Act 2 – The Genealogy of Jesus
Scene 2 – The Genealogy of The Son of God
This scene of The Synoptic Gospel is taken entirely from the Gospel of Luke, and it recounts the genealogy of Jesus as the Son of God, and lists the lineage of Jesus from Joseph, the husband of His mother Mary, all the way back through time to Adam, as the “son of God”.
It is not uncommon for the story of a great man to open with his ancestry – at least a mention about who his mother and father were, and other ancestors further back in time especially if they are of note or importance.
Luke’s genealogical record of Jesus is different from most Jewish ancestries in that it begins in the present with Jesus, and then goes backwards in time to end with the first man, “… Adam, the son of God”. Naming Jesus first, and then going backwards in time emphasizes Jesus. By contrast, if you recall, the genealogy of Matthew’s Gospel (Scene 021) began with Abraham, who is seen as the beginning of the Israelite lineage, and went forward in time to end with Jesus.
While Matthew’s genealogical record is mainly for the Jewish people, this record in Luke was written to prove that Jesus is the Son of God, which is of interest to all the people in the entire world.
Luke’s list begins with a disclaimer about Joseph, the first name on his list, as, “… being as was supposed, the son of Joseph.” “As was supposed” could here mean simply, “as was commonly thought”, or perhaps it is a reference to Jesus being Joseph’s son by the “Levitical” system, or “Levite marriage”, of reckoning, whereby if a man died without bearing any sons, his brother could then marry his widow, and their sons would carry on the dead man’s name. For this theory to hold up, it would mean that Joseph, the father of Jesus, had both a legal father (Heli – his father-in-law – the father of his wife Mary) and a biological father (Jacob), through a Levite marriage. The theory suggests that Joseph’s grandfathers (Matthan according to Matthew; Matthat according to Luke) were brothers, both married to the same woman, one after the other. This would make Matthan’s son (Jacob) Joseph’s biological father, and Matthat’s son (Heli) Joseph’s legal father. Matthew’s account would trace Jesus’ primary (biological) lineage, and Luke’s record would follow Jesus’ legal lineage.
Now it is known that Jesus was conceived within Mary when she was “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit of God and “the power of the Most High” (Luke 1:35). So, in this way, God provided the seed for Mary to conceive Jesus, and it was not through copulation with Joseph, the man to whom Mary was engaged to be married, as Mary was at that time “a virgin” (Luke 1:27). Although an angel had previously told Mary that the child that she would conceive and birth would also be called “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:35)
Now this sounds clear and obvious to us, but the Jewish people were not expecting that God would have a “Son”, and therefore perhaps they needed to be reminded that Jesus, and all human beings, as Adam, are all really in fact sons and daughters of God, as we have all been made in His image (Genesis 1:26). Despite this, Jesus was ‘uniquely’ the Son of God, because His Spirit was from God, in addition to the fact that God also provided the seed for His earthly, human body, unlike ordinary humans who are born from the union of human mother and father. It is noted that if Jesus were God’s Son – because He had no human father – then perhaps Adam could be considered twice the “son of God” as Jesus, because Adam had no human mother or father.
As was ancient custom, genealogies were always reckoned through the father, and this was not possible in this case, where Jesus had no human father to provide the seed. Either way, both Matthew and Luke’s genealogies prove that Jesus was descended from King David, and this is important to fulfill the prophecies about a descendant that would sit on the throne of David.
While the genealogy of Matthew lists many other kings of Israel, this record in Luke’s does not, with the exception of King David. While the two accounts are similar from Abraham to David, they differ in several respects after king David, where only two names, Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, appear on both lists.
Many people have noted that this record in Luke may list a more priestly lineage through Jesus’ mother Mary, and that this genealogy is provided to show that Jesus was the “Son of God”, as contrasted with the list of kings provided by Matthew to prove that He was the Messiah – The Anointed One who was anointed by God to rule on the throne of David as King over the Israelite people.
Many feel that due to the differences between the genealogy recorded in Matthew and this one that is provided by Luke, that the record given in Matthew was through Joseph the “father” of Jesus, and this one from Luke was through Mary, His mother. It can be seen from both Matthew and Luke’s genealogical record that Joseph was the legal guardian or parent of Jesus, and not listed as His biological father.
One main point of difference between the two accounts is the name of the father of Joseph. It appears that Joseph was a son-in-law of Heli (the father of Mary) (‘Eli’ here in the NASB), and Luke calls him a “son” although Joseph’s father was actually named ‘Jacob’, as is recorded in Matthew. Sometimes son-in-laws were reckoned as a “son”, and included as such in the genealogy, especially for legal purposes.
Another point to consider when examining the differences between the two different genealogies is the so-called, “curse of Jehoiakim” which was pronounced against Jehoiakim, king of Judah, because he burned a scroll that was written by the prophet Jeremiah. Basically the curse said that Jehoiakim would never have a descendant sit on the throne of David (Jeremiah 36:30-32).
Now the problem is that Joseph, the father of Jesus, was descended from Jehoiakim, through Jeconiah, and therefore his offspring could not claim the throne of David. Of course Jesus was to sit on the throne of David as the King of the Jews (Luke 1:32; Acts 2:30; Hebrews 12:2), and therefore He could not genetically be the offspring of Joseph, or else God’s curse would be contradicted. This problem required a Divine solution which brings us to the miraculous, virgin birth. Although Joseph was one of Jehoiakim’s offspring (through Solomon), Mary was a descendant of another of David’s sons, Nathan and therefore Jesus was now descended from the great king David, biologically from David through Mary, and legally through the ‘adoption’ of Joseph. And this explains why there would be differences between the names listed in the two genealogies of Matthew and Luke.
If Luke traced the lineage of Jesus through His mother Mary’s side, then this would mean that Jacob was Joseph’s biological father, and Heli (Mary’s biological father) became Joseph’s surrogate father, thus making Joseph Heli’s heir through his marriage to Mary. If Heli had no sons, this would have been the normal custom (Genesis 38:8; Ruth 4:10). Also, if Mary and Joseph lived under the same roof with Heli, his “son-in-law” would have been called “son” and considered a descendent.
Additionally, if Mary (Jesus’ blood relative) was indeed a direct descendant of David, this would make her son “the seed of David” in keeping with Messianic prophecies, without mentioning Jehoiakim on Joseph’s side. And there have been many, many other theories proposed for the differences between the two genealogical records over the years… For a more complete list of the people from Adam to the kings of Israel, see 1 Chronicles, chapters 1 to 4.
While Matthew was concerned, as he says, to prove that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jews, the attempt of Luke’s Gospel seems to be to show that Jesus is the savior of all humanity, and the entire world.
In total, Luke’s record includes the names of some 75 individuals, or generations, as compared to the 42 names listed in the genealogy provided by Matthew. Between the two accounts several names appear on both lists, including most notably Abraham and David. But this is to be expected. What is more interesting to note is the names that do not appear on both lists. Matthew omitted the names of many people, presumably to make three neat groups of 14 individuals each, from Abraham to Jesus, the Christ, even through king David is listed twice, ending the list of one group and beginning the next group, for a total of 41 different names, while Luke’s list includes the names of all of the descendants.
Luke shows the natural descent of Jesus from David, while Matthew shows the legal right of Jesus to the throne of David by descent from Solomon through His mother Mary. Because Joseph was not the natural father of Jesus, it seems that Luke strove to prove that Jesus was in fact naturally descended from David through Mary, His mother and only human parent, and also, legally adopted through Joseph, the husband of Mary, if not through Heli, her father.
While Matthew’s genealogy lists many of the kings of Israel from David through Solomon, Luke’s list follows the lineage of his David’s son Nathan. From Nathan Luke then begins listing the names of the maternal line of the descendants, through the wives and mothers, instead of the usual paternal line which Matthew continues to do, although Matthew also unusually lists the names of four women. Also, here in Luke’s account, the names Judah, Levi and Matthat appear two times each, and the name Joseph is listed three times. So you can also see how names are used and reused within a family line, or tree. There is also a Joshua, and a Josech.
Luke’s list ends with Adam, who was “the son of God”, and for Biblical purposes, the first man (human) – and Jesus is called or compared to a ‘second’ Adam – “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45) As Adam represented a beginning, Jesus now represents a new beginning, or perhaps even a return to what was lost by the tempted fall of Adam and Eve. By tracing the lineage of Jesus all the way back to Adam indicates that Jesus was born for all the people of the world, as the Son of God, and not just as the Messiah to the Jews.
Of course a further obvious connection between Adam and Jesus was the very fact that Luke is here pointing out – that both Jesus and Adam were “sons of God”, as God was their father – and provided the seed, in both cases. Perhaps a pure seed from God is what is necessary to give humans a chance to overcome our innate tendencies towards self and disobedience of God.
The genealogies of both Matthew and this one from Luke are important to prove that God’s promises about specific peoples, tribes, families and individuals were fulfilled. Matthew’s for showing that Jesus was in genealogical line to fulfill the promises made to the Jews about their Messiah, and Luke’s to show that this same individual, Jesus, was also the Son of God sent to begin a new (spiritual) creation for the entire world.