What is the Catholic perspective on the geneology of Jesus?

Recently I have been having discussions with an atheist friend of mine and I’m sad to say that I’m having much trouble in helping him find faith in Christ.

The other day he told me about the contradiction between the genealogies of Jesus in Luke and Matthew, and I have to say that it has really got me confused. The two lists are 30 some generations different and don’t even have that many names in common.

They both can’t be right, so doesn’t this mean that the Bible is simply wrong in at least one place? I know this can’t be true but I don’t know how to explain it.


The Genealogies of Christ

Paraphrased from a talk by Dr. Stephen Ray from Catholic Lighthouse Media titled “Searching the Scriptures: The Gospel of John”

Matthew was writing to a predominantly Jewish Hebrew audience. He portrays Jesus as the new king from the line of King David and his David’s son Solomon. to illustrate Jesus’ royal blood line, Matthew goes right to King David and the father of the Jewish faith, Abraham. “The son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matthew follows Jesus’ bloodline through males as was the Jewish tradition.

**Mark **was Peter’s assistant in Rome and was writing to a Roman audience. Mark portrays Jesus as the suffering servant. Romans respect speed and power an percision and so Mark goes straight to the miracles, one after the other in rapid succession. Slaves and servants were not allowed to have estates, heirs and bloodlines. Slaves and servants were property and everything they owned was owned by the master. Mark therefor does not include a geneology If I remember correctly.

**Luke **was fluent in Greek, writing to a predominantly Greek Gentile audience. Greeks are concerned with beauty and perfection and in Luke you will find out about the beatiful women of the Bible including two whole chapters on Mary. Luke portrays Jesus to the gentiles, who were highly influenced by Greek culture and philosophy, as the perfect man. Luke therefor goes back to the perfect man, Adam, created perfectly by God himself and traces Jesus geneology through beatiful women such as Bathsheba and Mary.

John wrote his Gospel later. John wrote his Gospel to the Church and portrays Jesus as God.

*In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)*That’s it. That’s Jesus’ geneology. Jesus doesn’t have a geneology because Jesus is God - he’s the one who started it all.


The NAB on the USCCB website, has introductions for each book of Sacred Scripture:

Intro to Mark:


Intro to Matthew:


Intro to Luke:


Intro to John:


Fr. Barron comments on the Genealogy of Jesus

One is through Mary’s ancestors, the other through Joseph’s.

We have to understand that even though God is the author of the Bible the he had humans write it . Notice the gospel accounts are not completely identical.

We can only tell another person about OUR faith - they have to find their own way, and they have to accept God’s gift of grace.

The other day he told me about the contradiction between the genealogies of Jesus in Luke and Matthew, and I have to say that it has really got me confused. The two lists are 30 some generations different and don’t even have that many names in common.

They both can’t be right, so doesn’t this mean that the Bible is simply wrong in at least one place? I know this can’t be true but I don’t know how to explain it.

There are a lot of different pieces of this question, but I just want to point out one particular one. You said “they can’t both be right” - but anyone who has done even a modicum of genealogy research knows that is is very common for an individual to be able to trace their ancestry back via two or three different lines to a single ancestor. I have multiple examples in my own family tree of people with whom I have multiple degrees of relationship - and that’s only going back a few hundred years, and not in a culture where people almost always marry within the clan. So yes, the Matthew and Luke versions CAN both be right. And there is more than one possible explanation. So no, we cannot make a dogmatic statement about it - but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

I found this website to be helpful on this topic

The one in Luke could be Mary’s genealogy. The one in Matthew, Joseph’s. However, I am not convinced that Mary’s genealogy is in Luke. Since the line was always through the male. The above link help to reconcile the two.

I was an atheist and would argue with anyone and listen to no one. Your prayers and sacrifices for your friend are important.

The New Testament was written by the Catholic Church. Here’s a link to the book, *Where We Got the Bible *


Jim Dandy

See the Catechism para 105-114.

The genealogies are a common literary form in ancient times. The truth they teach is not about biology/paternity. Yes, the genealogies don’t agree, but the point was not to simply give a human genealogy the way we might today do such research. The point was to convey theological truth.

That’s not the only point of the genealogies. They also convey historical truth, and as pointed out above, the genealogies do not contradict each other.

The Second Vatican Council unhesitatingly reaffirmed the historicity of the Gospels. The Council Fathers did not add, “except for the genealogies, they’re only allegorical.” All other senses depend on the literal sense.See the Catechism paras 116, 126.

Whether the genealogies in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke convey historical information is debatable. Vatican II did not teach that both these genealogies (or either of them) are historically i.e. biologically, accurate.

What teaching of Vatican II are you referring to? Thanks.

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation:

  1. Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold that the four Gospels just named, whose **historical **character the Church unhestiatingly asserts

The genealogies are historically accurate. This is not debatable for a Catholic.

I don’t think the genealogies have any bearing on our salvation. The ‘historicity’ that the conciliar document [Dei Verbum] was concerned with is (a) the actions and (b) the teachings, of Jesus, that were relevant for our salvation If you put historical accuracy emphasis on everything written in the Bible, it just won’t work!

For the sake of clarity, lets read two complementary paras of the aforesaid document again:
In no. 11 we read: “Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully, and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures.”

In no. 19 we read: “Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute certainty maintained and continues to maintain (tenuit ac tenet), that the four Gospels, whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among us, really did and taught for their salvation until the day when he was taken up.”

the Church states and we must accept that the Bible is totally inerrant in all its parts and not just in those parts pertaining to our salvation - it even accurately traces Adam’s ancestory all the way back to God - twinc

Summa Theologica, III, 31, a.3
Article 3. Whether Christ’s genealogy is suitably traced by the evangelists?

Objection 1. It would seem that Christ’s genealogy is not suitably traced by the Evangelists. For it is written (Isaiah 53:8): “Who shall declare His generation?” Therefore Christ’s genealogy should not have been set down.

Objection 2. Further, one man cannot possibly have two fathers. But Matthew says that “Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary”: whereas Luke says that Joseph was the son of Heli. Therefore they contradict one another.

Objection 3. Further, there seem to be divergencies between them on several points. For Matthew, at the commencement of his book, beginning from Abraham and coming down to Joseph, enumerates forty-two generations. Whereas Luke sets down Christ’s genealogy after His Baptism, and beginning from Christ traces the series of generations back to God, counting in all seventy-seven generations, the first and last included. It seems therefore that their accounts of Christ’s genealogy do not agree.

Objection 4. Further, we read (2 Kings 8:24) that Joram begot Ochozias, who was succeeded by his son Joas: who was succeeded by his son Amasius: after whom reigned his son Azarias, called Ozias; who was succeeded by his son Joathan. But Matthew says that Joram begot Ozias. Therefore it seems that his account of Christ’s genealogy is unsuitable, since he omits three kings in the middle thereof.

Objection 5. Further, all those who are mentioned in Christ’s genealogy had both a father and a mother, and many of them had brothers also. Now in Christ’s genealogy Matthew mentions only three mothers–namely, Thamar, Ruth, and the wife of Urias. He also mentions the brothers of Judas and Jechonias, and also Phares and Zara. But Luke mentions none of these. Therefore the evangelists seem to have described the genealogy of Christ in an unsuitable manner.

On the contrary, The authority of Scripture suffices.

I answer that, As is written (2 Timothy 3:16), "All Holy Scripture is inspired of God [Vulgate: ‘All scripture inspired of God is profitable’, etc. Now what is done by God is done in perfect order, according to Romans 13:1: "Those that are of God are ordained [Vulgate: ‘Those that are, are ordained of God’]. Therefore Christ’s genealogy is set down by the evangelists in a suitable order.

. Phares and Zara are mentioned together, because, as Ambrose says on Luke 3:23, “they are the type of the twofold life of man: one, according to the Law,” signified by Zara; “the other by Faith,” of which Phares is the type. The brethren of Jechonias are included, because they all reigned at various times: which was not the case with other kings: or, again, because they were alike in wickedness and misfortune.

…to be con’t…


Reply to Objection 1. As Jerome says on Matthew 1, Isaias speaks of the generation of Christ’s Godhead. Whereas Matthew relates the generation of Christ in His humanity; not indeed by explaining the manner of Incarnation, which is also unspeakable; but by enumerating Christ’s forefathers from whom He was descended according to the flesh.

Reply to Objection 2. Various answers have been made by certain writers to this objection which was raised by Julian the Apostate; for some, as Gregory of Nazianzum, say that the people mentioned by the two evangelists are the same, but under different names, as though they each had two. But this will not stand: because Matthew mentions one of David’s sons–namely, Solomon; whereas Luke mentions another–namely, Nathan, who according to the history of the kings (2 Samuel 5:14) were clearly brothers.

Wherefore others said that Matthew gave the true genealogy of Christ: while Luke gave the supposititious genealogy; hence he began: “Being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph.” For among the Jews there were some who believed that, on account of the crimes of the kings of Juda, Christ would be born of the family of David, not through the kings, but through some other line of private individuals.

Others again have supposed that Matthew gave the forefathers according to the flesh: whereas Luke gave these according to the spirit, that is, righteous men, who are called (Christ’s) forefathers by likeness of virtue.

But an answer is given in the Qq. Vet. et Nov. Test. [Part i, qu. lvi; part 2, qu. vi] to the effect that we are not to understand that Joseph is said by Luke to be the son of Heli: but that at the time of Christ, Heli and Joseph were differently descended from David. Hence Christ is said to have been supposed to be the son of Joseph, and also to have been the son of Heli as though (the Evangelist) were to say that Christ, from the fact that He was the son of Joseph, could be called the son of Heli and of all those who were descended from David; as the Apostle says (Romans 9:5): “Of whom” (viz. the Jews) “is Christ according to the flesh.”

Augustine again gives three solutions (De Qq. Evang. ii), saying: “There are three motives by one or other of which the evangelist was guided. For either one evangelist mentions Joseph’s father of whom he was begotten; whilst the other gives either his maternal grandfather or some other of his later forefathers; or one was Joseph’s natural father: the other is father by adoption. Or, according to the Jewish custom, one of those having died without children, a near relation of his married his wife, the son born of the latter union being reckoned as the son of the former”: which is a kind of legal adoption, as Augustine himself says (De Consensu Evang. ii, Cf. Retract. ii).

This last motive is the truest: Jerome also gives it commenting on Matthew 1:16; and Eusebius of Caesarea in his Church history (I, vii), says that it is given by Africanus the historian. For these writers says that Mathan and Melchi, at different times, each begot a son of one and the same wife, named Estha. For Mathan, who traced his descent through Solomon, had married her first, and died, leaving one son, whose name was Jacob: and after his death, as the law did not forbid his widow to remarry, Melchi, who traced his descent through Mathan, being of the same tribe though not of the same family as Mathan, married his widow, who bore him a son, called Heli; so that Jacob and Heli were uterine brothers born to different fathers. Now one of these, Jacob, on his brother Heli dying without issue, married the latter’s widow, according to the prescription of the law, of whom he had a son, Joseph, who by nature was his own son, but by law was accounted the son of Heli. Wherefore Matthew says “Jacob begot Joseph”: whereas Luke, who was giving the legal genealogy, speaks of no one as begetting.

And although Damascene (De Fide Orth. iv) says that the Blessed Virgin Mary was connected with Joseph in as far as Heli was accounted as his father, for he says that she was descended from Melchi: yet must we also believe that she was in some way descended from Solomon through those patriarchs enumerated by Matthew, who is said to have set down Christ’s genealogy according to the flesh; and all the more since Ambrose states that Christ was of the seed of Jechonias.

…to be con’t…


Reply to Objection 3. According to Augustine (De Consensu Evang. ii) “Matthew purposed to delineate the royal personality of Christ; Luke the priestly personality: so that in Matthew’s genealogy is signified the assumption of our sins by our Lord Jesus Christ”: inasmuch as by his carnal origin “He assumed ‘the likeness of sinful flesh.’ But in Luke’s genealogy the washing away of our sins is signified,” which is effected by Christ’s sacrifice. “For which reason Matthew traces the generations downwards, Luke upwards.” For the same reason too “Matthew descends from David through Solomon, in whose mother David sinned; whereas Luke ascends to David through Nathan, through whose namesake, the prophet, God expiated his sin.” And hence it is also that, because “Matthew wished to signify that Christ had condescended to our mortal nature, he set down the genealogy of Christ at the very outset of his Gospel, beginning with Abraham and descending to Joseph and the birth of Christ Himself. Luke, on the contrary, sets forth Christ’s genealogy not at the outset, but after Christ’s Baptism, and not in the descending but in the ascending order: as though giving prominence to the office of the priest in expiating our sins, to which John bore witness, saying: ‘Behold Him who taketh away the sin of the world.’ And in the ascending order, he passes Abraham and continues up to God, to whom we are reconciled by cleansing and expiating. With reason too he follows the origin of adoption; because by adoption we become children of God: whereas by carnal generation the Son of God became the Son of Man. Moreover he shows sufficiently that he does not say that Joseph was the son of Heli as though begotten by him, but because he was adopted by him, since he says that Adam was the son of God, inasmuch as he was created by God.”

Again, the number forty pertains to the time of our present life: because of the four parts of the world in which we pass this mortal life under the rule of Christ. And forty is the product of four multiplied by ten: while ten is the sum of the numbers from one to four. The number ten may also refer to the decalogue; and the number four to the present life; or again to the four Gospels, according to which Christ reigns in us. And thus “Matthew, putting forward the royal personality of Christ, enumerates forty persons not counting Him” (cf. Augustine, De Consensu Evang. ii). But this is to be taken on the supposition that it be the same Jechonias at the end of the second, and at the commencement of the third series of fourteen, as Augustine understands it. According to him this was done in order to signify “that under Jechonias there was a certain defection to strange nations during the Babylonian captivity; which also foreshadowed the fact that Christ would pass from the Jews to the Gentiles.”

On the other hand, Jerome (on Matthew 1:12-15) says that there were two Joachims–that is, Jechonias, father and son: both of whom are mentioned in Christ’s genealogy, so as to make clear the distinction of the generations, which the evangelist divides into three series of fourteen; which amounts in all to forty-two persons. Which number may also be applied to the Holy Church: for it is the product of six, which signifies the labor of the present life, and seven, which signifies the rest of the life to come: for six times seven are forty-two. The number fourteen, which is the sum of ten and four, can also be given the same signification as that given to the number forty, which is the product of the same numbers by multiplication.

But the number used by Luke in Christ’s genealogy signifies the generality of sins. “For the number ten is shown in the ten precepts of the Law to be the number of righteousness. Now, to sin is to go beyond the restriction of the Law. And eleven is the number beyond ten.” And seven signifies universality: because “universal time is involved in seven days.” Now seven times eleven are seventy-seven: so that this number signifies the generality of sins which are taken away by Christ.

…to be con’t…


Reply to Objection 4. As Jerome says on Matthew 1:8-11: “Because Joram allied himself with the family of the most wicked Jezabel, therefore his memory is omitted down to the third generation, lest it should be inserted among the holy predecessors of the Nativity.” Hence as Chrysostom [Cf. Opus Imperf. in Matth. Hom. i, falsely ascribed to Chrysostom] says: “Just as great was the blessing conferred on Jehu, who wrought vengeance on the house of Achab and Jezabel, so also great was the curse on the house of Joram, through the wicked daughter of Achab and Jezabel, so that until the fourth generation his posterity is cut off from the number of kings, according to Exodus 20:5: I shall visit [Vulgate: ‘Visiting’] the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations.”

It must also be observed that there were other kings who sinned and are mentioned in Christ’s genealogy: but their impiety was not continuous. For, as it is stated in the book De Qq. Vet. et Nov. Test. qu. lxxxv: “Solomon through his father’s merits is included in the series of kings; and Roboam . . . through the merits of Asa,” who was son of his (Roboam’s) son, Abiam. “But the impiety of those three * was continuous.”

Reply to Objection 5. As Jerome says on Matthew 1:3: “None of the holy women are mentioned in the Saviour’s genealogy, but only those whom Scripture censures, so that He who came for the sake of sinners, by being born of sinners, might blot out all sin.” Thus Thamar is mentioned, who is censured for her sin with her father-in-law; Rahab who was a whore; Ruth who was a foreigner; and Bethsabee, the wife of Urias, who was an adulteress. The last, however, is not mentioned by name, but is designated through her husband; both on account of his sin, for he was cognizant of the adultery and murder; and further in order that, by mentioning the husband by name, David’s sin might be recalled. And because Luke purposes to delineate Christ as the expiator of our sins, he makes no mention of these women. But he does mention Juda’s brethren, in order to show that they belong to God’s people: whereas Ismael, the brother of Isaac, and Esau, Jacob’s brother, were cut off from God’s people, and for this reason are not mentioned in Christ’s genealogy. Another motive was to show the emptiness of pride of birth: for many of Juda’s brethren were born of hand-maidens, and yet all were patriarchs and heads of tribes*

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