Matthew 1:1-16

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Matthew 1:1-16: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. […] David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. […] Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

Matthew 1:17: So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.
Luke 3:23-34: Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, […] the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, […] the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, […]

Contradictions:
1. 41 generations from Abraham to Jesus != 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus.
2. 41 generations from Abraham to Jesus != 56 generations from Abraham to Jesus.
3. Joseph's father was Jacob != Joseph's father was Heli.
4. David's in-lineage son was Solomon != David's in-lineage son was Nathan.

(Solving: 1)

First, notice that Matthew 1:17 doesn't claim that there were 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus—we get this number when we add the three counts together. It's a subtle yet important distinction which needs to be made for later.

Second, if we read the names in the list for each of these sections, (understanding 'from' to mean 'starting with' and 'to' to mean 'ending with'), we get 14 for the first, 15 for the second, and 14 for the third. This means that the first and third sections match with what's given at the end, but the second exceeds it by one. This right here would seem to be the contradiction, if we didn't observe that…

Third, the second section is separated from the third not by a person's birth, as it is with the first, but by a particular event. This means that the person listed at the end of section two and the start of section three, Jeconiah, was begotten after the event which separates the two took place. Therefore, he isn't even a part of the generations 'from David until the captivity'. This brings the number of people in section two down to fourteen, resolving the apparent contradiction.

(Solving: 2, 3, and 4)

One of the most widely held theories suggests that Matthew's account follows the lineage of Joseph, while Luke's genealogy is that of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This interpretation would mean that Jacob was Joseph's biological father, and Heli (Mary's biological father) became Joseph's surrogate father, thus making Joseph Heli's heir through his marriage to Mary. If Heli had no sons, this would have been the normal custom.

Also, if Mary and Joseph lived under the same roof with Heli, his "son-in-law" would have been called "son" and considered a descendent. Although it would have been unusual to trace a genealogy from the maternal side, there was nothing usual about the virgin birth. Additionally, if Mary (Jesus' blood relative) was indeed a direct descendant of David, this would make her son "the seed of David" in keeping with Messianic prophecies.(1)

(Solving: 2, 3, and 4)

According to one of the oldest theories, some scholars assign the differences in genealogies to the "Levirate marriage" tradition. This custom said that if a man died without bearing any sons, his brother could then marry his widow, and their sons would carry on the dead man's name. For this theory to hold up, it would mean that Joseph, the father of Jesus, had both a legal father (Heli) and a biological father (Jacob), through a Levirate marriage.

The theory suggests that Joseph's grandfathers (Matthan according to Matthew; Matthat according to Luke) were brothers, both married to the same woman, one after the other. This would make Matthan's son (Jacob) Joseph's biological father, and Matthat's son (Heli) Joseph's legal father. Matthew's account would trace Jesus' primary (biological) lineage, and Luke's record would follow Jesus' legal lineage.(2)

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