I hate to admit, but I am the type of person who actually reads the names of the listed genealogies in the Bible. In the back of my mind I often think, “Oh, that would be a good name to use today” or “Nope, that will never come back in popularity!” Hahaha
Well, if you are like me than you will notice that the genealogies for Jesus listed in Matt. 1 and Luke 3 are very different from each other. Does that mean there is a contradiction in the Bible?
Not at all!
I have a commentary that explains that there are different reasons for listing genealogies in the Bible, including Old Testament, and outside literature. They can serve different functions; familial, legal-political and religious. For example, in the domestic area, social status or birth order may be reflected in the placement in the lineage. In the political and military sphere, the decedents holding office may be the only ones listed. Genealogies are also known as being “fluid”- meaning they are subject to change depending on their purpose. This is technique is termed “telescoping”. This is when names are omitted from the longer list. Unimportant names are left out in order to relate an individual to a prominent ancestor. The Bible writers use this technique, often omitting names to keep multiples of 7. Matthew used the telescoping method to 14 generations (2x7) and Luke gives 21 (3x7). (The poor ancestors who weren’t worthy or famous enough to be listed!)
The purpose for the list is key. Matthew’s purpose was to prove to his Jewish readers that Jesus was the promised Messiah they had been waiting for from the line of David. Reading his list is like reading a list from the Bible Hall of Fame- you can read about many on his list in the Old Testament (some of them were down right evil!). Luke on the other hand had more names. His gospel was not directed to only Jewish believers, but to Gentile Christians as well. So, it makes sense that he would go all the way back to Adam in his genealogy to show that Jews and Gentiles are related with the common father being Adam.
You may be thinking, yea, that makes sense, Anita, but these names are so different! I don’t see many similarities, at all, after David, when comparing the two lists! Joseph even has different dads! Well, there can be a simple explanation for that as well! It could be that Luke traced Christ’s lineage through Mary (since Joseph was the adoptive dad) and Matthew traced it through Joesph. Here’s a site that explains more in-depth if you are interested:
I went to the effort to explain this because I wanted to make a point. What seems like a contradiction at first (biblically speaking), usually turns out to have a logical explanation after a little digging.