" could also refer to a father-in-law / son-in-law relationship.

Though few commentators adhere to this view of St. Luke's genealogy, the name of Mary's father, Heli, agrees with the name given to Our Lady's father in a tradition founded upon the report of the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal Gospel which dates from the end of the second century. According to this document the parents of Mary are Joachim and Anna. Now, the name Joachim is only a variation of Heli or Eliachim, substituting one Divine name (Yahweh) for the other (Eli, Elohim). The tradition as to the parents of Mary, found in the Gospel of James, is reproduced by St. John Damascene [24], St. Gregory of Nyssa [25], St. Germanus of Constantinople [26], pseudo-Epiphanius [27], pseudo-Hilarius [28], and St. Fulbert of Chartres [29]. Some of these writers add that the birth of Mary was obtained by the fervent prayers of Joachim and Anna in their advanced age. As Joachim belonged to the royal family of David, so Anna is supposed to have been a descendant of the priestly family of Aaron; thus Christ the Eternal King and Priest sprang from both a royal and priestly family [30]."

Source: catholicdoors.com, quoting from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912

See also this older Stack Exchange question: Is Joseph the son of Jacob or Heli?

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