I am considering the possibility that Luke 3 is in fact the genealogy of Joseph and not Mary. Here is why...

  1. Luke mentions the circumcision and the naming of both Jesus and John on the 8th day in Luke 1:59 and Luke 2:21, which would have us think that there is a strong tradition when it comes to naming children and that it is going to be named after names already in the family. (Luke 1:59-61) "And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. {60} And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. {61} And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name."

  2. We know that some of the children of Joseph and Mary were these, (Matthew 13:55) "Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?"

  3. Now let's look at the names in the genealogy in Luke 3. (Luke 3:23-31) "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, {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, {25} Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, {26} Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, {27} Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, {28} Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, {29} Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, {30} Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, {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,"

Now in this genealogy we have Joseph named multiple times and Jose, Simeon and Juda which are all names of Jesus's brothers. When we compare this to the Genealogy in Matt which shares no names with Jesus relatives, it is clear to me that Luke 3 is more likely the genealogy of Joseph. It also mentions in Luke 3 that Jesus was as supposed the son of Joseph, but then goes on to say Joseph was the son of Heli, which appears that the genealogy is about Joseph.

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    Luke says it is the genealogy through Joseph, Luke 3:23. Luke doesn't mention Mary. Why should anyone think that it is the genealogy through Mary ? Mary was related to Elizabeth who was of the daughters of Aaron (Luke 1:5). Mary was of the tribe of Levi, not of Judah.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 19:54
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    Matthew also says it is the genealogy of Joseph, but both genealogies are clearly not the same. Also Mary could be related to Elizabeth through their mothers, so Mary may or may not be of Levi. Also we have, (Romans 1:3) "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;" Paul along with OT prophesies seems to indicate that Jesus was to be a descendent of David, but obviously he could only be a blood descendent through Mary, since Joseph wasn't the biological father.
    – Ananda
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 21:07
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    Matthew gives the royal line which is not the same as the direct line. The throne did not always pass to the first direct descendant. Mary was a close relative of Elizabeth. 'Come' of seed of David does not require (when no male is involved) any biological connection. Jesus inherited the royal line of David through Joseph - by adoption, not by generation. But I am actually agreeing with your premise - Luke is giving the genealogy through Joseph.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 21:17
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    Luke 3 is the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, who adopted Jesus as his legal son. It was not Joseph who was adopted. It was Jesus who was adopted by Joseph. When it says in Luke 3:23 that Jesus was the son, so it was thought,of Joseph, that's because Jesus was legally adopted by Joseph.
    – Lesley
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 16:26
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    I understand Jesus was adopted, I think you are misunderstanding me. If you take the time to compare the two genealogies of Matthew and Luke, they are clearly different genealogies. Joseph has two different fathers that are named. So if they are in fact both genealogies of Joseph I can see only one way that this would make sense. One genealogy is Joseph biological lineage and the other Joseph's adopted father's lineage, which would make Joseph also adopted. I hope that makes sense...
    – Ananda
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 16:42

3 Answers 3


It is the genealogy of Joseph. Note that it begins by stating that Jesus was, "as it was supposed", the son of Joseph. In other words, everybody believed that Jesus was the son of Joseph. Jesus would have been entered into temple records as being the son of Joseph, so Luke didn't need to start his 'research' with Joseph - the official records would have named Jesus.

The purpose of the genealogy was to establish his credential as the messiah - foretold to appear in the line of Abraham and David, which he did. Some critics say that this ought to be established through Mary's line, given that Jesus wasn't really Joseph's son. But the 'opinion' that Jesus was the son of Joseph was really all that mattered. When you consider that Esau was able to sell his right to be part of that lineage, making Jacob one of Jesus' forefathers instead, it really proves that the legally established "right" is more important than parentage. Jesus absolutely had the 'right' to be in that lineage as he was raised by Joseph as his eldest son.


It seems that Luke gives Joseph's geneology (Luke 3:23-38):

And Jesus himself was beginning about the age of thirty years; being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was of Heli, who was of Mathat, 24 Who was of Levi, who was of Melchi, who was of Janne, who was of Joseph, 25 Who was of Mathathias, who was of Amos, who was of Nahum, who was of Hesli, who was of Nagge, 26 Who was of Mahath, who was of Mathathias, who was of Semei, who was of Joseph, who was of Juda, 27 Who was of Joanna, who was of Reza, who was of Zorobabel, who was of Salathiel, who was of Neri, 28 Who was of Melchi, who was of Addi, who was of Cosan, who was of Helmadan, who was of Her, 29 Who was of Jesus, who was of Eliezer, who was of Jorim, who was of Mathat, who was of Levi, 30 Who was of Simeon, who was of Judas, who was of Joseph, who was of Jona, who was of Eliakim, 31 Who was of Melea, who was of Menna, who was of Mathatha, who was of Nathan, who was of David, 32 Who was of Jesse, who was of Obed, who was of Booz, who was of Salmon, who was of Naasson, 33 Who was of Aminadab, who was of Aram, who was of Esron, who was of Phares, who was of Judas, 34 Who was of Jacob, who was of Isaac, who was of Abraham, who was of Thare, who was of Nachor, 35 Who was of Sarug, who was of Ragau, who was of Phaleg, who was of Heber, who was of Sale, 36 Who was of Cainan, who was of Arphaxad, who was of Sem, who was of Noe, who was of Lamech, 37 Who was of Mathusale, who was of Henoch, who was of Jared, who was of Malaleel, who was of Cainan, 38 Who was of Henos, who was of Seth, who was of Adam, who was of God.

Of course the parenthetical "Jesus .... being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph" (3:23) means that while Christ was reckoned the son of Joseph by all, he of course contributed nothing to the conception of Christ, but was a foster father, Mary having conceived miraculously without Joseph's participation: "he knew her not before her bringing forth a son" (Matthew 1:25); "How shall this [conception of Jesus] be, seeing as I do not know man?" (Luke 1:34).

He perhaps ends his genealogy with "God" as the final 'patriarch' in answer to the fact that Joseph was not the true father, but God. It seems to be a frank but subtle recognition that this genealogy of course does not to prove Christ's ancestor via any royal line, but still serves the purpose of conveying the truth that Jesus is in a sense not of this world, but the Son of God.

That he brings Christ's genealogy back as far as Adam is also to show that Christ is the new Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45 etc.), theology Luke perhaps learned from one of its major, or perhaps first, proponents, Paul, of whom he was the amanuensis, or secretary. So thought apostolic fathers like Irenaeus.1

Whereas it seems that Matthew gives Mary's genealogy because of the indispensable requirement for the Messiah to be a son of David (Mary being a daughter of David).

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham begot Isaac. And Isaac begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Judas and his brethren. 3 And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar. And Phares begot Esron. And Esron begot Aram. 4 And Aram begot Aminadab. And Aminadab begot Naasson. And Naasson begot Salmon. 5 And Salmon begot Booz of Rahab. And Booz begot Obed of Ruth. And Obed begot Jesse. 6 And Jesse begot David the king. And David the king begot Solomon, of her that had been the wife of Urias. 7 And Solomon begot Roboam. And Roboam begot Abia. And Abia begot Asa. 8 And Asa begot Josaphat. And Josaphat begot Joram. And Joram begot Ozias. 9 And Ozias begot Joatham. And Joatham begot Achaz. And Achaz begot Ezechias. 10 And Ezechias begot Manasses. And Manasses begot Amon. And Amon begot Josias. 11 And Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren in the transmigration of Babylon. 12 And after the transmigration of Babylon, Jechonias begot Salathiel. And Salathiel begot Zorobabel. 13 And Zorobabel begot Abiud. And Abiud begot Eliacim. And Eliacim begot Azor. 14 And Azor begot Sadoc. And Sadoc begot Achim. And Achim begot Eliud. 15 And Eliud begot Eleazar. And Eleazar begot Mathan. And Mathan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations, from Abraham to David, are fourteen generations. And from David to the transmigration of Babylon, are fourteen generations: and from the transmigration of Babylon to Christ are fourteen generations.

It seems that Mary is lumped in her along with the other descendants of David, namely Joseph, because it's already obvious and implicit that: a) among the Jewish people, it was known that the Messiah must be a real descendant of David, and so the mother is obviously a descendant of David if the father's David ancestry is irrelevant, as in this case b) it is immediately related after this that Joseph had no part in the conception of Jesus. That is, both Mary and Joseph are descended from David (Luke 1:32; 2:3-5).

This is important because Matthew's Gospel is universally recognized as a very Semitic Gospel, whose intended audience are Jews, who are looking for all the key requirements of the Davidic Messiah to be met in the Christ (note also the arbitrary selection of Abraham, the father of the Jews, as a major patriarch, as opposed to anyone else). The importance of the Davidic ancestry of the Messiah is perhaps why Matthew begins his Gospel with Jesus' genealogy; a non-descendant of David was not a candidate for the Messiah.

Thus, He gives a Davidic lineage via Mary, his mother: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which he had promised before, by his prophets, in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David [i.e. Mary], according to the flesh" (Romans 1:1-3); "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman" (Galatians 4:4). Also significant perhaps is involving the mother at all in an important genealogy such as this, since the Davidic Kingdom consisted of the King, but also a significant figure, being the mother of the King, who served as Queen or Lady of that Kingdom (cf. Jeremiah 13:18; 1 Kings 2:19; 2 Kings 24:12; etc.). This was doubtless, then, another expectation of the Jewish people concerning the Messiah: 'who would the blessed mother of our Messiah be?' Note therefore the fulfillment of this expectation in the words of Elizabeth, speaking of the mother of the Messiah: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why was it granted to me that the mother of my lord [i.e. the Messiah] should come to me?" (Luke 1:43; cf. Psalm 110).

Worthy of consideration is the fact that the Hebrew letters דוד ("David") have the sum numeral value of 14 (ד being 4, ו being 6), which may explain the division into fourteens here as significant of 'perfect Davidicness.' It may be, too, that the apparent redundancy or irrelevance of Joseph's genealogy (Jesus not being descended from him) can be explained as showing simply that Joseph is a fulfillment in the delineated recapitulations of generations in fourteens.


1 "Wherefore Luke points out that the pedigree which traces the generation of our Lord back to Adam contains seventy-two generations, connecting the end with the beginning, and implying that it is He who has summed up in Himself all nations dispersed from Adam downwards, and all languages and generations of men, together with Adam himself. Hence also was Adam himself termed by Paul 'the figure of Him that was to come,'" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 22, 3. Circa A.D. 180.


Is Luke 3 the genealogy of Joseph?

That Matthew's Gospel gives an account of Joseph's genealogy is clear:

And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ (Matthew 1:16).

Now if both Matthew and Luke give a genealogy through Joseph then there is no evidence presented in Scripture that Jesus was actually a biological descendant of David.

The Old Testament tells us that the Messiah will be a biological descendant of David:

I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. (2 Samuel 7:12).

Twice in one verse it is asserted the Messiah will be literally a descendant of David.

For other Scriptures see Psalm 132.11, Luke 18.38, Acts 2.30, Romans 1.3, Revelation 5.5.

In the Gospel of Luke, then, it must be the genealogy of Mary. Only through Mary can there be a literal fulfilment of 2 Samuel 7:12.

It would seriously damage Christ's claim to be the Messiah of the seed of David, if this could not be proven; so Luke gives the proof.

If Jesus is only related to David through his adoptive father then Mary's magnificat statement in Luke 1:32, "... shall give unto him the throne of his father David", has little meaning (see also Luke 1:69).

Some claim that Mary cannot be of the tribe of Judah, and hence a descendant of David, because she has a relative of the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:36 & 1:5). But she could easily have been of the tribe of Judah. The priesthood were only required to marry a virgin woman of their own people (Levitcus 21:13,14), a fellow Israelite.
An ancestor or relative of Elizabeth of the tribe of Levi could have married into the tribe of Judah.

Matthew's Gospel establishes Jesus as the King of Israel in the earthly sense. When Joseph died Jesus became King according to Davidic descent, being the eldest son of Joseph.

So the chief verse in Luke's Gospel is Luke 3.23

And Jesus began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was of Heli, (Luke 3:23).

It is likely Luke and Matthew both went to Jerusalem and examined the genealogy of Jesus from the public records office. Public records were kept in many towns in ancient times. The public records in Jerusalem are mentioned by Josephus when he gives his own genealogy. (From Josephus account it is fairly clear these public records were not destroyed in the first Jewish-Roman War, 66-70 AD). (And have you ever wondered how Paul could prove his Roman citizenship? The legal proof would have been stored at the public records in Tarsus.)

It was convention of the Jews that the mothers were not recorded in these public records. The records partly existed for the purposes of inheritance, and for the Levites they existed for the purpose of determining if a man had the right to serve in the Temple.

It is important further to remember that Luke writes his genealogy thus: "which was of Heli, which was of Matthat, which was of Levi," etc. Luke does not specify the relationship between Heli and Mattat and Levi.. they could be son to father or son to grandfather or great grandfather, etc.

Luke 3:23 is telling us then that Jesus's grandfather was Heli who was the nearest to an actual human father of Jesus, being the father of Mary.

William Hendriksen in his Commentary re-words verses 23 and 24 to give:-

Now Jesus himself, supposedly Joseph's son, was about thirty years of age when he began (his ministry), being a son of Heli, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Melchi, son of Jannai, ... (Luke 3:23-24)

It is not saying that Joseph was the son of Heli but rather that Jesus was the son (or grandson) of Heli. And Heli was Mary's father, the nearest equivalent to a human father for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew Henry in his Commentary published around 1721 writes:

but Luke, designing to show that Christ was the seed of the woman, that should break the serpent's head, traces his pedigree upward as high as Adam, and begins it with Eli, or Heli, who was the father, not of Joseph, but of the virgin Mary.

Matthew draws the pedigree from Solomon, whose natural line ending in Jechonias, the legal right was transferred to Salathiel, who was of the house of Nathan, another son of David, which line Luke here pursues, and so leaves out all the kings of Judah.

The evangelists are not supposed to have written these genealogies either of their own knowledge or by divine inspiration, but to have copied them out of the authentic records of the genealogies among the Jews, the heralds' books, which therefore they were obliged to follow; and in them they found the pedigree of Jacob, the father of Joseph, to be as set down in Matthew; and the pedigree of Heli, the father of Mary, to be as set down here in Luke. And this is the meaning of the words "as it was supposed": they do not refer only to Joseph, but they refer to what is written into the books, as we find it upon the record. [In other words, it was written in the records that Joseph was the father of Jesus because that was "supposed" by the recorders of those records.]

And so it is that on both his father and his mother's side, that Jesus was the Son of David according to their own records, which anyone might at that time have liberty to examine and compare with the original, and any further the evangelists did not need to go. Had the evangelists varied from the original records they would have not gained their point. The fact that the genealogies in both Matthew and Luke were not contradicted at that time is satisfaction enough to us now that these are true copies, and it is further worthy of observation, that, when those records of the Jewish genealogies had continued thirty or forty years after these extracts out of them, long enough to justify the evangelists therein, they were all lost and destroyed with the Jewish state and nation; for now there was no more occasion for them.

It is a wonderful fact that these public records no longer exist. Presumably they were destroyed in the second Jewish-Roman War about 130 AD. [I believe the genealogical records existed in Jerusalem until about 130 AD, and were not destroyed in the first Jewish Rebellin 66-70 AD because Josephus said anyone could check the records for his own genealogy, and certainly he was writing after 70 AD.] So it is no longer possible for anyone to claim to be a descendant of King David... in fact it is impossible today for anyone to legally prove they are Jewish at all. The Messiah who fulfills the prophecy of 2 Samuel 7:12 must have been born before these records were destroyed, before about 130 AD.

Finally, I can't see the significance of the names of the boys being James, Joses, Simon and Judas, taken from the genealogy of Luke's Gospel. What difference does it really make to any argument about whose genealogy Luke is recording? Besides this, the names of all the boys were extremely common in the New Testament period, and all they really tell us is that the one choosing the names was very conventional in the choice. I take this data from Richard Bauckham's "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony", Table 6 on page 85:-

The 99 Most Popular Male Names among Palestinian Jews, 330 BCE to 200 CE.

  1. Simon/Simeon

  2. Joseph/Joses

  3. Lazarus

  4. Judas

  5. John

  6. Jesus

  7. Ananias

  8. Jonathan

  9. Matthew/Matthias

  10. Manean

  11. James (Jacob)

Many of these names were popular because they were names of the Maccabee/Hasmonean dynasty... the last time the Jews were an independant nation, and were a sign of the Jewish nationalist longing for a return to independance.

So the Hasmonean family names were Hashmon, Mattathias, Simon (called Mathes), Judas (Maccabees), Jonathan (called Apphus), Eleazar (from which derives Lazarus, called Auran), John (Gaddis) and John Hyrcanus. Also in the same family or marrying into the family were the women Salome Alexandra, who married Alexander Janneus, and Mariamme, granddaughter of Hyrcanus II. For the same reason the three most popular female names in the same period were Salome, Mary (Mariam) and Shelamzion (the longer form of Salome) (Bauckham, page 74).

  • 1
    "It is important further to remember that where we translate the word "son" it really means "descendant"." That's not true. The main primary sense is an actual biological son. Yes the word can be used in extended or metaohorical senses, but that doesn't turn the "real" meaning into "descendant". And when a word is used in a context that the main sense fits, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that a secondary sense was intended. For this specific case, do you have other examples of sons-in-law being referred to just as "son"?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 12:35
  • Teknon does however seem to have the sense of child or descendant.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 12:42
  • @curiousdannii - Sorry , you are right. However, Luke doesn't use the term "son" for throughout the genealogy. So I will change to reflect what Lue actually wrote in the Greek. (Looking at the KJV it is easier to get the idea of what Luke wrote in the Greek.) Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 12:50
  • Yeah I just noticed that myself. Solves the problem, it's literally just "Joseph of Heli". Easier to understand how that could refer to a father in law, however it's no different a phrasing than any other generation which we assume were actual fathers...
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 12:52
  • @curiousdannii - yes, assume, but no certainty. Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 12:55

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