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New Testament
Old Testament

What was Joseph's family tree?


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March 07, 2012 10:41PM


In the New Testament, Joseph has two family trees, one in Matthew chapter 1 and one in Luke chapter 3.

In Matthew, Joseph's father was called Jacob (just as the Old Testament Joseph's father was called Jacob), and he was descended from David through the royal line, then the great Zorobabel, son of Salathiel. Matthew 1:17 tells us that there were 14 generations from Abraham to David, from David to Josiah and from Jechonias to Jesus, demonstrating by means of numerology that Jesus was destined for greatness. To do this, he had to ignore 3 kings in the Old Testament and have David in the preceding (as 14) and following (as 1) groups, but not so Josiah. Then, we have no possible way of verifying Matthew's list of Jesus' ancestors from the time of the Exile.

In Luke, Joseph's father was called Heli, without Matthew's parallel to the Old Testament. He was descended from David by a line of commoners, then the great Zorobabel, son of Salathiel. It was, of course, necessary for Salathiel to have a different father, in order to follow a line of commoners back to David, so his father is called Neri. Luke has great men occur in multiples of 7 generations starting from Adam, with: Enoch at 7; Abraham at 21; David at 35; Jesus at 77. He also had other men called Joseph at 42 and 70. To do this, he had to insert his own fictitious people into the Old Testament list: Kainan at 13; Admin at 28. Once again, we have no possible way of verifying Luke's list of Jesus' ancestors after King David. Some Christians explain that Luke's genealogy is not of Joseph, but of Mary, although Luke 3:23 makes it very clear that this was indeed the family tree for Joseph.

Raymond E. Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament) says that neither genealogy is likely to be literally true.