Bible Question:

Why are the genealogies in Matthew and Luke different? Matthew lists Joseph's father as Jacob. Jacob was Joseph's biological father. Luke lists Joseph as the son of Heli. I heard the original Greek basically means son-in-law (when referring to Heli). That would make Heli Mary's father, and the rest of the genealogy is still traced back to King David. I am guessing a genealogy through the mother was considered unusual in those times. Doe the original Greek mean son-in-law?

Bible Answer:

The gospels of Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17) and Luke (Luke 3:23-38) record the genealogy of Jesus in different orders and seek to accomplish different purposes. In the following table Luke 3:34-38 are ignored since it includes ancestral fathers before Abraham.

Genealogies of Joseph and Mary Are Compared

The Purposes of The Genealogies?

The gospel of Matthew explains the purpose of the genealogy of Jesus in the opening statement, “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). That is, the purpose of the genealogy is to demonstrate that Christ was in the royal line from King David and a descendant of Abraham. This established one the messianic credentials of Christ. This was the first of many proofs that show Jesus is the Christ.

Luke’s genealogy is designed to show us that Jesus was a descendant of Adam (Luke 3:23, 38). He was indeed human and was the Son of Man.

How Are The Genealogies Different?

It is clear the two genealogies are different after King David. Matthew’s genealogy continues with Solomon and Mary’s genealogy continues with Nathan. Both men were sons of king David (2 Samuel 5:13-14). Both genealogies trace the royal line from King David to Joseph and to Mary.

Matthew records Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph while the gospel of Luke records Jesus’ genealogy through Mary’s father, which is Jesus’ grandfather. The length of the genealogies are different because many generations are selectively skipped. Matthew includes forty-two names and Luke includes seventy-seven names. However, the genealogies are not exhaustive. It was common for genealogies to skip many generations.

The genealogy in Matthew is divided into three sections. Each section contains seven ancestral fathers. The section starts with Abraham and ends with King David. The next section begins with King David and ends at the deportation and the last continues to the time of Christ. The first section reminds us of the formation of the nation of Israel. The second section reminds us to Israel’s days of glory and the last section reminds us of a need of a Savior and King.

Was Eli Joseph’s Father?

Now why does Mary’s genealogy start in Luke 3:23? Luke starts Jesus’ family tree with his grandfather – Heli – Mary’s father.” The original Greek of this passage has two important commas. These commas appear around the phrase “being supposedly the son of Joseph.” A better translation of the Greek could go something like this,

“And Jesus Himself was beginning about thirty years of age
being the son (as was supposed of Joseph) of Eli.” Luke 3:23

The original Greek does not say Jesus was the son of Joseph. In fact if we delete the parenthesis, the passage would read like this,

“And Jesus Himself was beginning about thirty years of age
being the son of Eli.”

The parenthesis is a clarification for the reader’s understanding. Additionally, Joseph name in Luke 3:23-38 is the only name that does not have the definite article. This would suggest that the inclusion of his name in the list is unusual. Mary’s name was not included, but her father’s name was since this was typical of Jewish genealogies. The conclusion is that our God has not left us to wonder about the father of Christ.. The Jewish Talmud tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is said to be “the daughter of Heli.”[1]

Matthew emphasizes the legal and Mary emphasis the physical. Matthew shows how Jesus can claim to be the Messiah by being a descendant of King David through Joseph. Luke shows us how Jesus is a flesh and blood descendant of King David through Mary. He was also the Son of Man.


Matthew and Luke both tell us that Joseph was not the physical father of Jesus (Matthew 1:16 and Luke 3:23). Both Matthew and Luke tell us the Holy Spirit caused the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:20 and Luke 1:34-35). Matthew 1-2 is more focused on Joseph and Luke 1-3 is more focused on Mary. Jesus was virgin born. Jesus is the legal and physical descendant of King David as the prophecies foretold. Jesus is the Messiah. He is the Savior of the world. Praise God!



1. Haghigha 77.4.

Suggested Links:

Joseph’s Genealogy
Mary’s Genealogy
Genealogical Chart: Adam to Jesus
What do we know about the life of Joseph?