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The Genealogies of Jesus

From the time that sin first entered the world, God had made certain promises to mankind concerning a redeemer or “Messiah” who would eventually free him from the bondage of sin. This was first promised, in Genesis 3:15, to Satan that the seed of Eve would bruise his head.  A second promise was made to Abraham, in Genesis 12:3, that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed. This promise was again made to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, that the world’s redeemer would come from his seed and would establish a kingdom that would last forever. Both Matthew and Luke list the genealogy of Jesus to show that he was this promised Messiah.

The Genealogies of Jesus | Jack McNiel, Oak Grove Church of Christ

The accuracy of their genealogical record is shown by the silence of the critics.

“The silence of the enemies of the Gospel, both Heathen and Jewish, during even the first century, is itself a sufficient proof that neither inconsistency nor corruption could be then alleged against this part of evangelical history. If a charge of this nature could have been supported, it unquestionably would have been made.” — Adam Clarke’s Commentary

This silence is a strong argument for the case of Jesus as Messiah and these records show that he was not only a descendant of Abraham through David, but that he was also a descendant of Adam and Eve.

Harmonizing the Genealogies of Jesus

The Genealogical Record by Matthew

In the first century it was accepted by the Jewish people that the Messiah would be a direct descendant of David.

“Natural sonship to David on the part of the Messiah was of vital importance to many Jewish inquirers…The tradition, universal from the earliest times among believers and granted even by the bitterest opponents, that He was connected with the line of David may also be readily accepted.” — International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Matthew wrote his Gospel account to the Judean Jews in order to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. He began his Gospel account with a genealogy of Jesus. In chapter 1:1, Matthew stated that Jesus Christ was a “Son of David”, a descendant of both Abraham and David. The significance of this mentioning is that,

“God had given certain unconditional, eternal covenants [to Abraham and David] that determined the course of the history of the nation of Israel.”  —Pentecost, J. Dwight, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ)

Thus he showed that Jesus was of the royal lineage of David through Joseph and Solomon.

Matthew’s genealogy traces the Messianic line beginning with Abraham and ending with Joseph the husband of Mary. This line is shown through three artificial groupings, each consisting of fourteen generations: from Abraham to David, from David to the Babylonian captivity, and from then unto the birth of Jesus. There is a purpose these groups were edited, by the omission of certain names, so that they would each equal fourteen generations.

“Matthew focuses attention on the Davidic descent of Jesus in a subtle way. In Hebrew there are no vowels written, so David’s name would be written DVD. Each letter had a numerical significance, as the Hebrews used the alphabet in counting. For example, in their system, D=4, V=6. Thus the letters in David’s name total fourteen. Hence Matthew lists fourteen names in each of the three groups.” — D.J. Pentecost

This would serve to emphasize the lineage of David and really drive home to the Jews the physical royalty of Jesus Christ.

The Genealogical Record by Luke

Luke’s record of the lineage of Jesus emphasizes his Messiah-ship to the entire human race. Luke, writing to a largely Gentile audience knew that they would not be impressed that Jesus was the “Son of David” so he presented Jesus as the “Son of Man” and traced his lineage all the way back to Adam. This “Son of Man” Messiah would not only rule over Israel, but would rule over all nations and would be the world’s Messiah.   While Matthew reckoned his genealogy through the line of Joseph his earthly father, Luke reckoned his genealogy through the line of Mary.

This record did not concern itself with the legality of Hebrew patriarchal lineage, but is a record of Jesus’ natural generation.

Mary was also a descendant of David; her lineage diverged from that of her husband in that she is a descendant through Nathan, a younger son of David who did not inherit the throne, while Joseph was a descendant through Solomon. The fact that Mary also descended from David silences those who claim that Jesus was only a descendant of David by virtue of the virgin Mary’s marriage to Joseph and not by any blood relationship. This reconciles the problem of the virgin birth and the origin of Christ through the line of David.

Another far deeper problem existed, to harmonize the incarnation and the Davidic origin of Jesus. This is also reconciled by the tracing of Jesus lineage through Mary.

“This problem had been presented in shadow and intimation by Jesus Himself in the question: “David himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he his Son?” It is further to be noticed that in the annunciation (Lk 1:32) the promised One is called at once Son of God and Son of David, and that He is the Son of God by virtue of His conception by the Spirit—leaving it evident that He is Son of David by virtue of His birth of Mary. With this should be compared the statement of Paul (Rom 1:3, 1): He who was God’s Son was “born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” — International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

This silences the critics that attempt to deny Jesus as the Messiah on the grounds of his physical descendant of David.

The descendant line of Jesus the Messiah has never been seriously questioned. Luke and Matthew both established Jesus as a physical descendant of David. This was in fulfillment of many prophecies showing the Messiah as a “Son of David”. Luke went even further than Matthew and established Jesus as the “Son of Man” through his descendant from Adam.

These two genealogical accounts serve to emphasize Jesus’ relationship to the Jewish people through his kinship to the royal line of Israel and to the gentile world by his descendant from the common ancestor of all mankind.


— By Jack W. McNiel