Problems with Basic Math?

Was Matthew incapable of basic math in his genealogy?

by Bodie Hodge on February 16, 2009

Was Matthew incapable of basic math in his genealogy?

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus says there were three groups of 14 people from Abraham to Christ, but when you add them up, there are only 41 people, not the expected 42. How do you explain that?

When we turn to Matthew 1, we read:

Matthew 1:17
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

Just prior to this, we read genealogical data that is tallied up in the following chart:

VerseFatherSonNumber
Abraham
2AbrahamIsaac1
2IsaacJacob (Israel)2
2Jacob (Israel)Judah3
3JudahPerez4
3PerezHezron5
3HezronRam6
4RamAmminadab7
4AmminadabNahshon8
4NahshonSalmon9
5SalmonBoaz10
5BoazObed11
5ObedJesse12
David
6DavidSolomon1
7SolomonRehoboam2
7RehoboamAbijah3
7AbijahAsa4
8AsaJehoshaphat5
8JehoshaphatJoram6
8JoramUzziah7
9UzziahJotham8
9JothamAhaz9
9AhazHezekiah10
10HezekiahManasseh11
10ManassehAmon12
10AmonJosiah13
Jeconiah (Jehoiachin)
12JeconiahShealtiel1
12ShealtielZerubbabel2
13ZerubbabelAbihud3
13AbihudEliakim4
13EliakimAzor5
14AzorZadok6
14ZadokAchim7
14AchimEliud8
15EliudEleazar9
15EleazarMatthan10
15MatthanJacob11
16JacobJoseph12
16JosephWhose wife, Mary, bore Jesus13

In Matthew 1:17, we find this was specifically broken down into three major divisions:

  1. Abraham to David
  2. From David to the captivity
  3. From the captivity to the Messiah

The verse also reveals that the divisions will be groups of fourteen, not complete genealogies like Luke 3. But what about the fourteen generations here. Isn’t there a contradiction, since some don’t reveal exactly 14 generations each? Take care in noticing how these names and divisions are given, and the answer presents itself.

The first division is “from Abraham to David.” So, this would include both David and Abraham and the 12 generations between them to make 14.

The second division is “from David to the deportation.” So, this includes David again in the count, but not necessarily Jeconiah; otherwise, it would have made sense to use his name. The Jewish community would have been very familiar with Jeconiah and his relation to the deportation. But Jeconiah is not listed here by name; rather, the deportation is named. This is a significant point.

Jeconiah was only king for a short time, recorded as doing evil and was young, being only 18 when he took the crown (2 Chronicles 36:9). So, there is no reason to assume that Matthew included Jeconiah as a full generation (which is what Matthew is writing about). So, from David to the deportation (not including Jeconiah), there are 14 generations.

The final division is “from the deportation to the Messiah.” Since Jeconiah was not listed with the previous division at the deportation, he will no doubt be included here, since the time of his generation was more complete after the deportation. When adding the generations, from Jeconiah to Christ, there are 14 generations.

So, Matthew was entirely accurate with his wording of each of the 14 generations. Using Matthew’s breakdown, David was listed twice, hence no contradiction, but careful wording on Matthew’s part.

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.