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Matthew 1:1-17 & Luke by Robert Dean
"Ta Da! The king has been born!" In the summer of 2013 the world waited breathlessly for the proclamation of the birth of the future king of England with his ironclad credentials. The Gospel of Matthew heralds the birth of the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ. Listen to this lesson to learn about the genealogies that validate His claims to the throne of David and why there are differences between Matthew and Luke. See how Matthew lists four sin-tainted women in the line of Christ and how they showcase God's grace which has brought salvation to all.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:51 mins 43 secs

The History of Yeshua HaMeshiach: God's Grace and Faithfulness
Gospel of Matthew and Luke Compared
Matthew 1:1–17
September 15, 2013

Matthew teaches us about whom Jesus was and what He came to do. The focus of each Gospel is a little different. Each one is written in order to demonstrate a principle or a point about the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We don't know much about the early life of Jesus from the time that He was born until the beginning of His ministry, with the exception of a few details of His visit to the temple when He was about twelve years old. Other than that the Bible doesn't tell us because it isn't significant for us to know those things. The Gospels weren't written to tell us everything we want to know about Jesus but to inform us about the things we need to know so that we have a proper understanding of His role and purpose to come as the one who would save us from our sins.

One of the things that makes Jesus unique is the virgin conception and virgin birth, which is the focal point of Matthew chapter one. Both the genealogy of the first seventeen verses and the way in which the writer presents His birth, the announcement to Joseph by the angel that Mary to whom he is betrothed is a virgin and yet she has become pregnant of the Holy Spirit. That means that the Lord Jesus Christ is born without a descent from His father, to Joseph, because if He had been born of a human father He would have inherited a sin nature from Adam and with it the condemnation that goes with that sin nature. Being born of a virgin meant that that was blocked, prevented, and so He was born without sin.

The Bible makes the claim both in Matthew and in Luke is that Jesus was conceived by Mary, without sexual intercourse, by the power of God the Holy Spirit. Both Matthew and Luke state that Jesus was born as the legal heir to the throne of David and that He does not have a direct line to David back through Joseph. This is due to the virgin birth. 

Matthew 1:18 NASB "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit."

Luke tells the story a little differently. The focal point in Matthew is on Joseph and what Joseph is thinking, and the revelation by the angels to Joseph. Whereas in Luke the focus is on Mary's thinking and what happens with regard to her. Luke 1:26 NASB "Now in the sixth month [of pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, [27] to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary." Notice the emphasis there on Joseph's relationship to the house of David. [31] "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus." It is clear that Jesus is being named thus because it was His purpose to deliver people, to save them from their sins. He is to be named Yeshua, which is the same word as Joshua. "Jesus" is really a transliteration from the Greek iesous which is taken from the Hebrew Yeshua. [32] "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."

The first problem we see is, how do we validate these claims that Jesus is of the descent from royalty, from the house of David, and also the claim related to the virgin conception and virgin birth? The solution is through birth records. The Jews had meticulous genealogical records, especially of the priests but also of the tribes. We know from the literature of the second temple period that it became especially true after their return from Babylon because after the exile there were different groups that returned at different times under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. As they returned they had to make sure that they were maintaining appropriate records pertaining to land inheritance, to positions in society, to political priesthood, etc. And we know from others, particularly Josephus, that there were these meticulous records that were kept.

So even though we have a problem, that the genealogies of Matthew and Luke do not agree, we know that both Matthew and Luke had access to records. They demonstrate in many other areas of their writings that they are meticulous in their use of details. We have to approach the text on the basis of two assumptions. Assumption one is it is the infallible and inerrant Word of God and therefore it is true, even though we may recognize things that we don't have enough information about. We know from many other examples in Scripture where it was thought that there was a conflict or contradiction that later as more information surfaced these apparent and alleged contradictions were resolved. Never ever has history or archaeology demonstrated any true or lasting contradictions from Scripture. There are things that appear to be contradictory, things that we can't quite explain; but that is due to a lack of historical or archaeological evidence.

What happened during the Jewish revolt against Rome from 66-70 AD, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and burned the temple, these records were lost. There were other places where records were kept but we just don't have access to the records that were available to the writers of the Gospels in the first century.

Matthew 1:1 NASB "The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Many of us when we read the Bible and come across a genealogy we just skip that and start with the story where it begins in verse 18. But the reality is that these genealogies are extremely important and significant. From the very beginning of Genesis we have Adam and his descendants (recorded in Genesis chapter five) to Noah, the Noah and his descendants (recorded in Genesis chapter ten), and the descendants of Shem down to Abraham (recorded in Genesis chapter eleven), and throughout the rest of the Old Testament there are these lengthy genealogies that are such that we can go back and document and trace the family lineage from father to son all the way from Adam down to Jesus. These records were kept.

The birth of Jesus is connected through these technical genealogies going back to Adam, demonstrating the fulfillment of God's promise of Genesis 3:15 that the seed of the woman—an allusion to the coming Messiah—would defeat the seed of the serpent.

As we look at this first verse there is a bit of a translation problem. It looks like this is a book about genealogy. The Greek: biblos geneseos iesou xristou. What is interesting about this is that that does not necessarily mean the book of the genealogy. If we go to the early part of Genesis, Genesis 2:4, it says, "This is the account of the heavens and the earth." These are the same words in the Greek [LXX] as in Mathew, except that instead of "of Jesus" it is "of the heavens and the earth." The word "account" is probably the best translation. When we compare Matthew 1:1 with Genesis 2:4 we see that Matthew is connecting what he is saying to the background in Genesis. This is to demonstrate the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

So when we read Matthew 1:1 we understand it to be, This is the account, or, This is the history of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. So this is a title for the Gospel. Matthew is going to give an account of Jesus the Messiah who is Jesus the son of David, the son of Abraham.

What is interesting here is the emphasis on David first. He doesn't talk in order and say this is the son of Abraham, the son of David, which is the chronological order; he gives David priority. The phrase "son of David" becomes a title, a messianic title that is used in the Old Testament with reference to the promise God gave to David in the Davidic covenant. So the writer of this Gospel who is writing to the Jews is emphasizing from the very first line the Davidic descent of Jesus. Son of David emphasizes His relationship qualification in the royal line of David. That takes us back to the Davidic covenant given about 1000 BC where God promised an eternal house, an eternal kingdom, and an eternal throne to David. To have an eternal house, an eternal kingdom and eternal throne the person who sits on the throne and rules the kingdom has to be eternal. But this is also a physical descendant of David. Thus embedded within that covenant in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 is the implication that the one who fulfills the covenant is both human as a descendant of David and also divine because He is eternal.

But the Davidic covenant itself is but a fulfillment of the earlier Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant was given approximately 1000 years before the Davidic covenant and is the covenant that sets apart Abraham and his descendants the Jews from the rest of the human race. God promised a land to Israel which was expanded on in the land covenant of Deuteronomy 30, a seed which was ultimately fulfilled through the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7, and then a new covenant which is what Jesus establishes through His death on the cross in Jeremiah 31. So as we look at Matthew chapter one Matthew starts by connecting what he is going to say with the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant first and then the Abrahamic covenant.

There have been a number of attacks upon the virgin birth of Jesus and that is not anything new. It occurred in the Scriptures and in Matthew 13:54-57 when Jesus taught people in the synagogue in the town of Capernaum we read NASB "He came to His hometown and {began} teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where {did} this man {get} this wisdom and {these} miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then {did} this man {get} all these things? And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his {own} household.'" They question Him; they knew His family and His parents. How could He be doing all this? So they were beginning to reject His claims to be the Messiah. The people in Nazareth said in Luke 4:22, "Is this not Joseph's son?" So the Bible tells us that there were these attacks on the parentage of Jesus even during His own time.

After the crucifixion the Sanhedrin put out several rumor-controlled propaganda messages that Jesus' body was stolen from the grave, it wasn't really resurrected. That countered all of the evidence but they were trying to control the information to prevent people from knowing the truth. Another thing they did was claim that Jesus really was illegitimate, that His mother Mary had had an adulterous affair with a Roman soldier. This is cited even in some later sources, even in Jewish sources in the Talmud, to try to discount the claims of the virgin birth.

So how do we refute this? We go to the records, the genealogies, and this is what both Matthew and Luke have done. However there are some problems with that. There are these disagreements and there have been a number of attempts down through the centuries, going back to the early part of the third century as early as 225, to try to explain the differences between these two accounts. As pointed out earlier the problem is that we don't have all of the records today, all of the information, so to a certain degree every position has a certain amount of historical conjecture. But that doesn't mean we can't come to understand truth.

What we know is that both genealogies go to Jesus. This is one of the reasons that there is a bit of a contradiction. How do we explain that? One explanation is that one is a physical line, the other the legal line. The second option is that the Matthew genealogy is to Joseph and the Luke genealogy goes to Mary.

Some of the differences between the two genealogies.

Matthew puts the genealogy in what we might think is the appropriate location, at the beginning. But Luke doesn't include the genealogy until he has had the birth of Jesus, His baptism by John the Baptist. That shows that he is using it for a slightly different reason. 

Luke 3:23 NASB "When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli." Most people believe, based on chronology that He was closer to thirty-four or thirty-five years of age precisely but Luke is making this general statement about the age of thirty because it was necessary to be thirty years of age before serving in any kind of ministry function under the Mosaic Law. So he is simply making the point that Jesus had reached that age, was beyond that age, and in terms of His physical age was qualified to enter into His ministry. [24] the son of Matthat, the son of Levi …" That is different from what is in Matthew. Matthew 1:15 NASB "Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob." There is no Matthan in Luke. Joseph is said to be the son of Eli in Luke 3:23; in Matthew 1:16 he is the son of Jacob. How are we to understand that?

Matthew's line is descending. That is, he starts with David and goes to Solomon, and leave out a number of kings, but it is in descending order. Whereas Luke's is in ascending order. He starts with Jesus and says Jesus is the son of Joseph and take sit all the way back to Adam, and Adam being created by God is called the son of God.  

A second point is that end point for Matthew is Abraham. He doesn't go back beyond Abraham because his point is simply to emphasize the right of Jesus to reign on the throne, that He is the Jewish Messiah. He is writing to a Jewish audience and so he doesn't need to go beyond Abraham. Luke is writing to a Gentile audience with a different focal point and so he wants to relate Jesus to the entire human race.

Third, Matthew stops occasionally to explain the significance of an entry. He has little editorial additions between some of the names; Luke never does that. Matthew structures his according to three groups of fourteen. There is a reason for that in that in one form of Jewish hermeneutics they would assign number values to each letter. So the numeric value of the name David was fourteen. By organizing the genealogy without putting everybody in there in three groups of fourteen, by his organization Matthew is again emphasizing the Davidic relationship of Jesus.

Some people say there are gaps here so that means there are gaps in the genealogies. There are two types of genealogy. There is one that is just tracing lineage and there are gaps. There are other genealogies, like the ones in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11, that insert numbers—that so and so was so many years old when he gave birth and he lived another number of years. Once there are any numbers in there it restricts any absences or skipping over of generations. Those genealogies are closed genealogies but an open genealogy is simply giving enough information to be able to trace the lineage of Matthew.

Another difference is Matthew lists five women, including Mary. These include Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, and interestingly Bathsheba. Bathsheba isn't name though, she is simply called the wife of Uriah.

Matthew's list is must shorter. He has forty-one names. Luke's is longer with fifty-seven names. Most of the names in each list are absent from the other.

So either you end up with the view of many liberal theologians who say they are both making it up and are just trying to put these names in there for some sort of theological agenda, but it is not really grounded in actual fact. If you go that way, of course, you just throw out the Bible; it doesn't matter because it is not teaching anything that is accurate. The other is that these are different genealogies leading in a way to different people.

In resolving the conflict the oldest known view is from an early church father from Africa, known as Julius Africanus. Roughly, his date is about 225 AD. He is cited by Eusebius in ecclesiastical history and this is the oldest attempt to resolve the difference. He said that Matthew provided the natural or physical line of descent from David to Joseph, while Luke provides the royal line of descent from Nathan down to Joseph. In that view both lines go literally and truly to Joseph. We don't think that is the best solution.

There are a number of conservative scholars and Jewish background Christians, messianic Jews, who take this view. The foremost is Alfred Edersheim. They resolve the differences by appealing to the principle of leveret marriage, and that because of Joseph's grandfather who was childless his brother then marries and has a child in his name. This is why, then, there is the difference between Eli and Jacob as the father of Joseph. That is one solution but we don't think it is the best solution.

The other solution is the one that we have probably heard most and the one that many others take. This isn't an issue that is necessarily conservative versus liberal because there are very solid scholars and historians who differ over this. The reason is that we are lacking certain specific historical documentation in order to be absolutely one hundred per cent on either view. We take the second view that the Matthew genealogy is related to the royal descent line down through Joseph but the genealogy in Luke is to Mary. The reason we make an issue out of this is because one of those mentioned in the descent of Joseph is Jeconiah. Jeconiah was one of the last few evil kings in the southern kingdom.

Matt 1:11, 12 NASB " Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel."

The problem here is a passage from Jeremiah known as the Coniah [shortened from Jeconiah] curse. Jeremiah 22:30 NASB "Thus says the LORD, 'Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper Sitting on the throne of David Or ruling again in Judah.'" This means that no one who is a physical descendant of Solomon through Jeconiah would be qualified to be the Messiah.

So as we look at what is going on here in Matthew chapter one and the overall structure of the chapter the focus is on Joseph. He is the emphasis in Matthew. Joseph is the one the angel appears to, the one whose thoughts are described, the one who is responsible for naming the son, Jesus. The focal point is on Joseph, as well as the virgin conception and birth. One of the points that Matthew is making is that Joseph could not be the physical father of Jesus at all. He is not talking about it legally or any other way, but that it cannot be the lineage because of Jeconiah. This is his point: Joseph is not the father of Jesus.

But in Luke chapter three what we see is a slightly different kind of construction at the beginning of verse 23: "When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli." What is interesting is that in every other use of these names in the genealogy of Luke begin with a definite article in the Greek. In English we don't put a definite article before our names. But that was appropriate Greek grammar. The one name in this list that lacks the definite article is that of Joseph, which indicates that he is not talking about Joseph; he is substituting Joseph for his wife's name. Luke omits any mention of a woman in the genealogy. This was standard in Jewish genealogy, descent wad traced through the male. Actually, Eli is considered to be Mary's father. And in some Talmud sources where they are attacking Christianity they refer to Miriam (the Aramaic for Mary) as the daughter of Eli. This helps to resolve this difference.

The last thing to be pointed pout about the genealogy is the reference to women. In Matthew four are mentioned and we see them listed in verses 3, 5, and 6. They were Gentiles. There is a big question mark on Bathsheba. In every messianic Jewish source that I consulted they refer to Bathsheba as a Gentile. In other scholarly sources they say that this is really a statement by Matthew that Bathsheba is treated as a Gentile because she married a Gentile. Then there are others who recognize that, for example, on the basis of passages like 2 Samuel 11:3 she was the daughter of Eliam and that Eliam (2 Samuel 23:34) was the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite. Gilo was a town in the south near Hebron. That is all we know about her lineage. I think that the bets that we can say is that because of her marriage to a Gentile she is treated as a Gentile.

Tamar was married to a son of Judah. Rahab was tainted by immorality. Ruth was not, but she was a Moabitess and the Moabites were descendants of incest between Lot and his daughters. As a result of that there is this taint of immorality with Ruth by virtue of her being a Moabitess. And of course there is Bathsheba who was guilty of adultery with David.

The point of all of this is God's grace. God's grace brings Jesus into the human race and as a result in His human lineage there are those who are not considered to be moral or righteous. They are tainted by acts of immorality and sin, and yet what we see is God's grace is so powerful that He is able to provide a solution that overrides all of human sin and human problems so that he ultimately is able to solve the sin problem through the perfect solution of sending His Son, the eternal second person of the Trinity, to enter into human history to provide salvation not just for Jews but also for Gentiles. We have embedded in the very beginning of Matthew this emphasis on the grace of God, the grace provision of salvation through Jesus, whose name means savior, and who would provide salvation for the entire human race.