One of the charges of contradiction brought by skeptics against the Bible is the surface appearance of contradiction between Matthews genealogical list (1:1-17) and the one provided by Luke (3:23-38). As is always the case, the charge of contradiction is premature and reflects an immature appraisal of the extant evidence. In every case of alleged contradiction, further investigation has yielded additional evidence that exonerates the Bible and further verifies its inerrancy. The alleged discrepancies pertaining to Matthew and Lukes genealogies were explained and answered long ago (e.g., Haley, 1977, pp. 325-326; McGarvey, 1910, pp. 344-346; McGarvey, 1974, pp. 51-55; cf. Lyons, 2003).
When one places the two genealogical lists side by side, several factors become immediately apparent that combine to dispel the appearance of conflict.
First, Matthew reported the lineage of Christ only back to Abraham; Luke traced it all the way back to Adam. Second, Matthew used the expression begat; Luke used the expression son of, which results in his list being a complete reversal of Matthews. Third, the two genealogical lines parallel each other from Abraham to David. Fourth, beginning with David, Matthew traced the paternal line of descent through Solomon; Luke traced the maternal line through Solomons brother, Nathan.
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A fifth factor that must be recognized is that the two lines (paternal and maternal) link together in the intermarriage of Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. But the linkage separates again in the two sons of ZerubbabelRhesa and Abiud. Sixth, the two lines come together once again for a final time in the marriage of Joseph and Mary. Joseph was the end of the paternal line, while Mary was the last of the maternal line as the daughter of Heli.
The reason Joseph is said to be the son of Heli (Marys father) brings forth a seventh consideration: the Jewish use of son. Hebrews used the word in at least five distinct senses: (1) in the sense used today of a one-generation offspring; (2) in the sense of a descendant, whether a grandson or a more remote descendant many generations previous, e.g., Matthew 1:1; 21:9; 22:42 (begat had this same flexibility in application); (3) as a son-in-law (the Jews had no word to express this concept and so just used sone.g., 1 Samuel 24:16; 26:17); (4) in accordance with the Levirate marriage law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; cf. Matthew 22:24-26), a deceased man would have a son through a surrogate father who legally married the deceased mans widow (e.g., Ruth 2:20; 3:9,12; 4:3-5); and (5) in the sense of a step-son who took on the legal status of his step-fatherthe relationship sustained by Jesus to Joseph (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Luke 3:23; 4:22; John 6:42).
Notice carefully that Joseph was a direct-line, blood descendant of David and, therefore, of Davids throne. Here is the precise purpose of Matthews genealogy: it demonstrated Jesus legal right to inherit the throne of Davida necessary prerequisite to authenticating His Messianic claim. However, an equally critical credential was His blood/physical descent from Davida point that could not be established through Joseph since after His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18, emp. added). This feature of Christs Messiahship was established through His mother Mary, who was also a blood descendant of David (Luke 1:30-32). Both the blood of David and the throne of David were necessary variables to qualify and authenticate Jesus as the Messiah.
Once again, the Bibles intricate complexities shine forth to dispel the critics accusations, while simultaneously demonstrating its own infallible representations. The more one delves into its intricacies and plummets its intriguing depths, the more one is driven to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible is, indeed, the Book of booksthe inspired Word of God.
Haley, John W. (1977), Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Lyons, Eric (2003), The Anvil Rings (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
McGarvey, J.W. (1910), Biblical Criticism (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
McGarvey, J.W. (1974 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
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