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The Lukan genealogy of Jesus emphasizes the Son of God in humanity. Luke begins his account with God’s declaration of Jesus, His beloved Son (Luke 3:22) and precedes to legitimize the first human Adam, the son of God (3:38). God’s original purpose and identity for humanity resides in sonship, His highest calling. God created the world by Himself; but fulfills His purpose through us in Jesus with sonship resulting from redeemed and restored relationship. Luke’s genealogical account focuses on Jesus Christ and God’s call for His people in Him.

Daryl Cox/May 28, 2013


The Resurrection Seal

Luke presents Jesus as the Son of man, representing God and humanity on earth with provision of salvation for all races. The Lukan genealogical narrative uniquely distinguishes itself with contrasting features from the Matthean by its theme, emphasis, lineage structure, and organization. Luke shapes his theme with unique accounts, teachings, and sayings that collectively present the universal scope of forgiveness and restoration for those who repent. Most notably, Luke presents historical events surrounding Christ’s birth as authentic eyewitness accounts and truths that first century Christians believed (1:1-4). This understanding underscores that Jesus’ lineage descent attests His authentic document of ancestry. His resurrection reveals Him more than just a man. It affirms the documented facts of His genealogy that He is the Son of God. Our faith and interpretation of Scripture rests upon this great truth. When He rose from the dead, He professed Himself as Christ the Son of God and Israel’s promised King (Rom 1:3-4). Gospel author Luke supports Jesus as the King of Israel by connecting Him to the house of King David and other scriptural figures.

Luke strategically places Christ’s genealogy following His baptism. During this event, God speaks the identity of Jesus of Nazareth from heaven to all present. Though God revealed Jesus to be His Son, the genealogy shows that He is made of human ancestry. Both God’s revelation of Jesus and Luke’s genealogical account qualify Him to represent humanity in bearing their sins on the cross. His identification with Adam, the last name recorded in this genealogy, connects Him with all races of humanity and God’s original intent for them.

Jesus’ Sonship

A genealogy records ancestral descent. The Ancients diligently updated family records after a child’s birth to insure accuracy of ancestry. A person’s genealogy said much about one’s family honor and, at times, character.[1] If questions of familial recognition or inheritance arose, these records settled disputes and established due honor. [2] Both Matthew and Luke’s genealogies present Jesus’ honor as God and man. Each author balances his genealogy with the virgin conception and birth of Christ. Using Jesus’ genealogy, the authors establish Him as the rightful heir to David’s throne and Abraham’s son through whom universal calling and blessing flow to all who hear and believe. Jesus’ miraculous conception and birth reveal Him as the Son of God (God manifest in flesh). This balanced understanding of Christ’s genealogy upholds four great truths: Jesus’ messianic claim through Abraham, His kingship through David, His supernatural conception, and God’s incarnation in Him. Luke’s presentation of Jesus Christ’s genealogy differs from Matthew’s. Luke presents evidence of Jesus’ royal connection to David just as Matthew does in His account, but he has a universal focus in mind with a relationship theme declaring Jesus to be the Son of God. Luke uses known individuals from Scripture and reversed order of their naming to inform us of an anticipated redemption and restoration for humanity. God created humankind as sons of God in the beginning, but they lost that relationship in Adam. God now has restored it in Christ, Abraham’s son.

Jesus’ Kingship

Matthew’s genealogy has a kingly nature in content and purpose calling Jesus both Son of David and Son of Abraham.[3] These expressions fulfill the two major Old Testament covenants God made with them. Matthew’s genealogy also gives the royal lineage of kingly succession from David to Israel’s last king, Jehoiakim.[4] It continues until we arrive at Joseph, the husband of Mary. In connection with Mary’s virgin conception of Christ, he presents Jesus’ legal claim as King of Israel through Joseph, who belonged to the house and lineage[5] of David (Luke 2:4). Matthew’s genealogy tells us Joseph did not beget Jesus, but as Mary’s child, the Holy Ghost fathered Him (Matt 1:18-20). This gives Jesus a human and divine ancestry. He is begotten of God and made of a woman (John 3:16; Gal 4:4). Furthermore, Matthew by Scripture and his account of Jesus’ birth identifies Mary’s child as Emmanuel or God with us. Luke also, in speaking of Christ’s birth, calls Him Lord and Savior (Luke 2:11). A truth emerges from both Gospels. Our eternal God became a person of human descent to save us. Jesus’ birth emphasizes He is our Savior, Lord and God while His genealogy reveals Him as promised King and Messiah.

The New Confession

Mary’s miraculous conception of Christ produced the incarnation, a union between God and man in the human person of Jesus Christ. This act, with Jesus’ resurrection, establishes a new faith confession that all God’s people should embrace. The New Testament exclusively declares Jesus is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36; Rom 10:9). This confession agrees with and proves superior to the monotheistic confession of Deut 6:4. The Old Covenant confession affirms Yahweh (Jehovah) is Lord and God alone and His people are to love Him with all their hearts. The new confession retains the previous truth but relative to the incarnation. Jesus is the central focus. The God of the old covenant becomes incarnate in Christ, David’s son after the flesh. By this confession, God promises us salvation. This does not mean we only verbally confess without a change of heart. Just as Deut 6:4 requires a life lived in devotion to God, the new confession calls for obedience to the Gospel (Rom 10:10; Acts 2:38). Our faith and confession begins with repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, receiving the Holy Ghost, and followed by a life lived in devotion to Christ.

Two Genealogies: An Explanation

Luke’s identification of Jesus to Joseph parallels his earlier account of Christ’s conception and birth. Many thought Jesus was Joseph’s biological son at the time (Luke 3:23). Eight days after His birth, according to custom, Joseph and Mary named Him during Him circumcision. Afterwards, Jesus’ name was added to family records of descent as their son. Joseph adopted and raised Jesus as his own child (2:48). Furthermore, Luke records Christ’s descent after His baptism but prior to His ministry. The genealogy follows God’s great decree to Israel that Jesus is His Son in whom He dwells. It emphasizes His relationship to God and man. Like Matthew, we refer to Luke’s account as Joseph’s genealogy, but it belongs to Jesus’ mother Mary, although it does not give her name (Matt 1:16; Luke 1:23). The absence of a woman’s name from a genealogy was a standard Hebrew custom in those days since the emphasis was strictly male oriented. A woman’s genealogy was traced through her father.[6] Once married, her genealogy became her husband’s in relation to her father. Luke presents Joseph as “the son of Heli”  (3:23), and Matthew says “Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary” (1:16). The expression son of found in Luke not only limits itself to begetting, but also can have a more remote relationship. Many of the names in Luke’s genealogy are actually direct descents. For example, Nathan (brother of King Solomon) was a direct descendant from David (1 Chron 3:1, 5; Luke 3:31-32; ), but Joseph is the actual son of Jacob in Matthew and son-in-law of Heli in Luke (Luke 3:23). By tracing Christ’s lineage back to David through Nathan and not Solomon, Luke identifies Mary and Jesus belonging to both the tribe of Judah and house of David. By actual descent, Jesus is the Son of David through His mother Mary. Through Joseph, He also is David’s Son and has a legal claim to kingship by adoption. However, God’s oath of covenant made with David entitles Him as heir to David’s throne (Ps 132:11). Taken together, both Matthew and Luke’s genealogies provide Christ’s biological and legal claim to the throne of David.

Messianic Calling

Luke continues his presentation of Christ’s lineage from David back to Abraham through Judah to Jacob’s son, just as Matthew. This part of Christ’s genealogy reminds us once again of God’s covenant oath with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. God calls them to be a great people for Himself. He promises to make them a great nation in a place of His choosing (Palestine). They would have a royal dynasty throughout their generations, including a chosen son, Jesus of Nazareth, who would rule all nations and make Jews and Gentile sons of God by faith in Him. The actual calling and promises of this covenant are to Christ (Gal 3:16). Since the day of Pentecost, God continues to offer His calling and blessing to all nations through the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Gen 17:15-19; 22:16-18). Receiving the Spirit makes us recipients of this covenant blessing and calling (Gal 3:14). The Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of adoption (Gal 4:3-5). We are now called sons of God having the firstborn status of Jesus, risen from the dead. The lineage continues back to Noah through Shem, his second son. From his lineage comes Abraham, father of the Jewish race and his son Isaac. In Isaac, Jesus Christ is Abraham’s chosen son who will suffer death for us and through whom the promise will come. Shem’s calling is the first recorded call of God after the great flood (Gen 9:26). It comes through Noah as a prophecy, but not directly given to Shem. God is prophetically blessed because of His relationship to Shem. This blessing looks forward to the LORD God’s coming as a descendant of Shem and His victory over sin and death (Phil 2:8-9). God comes in flesh to carry out the ultimate calling for humanity’s salvation, death. and resurrection. His Spirit now empowers us to live above sin and walk worthy of His calling. In Gal 3:26-29, Paul describes our union with Christ. He calls Jesus the Seed of Abraham (3:16), but He also calls us the seed by our relationship with Jesus (v. 29). God sees Christ and us as one. Our union with Him destroys our old relationship with sin allows us to speak and impart blessing to all who receive our message. Just like Jesus, a seed does not receive life. It gives life.

Purpose and Unity

Christ’s ancestry concludes with Adam, the first human. Scripture calls Him the son of God. By tracing Christ’s genealogy beyond Abraham back to Adam, Luke identifies Jesus with all humanity and God’s original purpose for us as sons of God in creation. A son of God implies both relationship and fellowship. Knowing God by revelation as Father and fulfilling His call on our lives was the basis of His intent for us. The non-Jewish nationalities in Christ’s lineage reveals God’s inclusion of all nations into His spiritual family. The iniquity of us all would be put to Christ’s account to make it possible. Paul expounded these truths throughout the New Testament (Eph 3:4-6). God calls the whole family in heaven and earth by Jesus’ name (Eph 3:17). He died for everyone descended from Adam. He now becomes the Second Adam: Head of a new race of humans created by grace in His image and calling (1 Cor 15:45-50). By descent from Adam, we are sinners. Through new birth in Christ, God makes us righteous, gives a new identity, and calls us sons of God (John 3:3-5). It embodies our identity and His purpose for us in Christ. His will is the driving force for our existence. This genealogy concludes that all nations have a common origin and purpose. While we are diverse, our union with one another in Christ moves us to intentionally seek working together in accomplishing our Father’s will. Jan Paron makes this point clear. “Intentional ministry purposes a twofold action: open access to the elect for reconciliation with God by reaching across the cultural milieu to the multitudes and bring this collective Body into one fold with the one Shepherd.”[7]

Living With Favor and Purpose

In closing, genealogies were used to establish family honor. Luke’s genealogy presents Jesus’ honor as Son of God. By linking the elements of Christ’s baptism with His record of descent, Luke establishes God in Christ as the central link between God and humanity. He presents a new faith by showing who Jesus is, and God’s intent to redeem and make humanity His children once again. First, the author revealed Jesus as the Almighty God in flesh during His baptism. God anoints Him with the Holy Spirit and declares from heaven His presence in the person of His Son here on earth. Called the incarnation, Christ’s conception and birth allowed God to become part of the human race (John 14:7-10; 1 Tim 3:16). Those who encountered Jesus in this world came face-to-face with God and cannot be approached otherwise. Second, by identifying Jesus in the lineage of key figures from the Old Testament, Luke declares Jesus to be Christ, the Son of David and King of Israel. As son of Abraham, He is the chosen Seed. Through His death, He redeems and blesses all believers before and after His first coming. Jesus is the one whom all Old Testament Prophets wrote. Their message of hope is now our reality in Jesus. Furthermore, God declared His pleasure of dwelling in His Son when He addressed Him as beloved. This decree reveals the new relationship established by the Lord’s death and resurrection. Having received His Holy Spirit, God’s pleasure is now in us. The new birth allows God to accept us as beloved children to work in us the good pleasure of His will. In the hearts of the people of God should rest their Father’s intent and calling. God desires us to know Him by relationship. Also, Luke’s genealogy implies a common point of origin for humanity. Our new relationship with God requires unity with others of like faith. Finally, Luke’s genealogy takes us back to Adam whom he calls the son of God. His creation is a model of God’s only begotten Son who was to come. We will explore Adam as the central figure of this genealogy in greater detail for the next post.


[1] K. D. Hanson, Social World of Luke-Acts (ed. Jerome H. Neyrey; Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991), 25-26.
[2] K. D. Hanson, 30.
[3] See the author’s article, Generation of Jesus Christ according to Matthew, for greater detail of the Matthean presentation of Christ’s genealogy.
[4] Israel’s last king, Jehoiakim (also called Jechonias).
[5] The author presents Jesus’ legal claim as King of Israel through Joseph, who belonged to the house (Greek: oikos; family) and lineage (Greek: patria; paternal descent).
[6] Bruce J. Malina and Jerome Neyrey, Social World of Luke-Acts (ed. Jerome H. Neyrey; Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991), 40-41.
[7] Jan Paron, “Heating Pad Prayer for Unity of the Body,” PerSpectives 12 Blog, n.d. [cited: 15 May 2013]. Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/heating-pad-prayer-for-unity-of-the-body/