April 1, 2001 / Volume 1, Issue 4
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Who is Joseph's father? In Matthew 1:16 we read, "And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." However, Luke 3:23 records, "...Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli..." Have we caught the inspired writers in a point of contradiction?
I believe the careful Bible student is likely to conclude that Matthew and Luke present two different genealogies. Following through the genealogies, one will notice that there are some names which are common to both, but also, an great number of differences. Matthew begins at the patriarch Abraham, and works his way to Jesus the Christ. Luke begins at Jesus, and works his way back to Adam. There are two genealogies, with two distinct purposes. Matthew, it appears reveals the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke, presents the genealogy of Mary.
Matthew, penning his gospel with the Jews in mind sets out to establish Jesus' qualifications to be the Messiah through Joseph's genealogy. Thus, beginning with Abraham, he maps the Lord's genealogy through David, and the kings which followed. He presents Jesus royal lineage (through the males) through "...Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus..."
Luke, writes to the Gentiles with a view toward the humanity of Christ. The concept of one being both God and man would seem strange and foreign to those accustomed to Greek and Roman gods. Thus, Luke begins at Jesus, and follows the genealogy of Mary, passing through the patriarchs, ending with the very first man, Adam.
If Luke is tracing the genealogy of Mary, why does he cite Joseph's name? Today, it would be politically incorrect to map a woman's genealogy through her husband, however, in Luke's day, it was proper and correct. Luke follows Mary's genealogy, beginning with the name of Joseph, her husband, Heli's son-in-law (in legal terms, his son by marriage).
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible