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Can you explain the apparent contradiction in Jesus Christ's lineage in Luke 1 and Matthew 3?

I have a school project, and I need some help figuring out why this is not a contradiction.


I'm sorry. I miss typed. I meant Luke 3 and Matthew 1. I'm sorry.

19 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    We are born with two genealogies, one from our father and the other from our mother. It stands to reason that if Luke traces through Mary, and Matthew through Joseph, then Christ will have two different genealogies.

    To citizen:

    In Numbers 26 we are introduced to Zelophehad who we are told, had no sons, only daughters. In Numbers 27, following the death of Zelophehad, the daughters of Zelophehad came before Moses and argued their plight. Because their father had died with no sons, all of their rights of inheritance were to be lost and they felt this was unfair. So Moses prayed to God and God gave Moses an exception to the rule. The Lord told Moses that the inheritance CAN flow through a female, IF they fulfill two requirements. There must be no male offspring in the family (Num 27:8) and if the female offspring should marry, they must marry within their own tribe (Num 36:6).

    Now we come back to Mary. On the surface she should be unable to transfer the rights to her Son. But when you research you find that Mary had NO brothers, AND Mary did indeed marry within her own tribe to Joseph.

  • 1 decade ago

    First, the references are wrong. The genealogies are in Matthew 1 (not 3) and Luke 3 (not 1).

    Matthew 1 gives the genealogy of Jesus through his step-father Joseph. This is his legal lineage and not his bloodline. Notice that it says there are 14 names from Abraham to David, 14 names from David to the exile, and fourteen names from the exile to Jesus. Now do something few people ever do - count them.

    Notice that there are only 13 names from the Exile to Jesus. That is unless you count Mary as the "14th" generation, since Jesus was not sired by Joseph. Here you have the virgin birth mentioned by Matthew. And evidence that this is the lineage of Joseph. The author had to include Mary to make the lineage accurate since Joseph was only a step-father.

    Now go to Luke 3. It begins by saying that this is the lineage of Jesus "who was supposed to be the son of Joseph...". In the Jewish culture of that time, the phrase "supposed to be son of..." indicated that you were going to follow the MATERNAL bloodline. It was improper to list the name of a woman in a genealogy. Luke was not allowed to right "Jesus, the son of Mary, the daughter of Heli, the son of...." So instead used that phrase to indicate that he is following the lineage of Jesus' mother and Joseph's wife.

  • Lori T
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    I think you mean Matthew 1 and Luke 3.

    Both are geneologies of Joseph, not Mary:

    Mat 1:16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

    Luk 3:23 So Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years old. He was the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli

    The difference between the two is that unlike Matthew's genealogy, Luke's runs from Jesus down. It also goes all the way to Adam, not stopping at Abraham as Matthew's does. Both genealogies go through David.

  • 1 decade ago

    There isn't a contradiction but two points of view, two purposes. What most people said is true about 2 generalogies, but read this:

    Matthew wrote to the JEWS. So it was SO SUPER IMPORTANT for him to demonstrate to the Jews that this Jesus was The Messiah they were waiting for, thefore the genealogy path he used draw the "dots", the line of Jesus, back to King David so they could recognize Him as The Messiah. The Messiah had to be descendant of King David. That's why Matthey starts saying: "Jesus son of David, son of Abraham".... So Matthew wrote his Gospel to the Jews.

    Luke wrote TO A FRIEND: Teofilo, a gentile= non Jew. For Luke the purpose or his focus was to present this Jesus, as The Son of Man. Luke made a lot of investigation about Jesus's life before he could tell the whole story to his friend, so he probably interviewed Mary to start his genealogy they way he did.

    There are two audiences: Jews and non Jews.

    For those people always interested or trying to desqualify The Bible saying it contradicts itself:

    When you study it, you learn that there is a lot of other things to take in consideration before you judge that it is contradictory like this example: TWO AUDIENCES, TWO PURPOSES, TWO POINTS OF VIEW.

    It is sooo interesting, amazing! :)

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The explanation above doesn't work because in both cases, the genealogy only goes by sons. Both are the lineage of Joseph, which the text makes clear if you actually bother to read it.

    The truth is that it is a contradiction, and it happened because Matthew and Luke were working separately, and each invented different names to fill in the list beyond the known patriarchs and heroes of ancient Israel.

    @dewcoons: If you're right, then Matthew means to tell us that Joseph actually was the father of Jesus, because Matthew doesn't use the "it was thought" language.

    "It was thought" is language about the virgin birth, not a signal for a change of lineage. Both belong to Joseph, and there is a contradiction.

    @ "by faith": You're assuming that the church fathers were inerrantists like modern day Evangelicals. An alternate solution is that they were fine with the contradiction because they weren't assuming that either was actual history as we know it today.

  • 1 decade ago

    Both Matthew 1 and Luke 3 contain genealogies of Jesus. But there is one problem--they are different. Luke's genealogy starts at Adam and goes to David. Matthew's genealogy starts at Abraham and goes to David. When the genealogies arrive at David, they split with David's sons: Nathan (Mary's side) and Solomon (Joseph's side).

    There is no discrepancy because one genealogy is for Mary and the other is for Joseph. It was customary to mention the genealogy through the father even though it was clearly known that it was through Mary.

    Some critics may not accept this explanation no matter what reasoning is produced. Nevertheless, they should first realize that the Bible should be interpreted in the context of its literary style, culture, and history. Breaking up genealogies into male and female representations was acceptable in the ancient Near East culture since it was often impolite to speak of women without proper conditions being met: male presence, etc. Therefore, one genealogy is of Mary and the other of Joseph--even though both mention Joseph. In other words, the Mary geneaology was counted "in" Joseph and under his headship. Second, do any critics actually think that those who collected the books of the New Testament, and who believed it was inerrant, were unaware of this blatant differentiation in genealogies? Does anyone actually think that the Christians were so dense that they were unaware of the differences in the genealogy lists, closed their eyes, and put the gospels into the canon anyway hoping no one would notice? Not at all. They knew the cultural context and had no problem with it knowing that one was of Joseph and the other of Mary. Third, notice that Luke starts with Mary and goes backwards to Adam. Matthew starts with Abraham and goes forward to Joseph. The intents of the genealogies were obviously different which is clearly seen in their styles. Luke was not written to the Jews, Matthew was. Therefore, Matthew would carry the legal line (from Abraham through David) and Luke the biological one (from Adam through David). Also, notice that Luke's first three chapters mention Mary eleven times; hence, the genealogy from her. Fourth, notice Luke 3:23, "And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli," This designation "supposedly" seems to signify the Marian genealogy since it seems to indicate that Jesus is not the biological son of Joseph.

    Finally, in the Joseph genealogy is a man named Jeconiah. God cursed Jeconiah (also called Coniah), stating that no descendant of his would ever sit on the throne of David, "For no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah," (Jer. 22:30). But Jesus, of course, will sit on the throne in the heavenly kingdom. The point is that Jesus is not a biological descendant of Jeconiah, but through the other lineage -- that of Mary. Hence, the prophetic curse upon Jeconiah stands inviolate. But, the legal adoption of Jesus by Joseph reckoned the legal rights of Joseph to Jesus as a son, not the biological curse. This is why we need two genealogies: one of Mary (the actually biological line according to prophecy), and the legal line through Joseph.

    Again, the early church knew this and had no problem with it. It is only the critics of today who narrow their vision into a literalness and require this to be a "contradiction" when in reality we have an explanation that is more than sufficient.

  • 1 decade ago

    One is the lineage of his step-father, Joseph, who adopted him, and the other is the lineage of his mother. The way that you know is that Jesus' Jewish opposers of that time brought up every conceivable objection to his being the Messiah, including questioning his mother's virtue and being a virgin, but never once objected to his genealogies or saying that they were contradictory. If there had been a problem, they certainly would have brought it up.

    Some people object and try to say that the descent could only be through a male, but the Bible never says that.

    God, 1000 years before Jesus, had promised King David that his descendant would receive his throne to time indefinite:

    "And your house and your kingdom will certainly be steadfast to time indefinite before you; your very throne will become one firmly established to time indefinite.”’” (2 Samuel 7:16)

    So, since David would have to die one day, for his throne to be "firmly established to time indefinite," some one of his children would have to continue to sit on the throne of Israel to time indefinite. God was Jesus' father, and He, of course, is not one of David's children. But Joseph adopted Jesus, and he was David's great-great grandchild. And Mary was, too, and she was Jesus' mother. And that is what the geneaologies prove, since you can follow both of them right back to where they mention David as being their ancestor. So Jesus got the legal right to David's throne from his step-father, Joseph, and the fleshly right, as a natural great-great grandchild of David, from his mother.

    Best regards,


    Source(s): the Bible
  • 1 decade ago

    one is the genealogy of step dad legally he was jesus father he came from solomon's line but one of solomons great great sinned so bad he and his descendants were banned from the throne forever, luke chapter 2 they said of Jesus he would inherit the throne of David..the genealogy of mary comes from davids son nathan not solomon and doges the prophecy against the wicked kings lineage. look up root of jesse as well for some other prophecy linked to this line and also the part where david wanted to build God a house but the lord responded to David no i will build you a house.. this is important as well to understand the Promise of the messiah, remember Jacob blessed his sons and judah was the one to be royalty..they followed this line to david, then from david to jesus.

  • It is quite simple. They are both fabrications that the gospel writers came up with to "prove" the descent of Jesus from David.

    The standard argument is that the genealogy in Luke is actually that of Mary, but that has absolutely no support in the language of the genealogy.


    And the contradictions go beyond just the genealogies. There is no way that the stories of the early life of Jesus in Matthew and Luke can be reconciled. For example, according to Luke, the parents of Jesus lived in Nazareth and went to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, then returned to Nazareth shortly thereafter (Luke 2:21-22 and Luke 39--the "things according to the law" were the purification rituals of the woman after giving birth, which took 40 days).

    According to Matthew, they originally lived in Bethlehem, not Nazareth. After the birth of Jesus, they went to Egypt because of their fear of Herod, then after Herod's death they returned to Palestine, but, because they feared Herod's son Archaelus, they bypassed their home in Bethlehem and made a new home for themselves in Nazareth. This would have been upwards of two years after the birth of Jesus.

    Also, according to Matthew, Jesus was born during the reign of Herod, but according to Luke, Jesus was born during a an enrollment for taxation purposes when Quirenius was governor of Syria. That is an historical enrollment that took place in 6 A.D., ten years after the death of Herod. This enrollment was instituted by the Romans when they deposed Archaelus and took over direct control of Judea. Despite arguments by Bible believers otherwise, there was no earlier such enrollment during the reign of Herod. The Romans enrolled for tax purposes only the inhabitants of territories they directly ruled over, not the territories ruled by their "client" kings.

    What it boils down to is that both stories of the early life of Jesus in the two gospels were pious fabrications.

  • 1 decade ago

    No contradiction in The Living Word at all! (Jesus IS The Living Word and does Not lie to HimSelf!) John 1:1.

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