The Genealogy of Jesus–A Horizontal Reading


The genealogy of Jesus is listed twice in the New Testament, once in Matthew and again in Luke.  It’s important to list because the descent along the bloodline from King David was a vital qualification for the messiah, just like it was important that the messiah be born, or come from, Bethlehem.  The list in Matthew goes back all the way to Abraham (as founder of Israel).  However, the one in Luke lists the descent all the way back to the first man, Adam.  It’s revealing as to the intent of the authors for how they presented their lists: Matthew was reinforcing and focusing on the aspect of Jesus’ descent from King David, while Luke was presenting and attempting to justify Jesus as a “New Adam”.

For our purposes here, however, we will only focus on the genealogy back to the person of Abraham, since both lists go back at least that far.

For reference, I’ll list the two genealogies here.  (Note:  The orders in the two gospels are different with Matthew presenting his list going forward in time starting with Abraham and ending with Jesus, whereas the list in Luke goes backwards in time, beginning with Jesus and ending with Adam.)

Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17) Luke (Luke 3:23-38)
1 Abraham Abraham
2 Isaac Isaac
3 Jacob Jacob
4 Judah Judah
5 Perez Perez
6 Hezron Hezron
7 Ram Ram
8 Amminadab Amminadab
9 Nashon Nashon
10 Salmon Salmon
11 Boaz Boaz
12 Obed Obed
13 Jesse Jesse
14 David David
15 Solomon Nathan
16 Rehoboam Mattatha
17 Abijah Menna
18 Asa Melea
19 Jehosephat Eliakim
20 Jehoram Jonam
21 Uzziah Joseph
22 Jotham Judah
23 Ahaz Simeon
24 Hezekiah Levi
25 Manesseh Matthat
26 Amon Jorim
27 Josiah Eliezer
28 Jeconiah Joshua
29 Shealtiel Er
30 Zerubbabel Elmadam
31 Abiud Cosam
32 Eliakim Addi
33 Azor Melki
34 Zadok Neri
35 Akim Shealtiel
36 Eliud Zerubbabel
37 Eleazar Rhesa
38 Matthan Joanan
39 Jacob Joda
40 Joseph Josech
41 Jesus Semein
42 Mattathias
43 Maoth
44 Naggai
45 Elsi
46 Nahum
47 Amos
48 Mattathias
49 Joseph
50 Jannai
51 Melki
52 Levi
53 Matthat
54 Heli
55 Joseph
56 Jesus

You may have noticed, having scrolled down far enough to be reading this sentence, that there are a number of blank spaces at the end of the Matthew column.  In fact, Luke has 15 more steps in the genealogy from Jesus to Abraham.  This should be concern #1.

Concern #2 is this: The lists are in agreement in the line from Abraham to David, but that’s as far as the agreement goes.  The lists become different on the matter of David’s son, with Matthew choosing Solomon as the son who continues the line, where Luke has gone with Nathan.  The problem should be apparent, two brothers can’t both be father to the son whose role in the line is being the branch of the family tree that led directly, through the bloodline, to Jesus.

Both lists can’t be right.

And, as a bit of a pet peeve, there’s this: Matthew, ultimately using it to lend weight to his point, tries to make his genealogy symmetrically beautiful—14 from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the Exile, 14 from the Exile to Jesus.  But if you look at the list above, starting with Abraham and ending with Jesus, there are only 41 steps.  If there were 3 sets of 14, there would be 42 steps (14+14+14).

But the major problem I have with this whole thing is this: the genealogies are ultimately meaningless and worthless.

Even Luke begins his list with a qualifying statement:

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.  He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph..

Like I mentioned earlier, the genealogy of Jesus is important because the messiah was supposed to have been a descendent of King David, through a bloodline.  And these two lists trace the line back through Joseph’s side of the family, as it would have been done.  Israel was a patriarchal society meaning that the important bloodline was the father’s.

But if it was a virgin birth, which in itself is used as primary supporting evidence for Jesus’ messiahship/divinity, then Joseph wasn’t the father.  Jesus isn’t of Joseph’s bloodline.  Joseph would have been more akin to a stepfather.  So these lists of the family tree leading to Jesus are meaningless, as he doesn’t belong to either of them.

At the very least, it means that he wasn’t a descendant of King David.


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