Question #29

Why do Genealogies of Christ Differ?

Can you please explain why the genealogy of Christ differs between that documented in Matthew vs. that in Luke?

The Answer:

Two explanations have been proposed for the two genealogies of Jesus. First, some suggest that both genealogies give the genealogy through Joseph with Matthew providing the legal heirship of Jesus to the throne of David by naming the successive heirs of the kingdom from David to Jesus, while Luke gives Jesus’ actual descent from David. The second explanation is that Matthew gives Jesus’ descent through Joseph and Luke gives Jesus’ descent through Mary.

While either explanation can resolve the issue, the second seems to be the better solution. It is supported by early writings, e.g., Origen, Iraenaeus, and Tertullian. It tells us in what sense Joseph was the father of Jesus. Most translations include only “as was supposed” in the parentheses; however, the parentheses should also include “the son of Joseph.” (See Lenski’s commentary on Luke for a full discussion of this point.) If the closing parenthesis is appropriate where it stands (Keep in mind that there was no punctuation in the original.), then “as was supposed” seems to modify the entire genealogy. Thus, Jesus is only “supposed” to be the son of God. Some translations attempt to handle the issue with commas, but Lenski’s solution is far clearer.

Jewish tradition indirectly supports the second solution. Lightfoot cites from the Talmudic writers on the pains of hell the statement that Mary, the daughter of Heli, was seen in the infernal regions, suffering horrid tortures. This demonstrates the bitter animosity in which the Jews held Christians, it also establishes that Jewish tradition held Mary to be the daughter of Heli.

The second solution also demonstrates the manner in which Jesus was the son of David. If Mary was the daughter of Heli, then Jesus was strictly a descendent of David, not only legally through his “supposed” father, but actually by direct personal descent through his mother. This is significant since Jesus was the seed of woman. (See the primal messianic prophecy in Gen. 3:15, Gal. 3:16 and Gal. 4:4. Note also that in Matthew’s genealogy (Matt. 1), Matthew uses the term “begot” for each generation until he gets to Joseph and Mary where it does not appear.)

Finally, the second solution provides a simple explanation of the entire issue. Mary, since she had no brothers, was an heiress. Accordingly her husband, according to Jewish law, was reckoned among her father’s family as his son. Joseph was the actual son of Jacob and the legal son of Heli. Matthew gives Jesus’ right to the theocratic crown; Luke gives his natural pedigree.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)