Matthew 1:1-17 provides a genealogy of Jesus, traced back to Abraham:

The Family History of Jesus the Messiah:
. . .
Abraham was the father of Isaac
. . .
Matthan was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Joseph.
Joseph was the husband of Mary,
and Mary was the mother of Jesus, who is called the Messiah. (from Matthew 1:1-2, 15-16, ERV)

However, next it says that Joseph had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus: that Jesus was born of the seed of the Holy Spirit, not Joseph's seed:

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah happened. His mother Mary was engaged to marry Joseph. But before they married, he learned that she was expecting a baby. (She was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.) (Matthew 1:18, ERV)


When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord's angel told him to do. He married Mary. But Joseph did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25, ERV)

How is Matthew 1:1-17 the family history of Jesus?

As far as any family lines were involved in Jesus' birth as a human, shouldn't Mary's genealogy be Jesus' family history? (I truly don't get this.)

  • Note how all others say "so and so was father of so and so" while on the last line it says "Mary was mother of Jesus". If you read it this way, in no way does this verse say that Joseph was related to Jesus. Aug 8 '12 at 23:59
  • @SonicTheHedgehog: Right, that's my whole point. Josephs family line has nothing to do with Jesus...so how is this the family history of Jesus? Aug 9 '12 at 0:00
  • After Mary was pregnant, Joseph married her, or at least that's how it happened off the top of my head. Since Mary was married to Joseph, and Mary gave birth to Jesus, it would make sense to include Jesus into the family line of vice versa. Aug 9 '12 at 0:05
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    @SonicTheHedgehog: that's doesn't make any sense, genealogy is of blood. For example, shouldn't Mary’s genealogy be Jesus family history? All of the men listed there are the fathers of the former, then at the very end put someone (Jesus) in it that isn't from them? Aug 9 '12 at 0:08
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    @SonicTheHedgehog I am sorry, I have to emphatically disagree that Mary was not the Mother of God. If God wanted Jesus to come into this world not through a woman, He would of done so. He was born of a woman, thus making that woman his mother. There is so much more I could add here, and I think this could be another question in itself.
    – user1946
    Aug 9 '12 at 13:28

There are some debates about this because these genealogies do not have every name along the branches but certain representative names. Most sources I have encountered think Matthew proves Christ was legally entitled to the throne of David as a legal ancestor to David through his father by law.  Luke on the other hand traces the  the physical lineage through Mary, who also was a descendent of David.

In any case as far as I can tell, although we have lost all the genealogical records when Jerusalem was destroyed, these records did not seem to cause any controversy among the early christians but effectively added further proof of the legitimate claims that Jesus was the Messiah.  To those who knew about the genealogies at the time this was important. For us we can only take that 'battle won' as historical proof.  Furthermore, with these records now lost no new Messiah can claim to have the correct genealogical record. Jesus was the Messiah, or there never was such a thing - case closed.

  • There is no Biblical basis for the idea that the Luke genealogy traces Jesus' ancestry through Mary. The original Greek of Luke 3:23 traces the genealogy through Joseph, not Mary, as is reflected in every English translation of that verse. Oct 10 '15 at 10:36

You have to understand that the purpose of the genealogy is literary, and not scientific. The Gospel of Matthew has a primary focus on Jesus as a great and authoritative teacher (like Moses)—notice how the genealogy starts at Abraham, the father of the Israelites. By contrast, Luke's genealogy (Lk 3:23ff.) traces Jesus' lineage back to Adam, which many have speculated is meant to illustrate the universality of Jesus prophetic message of liberation found in Luke–Acts.

In other words, since the purpose of the genealogies is not scientific, which parent the lineage goes through doesn't matter; but the father is clearly preferred.


Just because someone is not literally born of a specific man, does not discount him from that lineage. Joseph was not the cause of Jesus' birth, but he certainly accepted Him into his family and helped raise him well.

We see this in the story of Abraham, where even his servants under his household were instructed to receive the symbol of circumcision, and thus were considered to be from Abraham's line.

So Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him.

That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael;27 and all the men of his house, born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

From that Day forward they were all considered to be descendants of Abraham.

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    Ok, I guess that makes sense but I just don't understand why the Bible can't be more specific about these things. I start to question all my understanding of other statements if they can mean something different, so easily. Aug 9 '12 at 16:33
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    I think it is man's hardened hearts and trying to relate/compare knowledge of His world to knowledge of our world, which never works out. Keep doing your searching for your answers and pray the real meaning comes to you. :)
    – user1946
    Aug 9 '12 at 17:07

The lineage in Matthew follows Joseph, which would be Jesus' legal lineage to David.

The lineage in Luke follows Mary, which would be Jesus' natural lineage to Adam.

Both run through David, which qualifies him as an heir by either natural or legal lineage.

  • There is no Biblical basis for the idea that the Luke genealogy traces Jesus' ancestry through Mary. The original Greek of Luke 3:23 traces the genealogy through Joseph, not Mary, as is reflected in every English translation of that verse. Oct 10 '15 at 10:36

I think it was for the same reason that Jesus was Baptized and the same reason Mary was purified.

 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. (Matt 3:15 NIV)

 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord   (Luke 2 22-23)

Jesus' recorded genealogies go through His foster father Joseph to "fulfill all righteousness" and solidify him as a son of kings and of prophets under the law. Mary was purified, even though she was without sin and knew no man.

It should be noted, that Mary, as tradition has it, was also a daughter in the line of David and probably a not terribly distant relative of her husband. So, for the most part, the genealogy is Mary's as well.

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    @warren read Joseph: the man closest to Jesus, he devotes an entire chapter to why "foster" father is most appropriate.
    – Peter Turner
    Aug 9 '12 at 4:59

Jesus being an Eternal God chose a human instrument to come into this world in a miraculous way, he chose the path as the prophecies predicted his human lineage. So, Jesus getting into a family by a miracle as well as his human lineage, go hand in hand. There is no contradiction, but each complement and give a whole picture for our understanding.


One thing that I found disturbing in comments for this question is to read that God was the father of Jesus. For Christians, it is blasphemous to say that God had a son. Jesus being called the Son of God was to portray that Jesus was same in likeness as God which meant that He was God incarnate.

Regarding lineage of Jesus it just a notional that Jesus was assigned to an earthly father and mother. Jesus was prophesied to come to a family with a lineage link to king David. Gospel of Mathew gives us the lineage of Jesus from David towards Joseph and Luke gives the lineage of Jesus from David towards Mary.

Mathew is indicating that Joseph is from David through Solomon and Luke is indicating that Mary is also from David through Nathan. That is why we see differences in the lineages given by Luke and Mathew. Luke’s lineage is thru Jesus maternal grandfather Eli.

Luke’s text says that Jesus was “a son, as was supposed, of Joseph, of Eli”. This been understood as acknowledgment of the virgin birth. The parenthetical expression: “a son (as was supposed of Joseph) of Eli” indicate that Jesus is called a son of Eli because Eli was his maternal grandfather, his nearest male ancestor on His mother side. A variation on this idea is to explain “Joseph son of Eli” as meaning a son-in-law, perhaps even an adoptive heir to Eli through his only daughter Mary. An example of the Old Testament use of such an expression is Jair, who is called “Jair son of Manasseh” but was actually son of Manasseh’s granddaughter.

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    Wait, wait. As an outsider with a passing interest in this kind of thing, this seems an important thing, and not something I've come across before. You're saying that it is blasphemous to say that the Father-Son relationship of Yahweh and Jesus is a father-son relationship (note caps)?
    – Kaz Dragon
    Aug 9 '12 at 7:01
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    Jesus emphatically declared God to be his father. There is nothing blasphemous about this wording.
    – Caleb
    Aug 9 '12 at 7:24
  • @Caleb.. I agree but I thought I will elaborate on it so that it is not taken in the perspective as mentioned in Koran Aug 9 '12 at 8:39
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    You can add a clarification that we don't mean God had sex with marry and had a biological child, but your wording here sounds exactly like you are agreeing with Muslims objection, which runs much deeper than just having an biological issue but denies the incarnation altogether. Jesus himself and she Scriptures make liberal use of the terms "son" and "father" in their standard contexts just like you'd talk about your dad. There is nothing heretical about using the terms that orthodoxy has always used following in the footsteps of the author of our faith.
    – Caleb
    Aug 9 '12 at 9:56
  • @caleb...right ..I did wanted to say exactly what you said..I do clarify that God is not to be taken as biologocal father of Jesus and this would be blasphamous. My apologoes if I sounded in that manner. Thanks for removing this mis representation from my answer. I appreciate that very much. God bless you. Aug 9 '12 at 16:07

Jesus from both biological and scriptural perspective is the Son of Mary. He is a descendant of of David through Mary and not Joseph. Matthew's account suggests that there are 14 generations from Captivity in Babylon until Jesus Christ but this does not add-up. Count for yourself. The only correct account is Luke's which captures Mary's genealogy but was mistranliterated (not by the writer but the translators having been sinceerely influenced by the idea that Jesus must come from Royal line of King David) as Joseph's. It was predicted from the Begining that the seed of the Woman would bruise the head of the Serpent. With Mary, there are a complete 14 generations from the Captivity in Babylon.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview of what this site is about, please take the Site Tour. On what basis do you say that Luke's genealogy was mistranslated. The original Greek and every translation of Luke 3:23 traces the genealogy through Joseph, not Mary. Though this is a common view, and is even in some of the other answers, there is no Biblical basis for it. Oct 10 '15 at 10:33

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