Issues in Matthew's Genealogy

I have a few questions regarding Matthew’s genealogy. I am working on a Bible study on the Gospel of Matthew for my church. I am wanting to dig a bit into the genealogy because I really love how Matthew organized it. But as I’ve been studying and doing some research on it, I’ve come across a few issues. Most of them I have found answers and solutions to but a few I’m still a bit lost on. I also would like to know how these issues affect the concepts of inerrancy and inspiration and how all of this works together.

One of the main issues I haven’t found a good answer to yet is when Matthew gets into the second list of names he skips over 3 kings of Judah. He just uses the name Uzziah and keeps ongoing. One response I’ve heard to that issue is that Matthew is under no obligation to include every name and leaving names out of a genealogy was common back then. I’ve also heard a reference to God cursing King Ahab of Israel and how Joram married Ahab’s daughter and so the three generations after Joram were technically cursed and so Matthew left them out for that reason.

Another issue is how the last paragraph only has 13 names instead of 14.

It seems that Matthew’s genealogy is supposed to be taken more symbolically rather than literally/historically. That his point perhaps was on one hand to show Jesus’ right to the throne of David, but perhaps he was more concerned with showing how Jesus, the Christ fulfilled the Old Testament. He was showing how everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus, rather than simply showing His right to kingship. I’m not sure if I’m off base with that, but it seems like if that was the point a lot of these issues don’t matter as much.

I would love to hear if anybody else has decent answers to these issues and any thoughts in general about the nature of Matthew’s genealogy. Also if you have any sources I can check out that would be helpful!

Thanks!

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@Knelson02 Great question :slight_smile: While I’ve offered some articles below with possible explanations (some of which you already mentioned), I would like to make a few comments more generally about the inspiration of Scripture.

  • inerrancy is not the central doctrine of Christianity—the resurrection of Christ is the central doctrine of Christianity. I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, but my faith in Jesus is not built on it. If I found a historical mistake somewhere in the Bible, it would not shake my faith in the least. The Bible gets sooooo much right—even after so much criticism from unbelieving scholars—that it more than deserves our trust. That said, I have not found any Biblical difficulty that does not have a possible solution, even if I do not know the exact solution.
  • sometimes we just have to admit when we do not know the right answer and offer possible solutions to textual difficulties
  • one of the greatest evidences for the inspiration of Scripture is the transforming power of the Scriptures in our lives and the lives of others

Christ grant you wisdom as you teach His truth :slight_smile:

Matthew’s Geneaology

As you mentioned, one possible explanation for skipping 3 Kings is that they were illegitimate. I think that is a good explanation.

Regarding groupings of 14, the theory that made the most sense to me is that Matthew did not intend to give us 42 individual people (3*14), but rather to use 14 people for each era (Abraham->David, David->Babylon, exile->Messiah). David is counted twice.

“It was done in this way because Joram begot Ahaziah from a pagan woman, that is, from the household of Ahab, and it was declared by the prophet that not until the fourth generation would anyone from the household of Ahab sit on the throne of the kingdom of Israel” ( Comm. Matt ., 1.2)

He is right. Joram married a daughter of Ahab (“the daughter of Ahab was his wife,” 2 Kgs 8:18). We learn later that her name was “Athaliah” (2 Kgs 8:26). Now, Scripture tells us that Ahab’s line was cut off from reigning for four generations, and Jehu’s sons would instead rule over Israel (2 Kgs 10:30; cf. 2 Kgs 10:35; 13:1, 10; 14:23; 15:8).

It turns out that the offspring of Ahab would also not reign in Judah! If Athaliah represents the first generation of Ahab, then the next three offspring from her would be: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah. Amaziah would be the fourth generation. These are the exact three people that Matthew omits from his genealogy.

Matthew skillfully organizes the royal genealogy of king Jesus with three sets of fourteen names (Matt 1:17). And he does so by omitting three names that should be omitted from the genealogy of Christ due to their relationship with Ahab.

The writer does not express his intent to reveal 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus, but rather three segments of Jewish history, each comprised of 14 generations. It is plausible that David’s name being mentioned twice (v 17) indicates his inclusion in both the first and second groupings. If so, then the first begins with Abraham and ends with David, 14 generations; the second begins with David and ends with Josiah, 14 generations; and the third begins with Jeconiah and ends with Jesus, 14 generations.

Matthew vs Luke

Here is an article from Zondervan Academic that provides three possible explanations for differences between Matthew and Luke and here are the three possible explanations in brief:

1 - One of the genealogies is Mary’s
2 - One genealogy is loyal/legal and the other is physical
3 - Joseph had two fathers

The article suggests 2 possible ways Joseph could have 2 fathers:

  1. Mary’s father had no sons to carry on the family line, so he adopted Joseph as his son
  2. Based on a law in Deuteronomy, when one of Joseph’s fathers died his brother/half-brother may have married Joseph’s mother - giving Joseph two fathers.

Deuteronomy 25:5: “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.”

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Here is a table of Matthew’s genealogy that I assembled myself:

As you can see, Jesus is the fourteenth of the third section.

The omissions to which you refer are Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah. (Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, ruled from Ahaziah’s death until her death at Joash’s ascension.) I will let someone else speculate about why Matthew left these generations out. I wish I could ask Matthew, but I cannot. I think that sometimes cultural differences create confusion about these matters. Matthew clearly was not concerned about it, but he did not have a Western mindset. The most important matter is that the lineage of the Messiah is accurately drawn, which it is.

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@SeanO We need to stop posting at the same time! Yet again I did not see you coming! :laughing:

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@blbossard Lol :slight_smile: Did you create the table for teaching purposes or during your own study?

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@SeanO My own study. I like messing with stuff like that… :desktop_computer: :art:

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@blbossard Very nice - yes, I enjoy digging into the Word as well. That’s one thing that makes Connect great - so may thought provoking questions about the Scriptures.

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Thanks to both of you for responding. I have been thinking about a lot of our percieved issues with Matthew’s genealogy may come from us not understanding Matthew’s culture. Perhaps the issue only comes up from our Western, post-Enlightenment mindset? We want that precision and we want every single name to be exact. But it seems this wasn’t as big of a deal for Matthew and even his audience since they would have been familiar with the names in this list and would have pointed out the inaccuracies if they had been a big deal. So perhaps he was more focused on making a point about Jesus and used the genealogy as more of a literary device and his audience knew what he was doing. So maybe it bothers us more than it bothered them.

Not sure if that’s in the right ball park but the more I study the genealogy the more that seems to be the case.

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@Knelson02: Let me throw in a copy of thoughts.

Aa s a 2nd Temple period Pharisee you would have read the Matthew genealogy as 3 groups of 14. 3x14=42 weeks of years. Jesus was the last week in the Daniel prophecy of 490 years of the exile.

24 “Seventy weeks is decreed for your people and ⌊for your holy city⌋, to put an end to the transgression and to seal up sin and to make atonement for guilt and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal vision and prophet and to anoint ⌊the most holy place⌋. 25 And you must know and you must understand that from the time of the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one—a leader—will be ⌊seven weeks and sixty-two weeks⌋; it will be restored and will be built with streets and a moat, but ⌊in a time of oppression⌋. (Daniel 9:24-25)

A very likely understanding particularly when you consider that according to NT Wright:

This combination of Daniel’s revised prophecy about the 490 years and the Deuteronomic warning of the curse of exile followed by the blessing of covenant renewal is, I suggest, at the heart of the controlling story within the world-view not only of first-century Pharisees but of a great many other second-Temple Jews as well.

Wright, N. T. (2013). Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Vol. 4, p. 146). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Now as to the overarching question, why the differences in the Gospels? The genealogy of Jesus is one of these perceived contradictions? Let me suggest that you take a look at this video (link to follow). Licona was a guest lecturer at the last Atlanta RZIM Summer session, maybe 2016-17 and he was lecturing on this very subject. He had just released his book Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography. I recommend the book as it answers a number of my questions and to paraphrase Lincona, it negates the need to waterboard the text until we exegete the answer we want.

Here is the link:

And from the same video a different spin on Matthew’s genealogy as Gematria.

Hope this helps in your research.

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@Jimmy_Sellers Thank you for your post. It is very interesting!

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I am still trying to better understand Licona. Not so much on the topic that @Knelson02 posted but on the topic of trained historical biographers as away of understanding the Gospels versus the time tested harominzation effort that have gone on for the history of the church.
The problem is we run into inerrancy and inspiration issue if the Godpels are not precise and accurate in their accounts.
Food for thought.

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