Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Culture, Faith, God, Religion, Truth

Contradictions Part 6: Jesus’s Genealogy

The first post in this series can be found here.

Personally, I think this is one of the clearest contradictions in the Bible. Why does the Bible give us Jesus’ genealogy? I can think of no other reason than for it to serve as proof of his descent from David. But it fails this purpose since we’re given two differing genealogies that both claim to come through Joseph.

Some have tried to answer this by saying that Matthew 1:1-16 records Joseph’s true genealogy and Luke 3:23-38 records Mary’s. They surmise that Mary must have been the only daughter of Heli (Luke 3:23); therefore, Joseph counts as his only heir, or “son.” They make the case that since Mary was a woman, she would not have been included in this genealogy. But if that’s the case, why does Matthew’s genealogy mention Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (listed as the “wife of Uriah”), and even Mary herself?

Others have said that the genealogy has nothing to do with Mary, but that Joseph has a real father and a “legal” father due to a levirate marriage. This view contends that Luke’s genealogy is the legal, but not biological genealogy of Joseph.

But if either of these scenarios is true, why doesn’t the Bible simply say so? I’ve had some people tell me that these differences weren’t important to ancient readers of the 1st and 2nd centuries, and if we could look at it from their perspective, we wouldn’t be bothered either. However, this is absolutely untrue. We have writings from several different early Christians (as early as the 2nd century) that try to hide or explain the divergence in various ways [src1, src2]. If ancient people were truly not concerned with this issue, then why waste time explaining it?

Regardless, even if this hadn’t been an issue for ancient readers, God would know that it would be an issue in more modern times. Why not offer a little more explanation in Matthew or Luke so that we could know how these genealogies fit together? As it stands, we have no evidence to help us make sense of them. The only way that this won’t bother someone is if they choose to ignore it. Or they could use the circular argument that God doesn’t make mistakes, and since he authored these passages, they don’t contain mistakes either. Of course, this is no better than clamping your hands over your ears and screaming “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” whenever someone says something you don’t want to hear. I think if the Koran offered such different genealogies for Muhammad, Christians would say it was proof that the Koran was not inspired. Why should we give the Bible a pass?

Even worse is the fact that neither of these genealogies matches the Old Testament (1 Chron 1-3). Matthew’s comes closest, but it’s still different in several areas. He actually omits several names from his list: Ahaziah, Jehoash, Amaziah, and Jehoiakim. This might not be such a problem, but it becomes more of one when we read verse 17:

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

The statement here is not true. First of all, according to Matthew’s list, there are only 13 generations between the deportation and Christ, unless you count Jechoniah again. But the bigger problem is that Matthew presents this statement as though this were a divinely guided pattern showing us that Christ truly came at the appointed time. But he only gets these numbers by omitting people from the genealogy. Therefore, his statement is not factually true. There was no pattern in the genealogy as it is recorded in the Old Testament.

Why would a divinely inspired writer lie about the number of generations? If God had really wanted the genealogy to come out to this neat 14, 14, 14 division, why didn’t he just make it happen that way? Instead, this does nothing but confuse those who think the Bible is supposed to be completely true and inerrant. Matthew is obviously manipulating the records to add validity to the claim that Jesus was the Messiah. In other words, he’s lying.

As we said at the beginning of this post, the primary purpose for including the genealogy is to show that Christ really came from the line of David. But when the two genealogies disagree with no explanation to reconcile them, and when Matthew slyly manipulates the list to make a theological point, how do these genealogies fulfill their goal? There would essentially be no point in including them. The Bible says that God is not the author of confusion. Therefore, I don’t see how he could be the author of these genealogies. It seems to me that the two genealogies are different because they were written by two different people from two different traditions, and they didn’t expect their writings to be put into the same book. They probably weren’t even aware of one another.

If you believe that the Bible is God’s word, then you should also believe that he wants people to understand and believe it. How is that possible in the face of such contradictions? Would a loving God really operate this way?

We’ll examine another contradiction in the next post.


142 thoughts on “Contradictions Part 6: Jesus’s Genealogy”

  1. I have read some explanations for the omissions in Mathew’s genealogy that say it was common in Jewish cultures to exclude certain names when referencing forefathers or someone’s relation to those fathers.
    For example, one could say that Joseph was the son of Abraham or that Abraham was Joseph’s father. This would be true, even though Joseph’s actual father was Jacob with Isaac being Joseph’s grandfather and Abraham actually being Joseph’s Great-grandfather. I can see where this has been used and I find it plausible, however I do believe this is a different circumstance than when listing a genealogy.
    The example listed above would be more of a casual tone where someone is jumping to the end of the story, so to speak, to give a brief acknowledgement of that person’s heritage. When giving a genealogy, like in Mathew and Luke, the point seems to be to provide proof and validation. By skipping names or by giving a completely different line (Luke’s) there is no proof, but discrepancies. Someone wanting to verify Christ’s linage after reading Mathew’s claims would only find inconsistency and with Luke’s would find outright contradiction.
    Besides, had the bible listed all of the names and there had been no variances, then there would be no question regarding the genealogy. None. Such a simple fix.
    In fact, I have heard others claim that this could not be a contradiction because it is such an obvious problem that it would have been caught by the authors. So, is this too obvious a problem to be problem?


  2. Thanks for the comment, William. And you’re absolutely right. When people start using the excuse that a problem is too big and obvious to really be a problem, they need to step back and ask themselves if they’re thinking clearly.

    You know, this whole question about the Bible is actually very simple. The claims within it are quite fantastic, so it should require extremely good evidence to be convincing. The problems I’ve been laying out are so obvious, that the fallacies in the Bible should be clear. But so many people are raised to believe it, and they’ve been told that true righteousness comes by faith. So if they can believe the fantastic even when it makes no sense and conflicts with the evidence, how great their faith must be!

    I find it very tragic.


  3. Hey Nathan,

    Given one’s assumptions about the reading of texts and about the Bible as a whole relative to what we think it should look like if coming from God (which are taught in many churches of Christ or other conservative groups – fallaciously so, in my view) – I can understand the problems and issues here.

    A couple of points. First, a general observation related to my point above. When we enter into the discussion with an a priori belief that, “If the Scriptures are from God then they will look like X not like Y and since they look like Y, they can’t be true,” we will arrive where the assumption leads – ultimately where we want it to lead. In essence, the assumption drives the conclusion. The real question is, how do we know anything of God or how can we place such expectations on God or his word – unless we have some prior knowledge about Who are What he is and about how should have chosen to reveal his word to us? I simply don’t think we can make such assumptions unless we already have some special divine insight into God prior to reading the scriptures (this sword cuts both ways; both for the skeptic who sets up the equation in just this way – such that it will fail – often just as he/she hoped; and for the believer who also does the same – and is driven to hold numerous contrived beliefs that cannot stand the test of scrutiny either exegetically or scientifically). When believers do this, it is inevitable that it will destroy the faith of many.

    And, if we are eager to hold onto such assumptions no matter what – well then, we will arrive at the conclusion we want to arrive at. Again, true both for believers and non-believers.

    Second, as to the specifics of this case, there are other assumptions brought to the table in your above post, it seems to me. One is a literalist reading that is all too common in churches of Christ and other conservative denominational groups. Matthew’s 14 generations, given such assumptions, become a ridiculous error. It’s why those in such groups must abandon their assumptions (and these are assumptions about reading texts, not supported conclusions). In essence, we are reading into the text our modern cultural assumptions.

    The reality is, Matthew’s 14 generations are contrived for a literary-theological purpose. They are not intended as straightforward history as our enlightenment, Baconian-common-sense-realist assumptions dictate. Rather, this was a common Jewish practice using numerology (it’s also seen in the “ten” generations in Gen. 5 and 11). There are even liberal scholars who don’t accept inspiration who nevertheless recognize what Matthew is doing and are not troubled by it. The three sets of 14 are multiples of 7 and serve to both highlight key turning points in Jewish history as well as bringing the reader through six “sevens” down to the seventh seven who is Jesus himself. Just a literary tool. One that a reading with modern assumptions about what a historical text should look like will not readily understand. The same mistake is made with the book of Revelation when it’s figures, numbers, etc. are taken literally.

    You might also consider what scholar Richard Bauckham has noted on the subject in that Matthew’s genealogy was more likely an official record that would have been kept in the Temple but Luke’s was likely a family record with differing names (or rather, a different line from Joseph – through his grandfather). Some would have traced lineage through Solomon others through David’s son Nathan. This is not uncommon in Jewish circles. The key to understanding these matters is not what second century Christians wrote, but how first century Romans and Jews viewed history (Luke is very much in line with a Roman history of the day). Neither are intending to be straightforward histories, per se. They are intending to be historical but they are theological-histories.

    Don’t know if you’ve read Bauckham’s works on the gospels (especially his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses; or The Jewish World Around the New Testament); or, N.T. Wright’s trilogy: The New Testament People of God; Jesus and the Victory of God; & The Resurrection of the Son of God.

    I think any critical evaluation of the gospels has to work through the writings of these scholars and others before drawing hardened conclusions – we are all works in progress in this world. Just a suggestion of some readings you might pursue, time permitting (there are many books on apologetics I would not recommend; but one I would, if you are interested in pursuing this, is Reason for God by Timothy Keller – a very accessible book on the subject – and quite unique relative to most other books). Best wishes and blessings in your pursuit!



  4. Jeff,

    In reading your post, I have several questions that come to mind.

    1. Is it an assumption that the Bible is God’s word? I know that it is said to be and is believed to be, but did God tell you it was or did you see God deliver it? If not, wouldn’t it also be an assumption that the Bible is from God, on our end?
    2. I would agree that we would have to know something about God before we can attribute qualities to him or before we can determine what he would write, but the impression I had from the author of this blog was that he thinks that the qualities attributed to the Bible God from the Bible do not seem to cooperate in many instances. In other words, the God of the Bible doesn’t seem to match the God of the Bible. Since the Bible says that its God is perfect (I would also imagine God to be perfect), how many mistakes should we expect in something he delivers?
    3. Should we believe anything as long as an explanation can be made for any seeming contradiction or mistake, whether in the Bible or Qua’ran or an eighth grader’s copy of Earth Space Science, that cannot be dis-proven? It seems to me that nearly any error or discrepancy can be explained away and the easiest way is to play the “literal/not literal card” or the “imperfect creations cannot fully comprehend a perfect creator card.” Even if that explanation were very far-fetched it wouldn’t matter, because nothing would be impossible with God, so then really every possible or impossible solution would work to maintain a faith or a belief despite the actual evidence. Yes the genealogies can be explained away if you want to believe it, but would you believe the Qua’ran if your issues with it were explained away? And why couldn’t both the Qua’ran and Bible be from God at the same time, is anything impossible for God?




  5. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks so much for the well-reasoned comment! I haven’t read the books you mentioned, with the exception of Reason for God by Timothy Keller. I did read that one. And I’ve read several other books that deal with the genealogy issue. Honestly, I just don’t find them very convincing.

    The main reason I have a problem with them is that even if Matthew had a point he was making with numerology (I’m also aware that he may have been referring to David since DVD is the number 14 in Hebrew), that will only resonate with a very few people throughout history. Most of us, if we bother to check, will see that none of the genealogies are in agreement with one another. We’ll also be able to see that Matthew claims there are 14 generations between certain events when there really weren’t. It seems to me that it only destines people to be led astray by it.

    So I really don’t think it’s placing an unnecessary burden on the text to expect it to be completely accurate. If we were talking about the best way to make chicken salad, then it wouldn’t be a big deal if some of us misunderstood the recipe, or got just a little of it wrong. But we’re supposedly talking about eternity. I think the stakes are too high for these things to work out “with a certain point of view.” If they’re true, they should be obviously true.

    As one final point, I agree with what you said here: “I simply don’t think we can make such assumptions unless we already have some special divine insight into God prior to reading the scriptures ”

    But where do we get this knowledge? It seems to me that Christians often assume the Bible must be true, but also without this divine insight that you reference. Since I’ve never received divine insight, I just have to look at the Bible for what it is. In fact, I think we should all approach the Bible as somewhat of an agnostic — maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. We can only find out the truth through objective investigation. That’s my attempt here. As you said, (and I like the way you phrase it) we’re all works in progress here. I couldn’t agree more. Incidentally, that’s one of the reasons why I no longer think God (if he’s out there) actually expects us to figure it out.

    I really appreciate the time you took with your comment. It’s well thought out — you’re obviously someone who takes it seriously. I hope you continue to follow the blog as you have time. Take care!


  6. Hello William – I’ll just offer my perspectives to your three questions (if I’ve misunderstood them, let me know). They are “big” questions (encompassing a number of discussion points) but I’ll try to be as brief as possible – a challenge for me! 🙂

    1. I don’t think one can “assume” the Bible is the word of God. My own view is that the gospels are credible histories (several pieces of evidence convince me of this) and that the historical evidence for the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus is convincing. Convinced of this, I believe Jesus is who the gospels claim him to be. And, that he, Jesus, accepted that the Scriptures are ultimately from God (cf. e.g., Luke 25:25-27, 44-45) and other points.

    2. To quote: “In other words, the God of the Bible doesn’t seem to match the God of the Bible. Since the Bible says that its God is perfect (I would also imagine God to be perfect), how many mistakes should we expect in something he delivers?”
    – First, I would say that many of the alleged “mistakes” are explicable (such as the alleged mistaken or contradictory genealogies).
    – Second, if the answer to the first question is true (that Jesus is the son of God, God in the flesh, risen from the dead – and that really is The Question), then one need not chase every rabbit hole. It’s ultimately a waste of time. Either Jesus was risen from the dead or he was not. If he wasn’t, let’s not waste any more time. If he was, then we can accept the Scriptures on faith but not bury our heads in the sand – and work through, over time, various potential problems. We will also find, in process, that some of the presumed “difficulties” or “contradictions” are a product of assumptions we have made.
    Third, I think the assumption (which both believers and non-believers make) about the Scriptures that if they are Divine in origin it would be as though they fell from the sky as God’s dictated, holy words to us – that they are ahistorical, a-cultural documents – so, they should be “perfect.” But, this is neither what they purport to be nor, what they are in reality. God chose to use human beings, living and thinking in their particular cultural, historical, geographical circumstance to reveal himself and his word through them (1 Cor. 2:7-12). In spite of their revelation within such circumstances – which naturally particularizes the Scriptures – they still are just what God wanted (as several Scriptures claim – assuming for the sake of argument they were from God).
    – One problem is that we have attached meanings to terms like “inerrancy” that the Scriptures themselves never intended. Benjamin Warfield, who coined the term “inerrancy” with respect to the Scriptures and is arguably The seminal modern thinker on this, notes of the Biblical writers: “an inspired writer could share the ordinary opinions of his day in certain matters lying outside the scope of his teachings, as, for example, with reference to the form of the earth, or its relation to the sun; and, it is not inconceivable that the form of his language when incidentally adverting to such matters, might occasionally play into the hands of such a presumption.” In other words, an inspired writer might reflect a view of the world that reflected his own ancient, historical-cultural understanding; God simply accommodated his word to their understanding and it doesn’t seem to bother him. A classic example is that all Biblical writers – along with all their ancient counterparts – believed the sun rotated around the earth. They simply did not understand science in our modern way. God didn’t bother to correct this. As Galileo Galilei famously stated (borrowing from another writer): “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”
    – Much more to say on this but hopefully that helps explain my view on that.

    3. The problem I have with this question, William, is that the explanation (non-literal figurative language) that I have given is not just an arbitrary attempt to explain away a contradiction.
    – First, we should only accept explanations that are reasonable. Just as occasionally a witness’s account may appear to contradict itself at some point. But, when further explanation is given that is reasonable then it is accepted. Lawyers are experts at exploiting presumed contradiction in a witness’s testimony. But, that doesn’t mean it’s true.
    – Second, to my initial point, the non-figurative language of Matthew is not just an arbitrary attempt to explain away a contradiction. It’s language that is common place in Jewish writings both in the OT and particularly more common in Jewish writings in the first century B.C. as well as A.D. Both in historical and apocalyptic. Scholars have long understood this. This is not as you presume it to be (a “made up attempt” to deal with contradictions).
    – Third, the problem we have here is that in our culture, such figurative, non-literal language is not commonplace. We operate under certain cultural assumptions about our writings, etc. The ancients operated under an entirely different set of assumptions. To lay our assumptions about how we think language “should work” or “works in our day” over top these ancient documents is to essentially rip the documents from their context. My point was not so much an attempt to explain a presumed contradiction as much as to correct an ahistorical reading that failed to account for the literary context. We must do this with each other in all our communications. When we fail to do so – we wind up misapplying each other’s words unfairly.

    This last point is highly significant for any study of these documents in the Bible. Believers and non-believers alike have attached innumerable false views or perceptions to these documents by failing to read them in their historical, cultural, and literary context. Thanks!


  7. Thanks for the comments and response, Nathan. Just a couple of follow up points.

    I agree with you that Christians just assume the Bible to be true and don’t really investigate those assumptions very well at times. And, I agree that we should that we should try to read it objectively – well, as objectively as possible (none of us can fully escape our assumptions; but I think we can well enough to advance our understanding). The challenges to reading it objectively are numerous as many things interfere:
    – moral assumptions will often interfere (a sword that cuts both ways – some, wanting to uphold a certain set of moral rules – say, no alcohol, ever!; others wanting to be free from the Scriptures moral code) and prevent us from an honorable reading.
    – family or church influences (positively or negatively). We may be more skeptical or more believing based on either an emotional frustration with family or church settings; or a strong attachment to family heritage.
    – assumptions about what a text “should” look like – based on many modern perspectives that we attach to ancient texts (again, both believers and non-believers make this mistake).

    What happens in such cases is that we “think” we are being objective when in fact we are attaching our assumptions to texts. We are all guilty at times.

    Second, I wanted to touch on this point you made: “So I really don’t think it’s placing an unnecessary burden on the text to expect it to be completely accurate.”

    I think the issue here partly relates to how one defines “completely accurate,” or what is “inaccurate.” When we get into ancient literary techniques, we can’t lay over top these texts our modern assumptions about how written language “should work.” All scholars of ancient literature – completely outside the study of Biblical texts – recognize this. If I went to a university and wrote a paper on some ancient Greco-Roman text that assigned my own assumptions to the text and did not respect the literary techniques and styles of the writers – then critiqued them on the basis of those assumptions, it would not fly. And scholars of Biblical texts who are non-believers fully recognize these points. Robert Alter (one of the finest OT literary scholars alive – at Cal Berkeley) recognizes this point. As a result, his insights into OT texts are tremendous b/c he respects the literary genre – he doesn’t do so to support some belief. Yet, he actually counters some presumed errors among modern readers because he understands the literary style and genre of the text.

    In essence, when we say, “completely accurate” – well, that depends first on what the expectations of the writers and ancient readers themselves had about such texts. It was more common place for genealogies to involve a literary technique that was not intended to necessarily include Every generation. Some of this, at times, was due to just the information they had available (in other words, a writer knew of a grandfather of one person, but not the name of the father – but it wasn’t a problem to them, so it shouldn’t be to us). Other times, it was a matter of literary function (this is the case in Genesis, Matthew, Revelation – and other ancient Jewish and Babylonian texts). The problem here is that of placing our own arbitrary expectations on a document that is not necessary. In other instances, the Biblical writers, as with other ancient texts (including Babylonian and Egyptian texts), did make extensive use of numerology – in genealogies and even historical texts. This is undeniable. They did so in a way that is not commonplace today; so we tend to struggle with such language. In that sense they are not “inaccurate” – they are just recording things differently than we would. Of course, Matthew’s genealogy was “contrived” but we should respect that it came to us through an ancient writer. When we take our assumptions about how “we” would write a genealogy (to be perfectly accurate) and apply it to these texts, we are making assumptions about the texts that these writers did not and doing an injustice to them. If we assume that “God would not give his word in this way so it can’t be from him,” well that’s our choice to do so, but I don’t anything that necessitates that. Another book I would recommend that touches peripherally on this point – along with both N.T. Wright’s works and Bauckham’s works – is one by Peter Enns entitled, Inspiration and Incarnation.

    This is not a perfect analogy but it is functional as far as it goes. We often use accommodative language or say things that are not absolutely accurate. When the weatherman tells us that sunrise will be at 6:06 a.m. and sunset will be at 7:15 p.m. no one freaks out about the clear fact that this is a completely “inaccurate” statement. We also would think it both unwarranted and unfair if someone 1000 years from now picked that up and said, “These people were inaccurate and unknowledgeable about their world.” The fact is, the sun does not rise nor set. The earth rotates. But, we use this ‘accommodative’ language. If we are speaking scientifically, it is inaccurate. If we are accommodating ourselves to our anthropomorphic perspective – well then we accept the language. We don’t expect people to write into the TV or radio station or newspaper complaining about the incorrect language. Why? Because we understand the context. In this respect the analogy of different maps helps. There are a number of different types of maps: topo maps; road maps; satellite maps; etc. We don’t say a topo map is inaccurate if it doesn’t show a road on it. And, we don’t say a road map is inaccurate because it didn’t account for a shift in elevation.

    This is where I think your concern with Matthew is not warranted. It is applying the criteria or expectation of one “mapping technique” to a different sort of map. (a particularly literalistic – Baconian one. Ironically, also a common interpretive approach among many/most C of Cers – who read texts without regard to their historical setting; cultural particularity; or literary genre – and then create unfortunate expectations as well as occasionally distorted implications of texts – this is especially true with the unfortunate literalist readings of Genesis 1).

    Some will say, “Well if I were God I wouldn’t give a text in such a cultural setting.” But, again, that is a human assumption. One of the most potent features of God – as witnessed in Jesus (and the evidence for him is the foundation and reason I believe) – is that he lowers himself to human circumstance and culture. There are, even stated within the Scriptures, several theological reasons for this; yes, it is surprising to us but so was the picture of a Messiah born in such poverty. This has long been a stumbling block – but it’s not asking us to throw out reason or evidence. But, I believe there is certainly evidence enough of the life, death, resurrection of Jesus that is sufficient for belief.

    Again, hope you’ll get a chance to read through some of these books and others (Another one that may be a bit difficult to get hold of is Inerrant Wisdom by Paul Seely). All the best.
    – Now back to NCAA basketball!


  8. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks again for your comments. You make a lot of points, so I’m not going to try to take them one by one — but luckily, most of them revolve around specific themes, so I’ll try to talk about those briefly. Oh, as an aside, I’ve also read Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns — good book! I haven’t read the others, though I’ll try to get to them.

    First of all, I find the gospels’ discrepancies to be big enough that they keep me from believing the resurrection is a historical event. And that’s probably the biggest difference between our perspectives.

    I actually agree with a lot of what you say about letting documents speak in their own context and historical settings. I do think it’s important to allow them that ability, if we hope to understand them. But this is still one of the problems I have with the notion that God inspired the Bible. For example, if numerology, skipping generations, etc, were all aspects of how Ancient Near East writers and readers dealt with genalogies, then why should I think they were written by anyone other than Ancient Near East writers? This same generation of people had Jesus, apostles, and miracles. On top of that, they get written accounts that fit perfectly within their cultural ideas about how texts like that should operate. What do later generations get? We don’t have Jesus, apostles, or miracles. On top of that, the texts we have are written in ways that appear misleading to us. How badly does God want us to understand it?

    Christians believe that God spoke directly to heads of households in the days of the patriarchs. If he decided to finally stop doing that and just give his revelation once and for all, wouldn’t it be in a form that would be rather readily understandable to all peoples? To use your map analogy, topographical maps, road maps, and satellite maps are usually marked (or labeled) in a way to make them easily recognizable. Yet the Bible says nothing about why the genealogies are different or why Matthew says there was a 14, 14, 14 division when there really wasn’t. I’m not saying that the possibilities you laid out are unreasonable. I just don’t understand why the Bible wouldn’t say that for itself, if those were really the answers.

    A lot of it for me comes down to this: I know that if there was an all-important message that I needed to get to my children, it would be as clear as I could possibly make it. There is absolutely no way that I would allow it to be vague or misleading, in the chance that it could cause any of them to miss it. Christianity teaches that God loves us even more than I love my own children. Therefore, it’s no great leap to say that God would make sure his message to us is clear. I’m convinced of that. And the problems I’ve been laying out in the last several posts are anything but clear. Well, I should rephrase that. The clearest understanding of them is that they’re discrepancies. The “answers” to them are anything but clear.

    Earlier, you said that none of us is able to completely remove our assumptions when we look at things like this. I agree with you — though some of us try harder than others. But it’s the fact that we all fail so miserably at separating our prejudices and presuppositions from objective reality that makes me question whether God would actually require it of us. The fact is, none of us knows any of this for sure. We’re all going off a mixture of assumptions, reason, wants, emotion, culture, intelligence, etc. And we all want to know. To me, it seems that no just God would set the stage this way. It holds us all accountable for so many things we can’t even help. I’m not saying we’re completely helpless or innocent, but I do think the task is way above our ability.

    I’m sure there’s more that could be said, but I’ve rambled on long enough. Thanks again for your comments. They’re well-reasoned and well-studied. I really appreciate that about you, even if we don’t completely agree.

    Take care!


  9. I realize this is a very old post, but on the off chance that this has not been resolved in the eyes of the author yet, I thought I might chime in.

    Although the average person today reads from a translation of the Greek texts, the evidence for Aramaic being the original is over whelming. Aramaic was the language that Yeshua and the apostles spoke.

    The account given by Matthew was Mary’s genealogy, and Her fathers name was Joseph. This is the reason it appears the segment is short with 13 instead of 14. The Aramaic word gowra can be used for father, husband, son, or man, and if you study the original text it becomes clear that there were 2 Josephs, and one was her father.


  10. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve heard of this explanation before, but I’m not aware that there’s any evidence to support it. As you said, if we could study the original text, it might clear up this particular problem, but since we don’t have the original text, this explanation can still only be categorized as supposition.

    Plus, even if Matthew was trying to give the genealogy through Mary, his 14, 14, 14 scheme still doesn’t really pan out, since Chronicles shows that there were more generations than that.

    Thanks again for the comment, and feel free to chime in any time!


  11. The generations are not off. The first two have 14 and the 3rd has 13 if you believe Joseph her guardian was her husband, but if you study the original text you will see that gowra is her father which makes it 14.


  12. Hi Laurie,

    Could you specify which manuscript has the word gowra? Again, we don’t have the original manuscript of Matthew — so I don’t think it’s a given that gowra was actually used by the author.

    My point about the counts being off is that 1 Chronicles also gives the genealogy, and Matthew has to omit a few names to get the counts down to 14 in one place. So the genealogies did not actually fit the 14, 14, 14 breakdown that Matthew claims. His version is a fabrication.



  13. Nate

    I am typing this on my phone, which is very painful, so I have to make this brief but hopefulhis will help.

    Matthew wasn’t just writing a genealogy, he was also establishing the king line. A pious Jew would be very well versed on a topic like this, but most people would have very limited understanding. The king line goes through David, but he wasn’t the first king, Saul was. Because Saul did not follow God he was removed and the title given to David. He was also cursed and non of his line was to reign again 1 Samuel 28:16-18.

    After Saul, we have Ahab who had his whole house taken away 1kings 16:30,33
    20:41-42 22:17 and 2 kings 9:6-9. Now in 2 Chronicles 18:1,22:1,4-7 we see that


  14. Jehoram also disobeyed and married the daughter of Ahab. But because God had made a promise to David Judah was perpetually blessed, and he could not remove his house like he had done before. So according to the 10 commandments in Exodus 20:4-5 his children were cursed and not allowed a place in the line of kings. Let me know if that needs more attention.

    As for gowra it can be found in the Aramaic of the Peshitta. The reason absorbant we c can be sure it refers to her father is that a few verses later when talking about her husband it uses the word baal which can be nothing but a husband.


  15. Laurie,

    Thanks for the additional information. Could you also provide info on the evidence that Matthew was originally written in Aramaic? I know that the people in Palestine spoke Aramaic in Jesus’ day, but from what I’ve read, most scholars still believe the textual evidence shows that the gospels, including Matthew, were originally written in Greek, not Aramaic. Of course, that would cause problems for the gowra theory that you’re espousing. If you have any sources, I’d be interested in checking them out.

    And yes, if you could provide more explanation about why those particular kings were left out, I’d appreciate it. After all, if it was because they were also descendants of Ahab, then that fact would apply to all who came later, not just the 3 that were removed.



  16. I am not an Aramaic scholar my any stretch of the imagination, but I do study the word.

    From what I can tell, gowra is the most common way to say man, husband, brother, son, and father, with the context showing the meaning . Just like many words in English can be a verb and a noun, but when you read it in a sentence you can see which h meaning is being used.


  17. Nate,

    The commandment says he visits the iniquity of the father’s on the children to the third and fourth generation of those that hate him. Sorry I am slow, so be patient with me!


  18. As for the Aramaic, there are so many problems with the Greek that do not occur in the Peshitta. That alone would suggest that the Peshitta came first. Also the Aramaic is of a poetic style, so when people say “something was lost in the translation” here it is quite true. I do not know how to post a link with my phone, but search it out if you can.


  19. Ah, okay, I see what you’re saying. It would have been nice if Matthew had spelled this out, since there were plenty of other kings who didn’t follow God’s laws, but never had their descendants’ names left out of the genealogy. Plus, that commandment is extremely vague… what does he mean by “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children”? He also says “showing steadfast love to thousands [or thousandth generation] of those who love me and keep my commandments.” To me, it sounds like a poetic way of saying that he’s very merciful to those who serve him and is a harsh disciplinarian to those who hate him. I wonder if it was ever intended to be taken so literally. It also sets up an interesting problem since these kings were descendants of both Ahab and David. Should they receive mercy or punishment? And Ezekiel 18 says that God does NOT punish children for their father’s sins.

    Still, it provides an interesting explanation of why Matthew might have left those 3 out in his genealogy. I suppose he needed a reason to pick 3 people to get to his 14, 14, 14 division. I’ll continue to think about it — thanks for bringing it up.

    Also, whenever you have time, I would like to see what info you have on Matthew being written originally in Aramaic.



  20. Nate,

    He did not punish his children for his sin, because that would have been death. He did however allow them to be affected by the action reaction side of what happened. For example, if a woman chose to do drugs whilst carrying a baby, and that child was affected by a disability, it would be life long. It wasn’t their fault but the action had consequences that affected others.

    Ahab was meant to be cut off and by allowing that bloodline to infect the king line we see that it had consequences because of God’s original promise.


  21. Maybe. The problem is that no passage anywhere spells this out for us. That might be what the writer of Matthew had in mind, but we don’t really know.


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