Genealogy of Jesus
Under both Roman and Jewish law, Joseph would have been Jesus' legal father. Since Joseph continued the legal betrothal, taking Mary home as wife, he was considered married to her by the community. Though Scriptures is clear that he didn't consummate that union until after Jesus was born, for all societal purposes they were viewed as a married couple and any child born to them was legally their son. Even in our day, if you get married before you have a child, even if pregnant before getting married, both the mother and father are considered to be legally parents of the child. It was not necessary for Joseph to adopt Jesus as would have been necessary if Jesus was born prior to Joseph taking Mary home as his wife. While people often casually refer to Joseph as being Jesus' stepdad or foster father, which is technically true in the big picture, it was not a legal fact. Legally, Jesus was Joseph and Mary's son. This becomes important at a number of levels. For Jesus to be able to claim the right to be King in the line of David, Jewish society would have to accept that he had that hereditary right through his father line.
Matthew was primarily concerned about establishing Jesus' legal line of royalty. To have a claim to the throne of Israel two absolutes had to be confirmed:
Matthew places this emphasis right at the very beginning of his gospel:
Immediately following, Matthew provides the legal proof of Jesus' genealogy from Abraham, through David, to Joseph (i.e. Matthew 1:2-17). Again, proof for royal claim had to be through the father so it was necessary for this lineage to be of Joseph, Jesus' legal father.
Abraham to David
Matthew ends his legal genealogy of Jesus, through Joseph, by stating that he intentionally divided his list into three equal sections of 14 each.
Matthew's list was abbreviated, something that can be determined from a quick look at the Old Testament. As a Jew, one who knew the Law; this was not accidental by Matthew. He chose to use the term "father", or "begat" in KJV, with its nonspecific meaning, all to make equal divisions that were multiple of seven. Matthew's use of "father" denoted a direct male lineage, which could include a literal father, grandfather, great grandfather, etc. This type of general word usage is found elsewhere in Scriptures as well (i.e. 2 Kings 18:3 calling David the father of Hezekiah).
For the record, using the Old Testament, these generations could be added to the above list:
Matthew's genealogy accomplished its purpose, showing that Jesus, the Christ, descended from Abraham and had legal claim to the throne of David. Notice that Matthew isn't concerned about who was the oldest son in the lineage. For example, Ishmael's name is not mentioned after Abraham (#1) nor is Esau after Isaac (#2), instead he lists Isaac and Jacob. Matthew's focus, though technically legal in nature, still had a focus on the line God established for His coming Messiah.
So why is the genealogy in the Gospel of Luke somewhat different that that of Matthew? Luke's focus was even more on the Messiah, namely His real fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. Jesus' legal claim, via Joseph, was not enough to fulfill all the Messianic prophecies.
Matthew and Luke both made it clear that Jesus was, in fact, born of the virgin Mary. Unique in all of history, having no natural human father, Jesus needed to meet the requirement of being a descendant of Abraham and David through Mary as well. As for being the Messiah, Luke had more absolutes to establish:
The Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament clearly held that the
Messiah (Christ or the Anointed, as in Anointed King) would be a Jew
having legal and God-established claim to the throne of David (i.e. 2
Samuel 7:11b-16; Psalms 89:3-4; Psalms 132:11; Isaiah 16:5; Jeremiah
23:5-6; Isaiah 11:1-5).
Luke begins his genealogy in a fashion that identifies it as not being the legal one. Consider this wording:
Take note of Luke's emphasis that it was merely thought that Jesus was the son of Joseph. His emphasis was on the real physical lineage behind Jesus. While still given in the paternal format common to the Jewish people, from male to male, it really ends with Mary or quite specifically Jesus' maternal grandfather Heli. Mary is not directly mentioned here, which would be out of character with a paternal genealogy. Jesus maternal grandfather would be the last direct relative in the list. It would be quite legitimate to use "son of" in a general form to reference his grandfather, even as father could be used in a general sense (i.e. Matthew's usage examined earlier). Joseph was then included merely as a placeholder and acknowledgement for Mary's generation.
Take note that if you include God at the beginning and Joseph and Jesus at the end, the total number of generations (i.e. referenced individuals) totals 77, similar to Mathew's shorter version in that it is also a multiple of 7.
In this actual physical lineage of Jesus, He is shown as being descended from David but not through the line of Jeconiah (alt. Jehoiachin or Coniah). This is important since God had disqualified any descendant of Jeconiah from being the Messiah. If Matthew's legal lineage was all that mattered, Jesus would have had claim to the throne of David through mere physical descent, but the prophet Jeremiah recorded God's statement that no ruler would come via a descendant of Jeconiah.
Shortly after, Jeremiah reconfirms that the Messiah would still come from David.
According to Luke, who knew Jesus' mother Mary and could verify her account, Jesus fulfilled all these Messianic prophecies.
For the skeptics who claim that the two genealogies are
contradictory, making one or both to be fraudulent, the weight of
history is against them. Both the gospel of Luke and Matthew
circulated from the early days of the church and were accepted as
being true without any hint to the contrary. In fact, during those
early days of circulation, no evidence of contradiction was brought
forth. And if, as some claim, the early church was manufacturing or
changing Scriptures for its own purposes, don't you think that they
would have harmonized the two if they were considered contradictory? End
Note 2 Again, the evidence of many early manuscripts and
fragments is that both genealogies are accurate transmissions of the
facts as recorded. What we're left with are two gospels, with two
different perspectives, and a shared goal of revealing the truth of God.
Only if the early church could have known with certainty would the Apostle Paul (died circa 69 A.D.) so confidently write:
This is a clear testimony that Paul knew Jesus was physically descended from David, something that Luke, a companion of Paul, was well aware of and recorded in his gospel. Throughout the earliest of church history many others likewise affirmed this assertion:
1. Matthew counts Jeconiah (alt. Jehoiachin) twice in his summary royal line genealogy. Because the exile, as a prominent and defining event in the history of Israel was one of his division points, it is legitimate that he lists him twice. Jeconiah before the exile was Jeconiah in disgrace, Jeconiah after the exile had happened was Jeconiah restored.
2. Perhaps the earliest skeptic to raise the red-herring that Jesus' genealogies don't match, claiming this made them an invalid invention, was a guy by the name of Julian. Okay, he was Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus (circa 332-363 A.D.) but he was more commonly known as Julian the Apostate, as he most certainly was. He wrote a treatise against Christianity called "Against the Galileans" in Book I he wrote:
(c) 2009 Brent
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