Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) 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 Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, 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 3:23-38
Much gets made of the two genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament. Matthew presents one and today we see the genealogy that Luke presented. It does not take long to see there are differences. Matthew starts with Abraham and moves forward to Jesus where Luke starts with Jesus and Joseph and moves back all the way to Adam. But even in the lineage between Abraham and Jesus there are differences. So, did one of them get it wrong or maybe both got it wrong. After all if we are to trust the Bible shouldn’t both genealogies be the same?
They could be provided both Matthew and Luke were giving either Joseph’s line or Mary’s line. However if one is through Mary and the other through Joseph then we would have different people. So why use one or the other. There we need to look at the audience the writer was trying to reach. Matthew was writing to the Jews as we can tell from his many references to the Old Testament prophesies Jesus fulfilled and explains why he stopped at Abraham or started with him. Abraham is considered the father of the Jewish people. . Luke on the other hand was writing to the Gentiles so it explains why he felt the need to go further back to the beginning of all people, Adam.
People who pick fault with the two genealogies also show a lack of understanding of genealogy in general. It is amazing how fast a genealogy tree branches out. Years ago I started to trace my family tree and I did a rather straightforward tree, my father to his father on down the line following the Work surname. On my mom’s sided I did similarly, her father, his father, etc. This created a rather flat tree. Then two years ago my wife greatly expanded my records in order to see if I had an ancestor here during the time of the American Revolution. She is a Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) member and had of children in children’s organization for the younger ones and in the adult DAR for the older one.
Guess what? She found one of my ancestors but through a grandmother rather than a grandfather on the dad’s side. She found family names I had no idea existed. So the genealogy that got me in the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) was not one that I would have thought to pursue. And there are at least three other lines that may well lead to an ancestor the lived here during the revolution. That does not even take into account my mom’s side of the family.
What I took from this is that the tree you use depends on where you are trying to get. In my case it was to become a SAR member. In Matthew’s case it was to show that Jesus was descended from Abraham and for Luke he wanted to show the Jesus was descended from the same person as all of us are. Rather than a contradiction in the Bible we see that where you are trying to get with a family tree can determine which branches you choose to use.
One additional note on biblical genealogies, we tend to uses family terms quite a bit more strict then they did in antiquity. When I talk about my father I have one person in mind, my dad. But as we see when Jesus was talking Pharisees and they said to Him that Abraham was their father, they did not mean Abraham was literally their father. What they did mean was that Abraham was their direct male ancestor. I say that because we do not know that every person in a genealogical line gets a mention. Just as God chose not to mention every Israelite that ever lived, He may have also chose to leave out some in a genealogical line. Genealogies in the Bible are important for one very basic reason, to get the Messiah, Jesus, from Abraham through David to us. The Jews were and for the most part are close knit peoples. It should not surprise anyone that Mary and Joseph would have common ancestors or that different trees from either of them would also have people in common.
One final thought. If the difference in names in Jesus’ family tree is what you are challenged on for the veracity of the Bible then you really have no worries. The two genealogies have nothing in them that changes any essential Christian doctrines. Not to discount the importance of any of God’s Word but you can go through life without ever reading any of the genealogies in the Bible and not miss what God intends for you. This is but one of many so called contradiction in the Bible that on closer examination turn out to be no contradiction at all, just a different point of view.
Have a blessed day,