In this week's portion, Luke gives an elaborate genealogy of Yehoshua straight from Adam through Abraham and David. Matthew's Gospel on the other hand starts with Yehoshua's genealogy from Abraham. Evidently, this was very common in the first Century to show the family pedigree. This trend has gained popularity in recent years with more people trying to find out more about their family tree. In Israel, this went beyond mere curiosity and interest. There are Jews today who trace their descent from the Cohanim and Levi and in most synagogue, they receive special recognition.
There are several reasons why the genealogical records were kept in ancient Israel;
1. Land ownership
2. Levitical Service and more importantly the Cohanim from the House of Aaron
3. Kingship from the House of David.
Out of these I believe the most important is obviously land ownership. This affected the family's survival and economic standing in the community. In ancient Israel, it was a real problem if one could not prove his ancestry. Claim to land ownership could only be established if it was apportioned to your family by Yehoshua Ben Nun and the first generation in Israel. Even after property had changed hands over the years, according to Torah, every 50 Years during the Yovel, the land returns to its original owners except inside a walled city.
The land is not to be sold with any finality, because the land belongs to me... grant the right of redemption for the land. Lev 25:23 - 24
If he’s not able to redeem it back for himself... In the jubilee, it is to be returned so he may return to his property. Lev 25:28
After the Babylonian Exile, we find some families who couldn't find their genealogical records to prove that they were Israelites and even some Cohanim.
And these...could not tell their fathers’ houses, and their seed, whether they were of Israel...These sought their register, that is, the genealogy, but it was not found; therefore were they deemed polluted and put from the priesthood. And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim. Ezra 2:59-63
To show Yehoshua's genealogical record demonstrates his right to an inheritance as well as being in the Davidic line for the throne. Both Mathew and Luke take the time to show His right to claim both the Kingship and Messiahship based on His family line. They intend to show their audience that Yehoshua is the promised Messiah, the son of David the King of Kings. The obvious question that any casual reader would ask is;
Why are the two genealogies different?
If these are for the same person, why do they have two different grandfathers?
What son of David is the Messiah a descendant from?
and on and on and on.
Various theories have been put forward that seek to explain this conundrum. One of the more prominent theory is that Matthew's account follows the genealogy of Joseph, while Luke's follows the genealogy of Mary. Others just dismiss the whole exercise as an invention for theological purpose intended to bring the Messianic claims into conformity with Jewish criteria.
I refuse to believe that either Mathew or Luke are using smoking mirrors in order to dupe their audience. Their first century audience would have been familiar with these families and would have publicly called them out on the delusion. The scandal would have come down to us and discredited the Ministry of Yehoshua completely. Therefore we have to come up with a better explanation.
Comparing the two genealogies side by side, it is obvious that Mathew is not giving us a complete list. For example, he omits three consecutive kings - Ahaziah, Jehoash, and Amaziah, and the brothers - Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. These men were wicked and "did what was evil in the sight of Yehovah". By omitting these names, Matthew clearly indicates that they were blotted out by Yehovah and were not counted among Yehoshua's forefathers.
The LORD won’t forgive such a person. Instead, the zealous anger of the LORD will blaze against him. All the curses that were written in this book will fall on him. Then the LORD will wipe out his memory from under heaven. Deut 29:20 (ISV)
Mathew then doubles down by stating that
So all the generations from Abraham to David totaled fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon totaled fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah there were fourteen generations. Matt 1:17 (ISV)
Counting the generations creates another issue - they don't add up. There are only 13 generations from the deportation to Babylon to Yehoshua. You would think that Matthew would count first before making such a bold statement - unless something else is going on.
The key to understanding the problem with the count is in the name Joseph. Who was Joseph? The obvious answer is that he was the legal father of Yehoshua the husband of Mary. However, this was a very common name and we find more than one person with this name. Luke names 3 in his genealogy besides this Joseph (Luke 3:24, 26, 30). So, what if Mary married a man named Joseph, who was the adoptive father of Yehoshua, but also had a father whose name was Joseph. This would resolve this dilemma and give us the 14 generations that Matthew clearly stipulates.
Now where do we find the Hutzpah to make such an invention? It clearly looks fudged. Well, when we examine the original texts of the Book of Matthew, there is evidence of this being the original reading .According to Papias of Hierapolis (70-130 A.D.):
Matthew put the logia in an ordered arrangement in the Hebrew language, but each translated it as best he could.
The following manuscript dating back to 1576-1600 AD, found in Italy is now available to view on-line inside the digital library of Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford. On this page, we find the Joseph mentioned in Matthew 1:16 is NOT the husband of Mary but Yoseph abi Miryam which is Joseph father of Mary
A second witness is a different manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew from a Hebrew manuscript dating back to 15th-16th century AD, originally from Italy and also reads Yoseph abi Miryam.
We can now show that Matthew has14 generations from the captivity in Babylon until Yehoshua, as it should be according to Matt 1:17.
With this in mind, we can then conclude that Matthews genealogy is that of Mary the mother of Yehoshua and Luke's gives the legal line from His adoptive father Joseph.