The Ultimate Pedigree - back to Adam and Eve

Two of the gospels, Matthew and Luke, contain geneologies of Jesus. Matthew chapter 1, verses 1 to 17; Luke chapter 3, verses 23 to 37.

Many readers skip over them, considering them to be a "dull and boring". But there is interest within them:
(a) because they are so different to each other,
(b) because they say something about who Jesus is,
(c) because they have cultural significance,
(d) because they reveal how certain prophesies were fulfilled.

Why are they different ?

1. They are not family trees, so they do not show all the relatives. This is a list of significant ancestors, so the selection of ancestors could be different between geneologies. Luke starts his list earlier than Matthew. He starts from Adam, perhaps to emphasise how Christ is relavent to all mankind. Matthew, writing to a predominantly Jewish audiance starts from Abraham. As I show below, they use the same material as far as King David, and then follow the descendants of two different sons of David.

2. It is likely that official records were kept of family lineage, but that these were destroyed when the Romans invaded Jerusalem after Jesus death. In this case the geneologies in the gospels need only be in summary form. We know that it was a census in which everybody had to return to their ancestral town, that caused Christ to be born in Bethlehem, so genealogical knowledge must have been kept in some form.

3. It has been suggested that Matthew's geneology is Joseph's family, and that Luke gives Mary's line (though it is not clear why he doesn't say this). This view is given creedance by Gabrial's words in Luke 1:32 which imply that Mary was a descendant of David.

4. It is also possible that these lists are tracing legal succession to a throne (even where it does not run through the direct line of father to son) rather than actual parentage. It is interesting to note that Matthew lists Judean Kings, but Luke goes via a more obscure line of ordinary people, seemingly avoiding royalty.

A further puzzle is that the lists come together in the middle, sharing the names Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, and then diverge again.

It seems unlikely that it was all made up, given the importance this society attached to family. Their history is the story of the descendants of Abraham. Jesus' Davidic descent was common knowledge at the time - look at the story of Blind Bartimaus in Mark 10:46-52.

And the writer of the letter to the Hebrews assumes everyone knows that Jesus belonged to the tribe of Judah - he says: "For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah ..." Heb 7:14

Here is a table comaparing the geneology in Matthew with that in Luke, and also bringing in 1 Chronicles from the Old Testement part of the Bible. I had to rearrange some of it, because they go in opposite directions, and I also edited out names of wives and other children for clarity.

Comparison of Biblical Geneologies
Luke's Gospel 3:23-37 Matthew's Gospel 1:1-17 1st Chronicles 1:1-34

the son of Joseph,
the son of Heli,
the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi,
the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai,
the son of Joseph,
the son of Mattathias,
the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum,
the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai,
the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias,
the son of Semein,
the son of Josech,
the son of Joda,
the son of Joanan,
the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel,
the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri,
the son of Melki,
the son of Addi,
the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam,
the son of Er,
the son of Joshua,
the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim,
the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi,
the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah,
the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam,
the son of Eliakim,
the son of Melea,
the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha,
the son of Nathan,

Joseph
Jacob
Matthan
Eleazar
Eliud
Akim
Zadok
Azor
Eliakim
Abiud
Zerubbabel
Shealtiel
Jeconiah
Josiah
Amon
Manasseh
Hezekiah
Ahaz
Jotham
Uzziah
Jehoram
Jehoshaphat
Asa
Abijah
Rehoboam
Solomon
-

the son of David,
the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed,
the son of Boaz,
the son of Salmon,
the son of Nahshon,
the son of Amminadab,
the son of Ram,
the son of Hezron,
the son of Perez,

David
Jesse
Obed
Boaz
Salmon
Nahshon
Amminadab
Ram
Hezron
Perez
-

the son of Judah,
the son of Jacob,

Judah
Jacob

Israel (Jacob)

the son of Isaac,
the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah,
the son of Nahor,
the son of Serug,
the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg,
the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah,
the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad,
the son of Shem,

Isaac
Abraham

Isaac
Abram (that is, Abraham)
Nahor
Reu
Peleg
Eber
Shelah
Arphaxad
Shem

the son of Noah,
the son of Lamech,
the son of Methuselah,
the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared,
the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan,
the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth,
the son of Adam
the son of God.
-
Noah
Lamech
Methuselah
Enoch
Jared
Mahalalel
Kenan
Enosh
Seth
Adam


H.B.

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