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


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Prophet of Hope – Zechariah

Zechariah (fresco by Michelangelo)

Zechariah (fresco by Michelangelo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Book of Zechariah begins in the first verse with the word of the Lord coming to this prophet in the eighth month of the second year of Darius’s reign. This is October/November of 520 B.C., and places it between Haggai 2:1 and 2:10. Zechariah was a priest. The text tells us that he was the grandson of Iddo, who was one of the Levitical priests that came back from Babylon with Zerubbabel, the grandson of king Jehoiachin (Nehemiah 12:1-4). 

Zechariah is sometimes referred to as the prophet of hope. The people had been back from captivity for twenty years. Taxes were high, especially in light of Darius’s preparations for his campaign against Egypt. Jerusalem was far from restored – in fact, the people felt like they were nothing on the world’s “stage.” The temple foundation had been started shortly after their return, but the effort had stalled due to opposition. Discouragement ruled the day, and the only thing to do seemed to be to just try to get by in the best ways that one could.

Zechariah's vision of the four horsemen (Zecha...

Zechariah’s vision of the four horsemen (Zechariah 6:1-8), engraving by Gustave Doré. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is where Zechariah comes in, letting the people know that despite adversity from hostile enemies, they must remain faithful because God is in control. He was in control of everything before, during, and after captivity. He is in control of what is happening now, and He is in control of what will come to pass. The book is full of apocalyptic visions and oracles that read much like the apocalyptic literature that would come to be so popular, and filled with language and symbolism that would be very meaningful to the people of the times.

The first six chapters are a series of eight night visions that we could spend several pages discussing. They are a combination of reassurances of God’s favor for His people and of Messianic promise – restoring the covenant and the house of David. Chapter 7 takes up two years after these night visions, dealing with all of the fasting that the people are doing. The Lord has not commanded them to do so much fasting. What He wants from the people is for them to return to faithfulness and live by His commandments.

Concluding with chapters 9-14, various future events are addressed – at the forefront are God’s coming judgment on the nations that oppressed them and much emphasis on the coming Messiah. There is much encouragement in these chapters, but also warning – God has had more than enough of idolatry and wicked leadership! The future looks good indeed, but it depends on their faithfulness.

/Bob’s boy
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers


Restoring God’s House – Haggai

The biblical prophet Haggai. Woodcut from the ...

The biblical prophet Haggai. Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On most of the occasions in scripture that we read of a prophet who had been preaching to God’s people about a particular subject, that prophet finds little good to come from the recipients of that preaching. A notable exception was Nineveh’s repentance when Jonah gave them God’s warning – but Jonah wasn’t exactly thrilled about that response, was he? Haggai and Zechariah are two exceptions that stand alone – at least as far as the rebuilding of the temple is concerned.

Haggai begins with reference to “the second year of Darius,” and that historically sets this book in the year 520 B.C. Chapter 1:1 gives us “the first day of the 6th month,” which makes the starting date of this book August 29, 520 B.C. It just doesn’t get any better than that with biblical dating. In fact, we get 5 such exact accounts of dates from Haggai. Just 24 days after Haggai’s first message, the people start work on the temple on September 21, 520 B.C. (Haggai 1:15 – the 24th day of the sixth month). Haggai 2:1 occurs in “the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month,” which is October 17, 520 B.C. Haggai 2:10 and 2:20 both happened on “the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month,” which is December18, 520.

Per the decree of Cyrus, the people began returning from captivity in 538 B.C. They started working on the temple in 537, but that ceased in 536 due to opposition (see Ezra 3:1-4:5). The work had been left unfinished for 18 years when the Book of Haggai begins. The reign of Cyrus the Great ended about 530 B.C. When his son Cambyses died in 522, a general, Darius I, rose to power in his place.

Haggai and Zechariah were present at the rebuilding of the Temple of God during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, after the return from exile. The Medo-Persian Empire included the lands of Media and Persia, much of the area shown on this map and more. The Jewish exiles were concentrated in the area around Nippur in the Babylonian province. The decree by King Cyrus that allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple was discovered in the palace at Ecbatana.

Haggai and Zechariah were present at the rebuilding of the Temple of God during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, after the return from exile.
The Medo-Persian Empire included the lands of Media and Persia, much of the area shown on this map and more. The Jewish exiles were concentrated in the area around Nippur in the Babylonian province. The decree by King Cyrus that allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple was discovered in the palace at Ecbatana.

Haggai picks up in verse one of the first chapter where Ezra 5:1 makes mention of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, as it was after Haggai’s message that the temple construction was re-started. Then came Tattenai’s letter to Darius to try and stop the rebuilding. But the elders did not stop while they were waiting for the letter to reach him (Ezra 5:3-17). It was Darius’s decree (Ezra 6) that ensured the temple would be completed.

It was God’s will, of course, that ensured Darius would make such a decree. God called Haggai to move the people to action because they were stalled in completing the work of rebuilding the temple. Some form of “thus says the Lord” occurs 19 times in 38 verses, and the words”Lord of hosts” occurs 14 times, illustrating God’s sovereignty. Haggai’s message has them examine their situations and their lack of prosperity (Haggai 1:5-7, 2:15-19) in light of the work they had left unfinished. In chapter 2, the Lord (through Haggai) spoke to Zarubbabel, (who was in the line of David as the grandson of Jehoiachin) and Joshua, the High Priest.

The Lord intended to re-establish His people in their land, along with the house of David (Haggai 2:23). He had promised to bless the world through them (Haggai 2:9). There was a coming Messiah to prepare for. It was time to go to work!

/Bob’s boy
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers