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What the Bible says about Jesus Christ's Genealogy
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 12:3

A turning point in the saga of God's people occurred when God called Abram to leave Mesopotamia for a land he knew little or nothing about, Canaan. He promised him great blessings of wealth and rulership, as well as spiritual blessing: "And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3; also 22:18). This could only be a reference to the work of the Messiah.

Paul mentions this prophecy in Galatians 3:16: "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ." It is evident from the genealogies in both Matthew 1 (Joseph's) and Luke 3 (Mary's) that both legally and naturally Jesus is a descendant of Abraham.

"And if you are Christ's then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29). We Christians are also children of God through our faith in Jesus (verse 26), and this makes us spiritual descendants of Abraham and co-heirs of the promised blessings.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman

Isaiah 11:1

Several generations pass before God decrees the direction of Jesus' lineage: "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (Isaiah 11:1). Jesse lived at least eight generations after Judah during the days of the prophet Samuel. He and his family had lived in the town of Bethlehem in the territory of Judah for several generations—at least since the time of Boaz (Ruth 2:4). Matthew 1 and Luke 3 both mention Jesse in their genealogies.

In Romans 15:12, Paul connects Jesus descending from Jesse to the hope of the Gentiles: "And again, Isaiah [11:10] says: 'There shall be a root of Jesse; and He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope.'" Jesse's female ancestors include three Gentiles—Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab (Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5), and Ruth (Ruth 4:13-22)—who are also Jesus the Messiah's ancestors. As Paul says, Jesus Christ became a servant "that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy" (Romans 15:9).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman

Matthew 1:1-17

The book of Matthew opens with a stylized genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 1:1-17). Matthew presents the list in three parts—from Abraham to David, from David to the captivity in Babylon, and from the captivity to Christ—each with fourteen generations. The genealogy is perfectly correct in every way.

Except one.

What Matthew records is not Christ's biological ancestry but His legal one. Verse 16 gives the proof: "And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ." It is Joseph's family tree! Remember, Christ was not begotten of Joseph but of the Holy Spirit. Legally, Christ could trace his ancestry back to David through his "father" Joseph, though He had not one drop of Joseph's—or Jehoiachin's—blood!

We must remember a major purpose of Matthew's gospel: to present Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah to the Jews. The Jews were, and still are, very particular about genealogies. Anyone claiming to be the Messiah would have to present a bona fide, airtight ancestry back to David if he were to be taken seriously (see Psalm 110:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; etc.). Matthew does just that in introducing Jesus in the first verses of his book.

Thus, Jesus, untainted by Jehoiachin's curse (Jeremiah 22:30), has a legal claim to the throne of David through His stepfather, Joseph. Such a thing was legally acceptable under Jewish law.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jesus Disqualified?

Matthew 1:1-17

Matthew divides his genealogy into three groups of fourteen names. The first group begins with Abraham and ends with David. The second group begins with Solomon and ends with Jeconiah, the son of Josiah. The third group begins with Shealtiel and ends in Jesus Christ.

A comparison of Luke's list with Matthew's finds that Luke runs in the opposite direction, backwards, beginning with Jesus Christ and ending with Adam. Unlike Luke, Matthew includes four ladies in Jesus' line: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. His genealogy thus contains the names of 42 men and four women, all of whom were ancestors of Jesus, but they varied considerably in personality, spirituality, and experience. Some of these people were heroes of faith, like Abraham, David, and Ruth. Some of them were ordinary personalities, like Ram and Nahshon, while others had spotted reputations, like Tamar and Rahab. Some were downright evil like Manasseh and Abijah. Two of the ladies were definitely Gentiles, and perhaps another was a Gentile, Tamar, because her name is not Israelitish. The fourth lady, Bathsheba, married a Gentile, Uriah the Hittite, and was probably considered by the Israelites to be Gentile by association as a result.

God is showing us that He is not limited by human imperfections. To carry out His will, He can work through anybody He desires, even the shady characters in the ancestry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1

Matthew 1:18-25

Matthew's account is plain and straightforward, as if he were laying out the facts in a court case, and in a way, he is building a case for the reader—particularly the Jewish reader—to accept Jesus as the Messiah. He takes great pains to present the facts that will show that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 to the letter. What is more, this is an event in which Jesus Himself is passive, having no active part in the fulfillment of the prophecy. This, of course, increases the improbability of its achievement by human manipulation.

Matthew mentions Mary's virginity several times. In Matthew 1:18, he writes, "After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit." In verse 20, the angel verifies this fact by repeating that her conception occurred via supernatural means: "for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Verse 23 quotes Isaiah 7:14, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel." Finally, in verse 25, Matthew reports that Joseph "did not know her [a euphemism for sexual intercourse] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son." In just eight verses, the apostle makes four either explicit or implicit references to Mary's virginity, not only at the time of conception, but also throughout her pregnancy and for some time beyond.

In Matthew, this passage does not stand alone; it is only one of several scenes, along with His genealogy, in the first two chapters that together provide overwhelming proof that Jesus fulfilled many of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament before He was old enough to have a hand in orchestrating their fulfillments. The virgin birth, however, comes first as the most astounding of them all.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive . . .'

Luke 3:23-38

How do we know that the Luke 3 lineage is Mary's? We do not know it for certain, but that conclusion is the most reasonable. One factor is, again, the purpose of this particular gospel. Luke wrote primarily to Gentiles, and he stresses Jesus' humanity throughout his book. The evangelist thus gives our Savior's natural, biological family tree to show He shares humanness with the common man. He is not just the Jews' Messiah, but He is also the Gentiles' Messiah! So Luke's genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, rather than stopping at Abraham as Matthew's does.

Another factor is that Luke had to deal with a virgin birth. What a unique situation for a genealogist! Luke had to determine, therefore, what points would matter to a Gentile. Would he be concerned with Jesus' Davidic ancestry? Not initially. Would he care that Jesus is a Jew and an Israelite? Maybe. Would he desire to know if Jesus was a man like he was? Certainly! Thus, Luke would record a line of descent that showed His universality to every man, and this would go through Mary, Jesus' link to humanity.

Some raise objections to this on the basis of verse 23, particularly because it says, "Joseph, the son of Heli." Notice, though, that Luke does not use the word "begot" as Matthew does. In fact, he uses no word at all, just a marker to denote possession. So the phrase literally says, "Joseph, of Heli."

Some say, then, that this connotes a levirate marriage because Matthew says Joseph's father was Jacob. Levirate marriage, however, was fairly rare, so this is an unlikely stretch. Others argue that this is Jesus' "priestly" lineage, but this is even less probable, since it shows Judah, not Levi, as an ancestor (see Hebrews 7:14).

Bullinger, in his Companion Bible, gives a more likely explanation: "Joseph was begotten by Jacob, and was his natural son (Matt. 1:16). He could be the legal son of Heli, therefore, only by marriage with Heli's daughter (Mary), and be reckoned so according to law." At that time, Jewish law traced inheritance and descent through the male, not the female line. Thus, Luke 3:23 would be clearer if translated as, "Joseph, the son-in-law of Heli," or "Joseph, the legal son of Heli."

No matter which we choose, it traces Heli's line from that point on back to Nathan, the son of David. There is no stigma or disqualification in Solomon's name being absent from the list. In messianic terms, David's name is the vital one.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jesus Disqualified?

Hebrews 9:14

Christ became the inheritor of the promises made to Abraham because He alone of all men met all the conditions contained within the promises and the covenants that were made. He was perfect, blameless. Being in that position, He did something from which we benefit, which is explained here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 13)


 




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