Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was (so it was thought) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli,
the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,
the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,
the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Matattha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,
the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,
the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,
the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.Luke 3:23-28
I explained in the last Gem how we can reconcile the fact that there are more names in one list (Matthew’s) that the other (Luke’s). Now we need to address the matter of the different names. Why are there so many different names in the lower part of the genealogy, from David to Christ? Here are some of the explanations that have been put forward over the years.
- Julius Afrikanus (d A D 240) suggested that Matthew list the genealogy of Joseph through his actual father, Jacob while Luke give us the genealogy through his legal father, Eli. So in one we have the blood line and in the other we have the legal line. The idea here is based on levirate marriage. Julius proposed Eli died childless. So his half brother Jacob, who had the same mother but a different father, married Eli’s widow under the principle of levirate marriage. This would mean that physically Joseph was the son of Jacob but legally the son of Eli. Jacob was a descendant of David through Solomon while Eli was a descendant of David through Nathan. This takes care of the discrepancy between Jacob and Eli and also covers the occurrence of the two names Solomon and Nathan as well. This would result in Jesus having a claim to the throne both physically and legally.
- J Gresham Machen in his book The Virgin Birth of Christ suggests Matthew gives the legal descent of Joseph (he discounts levirate marriage) while Luke gives us the physical descent. The idea in this theory is that Solomon’s line failed with Jeconiah (Jer 22:30). When that happened the collateral line of Nathan inherited the legal right to the throne. Hence Matthew traces the legal line to the throne from David to Solomon and through Jeconiah but transfers to collateral line after Jeconiah. Luke on the other hand traces the physical descent through Nathan and the collateral line. The underlying notion in Matthew seems to be Who is the heir to David’s throne? The underlying question in Luke’s case appears to be Who is Joseph’s father?
- There are many who assume Luke is giving Mary’s genealogy and not Joseph’s at all. Under this proposal, Eli is Mary’s father who dies with daughters but no sons. [Num 27:1-11; 36:1-12]. Here the idea is that Joseph became son and heir to Eli as a result of his marriage to Mary. Thus Joseph is included in Mary’s genealogy even though the genealogy is actually Mary’s.
- There is a fourth scenario wherein Luke’s genealogy is actually Mary’s. The line is wholly Mary’s and Joseph is not properly part of it. The element in Luke 3:23 ought to read “Jesus, being the son (as was supposed of Joseph) [but was actually the son] of Eli . . . ” There is strong evidence for this. In the Greek New Testament even the name in the genealogy has a definite article preceding it. Joseph’s name has no definite article.
υἱός, ᾿Ιωσήφ, τοῦ ῾Ηλί, τοῦ Ματθάτ, τοῦ Λευῒ, τοῦ Μελχί, τοῦ ᾿Ιαννά, τοῦ ᾿Ιωσήφ
Son, Joseph the Heli, the Mathat, the Levi, the Melchi, the Jannai, the Joseph
By using this grammatical convention Luke skillfully sets Joseph apart from the genealogy. Many take exception to this as a serious suggestion because Mary is not mentioned by name. But women are not normally mentioned in Jewish genealogy so Luke is sticking with tradition. Besides Mary has already featured prominently in Luke’s gospel. Luke’s list is unique anyway in the sense that he starts with Jesus and ascends rather than starts with Adam and descends.
The first three theories rely on conjecture. The last one is not based on conjecture but it is certainly unconventional.
There are a few loose ends but these four possibilities contain essentially what is necessary to explain the differences in the genealogies. Any one of these options is sufficient to cover the anomalies that we find in the genealogical lists. The problems are more imagined than real.
There is just one more element I should draw attention to for your consideration. In Matthew’s gospel we have seen he has organized his list into 3 sets of 14 progenitors. But interestingly enough there are not 42 names present in the list. There are only 41, one name (David) is used in two different lists. Go ponder why Matthew would do that. Do you want to know something else that is interesting connected to all of this? David’s name in Hebrew has a numeric value of . . . yes, you guess it, fourteen. [The gematria value of D is 4, V or W is 6 and d is 4 = 14]. Just a coincidence right? All sorts of things are hidden in genealogies and lists of names as we will see. Next Gem I will explore a new possibility together with you.
Those who forget their past are destined to repeat it.Robert Heinlein
When we die we become ‘stories’ in the minds of other people.Anon
Heredity: Everyone believes in it until their children act like fools!Anon