Mathew gives the following geneolgoy:

Abraham Isaac Jacob Judah & Tamar Perez Hezron Ram Amminadab Nahshon Salmon & Rahab Boaz & Ruth Obed Jesse David & Bathsheba Solomon & Naamah Rehoboam Abijam Asa Jehosaphat Jehoram Uzziah Jotham Ahaz Hezekiah Manasseh Amon Josiah Jeconiah Shealtiel Zerubbabel Abiud Eliakim Azor Zadok Achim Eliud Eleazar Matthan Jacob Joseph & Mary * Jesus

Luke provides this one:

God Adam Seth Enos Cainan Maleleel Jared Enoch Mathusala Lamech Noe Shem Arphaxad Cainan Sala Heber Phalec Ragau Saruch Nachor Thara Abraham Isaac Jacob Juda Phares Esrom Aram Aminadab Naasson Salmon Booz Obed Jesse David Nathan Mattatha Menan Melea Eliakim Jonam Joseph Judah Simeon Levi Matthat Jorim Eliezer Jose Er Elmodam Cosam Addi Melchi Neri Salathiel Zorobabel Rhesa Joanna Juda Joseph Semei Mattathias Maath Nagge Esli Naum Amos Mattathias Joseph Janna Melchi Levi Matthat Heli Joseph Jesus

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus

Shouldn't it just be God & Mary -> Jesus?

Also, don't all genealogies go through the masculine side? Since Josef the Carpenter is not the father of Jesus what exactly are these genealogies trying to prove?

  • 3
    it's a Jewish tradition and also the prove he is David's ascendent. As it was prophesied by prophets that the Savior will come from this lineage.
    – Grasper
    Jan 16, 2015 at 20:14
  • 5
    One cannot be the Messiah unless he is descended from David, for God made a promise to David that his seed would reign on his throne forever.
    – user900
    Jan 16, 2015 at 20:15
  • Slightly related: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/28473/…
    – TheOne
    Jan 16, 2015 at 20:43

6 Answers 6


As Westerners, we live in what is known as a "guilt culture". Accordingly, we lack an understanding of the importance of familial lineage. Most of the Middle-east operates on what is know as an "Honor-Shame culture"

In a lecture before the Biblical Archaeology Society, Anthropologist Dr. Richard Rohrbaugh explains the significance of Geneologies. He explains that this establishes the reputation and credentials for Jesus. I have transcribed some relevant excepts of this lecture below:

Now, The Baltic Culture Continent that you and I live in, anthropologist call a “Guilt Culture”. ...the Mediterranean Culture Continent both today and in antiquity is what anthropologists call an “Honor-Shame Culture”.


Honor is relatively simple actually to understand. Honor is your standing in the pecking order of the village, together with the public recognition of that. There is no such thing as claiming honor that the village does not recognize. To claim honor that the village does not recognize is to be uppity; brash; a braggart; a fool. Honor is public reputation in the village and everybody in the village knows exactly where you stand in the pecking order. The reason for that is there are two primary ways in which you can get your honor rating or ranking in a village. ...

The overwhelming way in which you get your honor rating is from your birth. It's what anthropologist call “ascribed honor.” It's the honor that you get the day you pop out of the womb. It's the honor that you and every member of your extended family has - male and female - everybody in your family has, has always had, and always will have. That kind of Ascribed Honor means that if you are born in a very high family, you have a high honor ranking. If you are born a low-life, you have a low honor ranking and you're probably going to have a till the day you die. So the overwhelming way in which you get your honor is from the family of your birth. Do you now understand why genealogies are so important in the Bible? Genealogies indicate in writing what a village knows orally. Namely, the family you were born in and hence the on a ranking you have.


I spent some time living in the little Palestinian village of Beit Jala in the West Bank doing research. My primary area of interest is peasant studies and in living in Beit Jala, I discovered that when I would be introduced to peasants they would often immediately tell me their genealogy. For most peasants it's only three generations long: me, my father, and my grandfather. Maybe my son - Maybe four. Sometimes in an oral setting like that they will go back and add the eponymous ancestors of the community - Abraham Isaac and Jacob.


Genealogies are, if you will, a kind of a map for the whole community - describing exactly where in the scheme of things you fit. Among non-literate people (which in antiquity was about ninety-six percent of the population); among non-literate people genealogies would be very short. Only upper class wealthy people have written genealogies. And you understand that the longer the genealogy, the better? Because it means you're from old money not new money. You understand?

...What I find interesting is the genealogy in Luke - It goes all the way back to “son of seth, son of Adam, son of God”. That is, it traces it to the beginning. That's the longest genealogy possible. Do you understand that in honor claim is being made? In fact we know from Roman texts that people in the Roman world who did become newly rich and wanted to move up the social ladder hired genealogists to create fictive genealogies for themselves and there were a few stars in the pantheon of Roman ancestors they all wanted to be associated with. For a fee, you could get that association. Now you have the map that tells everybody where you fit in the pecking order of things and that had an enormous impact on your life.

I’m going to show you some slides in a minute of some ancient text that describe the fact that your honor ranking determine who ate with whom, who could marry whom, who spoke to whom, who listened to whom. It determined who would speak first in a conversation. It determined who would marry whom and who would do business with whom. In fact it determined most of the social patterns of your life. It's therefore critically important that everybody in the village know exactly where you stand - because it provides the road map for how you and I are going to interact with each other.


Jesus comes from a no-account little village. He's a village – a τέκτων (tektón) he is called in the Greek. We translate it carpenter – it could be a worker in metal, stone, or wood. I don't have time today but to show you just how low on the social scale that really is - It's very near the bottom. People like that don't get up and talk in public. So when Jesus does, It confuses everybody. In the Middle-East they expect somebody born of a great family to be great. You're born of a low family you're going to be no-account. What does not compute in their social compass is somebody born to a low-life family who turns out to be great. How do you explain that?

Well of course what Matthew and Luke do to explain it is they give us these very elaborate birth stories in which they try to tell us that God was somehow unusually involved in this birth. Otherwise there could be no expectation that anybody would listen to Jesus. What do his opponents do in the twentieth chapter of Luke? They say, “Who gives you the authority to speak like this?” Note that they didn't say, “Did you have this authority from your birth?” They know that's not true. “Who gave you this authority?” Their assumption is somebody had to have acquired the honor from somebody who recognized it because all honor has to be publicly recognized.

So, in short, the genealogies are given because 1) they have traditional and cultural significance and indicate great standing and importance and 2) Just as you note, (at least one genealogy) claims Jesus to be the Son of God - it just does it via a more circuitous route in order to lend Jesus the honor ranking implied by all those ancestors who came before Jesus. (the other genealogy links Jesus to the eponymous ancestors of the community which is nearly as significant).

Despite both genealogies of Jesus listing Joseph as the father of Jesus, one of the given genealogies does, in fact, appear to go through Mary's side of the family. In the genealogy of Matthew, Joseph is listed as the son of Jacob while in another he is listed as the son of Heli. The first several generations of the genealogies are radically divergent, so either one is fictitious or one is the genealogy of Joseph while the other is the genealogy of Mary. Presumably, at the time of writing the gospels, children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of Mary and Joseph were alive at the time of the writing of the gospels and would have known the genealogy of Christ. These records might also be obtained through the Roman census data at various times, so the most probable option is that one of the genealogies belong to Mary.

The translators of the NET point out that the parenthetical remark in the text is meant to indicate that the genealogy might not be Joseph's:

The parenthetical remark as was supposed makes it clear that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. But a question still remains whose genealogy this is. Mary is nowhere mentioned....

Another reason that this makes complete sense is that Jewish heritage does not come through the masculine side, but instead is a function of the maternal heritage. Wikipedia has an excellent article on Matrilineality in Judaism and in it it, they explain,

The Mishnah (Kiddushin 3:12) states that, to be a Jew, one must be either the child of a Jewish mother or a convert to Judaism

Later, it states

In the Hellenistic period of the 4th Century BCE – 1st Century CE some evidence may be interpreted to indicate that the offspring of intermarriages between Jewish men and non-Jewish women were considered Jewish


Josephus (37 CE – c. 100 CE), in Antiquities of the Jews, refers to marriages between Jewish men and Gentile women without much commentary and seems to assume that the offspring is Jewish;

It is thus not unlikely that one of these genealogies comes through Mary, and both Aquinas and Clement as well as numerous others have shared this view. Even if one of the genealogies is fictitious however, a great honor claim is made nonetheless as Rohrbaugh explained.

  • Interesting perspective to see this linked to honour/shame cultures.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 29, 2015 at 14:29
  • @LeeWoofenden - Added some exposition to discuss this further. Dec 31, 2015 at 18:33

Besides understanding the prophetic implications of being able to verify His genealogy to know He was indeed the Promised One, it is also important to understand what the Savior is: very man, and very God.

He is the One Who makes up the gap between man and God. It was man who fell, and it was man who had to make it right. Jesus was "found in fashion as a man" (Phlp. 2:8), and as "the Word [, He] became flesh" (John 1:14).

He is the Mediator of the New Covenant. He is the representative of God to man, and the representative of man to God. He is the middle ground: 100% man and 100% God. Therefore, His humanity's genealogy is just as important as His Deity's Source.

He was the Bridge of that gap at Calvary, where God and sinful man meet (the Sacrifice Atones).


It was my understanding that the genealogy through Mary demonstrated his claim by blood to the throne of David, while the line through Joseph demonstrated his claim by law (having to do with the Patriarchal system, I presume). Either way, it could not be denied that he was of the line of David.


If Jesus is the son of God then why bother listing his genealogy?

Under the Old Covenant, all births had to be recorded because the Hebrew nation was tribal. Only the tribe of Levite could serve as priests in the temple, and only the Levites who were from Aarons lineage could be appointed as High Priests.

These records were important to further prove that Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, not a Levite and that his bloodline is not tainted. He had to fulfil every messianic prophecy to be legitimate for Messiahship. He could not have failed any prophetic requirement.

THE MESSIAH HAD TO COME FROM THE TRIBE OF JUDAH. He would come to claim his sceptre and fulfil Genesis 1:26 - JUDAH / A RULER - “Seed of Judah” - Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 11:1, 10, Numbers 24:17b


MUST BE BORN IN BETHLEHEM (Ephrathah, singular. Ephrayim, plural) - He is the Star of Bethlehem Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1, Luke 2:4-6 - Yehoshua, the son of Nun, the Ephraimite.

THE MESSIAH COULD NOT HAVE A CURSE IN HIS LINEAGE - Joseph could not be Jesus biological father. Joseph was biologically born of Jacob who was from Jeconiah’s lineage (The cursed king who burnt the holy scroll of Yah) - Jeremiah 36:20-26. Joseph was legally from Eli and this could make him the father of Jesus. Legality takes precedence over genealogy. This means that legally Joseph is NOT under the curse of Jeconiah (Jehoiachin or Coniah). He can be the legal father of Jesus but not his biological father. Joseph was born from a “Yibbum” or levirate marriage arrangement.


  • The son of Heli (Yibbum)

    Mary must have been of the same tribe and family as Joseph, according to the law (Num 36:8). Isa 11:1 implies that Messiah was the seed of David by natural as well as legal descent. Probably Matthan of Matthew is the Matthat of Luke, and Jacob and Heli were brothers; and Heli's son Joseph, and Jacob's daughter Mary, first cousins. Joseph, as male heir of his uncle Jacob, who had only one child, Mary, would marry her according to the law (Num 36:8). (Fausset)

"Julianus Augustus in this place attacks the evangelists on the ground of discrepancy: Matthew calls Joseph the son of Jacob, whereas Luke calls him the son of Heli! Had Julian been better acquainted with the modes of speech of the Jews, he would have seen that one evangelist gives the natural and the other the legal pedigree of Joseph." (Cyclopedia)

  • The son of Melchi (Yibbum)

It is to the effect that Matthan, the third in the list from Joseph in Matthew’s genealogy, sand Melchi, the third in Luke’s list, married successively the same womam, by whom the former begat Jacob, and the latter Heli. Heli dying without issue, bis maternal brother took his widow to wife, by whom he had Joseph, who, according to law (Deu 25:6), was registered by Luke as the son of Heli, though naturally the son of Jacob, as Matthew records him. This is the explanation which was generally admitted by Eusebius, Nazianzen, the writer of Ad orthodoxos, and others, for ages. (Cyclopedia)

  • Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar (Pretended to be a prostitute to preserve her inheritance - Yibbum)

Tamar and Judah - Genesis 38:1-30

  • Nahshon begot Salmon (Married Rahab the prostitute. He saved her and gave her an inheritance)

(4.) It is again asked, if it be, as Matthew states, that Salmon, son of Naason, prince of Israel, had married so remarkable a person as Rahab, how then comes it that such a circumstance is not noticed in the book of Joshua? This objection will have no force if we remember that this book, full as it is in describing the partition of Canaan among the several tribes, is yet very silent concerning the exploits, and even names, of the subordinate leaders of Israel. There is nothing, therefore, surprising in the circumstance that it should pass over in total silence Salmon’s marriage with Rahab. Had the matter in question been the espousal of Rahab by Joshua himself, the presumption against its truth would be very different. Indeed Kimchi, in this Commentary on the Book of Joshua, adduces a tradition to this effect, taken from the Babylonian Talmud. Every consideration, moreover, of a chronological character is in favor of the circumstance of the son of Naason, born to him in the wilderness being married to Rahab. SEE RAHAB. (Cyclopedia)

  • Boaz begot Obed by Ruth (Boaz turned a Moabite into a believer and
    gave her an inheritance - Yibbum)

Rth 4:9-10 After the nearest redeemer had thus renounced the right of redemption with all legal formality, Boaz said to the elders and all the (rest of the) people, “Ye are witnesses this day, that I have acquired this day all that belonged to Elimelech, and to Mahlon and Chilion (i.e., the field of Elimelech, which was the rightful inheritance of his sons Mahlon and Chilion), at the hand of Naomi; and also Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to raise up the name of the deceased upon his inheritance, that the name of the deceased may not be cut off among his brethren and from the gate of his people” (i.e., from his native town Bethlehem; cf. Rth 3:11). On the fact itself, see the introduction to Ruth 3; also the remarks on the Levirate marriages at Deu 25:5. (Keil & Delitzsch)

  • Bathsheba the wife of Uriah and of David (the adulterer is purified
    by giving birth to a Son of the SEED)

Laws of Yoledet - A woman is purified after child birth. Birth As soon as a child was born it was washed, and rubbed with salt (Eze 16:4), and then swathed with bandages (Job 38:9; Luk 2:7, Luk 2:12). A Hebrew mother remained forty days in seclusion after the birth of a son, and after the birth of a daughter double that number of days. At the close of that period she entered into the tabernacle or temple and offered up a sacrifice of purification (Lev 12:1-8; Luk 2:22). A son was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, being thereby consecrated to God (Gen 17:10-12; compare Rom 4:11). Seasons of misfortune are likened to the pains of a woman in travail, and seasons of prosperity to the joy that succeeds child-birth (Isa 13:8; Jer 4:31; Joh 16:21, Joh 16:22). The natural birth is referred to as the emblem of the new birth (Joh 3:3-8; Gal 6:15; Tit 3:5, etc.). (Easton)

  • Eleazar begot Matthan (Yibbum)

    1. (Ματθάν, Auth.Vers. “Matthan”.) The son of Eleazar and father of Jacob, which last was father of Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary (Mat 1:15). According to tradition he was a priest (which disagrees with his tribal descent), and father of Anna, the mother of the same Mary (Niceph. Hist. Ev. 2:3). B.C. considerably ante 40. SEE GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST. (Cyclopedia)
  • Matthan begot Jacob

  • Jacob begot Joseph (Yibbum)

VI. Matthan, descended from Solomon, begat Jacob. Matthan dying, Melchi, descended from Nathan, begat Heli by the same wife. Therefore Heli and Jacob are uterine brothers. Heli dying childless, Jacob raised up seed to him and begat Joseph, his own son by nature, but the son of Heli by law. Thus Joseph was the son of both. ([Elucidation I.]) (Ante-Nicene Fathers - Africanus - Extant Writings Part 1)

  • 2
    Can you provide evidence for the Levirate marriages?
    – Belinda
    Jul 23, 2018 at 10:04

What exactly are these genealogies trying to prove?

The first and most important thing the two genealogies are trying to prove is that Jesus was descended from King David, as first-century Jews believed the hoped-for Messiah would be a descendant of David. This in spite of also saying that Jesus was born of a virgin. A second point, often overlooked, is to prove that Jesus was also descended from Zerubbabel (Zorobabel), son of Shealtiel (Salathiel), who was the great post-Exilic leader of the Jews.

Matthew uses numerology to demonstrate that Jesus was destined for greatness, as the author says in verse 1:17,

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.

To do this, he had to ignore 3 kings (Jehoash, Amaziah and Uzziah) in the Old Testament and have David in the preceding (as 14) and following (as 1) groups, but not so Josiah. Then, we have no possible way of verifying Matthew’s list of Jesus’ ancestors from the time of the Exile.

Luke uses numerology to demonstrate that Jesus was destined for greatness, although the author does not explicitly say so. Great men occur in multiples of 7 generations starting from Adam, with, for example, Enoch at 7, Abraham at 21, David at 35, Jesus at 77. He also had: Joseph at 42 and 70. To do this, he had to insert two otherwise unknown ancestors, Kainan and Admin, into the Old Testament list. The author of Luke, with his overall emphasis on common people and the poor, did not want to follow the king list back from Zorobabel to David, as Matthew has done, so for Luke, Neri was the commoner grandfather of Zorobabel. Marshall D. Johnson in The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies with Special Reference to the Setting of the Genealogies of Jesus at pages 229-30 cites Jeremias to say that the use of the names of the twelve progenitors of Israel as personal names can not be traced to pre-exilic times, thus when Luke, in the early period of the kings, names in succession, Joseph, Judah, Simeon and Levi, this is an anachronism that proves the pre-exilic section of the genealogy to be historically worthless. He says (p231) that whatever the purpose of Luke in including this pedigree, the list has some function within Lukan theology. Raymond E. Brown says in An Introduction to the New Testament, page 236, that while Luke's list may be less classically monarchical than Matthew's, there is little likelihood that either is strictly historical.

Don't all genealogies go through the masculine side?

Yes, that is normal, as in both these cases. In the early years of Christianity, there was never any dispute about either Matthew's or Luke's genealogy being back through Jesus' father, Joseph. To account for Mary, a tradition developed that her father and mother were named Joachim and Anne, who even today remain saints of the Catholic Church. However, in later times it was decided to resolve the discrepancies between the genealogies of Matthew and Luke by assigning Luke's version to Mary. The Catholic theologian, Raymond E. Brown points to Luke 3:23 as evidence of the error in this.


Question: If Jesus is the son of God then why bother listing his genealogy (paraphrasing: twice, contradictorily) Answer: Its a mistake, human error.

Reason: The Old Testament is replete with lineages. Although sometimes women are mentioned, all of the lists of lineages are are paternal. Without any notice of a change, it should be assumed the New Testament would continue this tradition. This is a moot point however, because 'God' is the father.

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  • Most Christians teach that the scriptures are inspired by God, so simply saying that it's a human mistake isn't a rigorous explanation.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 8, 2022 at 23:15

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