Can Jesus Inherit Lineage From His Adoptive Father Joseph?

ancient_jerusalemWas Jesus from the tribe of Judah? Well, here is where we run into our first problem. How does one inherit tribal lineage? From his father. Who was Jesus’ father? Well, according to the New Testament, it certainly wasn’t Joseph – he was going to divorce Mary because she was pregnant. So, you can’t use Joseph’s genealogy. Now, both of the genealogies given for Jesus in the New Testament are listed as belonging to Joseph. That right there presents problems, primarily because they are different. Christian scholars have asserted that the reason they are different is that one of them is actually Mary’s. They never satisfactorily explain why Mary’s genealogy is listed as Joseph’s, but let’s go with that for a minute.

Joseph’s genealogy attributes him to being from the tribe of Judah. But remember, Joseph isn’t Jesus’ father, so it doesn’t count. One cannot inherit tribal lineage through adoption. Here’s an example… Let’s say that Yonatan is a Cohen (of the priestly line) and he marries Rivkah and they have a son named Yosef. Yosef is a Cohen (he inherited it by birth from his father), and when he grows up he can serve in the Temple. Now, let’s say that Yosef’s father Yonatan dies. Can Yosef still serve in the Temple when he grows up? Absolutely – he’s still a Cohen – still of the priestly line. Now let’s say his mother Rivkah marries Shlomo, from the tribe of Yehuda. Shlomo can one day serve as a King. And let’s say that Shlomo loves Yosef and decides to adopt him. Is Yosef still a Cohen? Yes. Can Yosef still serve in the Temple? Yes. Can he serve as a king? No. Even though his adopted father is from the tribe of Yehuda, Yosef is still a Cohen. Adoption doesn’t change a fact of birth.

So, if Joseph is not Jesus’ father, then his genealogy is pointless. It’s a red herring. It doesn’t make a difference, and it doesn’t matter.

-from “The Messiah and the Lineage of Jesus”

OK, I’m at a loss. I found this troubling bit of information a little while ago (as I write this) and very much on the coattails of me publishing my review of the FFOZ TV episode Son of David. In the TV program, First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teacher Toby Janicki did what I thought was a thorough job of resolving any troubling questions about the genealogy of Jesus (you’ll have to view the program to see the explanation) establishing him as of the tribe of Judah and in the lineage of David and Solomon.

However, as you can see from the above-quoted information, one question remains: how can one inherit a genealogy from an adopted father, and particularly tribal affiliation?

And you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 22:20

You shall not pervert the judgment of a stranger or an orphan, and you shall not take a widow’s garment as security [for a loan].

Deuteronomy 22:17

The stranger or “ger” in ancient, tribal Israel, was a non-Israelite, someone born of the nations, who desired to join the community of Israel and to obey all of the requirements of God. That person behaved just as a born-Israelite but he or she lacked any sort of tribal status, and therefore no protection from tribal leaders and no inheritance in the Land. This person was potentially vulnerable, along with widows and orphans, to all sorts of abuses, and God made a specific point on numerous occasions that the tribally affiliated Israelites were not to afflict or take advantage of this population.

Eventually, their descendants would intermarry and would become tribally affiliated, but especially that first generation of gerim were connected to no Israelite tribe.

tallit-prayerIf Jesus did not gain tribal membership through Joseph, then he had a unique status in Israelite society in the early First Century. I’m not sure if he could legally gain a tribal affiliation from his mother ( says, “no”), but if not, then he did not have one at all. As far as Toby’s presentation is concerned, we don’t have a record of Mary’s (Miriam’s) genealogy, so even if Jesus could inherit affiliation from her, we’d still have no idea about who Jesus was as a tribal member.

As far as I understand it, the status of a “ger” didn’t exist in the Israel of Jesus’s day. Many tribal affiliations had been lost in the Babylonian exile and the only ones still recognizable were Judah, Benjamin (Paul knew he was of that tribe), and Levi. We have no record of any other tribes being recognized, such as Dan, Gad, Naphtali, and so on. These were supposedly part of the “lost tribes,” but one theory on where they went was that representatives did return to Israel after some time and were simply assimilated into Judah and Benjamin.

But that’s beside the point.

The question is, given the unique circumstances of the birth of Jesus, what tribal affiliation (if any) did he possess and how can you prove it from scripture? Any information about tribal inheritance and the specifics of legal adoption practices from the early First Century CE in Israel would be a bonus.

I’m not aware of any other virgin births in the Bible. If there were, we could look at the person/people who were the products of such births and see how tribal affiliation was managed. There are other miraculous births such as Isaac and Samuel, but they still required a participating male to biologically father these children.

In the case of Jesus, we have none since Joseph, by definition, could not have been involved in a virgin birth.

I should mention at this point that an explanation and evidence satisfactory to Jewish audiences (as well as Gentiles) must exist based on Paul’s presentation of said-evidence in Acts 13:13-34. Luke only gives us a summary of Paul’s oratory in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, but assuming we believe the text is accurate, whatever Paul said must have been sufficient to have convinced the born-Jews, righteous converts, and God-fearing Gentiles present that Jesus was the Messiah. The only objection the Jewish audience seemed to have was on the following Shabbat (Acts 13:44-52), when the synagogue was inundated by masses of pagan Gentiles, all eager to hear what Paul had to say about Jesus. The Jewish leadership didn’t question the authenticity of Jesus as Messiah, only the necessity of involving a whole lot of Gentiles (which eventually tainted anything Paul said about Messiah or anyone else).

However, if we cannot find the proof that resolves the issue of the genealogy of Jesus based on scriptural evidence and ancient Israeli inheritance and adoption practices, then it is a showstopper. I don’t expect that anyone responding to this will present iron clad evidence that absolutely cannot be denied, but this is a good question and it deserves a good answer. Otherwise, we are left to fill in the missing pieces of this puzzle with faith, and that wasn’t the point of Toby’s teaching in his video lesson.

Is Jesus the Son of David or not?


25 thoughts on “Can Jesus Inherit Lineage From His Adoptive Father Joseph?”

  1. Hi James,

    No expert here, but do want to mention a few things. First, besides Judah, levites, and benjamites, according to Luke 2 Anna was from Asher.

    Also, is there any reason (I can’t think of one) to believe that Joseph’s DNA wasn’t used in the event? Does God have DNA to contribute?

    There’s an apologetic article about your question you may find interesting here:

  2. No showstopper. Anti-missionary groups employ all sorts of deceitful tactics, both to in their minds, “return,” Jews to their rightful place following their chosen brand of Orthodoxy, and to separate Christians from their faith in Jesus (I am not saying there aren’t things they should be separated from) and turn them into Noahides. Some people are experts in debating these sorts of things, just as some have the scientific knowledge to debate evolutionists or the philosophical knowledge to debate skeptics.

    I am not a scholar, but based upon what I know, there doesn’t seem to be a reason why an adopted child would not inherit his father’s tribal affiliation and land, in the same way a biological child would. They pull all sorts of other stuff, like a recent deal with Tovia Singer where he claimed that there is nothing in Judaism that says that a man can die for the sins of another, when this is throughout Judaism. Their argument is correct in that no man will be punished wrongly for the sins of another, but one can willingly give his life for another, as in Isaiah 53, which they also butcher. This concept is found in the Talmud and among ancient and modern sages. There is a belief that an innocent person, often a child, will die and it is seen as God’s way of turning judgment away from the sins of Israel. A few years ago, when Leiby Kletzky, a 7-year-old autistic boy and child of Hasids, was murdered in Brooklyn by a mentally ill man, Lazer Brody (Breslover) said that his death took the place of judgement for the sins of the Jewish people and protected them from further harm. They have all sorts of other arguments, like, “Virgins don’t have babies.” No they don’t, and neither do 90 year old women and 100 year old men.

    So, any question or argument an anti-missionary comes up with, even if we lack the brain power and research capabilities to find an answer immediately, shouldn’t throw us if we truly know him of whom we speak, and are not just parroting doctrine, and we have put our hand to the plow. And there are also some that are easily manipulated via psycho-social means, and are manpleasers. If a person’s faith is based upon emotionalism or the desire for social acceptance, then one can be lured from that faith with the same methodology. And if you are just regurgitating memes, you can be trained to regurgitate someone else’s memes.

    If you are married, and have a deep, intimate and trusting relationship with your spouse, and someone comes along and makes untrue accusations about your beloved, even if they claim to offer you proof, do you accept the word of your beloved or the word of the accusatory stranger? If they show you a video of your beloved in the arms of another, do you conclude that someone doctored the video, or does this stir up unwarranted suspicion and drive a wedge between the two of you?

    Obviously, there are huge areas of sin both within Christianity and MessyWorld. The Orthodox Jewish world is also full of covered-up child molestation, spousal abuse and retribution against those who refuse to maintain the code of silence. The “gedolim,” Orthodox Jewish religious authorities, issued a decision incumbent upon those within their realm, that an individual or parent was not to go to the police, or tell anyone else if their child reported being molested. Instead, they were to tell the rabbi, who would threaten them to keep quiet, and they based this upon an obscure Talmudic text that states that a Jew should not go to the gentile court against a fellow Jew. They ignore the, “standing idly by your brother’s blood,” passage in Isaiah. Interesting that Aish did an article applying that same passage to Paterno, in the Sandusky scandal, but seems to have selective memory about the sins of their own camp. Manis Friedman, of Chabad, caused some uproar when he claimed that being molested was like having a bad case of diarrhea; in other words, something unpleasant and embarrassing that you don’t talk about, but not really a big deal.

  3. So far, I’m not feeling it. Answers in Genesis (a source I don’t have a lot of faith in) bases Jesus having a Judah, David, Solomon lineage on Numbers 27:1-11 whereby women can inherit if there are no eligible male relatives, but that doesn’t directly translate to her son inheriting both the line of Judah and the Davidic throne because he doesn’t have a biological father, does it?

    Another source seems to talk about the fact that since Miriam (Mary) was already betrothed to Joseph, a legal relationship was already in place, and since Joseph chose to marry Miriam even after she became pregnant (through supernatural means), then he becomes the “father of record,” so to speak, rather than a man who adopts a child his wife bore through a previous relationship, thus although they don’t have a DNA connection, the legal relationship would be as if Joseph was factually the father of Jesus. In this case, Joseph’s genealogy is the key factor and it doesn’t require “bending” scripture to make the Davidic connection come through Miriam.

    I don’t know. I’m still turning all this over in my head.

  4. I found one small part of Talmud, specifically b.Sanhedrin 43a which says the following:

    AND A HERALD PRECEDES HIM etc. This implies, only immediately before [the execution], but not previous thereto.33 [In contradiction to this] it was taught: On the eve of the Passover Yeshu34 was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!35 — Ulla retorted: ‘Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defence could be made? Was he not a Mesith [enticer], concerning whom Scripture says, Neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him?36 With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].’

    34 [Ms.M. adds the Nasarean’.]
    35 [A Florentine Ms. adds: and the eve of Sabbath.]

    This seems to describe the crucifixion of Jesus and also (possibly) describes him as “royalty.” Admittedly, it’s weak, but it is at least some sort of connection from post-Temple Jewish sources that suggests that Jesus could have been from a (the) royal line.

  5. (James just reposting what we were discussing on Facebook):

    What happens if a child is born and he has a Jewish mother and a Gentile father? What is the halacha? What tribe would he be affliated with? According to Jewish law, the child would then take the tribal descent of the mother according to the Talmud (Bava Batra). We have in our hands with Yeshua of Nazereth the most miraculous birth recorded period.

    When the father has no background or is not Jewish, then the children follow the Nusach of the mother. As it says: Shema’ beni Torath immekha “Hear, my son, the Torah of your mother.”

  6. As I mentioned on Facebook Rey, I don’t know if this particular halakah was in place during the last Second Temple period. If the mother was the sole transmitter of genealogy, then the father’s bloodline would always be irrelevant. This doesn’t seem the case for the time of the Bible and as we discussed on Facebook, the lineage of the father seemed to be of primary importance in terms of the tribal affiliation of the son.

    However, to address your question further, if Miriam (Mary) was betrothed to a Gentile, I can’t imagine that Jesus would ever be recognized as King, even if she had a direct line back to David and Solomon. God commanded (a quick Google search doesn’t reveal where, but I know I read it recently) that no foreigner (that is, Gentile) would ever sit on the Throne in Israel. I can’t imagine God and Israel considering someone to be a legitimate King who had a Gentile father, no matter who his mother was (guys like Herod weren’t legitimate Kings).

  7. The mother was only the transmitter of genetic identity as a Jew, and tribal affiliation if there were no Jewish father. Otherwise, tribal identity was inherited through the legal father, and there could be no dispute if the Jewish mother made no contrary claim about an alternative human father (claims about non-human intervention would not have legal standing). Yosef was indisputably Yeshua’s legal father, married to the mother of the child in question and offering no dispute to repudiate the child. Adoption was never an issue. In my view the Answers in Genesis response is correct about Luke’s assignment of Miriam’s “in-law” lineage also to Yosef as the legally responsible party, providing a second lineage back to David that was not tainted by the prohibition against Jehoiachin’s descendants.

  8. Quote: “…the only ones still recognizable were Judah, Benjamin (Paul knew he was of that tribe), and Levi. We have no record of any other tribes being recognized,”

    But scripture says:
    Luke 2:36 “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher…”

  9. ” providing a second lineage back to David that was not tainted by the prohibition against Jehoiachin’s descendants.”

    Jehoiachin’s curse was reversed in Haggai 2:21-23.

  10. Getting back to how Joseph’s lineage could apply to Yeshua as Messiah, the only other thing I thought of is pretty far out and I couldn’t possibly prove it from scripture. I thought of it when I was thinking of Yeshua’s DNA (something no one would have thought about in the late Second Century era or for a long, long time afterward). Half of his DNA would have to be Miriam’s. Who supplied the other half? God isn’t a human being and He doesn’t have a genetic code (as far as anyone knows). What if He used Joseph’s?

    If that’s true (and all this is just my imagination working), then Jesus would still, literally be Joseph’s and Miriam’s biological son which means that any lineage required from both parents would be present. The Bible just says that Miriam was a virgin, not that God didn’t supply Joseph’s genetic material through other means besides a sexual encounter.

    Like I said, it’s imagination, not scripture. I can’t prove it. But it would solve all the problems presented by this puzzle.

  11. @chaya1957
    Seems like the Talmudic text concerning Jews and Gentile courts may have come from the same source as Paul’s possibly adapted view in 1 Corinthians 6 that believers are not to take other believers to be judged before unbelieving courts.
    @Dan Benzvi
    I wonder if there are any interesting rabbinic commentaries about that piece of scripture.
    Good Talmud find! It’s great that you bring up these possible issues. Some great food for thought and opportunities to search and study.

  12. “Who supplied the other half? God isn’t a human being and He doesn’t have a genetic code (as far as anyone knows). What if He used Joseph’s?”

    Uhhh, am I crazy? Or did I mention that in my response? Lol…

  13. Uhhh, am I crazy? Or did I mention that in my response? Lol

    Oops. Sorry. I must have seen it but it didn’t register. Bad wiring in my old brain pan. I apologize.

    1. No matter — the genetics are irrelevant to the discussion. That’s not what lineage is based upon. While we’re considering how HaShem might have genetically engineered the physical body that was to be born as Yeshua ben Yosef, there would be really no problem cloning the fetus using only Miriam’s DNA with a minor “breaking” of an “X” chromosome to alter it into a “Y”-type. There was no need for major genetic surgery to re-write half of the chromosomes to match Yosef. Just because the boy might resemble his mother rather than his uncontested legal father is no cause for alarm. Yosef was clearly not motivated by genetic pride; and the angel’s reassurance that his marriage could go forward was sufficient for him, so why should HaShem subject Miriam’s genetic structure to any more stress than was needed to accomplish the task? Pardon me if I’m offering this suggestion with the sensitivities of an engineer (which is my professional background), but usually it is best to perform the minimum alterations that are needed on a system. [;^)]

  14. So far, no earth-shaking answers have appeared to the problem, but since I can’t sleep, I might as well write down what I have so far:

    Problem: If Joseph is not literally Jesus’s biological father, how can Jesus inherit membership in the tribe of Judah and be part of the line of King David and King Solomon.

    Assumption 1: The geneologies listed in Matthew and Luke are both accurate and are both describing Joseph’s geneologies.

    Assumption 2: Tribal membership and royal lineage in the late Second Temple period are transmitted through the father’s line. has drawn a firm line with Assumption 2 but in order for them to have a criticism of Jesus, they have to agree with Assumption 1 that the geneologies listed in Matthew and Luke are accurate. If they are inaccurate or just plain “made up,” then the names we see in those lists don’t matter. Their criticism should be that the New Testament material is made up and therefore the people and events recorded are fictional and don’t matter in the Jewish history of Messiah.

    But saying that Matthew and Luke are accurate (at least the geneologies) opens the door for other portions of those gospels and possibly the rest of the New Testament record also being accurate and reliable (I know that’s a big leap for critics of Jesus being Messiah, but hang in there).

    One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

    And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”

    Luke 24:18-32 (NASB)

    Sorry for the long quote, but this says a few things. First, it’s from Luke’s gospel, which is the source of one of the geneologies. Also, it has Jesus being referred to as a Prophet who was expected to redeem Israel (which is a short definition for the Messiah). We see Jesus (then unrecognized) explaining convincingly from the scriptures why Jesus was the Messiah. His Jewish audience believes the explanation, so we assume that Jesus’s explanation is sound.

    Of course, we don’t know what Jesus said and we don’t know if Jesus mentioned things like “virgin birth”, so the jury’s still out on that one. We also see in scriptures such as Acts 2:14-41 where, in Jerusalem, Peter convincingly tells a large crowd of Jewish people that Jesus is the Messiah. No one questions his explanation. Also, in Acts 13:13-43, Paul, also using scripture, convinces the Jewish people at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch that Jesus is the Messiah. No one objects to his explanation and Paul is invited back next Shabbat to say more.

    Since Luke is one of the gospels listing the geneology of Jesus and that has been assumed to be accurate, I’m going to say that, as a writer, Luke’s other chronicles, including Acts, is also accurate.

    Sorry, but I don’t think we can cherry pick the parts of the New Testament we want to use against Jesus being the Messiah and say the parts that support it are bogus, at least not without a lot more convincing evidence.

    This doesn’t answer the question of exactly how tribal membership and royal lineage were passed down from Joseph to Jesus but it does say that large numbers (but certainly not all) Jewish people were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and that everything both the Jewish prophesies said about Messiah, and everything Jesus said about himself, were accurate and believable. This also says that even the critics of Jesus, such as must believe that at least certain parts of the New Testament record are accurate if they’re going to try to use it against him. If the New Testament is a fake, then why did the fakers create a situation with the virgin birth and geneologies that were such a problem? A more convincing story could have been manufactured by the gospel writers or later scribes if that’s what they were up to.

    I have to be up in less than three hours, so I’ll stop here. Let me know what you think.

  15. PL said: The mother was only the transmitter of genetic identity as a Jew, and tribal affiliation if there were no Jewish father. Otherwise, tribal identity was inherited through the legal father, and there could be no dispute if the Jewish mother made no contrary claim about an alternative human father (claims about non-human intervention would not have legal standing). Yosef was indisputably Yeshua’s legal father, married to the mother of the child in question and offering no dispute to repudiate the child. Adoption was never an issue.

    Certainly in the late Second Temple period, DNA wouldn’t be an issue because it was unknown to humanity at that time, so the status of Joseph as legal father would require other means of verification as you describe above. Still, I don’t doubt that God could have “beamed” the necessary bit of Joseph’s genetic material to interact with Miriam’s in order to “seal the deal,” so to speak. Obviously, there’s no way we’ll ever know, but rather than tinkering with Miriam’s chromosomes, this might have been the more straightforward method. 😉

  16. Interesting I have over the last couple of months be plagued with this exact issue. So there are few sides to this from my perspective.

    VIEW 1
    As believers – the NT is included as the inspired Word of God we can accept that Hebrews 7:13-14 clearly states that Yeshua is from the tribe of Judah. No issue there.

    VIEW 2
    It only becomes an problem when having to “prove” this from the Tanakh which for the sake of argument, there is much that is written in the NT that we would never bring someone to the same conclusion by only reading the Tanakh as these things were hidden. It is only with the NT that we have the full insight and this is revealed. Even the disciples of Jesus in that very day did not understand that He had to die Matthew 16:22-23 perhaps the proof is not in the Tanakh.

    VIEW 3
    Adoption creates an artificial relationship between parents and children not related by blood. Yet for purposes of Jewish law, the relationship is the same as one between biological parents and children. See Talmud Mas. Megilah 13a

    Jewish law lacks a formal procedure for adoption because of the primacy it accords biological kinship in determining a child’s inheritance rights and religious and tribal status

    The inherent question is: Based on the Tanakh can a male child be included in the lineage of a man who is not his natural father?

    Here is an example where the first-born can be included in the lineage of man who is not his natural father. The Law requires that the firstborn child of the Levirate marriage should be counted in the genealogy of the man who died childless Deuteronomy 25:5-6

    Another example Joshua 15:13 Caleb is listed in the genealogies as a descendant of Judah even though the lineage from his natural father (Numbers 32:12) is not.

    Based on these 2 examples I believe there are exceptions to the rule. One could also potentialy make a case from the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27)

    VIEW 4
    Using the Talmud as an authority (Hold tight so you don’t get lost down the rabbit trail). The Talmud states emphatically that there is no difference between an adopted child and a child who was born into the household, and the genealogical tables in the Bible do not attempt to identify anyone as an “adopted son”. Instead they are just called “sons”.

    Using 1 Chronicles 4:17-18 According to the Talmud, Jehudijah and Bithiah were one and the same person. She was the daughter of Pharaoh who took Moses out of the bulrushes and looked after him. She was a Jewish Proselyte, and the purpose of her trip to the river was to cleanse herself from the idolatry of Pharaoh’s house. Jered is considered to be Moses, and it says she “bare” him, even though she only looked after him.

    R. Simon b. Pazzi once introduced an exposition of the Book of Chronicles as follows: ‘All thy words are one, and we know how to find their inner meaning’. [It is written], And his wife the Jewess bore Jered the father of Gedor, and Heber the father of Socho, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah, and these are the sons of Bithya the daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered took. Why was she [the daughter of Pharaoh] called a Jewess? Because she repudiated idolatry, as it is written, And the daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe in the river, and R. Johanan, [commenting on this,] said that she went down to cleanse herself from the idols of her father’s house. ‘Bore’: But she only brought him [Moses] up? – This tells us that if anyone brings up an orphan boy or girl in his house, the Scripture accounts it as if he had begotten him. ‘Jered’: this is Moses. Why was he called Jered? Because manna came down [yarad] for Israel in his days. (Talmud Mas. Megilah 13a)
    And his wife Ha-Jehudiah bore Yered the father of Gedor [and Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah] and these are the sons of Bithia the daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered took. Now, ‘Mered’ was Caleb; and why was he called Mered? . – Because he opposed the counsel of the other spies. But was he [Moses] indeed born of Bithia and not rather of Jochebed? – But Jochebed bore and Bithia reared him; therefore he was called after her. (Talmud Mas. Sanhedrin 19b)

    The Talmud Mas. Megilah uses the literal translation of Ha-Jehudiah which means “the Jewess” while Mas. Sanhedrin acknowledges it as a name. The name “Bithiah” might have been given to Pharaoh’s daughter when she was converted, since it means “daughter of God”. Then she was called Jehudijah when she married Mered, because she had joined the tribe of Judah. Amram and Jochebed, the genetic father and mother of Moses, are mentioned in Exodus 6:20 and Numbers 26:59.

    If Mered was Caleb, it follows that his father Ezrah was Jephunneh the Kenezite, mentioned in Numbers 32:12 and Joshua 14:6,14. The Kenezites lived in the land that God had promised to Abraham and his descendants, and they are mentioned in Genesis 15:19. It appears, therefore, that Ezrah (Jephunneh) was a Proselyte who worshipped the God of Israel and joined the tribe of Judah. So we have Mered (Caleb), the son of a Proselyte, marrying Bithiah, who was also a Proselyte.

    It is difficult to verify whether or not the Talmud has correctly interpreted this passage. However, the purpose of this is not to establish a precise genealogy, but to investigate the Jewish view of adoption. The Talmud is universally accepted as an authentic account of Jewish culture and the statement that an adopted orphan is considered to be born into the household should be taken as authoritative.

    Last but not least we would be hard pressed to find any legal precedent on a virgin birth either from the Tanakh or the Oral Law , so it should not be surprising that the answer is not clear.

  17. Greetings, David. Thanks for commenting. Just shooting from the hip, here’s a few of my thoughts:

    View 1: But that ignores that apparent fact that the genealogies were presented to prove legally the claim of Jesus as Messiah.

    View 2: You’d expect the Tanakh and the NT to be in agreement. If there’s a conflict, then the door is opened to disprove the Messianic claim of Jesus from the newer NT text based on the older Tanakh.

    View 3: I’d have to read Talmud Mas. Megilah 13a to be able to comment but I have at least one Jewish source telling me that adoption would not confer tribal membership nor lineage in the Davidic Kingship.

    A Leverite marriage is required when the husband of a woman has died without leaving offspring. We can hardly say that “God is dead,” and thus I don’t think this applies. Believe me, I considered it, but we have a situation where Jesus must, in some sense, both be the Son of God and the Son of David, and he had both titles during his earthly ministry. I also considered Numbers 27, but again, a death is required (the fathers) and the absence of male heirs before this cuts in. From my best reading of the gospel genealogies applying to Jesus, they all are from Joseph’s line, not Miriam’s. In Joshua 15:13, Joshua gave Caleb a portion in the land assigned to Judah, which doesn’t necessarily make Caleb a member of that tribe.

    View 4: Using Talmudic references might have a positive appeal to Jewish critics for obvious reasons, but Talmud isn’t on the same level of authority as scripture. Also, Talmud isn’t necessary an iron clad rule book about what is and isn’t. It’s a multigenerational “discussion” among the Sages, so it might be hard to use its references as “proof” that Jesus, as the adopted son of Joseph, inherited tribal membership and Davidic Kingship.

    I’m not trying to be difficult David, just to come up with the obvious objections a critic might present, especially a non-believing Jewish critic. I deeply appreciate the amount of time and thought you put into your response and you’ve given me other avenues to pursue. I still believe the whole “adoption” issue is a red herring and that we must look more to how Joseph can be Jesus’s legal father (though the biological part is up in the air) and thus legal inheritor of the line of Kings which makes him eligible to be Messiah.

    Last but not least we would be hard pressed to find any legal precedent on a virgin birth either from the Tanakh or the Oral Law , so it should not be surprising that the answer is not clear.

    Agreed. Miraculous births, we have a record of in the Tanakh and the NT, usually of elderly or otherwise infertile couples conceiving and giving birth. A virgin birth, now that’s unique, which I guess is the point.

  18. Hi James,

    You said “we must look more to how Joseph can be Jesus’s legal father ” is that even a consideration … of course Joseph is the legal father of Jesus who would question that ?

    For those who deny the virgin birth they would say that Joseph is his legal father. Anyone who accepts the virgin birth accepts Joseph as the legal father. The core issue is tribal identity through the physical bloodline of the father.

    View 1 Response: Either the NT is the inspired Word of God or it is not. If we did not have the genealogies would that invalidate the statement in Hebrews ? Of course not. In fact the genealogies help prove His claim. He is indeed the physical decedent of King David through Miriam, that is not the question, the question was whether He was legally from the tribe of Judah.

    Agreed “adoption” is a red herring it is not an option for purposes of Jewish law, the relationship is the same as one between biological parents and children, including the legal right to their heritage.

    View 2 Response: The Tanakh and the NT do agree. When conflict arises it is for one of 3 main reasons:
    a. A problem with our understanding causes the contradiction
    b. Information is provided in the NT that does not exist in the Tanakh (Acts 7:4)
    c. Revelation of concepts (Mysteries) hidden in the Tanakh

    View 3 Response: The example of the Leverite marriage was to show that there are exceptions to the rule of “only via the natural father tribal identity can be given”

    As for my 2nd example of Caleb Numbers 13:6 says “from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh;” it is clear he represented and is counted as the Tribe of Judah

    View 4 Response: I understand that the Talmud does not have the Authority of scripture. I was making the case that one could use Talmudic opinion for those who accept it as authoritative to support the idea that Tribal identity can be inherited legally without bloodline.

    Some Christians and Messianics point to a particular passage found in Haggai (2:21-23) to support the idea that the curse has been lifted. Verse 23 says, “On that day – the word of Hashem, Master of Legions – I will take you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel (who is the son of Jeconiah), my servant – the word of Hashem – and I will make you like my signet ring; for you have I chosen – the word of Hashem, Master of Legions.”

    Notice that the curse on Jeconiah uses the signet ring symbolism also, “Though Coniah… were the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off.” In other words, even if G-d considers Jeconiah (and by implication, his offspring) as a signet ring, it does not change the fact that he will not have any descendants in the royal line. The term “signet ring,” when applied to Zerubbabel, is no indication that the curse has been lifted, only that Zerubbabel has found favor with G-d. Nor does the passage state explicitly or implicitly that G-d will give the throne to Zerubbabel or his descendants. And historically speaking, the efficacy of the curse has proven itself.

    What about the Christian and “Messianic” claims that the Talmud supports the concept of the curse being lifted? First, this only reveals lack of understanding of the nature of the Talmud. But most importantly, if they consider every word of the Talmud authoritative, then they should consider what the Talmud says of their Jesus/Yeshua – that he was the bastard child of a Roman soldier and a disgruntled disciple who had a falling out with his rabbi, started his own religion and led many astray, and that he spends eternity in Hell boiling in human excrement.

    1. @ courtneylwilliams33 — Picking out one statement in Talmud is not a valid means to characterize its position on anything, whether or not it is granted any kind of “authority”. There are various passages that address characteristics of the Messiah, and passages that mention “the Nazarene” in one form or other. A number of these passages bear no actual or even metaphorical resemblance to Rav Yeshua or any description of him in the apostolic writings, hence they cannot be considered applicable despite the use of a name. Others are polemics against the fictional Jesus invented and promulgated by Imperial Roman Catholic Christianity and its successors, and these are often merely veiled references to anti-Jewish Christianity or some aspect of it at some point in time. There are actually surprisingly few statements in Talmud representing decisions that serve as a basis for authoritative halakhah, and most of it represents a record or “snapshot” of the deliberative rabbinic process rather than a codified summary of decisions or doctrines.

      As for your reference to an “eternity in Hell boiling in human excrement”, I don’t know where you are citing that from, but it sounds like how a Christian of a medieval mindset might attempt to describe how unpleasant it must have been for Rav Yeshua to take upon himself in one concentrated moment all of humanity’s guilt and the separation from his Father that it engendered. It wouldn’t surprise me if such a description reflected statements offered by Christians of the period against Jews, merely having been captured in a rabbinic counter-polemic. Nonetheless, it does not represent “what the Talmud says” as if it represented some single monolithic characteristic view. It most emphatically does not; and the Talmud captures an extremely wide range of statements, of which some are patent nonsense that may be addressed and discussed as such, either in the existing Talmudic record or in subsequent discussions that follow its deliberative model of study.

      Further, I would like to ask you to clarify your view that “historically speaking, the efficacy of the curse [against Jeconiah] has proven itself.” What do you view as the historical effects of that curse? All of this is, of course, academic, because at most it could only affect one of the two genealogical lines cited for Rav Yeshua, which would exempt him from its effects even if Zerubabel were merely an exception and not an example of it having been lifted altogether.

  20. Hello James. Thank you for hosting this interesting discussion.

    Here is the way I’ve come to understand these things:

    The genealogy listed in Matthew is clearly the royal line, given to show that Joseph is legal heir to the throne of David. There is an implied assumption here: Yeshua, by virtue of being the legal son of Joseph is also Joseph’s legal heir, which would make Yeshua the legal heir to the throne of David. Joseph clearly took Mary’s child to be his son and it was Joseph who named him Yeshua.

    I do take it then, that the genealogy given in Luke must be that of Mary, with the correct rendering of Luke 3:23 being something like “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age (being the son as was supposed of Joseph), the son of Heli”. Luke’s line shows that Jesus is a physical descendant of David through David’s son Nathan (Luke 3:31).

    I think there are reasons for preferring this view. The simplest being that if anyone is shown to have two very different genealogies, one must be the father’s and the other must be the mother’s. Also, many of the details given in Luke’s gospel must have come from Mary herself, so it stands to reason that she would have furnished Luke with her private genealogy, which would show her male lineage going backwards in time.

    So, Yeshua is the legal heir to David’s throne, and a physical descendant of David, according to the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:12).

    Furthermore, by this arrangement, Yeshua is not under the Jeremiah’s curse against Jeconiah’s descendants: “no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.”.

    Are there unresolvable problems with this view?

  21. I have also understood what Jerry posted regarding Jesus’ lineage, but I wanted to point something else out as well:

    We all agree that Scripture says the Messiah will be born of a virgin.

    Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

    I am not trying to be disrespectful, but it seems to me the “red herring” stems from the information disseminated in “The Messiah and the Lineage of Jesus” from wherein they state, “Joseph’s genealogy attributes him to being from the tribe of Judah. But remember, Joseph isn’t Jesus’ father, so it doesn’t count. ONE CANNOT INHERIT TRIBAL LINEAGE THROUGH ADOPTION … So if Joseph is not Jesus’ father, then his genealogy is pointless.”

    This of course, led the blogger to ask the question, “How can one inherit a genealogy from an adopted father, and particularly tribal affiliation?”

    I would suggest that this is but circular reasoning ( trying to refute that Jesus fulfilled all Messianic prophesy and is therefore, not a valid means of proving or disproving Messiahship, now or in the future (for anyone who denies Jesus is the Messiah).

    Think about it. The definition of the Messiah’s virgin birth means that conception occurred immaculately (through the Holy Spirit) or in other words WITHOUT fertilization from a biological father, so we know NO MAN was involved with Mary’s pregnancy, therefore, it would be illogical to try and determine Jesus’ tribal affiliation through a man’s lineage because there was no man!!! However, G-d in His sovereignty, provides us with both a biological line through Mary’s lineage (book of Luke) and a legal line through Joseph’s lineage (book of Matthew), to satisfy Jesus as Messiah. (

    Seems to me it is therefore, a logical fallacy to try and prove or disprove Messiah’s lineage through a biological father’s lineage as there will never be a biological father to trace lineage through.

  22. The writer of Hebrews states that it is evident Jesus sprang from the tribe of Judah, (Hebrews 7:14). I know the authorship of Hebrews is not known by personal identification of the author, but as do many, I hold to the belief that the author was actually the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul had studied under the renowned Rabbi, Gamaliel. Could one so skilled as a scholar of Gamaliel have been so errant in the traditions of Jewish teaching? Even if the Apostle Paul was not the author of Hebrews, would a Jew, writing to Jewish people, (Hebrews), be so foolish as to use an errant teaching about adoption and hope to be considered trustworthy?

    Here is a link to a compelling argument on the subject.

    Edited by blog owner to remove unsolicited link. I’m not comfortable with allowing links to unverified or “edge case” sources from commenters with whom I don’t have a relationship. Anyone who wants to view this source anyway (which I do not endorse) can do a Google search for “Virgin Birth, Jewish Adoption and Genealogy of Yeshua”.

    1. Charles, I approved your comment but took out the link since the source is unknown to me and frankly, I have trouble putting confidence in information on a website that hasn’t been updated since 1997. I looked up your source’s books on Amazon and although the reviews were stellar, one book only had one reviewer and the other had five. People can look up and examine your source’s information if they so desire, but I do not endorse this person or his works.

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