Special thanks to the Hive Reader who submitted this question for our Christmas Buzzworthy series! Do you have a question about faith, doctrine, or simply how to interpret a passage of Scripture? Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The gospel writers make a big deal out of Jesus’ lineage. They wanted to prove that Jesus of Nazareth really was the Messiah (Anointed One) promised so long ago by the Old Testament prophets.
Their case rested on one crucial link between the Old Testament promises and the first century man, Jesus – Jesus was from the royal house of David. The prophets were clear. The Promised One would be a king (Gen. 17:15-16, Gen. 49:8-9, 2 Sam. 7, Is. 9:6-7). And to be a king, you had to be from a royal line.
In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, he emphasizes Jesus’ royal lineage through his earthly father, Joseph.
Matthew 1:16-17 – “And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.”
Here’s Matthew’s logic: the first century Jews should accept Jesus as the fulfillment of Messianic promises because his earthly father, Joseph, was a direct descendant of David.
But here’s the question: If Jesus was born by the power of the Holy Spirit in Mary – and not by Joseph’s doing – then how can Jesus be considered a descendant of David?
The gospel of Luke gives us the answer. Luke also includes a genealogy of Christ in his gospel – but with a few key differences than Matthew.
First, Luke begins his documentation with Jesus and works his way backwards – all the way to Adam and God! (Luke 3:38).
Second, and most importantly, Luke traces Christ’s claim to the Davidic throne through another son of David – Nathan.
Luke 3:23, 31-32 – “23Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph … 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,” (Remember, this genealogy runs backwards).
So, here’s the key difference. While Matthew traces Christ’s claim to the throne through Solomon, Luke chooses to trace Jesus’ royal heritage through David and Bathsheba’s other son, Nathan.
Mary was the “natural” descendant of Jesus through Nathan who was the son of David and Bathsheba just like Solomon (see 1 Chron. 3:5).
I’m a visual gal, so this might help you map it in ‘yer’ head. (And of course, there are a just a few generations missing in this picture. But you get the point).
Christ’s lineage though Mary in no way weakens the legitimacy of his claim to the Davidic throne. Like Matthew, Luke could have easily chosen to trace Jesus’ genealogy through Solomon (2 Sam. 7). But being a ‘detail man’ (which I totally appreciate by the way), Luke is simply taking into account Jesus’ natural and royal descent from the woman who plays a key role in God’s plan for redemptive history.
So, how can Christ be of royal lineage if he is only biologically related to his mother? Christ’s lineage is royal on both sides of his parents. Both Mary and Joseph are descendants of David.
Boosh! They call that a genetic slam dunk.
- Andrew Peterson has an adorable book and CD called
- Use it to help liven up and even translate those cumbersome lists of names for the kiddos! I haven’t purchased this, but it’s currently on my Amazon Wish-list for the twins.
 Dorothy Patterson and Rhonda Kelley, eds., The Women’s Study Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publisher, 1995), 1694.