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Question and Answer

Why are the genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke so different? Are there contradictions?
The two genealogies empha- size different perspectives. The Gospel of Matthew tells the virgin-birth story from the perspective of Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive and legal father. The Gospel of Luke, on the other hand, recounts the birth of Jesus from Mary’s perspective, including Jesus’ physical descent from His mother. Both Joseph and Mary were of the house of David but descended from two different sons of David. The Matthew genealogy (1:1–17) traces the line of Jesus from David through Solomon, while the Luke genealogy (Luke 3:23–38) traces Jesus’ ancestry from David through Nathan.

People have raised two objections to this explanation. First, two names are repeated in the two genealogies: Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, but it is most likely that these were common names. Zerubbabel means “offspring of Babylon” and would have been common among Jewish people born during the Babylonian captivity. The textual evidence indicates that these shared names don’t refer to the same people: Matthew’s genealogy says that the father of Shealtiel is Jeconiah (Matt. 1:12); in Luke’s Gospel, the father of Shealtiel is Neri (Luke 3:27).

The second objection is that both genealogies appear to refer to Joseph as the person whose ancestry is listed (Matt. 1:16; Luke 3:23), but the descriptions are different. In Matthew, Joseph is called the son of Jacob; in Luke, Joseph is the son of Heli. How to explain this seeming discrepancy? Many scholars argue that Luke 3:23 could be understood to read: Jesus was thought to be the son of Joseph, the son (in-law) of Heli. Heli was most likely the father of Mary, and the rest of the genealogy would be her ancestry.

We should understand why these two genealogies are important. Both legally and physically, the Lord Jesus descends from King David. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8).

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the host of Moody Radio’s Open Line. He is the author of Understanding the Arab Israeli Conflict and The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? He is also the co-editor of the Moody Bible Commentary. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael also appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill.

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