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“The gospels give two different genealogies for Jesus. Does that mean God got it wrong or that the Scripture can’t be trusted?”— Tony, et. al
This question arose in no less than three separate conversations in the past month.
Indeed, the disparity between the Matthew account (Mt. 1:1-17) and the Lukan passage (Lk. 3:23-38) has caused no small consternation or dearth of speculative explanations for many years.
The texts do not supply obvious explanations for the differences. This fact does not imply that “God got it wrong” or “that the Scripture cannot be trusted.”
It does indicate that we must be willing to look beyond the particulars of the immediate texts and allow the Bible to say all that it says; i.e., we step back, looking for the deeper message.
To do this, we explore the author’s intent and audience and we read the passages in the context of the entire gospel.
What’s important, is that a cursory glance reveals that the number of generations in each (Matthew has 27; Luke, 42) need not be taken as exact figures. “Son of” can designate a line of descent as well as immediate parentage.
Omissions between some of the kings indicate the lineages show “descent in general.” Attempts to harmonize or to analyze the two lineages scientifically are unsatisfactory and complicated beyond usefulness.
So we turn to intent, audience and context. Matthew’s theme is that Jesus is the promised Messiah, tracing the lineage back to Abraham (see Gen. 12:2f; 18:18) and to David (II Sam. 7:16; Acts 2:30, passim).
This theme unfolds throughout Matthew’s gospel, directed primarily to his Jewish readers. What was promised to Abraham and reflected in the Davidic kingdom was lost in the Exile.
The truest fulfillment of the ancient prophecies is found in Jesus (Mt. 28:17-20).
The view that Luke traced the genealogy through Mary has no merit. Luke goes all the way back to Adam.
Likely writing to a largely Gentile audience, he is concerned with Jesus’ relationship to the whole human race.
Thus, implicit in both texts is the nature of Jesus as both human and divine.
He is fully man and fully God, the fulfillment of Israel’s hope as well as the hope of all mankind (Heb. 1:1-3).
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