QUESTION: Can you tell me why there are two genealogies of Jesus in the Bible and explain some of the differences between them?
ANSWER: It is perhaps well enough known that in the four Gospels there are two genealogies of the Lord Jesus. There is no genealogy in Mark. That is the Gospel of the Servant, and a genealogy would be neither appropriate nor relevant. There is no genealogy in John. That is the Gospel of the glory of the Son of God. It commences with a "beginningless beginning" where human genealogy is not possible. Matthew, however, paints a portrait of a King, and Luke presents the beauties of a perfect Man. The legal rights of that King must be established beyond all doubt, and it is needful also for Luke to trace the human lineage of that perfect Man. In these two Gospels genealogies are both necessary and welcome.
There is a difficulty in the reconciling of the two genealogies and an explanation is needed. It will, of course, be easily and readily observed firstly, that the two genealogies move in opposite directions. Matthew's begins with Abraham and moves forward through David and Solomon eventually to Joseph, husband of Mary the virgin mother. Luke begins with Joseph and moves backward through David and Abraham to Adam. There is then, for a little, a common line in the two. From Abraham to David in Matthew agrees with David to Abraham in Luke. After David, however, there is a divergence, and for a very important reason.
Matthew's genealogy proceeds from David through his son Solomon. Luke will rather trace the line through David's other son Nathan (see 2 Samuel 5:14). The reason for this digression becomes apparent from Jeremiah 22:30. Jechonias, of Solomon's seed, is cursed and disinherited. He is reckoned as if childless, without heir, and Joseph is of that line. So our Lord's lineage may be traced in another way. Joseph is the "son" (in-law) of Mary's father Heli. Jesus is therefore Joseph's heir, but He is not of Solomon's line but of Nathan's. He is Son of David but He is not Son of Solomon. Had He been so descended from Solomon He would have inherited the curse on Jechonias. The Lord Jesus, born of a virgin, inherits the title to the throne, but not the curse on Solomon's seed.
Now note the orderliness of Matthew's genealogy. He will reckon the generations in three series. From Abraham to David is the first series. Then from David to the carrying away into Babylon. Then from the captivity to Christ. In each period he will list fourteen generations, but note the inspired accuracy of Holy Scripture. Matthew says that "all" the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen. Notice the careful inclusion of the little word "all" in the first series, but its omission from the second and third series. The reason for the omission of the word "all" here is, of course, that not all the generations of that period are listed. There was a wicked queen, Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, who once had tried to destroy the seed royal (2 Chronicles 22:10). The names of her immediate progeny are omitted, as Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, leaving fourteen generations as Matthew gives them. This is divine accuracy.
—Taken from "Behold Your King," by J.M. Flanigan. Published by John Ritchie Ltd. Used by permission.