Why is there a discrepancy in geneologies of Jesus found in Matthew and Luke?


“Jesus descended from the family of David. Solomon and Nathan were some of the children of David. Matthew’s geneology shows Jesus to have come through Solomon (Mat. 1:6) and the geneology in Luke lists Nathan (Luk.3:31). How can such a discrepancy be found in what is supposed to be inspired Scripture?”


According to Biblical genealogies Jesus Christ descended from the family line of King David (Rom.1:3). King David had many children and among them was Solomon and Nathan (1 Chr.3:5).

The genealogy of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew is traced through Solomon (Mat.1:6) and the one in Luke is traced through Nathan (Luk.3:31). This raises an important question: How can such a discrepancy be found in Scripture which is supposed to be inspired (“inbreathed”) of God and hence containing no error? The discrepancy leads to two different genealogies as evidenced by different names being stated for the father of Joseph – In Matthew Jacob and in Luke Heli! So, did Joseph have two fathers?

Well, consider this: How would you write the genealogy of a person who has no father? A genealogy is normally traced through males as they are the seed-carriers. This is the challenge that we encounter when trying to list the genealogy of Jesus. However, it is acceptable to either list His genealogy through Joseph, His foster-father, in order to satisfy an earthly (legal) requirement, or to come closer to a natural genealogy by listing Mary, the woman who bore him, on the genealogy. If two lists of such genealogies existed they wouldn’t be contradictory to each other but complementary. This is exactly the case with the two genealogies of Jesus.

When the record of Luke is read in the original language an important clue shows up: In Greek every name in the genealogy, except that of Heli, is preceded with the definite article “the”. That brings our focus to Heli. Thankfully again, a historical source saves us the time to unravel the puzzle: in the Talmud of Jerusalem Heli is referred to as the father of Mary! So, instead of putting Mary on the genealogy, her father’s name was listed. In this light we can actually read Luke 3:23 as, “Joseph, which was the son-in-law of Heli”. It is in that sense that we can say, Yes Joseph had two fathers: Jacob his natural father, and Heli his father in law. Thus, what we have in Luke is a maternal genealogy and the one in Matthew a paternal genealogy.

Find other plausible explanations to the genealogy question here.



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