The Bible Answers Short Questions From Our Readers
Plain Truth Staff
How can I reconcile the two accounts of Christ's lineage as given in Matthew 1 and Luke 3? An agnostic friend of mine says this is a contradiction that proves the Bible is not true. How can I answer him?
God says that there are no contradictions in His Holy Word — that He cannot break His Word (John 10:35). Therefore, when we find something in the Bible that SEEMS to be a contradiction, we know that there is an explanation. Such is the case with this question of the two different genealogies of Christ. There IS an explanation — an explanation that has long been available to those who want SINCERELY to know the truth. Matthew, since he was first writing to the Jews, gave the LEGAL descent of Jesus. This, of course, could only be through Joseph, Luke, on the other hand, was giving the REAL fleshly descent of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38). This could only come through Mary since Jesus was conceived of a virgin and was begotten by God, nor by a physical, human father (Matt. 1:18-25). The proof that Matthew was writing the genealogy from Joseph's side is found in the way Matthew words his genealogy. In Matthew 1:2, it states, "Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren." This same word "begat," meaning to become the male parents of, is used throughout this entire list UNTIL we come to Joseph in verse 16, There, since God the Father, by the power of His Spirit, NOT Joseph, begat Christ, it brings Mary into the picture by saying that she was the one "of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." So even though Mary, being Christ's only human parent, is mentioned, the genealogy is, nevertheless, Joseph's, because she was Joseph's legal wife. Now let us look at Luke's genealogy. At first glance it might appear that this too is a genealogy from Joseph's side because it lists Joseph and says of him that he "was the son of Heli" (Luke 3:23). But Joseph's side has already been given in Matthew, It is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from David to Joseph in this list given in Luke. Joseph's father has already been given as Jacob by Matthew (Matt. 1:16), so how can his father now be given as Heli by Luke (Luke 3:23)? The key to the answer lies in the use of the words "the son" in Luke, If you have a Bible that shows certain words in italics (and if you don't you should at least look at one that does), you will notice that the words "the son" are in italics, as they are throughout the entire list that Luke gives. These words that are in italics are not in the inspired original Greek, but have been added to make the meaning of the Greek clearer in our modern English. Many times these added words DO help clarify; but, unfortunately, many times they CLOUD the meaning and add only confusion. Such is the case with the words the Ion in this chapter. They are not in the original Greek and only DISTORT the true God-intended meaning when they are added. So the correct reading of Luke 3:23 should be "... Joseph, which was of Heli." This then tells us that Joseph was OF Heli, but it does not tell us HOW Joseph was of Heli. Because Joseph's true father has already been given, we now know that the only way that Joseph could be associated with this list is as the son-in-law of Heli — Heli being MARY'S father. The reason that Joseph's name is written instead of Mary's is that no women were ever put on the list, and Luke was allowing Joseph co stand in Mary's place in the list, as he would legally have done anyway since Joseph, through Mary, became Heli's Heir. God says that Abraham (Gen. 12:3; Acts 3:25-26), Judah (Heb. 7:14), David (John 7:42), and others have been the forefathers of Christ. How can we prove from Scripture that Christ WAS of this line? Matthew's genealogy can nor prove it, because Joseph was nor Christ's REAL father. But Luke, giving the REAL genealogy of Christ through Mary, 'Christ's only HUMAN parent, DOES give us absolute, SCRIPTURAL proof chat Christ was of Abraham (v. 34), Judah (v. 33), and David (v. 31). Rather than disprove the Bible and make it contradict itself, these two genealogies, correctly understood, help to PROVE the Bible. and testify to the critic that God's Word is true, exact, and IT MEANS WHAT IT SAYS!
"I was very interested in your answer, in the October issue, to the question asked by a Sunday School teacher of intermediate boys. I have a further question: What about the wars which God permitted His people Israel to wage against the Canaanites? Are these necessary for us to read today? What possible purpose could they serve us in today's world?"
There is indeed a viral purpose for the "war stories" of the Old Testament. Because the lesson of chose events have not been learned, the world faces total extinction at the hands of madmen in high political offices. Let's be frank and ask ourselves: Is God RESPONSIBLE for what occurs on earth — its wars, its suffering, its heartaches and woes? DOES God have the last word — is He the FINAL AUTHORITY in deciding life and death? In punishing warring nations by war? (Deut. 32:29.) YES, HE DOES! Because of man's wickedness — his disobedience to God's laws — God first took away the life of all men except Noah and his family in a world-wide flood. Later, it became necessary for God to exterminate the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their extreme immorality (Gen. 19). God destroyed by intervening supernaturally in the course of nature. Those Sodomites were better off dead than alive! Later, however, God established the nation of Israel and then used this physical nation to carry out such punishment. They acted in that official capacity as ordered by God, as does an executioner of the State today who may have the responsibility of executing the death penalty. The nations on which God ordered these wars — such as the degraded, sinning Canaanites — were committing the most evil deeds that man could imagine, even sacrificing their own children to gods of wood and stone. They practiced every conceivable perverted sexual act. God waited until all physical hope for them was lost before commanding that they should be slain. After Israel rebelled and would no longer listen to God or His prophets, God rejected them and they are not carrying out His work today. Since that time God has used none of the kingdoms of this world as His own Kingdom. Today He may allow various nations to war against each other, but they are of this world and of this time — not the World Tomorrow. Yes, the Bible DOES make sense — if we correctly understand it. ALL the stories and events it describes DO serve the purpose God intends. But we must understand God's overall plan and purpose before it makes sense. It can hardly be expected to make sense if we study it as a series of disconnected "blood and thunder" stories — which is what the typical Sunday School lesson books are. Your SALVATION depends on your understanding and obeying the Bible! If you have not yet received our articles on how to study and understand the Bible, you should write for them immediately.