Why are there are differences in the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke?

A question that has been answered a thousand times:

HUMANIST QUESTION: In the New Testament, there are contradictions between the genealogies of Jesus given in the first chapter of Matthew and the third chapter of Luke.

Both genealogies begin with Jesus’ father, who is identified as Joseph (which is curious, given that Mary was supposedly impregnated by the Holy Ghost). But Matthew says Joseph’s father was Jacob, while Luke claims he was Heli. Matthew lists 26 generations between Jesus and King David, whereas Luke records 41. Matthew runs Jesus’ line of descent through David’s son Solomon, while Luke has it going through David’s son Nathan.

What are the two genealogies? What does scripture say?

Matthew 1:1-17

1 The record of 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, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. 4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. 5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse was the father of David the king.

David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. 8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. 9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. 11 Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. 14 Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. 15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Luke 3:23-38

23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, 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 Melchi, 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 Admin, 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 Heber, 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 Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

There are obviously differences, but instead of just proclaiming there are differences, and stopping there, shouldn't we ask the question: "Why are there differences?" There might be a good reason.

Also, consider this... if this is such an obvious and glaring contradiction, why wasn't it corrected 2000 years ago? At the time Matthew and Luke wrote, genealogical records were very important to the Jews. They determined inheritance rights. They played a role in taxation. They were the basis for the principle of kinsmen redemption. And your genealogy even determined your rights to own land, based on the original division of the land among the twelve tribes. Because of their importance, the Jews kept detailed, and publicly available genological records. Both Matthew and Luke most likely based their genealogies on those records... and it would have been very easy to check what Matthew and Luke wrote with those public records to reveal any errors or contradictions.

Christianity had many enemies in the first century who were desperately looking for anything they could use to destroy Christianity. This alone is enough to end the discussion. It is impossible for there to be a contradiction here. If this is a contradiction, it would have destroyed Christianity as a lie in the first century. The answer is that it is only a contradiction for those who have shut off their brains and closed their minds.

There are important reasons these genealogies are given from two different perspectives. Are you open to learning more?

Background: Matthew and Luke are writing to two very different groups of people, who have different ways of looking at history. Matthew is writing to the Jews and Luke is writing to Gentiles (non-Jews).

Characteristics: As you read these two genealogies there are a number of interesting characteristics to note:

Matthew starts with Abraham, and goes forward to the birth of Jesus. Luke starts with the birth of Jesus and goes backwards to the first man, Adam. Let's ask the key question... why?

Who was Abraham? He is the father of the Jewish nation. The Jews trace their heritage back to Abraham. So it was important that a Jewish genealogy starts with Abraham. Also notice that Matthew's genealogy ends in verse 16 with Joseph. It is the genealogy of Joseph, the husband of Mary. But, Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, and notice that Matthew does not identify Joseph as the father of Jesus, but as the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born.

This identifies Matthew's genealogy as that of Joseph. It traces Jesus' line from Abraham to Joseph, who was Jesus' legal father, although not his natural father. This genealogy establishes Jesus' right as king of Israel. That is important, as the Messiah is the king of te Jews:

"You correctly say that I am king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come int the world." - John 18:13

Luke, writing to the Gentiles, had a different purpose. He is showing Jesus' solidarity with the entire human race. That's why he starts with Adam, and thus ultimately God. Luke does this by giving us the genealogy of Mary. Here comes tat question again... why? Why Mary?

Luke is establishing the blood line of Jesus. Jesus is related by blood to all of us, through Adam. This is called his racial lineage. What race was Jesus a part of? The human race.

Notice in Luke 23 that Jesus is identified as the "supposed" son of Joseph. Neither Matthew nor Luke identify Jesus as the physical son of Joseph.

Finally notice the sections in green in the above genealogies. They are nearly identical. The lineages of Joseph and Mary both pass through David. The Messiah had to be a son of David, and Jesus is... on both sides of His family. There is no doubt. Based on His genealogy, Jesus is the Messaiah.

There are other interesting aspects of these genealogies, and additional "why?" questions that can be asked. If you are interested, and do the research, you'll find they all have answers.

What did we find out here? There is no contradiction.

Next question...

The story of Jesus’ birth is also contradictory. Matthew 2:13-15 depicts Joseph and Mary as fleeing to Egypt with the baby Jesus immediately after the wise men from the east had brought gifts. But Luke 2:22-40 claims that after the birth of Jesus, his parents remained in Bethlehem for the time of Mary’s purification (which was 40 days, under the Mosaic law).

And here is the answer...


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