Consider Christianity Online Library

The Genealogy of Jesus

Things to Notice

Why does Matthew end with Jesus while Luke starts with Jesus?

Why does Matthew trace the genealogy back to Abraham, while Luke goes back to God?

Why does Matthew arrange his list into three groups of 14, while Luke simply lists the names.

Why do Matthew and Luke interrupt their lists to make comments (See sections in BOLD)

Matthew and Luke do not directly connect Jesus to Joseph.

Why did Luke leave out a definite article (the word "the") before Joseph's name.

Why are the names between David and Joseph different in the two lists?

Why does Matthew begin his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus while Luke places it between the baptism and temptation?

Potential Problems

Different name between David and Joseph.

Matthew skips names.

Matt 1:8 JoramdUzziah

1 Chr 3:11-12 JoramdAhaziahdJoashdAmaziahdUzziah (note Uzziah and Azariah are the same person)

Who was the father of Shelah?

Luke 3:35-36 ArphaxaddCainandShelah

Gen 11:12 ArphaxaddShelah

Matthew lists only 13 names from captivity to Christ but says there were 14



Matthew 1:1-17

1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

1:2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren;

1:3 and Judah begat Perez and Zerah of Tamar; and Perez begat Hezron; and Hezron begat Ram;

1:4 and Ram begat Amminadab; and Amminidab begat Nahshon; and Nahshon begat Salmon;

1:5 and Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;

1:6 and Jesse begat David the king. And David begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uriah;

1:7 and Solomon begat Rehoboam; and Rehoboam begat Abijah; and Abijah begat Asa;

1:8 and Asa begat Jehoshaphat; and Jehoshaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Uzziah;

1:9 and Uzziah begat Jotham; and Jotham begat Ahaz; and Ahaz begat Hezekiah;

1:10 and Hezekiah begat Manasseh; and Manasseh begat Amon; and Amon begat Josiah;

1:11 and Josiah begat Jechoniah and his brethren, at the time of the carrying away to Babylon.

1:12 And after the carrying away to Babylon, Jechoniah begat Shealtiel; and Shealtiel begat Zerubbabel;

1:13 and Zerubbabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;

1:14 and Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud;

1:15 and Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob;

1:16 and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

1:17 So all the generations from Abraham unto David are fourteen generations; and from David unto the carrying away to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon unto the Christ fourteen generations.


Luke 2:23-38

3:23 And Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph,* the son of Heli,

3:24 the son of Matthat, the son, of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,

3:25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,

3:26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,

3:27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,

3:28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,

3:29 the son of Jesus, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,

3:30 the son of Symeon, the son of Judas, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,

3:31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,

3:32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,

3:33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,

3:34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,

3:35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,

3:36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,

3:37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,

3:38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.


* No definite article (the) before Joseph. All other names in Luke’s list follow the formula:

of the Name

Joseph is just listed as:

of Joseph

†Some manuscripts: Amminadab, the son of Arni, the son of ...,

also: Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of ...

BOLD Things to notice
* Notes on the Greek text
† Textual Issue


Genealogical records held an important status in the ancient world and many cultures maintained them. During the time of Jesus it was common for both public and private records to be maintained for various legal reasons including gaining access to the temple.(1) As such, both Luke and Matthew would have been able to obtain the genealogical records for Jesus, and the inclusion of these records in their Gospels should not be a surprise.

The genealogies in the Gospels present the student of Scripture with many interesting questions and problems. First and foremost is the question: Why are they so different? From Abraham to David the genealogies agree. After David the names are different until they get to Joseph and Jesus. Often the two genealogies are written off as having little historical value because of this difference, but there would have been no reason for Matthew or Luke to "invent" a genealogy. Since genealogical records were considered to be very important and were maintained as public records, had these been forged, the opponents of Christianity would have pointed this out and discredited them.

If they are both correct, this still leaves the question as to why they are different. There are two main theories that have been put forth to account for this. Perhaps the most common is that the genealogy in Matthew is the legal genealogy through Joseph, whereas the genealogy in Luke is the natural genealogy through Mary. But why would Luke trace the genealogy through Mary? Possibly, since he was writing to a Gentile audience, Luke would have wanted to trace Jesus’ actual (natural) genealogy. (Both Matthew and Luke are careful to point out that Joseph was not Jesus’ real father). Another possibility is that Mary’s father (Heli) had no sons. If this was the case, Heli may have been Joseph’s foster father (See Num. 27:1-11). That Luke was not giving Joseph’s genealogy may be indicated by the phase "as was supposed" and the lack of a definite article (the word "the") before his name. This would also fit in with Luke’s emphasis throughout his Gospel on the important role played by women.

The biggest problem with this theory is that while there are hints that the genealogy may be Mary’s, a straight reading of Luke without benefit of Matthew’s genealogy, would lead to the conclusion that it is the genealogy of Joseph. It is possible that it was generally known that Mary’s father was Heli, and that Luke did not feel a need to state this directly. The Jewish Talmud does mention a Mary whose father was Eli.(2) In addition, some early Christian sources give the name of Mary’s father as Joachim from which Luke could have derived the name Heli.(3)

The second theory proposes that the genealogies in both Matthew and Luke are of Joseph. The genealogy in Luke is Joseph’s natural genealogy, while the genealogy in Matthew represents the succession to the throne. That Matthew is presenting the legal succession to the throne fits in well with the overall theme of his Gospel: that Jesus is the Messiah. It also might explain why he groups the names as he does and skips over people (although skipping several generations in a genealogical list was not uncommon).(4) In verse six, David is listed as "David the king," and one explanation for the three groups of fourteen is that the numerical value of "David" is fourteen.(5) The succession to the throne of Israel would have had little meaning to Gentile readers, so Luke gives us Joseph’s natural genealogy showing him to be a descendant of Adam, of whom we are all descendants.

While this theory is easier to derive from the text, it does have some problems. The main problem with this theory is accounting for how the succession jumped from Jacob to Joseph when Joseph was the son of Heli. While it is impossible to say for certain exactly how this happened, Figure 1 shows that there are many ways in which this can be accounted for.

As for the missing names in the genealogy, this was not an uncommon practice.(6) Matthew skips over the three kings (Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah) between Joram and Uzziah. By doing this Matthew was able to obtain the fourteen names for his grouping. D. A. Carson suggests that these kings may have been dropped "because of their connection with Ahab and Jezebel, renowned for wickedness (2 Kings 8:27), and because of their connection with wicked Athaliah (2 Kings 8:26), the usurper (2 Kings 11:1-20). Two of the three were notoriously evil; all three died violently."(7)

Luke, on the other hand, has an additional name (Cainan) between Arphaxad and Shelah when compared with the genealogy listed in Genesis 11:12. This is most likely a textual problem in Genesis list. The Septuagint (an early Greek translation of the Old Testament which dates from about 250 B.C.) does contain this name in Genesis while the Masoetic texts does not. (The Masorites began coping the OT around A.D. 500.)

Many possible explainations have been put forth to account for only thirteen names being listed in Matthew’s final group of "fourteen." One is that Jeconiah should be counted as part of both the second and third groups because he ruled before the exile and then was released. Other suggestions are that both Mary and Joseph should be counted, or that possibly there is a textual problem with the second occurrence of Jeconiah. D. A. Carson suggests t the omission was intentional, possibly to show that "God cuts short the time of distress for the sake of his elect (Matt 24:22)".(8)

Since the genealogical records were lost (most likely during the revolts against Rome in A.D. 64-70 and A.D. 132-135) we will probably never be able to settle some of these issues with any real certainty. The problem is not that these accounts cannot be reconciled, but that there are many possibilities to choose from, and we do not have enough information to decide which one is correct.

As for things to notice, look over the sections that are in bold type. Matthew is thought to have written to a Jewish audience and Luke to Gentiles. Ask yourself if this fits the additional comments Matthew makes. Does it help explain the order and starting and ending points of the two lists? Why does Luke place his genealogy between the Baptism of Jesus and the Temptation? As we said, the purpose here is not to give all the answers, but to encourage a deeper study of God’s Word.

There is one other item of interest: the genealogical records were lost during the Jewish revolt in the first century. If the Messiah had not come before this, there would be no way for him to demonstrate that he was a descendant of David, as the Scriptures claim He would be.

Figure 1

Possible Line of Succession

Possible Line of Succession


1 Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell, s.v. Genealogy Vol. 1 pg. 846

2 Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels,(Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity, 1987) pg., 150 footnote 4

3 Blomberg, Historical, pg. 150 footnote 4

4 Baker Encyclopedia, s.v. Genealogy, Vol. 1, pg. 845

5 D. A. Carson, Matthew, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984) pg. 69

6 Baker Encyclopedia, s.v. Genealogy, Vol. 1, pg. 846

7 Carson, Matthew, pg. 67

8 Carson, Matthew, pg. 69