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

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

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?


 




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