Posted by: edhensley | December 4, 2016

Is the Christmas Story True? Contradictory Genealogies in Matthew and Luke

From "The Bible Comically Illustrated", 1892

Matthew 1:1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13Zerubbabel the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Eliud,
15Eliud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16and Jacob the father of Joseph
, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
17Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.

Luke 3:23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
the son of Heli, 24the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
27the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28the son of Melki,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, 30the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David
, 32the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
33the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, 34the son of Jacob,
the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, 36the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.

This post was originally presented in June, 2009. I have decided to re-post every December.

According to Matthew, Joseph’s father was Jacob (v. 16).
According to Luke, Joseph’s father was Heli (v. 23).

The genealogies are completely different between King David and Joseph.  Matthew’s genealogy goes through Solomon, while Luke’s goes through Nathan.  Luke has 42 generations from David to Jesus, while Matthew has only 27 from David to Jesus. Matthew has a total of 42 from Abraham to Jesus, while, Luke has a total of 77 from God to Jesus. The major problem has always been the generations between David and Joseph.

This contradiction has been a problem for Christian apologists for centuries. Here are proposed solutions:

That Joseph had two fathers—one natural and one legal—as a result of a levirate marriage involving uterine brothers.
That the legal line of inheritance is traced throughout one of the genealogies.
That Luke’s genealogy is actually through Mary rather than her husband Joseph.
That Matthew’s genealogy is actually through Mary rather than her husband Joseph.
That phrases like “son of Jacob” does not literally mean a son of Jacob but could mean a descendant of Jacob.
That one or both of the genealogies are incorrect.

A levirate marriage occurs when, upon the death of a childless man, his brother would marry the widow in order to produce a son for the deceased man. This was proposed by Africanus in the 3rd century in his letter to Aristides. However, there is nothing in the bible that indicates that either genealogy was the result of such a marriage. This example shows that this contradiction was recognized by early Christians. I added the illustration from “The Bible Comically Illustrated”, which was published in 1892, in part to show that this is one of the most well known problems of the bible. If belief in Jesus is so important, why would god publish contradictory genealogies?

There is nothing in either Matthew or Luke that claims a genealogy is that of Mary. Some claim that since Matthew lists four women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba) that it is a women’s genealogy. Why mention those four women and omit Mary, the mother of Jesus? Answers in Genesis, the organization that runs the creation museum, claims Luke traces Mary and Matthew traces Joseph: They call their solution “simple,” yet, they write several paragraphs of complex explanation that would be very simple if the word “Mary” were to have been included in Luke’s genealogy. In order to explain this contradiction, they in effect have to add words to the bible. Nowhere in the bible does it state that Luke’s genealogy is that of Mary.

There is nothing in either Matthew or Luke that claims a genealogy is a legal line of inheritance and not biological.

The claim that “son of so and so” means only descendant of so and so is used by some old earth creationists. They point to other verses in the bible where someone like Jesus claims to be a son of David. I have found two problems with this. First of all, David had sons named Nathan and Solomon, which are used in the genealogies of Luke and Matthew. When it says “Nathan, the son of David”, how are readers of the bible supposed to know whether or not Nathan is David’s son or if he is some other descendant? Secondly, Matthew explicitly lists 3 sets of 14 generations. Why say 14 generations if “son of David” could mean 100 generations? Lastly, what is the point of including a genealogy if it does not show parent-child relationships?

The solution to this contradiction that makes the most sense is that one or both genealogies were fabricated. The authors of Matthew and Luke never intended for their books to be in a single bible where they could be compared. Each book was written to stand on its own. Each author wanted to get Jesus born in Bethlehem of a virgin as a descendant of David in order to fulfill prophecies. They created completely different birth stories and genealogies in order to do this. Since they were not comparing notes, their stories contain contradictions.

I thought I would add the explanatory text from “New Testament Stories Comically Illustrated”. There is also an “Old Testament Stories Comically Illustrated”.

From "New Testament Stories Comically Illustrated", 1892.




  1. I Jesus is an unknown historical figure. It is possible that he may have lived, since millions of people have lived without leaving a trace. It is not enough to declare ‘We know nothing about Jesus, except that he existed’. On the contrary, we must boldly assert that ‘We do not know anything about him, not even whether he existed’. In historical research, only the strictest accuracy permits us to say anything more. However, the very document which would positively prove the existence of Jesus is missing…Jesus belongs to history thanks to his name and the cult built around him, but he is not a historical figure. He is a divine being, whose knowledge was slowly developed by Christian minds. He was begotten in faith, in hope and in love. He was shaped by emotional fervor. He has been given changing figures by various forms of worship. He was born the moment he got his first believer… His only reality is spiritual. Everything else is phantasmagoria. — “L’énigme de Jésus”, In Mercure de France, (March 1, 1923), pp. 377, and 398-399. (Source:


    In the final analysis there is no evidence that the biblical character called “Jesus Christ” ever existed. As Nicholas Carter concludes in The Christ Myth: “No sculptures, no drawings, no markings in stone, nothing written in his own hand; and no letters, no commentaries, indeed no authentic documents written by his Jewish and Gentile contemporaries, Justice of Tiberius, Philo, Josephus, Seneca, Petronius Arbiter, Pliny the Elder, et al., to lend credence to his historicity.” (Source:



    No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources about Jesus derive from hearsay accounts. (Source:


    Trying to fathom the Story book claims about this MYTHICAL person is also useless because –


    “The New Testament abounds in more losses, additions, and interpolations, purposely introduced, than any other book.”

    “the New Testament has had the peculiar fate of suffering more by intentional alterations than the works of profane literature”

    “The majority of the variant readings in the New Testament were created for theological or dogmatic reasons.”

    Ehrman’s recent book on the subject is entitled “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture”. Its title speaks for itself.

    • Jesus is just the Greek form of Joshua. There were probably multiple men named Jesus in Galilee at that time, and probably some were Rabbis, and probably at least one was crucified by the Roman Empire. Josephus recorded 17 different men named Jesus in his History Of The Jews. I usually grant that there may have been or very possibly was a Rabbi named Jesus killed by the Romans at that time. However, if such a character existed, he was unimportant. No historian, philosopher, or other person who recorded events of the day recorded the death of Jesus, or his resurrection, or the mob of Jerusalem zombies mentioned in Matthew 27. History shows that if Jesus existed, he was not important during his lifetime.

  2. Indeed Jesus is a name still used today! (Spanish I think?)

    That ANY person with that name went about doing ‘ miracles ‘ is at best ‘ hearsay – propaganda’

    • There are millions of people named Jesus in Mexico, probably in Spain as well.

    • Nowhere do I say there was not a Rabbi named Jesus who was crucified by the Romans. However, if Jesus lived (which is probable) he was not important during his life. No contemporary historian, scholar, or philosopher wrote about him.

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