Eric Lyons, M.Min.

In his book, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, skeptic Dennis McKinsey confidently asserted that thecontradictory genealogies found in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 open upa Pandoras box that apologists would just as soon remained closed forever (1995, p. 46). One contradiction he cited (p. 80) revolves around the father of Joseph. Whereas Matthew 1:16 states thatJacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ (emp. added), Luke 3:23 says, Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli (emp. added). How is it that Joseph could be the son of both Jacob and Heli? Is Mr. McKinsey correct? Do Christian apologists really shudder at the sound of Matthew 1 and Luke 3? Do we cower at the thought of having to explain their differences? Not at all.

The answer to this supposed contradiction is relatively simple: the first seventeen verses in the first chapter of Matthew give the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, while Luke 3 presents the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. Hence, Jacob is the father of Joseph (Matthew 1:16), while Heli is the father of Mary (Luke 3:23). If this is true, the logical question that both critics and serious Bible students ask is why Mary is not mentioned in Lukes genealogy? The answer is again quite simple: Luke follows the strict Hebrew tradition of mentioning only the names of males. Therefore, in this case, Mary is designated by her husbands name.

Lest you think it is unreasonable to conclude that a son-in-law could be called a son, remember that it is recorded in 1 Samuel 24:16 that King Saul (Davids father-in-law Samuel 18:27) called Davidson. The term son actually has a variety of meanings in the Bible. It can signify: (1) son by actual birth; (2) grandson; (3) descendent; (4) son-in-law; or (5) son by creation, as in the case of Adam (Luke 3:38). All indications are that in Luke 3:23, the phraseson of Heli (literallyof Heli) refers to Helis son-in-law, Joseph. The following evidence clearly supports this rationale.

  • The two narrations of the virgin birth are from two different perspectives. Matthew 1:18-25 tells the story only from Josephs perspective, while Luke 1:26-56 is told wholly from Marys point of view. It makes sense, then, that Matthew focused on Josephs lineage in his genealogy, whereas Luke paid careful attention to Marys ancestors.
  • Because the phraseas was supposed (Luke 3:23) is used to describe Jesus relationship with his earthly father, one automatically should see that something is different about this genealogy from the one recorded in Matthew chapter one. The phraseJesus=85being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph (emp. added) is indicating that He was not really one of Josephs biological sons, even though the public commonly assumed such.
  • Every name in the Greek text of Lukes genealogy, with the exception of Joseph, is preceded by the definite articlethe (e.g. the Heli, the Matthat). Although not obvious in our English translations, this stands out to anyone reading the Greek. As nineteenth-century biblical scholar Frederic Godet stated: The omission of the article puts the name (Joseph) outside of the genealogical series (1890, 1:198, emp. added). In fact, the parentheses in our versions containing the words(as was supposed), most likely should be extended to include the nameJoseph (Lenski, 1961, p. 220). [Remember that parentheses have been added in our English Bibles by translators for the sake of clarity. in this situation, however, it seems translators should have extended the parentheses so that the text reads: And Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed of Joseph) the son of Heli, the son of Matthat=85.] When ones studies take him beyond our English translations into the original language of Scripture (in this case, Greek), he begins to realize all the more that Lukes genealogy is tracing the line of Josephs wife, even though Josephs name is used.

These two separate genealogies of Jesus Christ were, in fact, absolutely necessary in the establishment of Christ as the Messiah. The Messianic title,Son of David, that so frequently was applied to Christ, required dual proof that: (1) He was entitled to the throne, as Matthews genealogy indicates; and (2) He literally had descended from David, as Lukes genealogy demonstrates. The verses in Matthew clearly establish Christ as the legal heir to the throne by tracing His ancestry down through the royal line of the kings of Israel, with Lukes account demonstrating that He was an actual descendant of David (through Nathan, the brother of Solomon Chronicles 3:5). Jesus literally was born from one of Davids virgin9aughters.



Godet, Frederic (1890), Gospel of Luke (Edinburgh: T&T Clark).

Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of the St. Lukes Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).

McKinsey, C. Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).

CopyrightA9 2003 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

We are happy to grant permission for items in the Alleged Bible Discrepancies section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the authors name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may not be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites (although links to articles on the Apologetics Press Web site are permitted).

For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:

Apologetics Press
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
Phone (334) 272-8558