Let me put my cards on the table: I believe Jesus to be the Son of God and that his human father was Joseph, the husband of Mary. Why do I believe that Jesus is the Son of God when only Matthew and Luke record the virgin birth and Paul never mentions it? Although the details of the birth are only found in Matthew and Luke, they are assumed when we see the pre-existence of Christ as described in John, Philippians and Colossians. If Christ was present at creation, it is difficult to see how he could simply be the product of the sexual union of a man and a woman.
The deity of Christ is a matter of faith but the human parentage of Joseph is well accepted. However, I recently encountered a person on this blog who strongly disagreed. The fellow agreed that Matthew 1 teaches that Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus and that the Holy Spirit was involved in some way. Where we disagreed was that I saw the Holy Spirit as creating the embryo that would become Jesus of Nazareth within Mary without the assistance of a human father. He disagreed, to which I responded that the only other option is that God led Mary to an alternate lover to impregnate her. To my amazement, that is exactly what he was claiming, that God led Mary to have sex with a man named Heli before she was married to Joseph!
The basis of this theory is in the differences between the genealogies found in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. In Matthew 1:11-12, Jeconiah is mentioned. However, in Jeremiah 22:30 it says that the descendants of Jeconiah are cut off from the throne of David. Since Joseph is a descendent of Jeconiah, he could not be the father of Jesus. Luke 3 contains an alternative geneology that lacks Jeconiah and casts doubt on Joseph as the actual father while mentioning a man named Heli. The theory is that having Heli as the father of Jesus allows lineage from David while avoiding the cursed Jeconiah.
There are several problems with this. The first criticism to this theory should be that this seems completely against God’s character. Certainly people in the Bible cheated (such as David) but it is never described as something led by God. It is difficult to imagine how God could want Mary to have such a pre-marital affair with another man. But there are other problems than just moral revulsion. The passage of Jeremiah 22 when seen in context does not seem to be a prophecy that no one from the line of Jeconiah will ever sit on the throne of David. The passage describes how far Jeconiah had fallen. In ancient Israel and Judah, the ultimate punishment for a king was not death but rather the prevention of their son from sitting on the throne (see 1 & 2 Kings). Jeconiah had fallen so badly that he and his family were exiled from the land and that none of his sons would reign. That this was not an everlasting punishment applied to all of his descendents but rather something dealing with his immediate family is shown by the fact that Jeremiah 22:28 also speaks of Jeconiah’s descendents no longer being in the land. Obviously Joseph, as a descendent of Jeconiah, was living in the promised land and so this passage no longer applied. Regarding the differences between Matthew 1 and Luke 3, I do not pretend to understand the situation completely. But I will point out this: Matthew 1:12-13 mention a descendent of Jeconiah named Zerubbabel son Sheatiel. That same Zerubbabel reappears in Luke’s geneology in Luke 3:27. So we have someone connected with Jeconiah even in Luke’s geneology. Finally, when you look at the geneology of Luke 3, there is a repetitive pattern of the son of x, the son of y, the son of z. Following that pattern, it seems clear that the reference to Heli seems to be from the generation previous to Joseph and not Mary’s alternate lover.
This theory of Heli as the father of Jesus is so obscure that it never even appeared when I googled it. However, on this blog every question is worthy of addressing and in this post I have attempted to look at the theory in a logical and hopefully helpful way.
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