How can Christians believe that the New Testament is God’s Word when Luke and Matthew contradict each other when recounting Jesus’ genealogy? Luke tells us that Joseph’s father was Heli (Luke 3:23), and Matthew says his father was Jacob (Matt. 1:16). Which is it?
One way to reconcile this apparent contradiction is to suggest that Joseph was the product of a Levirate marriage. The early Church Father Eusebius made this explanation popular in the fourth century.
It’s possible that Joseph was the biological son of Jacob who later died, leaving Joseph’s mother a widow. Joseph then became the legal son of Heli when Heli married Joseph’s widowed mother. It’s suggested, therefore, that Matthew records Joseph’s biological father and Luke records his legal father.
This seems to be confirmed in the different words that Matthew and Luke use to describe Joseph’s relation to Jacob and Heli. Matthew uses the Greek word gennao when describing how Jacob “became the father of Joseph.” Matthews seems to intend this word to be taken biologically, because it’s the same word that he uses to describe how Jesus was “born” of Mary.
Luke, however, uses different language. He simply says that Joseph is “of Heli,” which allows for either a physical or legal lineage interpretation.