As I understand from OT kings of Judea, there was always a biological paternal line between the kingship and David. However if Jesus was the son of God and not of Joseph, how was he descended from David? Furthermore why are there two different accounts of who Joseph's father was?

  • "Furthermore why are there two different accounts of who Joseph's father was?" --- what makes you believe both accounts describe who Joseph's father was? "How is Jesus descended from David" --- it would either be via his mother or father. Since Jesus does not have a biological human father, then it's evidently through his mother, Mary.
    – user900
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 4:44
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 does it not say Joseph's name in both places?
    – Aaliyah
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 20:32
  • Jesus was descended from David biologically through Mary.
    – Narnian
    Commented May 28, 2013 at 11:49
  • @Narnian I still can't get over why couldn't it just say Mary's name, and why use Joseph's name? On the surface I can't really understand why that wouldn't be something besides a lie or a mistake. Please explain why Joseph's name should have been used.
    – Aaliyah
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 23:39
  • Related: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/11987/…
    – Anixx
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 10:13

5 Answers 5


There is no discrepancy.

Greek syntax

First, in the genealogy encountered in the Gospel of Luke,1 the very syntax of the Greek text seems to argue against the notion that Joseph is the son of Heli.

Consider Num. 36:1 in the LXX. When the translator wished to state that Gilʿad (גִלְעָד) was the son of Makhir (מָכִיר), and Makhir was the son of Menashe (מְנַשֶּׁה), he translated this into Greek as «Γαλααδ υἱοῦ Μαχιρ υἱοῦ Μανασση». Notice that the Greek word υἱοῦ (“son of”) precedes the name of each father. So, it is understood as Gilʿad the son of Makhir, and Makhir the son of Menashe, i.e., A son of B, B son of C.

Another example is Num. 16:1. The idea is that Korach (קֹרַח) is the son of Yitzhar (יִצְהָר), and Yitzhar is the son of Kehat (קְהָת), and Kehat is the son of Levi (לֵוִי). The translator of the LXX expresses this in Greek as «Κορε υἱὸς Ισσααρ υἱοῦ Κααθ υἱοῦ Λευι». Again, the translator precedes each father in the genealogical series by a declension of the Greek word υἱός.

The problem is that a declension of υἱός does not precede the name of each father in Luke’s genealogy. In a genealogy, where there’s a series of names, this seems quite the anomaly. Certainly it’s not unusual to see υἱός absent before, say, a single father in a narrative.2 But, for it to be missing before every father in a genealogy, I know of no other examples.

A Rule, You Say?

When we see one name preceded by another in a genealogy, we tend to think that the preceding name is the son/daughter of the following name. Hence, when people read the following in Luke 3:24,

24 Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, KJV, 1769

they interpret it to mean that Matthat is the son of Levi, and Levi is the son of Melchi, and so forth, all the way until the end of Luke 3:38, which states,

38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God. KJV, 1769

and thus, it is believed that Adam is the son of God, since Adam precedes God in the genealogy. However, this rule is not absolutely true. Consider the example of Gen. 36:2:

2 Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; KJV, 1769

We must ask, “Who is the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite?” Based on the aforementioned rule, you might say, “It is Anah, since Anah precedes Zibeon in the genealogy. Therefore, Anah must be Zibeon’s daughter.” Such would be unequivocally wrong, for Anah is a male, not a female, and thus he could not be anyone’s daughter.3 So, the genealogy in Gen. 36:2 is actually stating that Aholibamah is the daughter of Anah (her father), and the same Aholibamah is also the daughter of Zibeon (Anah’s father4 and thus, Aholibamah’s grandfather).

Therefore, there is no reason to assume, especially in light of the absence of υἱοῦ before each father, that Luke is saying A is the son of B, B is the son of C, C is the son of D, and so forth. In other words, what reason is there for assuming that Luke is saying that Joseph is the son of Heli, or that Adam is the son of God? I have shown you using the example of Aholibamah that a name simply preceding another name in a genealogy is not evidence of such a rule.

If Joseph is not Heli’s son, Then Who Is?

I have demonstrated that it is absolutely normal for the daughter of a man to also be reckoned as the daughter of the same man’s father. Naturally, this would also apply to a man’s son. For example, Jesus is not only the son of David,5 but also the son of Abraham,6 even though neither were Jesus’ direct, biological father.

In Luke 3:23, it is written,

23 And Jesus himself was being about thirty years [old], being [the] son (as was supposed) of Yosef, of Eli,

ΚΓʹ καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν Ἰησοῦς ἀρχόμενος ὡσεὶ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα ὢν υἱός ὡς ἐνομίζετο Ἰωσὴφ τοῦ Ἠλὶ NA28

Let us consider the notion that Luke intentionally omitted υἱός from each father and only included it after Jesus (Ἰησοῦς) and before Joseph (Ἰωσὴφ). Again, it wasn’t normal for it to be omitted before each father in a genealogy. Either it is an anomaly, or Luke intended to do so. My belief is that Luke does not want us to understand Joseph as being the son of Heli, but Jesus as being the son of Heli, and Jesus being the son of:

  • Matthat
  • Levi
  • Melchi
  • Janna

all the way to...

  • Enos
  • Seth

and likewise, Jesus is the son of Adam, and Jesus (not Adam) is the son of God.7

The Nativity

Is Jesus the son of God? The books of the Bible unanimously declare him to be so. In fact, if we actually take a step back and read the narrative, one will see that it was Luke’s very intent to declare Jesus as the son of God, rather than Adam.

First, Luke begins his gospel describing the very nativity of our Lord Jesus. And, what does Luke tell us?

In Luke 1, it is written,

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. KJV, 1769

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: KJV, 1769

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. KJV, 1769

The angel says that Jesus will be “the Son of the Most High” (υἱὸς ὑψίστου) and “the Son of God” (υἱὸς θεοῦ) because God the Father is Jesus’ actual father. To reiterate, Luke commences his gospel by demonstrating that Jesus is truly and literally the Son of God. But, he does not stop there.

In chapter 2, Luke describes the birth of the Lord Jesus.8 He writes that “Joseph and his mother marvelled...” (rather than “his father and mother”),9 and he writes that Jesus tells his mother, “...I must be about my Father’s business...”10


Luke also emphasizes the fact that Jesus is the son of God during the baptism narrative in Luke 3.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

Of course, it was God the Father who declared to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Then, just one verse later, Luke begins the genealogy. Again, looking at the big picture, one can see that Luke’s very intent was to describe Jesus as being God’s son. This is accomplished in the narratives of the nativity, baptism, and finally, the genealogy (Luke 1–3).

Not only does Luke focus on Jesus being God’s son, but he also focuses especially on Mary. On the other hand, if you read Matthew’s narrative, he focuses especially on Joseph. Hence, we need to understand that Luke’s genealogy is of Mary, and that Jesus is the son of God (not Adam). Accordingly, Jesus is Heli’s son, because Heli is his grandfather (Mary’s father).

This may be corroborated by the Jerusalem Talmud which speaks (albeit in a vile and derogatory manner, as can be expected) of a מרים ברת עלי (“Miryam, daughter of Eli”).11

In his commentary on Luke 3:23, John Lightfoot wrote,12

Joseph is not here called the son of Heli, but Jesus is so: for the word Jesus must be understood, and must be always added in the reader’s mind to every race in this genealogy, after this manner: “Jesus (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, and so the son of Heli, and of Matthat, yea and, at length, the son of Adam, and the Son of God.” For it was very little the business of the evangelist either to draw Joseph’s pedigree from Adam, or, indeed, to shew that Adam was the son of God: which not only sounds something harshly, but in this place very enormously, I may almost add, blasphemously too.

For when St. Luke, verse 22, had made a voice from heaven, declaring that Jesus was the Son of God, do we think the same evangelist would, in the same breath, pronounce Adam ‘the son of God’ too? So that this very thing teacheth us what the evangelist propounded to himself in the framing of this genealogy; which was to shew that this Jesus, who had newly received that great testimony from heaven, “This is my Son,” was the very same that had been promised to Adam by the seed of the woman.

And for this reason hath he drawn his pedigree on the mother’s side, who was the daughter of Heli, and this too as high as Adam, to whom this Jesus was promised. In the close of the genealogy, he teacheth in what sense the former part of it should be taken; viz. that Jesus, not Joseph, should be called the son of Heli, and consequently, that the same Jesus, not Adam, should be called the Son of God. Indeed, in every link of this chain this still should be understood, “Jesus the son of Matthat, Jesus the son of Levi, Jesus the son of Melchi”; and so of the rest...

Jesus is descended from David via his mother Mary, who was of the tribe of Judah and thus physically descended from David. This fulfills God’s promise to David that the fruit of his loins would reign on his throne forever. Jesus cannot actually inherit the throne from his mother. Tribal status, and thus the right to the Davidic throne, is actually passed paternally. So, how then does Jesus inherit the throne of David? Adoption, in the same way that Christians inherit our throne and reign with Jesus.13


Lightfoot, John. Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae: Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations. Trans. Gandell, Robert. Vol. 3. Oxford: UP of Oxford, 1859.


1 Luke 3:23–38
2 cp. Luke 6:15. However, he includes the definite article τὸν which is shorthand for τὸν υἱὸν.
3 cp. Gen. 36:24
4 ibid.
5 cp. Matt. 1:1
6 ibid.
7 Luke 3:38
8 Luke 2:7
9 Luke 2:33
10 Luke 2:49
11 Tractate Chaggiga, Chapter 2, Folio 11a, Halakha 2, Gemara; cp. Lightfoot, p. 55
12 p. 54
13 Rom. 8:15–17

  • On what basis are you saying that it wasn't the custom? Are there other references to genealogy through one's mother where the mother's husband's name is used instead?
    – Aaliyah
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 23:38
  • Doesn't the book of Genesis mention who a man married in some instances of the genealogies?
    – Aaliyah
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 22:42
  • 1
    I am especially glad to see the 'adoption' of Jesus by Joseph as his son. The analogy to the adoption of the Christian into the family of God is spot on.
    – IAbstract
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 15:43
  • Suggestion: remove the 'as can be expected' comment regarding the Talmud. Given the context, it has unnecessary implications. Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 23:45

The Gospel of Luke makes the connection-

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph. (Luke 3:23)

Actual biology is, when it comes to sonship, irrelevant.

Indeed, when it came to inheritance and descendance, any named successor could be counted as a child.

Abraham, for example, knew that he would have many descendants, because God had told Him, but did not necessarily believe they would physically descend from his and Sarah's own body, hence Ishmael. (Yes, Christians have different beliefs around that story.)

In effect, Joseph adopted Jesus the way that God adopts us as his sons. For all practical purposes "we are adopted as sons, and if sons then joint heirs with Christ". Indeed to the outside world, Mary looked like an unwed mother, and Joseph like a dad who started having relations too early. On the census that was taken, there is no doubt that Jesus was reckoned as Joseph's son.

The actual genetic heritage is not the important thing. If you are adopted, you are the descendant. Jesus may have been adopted first, but as Christians we are counted as adopted into God's family most.

  • Note, when not on a phone ill address the famous genealogy discrepancy. Trust me, you're not the first to notice it. Commented May 26, 2013 at 11:52
  • Also, as casey pointed out, he was also descended from David through Mary
    – SSumner
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 15:02

Romans 15:12 A descendant of Jesse will appear;he will come to rule the Gentiles and they will put their hope in him. I see nothing about gender here, so any progeny from the genetic material of David or his siblings should be suitable.

My general knowledge is that lineage of Jewish persons is through the mother. The mother is undisputed the father could be, eg from a raiding nation.

In tribal cultures of the region the men often died in battles or raids before their offspring reached adult hood, necessarily the adult uncles that were alive and fit became the providers for any dependants. eg: Mohammed(P) the prophet was raised from 8 years old by his Uncle Abu Tahlib. Mohammed Ali Baquir is the son of Uncle Abu Tahlib and was raised from 8 years old by Mohammed the prophet. The two were first cousins. Mohammed(P)'s wife converted to Islam and they raised four daughters, one named Fatima and all four daughters married Caliph. Mohammed Ali was raised as a sibling of Fatima his second cousin. While Mohammed(P) was alive Mohammed Ali married Fatima and they had two sons. You can find this by looking and linking through the Wikipedia,creating your own geneology, subject to verification of what is posted.

  • 1
    Welcome to C.SE, and we are so happy to have more female perspectives! When you get the chance, I invite you to check out how we are different than other sites, but I heartily welcome you! Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 15:28
  • Jewish nationhood is through the mother, but family lines are paternal. I'd also point out that genetic studies show that when a group settles among other people, they can be identified from the Y chromosome but the mitochondrial DNA usually matches that of the surrounding people.
    – Aaliyah
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 23:34

Luk 3:31 Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David,

Actual Biology is important. Jesus physically was the son of David through his mother Mary. Most bible scholars agree Luke 3 is a relation of Jesus's genealogy through Mary by David's son Nathan as it traces the linage of Jesus different than Matthew 1 (Joesph's genealogy through Solomon).

  • 1
    If it refers to genealogy through Mary, why doesn't it say that? What is the precedent that Davidic genealogy could be through the mother?
    – Aaliyah
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 20:28
  • @Aaliyah Because Luke tells Mary's account of the gospel. There need not be a precedent for genealogy its your parentage. It doesn't change based on precedent.
    – user4060
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 1:05
  • @Aaliyah : There are rabbinic traditions for tracing genealogy through both the mother and the father, the older traditions being through the father. The Mishnah written in the second century AD is a collection of rabbinic oral traditions, and it does allow for the tracing of parentage through the mother rather than the father. However we don't know how long this was an oral tradition before it was codified in the Mishnah.
    – Walter
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 12:42
  • 1
    @caseyr547 Taken to the extreme why not just say every name in Luke really means Mary? It should have said what it meant either way.
    – Aaliyah
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 23:36

When you count the generations in Matthew 1 you will find one missing in the last set of 14. There are only 13. The reason is verse 16 which reads "Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary who bore Jesus who is called Messiah." in most English Bibles. Both the Aramaic and the Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew read "Jacob begat Josef the father of Mary ..." which solves our problems: we now have 14 generations from Babylon to Christ and we have the unbroken kingly line through David's son Solomon right down through Mary, Jesus' only earthly parent. Jesus - YESHUA is truly the SON OF DAVID, ISRAEL'S ANNOINTED KING. So you see, Mary's father was named Joseph and she married a man named Joseph ...

  • 2
    The 14th generation is Jesus, the target of the whole lineage. [1. Jechoniah 2. Salathiel 3. Zerubbabel 4. Abiud 5. Eliakim 6. Azor 7. Zadok 8. Achim 9. Eliud 10. Eleazar 11. Matthan 12. Jacob 13. Joseph 14. Jesus]. Further, out of 21 translations only one does not translate the word as "husband"; with that one opting for "guardian", a far cry from "father".
    – user3961
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 22:10
  • 2
    What is this "Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew"? When was it dated?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 22:15
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