"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21


I am curious to know what happened during the 400 years or so between theTorah and the New Testament.  Also, did the Jews have a king during Roman Era at all, and what was the function of the Sanhedrin?  Why do they say he was the king of the Jews?  To which Jews are they referring?  Also, as far as the line of David goes, can we trace Mary and Joseph back to David?  Were they even from any tribe at all?


I am going to assume that in your first question you are asking whether there was a legitimate Davidic king over the Jewish people during the Second Temple period.  If this is indeed what you are asking, the answer to your question is no.  Although there was a royal crown held by both the dynasty of the Hasmoneans and Herod, they were not legitimately anointed kings over the Jewish people who were heirs to the Davidic throne.

The answer to your second question is the Sanhedrin was the Jewish court system, not the seat of a king.

With regard to your third question, when Christians refer to Jesus as king of the Jews, they are in essence asserting that Jesus was the messiah, and the final heir to the throne of David.  This claim, however, is self-defeating because it undermines the Christian claim that Jesus was born of a virgin birth.

According to both Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born of a virgin.  This claim makes it impossible, however, for Christians to insist that Jesus was king of the Jews.  This is because tribal lineage is traced only through a person’s father.  This is clearly stated in Numbers 1:18.  According to Christian teachings, Jesus had only a human Jewish mother, not a human Jewish father.  This human Jewish father would be essential for anyone to be a legitimate heir to the throne of David, which the real messiah will be.

With regards to your final question, Mary’s genealogy is entirely irrelevant to Jesus’ supposed lineage from King David.  Mary’s genealogy is therefore not traced anywhere in the New Testament.  In both the first chapter of Matthew and in the third chapter of Luke, these New Testament authors provide a genealogy of Joseph alone, although these genealogies severely contradict each other.  As mentioned above, Joseph’s genealogy is irrelevant to Jesus because according to Christian doctrine, Joseph was not Jesus’ father.

I should mention that according to both Catholic and Protestant tradition, whereas Matthew’s genealogy is that of Joseph, Luke’s genealogy is of Mary.  Although this tradition is completely alien to the words of the Gospels, it was a necessary doctrine for the church to embrace.

Nowhere in the third Gospel, or in the entire New Testament for that matter, does it state that Mary was from the House of David.  On the contrary, Luke 1:27 insists that it is Joseph who was from the House of David, not Mary.  In fact, Luke claims that Mary was the cousin of Elizabeth, who he says was a descendant of Aaron the high priest,1 placing her in the tribe of Levi, not David’s tribe of Judah.  Moreover, in Luke 2:4, the author writes that the reason it was necessary for Joseph and Mary to return to Bethlehem was because Joseph was from the House of David.

There are a number of reasons why the church has a vital interest in claiming that Luke’s genealogy is through Mary’s line.  To begin with, Paul claims in Romans 1:3 that Jesus was from the seed of David after the flesh.  This has always been understood to mean that Paul was claiming that King David was the biological ancestor of Jesus.  Although at the time Paul penned the Book of Romans, he was completely unaware that Christendom would eventually claim that Jesus was born of a virgin birth.  The church desperately needed to have Paul’s statement correlate with the virgin-birth story.  This was solved by insisting that whereas Matthew’s genealogy was through Joseph’s line, Luke’s genealogy was through Mary’s line.  In this way, Jesus could now be from the seed of David after the flesh through Luke’s genealogy.  Claiming Luke’s genealogy is through Mary’s line, not only solved the problem of what to do with Romans 1:3, but established a physical link between Jesus and King David.

Finally, it resolves an awkward discrepancy between Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies.  Whereas in Matthew’s genealogy, Joseph’s father is Jacob,2 in Luke’s genealogy it is Heli.3 By claiming that Luke’s genealogy is of Mary, Heli becomes Mary’s father and Joseph’s father-in-law.  Problems solved.


Rabbi Tovia Singer


Click on the footnote to return to the article

1Luke 1:5.

2Matthew 1:16.

3Luke 3:23.


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