Who was Joseph’s father, Jacob or Heli?

Posted on Dec.28, 2008. Filed in Matthew, Luke. Average rating: 5.7 / 10 (Rate It).

Both Matthew and Luke give Jesus geneaology, tracing back his lineage through the generations. It is not long, however, before the genealogies diverge. In fact, taking Jesus as the first generation, the genealogies disagree by the third.

In Matthew, the genealogy begins with Abraham and ends with Jesus. As it closes, we are told that the father of Jesus was Joseph, and the father of Joseph was Jacob:

… and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. [Matthew 1:16 (NRSV)]

In Luke, the genealogy is ordered in reverse, beginning with Jesus and running through Abraham all the way to Adam and thence to God. As it opens, we are told that the father of Jesus was Joseph, and the father of Joseph was Heli:

Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli… [Luke 3:23 (NRSV)]

So who was Joseph’s father, Jacob or Heli?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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  1. 1

    Amtiskaw rightly asked for some consistent way of breaking up the genealogy into 14s

    I responded with the 3 groups of 14 shown above, but this was my reason for making the splits in the groups as shown:

    “But shouldn’t Matthew have included Jehoichin/Jeconiah as the last king?”

    “No. Jehoichin/Jeconiah is the cursed King. The LORD cursed him by sending him into captivity. He belongs with the Captives, not the Kings.”

    “Also, like David, Jehoichin/Jeconiah is a transitional figure. He takes us from the Kings to the Captives. Likewise David takes us from the Fathers to the Kings. Matthew puts the transitional figures with the earlier sequences.”

    Thankfully, I am not claiming inerrancy about my own claims, since this is clearly a total hash.

    I still adhere to the idea that the second group of 14 ends with Jehoiakim rather than Jeconiah, while the third group begins with Jehoichin/Jeconiah. I also still don’t think this represents an error because I think that that breaking point was mangled in the copying process, not in the original autograph.

    But the reasons I gave for splitting the genealogy at Jehoiakim and Jehoichin are clearly contradictory and involve special pleading.

    Yes, Jehoichin was cursed, but so was Jehoiakim, why not include both with the captives then?

    The transitional figures, David and Jehoichin, were not _both_ included with the earlier sequences. Jehoichin was included with the later sequence (as I argued he should be but one sentence earlier).

    Ach! What a mess I’ve made!

    I will make one more effort for now, before admitting that I’m stumped.

    We might still argue, based on their transitional status, that Davd belongs with the Fathers and Jehoichin with the Captives. The rationale, then, is that the ‘Royal’ section of the genealogy contains only individuals who were born as princes and died as kings. Neither David nor Jehoichin satisfy that criterion.

  2. 2

    I never thought I’d be coming back to this one. But I was rereading this recently and realized that I had been a complete dolt about the 14-14-14 thing. Matthews genealogy is perfectly correct in counting the generations as he lists them. There is no need at all to imagine some kind of Jehoichin/Jehoikim confusion in the transmission of the genealogy.

    Matthew starts with Abraham and ends with Jesus. He identifies two delimiters in the intervening generations: David and the deportation to Babylon. Notice he does not identify the breaking points as David and Jehoichin. There are 14 generations that start with Abraham and end with David. There are 14 generations that start after David and end with the deportation. And there are 14 generations that start after the deportation and end with Jesus. Jehoichin is a member of the second and third 14s because his life started before the deportation, but ended after.

  3. 3

    There apparently was no known word for inlaw in Greek or Hebrew. Luke used Heli who was Mary’s father (and Joseph’s father in law) and traced Christ’s lineage to Nathan, David’s son

    Matthew uses Jacob, who was Joseph’s father, to trace Christ’s lineage to Solomon.

    Hope this clears up the confusion.

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