Would you please explain the difference in genealogy in the records in Matthew 1 and Luke 3? What was the nationality of Jesus?


Matthew 1 and Luke 3 describe different lines. Matthew 1 describes Christ’s legal genealogy through Joseph. Luke sets forth Mary’s line.

Matthew 1:16 tells us that Matthew’s record covers Christ’s lineage through His stepfather Joseph. It says “Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.”

A correct rendering of Luke 3:23 shows that Luke is setting forth Christ’s blood descent. However, the translation of the New King James Bible is misleading. It gives the impression that Joseph was the father of Heli, and that therefore, Luke is also setting forth Christ’s descent of Joseph. This is incorrect, as Joseph was not the SON of Heli, but of Jacob, as Matthew 1:16 points out.

Luke sets forth Christ’s genealogy through His mother Mary, NOT through His stepfather Joseph. Accurately translated, Luke 3:23 should read:

“Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age (being, as was supposed the son of Joseph), which was of Heli.” The parenthesis should start with the words “being, as was supposed,” and it should close after “the son of Joseph.”

The word “son” in “son of Heli” is not found in the original Greek. Jesus, who was supposed to be the son of Joseph, was, through Mary, a grandson of Heli. Heli was the father of Mary.

Luke 3:23 tells us that Christ was considered to be the son of Joseph, since the people did not accept the truth that Jesus had been supernaturally conceived by Mary through the Holy Spirit (compare, Luke 4:22; John 6:41-42).

Halley’s Bible Handbook comments on the different genealogies and their purpose, as follows:

“Matthew goes back to Abraham; Luke to Adam. One is descending, ‘begat’: the other is ascending, ‘was son of.’ From David they are separate lines, touching in Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. The commonly accepted view is that Matthew gives Joseph’s line, showing Jesus to be the Legal Heir to the Promises given Abraham and David; and that Luke gives Mary’s line, showing Jesus’ blood descent, ‘Son of David according to the flesh’ (Romans 1:3).”

The Nelson Study Bible confirms: “Matthew provided the legal lineage from David through Joseph to Jesus, while Luke provides the physical lineage from David through Mary to Jesus.”

Since Christ was a physical descendant of King David, through His mother Mary, Christ Himself was of the tribe of Judah – that is, He was a Jew. Many Biblical Scriptures confirm this fact.

We read in Hebrews 7:14: “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah.”

He is identified in Revelation 5:5 as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David.”

Jesus looked like an ordinary Jew – so ordinary that Judas had to identify Him to the arresting soldiers (Matthew 26:47-50).

Through His mother Mary, He was a descendant of Judah, a son of Jacob (Luke 3:33-34). Judah brought forth a son, named Perez, whose descendant was David (Luke 3:33, 31). Mary was a descendant of David and David’s son, Nathan (v. 31). She was also a niece of her aunt, Elizabeth, a daughter of Aaron (Luke 1:5), a descendant of Levi (Exodus 4:14).

Jesus, as a human being, was a Jew. He belonged to the Jewish nation. He confirmed that He was “the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:11). Pilate recognized Him as such, and so did the Jewish people (Mark 15:9, 12). Pilate also stated that Christ belonged to the Jewish nation, when he said, “Am I a Jew? YOUR OWN NATION and the chief priests have delivered You to me” (John 18:35).

Through Mary, Jesus was a Jew by race and nationality. Jesus was also a Jew by law. His legal stepfather was Joseph, a son of David (Matthew 1:20). Joseph had been born in the city of Bethlehem, in the nation of Judah (Luke 2:4).

Tragically, we read in John 1:11-12, in the Living Bible, “Even in His own land and among His own people, the Jews, He was not accepted.” Today, most Jews still reject Christ. However, the time will come when they, too, will recognize Christ as what He really is. This event is still in the future for most Jewish people. Christ predicted, however, what is soon going to happen. Shortly before His death, He exclaimed:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:37-39).

God’s church has a duty to proclaim to the nation of Judah that Christ, their God, their Lord and their King, will soon return (Isaiah 40:9).

For more information regarding this vital part of God’s commission to His church, please read our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”

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