Matthew 1:1-17 - The Historical, Unique Christ

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 12 Dec 2010


1. The genesis book of Jesus the Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

2. Abraham brought into being Isaac;

Isaac brought into being Jacob;

Jacob brought into being Judah and his brothers,

3. and Judah brought into being Phares and Zarah from Tamar,

and Phares brought into being Hesrom,

and Hesrom brought into being Aram,

4. and Aram brought into being Aminidab,

and Aminadab brought into being Nason,

and Nason brought into being Salmon,

5. and Salmon brought into being Boaz from Rahab,

and Boaz brought into being Obed from Ruth;

and Obed brought into being Jesse,

6. and Jesse brought into being David the king.


And David brought into being Solomon from the [wife] of Uriah,

7. and Solomon brought into being Rehoboam,

and Rehoboam brought into being Abijah

and Abijah brought into being Asaph,

8. and Asaph brought into being Jehoshaphat,

and Jehoshaphat brought into being Joram,

and Joram brought into being Ahaziah,

9. and Ahaziah brought into being Jotham,

and Jotham brought into being Ahaz,

and Ahaz brought into being Hezekiah,

10. and Hezekiah brought into being Manasseh,

and Manasseh brought into being Amos,

and Amos brought into being Josiah,

11. and Josiah brought into being Jechoniah and his brothers during the Babylonian move.


12. And after the Babylonian move, Jechoniah brought into being Salathiel,

and Salathiel brought into being Zerubabel,

13. and Zerubabel brought into being Abioud,

and Abioud brought into being Eliakim,

and Eliakim brought into being Azor,

14. and Azor brought into being Sadok,

and Sadok brought into being Achim,

and Achim brought into being Elioud,

15. and Elioud brought into being Eleazar,

and Eleazar brought into being Matthan,

and Matthan brought into being Jacob,

16. and Jacob brought into being Joseph, the husband of Mary, from whom was brought into being Jesus, who is being called Christ.


17. Thus all the generations from Abraham until David are 14 generations,

and from David until the Babylonian Move are 14 generations,

and from the Babylonian Move until the Christ are 14 generations.

Claims that Jesus is a myth

“…a close examination of the evidence shows that the best explanation for the story of ‘Jesus Christ’ is what we call ‘mythology.’ …there never was any ‘Jesus Christ’ nor any meaningful real life basis for the story… Like many other religious figures, ‘Jesus Christ’ began as a theological concept, was later used as a character in allegorical stories, and was then historicized…. Not only can Christianity be explained without a real historical Jesus at its core, but the historical facts that we do have are best explained if Jesus never existed.”

~ R.G. Price, “Jesus Myth - The Case Against Historical Christ


Dan Barker, a graduate of Azusa Pacific Christian college, wrote the following after two decades as a church pastor: (as found on

  1. “There is no external historical confirmation for the New Testament stories.”
    [There are no other historical documents which can confirm whether or not the stories in the Gospels are true, and it is mighty suspicious that all the historical accounts found in the Gospels provide a convenient “fulfillment” of “prophecies” from the Old Testament!]
  2. “The New Testament stories are internally contradictory.”
    [For instance, they mention a signal star and a Roman census that are not found in any other historical document. And the chronology of the Gospel events is different from the sequencing of events in Josephus’s historical writings.]
  3. “There are natural explanations for the origin of the Jesus legend.”
    [There are many similarities between Christian teaching and Roman mythology, and there are many cult groups that have gained large followings with charismatic leaders and martyrdoms just like Christianity. Besides, the comments about Jesus in the writings of Josephus were probably inserted fraudulently by a Christian later on to give credibility to Christianity.]
  4. “The miracle reports make the story unhistorical.” [Everybody knows that people don’t rise from the dead or turn water into wine, so obviously the Gospels can’t be historical.]


Does this make you think twice about the claims of the Bible? Hopefully you can see some of the logical fallacies in the reasoning of these skeptics, such as false assumptions, circular reasoning, and non sequitors. But there is another reason to believe in a real Jesus:


Matthew opens his account of the Gospel with a powerful argument against the “non-historical Jesus.” He starts with a genealogy. This genealogy shows us that Jesus was Historical, that Jesus is Unique, and that Jesus is the Christ.

1. Jesus was a historical person

A)    Importance of genealogies to establish historicity: WBT in PNG
A few years ago, I read about a Wycliffe Bible translator in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. He wanted to share the gospel with the tribe he was engaging, so he skipped over the boring genealogy and jumped right into the story of Jesus’ birth. Day after day, he met with men in the village and read through the Gospel according to Matthew one verse at a time and discussed with them how was the best way to translate that passage into the tribal language. Finally he got to the end of Matthew and realized he needed to translate chapter 1 before the project was finished. So he sat down once again with the men in the village and started talking through the genealogy. A hush fell over the room. It got so quiet that the translator started fearing that he had violated some tribal taboo in his translating. But no! When the reading was finished the people stood in amazement. "Why didn't you tell us this before?" they asked. "No one bothers to write down the ancestors of spirit beings but only of real persons. The Bible must mean to say that Jesus is a real person! Jesus was a real man on our real earth and not just a part of some spirit world; not just some of the white man's magic!"

o       Matthew the tax-collector shows his colors here as an accountant, and his genealogy lets us know that Jesus was a real historical person.

B)    Problems with Matthew’s genealogy – Answers to 4 objections:

1)      SPELLING: No big deal. Mostly Hebrew names transliterated into Greek, then that Greek transliteration transliterated into English – you’re bound to get interesting spellings because the very alphabets are different between the three different languages. For instance, in Hebrew, the same letter can be a “u” a “v” or a “w.” Then you get to Greek, which doesn’t have a letter for “w” or “j” or “h” like English does. With that in mind, it’s relatively easy to see who these people are in the Old Testament that Mathew is listing, even if the spelling is different.

2)      NUMBERING: To get the three sets of 14 generations, Matthew overlapped at the first break point, effectively double-counting David in order to get 14.

a.       (What else would you expect from a tax assessor?)

b.      Seriously, since David filled a key role within two historical epochs, Matthew included him in both of the ages of Israel to which he contributed.

c.       Matthew didn’t make a mistake in his accounting. It would have been mathematical mistake to say that there were 42 generations in all, but Matthew doesn’t do that, he just says there were these three time periods with 14 generations in each.[1]

3)      Starts with ABRAHAM: no problem – emphasis on Abraham, David, and Josiah indicate Matthew’s intent to impress a Jewish readership.

4)      MISSING GENERATIONS: Puzzling, but not a showstopper.

a.       If you compare Matthew’s genealogy with 1 Chron 1-4,

(i)     you find that from Abraham to David there is perfect agreement,

(ii)   from David to the return from Babylon there is much agreement except that five names are included in Chronicles which are not in Matthew’s genealogy, namely: Azariah (Uzziah), Amaziah, and Joash, who are included in Chronicles between Ahaziah (or Ozias) and Jotham. Also, around Jehoiachin (aka Jechoniah) and Zerubbabel Chronicles includes the names of Jehioakim and of Pedaiah.

(iii) From Zerubbabel on, Chronicles appears to be following a different track not aimed toward Joseph, so it’s irrelevent.

b.      Why would these five names not be included by Matthew?

(i)     Since the kingdom did not always pass directly from father to son,  that could explain a differences in genealogies. Matthew does, however, follow the line of rightful heirs to the throne, and the two points in history where foreign usurpers interfered with the throne (Athaliah and Nebuchadnezzar) are the two points where the omissions occur.

(ii)   The first three were connected to the house of the wicked king Ahab and regarded by many as not true links in the theocratic chain. (JFB, Lightfoot, Alford, Lange).

(iii) The second two may actually be included in Matthew’s mention of Jechoniah’s brothers, if we take it to mean relatives who were placed on the throne illegitimately, as Jehoiakim was. (Calvin)

(iv) It is also possible that Matthew’s intent is not to completely recreate the genealogy, but to give the basic gist of it. The word “begot” has a wide range of meaning in Greek. It can mean that a person fathered a child, that a person created some sort of object, that an event took place in time, or that a person was an ancestor of some descendent down the line somewhere. So it’s possible that Matthew is using a word that allows for enough range of meaning that he can use it to denote a great grandson in one place and a son in another place.

(v)   We must be careful not to run too far with that range of meaning, however. The Bible contains a great deal of precision in its genealogies, and we should not assume that there are gaps of time everywhere throughout the genealogies in order to telescope the genealogies according to our imaginations. The fact that we can identify five generational gaps doesn’t mean that there have to be any more than that.

c.       The other genealogy of Christ is found in Luke 3,

(i)     which agrees perfectly between Abraham and David,

(ii)   then appears to follow a totally different line from David to reconverge at Salathiel and Zerubbabel,

(iii) then follows another totally different line from Zerubbabel to Joseph.

d.      Why would Matthew follow a totally different line of descendents than Luke?

(i)     Calvin suggests that Matthew is tracing the succession of kings to show that Jesus owns the right to be the King of Israel, whereas Luke is tracing the actual fathers and sons.

(ii)   Another explanation that seems to be commonly accepted among modern scholars is that Matthew traces Joseph’s parentage whereas Luke traces Mary’s parentage.

(iii) This would fit with the fact that Matthew’s account of the birth seems to tell the story from Joseph’s perspective whereas Luke’s account tells it more from Mary’s.

(iv) Calvin reminds us that the law required people to marry within their tribe
so both Joseph and Mary would have probably both been from the tribe of Judah,
so their genealogy would naturally match up to a point, but then would naturally diverge at some point because the law also said you can’t marry a close relative.

e.       If you compare the Genealogy of Ruth 4, I Chron 1-2, and Luke 3, they agree perfectly between Abraham and David. No skips, no differences (except some minor variations in spelling of names).

(i)     The further back you go in the genealogies, the more similarity you find among the various genealogical tables.

(ii)   There are at least three full-blown genealogies for comparison all the way back to Adam (if you include Gen. 5 & 11), and they are in perfect agreement with the exception of only one name:

(iii) Cainan, whose wickedness is recorded in Genesis and explains the reason why the writer of Chronicles may have omitted Cainan from the family line.

C)    Allusion to Toledoth in Genesis

1)      The phrase “book of the generations” is found in Gen 2:4 “this is the genesis book of the heavens and the earth” and 5:1 – “this is the genesis book of Adam.”

2)      The word Genesis/generations/genealogy is also found in about a dozen other places throughout the OT to describe a genealogy:

a.       Gen 6:9 (these are the generations of Noah),

b.      Gen 10:1&32 (these are the generations of the sons of Noah),

c.       Gen 11 (these are the generations of Shem… these are the generations of Terah the father of Abraham),

d.      Genesis 25 (these are the generations of Ishmael… these are the generations of Isaac – cf. 1 Chron. 1:29),

e.       The genealogies of Jacob and Esau in Gen 36 - 37,

f.       Ex 6:24 – the genealogy of Korah,

g.      of Aaron and Moses (Num 3:1),

h.      of Perez (Ruth 4:18), 

i.        and many more in 1 Chronicles.

D)    Genealogy = take this seriously as history. Value of context. Matthew is using a writing style from the Old Testament well known to the Jews to establish the place of Jesus in history.

2. Jesus was a unique person

A)    Jesus’ birth was unique in that He was not begotten by a man:

1)      All his predecessors in Matthew 1 “begot” offspring – “begot” in the active voice, but Jesus “was begotten” – in the passive voice

2)      No subject stated in v.16 as to who begot Him except that it was “out of Mary” that He was brought into being.

3)      Luke’s genealogy, by the way, also makes it clear that Joseph was not Jesus’ actual father, but rather His “legal/supposed” father.

4)      The Nicene creed says He was “eternally begotten” of the Father “before all worlds”

5)      Jesus came directly from God’s mysterious process of begetting.
God is not a human, so His process of begetting is not the way we men go about getting children. Jesus’ birth was unique.

B)    Jesus came at a unique time and created a turning-point of history:

1)      Galatians 4:4-5  But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

2)      Matthew places Jesus at one of the three great hinge-points of history next to David and Josiah. This indicates a covenantal development.

a.       God gave special covenants to Abraham and to David,

b.      then undertook a major covenantal disciplinary step after Josiah, when God allowed the nation of Israel to be overthrown and taken captive into Babylon for a time,

c.       then comes the new/renewed covenant under Jesus!

3)      Notice also that the line of kings ends with Jesus. This is a major turning point in history: No more spiritually-empowered patriarchs, prophets and kings to lead all of God’s people. Jesus is the last and eternal king, the one who assumed the throne of David and rules forevermore from heaven.

C)    Jesus is a unique actor among mankind as the second Adam:

1)      As the unique son of God, He had the unique ability to change the course of human history by keeping the law of God perfectly, a feat no other human had ever done before.

2)      And as the Son of God, Jesus had the unique ability to render His death as an atonement – not just for one other human being who had sinned and incurred the wages of sin (which is death), but as an atonement for any and everyone that He wanted the payment for sin applied to.

a.       Matt. 26:28  this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

b.      Romans 5:14-15  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses…  15  But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.


So not only was Jesus part of real history, He was also unique in history with His unique birth, timing, and actions.

3. Jesus is called the Christ/Messiah

A)    Meaning = anointed (“Messiah” = Hebrew participle;  “Christ-” = Greek)

B)    This was done with prophets, priests, and kings in the Biblical context.:

1)      “The Lord's anointed” was a common title of the king (1Sam. 12:3-5; 2Sa. 1:14-16). Prophets are called “Messiahs,” or anointed ones (1Ch. 16:22; Psa. 105:15) Anointing was applied to kings (1Sam. 9:16; 10:1), to prophets (1Ki. 19:16), and to priests (Ex. 29:29; 40:15; Lev. 16:32) at their inauguration. (Vincent)

2)      These anointed ones were men on whom was poured out God’s special blessing to take leadership among God’s people.

3)      Jesus THE CHRIST is thus the one special leader forevermore of God’s people.

C)    Matthew’s genealogy shows that Jesus as CHRIST is the promised seed of Abraham and the promised Son of David who would reign forever.

1)      Genesis 22:15-18 the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

2)      Galatians 3:13-16  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"-- in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.

3)      Psalm 132:11 The LORD has sworn to David, A truth from which He will not turn back: "Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne….”

4)      2 Sam. 7:12-14 God told David, "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me…

5)      Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises God gave to David and Abraham!

6)      Furthermore, Luke’s genealogy goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, and shows Jesus to be the fulfillment of the promise God made to Adam and Eve of a seed who would be crushed, but who would crush the head of the evil one (Gen 3:16).


Jesus lived in real history, and He is unique as the Messiah, the Christ, the one anointed by God to be the ultimate leader of His people. What does this mean to us?


1.      God can be trusted: He has a plan.

2.      God is not slack concerning His promises, so be patient:

o       It took two thousand years to get from God’s promises to Abraham to their fulfillment in the coming of Christ.

o       God likes to allow things to ripen over time. Quick-fixes are not typical of Christianity. Quick-fixes do not yield the magnificent glories that Christianity is all about.

o       Therefore be patient! Keep trusting God; hang on for the long haul, because God has something worth every bit of the wait, worth every bit of the pain.

o       2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance… 13  But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. So trust God and be patient.

3.      There are no second-rate citizens in God’s economy, so you are important:

o        God shows in this genealogy that He values both men and women, Jews and Gentiles. Included without shame in the genealogy of Jesus are: Tamar, Rahab (the Canaanite prostitute), Ruth (the Gentile from Moab), and Bath-sheba.

o       This is “to hold forth, at the very outset, the unsearchable riches of that grace which could not only fetch in them that are afar off, but reach down even to publicans and harlots, and raise them to sit with the princes of His people.” (JFB)

o       You are important to God, no matter who you are, so keep trusting Him and be patient.

4.      Jesus is our redeemer:

As we read through this genealogy, the stories of many of these people come to mind –and they are not pretty stories:

o       There’s the patriarch who didn’t believe God would keep his promise to give him a child through his wife… but they were blessed anyway.

o       There’s the patriarch who deceived his father and ran away from home… and was blessed anyway,

o       There’s the woman who seduced her father-in-law, yet, “the astonishing goodness of God strove with the sin of both, so that, nevertheless, this adulterous seed came to possess the scepter … such that, in establishing His kingdom, nothing depended upon human merits.” (Calvin)

o       And then there was the king who committed adultery and tried to cover it up by committing murder… who repented and was blessed by God,

o       and there’s many many more stories in this list of names. Jesus redeemed their messed-up, sinful lives, giving them “beauty for ashes, and the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isa 61:3). Jesus is a redeemer!

o       And He is our redeemer too: All of us here who have come to know Jesus have our own stories to tell of how we twisted and distorted His truth, grievously wounded other people, and damaged our own lives by our foolishness and selfishness. And yet – and yet – Jesus decided to love us anyway and, by His Spirit has begun to untangle the filthy knots within our hearts as we repent of them and He make us into new creatures! Hallelujah, what a Savior!


This is the month, and this the happy morn Wherein the Son of Heav'n's eternal King,

Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born,

Our great redemption from above did bring; For so the holy sages once did sing,

That he our deadly forfeit should release, And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.


That glorious Form, that Light unsufferable, And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty,

Wherewith he wont at Heav'n's high council-table, To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,

He laid aside, and here with us to be,

Forsook the courts of everlasting day, And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.

~John Milton, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”


Jesus, the historical Seed of Abraham and Son of David, took the unique place in history as our Redeemer, and is the Christ - God’s anointed prophet, priest, and King forever.


(All scriptures except translation at beginning are from NASB)

[1] Calvin has another hypothesis, claiming that the name Jechoniah was originally in the Matthew genealogy twice to indicate first Jehoiachin and secondly Jehoikim, but that careless scribes thought the duplication was an error and removed the second instance of the name. He cites an author who claimed to have seen one manuscript which bears the repetition of the name and also marshalls the short list of 13 names in proof, but this is not convincing to me.