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Genealogies and the Virgin Birth of Christ

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Rarely (if ever) have I read the words “genealogy” and “exciting” in the same sentence. It seems most people consider the genealogies of Christ as some of the Bible’s dullest reading. They frequently are described as boring, dry, and monotonous—full of “begets” that many would just as soon “forget.” In reality, however, exciting pearls of truth often are overlooked. One of these truths that escapes the reader who simply skims (or skips) the genealogies is the virgin birth of Christ.

In Matthew’s genealogy of Christ, it may be that one fails to see how the verb “begot” is used 39 times between Abraham and Joseph (verses 2-16a). And yet, instead of claiming that Joseph begot Jesus, Matthew wrote: “…and Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ” (1:16, emp. added). This wording stands in stark contrast to the format in the preceding verses (“Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, etc.”). Joseph did not beget Jesus; rather, he is referred to as “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.” The Holy Spirit was emphasizing the fact that Jesus was not conceived as the result of anything Joseph did. Rather, Mary “was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18, emp. added). An angel even informed Joseph that he was not the father of Jesus, rather that which was conceived [literally, “begotten”] in her was “of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

Matthew gave us a second “hint” of the virgin birth of Christ when he wrote: “…and Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ” (1:16, emp. added). One might assume that the “whom” in this verse refers to Joseph as Jesus’ father. Others may think it is talking about both Joseph and Mary as His parents. An English teacher likely would point out that we cannot tell to whom the word “whom” belongs in this verse, because when the English word “whom” is used in a sentence it can refer to either men or women; or, it can refer to both. Though usually we can tell the meaning by the context in which the word is found, such is not the case in Matthew 1:16. Our English translations simply do not reveal the marvelous truth concealed in this verse. In order to unveil this “Gospel gem,” one must consult the language in which the New Testament was written originally—Greek. The English phrase “of whom was born Jesus” is translated from the Greek relative feminine pronoun (hes). In this verse, the feminine gender can refer only to Mary. Biblical genealogies regularly emphasize the fathers who sire a child, but here Matthew indicates that Jesus received His humanity only from His mother. Thus, Joseph is excluded from any involvement in the birth of Christ, the Son of God.

While Matthew’s genealogy clearly establishes Christ as the legal heir to the throne by tracing His ancestry down through the royal line of the kings of Israel all the way to Joseph the carpenter (and to Jesus), he still emphasizes Mary as the biological parent “of whom” Jesus was born. What accuracy! What precision! What a wonderful truth found within a genealogy so often overlooked.




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