One of the most intriguing questions in the Bible is how Jesus, the Son of God, is related to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. The New Testament gives us two different genealogies of Jesus, one in Matthew and one in Luke, that trace his ancestry back to Abraham through different paths. How can we reconcile these two accounts and what do they reveal about the identity and mission of Jesus?
Matthew’s Genealogy: Jesus as the Son of David and the Son of Abraham
The Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus that starts with Abraham and ends with Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Matthew 1:1 introduces the genealogy as follows:
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.
This statement summarizes the main theme and purpose of Matthew’s genealogy: to show that Jesus is the son of David and the son of Abraham, and therefore the rightful heir to the throne of Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promises to his chosen people.
Matthew divides his genealogy into three sections, each consisting of 14 generations. The first section covers the period from Abraham to David, the second from David to the exile to Babylon, and the third from the exile to Christ. Matthew uses a numerical pattern based on the Hebrew gematria (numerical value) of David’s name, which is 14. This implies that Matthew wants to emphasize the connection between Jesus and David, as well as create a memorable and orderly structure for his readers.
Matthew’s genealogy also includes four women who are not usually mentioned in Jewish genealogies: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. These women were either Gentiles or had questionable reputations, but they were also part of God’s plan to bring forth the Messiah through unlikely and unexpected means. By including these women, Matthew shows that God’s grace extends beyond the boundaries of Israel and that he can use anyone for his purposes.
Luke’s Genealogy: Jesus as the Son of Adam and the Son of God
The Gospel of Luke gives us another genealogy of Jesus that is very different from Matthew’s. Luke places his genealogy after the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, rather than at the beginning of his Gospel. Luke 3:23 introduces the genealogy as follows:
Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli…
Luke’s genealogy goes backwards from Joseph to Adam, rather than forwards from Abraham to Joseph. Luke also has more names than Matthew, 77 in total, and has almost no overlap with Matthew’s list after David. Luke traces Jesus’ ancestry through Nathan, another son of David, rather than Solomon, the royal successor.
Luke’s genealogy also differs from Matthew’s in that it does not mention any women or divide the generations into sections. Instead, Luke focuses on showing that Jesus is a descendant of Adam, the first human being created by God, and therefore a representative of all humanity. Luke also ends his genealogy with a remarkable statement:
…the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
This statement reveals that Luke wants to emphasize the connection between Jesus and God, as well as show that Jesus is more than a human being. He is also the Son of God, who came to save not only Israel but also all people from their sins.
How to Reconcile the Two Genealogies?
There have been many attempts to reconcile the two genealogies of Jesus given by Matthew and Luke. Some scholars have suggested that Matthew’s genealogy follows the lineage of Joseph, while Luke’s follows the lineage of Mary. This would explain why they have different names after David and why they both end with Joseph. However, this theory has some problems, such as why both Gospels call Joseph the son (or supposed son) of different fathers (Jacob in Matthew and Heli in Luke).
Another possible explanation is that Matthew’s genealogy gives us the legal lineage of Jesus, while Luke’s gives us the biological lineage. This would mean that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus but adopted him as his legal heir according to Jewish law. This would also explain why Matthew focuses on showing that Jesus is a descendant of David and Abraham through Solomon, who inherited the throne and received God’s promises. On the other hand, Luke focuses on showing that Jesus is a descendant of Adam and God through Nathan, who was a blood relative but not a royal successor.
Regardless of how we understand the differences between the two genealogies, we can still appreciate the main points that both Gospels make about the identity and mission of Jesus. He is the son of David and the son of Abraham, the Messiah who fulfills God’s covenants with his people. He is also the son of Adam and the son of God, the Savior who redeems all humanity from their sins.