New Testament Problems

1) The geneaologies of Matthew and Luke contradict each other

        Matthew                    Luke                 Old Testament

                                   Adam                      Adam
                                   Seth                      Seth
                                   Enos                      Enos
                                  Cainan                    Cainan
                                 Maleleel                 Mahalaleel
                                   Jared                    Jared
                                   Enoch                    Enoch
                                 Mathusala                Methuselah
                                  Lamech                    Lamech
                                    Noe                      Noah
                                    Sem                      Shem
                                 Arphaxad                  Arphaxad
                                   Sala                     Salah
                                   Heber                     Eber
                                  Phalec                    Peleg
                                   Ragau                     Reu
                                  Saruch                    Serug
                                  Nachor                    Nahor
                                   Thara                     Tera
        Abraham                   Abraham                   Abram
         Isaac                     Isaac                    Isaac
         Jacob                     Jacob                Israel (Jacob)
         Judas                     Juda                     Judah
         Phares                   Phares                    Pharez
         Esrom                     Esrom                    Hezrom
          Aram                     Aram                      Ram
        Aminadab                 Aminadab                 Amminadab
        Naasson                  Naassoon                  Nahshon
         Salmon                   Salmon                    Salma
          Booz                     Booz                      Boaz
          Obed                     Obed                      Obed
         Jesse                     Jesse                    Jesse
         David                     David                    David
        Solomon                   Nathan
         Roboam                  Mattatha
          Abia                     Menan
          Asa                      Melea
        Josaphat                  Eliakim
         Joram                     Jonan
         Ozias                    Joseph
        Joatham                    Juda
         Achaz                    Simeon
        Ezekias                    Levi
        Manasses                  Matthat
          Amon                     Jorim
         Josias                   Eliezer
       Jechonias                   Jose
       Salathiel                 Salathiel                Shealtiel
       Zorobabel                 Zorobabel                Zerubbabel
         Abiud                     Rhesa
        Eliakim                   Joanna
          Azor                     Juda
         Sadoc                    Joseph
         Achim                     Semei
         Eliud                  Mattathias
        Eleazer                    Maath
        Matthan                    Nagge
         Jacob                     Esli
         Joseph                   Joseph
         Jesus                     Jesus

Notes: Matthew and Luke also give contradictory genealogies for Zerubbabel. Matthew makes him a descendant of Solomon, David's son. Luke makes him a descendant of Nathan, also a son of David. Since Solomon and Nathan were brothers (I Chronicles 3:5) they cannot both be paternal ancestors of Zerubbabel.

In fact, both geneaologies are pointless, since both Matthew and Luke then go on to claim that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, not by Joseph. Since Mary was of the tribe of Levi, it is therefore impossible for Christ to have been the 'Son of David' as was required for the Messiah.

Possible answers:

A) Luke records the lineage of Mary, and Matthew that of Joseph.

Answer: The problem is that both geneaologies explicitly end with Joseph. Further, Jewish genealogies were always traced via the paternal line. There is nothing in either text to warrant such a conclusion.

B) Matthew's genealogy is not complete - he skips generations.

Answer: This is true. Joram was actually the great-great-grandfather of of Azariah, and Josiah was actually the grandfather of Jechoniah. However, this still does not explain the divergent geneaologies of Zerubbabel, and it means that Matthew's assertion that there are fourteen generations from the captivity to Jesus is wrong. (Matthew 1:17). In fact, in Matthew's list, there are only thirteen generations from the captivity to Jesus, not fourteen as he claimed.

C) One or both geneaologies include maternal deviations.

Answer: The Jews always traced geneaologies via the paternal line. Matthew mentions four females (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Beth-Sheba), but only together with their husbands in the paternal line.

2) Matthew incorrectly attributes a prophecy by Zechariah to Jeremiah

Matthew 27:9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value...

Actually, this prophecy is found in Zechariah.

Zechariah 11:12-13 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.

3) Matthew confused two Old Testament characters

Matthew 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

The incident that Jesus is alluding to is recorded in II Chronicles.

II Chronicles 24:20-21 And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord.

However, the Old Testament records that this Zechariah was the son of Jehoidah, not Berechiah. Berechiah was actually the father of the prophet Zechariah, who lived several decades after the death of his namesake.

Zechariah 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah...

When Luke quotes this event, Jesus does not give the name of the father of Zechariah.

Luke 11:51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

4) There is no external support for Herod's murder of the children

In Matthew 2:16, Matthew records that Herod ordered the execution of all children under two years of age in Bethlehem. This event is not recorded in secular history. The Jewish historian Josephus, in his book Antiquities of the Jews, has a long history of Herod and his crimes (Antiquities, Book XIV, Chapter VIII and following). The massacre at Bethlehem is not among them.

5) Matthew refers to an unknown prophecy

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

This prophecy is not recorded anywhere in the Old Testament.

6) Matthew misunderstood an Old Testament prophecy

In Matthew 21, Jesus tells his disciples to fetch an ass and a colt, to fulfill and Old Testament prophecy.

Matthew 21:2,4,5,7 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.

In actual fact, the prophecy that Matthew quoted only refers to one animal.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

The word 'and' in this sense means 'even', and should be translated as an interpretation of the first object.

New International Version

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Revised Standard Version

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.

Matthew misunderstood the meaning of the passage, and has Christ riding on two animals. The other gospel writers only mention one animal.

Mark 11:2,7 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

Luke 19:30, 35 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.

John 12:14,15 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.

7) Matthew misapplies an Old Testament passage

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Firstly, the Old Testament passage that Matthew referred to (Isaiah 7:14) does not contain the word 'virgin'. It uses the Hebrew word almah, which simply denotes a young female, and does not connote sexual purity. The hebrew word for 'virgin' was bethulah, which is used by Isaiah in 62:5. Matthew followed the lead of the Greek Septuagint in mistranslating almah.

Secondly, this prophecy has immediate application in its own context. Isaiah used the sign of a young, pregnant woman, whom both he and King Ahaz knew. He prophesied that before the child reached the age of accountability (7:16) both Syria and Israel would be conquered. There is no indication in the text that this prophecy would have a future fulfillment.

Finally, Jesus was never called 'Immanuel' by his parents or anyone else.

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Curt van den Heuvel was the original author of this page. He has added additional items to it and changed the format a bit which can be found here.

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