The Apple Of God's Eye

April 18, 2009

Do Christ's Genealogies Of Matthew 1 And Luke 3 Contradict?

Matthew 1 and Luke 3 both give genealogies of Christ, but they appear to contradict. Actually they complement each other. 

Matthew’s genealogy is clearly that of Joseph. Matthew recorded it for legal purposes; he was writing to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, and the Jews’ custom in keeping records was to trace descent through the father. Legally, the Jews of Jesus’ day looked on Him as a son of Joseph (John 6:42). 

Also, Joseph’s lineage was given to emphasize the fact that Jesus had to be born of a virgin. He could never sit upon the throne of David if Joseph were His real father, since Jechonias (or Jeconiah) was one of his ancestors (Matt. 1:11-12). 

Jeconiah, called Coniah in Jeremiah 22:24-30, was so evil God cursed him and his descendants and said “no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (verse 30). Jeconiah did have children (I Chron. 3:17) but was childless as far as having any descendants on the throne. Joseph’s children could not, therefore, ever sit on David’s throne. 

How, then, could Christ be a descendant of David and qualify to sit. on the throne? Enter the genealogy in Luke 3. 

Luke’s genealogy is actually Mary’s. According to Jewish usage, Mary’s genealogy was given in her husband’s name. The original Greek merely says Joseph was “of Heli” (Luke 3:23). In fact, Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli, since his father was Jacob (Matt. 1:16). 

Unlike in Joseph’s lineage, there was no block to the throne of David in Jesus’ actual blood genealogy through Mary. Her ancestor was David’s other son, Nathan (Luke 3:31). To fulfill His promise to establish David’s throne forever, God honored Nathan by making him the ancestor of the promised King who would sit on David’s throne through eternity (Luke 1:31-33). 

But how could Mary transmit David’s royal inheritance — the right to the throne — to her son, since all inheritances had to pass through male descendants? According to Israel’s law, when a daughter was the only heir, she could inherit her father’s possessions and rights if she married within her own tribe (Num. 27:1-7, 36:6-7). 

Apparently, Mary had no brothers who could be her father’s heirs. Joseph became Heli’s heir by marriage to Mary, and thus inherited the right to rule on David’s throne. This right then passed on to Christ. 

Both genealogies had to be recorded to establish Christ’s right to rule on David’s throne. Joseph’s genealogy shows Christ was a descendant of Jeconiah and thus could not sit on the throne by inheriting the right through Joseph. It further proves the virgin birth: The curse on Jeconiah’s line would have passed on to Christ if He were Joseph’s real son, but He wasn’t — He was begotten by the Holy Spirit and was the Son of God. 

But Christ was Mary’s son through Nathan and can inherit the throne legally because of her marriage to Joseph, whose genealogy shows he was of the tribe of Judah. 

These two genealogies do not contradict. When studied together, they prove Christ’s legal right to rule on David’s throne when He returns.

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