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Jeremy Myers: In those days, people naturally assumed that Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary. Luke corrects them here by saying that Jesus was only the supposed son of Joseph.

But there is another way to translate the Greek, which I think is possible. Rather than translating it, as was supposed, it could be translated: as was the custom, as was acknowledged by law, as was entered in the ledger, or as we find it on record.

You see, Luke is giving the recorded genealogy of Jesus as would be found in the public documents. Luke has apparently copied down a Greek or Roman form of a genealogy here. The Greeks and Romans had a very low view of women, and so in Greek and Roman genealogies, the names of women were not allowed. And so when Jesus was born, and his genealogy was recorded in the ledgers, they wouldn’t write down Mary’s name, so they put down Joseph’s name instead, even though they ran the genealogy through Mary. Luke can’t change the legal record, and so he can’t include Mary’s name. So he includes the parentheses that simply says that Jesus was on record, or it was supposed, that Jesus was the son of Joseph.

But anybody who knew Jesus, and knew Joseph, and knew Mary, knew that Mary’s father was Heli, and Joseph’s father was a man named Jacob (Matthew 1:16). Therefore, when they saw the next name in the list, Heli, and the end of Luke 3:23, they would immediately recognize that they were reading Mary’s genealogy; not Joseph’s. And by the way, when verse 23 says that Joseph was the son of Heli, the words, ‘son of’ are not there in the Greek. They should be italicized in your Bible, unless you have the NIV, which shows that they were added by the translators, but they are not really in the Greek.

What can we learn from genealogies in Scripture:

1) Genealogies tell us that our faith is rooted in history

2) God is Sovereign

3) God is Orderly

4) God knows your name

5) Salvation is for all

“And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

MacArthur: Luke’s genealogy moves backward, from Jesus to Adam; Matthew’s moves forward, from Abraham to Joseph; Luke’s entire section from Joseph to David differs starkly from that given by Matthew. The two genealogies are easily reconciled if Luke’s is seen as Mary’s genealogy, and Matthew’s version represents Joseph’s. Thus the royal line is passed through Jesus’ legal father, and His physical descent from David is established by Mary’s lineage. Luke, unlike Matthew, includes no women in his genealogy – even Mary herself. Joseph was “the son of Eli” by marriage (Eli having no sons of his own), and thus is named here in v. 23 as the representative of Mary’s generation. Moses himself established precedent for this sort of substitution in Nu 27:1-11; 36:1-12.

Morris: Luke’s insertion of the genealogy at this point, after the baptism that marked Him out as Son of God and before the temptation which helped define the nature of His Messianic task, may be meant to help us see something of Jesus’ Messianic significance. That the genealogy is recorded at all shows Him to be a real man, not a demi-god like those in Greek and Roman mythology. That it goes back to David points to an essential element in His Messianic qualifications. That it goes back to Adam brings out His kinship not only with Israel but with the whole human race. That it goes back to God relates Him to the Creator of all. He was the Son of God.

Anyabwile: What is the purpose of the genealogy in Israel? Scattered throughout the Old Testament are these tracings of family trees and relationships. Genealogies have a threefold purpose.

1) First, they prove who was Jewish and who was not. Such proof of Jewish ancestry was important because God’s covenants were made with Israel.

2) Second, the genealogies prove who could or could not serve as priests. Only Levites could serve before the Lord in the tabernacle and the temple.

3) Third, the genealogies prove who was or was not a “son of David.” Do you remember the promise of 2 Samuel 7, when God promised to establish David’s throne forever? David’s son would be ruler over Israel and the hoped-for Messiah. But not just any son or descendant of David could fill that role. The genealogy also had to prove that anyone claiming to be Messiah was not descended from David through Jeconiah (Jer 22:24-30; 36:30-31). God declared that no one from Jeconiah’s house would sit on David’s throne.

Donald Miller: Luke traces his genealogy . . . beginning with Jesus, and carrying it back to “Adam” (3:38). Jesus is the climax not only of holy history but of all history. He not only fulfills the hopes of Israel, he brings fullness of life to all men. In his life, death, and resurrection, the center of al history is reached. Every life ever born, before or since, is related to him. He is the goal toward which all history moves, the end for which all things were created.

In this way, Luke was suggesting Paul’s conception of Jesus as the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:20-22, 45-49; Rom. 5:12-19). The first Adam was the originator of the old humanity, characterized by disobedience and death (Gen. 3). Here is a new Adam, the originator of a new order of humanity, characterized by obedience and eternal life. In him, estranged humanity is once more given the “power to become children of God” (John 1:12). This new Adam will perform an “act of righteousness” which will lead “to acquittal and life for all men” (Rom. 5:18). This is the significance of Luke’s genealogy. It establishes the universality of the saving work of the Son who is the Suffering Servant.