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Special Edition: Was Jesus the Descendent of Joash

David’s Descendant 

2Ki 11:1 However, Jehosheba, the wife of the high priest Jehoiada, hid Ahaziah’s infant son (Joash) and preserved David’s family line. From this family line came the Messiah (the “Anointed One,” Savior, Christ) (vv. 2-3; 2Sa 7:11, 16; 1Ki 8:25; cf. Mt 1:8-9). 

Did Jesus come from the line of Joash? 

The answer to this question is somewhat complicated.  We have two distinct genealogies given for Jesus in the New Testament, neither of which include Joash.  However, some perspective on Biblical genealogies can clarify what the author meant by this note.   

Matthew’s genealogy apparently traces the royal line from David, through Solomon through the kings of Judah.  Luke, on the other hand, traces the genealogy of Jesus through David’s son Nathan.  There are several proposed solutions to this problem: 

  1. Matthew traces the line through Joseph, and Luke traces the line through Mary. 
  1. Matthew traces the inheritance line (legal line), and Luke traces the bloodline 
  1. Matthew was interested in showing Jesus’ right to rule as a descendant of kings, and Luke was showing Jesus’ humanity through Mary 
  1. Possibly, Matthew was showing the “kingly” line, and Luke was showing the prophectic/priestly line ( I don’t think this one is quite as valid as the others, but it is an option) 

The evidence for these positions is as follows: 

Matthew was likely writing to a Jewish audience (such as using “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God”), and leaves several Jewish customs unexplained.  Matthew is sometimes called the “royal” gospel, because he refers so often to kingship.  Additionally, he frequently refers to Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  He traces Jesus’ line back to Abraham, to show that Jesus was the fulfillment of the promised Jewish Messiah. 

There is evidence that Luke received much information about Jesus directly from Mary, and was very interested in expressing the human aspects of Jesus’ life. For instance, he describes more miracles of healing, and especially focuses on Jesus’ ministry to women.  This is  consistent with the theory above.  Additionally, it is likely that Luke wrote after Matthew and was adding information to what Matthew had already written, emphasizing the Gentile aspects. He traces Jesus’ line back to Adam, showing that Jesus came for all people and from all people. 

In either case, in light of the chart below, it appears that Matthew more or less followed the genealogy of the kings in the Old Testament.  However, if that is the case, why did he leave out Joash (and others)? 

  1. Genealogies in the Bible rarely included all the names. (the word for “son” can really mean ‘descendant”) This is called “telescoping” by Biblical scholars, and is quite common in the Bible.  For instance, we can compare the genealogies of: 

Ezra 7:1-5 compared to 1 Chronicles 6:3-15 
The genealogy of 1 Chronicles 6:3-15 lists the descendents of Aaron down to Jehozadak (Jozadak). Ezra 7 lists Ezra’s own genealogy going back to Aaron. Where the two genealogies overlap, 1 Chronicles contains 22 names and Ezra contains 16 names, making Ezra’s genealogy no more than 70% complete. Both genealogies span a time period of about 860 years from the exodus to the fall of Jerusalem, which suggests that both genealogies are in fact highly telescoped. A thorough search of the Old Testament reveals that there were many high priests during this time period who are not included in either of these two genealogies, which provides additional evidence that these genealogies are not complete. The following high priests are known from the OT but are not included in these genealogies: Jehoiada (2 Kings 12:2), Uriah (2 Kings 16:10-16), possibly two Azariahs (2 Chronicles 26:17, 20; 31:10-31), Eli (1 Samuel 1:9; 14:3) and Abiathar (2 Samuel 8:17)  

Matthew 1:8 compared to 2 Chronicles 21:4-26:23 
Matthew 1:8 has Jehoram listed as the father of Uzziah but there were several generations between these men. The names Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 22:1), Joash (2 Chronicles 22:11), and Amaziah (2 Chronicles 24:27) come between Jehoram and Uzziah. 

Matthew 1:11 compared to 2 Chronicles 36:1-9 
In Matthew 1:11 we read that Josiah is the father of Jeconiah (Jehoiachin). In 2 Chronicles, we see that Josiah is the father of Jehoiakim (2 Chronicles 36:4) and grandfather of Jehoiachin (2 Chronicles 36:8). 

  1. Genealogies sometimes trace the line of inheritance rather than the bloodline.  For instance, Matthew calls Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel.  However, in I Chronicles 3, Zerubbabel is the son of Pedaiah.  The likely explanation is that Zerubbabel was the natural son of Pedaiah, but Pedaiah died young, and Zerubbabel was adopted by his uncle Shealtiel, or in some other way became his heir.  This again suggests that Matthew was more concerned with inheritance (especially royal authority) than with direct bloodline. 
  1. Genealogies were sometimes altered to make them easier to remember, or to achieve a desired numerical value.  For instance, Matthew has 3 groups of 14, and he accomplishes this symetry by counting David twice, and eliminating some names.  Luke has 3 groups of 21 names.  Scholars theorize that these balanced lists aided memory in a predominantly oral society. 

If Matthew used some of these techniques for his genealogy, as is likely, then what the author means by  “From this family line came the Messiah” is that Jesus was a descendant of the royal line, and had the right to rule.  In this way, he is correct in saying that Jesus is in the line of Joash.  However, the actual bloodline (which Luke traces) was not in immediate danger of annihilation, as shown by the descendants of Nathan.  This note might be better written as: ..”preserved David’s Messianic line.” 

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