The genealogy in Matthew 1 lists the names in 3 groups - From Abraham to David, David to the Exile, The Exile to Jesus.

I'm just interested to know is this a complete family history for Jesus, or is it done "poetically" so that there are 14 generations in each group?

Is Matthew trying to highlight something to his Jewish readers by pointing out there are 14 generations between each event?

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  • Thanks. I think I saw a similar one on christianity.se as well. Neither of them answer why Matthew wants to put in groups of 14 though. Is there any reason he would want 14?
    – Greg
    Dec 21, 2012 at 1:56
  • That's sort of a different question though, isn't it? Or rather, your title is a bit misleading. Dec 21, 2012 at 2:08
  • I think that was my question (is it a complete family history, and/or is Matthew trying to highlight something to his Jewish readers). You're right about the title, I'll updat eit
    – Greg
    Dec 21, 2012 at 2:23
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    "14" has special significance with respect to the name דוד (David), the Gematria of which is 14. ד = 4 ; ו = 6
    – user900
    Dec 22, 2012 at 4:54

3 Answers 3


Many people believe that there are gaps in the Genealogy listed in Matthew. This article addresses "the primary problems of the Genealogy in Matthew", and lists the gaps as one of the arguments for "unreliability" leveled by critics.

Section I: What Are The Primary Problems Associated With Matthew’s Genealogy And How Are They Reconciled?

There are 3 main problems associated with Matthew’s genealogy that most critics point out. They are as follows:

The Inference That Joseph Was Actually Jesus’ Father

The Promise Of God Against Jeconiah Nullified That The Messiah Would Be As A Result Of His Bloodline. (Jer. 22:29-30)

Too Many Gaps In The Genealogical Succession Of Matthew Against Known References In Other Texts Prove Discrepancies.

The "gaps are explained thus:

The critic often levies the charge that gaps found within the genealogy of Matthew are as a matter of sloppy investigations of the facts and proof that Matthew either made the story up or simply couldn’t seem to get it right even after he wrote it. These type of statements usually claim the historical ignorance of the gospel writer and relegate Jesus to the realm of myth, which is another tired critical argument refuted over and over down through the last couple of centuries. Was Matthew eagerly, erroneously and fallaciously promoting information that even he couldn’t seem to get straight? What are we to make of gaps in Matthew’s account?

Once again this type of observation is clearly and certainly overemphasized, and has no bearing on the accuracy of the narrative. It is a fact that some of the individuals Matthew says “begat”, were grandfathers and sometime great grandfathers and not paternal fathers and sons. One such example is Mt. 1:8 where Joram is said to have “begat” Uzziah. We know that 1 Chron. 3:10-12 states that Joram was Uzziah’s great-grandfather not paternal father. 3 generations are skipped by Matthew in this case.

The article does go on further, but from just this last paragraph, we can see that this author, at least, believes that there are gaps, and the genealogy is not complete. This has been my understanding as well, as it's a common explanation in Apologetic literature.

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    Thanks for the answer. I'm happy to say that there are gaps in the genealogy, but is there are reason why he would want to make groups of 14? To me it seems it's either an accurate genealogy and God choosing to enter human history in this pattern (unlikely given the discrepancies with other sources) or inaccurate by Matthew to make some sort of a point
    – Greg
    Dec 21, 2012 at 1:59
  • Ahhhh... I completely missed answering that part. And I have no idea. I've never heard that theory before. I think I'll go explore that. If I find a reasonable answer, I may edit, or just wait for someone more familiar with the idea give an answer of their own. Dec 21, 2012 at 2:11

In most ancient cultures, the letters of the alphabet doubled as numbers. The best known example today is Roman numerals. The Hebrew alphabet had its own numeric encoding.

The reason Matthew chose 14 is simple: 14 is the sum of the letters of David's name. Matthew is tracing Jesus' genealogy to show he is the heir of David; by dividing the genealogy into groups of 14, Matthew is simply reinforcing this point.


Thoughts from a minister I know:

The Matthew passage is more stylized than the Luke chronology…and it’s different too in places.

Almost all of his Jewish audience would be able to see that he had made omissions. He would have known that too. So we can discount simple error or fraud.

Matthew was simply making stylistic omissions that reflected the importance of the number 7 in Jewish writings (14 is 2 times 7).

  • Although @David's answer goes into more details about the gaps in the generations, it doesn't answer the question of why does Matthew choose 14.
    – Greg
    Jan 8, 2013 at 22:19

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