Jesus’ Genealogy: A Biblical contradiction

Syed Hashir Ahmad, Student at Jamia Ahmadiyya Canada
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It was famously known amongst the Jews at the time of Jesusas, because of the prophecies foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament that the Messiah and the King of Jews, who would liberate the Jews, would be born in the bloodline of King David. It is recorded in the Old Testament that, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.”(Jeremiah 23:5-6)

As Muslims, we believe that Jesusas was indeed a true prophet. On the contrary, a Christian not only admits that Jesus was from the progeny of Prophet David but rather believes him to be the son of God who atoned for those who believe in him to be their saviour. However, Christians face a huge difficulty when they are asked to prove that Jesusas was indeed from the bloodline of King David. They simply cannot have a straight-forward answer.

The Gospels present two genealogies of Jesus of Nazareth, both claiming that his lineage is directly traced back to David. However, Christians are stuck in a dilemma that forces them to cling to a belief for which they have no foundation. The problem faced by readers of the Gospels when they compare the two genealogies is that there are two different ancestries of Jesus in the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus, son of Joseph, was from the progeny of ‘Solomon son of David’ while the Gospel of Luke indicates that ‘Nathan son of David’ was the forefather of Jesus, son of Joseph.

Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew provides the ancestry from Abraham to Jesus and divides it into three parts, each “allegedly” containing fourteen members. It says, “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.” (Matthew 1:17) 

An easy understanding of Jesus according to Matthew 1:2-16 is:

Abraham to David: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judas, Phares, Esrom, Aram, Aminadab, Naasson, Salmon, Booz of Rachab, Obed of Ruth, Jesse, David the King

From David until carrying away into Babylon: Solomon, Roboam, Abia, Asa, Josaphat, Joram, Ozias, Joatham, Achaz, Ezekias, Manasses, Amon, Josias, Jechonias

From carrying away into Babylon unto Christ: Salathiel, Zorobabel, Abiud, Eliakem, Azor, Sadoc, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, Joseph, the husband of Mary, Jesus

There are a couple of problems with this genealogy of Jesus; first and foremost being that Jesus was never the biological son of Joseph of Nazareth. Christians believe him to be the literal son of God. If he was not the actual son of Joseph, then he could not have any blood relation with King David through Joseph his step-father, which means that he would not be the Messiah the Jews were waiting for according to the Christian understanding. The Christian exegete Matthew Henry states that, “The promise of the blessing was made to Abraham and his seed; of the dominion, to David and his seed. It was promised to Abraham that Christ should descend from him […] and to David that he should descend from him […] and, therefore, unless Jesus is a son of David, and a son of Abraham, he is not the Messiah.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, p. 889) This would mean that Jesus who is the “son of god” in the sight of the Christians was an imposter from the Christian perspective. From an Islamic perspective, it is very clear that Jesusas was a prophet of God and nothing more.

The second and very important argument against this genealogy is that it misses four names from the actual list as per the lineage of David mentioned in chapter 3 of 1 Chronicles. As mentioned above, Matthew has not included three generations between Joram and Ozias in “From David until carrying away into Babylon”. Ahaziah, son of Joram, Joash, son of Ahaziah, and Amaziah, son of Ahaziah. (1 Chronicles 3:11-12). The fourth person missing is Jehoiakim (Eliakim), son of Josias and father of Jechonias. These names, missing from Matthew, are written in verses 11-12 and 15-16 of 1 Chronicles 3 of the Old Testament. To clearly demonstrate, a revised version is presented below:

Abraham to David: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judas, Phares, Esrom, Aram, Aminadab, Naasson, Salmon, Booz of Rachab, Obed of Ruth, Jesse, David the King

From David until carrying away into Babylon: Solomon, Roboam, Abia, Asa, Josaphat, Joram, Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, Ozias, Joatham, Achaz, Ezekias, Manasses, Amon, Josias, Jehoiakim (Eliakim), Jechonias

From carrying away into Babylon unto Christ: Salathiel, Zorobabel, Abiud, Eliakem, Azor, Sadoc, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, Joseph, the husband of Mary, Jesus

This leads to the third argument. The Gospel according to Matthew suggests that there are three sets of fourteen generations, totalling 42. However, he has only presented 41 members. Even if the four missing names are expelled from the list, it is still short of one name to complete the third set. Arthur S Peake, a Biblical scholar, in his commentary regarding the counting, writes, “It contains devices for assisting the memory, e.g. (a) three groups each of fourteen names, though one name is missing from the third group.” (A Commentary on the Bible, p. 701) This proves that even Christian scholars admit this mistake in the New Testament. This leads to a very simple question. Does any Christian in the world even have the right to raise any allegation on the authenticity or on any other concept in the Holy Quran? Furthermore, regarding the missing names, Arthur S Peake writes, “The second group should really have included eighteen names.” (Ibid)

Jesus’ genealogy in Luke

The Gospel according to Luke, on the other hand, presents a completely contradictory ancestry of Jesus Christ. (Luke 3:23-34) The lineage in Luke, which starts with Jesus and goes backward, differs from Matthew from the very beginning. It does not agree with Matthew, even with the father of Joseph, husband of Mary, the supposed grandfather of Jesus. Matthew says he is Jacob, while Luke says he is Heli. Although Luke has not divided it into different sets, it would be far more comprehensible and easily comparable to divide them into groups. The total count of generations according to St Luke is 56, countering the number provided by St Matthew, which adds up to 41.

Jesus’ genealogy according to Luke is:

Abraham to David: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Juda, Phares, Esrom, Aram, Aminabad, Naasson, Salmon, Booz, Obed, Jesse, David the King 

David to the next 14 generations: Nathan, Mattatha, Menan, Melea, Jonan, Eliakim, Joseph, Juda, Simeon, Levi, Matthat, Jorim, Eliezer, Jose 

Unto Jesus: Er, Elmodam, Cosam, Addi, Melchi, Neri, Salathiel, Zorobabel, Rhesa, Joanna, Juda, Joseph, Semei, Mattathias, Maath, Nagge, Esli, Naum, Amos, Mattathias, Joseph, Janna, Melchi, Levi, Matthat, Heli, Joseph, Jesus

According to Luke, Jesus is the descendant of Nathan, son of David, whereas Matthew writes that Jesus’ ancestor was Solomon, son of David. This forces the entire line of descendants to change and creates a complete contradiction. However, to try to remove the criticism, the Christians justify that this ancestry of Jesus written in Luke is in reality the lineage of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and not of Joseph. J Vernon McGee, a Biblical commentator, emphasises this and states, “The rest of this chapter deals with the genealogy of Mary, not Joseph. The genealogy of Joseph is found in Matthew’s gospel. […] Luke’s genealogy is different. […] Luke gives Mary’s story, and this is clearly her genealogy.” (Thru the Bible Commentary, pp. 5770-71) On the other hand, the Gospel of Luke is very straightforward and does not leave behind even a hint that this might not be Joseph’s ancestry. It categorically states, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” (Luke 3:23) There is no mention of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Christian scholars defend their stance by claiming that the Jews never used women in their genealogies and only included men in them. Even if the genealogy was of a woman, they would include their husbands and not the women themselves. This justification effort, however, would not be helpful for the Christians because nowhere in the Gospel of Luke has it been stated or even hinted that this is indeed Mary’s ancestry. At least the hint should be there. The gospel clearly states, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was the son of Heli.” (Ibid) Rejecting the later-born idea of Christians to associate Luke’s genealogy to Mary, Arthur S Peake writes, “The explanation that Luke gives the line of Mary is not found in early Christian writers.” (A Commentary on the Bible, p. 701) In fact, Reverend Alfred Plummer has stated that this solution was first proposed in 1490 CE. He states, “The difference between the two genealogies was from very early times felt to be a difficulty […] and it is probable that so obvious a solution, as that one was the pedigree of Joseph and the other the pedigree of Mary, would have been very soon advocated, if there had been any reason (excepting the difficulty) for adopting it. But this solution is not suggested by anyone until Annius of Viterbo propounded it, c. AD 1490.” (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary of the Gospel According to St Luke, p. 103)

Arthur Peake further denounces the false notion, which Christians present to defend the gospels, that Jews never used women in their genealogies by using Matthew’s genealogy which gives few names of women as well. He writes, “Mt, while he proclaims Jesus the son of David, introduces into the pedigree four women. […]” (A Commentary on the Bible, p. 701) The names of those four women are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah).

This means that the women’s names were used in the genealogies and these attempts by Christian missionaries to prove otherwise are just futile.

As mentioned, it was quite famous amongst the Jews that Christ would be born in the house of David. However, their uncertainty arose regarding the question as to which son of David he would be from. Some suggested that he would be from Solomon’s seed, while some indicated that he would be from Nathan’s progeny. An exegesis edited by Rev JR Dumelow states, “Both genealogies reflect current rabbinical ideas about the Messiah’s descent. It was disputed, for instance, whether He would be descended from David through Solomon, or whether, owing to the curse on this line (Jer 22:28; 36:30), through another son, Nathan (1 Ch 3:5). Accordingly, St Matthew’s genealogy traces our Lord’s descent through Solomon, St Luke’s through Nathan.” (A Commentary on the Holy Bible, p. 623) This proves that there are clear and visual contradictions in the bible.

Although these genealogies in Matthew and Luke may have been beneficial for Christians over centuries, Jesus did not have them to prove his sonship through David. In fact, Jesus destroys, by denying that Christ has to be a descendant of David, all the hard work of Matthew and Luke and the efforts of the Christian missionaries who are diligent in proving Jesus’ link to David. It is recorded in the Bible that when the “Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, ‘What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?’ They say unto him, ‘The son of David’. He saith unto them, ‘How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?’ And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:41-46)

Jesus whom the Christians claim to be their lord and saviour and son of god destroyed and wrecked any hope that Christians had with his own words. It is mentioned in their holy scripture that the Messiah born to the line of David would be the Lord and Savior of the Jews. Jesus, not being from the line of David, denied Messiah to be from the progeny of David thus denying that their lord and saviour has yet come.

The fact is that the current gospels have various contradictions. They cannot be attributed to God at all. The only book worthy of being attributed to God in this day and age is the Holy Quran. It itself claims that لَا‭ ‬رَيْبَ‭ ‬فِيْهِ (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.1: V.3) that there is no doubt in it, something that the gospels never got to claim. In fact, Arthur Peake writes that, “The genealogies warn us not to worship the letter of Scripture. They were the best the time could produce, and we must not expect more.” (A Commentary on the Bible, p. 701)

Some Christians try to point out so-called “distortions” in the Holy Quran. However, on the contrary, it is the Bible that has witnessed changes in its text and in its spirit. It is proven that not only is their scripture filled with distortions, but even the prophecies they implement in favour of Jesus have been denied by their own scholars, such as the prophecy of the Messiah being from the progeny of King David.

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