Our Lord’s Family Tree

Pharisees and Sadducees alike would surely have loudly disputed Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah if they could have found any flaw in His genealogy to prove He did not come from David. They argued, debated, accused, and crucified Him, but none ever said to Him: “There’s no way you could be the Messiah.” Why? Because genealogies were meticulously recorded and fully trustworthy and showed that Jesus did indeed come from the seed of Abraham, from the house of David as the prophecies had said the Messiah would come. Both Matthew and Luke gave genealogies for Jesus Christ tracing His lineage back to David.

However, it is mandatory to take this one step further. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. After saying Joseph is the son of Jacob, Matthew abruptly departs from this line of descendents to say that Mary gave birth to Jesus, and made it very clear that Joseph was not His father. Some historians point out that Matthew relates the genealogy of Joseph and Luke relates the genealogy of Mary, although he never mentions her by name. In Matthew, the genealogy comes forward from Abraham through David to Jesus while in Luke the genealogy goes backward from Jesus, through David and Abraham all the way back to God Himself.

The names of relatives among the Jews were arrived at in two ways: natural born children; and according to their law, when a man died childless his brother was obliged to take his wife, and the children from that marriage were attributed to the deceased brother. Hebrews never permitted women to enter into their genealogical tables, so whenever a family happened to end with a daughter, instead of naming her in the genealogy they inserted her husband, as the son of him, who was, in reality, his father-in-law. This is the case of Joseph, husband of  Mary, who naturally took her place in the genealogy: Jesus ( as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son  (son-in- law) of Heli. Scripture does not say begotten of Heli because He was not his natural son, but became his son by virtue of having married Mary. Luke uses son of where Matthew speaks of begat. Joseph, son of Jacob, and Mary, daughter of Heli, were of the same ancestral family both traced back to David.

It was promised to Abraham that Christ should descend from him,and to David that He should descend from him; therefore unless it can be proved that Jesus is a son of David and a son of Abraham, we cannot admit him to be the Messiah. Whether traced from Joseph or Mary we end up at the son of David and then the line is the same back from Abraham and all the way to God, the Father, the Creator. Through Joseph, Matthew takes us back to Solomon, son of David. Through Mary, Luke takes us back to Nathan, son of David. Thus Jesus, son of Mary, reunited in Himself all the blood, privileges, and rights of the whole family of David and can emphatically be called the Son of David—even for those who do not accept the virgin birth. As believers, we know that Joseph was simply chosen to be the guardian father of Jesus. He was not His natural father—it was the Holy Ghost that overshadowed Mary and caused her to be pregnant with God’s Son.

Contrary to Jewish tradition which never mentions woman in tracing genealogies, Matthew includes five women in the genealogy of Jesus. Tamar, whose nationality is not given, played the harlot and had a child by her father-in-law, Judah. Bathsheba, referred to as she who had been the wife of Uriah, was impregnated by David when he had an adulterous affair with her. Afterward he had her husband placed on the front lines of battle so he would be killed. Then David married Bathsheba, the widow. Their first son died, but later they had another son, Solomon, who became David’s successor as King.  Also named in Jesus’ ancestry table are Rahab, a Canaanitess who hid the spies in Jericho then later married one of them; and Ruth, a Moabitess, who was the grandmother of David. From studying Matthew’s choice of names to include in the ancestry of Jesus Christ, we find exemplified the words of the Apostle Paul: In Jesus Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek…male nor female. Our Lord and Savior identified with the sinners and outcasts and did not hesitate to have them included in His genealogy. Those who are strangers and foreigners are welcome. I cannot read the genealogy in Matthew without shouting, “Hallelujah! He included me!”

The Virgin Birth

After setting the record straight for the genealogy to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah (, the Anointed One, the Christ) would come out of David, Matthew takes great care to point out that He was born to Mary—he does not mention Joseph here. Note carefully the wording: And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. “Of whom” as it appears in the Greek in this passage is feminine singular, indicating clearly that Jesus was born of Mary only and not of Mary and Joseph. Even in English we observe that the preposition “to”, “by”, or “of”, refers to the noun immediately preceding it. Jesus was born of her, not of them. It is one of the strongest evidences for Jesus’ virgin birth. Matthew goes on to relate that Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost…that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. He has set the stage, gotten the attention of the Jews with the genealogy, and now Matthew tells the whole story: Jesus was the Son of God! God begat Him!


The Name

The name Jesus is from the Greek for the Hebrew Jeshua or Joshua which means The Lord is salvation. Christ is from the Greek for the Hebrew Meshiah or Messiah, which means Anointed One. 

Prophet, Priest and King

No person ever born was the Son of God except Jesus Christ. In addition to that, among his direct ancestors were the most famous, most prominent kings, priests, and prophets. Though many kings are mentioned in his genealogy, David is the only one here called a King because with Him the covenant of royalty was made and to him the promise of the kingdom of the Messiah was given.

David, the most notorious of sovereigns, was king and prophet. Abraham, the great man of faith, was priest and prophet. However, no person operated in all three offices except Jesus Christ. He alone was prophet, priest, and king. He possessed and carried out these as only the incarnate Son of Almighty God could do.

The prophet’s purpose was to make known the will of God to men; Jesus was intimately and thoroughly acquainted with all the mysteries of the eternal world and He came to declare the Divine nature and its counsels to mankind: No man has seen God at any time…the only begotten …Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; He has declared him.

The priest’s purpose was to offer sacrifices to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. Jesus came as our high priest to Himself be our sacrifice—an atonement for the sins of the whole world.

The king’s purpose was to reign over, protect, and defend the people committed to his care. Jesus came as our King: Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Much of His teaching was about the Kingdom of God—not an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual one that is within each of us who have crossed that line of faith and become His followers.

Jesus carries out this three-fold office of prophet, priest in the heart and soul of His followers as well as in the world. Jesus as prophet teaches man the will of God, convicts him of sin, righteousness, and judgment; and shows the way of salvation. Jesus as priest appropriates the atonement to the guilty conscience. Jesus as King delivers the captive, opens the eyes of the blind, causes deaf ears to ear, puts words into the mouths of the dumb, heals the sick and lame, and reigns over the human soul.

The Anointing of Prophets, Priests and Kings 

Prophets, priests and kings among the Jews were anointed for their offices. Anointing with oil was ceremonial to consecrate a person to any important office whether religious or governmental. This custom was reflective of the feeling that the Holy Spirit gave the gifts of leadership. Since it was believed no man could foretell events unless inspired by the Spirit of God, the prophet was anointed to signify that God gave Him the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge. Since it was believed no man could offer an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of men, the priest was anointed to indicate he was chosen by God to carry out the sacrifices. Kings were inaugurated by anointing with oil since it was understood that no man could carry out the law and judge over the people unless God had chosen him for that task.

No man before or after Jesus Christ held the three offices; and no one ever had the title Messiah—the Christ—but Jesus Christ. He alone is King of kings and Lord of lords—the King who governs the universe and rules in the hearts of His followers; the prophet to instruct men in the way wherein they should go; and the great high priest to make atonement for their sins. The word Christ means the anointed one, and not Moses, Abraham, David, or any others had the title of Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, even though all had been anointed.

The Anointing in Us

Jesus told His disciples that His Father would send the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who would teach them, guide them in the truth, remind them of the things He had taught them, and show them of things to come. John explains that the Holy Ghost is the anointing and that He lives in the followers of Jesus Christ and they know all things. Since we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit, we have the gift of discerning the spirits—detecting truth from error. Therefore, since Jesus is the prophet, priest and king, and by His spirit He lives in us (that’s what the anointing is all about), He has made us priests, and kings, and given us the gift to prophesy (to edify, comfort and exhort the church), and to bring our own confessions and burdens and prayers directly to Him, and to rule over our emotions and choices we make. Why? Because He has adopted us and we are heirs to all that is His: as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.


(c) East of Bethlehem, C. Yvonne Karl, Brentwood Press, 2003. Chapter 11.

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