Where is the Genealogy of Jesus in the Bible?
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke both record Jesus’ genealogy. These genealogies demonstrate that Jesus has both blood and legal ties to David. He also has the right to sit on the throne because of God’s covenant with David.
The genealogies converge at Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. Beyond them, Matthew’s list differs from Luke’s.
Unlike Luke’s genealogy, Matthew’s is not arranged in a standard manner. Instead, it is divided into three sections that cover fourteen generations each. This arrangement is symmetrical and likely a design feature, meant to help readers remember the passage.
Moreover, the author of Matthew’s genealogy is attempting to demonstrate that Jesus Christ was both the son of Abraham and the heir of David’s kingdom. This is important because several prophecies in the Old Testament promised that the Messiah would be a descendant of David.
In addition, the authors of the Gospels are demonstrating that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of these messianic promises. This is achieved by documenting Jesus’ ancestry through Joseph and Mary. However, there is a problem here: Levirate marriage was used at one point in this lineage.
It’s easy for Isaac to get lost in the shuffle of biblical patriarchs. Genesis recounts his near-sacrifice, but doesn’t offer a vivid portrayal of his personality, unlike the storylines that focus on his sons Jacob and Esau.
Reconciling the genealogies is tricky. Matthew uses descending order (A “begat” B) and selects Abraham as his starting point, while Luke starts at Adam.
They also differ in the details of their lines of descent from Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. Furthermore, Matthew’s list includes four women—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba—who are associated with sex scandals. This unconventional inclusion in a male-dominated genealogy has puzzled Bible believers since antiquity. No comprehensive solution has emerged. Nevertheless, there are several ways to explain the apparent conflict. The key to navigating the genealogies is remembering that they are not meant to be exhaustive lists of names.
The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew and Luke demonstrates how the Messiah is the fulfillment of Old Testament promises. These promises included the land; a large number of descendants, spreading out east, west, north, and south; and the “Seed,” who would bless all nations. Rebecca received a similar promise about her twin sons, Jacob and Esau. She was told that the younger brother would serve the elder, a role fulfilled in Christ’s ministry.
Reconciling the two genealogies is difficult, especially at the point where they differ at Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. One view is that both genealogies record family lines, but that Matthew follows Joseph’s line, while Luke records Mary’s. This may explain why the compilers of the lists freely jump to a maternal grandfather, skip generations, or omit names.
Genealogies can seem dry recitations of names, dates and places. But the gospels’ genealogies of Jesus reveal powerful truths about our Savior.
Both Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies converge until Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, where they separate dramatically. The reason for this gap is unclear, although scholars suggest that one of the genealogies reflects the Levitical law that permitted men to marry widows of their deceased brothers.
This would allow for the genealogical compiler to show that Jesus had blood ties through Joseph but legal rights through Mary, thus fulfilling the hopes of both the Psalmists (Asaph) and the prophets (Amos). The two genealogies also differ at a few points because of skipping generations or changing names. This may be due to a shift in the order of the royal line after Jeconiah’s curse.
A central point of the Messianic expectation woven throughout the Old Testament is that Messiah would be a descendant of David. This is affirmed both explicitly and implicitly in the genealogy recorded by Matthew (1:6–17).
But at a key point, the two genealogies diverge dramatically. The lists converge up to Abraham, then radically separate at David.
Some scholars try to reconcile these differences by asserting that the genealogies track Jesus’ ancestry through his father Joseph, not his mother Mary. However, this solution is problematic for several reasons. First, it is unnecessarily complicated, requiring that we assume levirate marriage existed at one or more points in the lineage. In addition, it ignores the fact that Luke twice indicates that Mary descended from David through her husband Heli.