Does the Bible contradict itself in Matthew chapter 1? Are there 41 or 42 generations in Jesus' genealogy?

Matthew 1:17

“Thus there were fourteen generations in all
from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen
from the exile to the Messiah.”

Matthew 1: 1 - 16

Matthew 1: 1 – 16 – “This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

4 Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

6 and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

There are those who believe that the Bible can’t be true because they think it is full of contradictions. One of these discrepancies is in the number of generations listed in Matthew chapter 1. This is the genealogy of Jesus beginning with Abraham. Matthew 1:17 states “Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.” It is easy to conclude that there should be 42 generations from Abraham to the Messiah since fourteen multiplied by 3 is 42. However, a careful count of all the generations listed in Matthew 1: 1 – 16 will only show 41 generations. The purpose of this hub is to show that a careful reading of the text will eliminate the claim of a contradiction.

Heritage was very important to the Jews and many of them had the important genealogies memorized. Separating them into sections made them easier to remember and helped to avoid forgetting anyone. It was not uncommon to use important events and people as dividing points. Matthew breaks Christ’s lineage into three segments using King David and the Babylonian exile as dividers.


This leads to the question, did Matthew make a mistake? Or are we missing something? Look closer. The first thing you may notice is that Matthew 17 doesn’t say there are 42 generations. This is something we assume because that is how the math adds up. But that is not what the verse actually says. If we read carefully, it starts out saying that there are 14 generations from Abraham to David. If we including Abraham and David, this adds up.

  1. Abraham
  2. Isaac
  3. Jacob
  4. Judah
  5. Perez
  6. Hezron
  7. Ram
  8. Amminadab
  9. Nahshon
  10. Salmon
  11. Boaz
  12. Obed
  13. Jesse
  14. King David

Next the verse goes on to say that there are 14 generations between King David and the exile to Babylon. Since David is included in this section also, we have to count him again.

6 and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,...

So now from King David to the exile we have:

  1. King David
  2. Solomon
  3. Rehoboam
  4. Abijah
  5. Asa
  6. Jehoshaphat
  7. Jehoram
  8. Uzziah
  9. Jotham
  10. Ahaz
  11. Hezekiah
  12. Manasseh
  13. Amon
  14. Josiah

Since Josiah is the king at the time of the exile, he ends the section from David to the exile. This makes the number of generations in the second part 14 once again.

Finally we have the last 14 generations from the time of the exile through to the Messiah, just as the text says.

  1. Jeconiah
  2. Shealtiel
  3. Zerubbabel
  4. Abihud
  5. Eliakim
  6. Azor
  7. Zadok
  8. Akim
  9. Elihud
  10. Eleazar
  11. Matthan
  12. Jacob
  13. Joseph
  14. Jesus

So as you can see, there are 41 generations between Jesus and Abraham. But the way they divided the list to make it easier to remember counts King David twice. Which is why the math of verse 17 doesn't match the reality of verses 1 - 16.



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Comments 29 comments

newenglandsun 3 years ago

The part that is confusing me is how do we determine where to divide? If we start at the Babylonian Exile, then we would have to begin part three with Josiah making 15 generations as opposed to 14.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

I would break it up where verses 11 & 12 do, between Josiah and Jeconiah


newenglandsun 3 years ago

But why there? The problem I'm having is more the "why" is it broken up this way and not some other way. I don't see anything within the text to indicate how it should be broken up. Still confused.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

I don't know why he did that. Perhaps that's how he learned it at school. David was a pretty big deal to the Jews and the Exile was a huge part of their history. If we calculated generations like that we might learn Washington to Lincoln and Lincoln to the Kennedy assassination and the Kennedy assassination to Obama. All things/people pretty much eveyone knows. How convenient for them that if they count David twice they get a nice even number. Probably easier to remember that way.


newenglandsun 3 years ago

I've read some commentaries saying Jeconiah was the one mentioned twice. This passage is just confusing to me.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

That would work too. I just think it's David because verse 17 mentions him twice and he is better known. If I think about it, I'll ask matthew when I see him in heaven. :)


newenglandsun 3 years ago

How do you know Matthew wrote it?

Anyway, I did read that it could have been a miscalculation. I think this seems a little bit more warranted.


panpan1972 profile image

panpan1972 3 years ago from Greece

Hi! Interesting hub, but i thought that the real problem with jesus' genealogy was the contradiction between Matthew 1 and Luke 3. Could you elaborate on that please.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

Thank you panpan! Here is a link to my hub on that topic:

http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Is-Jesus-a...


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

I'll ask him that too newengland, if he didn't I'm sure he knows who did!


newenglandsun 3 years ago

Yeah, I heard that it could have been a scribal error too.

panpan1972 - You are absolutely correct that Luke 3:3-38 and Matthew 1:1-16 appear to contradict each other. However, is it not possible that they could have been talking about the maternal line of Joseph and the paternal line of Joseph? I think that the main problem about these texts is how to reconcile the main goal of the authors as trying to communicate to their readers that Jesus was simultaneously the descendent of David through Joseph and not the descendent of David through Joseph. This part still confuses me.

Oh, here we go. Problems solved. The contradictions of Matt. 1:1-16, 1:17, and Luke 3:23-38 while also allowing at least Matthew to communicate a virgin birth explicitly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus#Ma...


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

So I can't tell newengland, were these two hubs on Jesus' genealogy helpful to you or not?


panpan1972 profile image

panpan1972 3 years ago from Greece

Thanks for your answer April, i've just started reading your other hubs!

Thanks for the link newenglandsun!


newenglandsun 3 years ago

The wiki entries were. Although I am not entirely certain that the Aramaic text is correct. Do you know anything about that?


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

thank you panpan, I appreciate that!

From what I understand, anyone can write a wiki entry newengland, so if they are wrong, I think you can write a correction. not entirely sure how that works.


Andy Ramjohn profile image

Andy Ramjohn 3 years ago from Canada

Thank-you for an interesting Hub, April. Keep writing!


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

Thank you Andy, I'm glad you enjoyed it!


newenglandsun 3 years ago

Any one can write a wikipedia entry but they have monitors filtering out the bunk. They really don't want junk on that website. What I meant to say was is that I'm not certain if the Aramaic text was the original manuscript or not.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

Sorry, I really don't know. I know less Aramaic than I know Hebrew.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

Thinking about the early texts of Matthew, I don't believe we have any originals of any part of the Bible. Though it would make sense that Matthew may have written his gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic since he writes primarily for the Jews, as far as I know all the early copies are in Greek. And I don't know how the Aramaic translations compare. Maybe that answers your question better, although I'm still basically saying I don't know. :)


Bishop J L Hayes profile image

Bishop J L Hayes 2 years ago from Texas City, Texas

April, I have just found you and enjoyed your article very much. I might take the liberty to share a teaching I did on this very topic a little over i years ago. I would like to get your response to it. It is in the form of a video. Hope I can share it here. The link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FnAWCiCrjc


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 2 years ago from Arizona Author

Thank you Bishop Hayes, I will watch your video as soon as I get a chance! (Probably tomorrow)


Bishop J L Hayes profile image

Bishop J L Hayes 2 years ago from Texas City, Texas

April, I am still learning how to create hubs. I am interested how you got the panel of Scripture to the right of your article. Any help you could give we would be appreciated.


newenglandsun 2 years ago

you might want to note that bishop hayes is a modalist/sabellian.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabellianism

all i can think of when i think of sabellianism is...

http://img.pokemondb.net/artwork/sableye.jpg


Bishop J L Hayes profile image

Bishop J L Hayes 2 years ago from Texas City, Texas

newenglandsun, thanks for the props. LOL. The wiki article was mostly correct. A few points were cloudly. At any rate any historical mention to Modalism, even if negative, will help because it establishes the priority of the doctrine to the Trinity.

Peace to your house.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 2 years ago from Arizona Author

Good evening Newengland, I am happy to hear from you! Thank you for the info on modalist/sabellian.

I continue to pray for you through your struggles. If only I had the words God could use to pull you from your downward spiral, but fear they are not what you want to hear. But you continue to be on my mind and in my prayers.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 2 years ago from Arizona Author

Good Evening Bishop Hayes! I am happy to tell you how I got the verses on the side.

When you are creating or editing a hub, you will see on the right hand side you will see a place to add a text capsule. Once you click on this, the capsule will be at the bottom of the hub.

When you scroll your mouse over the new capsule, there will be a place to click "edit" along with two arrows and an "x".

The arrow pointing right will put the capsule along the side.

Clicking "edit" will allow you to type what you want and you will be able to choose a color, either blue or gray, for the side capsules.

Hopefully that was helpful. I got about halfway through your youtube video when it was time to get the kids. Hopefully I will get a chance to finish it later tonight.


Bishop J L Hayes profile image

Bishop J L Hayes 2 years ago from Texas City, Texas

Praise the Lord. Thank you April. this helps very much. One other thing: Is there a way to set a different type size?


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 2 years ago from Arizona Author

I'm glad it helped. Other than the larger type in the subtitle box and bold type there isn't really any way that I know of to change the size.

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