It is fairly common knowledge that the Roman Catholic Church does not regard the Bible with the same high esteem as do evangelical Christians. I recently encountered a Catholic apologist who seemed bent on demonstrating that the Bible contains errors and is, therefore, not reliable. In support of his position, he offered what he considered irrefutable proof.
The Question: How about the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew vs. Luke? Seems that there are several more people in Christ's lineage (after Abraham) in one of those chapters vs. the other.
The Response: Woah! There's a zinger for you. This is one of the favored "proofs" many atheists I have encountered like to toss out in their attacks on Scripture. Interesting that a Catholic apologist would make the same argument, don't you agree?
There were sound reasons why Matthew and Luke presented the facts they did in the way they did. Matthew wrote for Jewish readers. In the genealogy provided in the first 17 verses of his Gospel, Matthew furnished them with information to prove that Messiah was directly connected with King David as was foretold in chapter 7 of 2nd Samuel. Just about every Jew would have demanded such proof.
Luke, on the other hand, was not writing for a primarily Jewish readership. He did not begin by providing Messiah's genealogy because it wasn't of great significance to his intended readers. Luke apparently traces the line of Mary all the way back to Adam, which identified Christ with mankind.
In order to properly exegete the Scriptures, it is necessary to understand the culture and times in which they were written. I urge all who read here to spend some time studying Jewish life two millennia ago. If you do, you will find it easier to understand what Jesus and the writers of the New Testament were saying. Jesus and all the Apostles were Jews. They thought like Jews. They were all familiar with the Scripture entrusted to the Jews. A large part of their ministries was to Jews. If you try to receive the words of Scripture as the Jews of the times would have received them, understanding their message will be much easier. An excellent source book for this kind of study is "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah," by Alfred Edersheim, MacDonald Publishing Company, Mclean, Virgina. This excellent resource is also available for reading online.
Now, let's look at the genealogies. Matthew opens his Gospel with the paternal genealogy of Jesus as traced forward from Abraham to Joseph. This would have been of vital importance to the Jewish audience for whom Matthew was writing. As he wrote in Verse 17,
Luke, writing to a different audience, traces his genealogy backwards from Jesus all the way to Adam. Those hoping to discover errors in the Scriptures cleverly point out that the names Luke provides between Abraham and Joseph are quite different from those listed by Matthew. Is this error? Not at all. The two genealogies are easily reconciled if one considers that Luke is providing the genealogy of Jesus' maternal side and Matthew is listing the paternal family tree.
Luke demonstrates that the royal line is passed through Jesus' legal father, and His physical descent from David is established by Mary's lineage. Luke's genealogy differs from Matthew's in that the physician lists no women -- not even Mary. Joseph was the "son of Heli" by marriage. It appears that Heli had no sons of his own and thus is named in Verse 23 as the representative of Mary's generation. Moses himself established the precedent for this sort of substitution in Numbers 27:1-11 and 36:1-12.
A second opinion:
Perhaps the two lists don't contradict one another after all
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