Some scholars say they are irreconcilable, while others say reconciling them is not so difficult. I favor plausible harmonization, since the scholars in this post seem to have cracked the “codes.” Plausibility is found in the cultural context. It’s all in the family. Bonus: see the American family “the Roosevelts” in a chart for parallels.
This post has the following major sections:
TWO GENEALOGIES IN MATTHEW AND LUKE
FROM ABRAHAM TO DAVID
FROM DAVID TO JESUS
JOSEPH’S IMMEDIATE ANCESTORS
OTHER COMPLICATIONS RESOLVED
ADDENDUM: THE ROOSEVELTS
Let’s begin with a table of two columns, for your convenience:
TWO GENEALOGIES IN MATTHEW AND LUKE
The New International Version is used here. Matthew begins with Abraham and works downwards in time to Jesus, while Luke begins with Jesus and lists names from him all the way back to Adam.
Matthew’s Genealogy (1:1-17)
Luke’s Genealogy (3:23-38)
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
|He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josek, the son of Joda,
27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,
the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.
The first thing to notice is that Matthew has forty-two names, while Luke has fifty-six, but Matthew’s lineage is clearly based on three sets of fourteen generations, so some generations were omitted. “Father of” and “was the father of” can be rendered “was the ancestor of,” skipping fathers in between one name to the next. It is acceptable to omit names in genealogies, whether Matthew was going for fourteen generations or not (and he was). Also, Luke’s list goes back earlier than Abraham, yet Matthew stops at the patriarch.
From Adam to Shem the lineage has been drawn from Gen. 5;
From Shem to Abraham the names are taken from Gen. 11:10-32;
From Abraham to David the names come from 1 Chronicles and Ruth;
Darrell L. Bock (Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 [Baker, 1994], pp. 352-53.
The two lists converge at Zerubbabel (Matt. 1:13 and Luke 3:27). Then Luke says that Zerubbabel’s next descendant is Rhesa, while Matthew says Zerubbabel’s next descendant was Abihud. However, 1 Chron. 3:19 says that Zerubbabel sons were Meshullam and Hananiah.
This discrepancy is easy to solve. Matthew and Luke may have skipped generations (Matthew did this to keep his theme of fourteen generations going), and both Matthew and Luke may have had access to other sources, so Zerubbabel may have had other sons or grandsons unnamed in 1 Chron. 3:19. But see the section More Complications Resolved for possible further explanations.
What about Matthew keeping each section to fourteen names with David being the pivot? David’s name in Hebrew works out to be fourteen (d-w-d, and the vowels were added later).
D = 4
W = 6
D = 4
David is the key figure for the Messianic title. So Matthew trims the other names to work out to fourteen names. This is not a farfetched explanation, for Matthew was a Jewish tax collector and worked with numbers. (Yes, I take traditional authorship seriously.) Other Jewish writings also look at the deeper significance of numbers. (The pursuit of the significance in numbers is called Gematria).
Further, the third set of fourteen names in Matthew’s Gospel actually works out to thirteen names. Reason? D.A. Carson: “And if the third set of fourteen is short one member, perhaps it will suggest to some readers that just as God cuts short the time of distress for the sake of his elect (24:22), so also he mercifully shortens the period from the Exile to Jesus the Messiah” (Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. Ed. by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Vol. 9. [Zondervan, 2010], p. 69).
A slightly less spiritual explanation says that David should be counted twice, for that’s how Matthew sets up the exemplar king’s importance. David is the pivot from Abraham to himself and from him to Jesus.
In any case, Matthew’s genealogy is selective and streamlined, taking a short cut to show Jesus’s connection to David, which is one of his two main points (the other being his connection to Abraham).
FROM ABRAHAM TO DAVID
As noted, the New International Version is used here.
Matthew Luke (reverse order)
1. Abraham Abraham
2. Isaac Isaac
3. Jacob Jacob
4. Judah Judah
5. Perez Perez
6. Hezron Hezron
7. Ram Ram1
8. Amminadab Amminadab2
9. Nashon Nashon
10. Salmon Salmon3
11. Boaz Boaz
12. Obed Obed
13. Jesse Jesse
14. David David
1 In unit 7, Ram (Aram) in Matthew and Arni in some translations of Luke 3:33 (NIV also has Ram, above, in this list) are both interpreted as variations of Ram in 1 Chron. 2:9-10. The Hebrew text has Rām and the Septuagint (a third to second century BC translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek and pronounced sep-TOO-ah-gent) has both Ram and Aram (D. S. Huffman. “Genealogies,” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, eds. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall (Intervarsity, 1992).
2 In Luke’s Gospel, some manuscripts insert “Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni”; other manuscripts vary widely. In this case, Matthew streamlined things and so “Ram was the ancestor of Amminadab” works. Matthew wanted fourteen names in this section. Omissions were acceptable.
3 In Luke’s Gospel, some manuscripts have “Sala,” which is just a variation on Salmon. Other manuscripts have “Salmon.”
Therefore, the list of names in this section poses no difficulty in reconciling the two genealogies. They are virtually identical.
One theme we need to discuss is biblical culture. People were mainly agrarians / farmers or village people and townsfolk who lived in an agrarian society. They knew each other. Think of Boaz and Ruth (no. 11). No dating websites back then! I’ll develop this theme as we go along.
FROM DAVID TO JESUS
From David to Jesus, the two list differs widely. Here is a key biblical reference to clarify issues:
David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, 5 and these were the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. These four were by Bathsheba … (1 Chron. 3:4-5, NIV, emphasis added)
Luke 3:31 says that David’s son Nathan begins the lineage down to Jesus, while Matt. 1:6 says David’s son Solomon begins the lineage down to Jesus (Bathsheba is unnamed but called “wife of Uriah,” her first husband in Matthew’s version). Here’s how the matter of the two sons (Solomon and Nathan) must surely work out:
This solution is the most streamlined. There is much to commend it. Joseph’s lineage is mainly royal and natural, because Solomon was a king, as were his descendants, while Mary lineage is mainly legal but still royal because Nathan descends from David but was not the king (Bock, p. 356).
D.A. Carson says that Luke aims to give Mary’s genealogy but substitutes Joseph’s name (Luke 3:23), to avoid mentioning a woman. (It is surprising, but Luke does not have one woman in his genealogy, not even Mary.) Mary herself probably does descend from David (see Luke 1:32).
Bock writes that Luke traces the genealogy through Mary’s line; Matthew does this through the line of Joseph. Thus Luke says that Joseph was “thought” to be Jesus’s father, so he was not part of Luke’s genealogy. If he were, then Luke would contradict himself because Jesus was born of the virgin Mary.
Anyone who has done genealogical research (I have, and see the Roosevelts, below) knows that the names descending generationally from two brothers (Solomon and Nathan) can vary greatly, particularly when the men may have married multiple wives. (This is why I placed “generations” in parentheses.) But even if, hypothetically, the men were monogamous, they typically had many children–or preferably for biblical times and in Palestine over the centuries–many sons.
Therefore, the two genealogies in this section pose no insurmountable difficulties.
JOSEPH’S IMMEDIATE ANCESTORS
However, readers may not accept the interpretation that Mary herself descends from Nathan and the man named Heli. After all, Luke 3:23 and Matt. 1:16 say that Joseph is the son of Jacob and Heli, not Mary. This problem is also not insurmountable. Here’s how.
Bock says that Jacob and Heli were half-brothers. So Heli died childless as the legal, royal heir and is Joseph’s uncle. Joseph is the physical son of Jacob by a sister of Heli, who now carries the line. So Luke’s line is physical through Heli’s sister, who has the legal claim as the nearest relative to Heli. As for Joseph being called the “son” of Heli, the genealogy is merely legal.
Bock further says that Mary is the heiress of Heli, since she had no brothers. Heli adopted Joseph as son upon his marriage to Mary, as in other cases when the father had no biological son (Ezra 2:61; Neh. 7:63; Num. 27:1-11; 1 Chron. 2:34-35). So Luke’s genealogy reflects adoption and his line again becomes legal versus physical.
Bock adds that a Levirate marriage may be in view. Luke traces the “legal” or royal line and levirate marriages (Deut. 25:5-10), while Matthew traces the physical or blood line. Matthan died and his wife (Estha) married Melchi (Luke 3:24), who had a son, Heli (Luke 3:23). Heli died without children and his half-brother Jacob took his wife by levirate marriage, so that Jacob’s sons were tied to Heli.
Commentators Walter L. Liefeld and David W. Pao agree that a Levirate marriage probably happened and explain how this worked: “The widow of a childless man could marry his brother so that a child of the second marriage could legally be considered as the son of the deceased man in order to perpetuate his name. In a genealogy, the child could be listed as the son of Heli in Luke but as the son of Jacob in Matthew. On the levirate marriage theory, Heli and Jacob may have been half brothers, with the same mother, but fathers of different names. Perhaps Heli died and Jacob married his widow” (Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. [Zondervan, 2007], p. 97).
Here is the Levirate marriage law in Deut. 25:5-6:
5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. (NIV)
Next, Carson also says that Luke provides Joseph’s real or biological genealogy and Matthew offers the throne succession. This explains why Luke works backwards in time, and Matthew forward from Abraham to David and then to Jesus. Joseph’s real father was Heli, to his father Matthat and back to Nathan and David. However, Matthew says the father of Joseph was Jacob. To solve this problem, scholars postulate a Levirate marriage (a brother dies without an heir, and one of the brothers marries his widow), so Heli died, and Jacob took over. But the problem is that if the whole purpose is to raise up a child for the deceased brother, why does Luke provide the name of his actual father? Answer: this was Luke’s way to honor the deceased brother.
Here’s a solution summarized by Carson from J. Gresham Machen. Matt. 1:15 says that Eleazar is the great-grandfather of Joseph, while Luke 3:24 says Levi is the great grandfather. To understand the next explanation, here is the table:
If we assume that Matthat and Matthan are not the same person, there is no need to appeal to levirate marriage. The difficulty regarding the father of Matthat and the father of Matthan disappears. Yet their respective sons Heli and Jacob may have been so closely related (e.g. if Heli was heirless only son whose sister married Jacob or Joseph) that if Heli died, Jacob’s son Joseph became his heir (Carson, p. 65).
Then Carson continues with the explanation from older-generation scholar Machen. Let’s set it up first with another table.
Recall what a Levirate marriage is. Either Eleazar or Levi died childless and the living cousin, the closest relative, (either Eleazar or Levi) married the widow and had Matthan / Matthat, who is the same person. Now here’s the rest of the explanation:
Alternatively, if Matthan and Matthat are the same person (presupposing a levirate marriage one generation earlier), we “need only suppose that Jacob dies without issue, so that his nephew, the son of his brother Heli [Joseph’s father according to Luke] would become his heir [who is Joseph]” … (Carson, p. 65).
This interpretation spots the similarities between the names Matthat and Matthan. It is reasonable to conclude that they were the same person. Then Joseph would become the named heir, if Jacob died and Joseph was Heli’s son. This solution about Jacob and Heli and Joseph is also reasonable. However, the weakness is that Eleazar and Levi were distant cousins, and it is not clear whether such distant cousins could carry out the Levirate marriage. On the other hand, this is the royal family, and a widow may have married Eleazar and Levi, and they made special arrangements, when one of the men died. The Roosevelt family lines support the notion that two family lines kept in contact with each other and married each other.
Bock agrees with this analysis: Luke gives the physical descent, while Matthew the royal lineage. After all, ancient Judaism noted multiple lines for David. So Matthew’s Jacob and Luke’s Heli were brothers, and their father was Matthat / Matthan (Luke 3:24 and Matt. 1:15, respectively). And if the fathers are the same person, then Levirate marriage must be proposed because they have two fathers: Eleazar (Matt. 1:15) and Levi (Luke 3:24).
For Bock, see vol. 1, pp. 918-23, for more discussion of all of these issues.
Each of these explanations is plausible (to me), because of the small towns and villages, like Nazareth and Bethlehem. People knew each other and families were close, in these farming communities. They celebrated Passover and other commanded festivals together.
Therefore, Tables Two-Four are not farfetched, but plausible; there may have been a Levirate marriage because people died young back then–even a partner in married couples. Or perhaps Jacob and Heli were half-brothers or brothers, and Jacob inherited the legacy after Heli died, or Heli inherited the legacy after Jacob died. Then the surviving brother passed it on to Joseph. Given the close agrarian families in villages and towns, it would be surprising if those ancestors were not related or knew each other intimately. The rudimentary genealogical table of the Roosevelts, below, confirms this, even in modern society.
However, if all of these solutions seem artificial to the skeptical reader, as if they are protecting the hypothesis (harmonization) at all costs, then the next section provides even more plausibility. The Jacob-Heli-Joseph and Matthan-Matthat (etc.) complications have biblical precedence. Parallels exist in the Old Testament.
OTHER COMPLICATIONS RESOLVED
Or at least the complications are explained. However, if you believe harmonization has been achieved in the previous two sections, then scroll down to the Conclusion.
Let’s look farther back in time, but after David. Recall that the two lines between David and Jesus converged at Zerubbabel (Matt. 1:13 and Luke 3:27). Then things get a little more complicated, just Zerubbabel and little afterwards. Prof. James Bejon sees biblical precedence for the complications (and resolutions) in Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies. That is, there is nothing unusual about it since the Old Testament has similar complications and resolutions.
First let me set up part of the problem. Who was Jehoiakim?
He does not appear in Jesus’s genealogy, though the Bible says he is the son of Josiah (1 Chron. 3:15-16). Why was he skipped over? He shredded and burned the prophet Jeremiah’s scroll (Jer. 36:23), so God cursed him (Jer. 36:30) and would not allow the Messiah to come through his line; Jechoniah (Jehoiachin) was grafted into Josiah’s direct line, bypassing Jehoiakim. Jehoiachin adopted his kinsman Shealtiel. So just as Jehoiakim excised sections of Jeremiah’s prophecy, Jehoiakim was himself excised from the line of the Messiah. God watches out for his prophecy.
And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. (Jer. 36:23, NIV, emphasis added)
Here are the consequences:
Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. (Jer. 36:30, NIV)
It is a bad idea to destroy God’s Word.
Of course, Prof. Bejon answers many more questions. His article is long, but I urge readers to click on the link below to find his wonderful and clear lineage charts.
First, in the summary, Bejon states the problem and quickly reviews the standard (and inadequate) solutions, but then states his hypothesis that needs to be proven:
Jesus’ genealogies in Matthew and Luke are frequently dismissed as ‘irreconciliable’. Such claims, however, like certain defences of Jesus’ genealogies, are too quick. Matthew and Luke differ from one another, not because they are poor historians, nor because one of them provides Joseph’s genealogy while the other provides Mary’s, nor even because they provide ‘theological genealogies’ (whatever a theological genealogy might be), but because two individuals in Joseph’s ancestry (viz. Shealtiel and Matthan-aka-Matthat) chose to be grafted into different lineages within their clan.
His hypothesis: “Two individuals in Joseph’s ancestry (viz. Shealtiel and Matthan-aka-Matthat chose to be grafted into different lineages within their clans.”
Can he prove his hypothesis? Let’s see.
Second, Bejon informs us that a grandson of Josiah was placed in the royal lineage, and not in the line of accursed Jehoiakim:
And Jehoiachin was able to reign in Judah (contra the prima facie implication of Jeremiah’s prophecy) because he was removed from Jehoiakim’s (accursed) line and grafted directly into Josiah’s. Hence, true to Jeremiah’s word … Jehoiakim’s line came to a untimely end. The Messiah would not arise from Jehoiakim’s line (per the diagram below),… [click on the link, below, to see the diagram]
The reason the Messiah would not arise through Jehoiakim’s line is that it was cursed, so Jehoiachin was grafted in directly into Josiah’s line, since Jehoiachin was Josiah’s grandson. As noted, Jehoiakim had cut up large portions of prophecy (Jer. 36:23), so God bypassed him.
Third, Bejon notes the similarities in v. 2 and v. 11 in Matthew’s version: “and his brothers.” He writes:
Also important to note is the parallel between v. 2 (‘Judah and his brothers’) and v. 11 (‘Jehoiachin and his brothers’). In both verses, Matthew chooses to mention not just a single ruler, but a ruler together with his brothers. Why? Because just as Judah is promoted to a position beyond his biological entitlement (insofar as he functions as their leader due to Reuben’s fall: (cp. 1 Chr. 5.1–2), so too is Jehoiachin, as Matthew is well aware.
In other words, Matthew did not miss the parallel. Judah is elevated to a position beyond his biology because of Reuben’s failure, and so was Jehoiachin, centuries later.
Fourth, Jehoiachin himself seemed to come under a curse, and he would not raise up a biological son to succeed him. While in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar forgave him and Jehoiachin adopted one of his kinsman. Bejon notes:
While in exile, God pardoned Jehoiachin and allowed him to adopt (one of his kinsmen named) Shealtiel, who was hence grafted into God’s line of promise. True to Jeremiah’s word, then, Jehoiachin’s biological ‘seed’ (cp. 22.30) did not inherit David’s throne, nor did it survive the exile. Yet, by means of the adoption of Shealtiel, God allowed Jehoiachin’s name / line to continue and hence made it possible for the Messiah to arise from Judah’s royal line.
Fifth, Bejon writes a summary paragraph that explains a lot (so far):
That, I submit, is why the text of 1 Chr. 3.17–18 is able to credit Jehoiachin with children and is why it singles out the sonship of Shealtiel. That is why the text divides Jehoiachin’s descendants into two groups, namely those who were born under God’s judgment prior to the exile, whose line came to a premature end (3.16), and those who, like Shealtiel, were grafted into the redeemed Jehoiachin’s line (3.17ff.), who would carry God’s promise forward in the post-exilic world (per the focus of Matt. 1.11–12). And that is why b. Sanhedrin 38a associates Shealtiel with the removal of God’s curse and is able to expect the Messiah to arise from the line of Zerubbabel.
Sixth, Bejon continues with the explainable differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies:
Of course, if our hypothesis is correct—that is to say, if Shealtiel was in fact adopted into Jehoiachin’s line—, then it is possible to attribute two distinct genealogies to Shealtiel (namely a biological one and a legal / adopted one), which is precisely what we find in Matthew and Luke.
Seventh, Bejon provides a short genealogical table (so click on the link below). He continues to explain the differences between Matthew and Luke:
Matthew provides us with Shealtiel’s legal / adopted genealogy, which traces Shealtiel’s ancestry back to David by way of Judah’s kings, while Luke provides us with Shealtiel’s biological genealogy, which descends from David’s son Nathan. Consequently, Matthew’s genealogy is the shorter of the two. Matthew wants to highlight Shealtiel’s connection with Judah’s royal line—a line exhaustively documented elsewhere, which Matthew does not, therefore, need to reproduce in full—, while Luke wants to document a lesser known family tree, i.e., a more or less continuous chain of father and son relationships. (For Luke, Shealtiel is the 21st generation from David, which seems about right since Shealtiel and David are separated by c. 450 years).
So Bejon provides a plausible answer to the puzzles from David to Zerubbabel and Matthew’s and Luke’s purposes.
Eighth, Bejon has one more issue to clarify, if he can. Now what about Joseph’s father and grandfathers? Why is Joseph’s ancestry insecure? Does Matthew write about people’s doubts? Yes. In Matt. 13:55, Joseph is referred to as merely a carpenter. Where is the royal lineage? In John’s Gospel, Jesus isn’t recognized as having an exalted linage (John 7:41-42, 52). How did Joseph’s lineage get obscured?
Ninth, here is how Bejon answers this challenge about Joseph’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Bejon gives two options:
The relationship between Matthew and Luke’s genealogies can then be conceived of in one of two ways. The first option is to assume the names ‘Heli’ and ‘Jacob’ refer to one and the same person, as shown below [Bejon has a short lineage table side by side with Matthew and Luke]:
The second is to assume the names ‘Heli’ and ‘Jacob’ represent different generations [Bejon has another short table between Matthew and Luke].
Here’s the payoff on the two options, as Bejon explains the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies:
Either way, Matthew and Luke’s genealogies are consistent with our proffered hypothesis, namely that an unusual event occurred in Joseph’s past which resulted in the adoption of Joseph’s grandfather into a new family tree. Luke’s genealogy must, therefore, represent Joseph’s biological line, where the names of Joseph and his immediate family are at home, while Matthew’s represents Joseph’s legal / adopted line, which would explain (for the same reason as before) why Luke’s genealogy is the longer of the two. I therefore take Luke’s genealogy to represent a lesser known branch of Shealtiel’s ancestry which settled in Nazareth at some point, and Matthew’s to represent a higher profile line (perhaps the line of the firstborns: cp. 1 Chr. 3.17–19).The bottom line, however, remains the same: Joseph isn’t widely recognized as a descendant of David or a Bethlehemite in the Gospels, and the patterns attested in Matthew and Luke’s genealogies provide a plausible reason why.
I like how Bejon mentions the small villages of Nazareth and Bethlehem. People back then did not go on social media and find distant partners whom they had never heard of before. Just the opposite. They knew each other and their families. In any case, as adoption happened in the OT from David to Zerubbabel, Luke’s Gospel is Joseph’s biological line, and Matthew’s genealogy covers the legal / adoption lineage. Luke and Matthew are simply following Old Testament precedence.
Tenth, here is Bejon’s summary, namely, that Mathew’s and Luke’s genealogies are able to sustain close scrutiny, even though they incorporate lineages that existed over 1500 years:
Matthew and Luke’s genealogies are able to withstand sustained critical scrutiny. At first blush, they simply look like confused accounts of history. But, on closer inspection, they can be shown to be guided by coherent patterns and principles. Matthew and Luke’s genealogies differ because two of Joseph’s ancestors (Shealtiel and Matthan / Matthat) were grafted into new family lines. And, while Matthew and Luke’s genealogies may not be able to answer all the questions we might like to ask of them, they are nonetheless plausible accounts of history. Indeed, they exhibit the same kind of complexity as many OT genealogies do, and are characterized by exactly the kind of knottiness one would expect to find in a genealogy which spans over 1,500 years.
So Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies are deliberately modeled on Old Testament complexities; the paralleled precedence is real, and the attempt at harmonization is plausible.
I urge all readers to click on the next links, because they show easy-to-follow lineage charts, side-by-side. Bejon’s explaining his own solutions is much better than my secondhand summary of it!
https://www.academia.edu/41135348/Jesus_Genealogies (if this link goes dead, do a key word search, or click on the link and video, next.
Simpler access here, where Mr. Bejon was a guest writer:
I don’t know how to eliminate the description box, but that’s okay because it shows what high quality his post is.
If you want a nice video summary (not by me), please click on this link, produced by an apologist:
Please see this video, not by me, for another angle, produced by a scholar:
Some may object that Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies are hopelessly irreconcilable, so Jesus’ descent from David, for example, is shaky. However, with minor adjustments, the two genealogies can be reconciled.
First, from Abraham to David, the list is virtually identical.
From David to Jesus, the many generations coming in between that timeframe pose no problems. Anyone who has done genealogical research (I have) knows that different lines can lead back to various ancestors to a prominent one (in Jesus’s case, back to King David). Coming down to Jesus over time, these lines can expand into dozens, perhaps hundreds.
The simplest attempt at reconciliation of all is seen in Table One. Luke gives Mary’s lineage, while Matthew offers Joseph’s lineage.
Next, in the section Joseph’s Immediate Ancestors, I especially like the explanation that says that Jacob and Heli were half-brothers, and one of them died childless. Carson’s solution via J. Gresham Machen, with Bock’s assessment, is also strong.
As noted throughout this post, people lived in close-knit societies and entire families knew each other intimately, in biblical times. I once had a roommate who knew his sixth cousins in a rural county in Iowa, an agricultural state. They were all farmers and did not go far from home. He had never seen the ocean before moving to California, and his grandparents never left the home county–in the days of cars and airplanes! Israel, even during the time of David’s and Solomon’s expanded territory, was small, by our standards.
To state the obvious, social media and dating websites did not exist in biblical times. Arranged marriages happened. Bethlehem was a small village. So was Nazareth. These were farming communities or an agrarian society surrounded the towns and villages. They celebrated Passover and other commanded festivals that celebrated agricultural life, together. It is not farfetched to believe in the close relationships between the men in Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies, particularly as we get closer to Joseph’s immediate ancestors. Jacob and Heli probably were closely related, and they were related to Joseph, likely as father and uncle, establishing biological and legal lineages. Or they were brothers or half-brothers. And it is not outlandish to believe in a Levirate marriage. People died young back then–even married people. Youthful mortality prompted the Levirate marriage law in the first place. And if the husband was older and therefore died before his wife (as nature took its course), then this fact also prompted the Levirate marriage law.
And Bejon’s solutions from Zerubabbel and afterwards seem right to me. The knottiness in Luke and Matthew appear in various genealogies in the OT. Let’s not apply unequal weights and measures to Luke and Matthew, when they have biblical precedence.
However, let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that with the available information, we are unable clearly and tidily to reconcile Luke’s and Matthew’s genealogies, but only approximately. In that case, we must stop the foolishness of a brittle position on Scripture. “If there are disagreements or differences, then the brittle Bible breaks into pieces, and so does my brittle faith! I quit!” No. Focus on the main point, beyond the list of many names
The main point: Jesus is the son of David and belongs to the bigger story of God’s salvation and redemption; he is in fact the final culmination or ultimate fulfillment of biblical salvation and redemption.
Most importantly, the Messianic implications are huge. Luke and Matthew will later point out that Jesus actually surpasses David (Matt, 22:41-46; Luke 20:41-44). Those verses ask how Jesus could be the son of David, when David calls him Lord (Psalm 110:1). Jesus is greater than David.
Bottom line: objecting to the Messiahship of Jesus because of the (supposed) irreconcilability of the two genealogies is not as strong as it first appeared. This is not protecting the hypothesis of harmonization at all costs. The two genealogies can be reasonably reconciled, even at the stage of Zerubbabel, during a time of geopolitical upheaval and destruction and exile and return, and at the later stage of Joseph’s immediate ancestors. It’s all in the family.
The parallels are not perfectly symmetrical and one-hundred-percent close to Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies, but the Roosevelt family line shows how people could know each other and get married, even in a modern, larger society. The first ancestor arrived in New York City (New Amsterdam at that time) in the mid-1600’s.
The original immigrant to America came from Holland. His son Nicholas was the first to use the name Roosevelt. It is now easy to see how names get tweaked or adjusted in even one generation (think of Matthat and Matthan in Jesus’s genealogies). Next, many generations lived, unnamed in the table (but see the link, below, for their names). They were all sons in the two lines, so the name Roosevelt was retained over the generations. Theodore Roosevelt, a president, and Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt were brothers. Eleanor Roosevelt was Elliott’s daughter. So her uncle was Theodore. Thus, the famous uncle and niece descend from the son Johannes (John). Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also a president, descends from Jacobus (Jacob or James). His father was James. Franklin and Eleanor were fifth cousins and got married and had six children, one of whom died in infancy. In marrying Franklin, Eleanor did not have to change her last name. It’s a sure thing that if we were to research each generation, many or all of them kept track of their uncles and cousins. For example, the generation just before Eleanor and Franklin (Theodore, Elliot, and James and their wives) knew each other well enough for their son and daughter (and niece and nephew) to get married.
Families lines are complicated, but they can be sorted out. The Roosevelt family lines teach me that the ancestry of Jesus, following different lines from David and Bathsheba and their two sons, Solomon and Nathan, have been clarified. It is easier now to believe in Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies and possible Levirate marriages and other close relationships between Joseph’s immediate ancestors. It would be surprising if his immediate ancestors were not closely related or did not know each other. The two genealogies can be reconciled. Once again, it is all in the family.
For a fuller genealogical chart, please click on Roosevelt Family.