Was Jacob or Heli The Father of Joseph?
(Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23)
Matthew 1:16: "And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ."
Luke 3:23: "Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli"
In order to solve this alleged discrepancy, it must be understood that Matthew's account is giving the genealogy of Joseph while Luke gives the genealogy of Mary. This is borne out by the fact that in Matthew's account the virgin conception account is told from Joseph's perspective in Matthew 1:18-25; while Luke, who most likely gathers much of his information from eyewitnesses (including Mary) told the virgin conception account from Mary's perspective (Luke 1:1-4).
Why then is Joseph mentioned in both lists of genealogies (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23)? First, Matthew is giving the genealogy of Joseph and Luke is following the Hebraic, traditional form of genealogies by listing only the male names in which Mary is designated by her husband's name.
Furthermore, the Hebrews used the word "son" in different senses, referring to...
- One generation (example: Solomon was the "son of" David - Matthew 1:6)
- A remote descendant (such as a grandson, great-grandson, etc. - Matthew 1:1; 21:9; 22:42)
- A son-in-law (cf. 1 Samuel 24:16; 26:17) [This makes sense in the context that Joseph was the "son" (son-in-law) of Heli.]
- The Levirate marriage law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Matthew 22:24-26)
- A step-son who took on the legal status of his step-father (which is what Jesus was to Joseph - Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Luke 3:23; 4:22; John 6:42)
Another reason why Matthew and Luke's lists vary is because Matthew's purpose is to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. The Jews would have recognized from this genealogical list that Jesus had the legal right to inherit the throne of David (Isaiah 9:6,7; Matthew 22:41-45; Luke 1:32), which was an essential component if Jesus was truly the Messiah. Luke's purpose was to show from Mary's genealogy that she came from the blood-line of David which showed that Jesus was a blood-line descendant of David (see 2 Samuel 7:12-14).
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