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Frequently Asked Question

The Genealogy Of Jesus:


How do you explain the contradictions between the genealogies of Jesus given in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke?


First of all, it's important to understand that ancient Jewish genealogies differed in the form they took. There were both ascending and descending genealogies; also, while some were segmented, others were linear.

Genealogies also varied in depth—that is, they varied in the number of generations included. Most of the time, they were not meant to be comprehensive. It was a common practice to skip generations, depending on the genealogy’s purpose (e.g., to establish inheritance rights, citizenship, or even the legal right of a king to rule).

In ascending genealogies, the Hebrew word ben can mean either “son,” or a more distant descendant (in Genesis 29:5, it denotes Laban, who was actually Nahor's grandson).

Likewise, in descending genealogies, the Hebrew word av can mean either “father” or a more distant ancestor. For example, when Matthew says that Joram was the “father” of Uzziah (see Matthew 1:9)—also known as Azariah— he’s actually skipping three generations (compare to 1 Chronicles 3:10-12).

We also know (by comparing other OT accounts) that the four generations from Perez to Amminadab spanned roughly 450 years—so there are obviously gaps at that point in the genealogy (because we would ordinarily expect four generations to encompass less than 200 years). The only people who have a problem with any of this are modern readers who are unfamiliar with the nature, character, and purpose of genealogies in ancient Israel.

But let's apply a little common sense here. If the genealogies in Matthew and Luke were identical, then one of them would have been unnecessary. And since God is the ultimate economizer of space, logic dictates that the differences between the genealogies must be purposeful.

When we study them in detail, it becomes apparent that the two royal genealogies are complementary, not contradictory— and that their distinctive features are rich in meaning and significance.

Matthew's account, for example, presents Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth as the “Son of David” (this title occurs numerous times in Matthew), and also as the promised King of Israel—He’s called a “king” seven times. So it should come as no surprise that Matthew’s genealogy (see Matthew 1:1-17) emphasizes Jesus’ legal claim to the throne of David, tracing His royal descent from David and Abraham.

Matthew may have had another reason for arranging his royal genealogy the way he did. He presents the names in three sets of 14 generations each (see Matthew 1:17). In Jewish Gematria (an ancient practice that assigns a numerical value to each letter in the Hebrew alphabet), David’s name (DVD in Hebrew, which has no vowels) has a value of 14 (dalet + vav + dalet, or 4 + 6 + 4 = 14). Also, David is the fourteenth name listed in Matthew’s genealogy. So, this was a distinctive and stylistically Jewish way to present the Lord Jesus as a royal descendant of King David and the rightful heir to the throne.

Luke's Gospel, on the other hand, was written by a physician-scientist whose purpose was to emphasize the Lord’s humanity—in Luke, the Lord refers to Himself as “the Son of Man” more than 20 times. Dr. Luke’s genealogy (see Luke 3:23-38) differs from Matthew’s because it emphasizes the Lord’s biological descent from David—and from Adam, the first man.

Doctoral dissertations have been written on the messianic genealogies, so we make no pretense of having dealt with the subject exhaustively here. There are other questions (like why two different people are listed as Joseph’s father in Matthew 1:16 and Luke 3:23), but there are many possibilities and numerous theories that have been proposed to resolve them. Therefore, it is the height of arrogance and presumption when a casual reader, with only a cursory knowledge of the facts, notes the differences in these two genealogies and jumps to the conclusion that one or both of them is in error.


Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus,who is our hope, ...As I urged you ... nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith (1 Timothy 1-4).


Written by Dr. Gary Hedrick, Christian Jew Foundation, Messianic Perspectives Sept/Oct 2009

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