Throughout the Bible there have been numerous genealogies about some of the more important people. Jesus is no exception to this, as his genealogy is given twice in the New Testament, one in Matthew and the other in Luke. However, there are several discrepancies between the two. This has led me to ask this question: “Why are the two genealogies of Jesus different?”
Before we get into the why, I feel like it is important to find what the differences are. While Matthew and Luke give the genealogies in different orders (Luke goes backwards in time while Matthew goes in chronological order), different names begin to appear. “Though nearly identical from Abraham to David, the two accounts are entirely different from David to Jesus. After David, only the names of Shealtiel and Zerubbabel appear on both lists.” (http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefactsandlists/a/jesusgenealogy.htm) The biggest difference comes as to who Joseph’s father is. Matthew states that Jacob is the father of Joseph, while Luke states that Heli is his father.
So why is there a difference? There are several different theories circling around as to why this is. However, only two of these hold any kind of weight. These two are the ones we’ll be looking at.
The first theory is that Matthew directly explored the lineage of Jesus through Joseph, as it was customary to look at a lineage through a person’s father, while Luke is taking into account the idea of levirate marriage. What is levirate marriage? “If a married man died childless, his brother was required to marry his wife to provide a son to continue the dead man’s line.” (http://www.compellingtruth.org/genealogies-of-Jesus-Matthew-Luke.html) In this case, “Melchi (Luke 3:24) and Matthan (Matthew 1:15) were married at different times to the same woman (tradition names her Estha). This would make Heli (Luke 3:23) and Jacob (Matthew 1:15) half-brothers.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-genealogy.html#ixzz3QGQbsetX) If this is the case, then Heli died without a son, meaning that his half-brother Jacob married Estha and had a son, Joseph. However, this theory is not generally accepted by Biblical scholars.
The other one, which is the one theory that is accepted by scholars, is that Matthew traces Jesus’s genealogy through his father (Joseph), while Luke explores it through his mother (Mary). This makes sense due to the fact that it was customary to give a genealogy through the father’s bloodline, not the mother’s. It should be noted that since Joseph wasn’t Jesus’s actual father (Jesus is the Son of God after all), this would make Joseph Jesus’s father-in-law. “Since there was no Greek word for “son-in-law,” Joseph was called the “son of Heli” by marriage to Mary, Heli’s daughter.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-genealogy.html#ixzz3QGTWvkEH) The one hitch in this theory is that Joseph, not Mary, is mentioned in the genealogy provided by Luke. There is an explanation for this. ‘We can understand the statement about Joseph, that he was “the son of Heli,” to mean that he was his son-in-law, as the husband of his daughter Mary (as in Ru 1:11, 12), and believe that Joseph’s name is only introduced instead of Mary’s, in conformity with the Jewish custom in such tables. Perhaps this view is attended with fewest difficulties, as it certainly is the best supported.’ (https://carm.org/bible-difficulties/matthew-mark/why-are-there-different-genealogies-jesus-matthew-1-and-luke-3)
We may never know the real explanation of why the genealogies are different. Even though there are two solid theories as to why this is, they are just theories, not fact.