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Question 21.

Why is Luke's genealogy of Christ different from Matthew's?


Answer to Question 21.


Of the four Evangelist, only two write about the genealogy of Christ: Matthew and Luke . Mathew begins the genealogy from Abraham while Luke goes back to Adam the first man. When Matthew wrote the Gospel he had in mind mostly the Jewish Christians, that is, those Christians who converted from Judaism and had as his main purpose to show that Jesus Christ was the expected and long awaited Messiah. Now according to the prophets, the Messiah had to be a descendant of Abraham and King David and also belong to the tribe of Judah. Judah was one of the Patriarch Jacob’s sons. Judah was singled out from Jacob’s twelve sons by Jacob himself to be the inheritor of the Messianic promise and that from his descendants, the Messiah would descend according to his human nature. When Jacob was on his deathbed, he called his sons to him to give them his blessing. When Judah came up to him he said: “Judah, thy brethren have praised thee, and thy hands shall be on the back of thine enemies; thy father’s sons shall do thee reverence… A ruler shall not fail from Judah nor a prince from his loins until there come the things stored up for him, and he is the expectation of nations.” (Gen. 49: 8-10) The Evangelist Matthew shows that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of whom the Prophets of the Old Testament talk about, not only with the genealogy but also by continually pointing to verses from the prophets which refer to events in Christ’s life. He repeatedly says: “That the scripture may be fulfilled which was spoken of by the prophet.” In this way he closes the mouths of the Jews who accused the Jews who accepted Christ that they had abandoned the faith of their fathers. This continual referral to the Old Testament was for the first Jewish Christians satisfaction and proof to their accusers that truly they hadn’t abandoned the faith of their fathers, but followed the fulfilment of this faith. Now although Matthew and Luke begin from different starting points, that is, Matthew from Abraham and Luke from Adam, they both conclude that Jesus is the son of Joseph. We of course know that Jesus doesn’t have a father in the flesh. But only a mother: the Virgin Mary. Using Joseph’s genealogy was a necessity because according to Judaic law it was impossible to show a genealogy from a woman. But as we shall see further on, Joseph’s family tree is the same as Mary’s because they are closely related. Both Evangelists are in agreement on the names of Christ’s ancestors from Abraham up to King David. From David onwards there seems to be some sort of disagreement in the names. Matthew mentions the genealogy from David’s son Nathan and concludes with Joseph being the son of Jacob. Luke on the other hand mentions the genealogy from David’s son Solomon and again concludes with Joseph’s father who he mentions is named Heli. So who is Joseph’s father – Jacob or Heli? Although there seems to be some confusion here, they are in fact both correct. Both Heli and Jacob are his fathers. Heli and Jacob were stepbrothers, they had the same mother but different fathers. Heli died childless and according to Judaic law, Jacob being Heli’s brother was obliged to take to wife Heli’s widow. From this union Joseph was born. Matthew therefore, wrote Joseph’s genealogy according to his physical father and Luke wrote the genealogy according to his lawful father, because according to the law Jacob’s wife was still regarded as being the wife of his brother who died.  Jacob had four children of which we know, Joseph, Mary the mother of Salome, Soven, the mother of Elizabeth, and Anna the mother of the Virgin Mary. Thus Joseph, the husband of Mary and Anna her mother were brother and sister, which means that Joseph was Mary’s uncle. Joseph’s genealogy was the same as Mary’s from her mother’s side but the Evangelists could not use Mary’s genealogy as it was forbidden by the law. What is worth noticing in the genealogy is that here and there women’s names have been purposely slipped in, the Evangelists mention the names of Rachab, Thamar, Ruth and the wife of Urias. These are interesting entries because Rachab was a prostitute, Ruth was a Moabite, a nation especially hated by the Jews and Urias’ wife, Bathsheba, was an adulteress, and gave birth to Solomon with her husband’s friend King David. Thamar was Judah’s daughter in law and when her husband died without leaving a child, she was taken to wife by the second son Onan who also died childless. Judah promised Thamar that when his younger son was old enough he would give him to her according to law. When his son did grow up, Judah was afraid to give him to Thamar lest the same fate also befall upon his younger son. When some time passed, Thamar realized that Judah was not going to give her his son, so one day she dressed up as a prostitute and fooled Judah to sleep with her and she became pregnant.  The introduction of these women’s names to the genealogy can be considered unsuitable for Christ’s genealogy because one was of another religion and race and the other three were guilty of grave sins. But their introduction to the genealogy of the Messiah was done with a cause. Firstly it shows that Christ’s ancestors were not all holy people – they were free, like all people to live their lives according to their own free will. Some lived virtuously and others lived in sin. Secondly, by mentioning Ruth, who was a stranger, it confirms that Christ, who had non Jewish blood running through his veins, did not come only for the Jews but for every nation. And thirdly, it shows that Christ had sinful “relatives” and if he came to judge us, then that would mean that he would also have to judge his very own ancestors, his very own bloodline. But to the contrary, He didn’t come as a judge, but as a physician to cure us from the infirmities of sin and from the consequences of man’s fall.