Dec
21

Dueling Genealogies?

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A baby polar bear goes up to his father and asks, “Dad, am I pure polar bear?” The father replies, “Sure you are, son.  I’m all polar bear, my parents are all polar bear, your mom is all polar bear, and her parents are all polar bear.”  Still unsure, the baby polar bear goes to his mother and asks, “Mom, am I pure polar bear?”  She answers, “Of course you are, honey. I’m all polar bear, your father is all polar bear, my parents are all polar bear, and his parents are all polar bear.”  Still not convinced the baby polar bear goes to his grandparents and asks, “Grandma and grandpa, am I all polar bear?”  His grandparents answer, “Of course you are.  We’re all polar bear, your mother is all polar bear, your father is all polar bear, and his parents are all polar bear. Why do you ask, sweetie?” The baby polar bears replies, “Because I’m freez……ing!”

One of the questions that comes up at Christmastime is  that of the biblical genealogies and it doesn’t involve Jesus’s birth, but Joseph’s birth.  In particular, who was Joseph’s dad?  In Matthew’s genealogy, the Bible says Jacob was his father.  We read in Matthew 1:16,  And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.  But in Luke’s genealogy it says that Heli was his father.  We read in Luke 3:23, And Jesus being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.  So who was Joseph’s dad – Jacob or Heli?  The question especially needs to be answered because this seeming contradiction has become a main arguing point for skeptics denying in biblical inerrancy.

First let me say, the two genealogies make very clear that Joseph was not the natural father of Jesus.  Matthew uses the word (begat) for every generation including (Jacob begat Joseph), but then switches to (Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus).  And Luke uses the phrase (the son of) for every generation including (Joseph the son of Heli), but then switches to (Jesus, as was supposed, the son of Joseph).

Secondly, let me add that it’s not the same thing when you’re doing a genealogical record dealing with a virgin birth (I mean, there’s no previous similar family tree template for you to follow).  And besides that, you are giving two different genealogies (Matthew/Luke) of  two different people (Joseph/Mary) going back to two different ancestors (Abraham/Adam) and addressing two different audiences (Jews/Greeks).

All biblicists agree that the Jacob spoken of in Matthew (Jacob begat Joseph) is Joseph’s father and that the Heli spoken of in Luke (Joseph the son of Heli) is Joseph’s father-in-law.  But biblicists disagree on the reason behind Joseph being spoken of as being the son of each.

Jewish Explanation – We know from the gospel accounts that Heli had two daughters, Mary and her sister, but no son(s).  Therefore, according to the Law of Moses, when there was no son for the father to pass his inheritance on to, the man his daughter married – he was now counted as being as if the actual birth son of his father-in-law, and was listed in the genealogical records as such.

Grecian Explanation – The Greek answer is very simple.  One, they only trace their genealogies through the male (thus no women in Luke’s genealogy of Mary).  And two, they have no word in their language for son-in-law, just for son.  And so bible versions that remain true to their original Greek text source, translate it as such, son.