Judging the Creator
He who sits in the heavens

The Translation Games

Luke's Testimony : Part 9
...continued from Part 8

Translators have played games with Luke 3:23, which begins the genealogy of Jesus. A selection of English Translations:

And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli…(KJV).

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli… (ESV).

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli… (NIV).

In these English versions, translators have disguised the meaning of the verse by either inserting parenthesis in the incorrect place or by inserting the following words which do not appear in the Greek texts—“which was the son” or “the son” immediately preceding “of Heli…”.

It was surprising to discover that scholars of the Roman Catholic Church have actually known and recorded the correct translation of Luke 3:23. The Roman Catholic Encyclopaedia article entitled Genealogy has the following to say:

St. Matthew’s genealogy is that of St. Joseph; St. Luke’s, that of the Blessed Virgin. This contention implies that St. Luke’s genealogy only seemingly includes the name of Joseph. It is based on the received Greek text, on (os enomizeto ouios Ioseph) tou Heli, “being the son (as it was supposed, of Joseph, but really) of Heli. This parenthesis really eliminates the name of Joseph from St. Luke’s genealogy, and makes Christ, by means of the Blessed Virgin, directly a son of Heli.

So, the Catholic Encyclopaedia’s translation of 3:23 is:

And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years old, being the son (as it was supposed of Joseph, but really) of Heli.

In his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, the renowned exegete and scholar of Biblical Greek, Frédéric Louis Godet,* inserts dashes in the text and says: 

The text, therefore, to express the author’s meaning clearly, should be written thus:
And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years old, being a son—as was thought, of Joseph—of Heli, of Matthat…

Although Frédéric Godet and the Roman Catholic Church assert that Luke’s genealogy is that of Mary, i.e. “Jesus, (Mary), Heli, Matthat”…. to maintain the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, Godet’s arguments as to the original genealogical information provided by Luke and the correct translation of the passage remain overwhelmingly convincing. The one issue upon which these scholars are united is that the name of Joseph does not belong in the original genealogy.

Luke records the Jesus is the biological son of a man named "Heli". Let that sink in for a moment and then reflect that the endlessly-debated “conflict” between the two genealogies of Matthew and Luke is simply an illusion necessitated by adherence to the doctrine of the Virgin Birth.

* Frederick Louis Godet, "Gospel of St. Luke", http://www.biblecentre.net/comment/nt/flg/luke/luke-Index.html

Coming up...He who sits in the heavens



I do wish to comment on this - but I've just stumbled on your site from the Trinities.org blog.


I find your conclusion to be lacking.

Firstly, I think that internal consistency is the strongest thing we have to interpreting the bible, and to determine the original text in areas of textual criticism.

Luke already, in chapter one, tells us the origin of the child: v34-35 "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

Mary has not been with any man at this point. Gabriel does not tell us she will be with a man, yet the holy spirit will be origin of this child.

For Luke, to later report otherwise would be disengenious and contradictory.

Secondly there is absolutely no precedent for "but really" of Heli in the Greek text. The greek just isn't there.

Thirdly, your postulation (on Godel's commentary) that because of the lack of an article before Joseph's name he should not be included in the genealogy also has no precedent. There is not biblical, or extra-biblical precedent for such a rendering, rather:

"The absence of the article is
probably because we have SON of Joseph, and then simply OF so an so"

Even Godel doesn't support your conclusion:

"This study of the text in detail leads us in this way to admit—1. That the genealogical register of Luke is that of Heli, the grandfather of Jesus; 2. That, this affiliation of Jesus by Heli being expressly opposed to His affiliation by Joseph, the document which he has preserved for us can be nothing else in his view than the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. But why does not Luke name Mary, and why pass immediately from Jesus to His grandfather?"

Godel concludes that Jesus is affiliated with Heli, but not as his father. But, his grandfather - Mary's father.


Firstly, I certainly agree with your statement about 'internal consistency'. I do not, however, agree that my conclusion is lacking.

You seem so have misunderstood and/or misquoted me.

1) I did not say that 'but really' was in the Greek text - I merely gave the Roman Catholic Encylopaedia rendering of the proper English meaning implied by the Greek text.

2) I did not say anything about the definite article in my post.

3) In previous posts, I have dealt in-depth with Luke Chapter 1 vs 34-35. In response to a comment you made on Matthew's Testimony : Part 2, I have provided evidence that the 'Holy Spirit' was considered by the Hebrews to be the agent of every birth. Luke was neither disingenous nor contradictory. It is the doctrine of virgin-birth that makes him appear so.

4) I have already stated that "Although biblical scholar Frederic Godet asserted that Luke's genealogy was that of Mary, his arguments as to the proper translation of the passage remain convincing."

Godet does indeed support my conclusion about the proper reading of the verse. But he was caught on the horns of the same dilemma as all theologians - instead of working forwards from scripture, they must work backwards from their commitment to the doctrine of 'virgin birth.' Without any evidence whatsoever, Godet had to postulate that Luke is giving the genealogy of Mary to provide the necessary descent from David for the Messiah.

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