Even the most avid Bible student probably finds the genealogies of Christ in the gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke to be a less than exciting study. Yet the Holy Spirit inspired two different gospel writers to include His genealogy as a proof that He was uniquely and indisputably the Christ of prophecy. There are things about the genealogical records of Matthew’s account that differ from Luke’s account, and for good reasons. Even though they differ, they do so without contradicting one another. Let’s notice some things about the genealogy of Christ.
Matthew presented the genealogy of Jesus to a Jewish audience. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise first given to Abraham, father of the Jewish race. To the Jew, the first test of authenticity is the genealogy. If Jesus fails that test, nothing He said or did mattered—He cannot be the Christ. Thus, the first thing to establish is the genealogy (Mt. 1:1-17).
Matthew begins with Abraham and works forward in time.
He establishes the link between Jesus and David by showing the succession of kings from David to Babylonian exile.
He shows the direct link with the recipients of messianic promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David and then the arrival of the angel Gabriel to the parents of John and Jesus.
Matthew traces the bloodline of Jesus through His foster-father to the line of kings descending from David. To the Jew, this establishes the legal right to claim that Jesus descends from the house of David (birthright laws go through the father’s line).
Matthew makes his genealogy neatly divide into three sections of 14 generations each. This explains why Matthew skipped over some of the kings of Judah (Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah). Yet every Jew would have known the positions of the kings omitted, and their omissions did not contradict the succession from David to Jesus.
Luke presented the genealogy of Jesus to a Gentile audience and approached it from their mindset. For the Gentiles, proving that Jesus was a direct descendant of Abraham was of great value; but knowing that He descended from Adam makes Him less a Jewish Savior and more a universal Savior.
Luke wrote to a Gentile by the name of Theophilus and begins with the birth of Jesus and works backward all the way to Adam.
Luke will not provide his genealogy until after he had recorded the baptism of Jesus (Lk. 3:23-38). This is the logical place to insert the Savior’s genealogy since a Gentile reader would have no interest in the family records of a Jew unless that Jew was a Savior to all mankind.
Luke traces the bloodline of Jesus through His mother, Mary, to the line of kings descending from David. Matthew established that Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary (Mt. 1:16), and Luke shows that Jesus’ grandfather was Eli (Lk. 3:23). Thus, Eli was the father-in-law of Joseph, while Jacob was his actual father.
Righteous and evil men are in His genealogy. Two Gentile women are in the genealogy of Christ. To a Jew, this does no harm since the Jews traced the bloodline through the father. To the Gentile, this demonstrates that God had prepared a Savior for all the world. Only Jesus can be proven by genealogy to be the Christ of prophecy.
With the destruction of the temple in AD 70, all genealogical tables were lost. It is impossible for anyone coming after Jesus to prove themselves to be the Christ from Scripture. God covered all the bases! As Paul said, “In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him” (Eph. 1:8-9).
Keep studying. DC Brown ©2017