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Matthew Verses 2-16

Verses 2-16. These verses contain the genealogy of Jesus. Luke also (Lu 3:1) gives a genealogy of the Messiah. No two passages of Scripture have caused more difficulty than these, and various attempts have been made to explain them. There are two sources of difficulty in these catalogues: first, many names that are found in the Old Testament are here omitted; and second, the tables of Matthew and Luke appear in many points to be different. From Adam to Abraham, Luke only has given the record. From Abraham to David the two tables are alike. Of course there is no difficulty in reconciling these two parts of the tables. The difficulty lies in that part of the genealogy from David to Christ. There they are entirely different. They are manifestly different lives. Not only are the names different, but Luke has mentioned, in this part of the genealogy, no less than forty-two names, while Matthew has recorded but twenty-seven.

Various ways have been proposed to explain this difficulty; and it must be admitted that none of them are perfectly satisfactory. It does not comport with the design of these Notes to enter minutely into an explanation of the perplexities of these passages. All that can be done is to suggest the various ways in which attempts have been made to explain them.

(1.) It is remarked that in nothing are mistakes more likely to occur than in such tables. From the similarity of names, and the various names by which the same person is often called, and from many other causes, errors would be more likely to creep into the text in genealogical tables than in other writings. Some of the difficulties may have possibly occurred from this cause.

(2.) Most interpreters have supposed that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke that of Mary. They were both descended from David, but in different lines. This solution derives some plausibility from the fact that the promise was made to David; and as Jesus was not the son of Joseph, it was important to show that Mary was also descended from him. Though this solution is plausible, and may be true, yet it wants evidence. It cannot, however, be proved that this was not the design of Luke.

(3.) It has been said, also, that Joseph was the legal son and heir of Heli, though the real son of Jacob, and thus the two lines terminated in him. This was the ancient explanation of most of the fathers, and on the whole is the most satisfactory. It was a law of the Jews, that if a man died without children, his brother should marry his widow. Thus the two lines might have been intermingled. According to this solution, which was first proposed by Africanus, Matthan, descended from Solomon, married Estha, of whom was born Jacob. After Matthan's death, Matthat being of the same tribe, but of another family, remarried his widow, and of this marriage Heli was born. Jacob and Heli were therefore children of the same mother. Heli dying without children, his brother Jacob married his widow, and begat Joseph, who was thus the legal son of Heli. This is agreeable to the account in the two evangelists. Matthew says that Jacob begat Joseph; Luke says that Joseph was the son of Heli; that is, was his legal heir, or reckoned in law to be his son. This can be seen by the plan on the next page, showing the nature of the connexion.

Though these solutions may not seem to be entirely satisfactory, yet there are two additional considerations which should set the matter at rest, and lead to the conclusion that the narratives are not really inconsistent.

(1.) No difficulty was ever found, or alleged, in regard to them, by any of the early enemies of Christianity. There is no evidence that they ever adduced them as containing a contradiction. Many of those enemies were acute, learned, and able; and they show by their writings that they were not indisposed to detect all the errors that could possibly be found in the sacred narrative. Now, it is to be remembered that the Jews were fully competent to show that these tables were incorrect, if they were really so; and it is clear that they were fully disposed, if possible, to do it. The fact, therefore, that it is not done, is clear evidence that they thought it to be correct. The same may be said of the acute pagans who wrote against Christianity. None of them have called in question the correctness of these tables. This is full proof that, in a time when it was easy to understand these tables, they were believed to be correct.

(2.) The evangelists are not responsible for the correctness of these tables. They are responsible only for what was their real and professed object to do. What was that object? It was to prove, to the satisfaction of the Jews, that Jesus was descended from David, and therefore that there was no argument from his ancestry that he was not the promised Messiah. Now, to make this out it was not necessary, nor would it have conduced to their argument, to have formed a new table of genealogy. All that could be done was, to go to the family records—to the Public tables—and copy them as they were actually kept, and show that, according to the records of the nation, Jesus was descended from David. This, among the Jews, was full and decided testimony in the case. And this was doubtless done. In the same way, the records of a family among us, as they are kept by the family, are proof in courts of justice now, of the birth, names, etc., of individuals. Nor is it necessary or proper for a court to call them in question, or to attempt to correct them. So the tables here are good evidence to the only point that the writers wished to establish; that is, to show to the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was descended from David. All that can be asked now is, whether they copied the tables of those families correctly. It is clear that no man can prove that they did not so copy them, and, therefore, that no one can adduce them as an argument against the correctness of the New Testament.


The Ancestry of Joseph

Footnotes for Verse 3.

{g} "Judas begat Phares" Ge 38:29,30 {h} "Phares begat Ersom" Ge 46:12

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