Luke’s Controversial Genealogy

Verses 23-38 of Luke chapter 3 contain the genealogy of Jesus Christ. This genealogy differs from that contained in Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17) in a number of ways. In fact, the differences are so striking that the fact has generated considerable criticism from skeptics, as well as disagreement among scholars.


To begin with, the genealogy in Matt


Luke’s genealogy of Jesus, from the Book of Ke...

Luke’s genealogy of Jesus, from the Book of Kells, transcribed by Celtic monks circa 800 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


hew goes forward, beginning from Abraham to David, then (through Solomon) on down to Joseph. The genealogy here in Luke goes backward – not to Solomon, but to Nathan, one of David’s other sons, and then all the way back to Adam. Clearly, the genealogy presented by Luke is that of Jesus’ mother, Mary.


Surprisingly though, there has been much scholarly resistance to this view, largely because it is Joseph that is named as the “son of Heli (Eli)” in verse 23. But the word “son” is often used quite loosely in the Bible. For example, a grandson, a great-grandson, or any descendant may be referred to as a “son” of a particular person (Jesus was called the Son of David by many – i.e. in Matthew 22:42). Use was made of the word “son” for a son-in-law as well (1 Samuel 24:16), especially where no male heir existed, as is believed to be the case with Mary and Heli. Some scholars explain this also with the significance of the absence of the article “the” (in the Greek) before Joseph’s name in Luke’s genealogy (Godet, Louis. A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke Edinburg: T&T Clark, 1893).


The second objection to the genealogy being through Mary’s blood line is that it would be a huge departure from Jewish tradition, where giving genealogies is concerned. This writer sees no problem with that for two important reasons. First, this is a very different genealogy, and the Holy Spirit had good reason for giving a second, very detailed genealogy of the Christ. One might think that breaking from tradition in giving that blood line might be expected, eh? Secondly, the Gospel of Luke (which, incidentally, was written in Greek – not Hebrew) was addressed to Gentiles, not really to Jews (specifically, of course, to Theophilus). Matthew was the Gospel that was written mainly for the benefit of Jews. In light of this, a departure from Jewish tradition in genealogies should not surprise us in the least.


Josiah - Jechoniah - Shealtiel

Josiah – Jechoniah – Shealtiel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Some also see the fact that Luke’s genealogy is through Mary’s line as an answer to the “Jeconiah objection.” As the last king of Judea before Babylonian captivity, Jeconiah was totally rejected by God, and Jeremiah 22:24-30 makes that rejection clear, saying that “none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.” In Matthew 1:12, we see that Jeconiah is in Joseph’s genealogy, so the argument goes that this fact disqualifies Jesus from being the Messiah. This, of course, is ridiculous because God obviously did not mean that no descendant would ever rule. That would have broken His covenant with David. And just a few verses later, in chapter 23 (Jeremiah 23:5) we get the rest of the story concerning Messianic prophecy:


“…the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”


Of course, Mary’s line includes a Zerubbabel and a Shealtiel in the genealogy given by Luke. But the Zerubbabel that 1 Chronicles 3:17-19 lists in Jeconiah’s line is the son of Pedaiah – not Shealtiel; and he doesn’t have a son named Rhesa. These certainly appear to be different people. Any internet search engine will tell you that Shealtiel is a family surname for many to this day, and Zerubbabel (meaning seed of Babylon) was likely not the name of just one man either, in light of the exile. So Mary’s line was not affected by the Jeconiah problem in the first place, and it is a moot point in the second place, proven by Jeremiah’s own prophecy.


But getting back to the beginning, Luke clearly lists a different heritage going through David’s son Nathan, rather than through Solomon, as Joseph’s line went. Luke’s words have stood the test of time in many areas that are beyond the scope of this subject. We should have no problem standing by his words here.


(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here


/Bob’s boy




some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers


All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at


Enhanced by Zemanta