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 even the begats might be interesting, if you take the 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, the Christ Child, “Son of God.” That’s His (heavenly) lineage. But His human 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 give two different genealogies! What do we do about that?
Some people say, Aha! See, the Bible contradicts itself! Some people just hide from issues like that. I’ve learned instead to ask the hard questions and wait patiently for their answers. In my Bible’s margin next to Luke’s genealogy for Jesus, I long ago wrote a big question mark 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! What finally clued me in was R. A. Torrey’s Difficulties in the Bible. It turns out, the seeming contradiction in lineage actually helps verify the fulfillment of Bible prophecy!
Line up Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies, side by side (Mt 1:1-6; Lk 3:23,31-34), and move forward in time from Abraham on (which means in Luke you have to start with verse 34 and backtrack), and you see: Everything matches up until after David. Matthew’s account names Solomon next, then his descendants – all in the historically “royal” line. Luke names a different son of David – Nathan – and then lists Nathan’s offspring – not in the historic 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). Christ’s two genealogies reveal that, in fleshly lineage Christ, the “seed of the woman, did descend from David, but not from Jeconiah.
Matthew (written with the Jewish people in mind) gives Joseph’s lineage. Luke gives Mary’s. A literal translation of Luke’s passage, says Jesus was “as it was supposed, [the] son of Joseph.” (If Mary was a virgin. Jesus was not Joseph’s natural son.) Immediately after that it names “Heli, of Matthat…” etc., going back through Mary’s line to David and beyond, all the way to Adam.
How significant Mary’s line is, showing Jesus as 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 verify Jesus as indeed the prophesied Messiah (Christ), born of a virgin – Messiah who will one day return to rule as King over all? Something else to rejoice in while celebrating the birth of the Savior!
[Edited, from the archives]
Seeking the Christ Child (in the Old Testament)
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I am searching for prophecies and foreshadowings of the Christ child, book by book. I plan to post (nearly) every weekday (leaving myself some margin) a short peek at some hint or promise of the coming baby who would make all the difference. Like the wise men, I’ll be Seeking the Christ Child, but in Old Testament promises and foreshadowings, and sharing what I find. I hope you’ll join me, because if it turns out as rewarding as the past spring’s pre-Easter explorations, this focus could make this one of the richest, most blessed Christmas seasons yet.
Previous posts in this series: