Bible Genealogy
Matthew vs. Luke vs. Eusebius Genealogy of Jesus

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We struggle with the genealogy of Jesus Christ because Matthew and Luke give us such different genealogies. Additionally, there is a partial genealogy in 1 Chronicles. For a side by side comparison of the genealogies in 1 Chronicles, Matthew and Luke click This Link.

The rest of this page will present discussions from various sources that attempt to explain why Matthew and Luke are so different. Through the material here I hope to shed some light on the following questions:
  1. Are Matthew and Luke at variance with each other concerning the genealogy of Christ?
  2. Can the two accounts be harmonized?
A.  First, bear in mind the following points about Matthew's genealogy:
  1. He began with Abraham.

  2. He divided Jesus' genealogy into three blocks of 14 names each for a total of 42 names.
    • There are 14 generations from Abraham to David
    • There are 14 generations from David until the exile to Babylon
    • There are 14 generations from the exile to Babylon until the birth of Christ.

  3. He presents Jesus' genealogy in accordance with the sacred number (seven).

  4. The list is a selective "pedigree" of Jesus. He leaves out whole generations.

  5. The number "14" equals the numerical value of David's name in Hebrew (4+6+4, dwd).
    • This is similar to the number 666 for Nero, which appears in Revelation.

B.  Now, keep these points in mind about Luke's genealogy of Jesus:
  1. Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam. Thus, Luke holds that Jesus serves all people, Jew and Gentile alike.

  2. Luke also presents the genealogy in multiples of seven, but not so obviously as Matthew. Luke's genealogy totals 77 names.
    • There are 21 generations from Adam to Abraham.
    • There are 14 generations from Abraham to David.
    • There are 21 names from David until the exile.
    • There are 21 names from the exile to Joseph.

C.  A comparison of the two genealogies reveals these points:
  1. From Abraham to David the two lists are essentially in agreement.
  2. Many of the names listed after the exile in both lists are unknown anywhere else in the Bible.

C.  What About Mary?:

From the very beginning Christians have been troubled about exactly how Mary fits into the overall genealogy of Jesus. Old Testament prophesy declared that the Messiah would be born as a descendant of King David. Matthew and Luke go to great lengths to plot Joseph's genealogy to prove that Jesus was, indeed, a descendant of David. But, the New Testament states emphatically that Mary was a virgin. How, people ask, could Jesus be a descendant of David through Joseph? That probably bothered the early Christians as much as it does Christians today.

There is not a genealogy of Mary in the Bible. In fact nothing at all is known about Mary until the angel appeared to her to announce the birth of Jesus through her. There is a gospel called the Infancy Gospel of James also known as the Protevangelium of James. This non-canonical gospel begins with an account of the birth of Mary to Joachim and Anna. However, this gospel does not give any additional information about Mary's lineage and Joachim is not mentioned in the New Testament. So, the theory that Jesus' lineage to David could have gone through Mary cannot be proved from any information available to us.

Having completed the introduction above let's now turn to the early church historian Eusebius for further enlightenment.

Eusebius of Caesarea's Church History

The Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius, written In A.D. 325, is a classic, which ranks in significance with the works of Flavius Josephus. What Josephus did for the Old Testament and Intertestamentary period, Eusebius did for the New Testament era and for the early years of the post-Biblical church history. This particular work embraces the events of the first three centuries of the Christian church, to the time Constantine became master of the Roman world. There are two things you need to keep in mind as you read Eusebius' works:

  1. Eusebius uses the phrase "uterine brothers." It is important to understand what this means if we are to understand his argument. In ancient Jewish law, when a man died and left a widow, it was the duty of his brother to marry the widow. This served two purposes. One, it provided for the welfare of the widow and her children. Second, it provided for the continuance of the deceased man's line as full "brothers" of his other children. All children born of the marriage of his widow to his brother were considered to still be his (the deceased's) children. These children were treated as his descendants in every legal and religious sense of the word. Thus a man could have a "biological" father and a "legal" father. The excerp below is not easy to read or digest. You will probably need to print it out and study it closely to lock in every piece of the argument.

  2. Eusebius mentions "resurrection" in the second paragraph below. Keep in mind that many Jews at that time did not believe in a resurrection of the body after death. That was a Christian concept. That means that when a brother married the wife of his dead brother the children represented a kind of resurrection for the dead brother.

There is a chart below the following excerpt from Eusebius that I hope will help you to understand his theory. You might want to have the chart close at hand as you read the text.

Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History: Book I

Chapter 7: The Alleged Discrepancy in the Gospels in regard to the Genealogy of Christ

Matthew and Luke in their gospels have given us the genealogy of Christ differently, and many suppose that they are at variance with one another. Since as a consequence every believer, in ignorance of the truth, has been zealous to invent some explanation which shall harmonize the two passages, permit us to subjoin the account of the matter which has come down to us, and which is given by Africanus, in his epistle to Aristides, where he discusses the harmony of the gospel genealogies. After refuting the opinions of others as forced and deceptive, he gives the account which he had received from tradition in these words:

"For whereas the names of the generations were reckoned in Israel either according to nature or according to law -- according to nature by the succession of legitimate offspring, and according to law whenever another raised up a child to the name of a brother dying childless; for because a clear hope of resurrection was not yet given they had a representation of the future promise by a kind of mortal resurrection, in order that the name of the one deceased might be perpetuated -- whereas then some of those who are inserted in this genealogical table succeeded by natural descent, the son to the father, while others, though born of one father, were ascribed by name to another, mention was made of both of those who were progenitors in fact and of those who were so only in name.

Thus neither of the gospels is in error, for one reckons by nature, the other by law. For the line of descent from Solomon and that from Nathan were so involved, the one with the other, by the raising up of children to the childless and by second marriages, that the same persons are justly considered to belong at one time to one, at another time to another; that is, at one time to the reputed fathers, at another to the actual fathers. So that both these accounts are strictly true and come down to Joseph with considerable intricacy indeed, yet quite accurately.

But in order that what I have said may be made clear I shall explain the interchange of the generations. If we reckon the generations from David through Solomon, the third from the end is found to be Matthan, who begat Jacob the father of Joseph. But if, with Luke, we reckon them from Nathan the son of David, in like manner the third from the end is Melchi, whose son Eli was the father of Joseph. For Joseph was the son of Eli, the son of Melchi.

Joseph therefore being the object proposed to us, it must be shown how it is that each is recorded to be his father, both Jacob, who derived his descent from Solomon, and Eli, who derived his from Nathan; first how it is that these two, Jacob and Eli, were brothers, and then how it is that their fathers, Matthan and Melchi, although of different families, are declared to be grandfathers of Joseph.

Matthan and Melchi having married in succession the same woman, begat children who were uterine brothers, for the law did not prohibit a widow, whether such by divorce or by the death of her husband, from marrying another.

By Estha then (for this was the woman's name according to tradition) Matthan, a descendant of Solomon, first begat Jacob.

And when Matthan was dead, Melchi, who traced his descent back to Nathan, being of the same tribe but of another family, married her as before said, and begat a son Eli.

Thus we shall find the two, Jacob and Eli, although belonging to different families, yet brethren by the same mother. Of these the one, Jacob, when his brother Eli had died childless, took the latter's wife and begat by her a son to Joseph, his own son by nature and in accordance with reason. Wherefore also it is written: 'Jacob begat Joseph.' But according to law he was the son of Eli, for Jacob, being the brother of the latter, raised up seed to him.

Hence the genealogy traced through him will not be rendered void, which the evangelist Matthew in his enumeration gives thus: 'Jacob begat Joseph.' But Luke, on the other hand, says: 'Who was the son, as was supposed' (for this he also adds), 'of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Melchi'; for he could not more clearly express the generation according to law. And the expression 'he begat' he has omitted in his genealogical table up to the end, tracing the genealogy back to Adam the son of God. This interpretation is neither incapable of proof nor is it an idle conjecture.

The chart below was drawn from information recorded by Eusebius above.

Eusebius adds the information below to boost his argument about the genealogy records that were kept by the ancient Jews.

For the relatives of our Lord according to the flesh, whether with the desire of boasting or simply wishing to state the fact, in either case truly, have banded down the following account: Some Idumean robbers, having attacked Ascalon, a city of Palestine, carried away from a temple of Apollo which stood near the walls, in addition to other booty, Antipater, son of a certain temple slave named Herod. And since the priest was not able to pay the ransom for his son, Antipater was brought up in the customs of the Idumeans, and afterward was befriended by Hyrcanus, the high priest of the Jews. And having, been sent by Hyrcanus on an embassy to Pompey, and having restored to him the kingdom which had been invaded by his brother Aristobulus, he had the good fortune to be named procurator of Palestine. But Antipater having been slain by those who were envious of his great good fortune was succeeded by his son Herod, who was afterward, by a decree of the senate, made King of the Jews under Antony and Augustus. His sons were Herod and the other tetrarchs. These accounts agree also with those of the Greeks.

But as there had been kept in the archives up to that time the genealogies of the Hebrews as well as of those who traced their lineage back to proselytes, such as Achior the Ammonite and Ruth the Moabitess, and to those who were mingled with the Israelites and came out of Egypt with them, Herod, inasmuch as the lineage of the Israelites contributed nothing to his advantage, and since he was goaded with the consciousness of his own ignoble extraction, burned all the genealogical records, thinking that he might appear of noble origin if no one else were able, from the public registers, to trace back his lineage to the patriarchs or proselytes and to those mingled with them, who were called Georae.

A few of the careful, however, having obtained private records of their own, either by remembering the names or by getting them in some other way from the registers, pride themselves on preserving the memory of their noble extraction. Among these are those already mentioned, called Desposyni, on account of their connection with the family of the Saviour. Coming from Nazara and Cochaba, villages of Judea, into other parts of the world, they drew the aforesaid genealogy from memory and from the book of daily records as faithfully as possible.

Whether then the case stand thus or not no one could find a clearer explanation, according to my own opinion and that of every candid person. And let this suffice us, for, although we can urge no testimony in its support, we have nothing. better or truer to offer. In any case the Gospel states the truth." And at the end of the same epistle he adds these words: "Matthan, who was descended from Solomon, begat Jacob. And when Matthan was dead, Melchi, who was descended from Nathan begat Eli by the same woman. Eli and Jacob were thus uterine brothers. Eli having died childless, Jacob raised up seed to him, begetting Joseph, his own son by nature, but by law the son of Eli. Thus Joseph was the son of both." Thus far Africanus. And the lineage of Joseph being thus traced, Mary also is virtually shown to be of the same tribe with him, since, according to the law of Moses, inter-marriages between different tribes were not permitted. For the command is to marry one of the same family and lineage, so that the inheritance may not pass from tribe to tribe. This may suffice here.

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