The Genealogy of Jesus (Lk 3:23-38)

The Genealogy of Jesus.*

23q When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age. He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,r

24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,

25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,

26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,

27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,s

28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,

29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,

30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,

31t the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,*

32 the son of Jesse,u the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,

33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,v the son of Judah,w

34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,x the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,

35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,

36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,y the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,

37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,

38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam,z the son of God.


Spiritual – the Son of God

Sometimes I think it’s very important for us to remember that when the Scriptures were written, there were no chapter numbers or chapter divisions or even verse numbers; The Scriptures were not divided into pericopes when they were written.  Each book of the bible was written essentially as a long, continuous stream of text.  There’s no doubt that including chapters, and pericopes and giving us verse numbers is very, very helpful.  But sometimes these divisions can change how we see the scriptures.  I think this is one of those times when dividing the text into sections does us a bit of a disservice.  In my humble opinion, the genealogy is best read if we still have ringing in our ears the Father’s proclamation from the previous pericope: “you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

For many people, the genealogies are dry, and uninspiring.  They seem to be just a long, continuous stream of strange names.  By the time we get to the end, we might think “whew; glad that’s over.”  But I suggest that you read the genealogy one more time but with two differences.  First, notice the term “the son of” in the genealogy.  It’s in there 77 times (okay, the first one is “the son, as what thought, of”, but it counts too).  Remember, in ancient Jewish thought seven is a perfect number.  Second, before you read it, try to really get the Father’s proclamation “you are my beloved Son” firmly ringing in your ears.  Now, read it again and notice how it resoundingly declares a line of sons.

In verse 38 we read “Adam, the son of God”, and he is the first in the line of sons.  Isn’t it conspicuous that Luke calls Adam the son of God?  Luke draws a parallel between Jesus, the Son of God and Adam, the son of God.  But why? Luke is preparing us to recognize Jesus as the new Adam.  However, whereas through Adam, all of humanity was implicated in the original sin and fall from Grace, conversely all of humanity will be saved in Jesus.

This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but in the next pericope (in Chapter 4) we will read about the temptation of Jesus.  Adam was tempted in the Garden; Jesus in the desert.  If we remember that all of creation, not just man, was wounded by the fall, then we can see the dessert as a wounded garden.  St. Paul drives this home when he explicitly teaches about Christ as the new Adam in his first letter to the Corinthians: “… it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being,’ the last Adam a life-giving spirit.” (1 Cor 15:45).

Literary – Why does Luke’s Genealogy Differ from Matthews?

When we compare the genealogy in Luke to the genealogy given in the Gospel according to Matthew we see more than a bit of a difference.  Recall that when we covered The Return to Nazareth in Luke Chapter 2 we said that scholars agree that Luke was written for non-Jews and Matthew was written for Jews.  This difference is strikingly evident in the genealogies.  Matthew’s genealogy is extraordinarily Jewish in character.  It lists three sets of fourteen generations; it begins not with Adam, but with Abraham; it lists four women of special circumstances, thus preparing the reader for Mary’s role in the life of the Messiah.  When we address Matthew Chapter 1, we’ll open up the symbolism in that genealogy in greater detail.

If we continue to look closely at the genealogies we notice that they don’t match, not at all, from Joseph to the son of David.  Recall that when we discussed the meaning of “firstborn” in The Birth of Jesus in Luke Chapter 2 we again compared the Gospel according to Matthew with the Gospel according to Luke and we noted that for the Jews, it is the law, not genetics that defines lineage.  However, in the Greek world lineage is determined by genetics, and Jesus is not the genetic son of Joseph.  Not all, but some scripture commentaries explain that Luke lists Mary’s genealogy instead of Joseph’s.  But wait!  You might say, Luke clearly says Joseph is the son of Heli.  Doesn’t that tell us that he is tracing Joseph’s lineage and not Mary’s.  Well, not exactly.  Greek has no word for son-in-law.  So, if Heli is the father of Mary, then her husband, Joseph would be called his son.


Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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