The Genealogies of Jesus
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke contain two significantly different genealogies of Jesus:

Matthew 1:1-17 (NRSV)

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2 Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
3 Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse,
6 Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
7 Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph.
8 Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah.
9 Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
10 Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah.
11 Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.
12 After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud,
15 Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations;
     from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
     from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Compare Ruth 4:18-22 (containing the same names as in Matthew 1:3b-6a):

18 Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron,
19 Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon,
21 Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, 22 Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.


Luke 3:23-38 (NRSV)

23 When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph, the son of Heli,
24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,
26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,
28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,
32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,
33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,
36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,
38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.


Comparative Analysis:

Matthew 1:1-17 Luke 3:23-38
The genealogy of Jesus is at the very beginning of Matthew's Gospel, even before the infancy narrative. The genealogy of Jesus is not part of the infancy narrative, but comes just after his baptism and before his temptation in the wilderness.
A short introduction (v. 1) states the overall purpose of the genealogy: Jesus is called "Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" - titles which stress Jesus' royal Jewish heritage. A brief introduction mentions Jesus' approximate age (v. 23a); the genealogy's purpose is implied by its placement just after the voice from heaven had declared: "You are my Son, the Beloved" (v. 22b) - which stresses Jesus' divine sonship.
The body of the genealogy (vv. 2-16) goes in chronological order. The body of the genealogy (vv. 23b-38) goes in reverse chronological order.
It begins with Abraham and goes down to Joseph and Mary, of whom Jesus was born. It begins with Jesus, and goes up through David and Abraham, all the way to Adam and God!
It traces Jesus' Davidic ancestry through David's son Solomon, who was also a king. It traces Jesus' Davidic ancestry through the prophet Nathan (cf. 2 Sam 7:2).
In addition to naming the fathers and sons, Matthew also includes some "extra information": three sets of brothers, five mothers, and several political circumstances (David "the king"; and the "Babylonian exile") Luke only lists the names of the men in the direct line from Jesus up to Adam (and God), without mentioning any mothers or extra information.
The genealogy's conclusion (v. 17) summarizes three sections of fourteen generations each, organized around three phases of the Davidic monarchy.
  • The first section comprises the period from Abraham to King David (the establishment of the Davidic Monarchy).
  • The second section names all the Davidic kings up to the Babylonian Exile (the destruction of the Davidic Monarchy).
  • The third section leads up to Jesus, who is proclaimed as the Messiah (the hoped-for restoration of the Davidic Monarchy).

Luke's genealogy simply ends, without any summary conclusion.

  • The names are not explicitly subdivided into sections; but...
  • Most of the names from Joseph to David are different from the ones in Matthew's genealogy.
  • Most (but not all!) of the names from David to Abraham are identical to Matthew's version.
  • The names from Abraham to Adam are not contained in Matthew.
In Hebrew gematria (a type of numerology very popular in ancient Judaism) the value of David's name, obtained by summing the value of its three consonants, is fourteen
(dalet=4, vav=6; thus D+V+D = 4+6+4).
Luke's genealogy makes no use of Hebrew gematria.

The ten names from Perez down to David (Matt 1:3b-6a) are the same as in Ruth 4:18-22.

The twenty-one names from Abraham up to Adam (Luke 3:34-38) are mostly the same as in Genesis 5:1-32 and 11:10-26.

Genealogies in the Old Testament:

Closer Comparison of Matthew and Luke:

Matthew 1:1-17

Luke 3:23-38 (in REVERSE order)

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.
He was the son (as was thought) of…

.

38 God, Adam, Seth, Enos
37 Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah
36 Lamech, Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Cainan
35 Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug
34 Nahor, Terah, Abraham

2 Abraham became the father of Isaac,

34b Isaac

Isaac the father of Jacob,

34a Jacob

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.

33f Judah

3 Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.

33e Perez

Perez became the father of Hezron,

33d Hezron

Hezron the father of Ram,

33c Arni, 33b Admin

4 Ram the father of Amminadab.

33a Amminadab

Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,

32e Nahshon

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

32d Sala

5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.

32c Boaz

Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.

32b Obed

Obed became the father of Jesse,

32a Jesse

6 Jesse the father of David the king.

31e David

David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.

31d Nathan

7 Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,

31c Mattatha

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

31b Menna

Abijah the father of Asaph.

31a Melea

8 Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,

30e Eliakim

Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,

30d Jonam

Joram the father of Uzziah.

30c Joseph

9 Uzziah became the father of Jotham,

30b Judah

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

30a Simeon; 29e Levi

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.

29d Matthat; 29c Jorim

10 Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,

29b Eliezer; 29a Joshua

Manasseh the father of Amos,

28e Er; 28d Elmadam

Amos the father of Josiah.

28c Cosam; 28b Addi

11 Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.

28a Melchi; 27e Neri

12 After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,

27d Shealtiel

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

27c Zerubbabel

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.

27b Rhesa; 27a Joanan

Abiud became the father of Eliakim,

26e Joda; 26d Josech

Eliakim the father of Azor,

26c Semein; 26b Mattathias

14 Azor the father of Zadok.

26a Maath; 25e Naggai

Zadok became the father of Achim,

25d Esli; 25c Nahum

Achim the father of Eliud,

25b Amos; 25a Mattathias

15 Eliud the father of Eleazar.

24e Joseph; 24d Jannai

Eleazar became the father of Matthan,

24c Melchi; 24b Levi

Matthan the father of Jacob,

24a Matthat; 23c Heli

16 Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.

23b Joseph

Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.

23a Jesus

OT Sources for the Genealogy from Adam to Abraham, in Luke's Version:

Luke 3:34-38

Genesis 5:1-32

Genesis 11:10-26

1 Chron 1:1-4, 24-27

38c Adam

1-5 Adam

.

1a Adam

38b Seth

3-8 Seth

.

1b Seth

38a Enos

6-11 Enosh

.

1c Enosh

37e Cainan

9-14 Kenan

.

2a Kenan

37d Mahalaleel

12-17 Mahalalel

.

2b Mahalalel

37c Jared

15-20 Jared

.

2c Jared

37b Enoch

18-24 Enoch

.

3a Enoch

37a Methuselah

21-27 Methuselah

.

3b Methuselah

36e Lamech

25-31 Lamech

.

3c Lamech

36d Noah

28-32 Noah

.

4a Noah

36c Shem

32 Shem, Ham, Japheth

10-11 Shem

4bcd Shem, Ham, Japheth

36b Arphaxad

.

10-13 Arpachshad

24ab Shem, Arpachshad

36a Cainan

.

[missing]

[missing]

35e Shelah

.

12-15 Shelah

24c Shelah

35d Eber

.

14-17 Eber

25a Eber

35c Peleg

.

16-19 Peleg

25b Peleg

35b Reu

.

18-21 Reu

25c Reu

35a Serug

.

20-23 Serug

26a Serug

34e Nahor

.

22-25 Nahor

26b Nahor

34d Terah

.

24-26 Terah

26c Terah

34c Abraham

.

26 Abram, Nahor, Haran

27 Abram / Abraham

Stories about the Four Mothers, in Matthew's Version:


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