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Answering Humanist's Accusations Against the Bible

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Why are there are differences in the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke?

A question that has been answered a thousand times:

HUMANIST ALLEGED CONTRADICTION: In the New Testament, there are contradictions between the genealogies of Jesus given in the first chapter of Matthew and the third chapter of Luke.

Both genealogies begin with Jesus’ father, who is identified as Joseph (which is curious, given that Mary was supposedly impregnated by the Holy Ghost). But Matthew says Joseph’s father was Jacob, while Luke claims he was Heli. Matthew lists 26 generations between Jesus and King David, whereas Luke records 41. Matthew runs Jesus’ line of descent through David’s son Solomon, while Luke has it going through David’s son Nathan.

I am going to put the two genealogies on the next two opposite pages so they will be easy to compare.

As swe have done before, we start with the question: What does scripture say? First, notice, unlike what the humanists say, one genealogy starts with Abraham and the other with Joseph. There is a reason for this.

Yes, there are obviously differences in the two genealogies, but instead of just proclaiming there are differences, and stopping there, we should ask why.

Also, consider this, if what the humanist claims are true, this is an obvious and glaring contradiction. Why wasn't it noticed 2000 years ago? You will get answers, but first read the genealogies on the next two pages.

Matthew 1:1-17

1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. 4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. 5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse was the father of David the king.

David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. 8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. 9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. 11 Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. 14 Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. 15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Luke 3:23-38

23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

At the time Matthew and Luke wrote, genealogical records were very important to the Jews. They determined inheritance rights. They played a role in taxation. They were the basis for the principle of kinsmen redemption. In addition, your genealogy determined your rights to own land, based on the original division of the land among the twelve tribes. Because of their importance, the Jews kept detailed genealogical records. People needed access to these records, so they were publicly available in the Temple in Jerusalem. Both Matthew and Luke most likely based their genealogies on those records, and it would have been very easy for anyone to check what Matthew and Luke wrote with the public records. If there were any errors, they would be glaring and obvious

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In the first century Christianity’s enemies would have used any-thing they could to destroy Christianity. This fact alone is enough to end this discussion. It is impossible for there to be a contradiction in the genealogies. If there were, the obvious genealogical misrepresen-tation (lie) would have been quickly revealed 2000 years ago. Christi-anity would have been dead before it got started.

Yes, the two genealogies are different. That is because they are looking at two different lines. There are important reasons for this.


Matthew and Luke are writing to different groups of people, who have different ways of looking at history. Matthew is writing to the Jews and Luke is writing to Gentiles (non-Jews).

Matthew starts with Abraham, and goes forward to the birth of Jesus. Luke starts with the birth of Jesus and goes backwards to the first man, Adam. Why do they do this?

Matthew’s Genealogy

Who was Abraham? He is the father of the Jewish nation. The Jews trace their heritage back to Abraham. It was important for Matthew, who was writing to Jews, to start Jesus’ genealogy with Abraham.

Notice that Matthew's genealogy ends in verse 16 with Joseph. It is the genealogy of Joseph, the husband of Mary. However, Jo-seph was not the biological father of Jesus, and scripture never iden-tifies him as the biological father. Keep in mind words are im-portant. Read scripture carefully. Notice that in verse 16 Matthew does not identify Joseph as the father of Jesus, as the humanists claim, but as “the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born.”

However, Matthew’s genealogy ends with Joseph, identifying it as the genealogy of Joseph. What is Matthew saying? He traces Je-sus' line from Abraham to Joseph, who was Jesus' LEGAL father, although not his natural father. Jesus is legally the first son of Jo-seph. This establishes Jesus' legal right as king of Israel. That is im-portant, as the Messiah is the king of the Jews. The king must legally be from the line of David:

[Jesus speaking] "You correctly say that I am king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world." - John 18:13

Luke's Genealogy

Luke, writing to the Gentiles, had a different purpose. He is showing Jesus' solidarity with the entire human race. That is why he takes the genealogy back to Adam, and thus ultimately God. Luke does this by giving us the genealogy of Mary. Here comes that "W" question again... why?

Luke is demonstrating that the bloodline of Jesus is a human bloodline. Jesus is related by blood to all of us, through Adam. This is his racial lineage. To what race does Jesus belong? The human race.

Notice in Luke verse 23 that Jesus is described as the "sup-posed" son of Joseph. Neither Matthew nor Luke identify Jesus as the physical son of Joseph. However, Jesus is a physical “son” of Adam.

Finally notice the sections in bold in the two genealogies. They are nearly identical. The lineages of both Joseph and Mary pass through David. The Messiah had to be a son of David, and Jesus is of the line of David… on both sides of His family. There is no doubt, based on His genealogy, Jesus is qualified to be the Messiah.

But Matthew says Joseph’s Father was Jacob, While Luke Claims he was Heli.

This is a legitimate question. Let’s put these two sections of scrip-ture right next to each other so we can clearly see why the humanists are raising a question:

Luke: Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Heli,

Matthew: Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born,

It does look as though there is some confusion about Joseph’s father… but there is not.

Who were Heli and Jacob? Heli is Mary’s father and Jacob was Joesph’s father.

In the Greek there is an article before each son in Luke’s record, except for one. It says “the son of…” except for Heli. It literally reads as: “Joseph, son of Heli.” This indicates the relationship is not as close as a biological father and son. In addition, there is no word for “son-in-law” in ancient Greek. The “son-in-law” is considered a son by marriage. This now brings us back to the importance of Jesus being a descendant of David. He was the son of Jacob (father of Joseph), who was in the line of David. He was also son of Heli (fa-ther of Mary), who was also in the line of David. This is the point both Matthew and Luke are making. Jesus is a descendant of David and thus is qualified to be king and Messiah.

What did we find out here? There are no contradiction in the genealogies of Jesus.

Next question...

The story of Jesus’ birth is also contradictory. Matthew 2:13-15 depicts Joseph and Mary as fleeing to Egypt with the baby Jesus immediately after the wise men from the east had brought gifts. But Luke 2:22-40 claims that after the birth of Jesus, his parents remained in Bethlehem for the time of Mary’s purification (which was 40 days, under the Mosaic law).

And here is the answer...


The Good News

Before you get the good news, you need to know the bad news. It's about you. God says:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23

Sin means disobeying God, aka breaking God's law. God is perfect and perfection is required to enter heaven. It's a standard none of us can achieve. We all fall short. For example, compare yourself with just one of the Ten Commandments. Have you ever told a lie?

All liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. - Revelation 21:8. Or what about:

Have you ever taken something that does not belong to you, no matter how small? Have you ever looked at another person with lust? In Matthew 5 Jesus said:

Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' Have you done that?

You have broken God's laws. You have sinned. There must be justice, and that means eternity in hell, the lake of fire, the second death. Unless...

Unless there was someone willing to pay that penalty on your behalf. Someone who will take on themselves the consequences you deserve. And there is. There is one person who can and will do that. That person is Jesus Christ. If you trust this is true (believe), and repent (turn away from disobeying God), Jesus' death is applied to your account and you are freed from the penalty of sin to be with God forever.