A friend of mine once expressed her main difficulty in reading through the Bible: As soon as she got going, she’d come up against a whole string of “begats.” Daunting –and boring!

I replied that maybe even the begats were interesting, if you took time to scrutinize them. We were studying Genesis in a group then; so I suggested we slow down on Chapter Five’s “begats” and see what would result. Indeed, doing the numbers within them revealed fascinating things!

But we’re talking here about Jesus, so far called “Son of God” in these posts. In becoming “flesh,” He also took on human lineage, with its long listing of fathers and sons and a few mothers thrown in.  And His genealogical record gets interesting, too.

One thing that makes it interesting is the problem with it: Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38 list very different genealogies! What do we do about that?

Me? I ask the hard questions. In my Bible’s margin next to Luke’s genealogy for Jesus, I long ago wrote a big question mark (it’s still there) and filed the difficulty with my “UAQ’s” (UnAnswered Questions) that I store in notebooks or brain till I get my answers.

Usually that takes a while. This one about Christ’s lineage did, although once I had the answer, I wondered why I hadn’t figured it out long before!

What clued me in was R. A. Torrey’s Difficulties in the Bible. As it turns out, the seeming contradiction in lineage actually helps verify the fulfillment of several Bible prophecies.

If you line up Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies, side by side, and move forward in time from Abraham on, you see that everything matches up until after David. Matthew’s account names Solomon next, then his descendants—all in the “royal” line. Luke names a different son of David: Nathan, and then lists Nathan’s offspring—not in the royal line.

This is important, because the Old Testament contains two kinds of prophecy about “the coming King” that also seem to contradict each other. One says He will be a Son of David. The other declares that no descendant in David’s royal line after King Jeconiah (a.k.a. Coniah) will ever sit on the throne of David (Jer 22:28-30). When you really study Christ’s two genealogies, you discover that, as far as fleshly lineage was concerned, He was a descendant of David, but not of Jeconiah.

Matthew (written with the Jewish people in mind) gives Joseph’s lineage. But the genealogy Luke gives isn’t Joseph’s. It’s Mary’s. Mary descended from King David, too, but not in the royal line–in other words, not through Jeconiah. And when you look carefully at the Greek of Luke’s passage, or a literal translation of it, you see that it  says Jesus was “as it was supposed, [the] son of Joseph.” (Because Mary was a virgin, Jesus was not Joseph’s natural son.) Immediately after that it says, “of Heli, of Matthat, of Levi…” etc., going back through Mary’s line to David and beyond, all the way to Adam.

Mary’s line is highly significant, because it shows Jesus was truly a fleshly descendant of David, but not of Jeconiah.

Isn’t it wonderful, how the very things that seem to be “problems,” “difficulties,” “contradictions” in these Bible passages actually turn out to be greater verification of Jesus being indeed the prophesied Messiah (Christ) who will one day return to rule as King over all? Something else to rejoice in while celebrating the birth of the Savior!