coffee talk: jesus’ family tree

I’ve got a theology question.

Now don’t run away because you don’t feel qualified to talk theology. I’m not looking for expert advice. I’m looking for honest thoughts. And I know you have those to give me. So I hope you will.

The New Testament starts out with the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.

I’ve heard that referred to countless times to show the legacy of those in Jesus’ ancestry: Abraham’s great faith, David’s man-after-God’s-own-heart-ness, Solomon’s wisdom. I’ve also heard it used to show the unlikely characters that God used in Jesus’ family tree, like Rahab the prostitute and Bathsheba the adulterer.

I love all that.

But this is where I get hung up: The genealogy ends with “…Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

That’s Joseph’s family tree. And Joseph, while Jesus’ earthly dad, wasn’t His biological father. Jesus comes from Mary’s bloodline, but not from Joseph’s.

So how can Joseph’s ancestors be listed as Jesus’ family tree?

Any thoughts?


41 Responses to “coffee talk: jesus’ family tree”
  1. Tonggu Momma says:

    I’m not exactly sure, Alece. I do believe that some believe that Luke 3 records Mary’s genealogy, even though Joseph is listed. If Mary’s father only had daughters, it would be typical for them to include a son-in-law to preserve the lineage.

    And, in terms of including Joseph’s lineage, I can only guess that God wanted to follow the standards of tribal inheritance. I’m thinking perhaps there were no rules or allowances for a virgin birth. You know, cuz it was a once-in-forever happening.

  2. @ngie

    Jesus was adopted. Adoption is a powerful tie. Actually, in that time, the adopted son received a better inheritance than the biological son because the adoptive parents chose the adopted son.

    This blood line was so strong in the heart of Jesus that he refers to himself as the Son of Man more than he does the Son of God. He is 100% human, and his genealogy ‘proves’ it.

    Which then leads us to consider our adoptive status as co-heirs with Christ (see Romans 8).

    As a side note, Joseph is the focus of the Luke 3 genealogy as well; it just goes in the other direction.

  3. Heidi


    She NAILED it!!!

  4. nature v nurture

    where does the legacy lie?

  5. Jospeh raised Jesus alongside Mary. That legacy would be in everything he did and taught Jesus. And he was his earthy father, even if not by bloodline.

    Sounds like a question for Annie!

  6. annie says:

    Haha! Hi Danielle!

    I think Angie’s answer is better than mine.

    I don’t have an answer, really, but ideas. (Great question, by the way!) Jesus was the Son of God spiritually, but He was born, raised, and lived as a son of man (this is tying in to what Angie said). I would want to talk to someone who understood how the Jews see lineage, and who also knows Jesus – I think they could possibly shed the most light on this. I do know that in Jewish tradition (as in most cultures when you go back far enough) the man’s name was something ben something. His name, son of, father’s name. So His entire life Jesus would have been called Yeshua ben Yosef. (Adoption fits SO well, Angie!!) So even though Jesus was the Son of God – He lived His life as the son of Joseph. And He would have continued His father’s name and line (had He not been the Son of God). Come to think of it, though, it seems that according to the way those in bible times thought – the point of having a lineage to carry on your name (through children) was so that your name wouldn’t be forgotten. So … in that, Jesus did continue the family name. Everyone that knows the name of Jesus knows the name of Joseph as well. Hmmm. Even without natural children. :) That’s cool.

  7. gitz says:

    I’m not going to pretend to be smart enough to know the answer to this. But in my own logic I would say that love is greater than any blood line.

    I look at the friends in my life that I have chosen to be my family. I surround myself with people who instill good things in me and bring out the best in me. That, in turn, causes me to shower that love and good nature into other people… it is passed on, passed down, shared… not because we share blood but because we share values and faith and love.

    Jesus came from and was the epitome of love… because He was God… and because he had the loving example of a man who came from an ancestry of love and noble deeds. Joseph learned to be a good man from those who influenced him, which brought him to the place where he could be the man who cared for his wife and son and instilled that love into the man of Jesus. That love was just as important in creating the human man as any bloodline.

  8. I was going to talk about adoption as well…I see it’s already been said!

  9. Michelle says:

    So many great thoughts.

    Angie, Annie, Gitz…good stuff.

    Thanks for making me think, Alece.

  10. Katie says:

    It’s because the of the importance of the birthright. In OT times, the son that got the blessing got the double portion of the father’s goods. Whomever got the birthright got the responsibility of caring for the women and children who had no husband/father to care for them. Usually, they went to the same son, so that the son with the responsibility also received the means to fulfill that responsibility. But no matter what, the lineage of Jesus went through the birthright. As @ngie said, Jesus was adopted as Joseph’s son. This was important, because it gave Jesus the birthright… the right and responsibility for caring for his family and continuing the kingship that was promised to David, forever. If Joseph had no received the birthright from his father… then Jesus would not have been carrying on the same kingly birthright that was promised to David. Joseph’s other brother (if there was such a person) would have it instead, and Jesus couldn’t have fulfilled the prophecies he did!

  11. Katie says:

    Oh… and BTW… this is why Jesus turned the responsibility for caring for his mother over to John at the cross.

  12. alece says:

    everyone’s inputs have been so insightful. thanks, guys!

  13. Wow!!! There is really nothing else to say :) But, I will add on to Annie’s thought about Jewish culture….

    The family name is sooooo important, that even when a husband dies the widow is to be taken by the brother as his new wife. The first born son is then to be called by the deceased brother/ex-husband’s name, just to preserve that name and line. Name’s mean everything to the Jewish people, so including Joseph in the genealogy would also be to preserve the name (as Annie said with Jesus being Ben Josef.)

    I could go on and on, but I won’t for all our sanity, but there is so much tie in to the Jewish culture with that one…. I think.

    Great thought-provoking question!!!

  14. Bonnie says:

    These are some great points. I’d honestly never made the tie-in on adoption. Gave me something to think about! Thank you for that. One other theory I’ve heard mentioned by teachers and pastors in the past is that somewhere along the line Mary would have been related to Joseph anyway and women couldn’t be “counted” or named for that kind of thing if there was a man available to be named for her so they would have referenced Joseph because he was the “accepted” father of Jesus for all human references. I’m sure I could have worded that better but… my memory is a but fuzzy on the whole explanation anyhow.

  15. jaceinafrica08 says:

    this was good, i’ve never thought of this before.

    i am gonna dig in now though :)

  16. tam

    holy cow! i got to annies comment, read through – and wow!

    angie and annie = awesome!

    thank you so much for that.

    i love all the thoughts really.

    my personal thought on it was one of Gods favor poured onto Joseph and his family.

  17. Matthew’s main audience he was writing to were the Jews. His goal was to show Jewish people that Jesus was the messiah.
    To be the messiah you had to meet some pretty strict requirements even before becoming an adult. One was you had to be born in one small village named Bethlehem. This is probably why Matthew focuses so much on the birth of Christ compared to say Mark or John. Jews would know Micah 5:2 and make the connection.
    Jesus also had to be in the line of David. Jews were a male-focused society (as most/many are). A genealogy through a woman didn’t work too much I don’t think back in the day. So Joseph as husband to Mary provided the relation Jesus needed to be part of the line of David even though he was not Jesus’ biological dad. But in any case I think (could be wrong but I think) Mary can be traced back to David too.
    But anyway to end this the genealogy was very intentional and important in verifying Jesus’ lineage and therefore his claim to messiahship.

    Hope this is helpful.

  18. Sydney's Mom - Rachel says:

    I think Mary and Joseph were on even ground as the earthly parents of Jesus. It was immaculate conception. God didn’t use Joseph’s sperm. And I don’t think He used Mary’s egg either. Jesus was born of God. Yes, she carried Him in her womb, but the Life was brought by the Holy Spirit. I don’t have any biblical or theological basis for this, but it just makes sense to me.

  19. Sydney's Mom - Rachel says:

    I think Mary and Joseph were on even ground as the earthly parents of Jesus. It was immaculate conception. God didn’t use Joseph’s sperm. And I don’t think He used Mary’s egg either. Jesus was born of God. Yes, she carried Him in her womb, but the Life was brought by the Holy Spirit. I don’t have any biblical or theological basis for this, but it just makes sense to me.

  20. Maybe you already addressed this, but why is your blog separating comments now? It is kind of confusing me. I am confused a lot these days. In other news, I don’t know why to your question, but I am leaning towards what everyone else said. Nope…no original thoughts from me today.

  21. alece says:

    i think the new comment system looks jacked up in internet explorer. i wonder if that’s what you use.

    maybe i’ll ickshnay it.

  22. DREW!!!…..????????

    Oh snap. He’s asleep…

  23. alece says:

    “oh snap.”

    that made me chuckle, friend.

  24. No, I am in firefox. It’s none of my business what your comments look like. :)

  25. alece says:

    it IS your business. i want to know this kinda stuff. i’m glad you told me!

  26. I have not much to add to what has already been said here, but this from Wikipedia on Virgin Birth…

    ‘And some point to the curse upon Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:30) as evidence of God’s miraculous working,[22] saying that only by a virgin birth could Jesus have Joseph as a legal father, inheriting the promises through David, while avoiding the curse through Jechoniah that none of his descendants would prosper and sit on the throne of David [23]‘

    Good Q Leesh! :-)


  27. alece says:

    hmmm… i’ll have to look that up in jeremiah.

    thanks, bub!

  28. alece says:

    “a once-in-forever happening”. indeed, TM! indeed!

  29. alece says:

    mmmm… thanks for the tie-in to adoption. so, so good!

  30. alece says:

    i thought that same thing, yeller!

  31. alece says:

    great, great thoughts. you’ve helped me see it in a new light.

    thanks, anneth.

  32. alece says:

    i agree about love being greater than bloodline. i’ve seen that in my own life like you’ve seen it in yours.

    [happy ash wednesday, fritz-friend.]

  33. gitz says:

    [thanks... i almost forgot and ate some chicken today... my grandma would have rolled over in her grave if i ate meat :) This has been a hard year for me to figure out what to do to celebrate Lent and prepare. but i think it's good to have to challenge myself to figure it out.

    you make me smile, soul-friend.]

  34. alece says:

    i didn’t grow up celebrating lent. how exactly does it work? no meat just today or for all of lent? do you personally also choose something to give up each year for lent?

    i think i might do that this year for the first time.

    i’m glad we make each other smile. and that riley even gets in on the smirking action!

  35. alece says:

    you remind me so much of your sister!

    i really appreciate you taking the time to chime in on this.

  36. alece says:

    i’ve wondered this since i was a kid!

  37. alece says:

    does that really still happen? the widow becomes the wife of her deceased husband’s brother? what if he’s already married????

  38. alece says:

    i totally get what you’re saying.

    thanks for chiming in. good thoughts!

  39. alece says:

    i’ve honestly never thought about it like that.


  40. alece says:

    good thoughts, peirce. i’m glad you piped up!

  41. alece says:

    mmm… God’s favor indeed.

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