I was reading a forum the other day and someone brought up a question regarding Jesus' genetics and His right to the Throne of David and thus, His Messiahship.
One person there said, "A Kingship must be descendant from bloodline not adoption. An adopted son can inherit possessions, but not a Throne.
Mary may well be a descendant of David, but she canit pass David’s Y-DNA to Jesus. Mary can only provide half of Jesus' DNA; her mother's St.Anne's mtDNA. Women donit possess the male Y-DNA. David's Y-DNA is passed only to the male line. Joseph, of course, did not pass his Y-DNA on to Jesus. How can Jesus inherit the Throne of David and Solomon if he doesn't carry their Y-DNA which is passed from father to son (Agnatic succession)?"
Thank you for posing this question, which is of great interest. The whole position of Jesus’ descent is a fascinating study. In developing my response, I have been influenced by the writings of Arnold Fruchtenbaum.
Your correspondent has looked at the issue, by discussing mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA. DNA was not known about in Old Testament times. Therefore, a model of descent, involving DNA is not relevant. This issue of descent is, in fact, not a scientific question, but a legal question.
However, it must be conceded immediately that descent in Jewish terms could not be facilitated by adoption. Descent has to be through blood. My point above is simply to make clear that DNA does not play a part in the discussion of blood descent of kingship.
In any case, the Old Testament knew of two distinct methods of claiming kingship. One is by descent from David, and the other is by prophetic or divine appointment. Where did David himself get his kingship? It was by prophetic appointment, through Samuel. His predecessor, Saul was similarly appointed. There is no suggestion that Saul’s son, Jonathan, expected to inherit kingship. No principle of heredity had been established at that stage, so the clear expectation was for the kingship to be passed on to God’s next anointed – which Jonathan knew to be David. Moreover, David was, in any case, accepted as Saul’s son, because the legal position of a son-in-law was equivalent to that of a son. (see 1 Samuel 24:16).
After the division of Israel into the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the two possible requirements for kingship became separated. In the South, kings of Judah continued to be blood descendents of David. In the North, however, kings were established by divine appointment. Any king who tried to rule without this divine appointment was assassinated (e.g. see 1 Kings 15:28-30, and 2 Kings 15:8-12).
The last direct lineal descendent of David to be king was Jeconiah. God rejected him because of his evil. The Coniah mentioned in Jeremiah 22:24-30 is the same man as King Jeconiah. In verse 30, God says:
Write this man down as childless,
A man who shall not prosper in his days;
For none of his descendants shall prosper,
Sitting on the throne of David,
And ruling anymore in Judah.
Note that he is to be written down as childless – not that he actually was childless. Indeed, Joseph was a direct descendent of Jeconiah. Therefore, the whole point of Matthew’s genealogy is not to prove the kingship of Jesus. Rather, it is to prove to a Jewish audience – because Matthew was writing primarily for a Jewish audience – that Joseph, as a direct descendent of Jeconiah, could never be king, and so the fact that Jesus was not actually Joseph’s son was important – emphasising that Jesus’ kingship did not depend wholly on descent.
It was, however, possible to be a king, even in Judah, without direct descent through Jeconiah. The proof of this is to look at the last king of Judah – Zedekiah in 2 Chronicles 36. Zedekiah was the brother of Jeconiah, and was therefore not banned under Jeconiah’s curse, yet was eligible for kingship by virtue of being a blood descendent of David.
When we look at the genealogy in Luke, we are examining a record written primarily for non-Jews. It is interesting therefore that Matthew’s genealogy, written for a Jewish audience, uses non-Jewish ideas (such as including women, and omitting some generations), whereas Luke’s genealogy, written for a non-Jewish audience, sticks rigidly to a Jewish formula, by omitting women and not omitting any generations. Both evangelists are trying to “shake-up” their audiences. Luke’s genealogy lists only men, but gives a different father for Joseph. Jewish tradition suggests that Heli was the father of Mary. So how can he be listed as Joseph’s father? For two reasons:
- It was not unusual for a man to take his wife’s family name, and be counted as one of them. We see the same thing happening in Ezra 2:61. This is similar to the situation in the British monarchy, where Prince Charles takes his family name from his mother, Queen Elizabeth II (House of Windsor), rather than from his father, Prince Philip, whose surname is Mountbatten.
- This argument is implied by the use of articles in the Greek. All the men’s names in the genealogy are listed with the definite article – something that doesn’t happen in English – i.e. The Heli, The Mattat etc. The exception is Joseph, whose name appears without the definite article, and this is usually an indication that his inheritance is actually through his wife.
Without recourse to DNA, therefore, there is a clear blood descent of Jesus through Mary and through, not Mary’s mother (who may or may not have been called Anne – scripture doesn’t say), but Mary’s father. The one female link in the chain is filled by Joseph. A similar filling of the family line also occurred in the book of Ruth, where Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s dead husband Elimelech, fills the inheritance gap by marrying Ruth and producing heirs for Elimelech.
In summary, therefore, Matthew’s genealogy makes clear that Joseph could not inherit the kingdom of Judah, emphasising that Jesus’ kingdom is wider than just Judah. Jesus does, however, inherit the kingdom of Judah by blood descent through Mary. Jesus also fulfils the requirement of the kingship of Israel – both pre-division and post-division – by receiving divine appointment. Jesus therefore has the right in every possible way to qualify for the kingship of Israel and Judah – as well as the most important qualification for kingship, implicit in the translation of the name Elimelech – My God is King.