The Genealogy of Jesus

Why seek ye the living among the dead? St Luke, Chapter XIV, verse 5 (1896). John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bible Study #11, Based on Luke 3:23-38

According to Luke, the Lord was about thirty years of age when he began his ministry.

Luke then traces the Lord’s genealogy through Heli (Joseph’s father) rather than through Jacob (Joseph’s other father, according to Matthew 1:16). How could Joseph have two fathers? One was his natural father, the other was either his stepfather or his father-in-law. Click here to read about the levirate marriage prescribed in Deuteronomy 25:5 and click here to read about the view that the other was Joseph’s father-in-law.

Personally, I think it is likely that Matthew gives us the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph’s natural father, and that Luke gives us the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph’s stepfather, the brother of his natural father. The reason I think this is that Matthew appears to keep in mind Jesus’ natural descendancy when he says that Jesus was born of Mary (Matthew 1:16), whereas Luke says Jesus was supposedly the son of Joseph, and then calls Adam the son of God. Luke, then, does not seem to limit his genealogy to natural descendancy.

Moreover, Matthew tells us that Jesus was both the son of David and the son of Abraham. Matthew is likely interested in linking Jesus to the Abrahamic covenant and the Davidic covenant. Luke, on the other hand, traces the genealogy to Adam: perhaps to show that Jesus is the second Adam (Romans 5:19).

Finally, Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus through David’s son Solomon (Matthew 1:6), whereas Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus through David’s son Nathan (Luke 3:31, 2 Samuel 5:14). This indicates that Jesus’ claim to David’s throne is through Matthew’s genealogy, not Luke’s: for the Davidic covenant would continue through Solomon (1 Kings 17:11-14).

Having said all that, I personally think it would be amazing if Heli was actually Joseph’s father-in-law (which would mean the genealogy of Jesus in Luke is through Mary, not Joseph). I think that would be amazing because, according to Genesis 3:15, it is the descendant of the woman (not of the man) who would defeat the serpent.

Questions for Reflection

  • Look at Romans 5:19 and its context. How is Jesus similar and different to Adam?
  • What was the David covenant? Click here to read about it.
  • If Heli was actually Joseph’s father-in-law, how would the gospel of Luke show that Jesus is the descendant of the woman who would defeat the serpent?

Prayer Focus

  • Thank God for promising to give us His Spirit.
  • Thank God for sending Jesus, the Messiah, to save the world.
  • Ask God to help you share the good news with others so they can be saved and escape judgment.


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