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The genealogy of Jesus is described in two passages of the New Testament: in the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew's genealogy commences with Abraham and then from King David and his son Solomon through the legal line of the kings via Jeconiah to Joseph. Luke gives a different genealogy, going back to Adam, through Nathan, a minor son of David, and again to Joseph.
Both gospels state that Jesus was fathered, not by Joseph, but by God, being born to Mary through a virgin birth. At the same time they claim a direct descent from David, and thus a legal inheritance of the throne. The lists are identical between Abraham and David, but differ radically from that point onward. Traditional Christian scholars have put forward various theories that seek to explain why the lineages are so different, such as that Matthew's account follows the lineage of Joseph, while Luke's follows the lineage of Mary.
Matthew 1:1–17 begins the Gospel, “A record of the origin of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac…” and continues on until …and Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.”
Matthew emphasizes, right from the beginning, Jesus’ title Christ—the Greek rendering of the Hebrew title Messiah—meaning anointed, in the sense of an anointed king. Jesus is presented first and foremost as the long-awaited Messiah, who was expected to be a descendant and heir of King David, so the genealogy serves the essential purpose of demonstrating this line of descent. Thus, Matthew begins by calling Jesus son of David, indicating his royal origin, and also son of Abraham, indicating that he was a Jew; both are stock phrases, in which son means descendant, calling to mind the promises God made to David and to Abraham.
Matthew’s introductory title (βίβλος γενέσεως, book of generations) has been interpreted in various ways, but most likely is simply a title for the genealogy that follows, echoing the Septuagint use of the same phrase for genealogies.
Matthew’s genealogy is considerably more complex than Luke’s. It is overtly schematic, organized into three tesseradecads (sets of fourteen), each of a distinct character:
The total of 42 generations is achieved only by omitting several names, so the choice of three sets of fourteen seems deliberate. Various explanations have been suggested: fourteen is twice seven, symbolizing perfection and covenant, and is also the gematria (numerical value) of the name David.
The rendering into Greek of Hebrew names in this genealogy is mostly in accord with the Septuagint, but there are a few peculiarities. The form Asaph seems to identify King Asa with the psalmist Asaph. Likewise, some see the form Amos for King Amon as suggesting the prophet Amos, though the Septuagint does have this form. Both may simply be assimilations to more familiar names. More interesting, though, are the unique forms Boes (Boaz, LXX Boos) and Rachab (Rahab, LXX Raab).
Three consecutive kings of Judah are omitted from the genealogy: Ahaziah, Jehoash, and Amaziah. Not only were these three kings especially wicked, violently destroyed by the will of God, they were the cursed line of Ahab through his daughter Athaliah to the third and fourth generation. Thus Matthew probably felt justified in omitting them, with an eye toward forming his second set of fourteen.
Another omitted king is Jehoiakim, the father of Jeconiah, also known as Jehoiachin. In Greek the names are even more similar, both being sometimes called Joachim. When Matthew says, “Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile,” he appears to conflate the two, because Jehoiakim, not Jeconiah, had brothers, but the exile was in the time of Jeconiah. While some see this as a mistake, others argue that the omission was once again deliberate, ensuring that the kings after David spanned exactly fourteen generations.
The final group seems to contain only thirteen generations. If Josiah’s son was intended as Jehoiakim, then Jeconiah could be counted separately after the exile. Another possibility is that Mary is counted as a generation, proceeding laterally by her marriage to Joseph. Though such a reckoning is otherwise unknown, it may have seemed necessary in light of the virgin birth. Some have even proposed that Matthew’s original text had one Joseph as the father of Mary, who then married another man of the same name.
If only thirteen generations span the time from Jeconiah, born about 616 BC, to Jesus, born about 4 BC, as Matthew says, the average generation would be nearly fifty years — rather unlikely. However in the Old Testament there are even wider gaps between generations. The lack here of papponymic naming patterns - names given from grandparents - which were common throughout this period, may indicate that Matthew has telescoped this segment by collapsing such repetitions.
Luke places his genealogy at the beginning of the public life of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38). Luke's account ascends from Joseph to Adam or and to God. Luke 3:23–38, after telling of the baptism of Jesus and the commencement of his ministry, states, “He was the son, as was supposed, of Joseph, [the son of] Eli…” and continues on until "Adam, which was of God." The Greek text of Luke's Gospel does not use the word "son" in the genealogy after "being as was supposed the son of Joseph" and continues "of Heli... of Matthat... of Levi" and so on.
In the ancestry of David, Luke agrees completely with the Old Testament. Cainan is included between Shelah and Arphaxad, following the Septuagint text (though omitted in the Masoretic text followed by most modern Bibles).
Augustine notes that the count of generations in the Book of Luke is 76, a number symbolizing the forgiveness of all sins. This count also agrees with the seventy generations from Enoch set forth in the Book of Enoch, which Luke probably knew. Though Luke never counts the generations as Matthew does, it appears that he too follows the hebdomadic principle of working in sevens. However, Irenaeus, one of the earliest witnesses, counts only 72 generations from Adam.
The reading “son of Aminadab, son of Aram,” from the Old Testament is well attested. The Nestle-Aland critical edition, considered the best authority by most modern scholars, accepts the variant “son of Aminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni,” counting the 76 generations from Adam rather than God.
Luke’s qualification “as was supposed” (ἐνομίζετο) avoids stating that Jesus was actually a son of Joseph, since his virgin birth is affirmed in the same gospel. From as early as John of Damascus, the view of “as was supposed of Joseph” regards Luke as calling Jesus a son of Eli—meaning that Heli (Ἠλί, Heli), the maternal grandfather of Jesus, with Luke tracing the ancestry of Jesus through Mary. Therefore per Adam Clarke (1817), John Wesley, John Kitto and others the expression "Joseph, [ ] of Heli", without the word "son" being present in the Greek, indicates that "Joseph, of Heli" is to be read "Joseph, [son-in-law] of Heli". There are, however, other interpretations of how this qualification relates to the rest of the genealogy. Some see the remainder as the true genealogy of Joseph, despite the different genealogy given in Matthew.
The two Biblical genealogies disagree not only on the name of Joseph’s father, but on the entire lineage back to David. This contradiction has been used to criticize the accuracy of the Christian gospel accounts since ancient times, and several early Christian authors responded to these criticisms. Augustine, for example, attempted on several occasions to refute every purported inconsistency in the genealogies, not only because the Manichaeans in his day were using these inconsistencies as fodder for attacking Christianity, but also because he himself had seen them in his youth as cause for doubting the veracity of the Gospels. The explanation given by Augustine is that Joseph had a biological father and an adoptive father, and that one of the gospels traces the genealogy through the adoptive father in order to draw parallels between Joseph and Jesus (both having an adoptive father) and as a metaphor for God's relationship with humankind, in the sense that God "adopted" human beings as his children.
One common explanation for the divergence is that Matthew is recording the actual genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, according to Jewish custom, whereas Luke, writing for a Gentile audience, gives the legal genealogy or that it is Luke and not Matthew who gives the true genealogy.
According to Eusebius of Caesarea who affirmed the interpretation of Africanus, Luke's genealogy is of Joseph (not of Mary), who was the natural son of Jacob, though legally of Eli who was the uterine brother of Jacob.
The earliest tradition that explains the divergence of Joseph's lineages involves the law of levirate marriage. A woman whose husband died without issue was bound by law to be married to her husband's brother, and the first-born son of such a so-called levirate marriage was reckoned and registered as the son of the deceased brother (Deuteronomy 25:5 sqq.). Sextus Julius Africanus, in his 3rd-century Epistle to Aristides, reports a tradition that Joseph was born from just such a levirate marriage. According to this, Joseph’s natural father was Jacob son of Matthan, as given in Matthew, while his legal father was Eli son of Melchi (sic), as given in Luke.
It has been questioned, however, whether levirate marriages actually occurred among uterine brothers — they are expressly excluded in the Halakhah Beth Hillel but permitted by Shammai. According to Anthony Maas, the question proposed to Jesus by the Sadducees in the Synoptic Gospels regarding a woman with seven husbands suggests that this law was observed down to the time of Christ.
A more straightforward and the most common explanation is that Luke’s genealogy is of Mary, with Eli being her father, while Matthew’s describes the genealogy of Joseph. This view was advanced as early as John of Damascus (d.749).
Luke’s text says that Jesus was “a son, as was supposed, of Joseph, of Eli”. The qualification has traditionally been understood as acknowledgment of the virgin birth, but some instead see a parenthetical expression: “a son (as was supposed of Joseph) of Eli.” In this interpretation, Jesus is called a son of Eli because Eli was his maternal grandfather, his nearest male ancestor. A variation on this idea is to explain “Joseph son of Eli” as meaning a son-in-law, perhaps even an adoptive heir to Eli through his only daughter Mary. An example of the Old Testament use of such an expression is Jair, who is called “Jair son of Manasseh” but was actually son of Manasseh’s granddaughter. In any case, the argument goes, it is natural for the evangelist, acknowledging the unique case of the virgin birth, to give the maternal genealogy of Jesus, while expressing it a bit awkwardly in the traditional patrilinear style.
According to this theory, the reason Mary is not implicitly mentioned by name is because the ancient Hebrews never permitted the name of a woman to enter the genealogical tables, but inserted her husband as the son of him who was, in reality, but his father-in-law.
Lightfoot sees confirmation in an obscure passage of the Talmud, which, as he reads it, refers to “Mary daughter of Eli”; however, both the identity of this Mary and the reading are doubtful. Patristic tradition, on the contrary, consistently identifies Mary’s father as Joachim. It has been suggested that Eli is short for Eliakim, which in the Old Testament is an alternate name of Jehoiakim, for whom Joachim is named.
The theory neatly accounts for the genealogical divergence. It is consistent with the early tradition ascribing a Davidic ancestry to Mary. It is also consistent with Luke’s intimate acquaintance with Mary, in contrast to Matthew’s focus on Joseph’s perspective. On the other hand, there is no explicit indication whatsoever, either in the Gospel or in any early tradition, that the genealogy is Mary’s.
After John of Damascus the claim that Luke gives Mary’s genealogy is mentioned in a single extant Western medieval text,[when?] in which pseudo-Hilary cites it as an opinion held by many, though not himself. This claim was revived by Annius of Viterbo in 1498 and quickly grew in popularity.
A minority view holds that while Luke gives the genealogy of Joseph, Matthew gives the genealogy of Mary. A few ancient authorities seem to offer this interpretation. Although the Greek text as it stands is plainly against it, it has been proposed that in the original text Matthew had one Joseph as Mary’s father and another as her husband. This neatly explains not only why Matthew’s genealogy differs from Luke’s, but also why Matthew counts fourteen generations rather than thirteen. Blair sees the various extant versions as the predictable result of copyists repeatedly attempting to correct an apparent mistake. Others argue that here the Aramaic original of Matthew used the word gowra (which could mean father), which, in the absence of vowel markings, was read by the Greek translator as gura (husband). In any case, an early understanding that Matthew traced Mary’s genealogy would explain why the contradiction between Matthew and Luke apparently escaped notice until the 3rd century.
A Jewish tradition relating Mary to Luke’s genealogy is recorded in the Doctrina Jacobi (written in 634), in which a Tiberian rabbi mocks the Christian veneration of Mary by recounting her genealogy according to the tradition of the Jews of Tiberias. A century later, John of Damascus and others report the same information, only inserting an extra generation, Barpanther (Aramaic for son of Panther, thus indicating a misunderstood Aramaic source). A certain prince Andronicus later found the same polemic in a book belonging to a rabbi named Elijah:
Why do Christians extol Mary so highly, calling her nobler than the Cherubim, incomparably greater than the Seraphim, raised above the heavens, purer than the very rays of the sun? For she was a woman, of the race of David, born to Anne her mother and Joachim her father, who was son of Panther. Panther and Melchi were brothers, sons of Levi, of the stock of Nathan, whose father was David of the tribe of Judah.
Although most accounts ascribing the Luke genealogy to Mary's line do not include a levirate marriage this is added by the above sources. Each of these texts then goes on to describe, just as in Julius Africanus (but omitting the name of Estha), how Melchi was related to Joseph through a levirate marriage.
|Many Generations||Many Generations|
Bede assumed that Julius Africanus was mistaken and corrected Melchi to Matthat. Since papponymics were common in this period, however, it would not be surprising if Matthat were also named Melchi after his grandfather.
Controversy has surrounded the name Panther, mentioned above, because of a charge that Jesus' father was a soldier named Pantera. Celsus mentions this in his writing, The True Word, where he is quoted by Origen in Book 1: 32. "But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced, speaking of the mother of Jesus, and saying that "when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera." Epiphanius, in refutation of Celsus, writes that Joseph and Cleopas were sons of “Jacob, surnamed Panther.” Two Talmudic-era texts referring to Jesus as the son of Pantera (Pandera) are Tosefta Hullin 2:22f: "Jacob ... came to heal him in the name of Jesus son of Pantera" and Qohelet Rabbah 1:8(3): "Jacob ... came to heal him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera" and some editions of the Jerusalem Talmud also specifically name Jesus as the son of Pandera: Jerusalem Abodah Zarah 2:2/7: "someone ... whispered to him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera"; Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/8: "someone ... whispered to him in the name of Jesus son of Pandera"; Jerusalem Abodah Zarah 2:2/12: "Jacob ... came to heal him. He said to him: we will speak to you in the name of Jesus son of Pandera"; Jerusalem Shabboth 14:4/13: "Jacob ... came in the name of Jesus Pandera to heal him". Because some editions of the Jerusalem Talmud do not contain the name Jesus in these passages the association is disputed.
One of the traditional explanations is that Matthew traces not a genealogy in the modern biological sense, but a record of legal inheritance showing the succession of Jesus in the royal line.
According to this theory, Matthew’s immediate goal is therefore not David, but Jeconiah, and in his final group of fourteen, he may freely jump to a maternal grandfather, skip generations, or perhaps even follow an adoptive lineage in order to get there. Attempts have been made to reconstruct Matthew’s route, from the seminal work of Lord Hervey to Masson’s recent work, but all are necessarily highly speculative.
As a starting point, one of Joseph’s two fathers could be by simple adoption, as Augustine suggests, or more likely the special adoption by a father-in-law with no sons, or could be a maternal grandfather. On the other hand, the resemblance between Matthan and Matthat suggests they are the same man (in which case Jacob and Eli are either identical or full brothers involved in a levirate marriage), and Matthew’s departure from Luke at that point can only be to follow legal line of inheritance, perhaps through a maternal grandfather. Such reasoning could further explain what has happened with Zerubbabel and Shealtiel.
A common explanation in modern scholarship for the inconsistency of the two genealogies is that at least one or both are invented. Of the two, Matthew is argued to be the more suspect. Gundry regards the series of unknown names connecting Joseph’s grandfather to Zerubbabel as an outright fabrication, produced by collecting and then modifying various names from 1 Chronicles.
Sivertsen, while accepting that Matthew’s version may derive from temple records, sees Luke’s as artificially pieced together out of oral traditions. The pre-exilic series Levi, Simeon, Judah, Joseph consists of the names of tribal patriarchs, far more common after the exile than before, while the name Mattathias and its variants begin at least three suspiciously similar segments. Kuhn likewise suggests that the two series Jesus–Mattathias (77–63) and Jesus–Mattatha (49–37) are duplicates.
The apocryphal Protevangelium of James (probably of the 2nd century) tells of the miraculous birth of Mary to her parents, Joachim and Anne. It further relates that Joseph, before his marriage to Mary, was an elderly widower with children of his own. Joachim and Anne are named in a number of other early sources as Mary’s parents, but this apocryphal text, which was later condemned, was so widely influential that it is not clear whether the names rest on any other independent tradition.
The genealogies in Luke and Matthew appear to briefly converge at Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, though they differ both above Shealtiel and below Zerubbabel. This is also the point where Matthew departs from the Old Testament record.
In the Old Testament, Zerubbabel was a hero who led the Jews back from Babylon about 520 BC, governed Judah, and rebuilt the temple. Several times he is called a son of Shealtiel. He appears once in the genealogies in the Book of Chronicles, where his descendants are traced for several generations, but the passage has a number of difficulties. While the Septuagint text here gives his father as Shealtiel, the Masoretic text instead substitutes Shealtiel’s brother Pedaiah—both sons of King Jeconiah, according to the passage. Some, accepting the Masoretic reading, suppose that Pedaiah begot a son for Shealtiel through a levirate marriage, but most scholars now accept the Septuagint reading as original, in agreement with Matthew and all other accounts.
The appearance of Zerubbabel and Shealtiel in Luke may be no more than a coincidence of names (Zerubbabel, at least, is a very common Babylonian name). Shealtiel is given a completely different ancestry, and Zerubbabel a different son. Furthermore, interpolation between known dates would put the birth of Luke’s Shealtiel at the very time when the celebrated Zerubbabel led the Jews back from Babylon. Thus, it is likely that Luke’s Shealtiel and Zerubbabel were distinct from, and perhaps even named after, Matthew’s.
If they are the same, as many insist, then the question arises of how Shealtiel, like Joseph, could have two fathers. Yet another complex levirate marriage has often been invoked. Bauckham, however, argues for the authenticity of Luke alone. In this view, the genealogy in Chronicles is a late addition grafting Zerubbabel onto the lineage of his predecessors, and Matthew has simply followed the royal succession. In fact, Bauckham says, Zerubbabel’s legitimacy hinged on descending from David through Nathan rather than through the prophetically cursed ruling line.
The name Rhesa, given in Luke as the son of Zerubbabel, is usually seen as the Aramaic word rēʾšāʾ, meaning head or prince. It might well befit a son of Zerubbabel, but some see the name as a misplaced title of Zerubbabel himself. If so, the next generation in Luke, Joanan, might be Hananiah in Chronicles. Subsequent names in Luke, as well as Matthew’s next name Abiud, cannot be identified in Chronicles on more than a speculative basis.
By the time of Jesus, it was already commonly understood that several prophecies in the Old Testament promised a Messiah descended from King David. Thus, in tracing the Davidic ancestry of Jesus, the Gospels aim to show that these messianic prophecies are fulfilled in him.
The prophecy of Nathan—understood as foretelling a son of God who would inherit the throne of his ancestor David and reign forever—is quoted in Hebrews and strongly alluded to in Luke’s account of the Annunciation. Likewise, the Psalms record God’s promise to establish the seed of David on his throne forever, while Isaiah and Jeremiah speak of the coming reign of a righteous king of the house of David.
David’s ancestors are also understood as progenitors of the Messiah in several prophecies. Isaiah’s description of the branch or root of Jesse is cited twice by Paul as a promise of the Christ.
More controversial are the prophecies on the Messiah’s relation, or lack thereof, to certain of David’s descendants:
The promise to Solomon, if applicable, argues against Luke, while Jeconiah’s curse, if applicable, argues against Matthew. Yet evidently neither evangelist found his respective genealogy incompatible with these prophecies.
Desposyni (Greek δεσπόσυνοι, desposynoi, “those of the master”) is a term used uniquely by Sextus Julius Africanus to refer to the relatives of Jesus. The Gospels mention four brothers of Jesus—James, Joses, Simon, and Jude—along with sisters, named by Epiphanius as Mary and Salome. These and their descendants were prominent in the early Church down to the 2nd century. Muslim authors extend family members to the 7th century.
Since ancient times, it has been debated precisely how these siblings were related to Jesus, or rather to Joseph and Mary, with her perpetual virginity at issue. There are three principal views on who these siblings were, named for their respective proponents:
There is no suggestion in ancient sources that Jesus himself had any physical children, but the theory that a bloodline of Jesus, through Mary Magdalene, survived down through the ages has been popularized in recent decades, most notably in the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
Matthew inserts four women into the long list of men. The women are included early in the genealogy—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and “the wife of Uriah” (i.e., Bathsheba). Why Matthew chose to include these particular women, while passing over others such as the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah, has been much discussed.
There may be a common thread among these four women, to which Matthew wishes to draw attention. He sees God working through Tamar's seduction of her father-in-law, through the collusion of Rahab the harlot with Joshua's spies, through Ruth the Moabite's unexpected marriage with Boaz, and through David and Bathsheba's adultery.
Some[who?] have suggested their possible Gentile origins. Rahab was a prostitute in Canaan, Bathsheba, was married to a Hittite; Ruth resided in Moab, and Tamar had a name of Hebrew origin. The women's nationalities are not necessarily mentioned. The suggestion is that Matthew may be preparing the reader for the inclusion of the Gentiles in Christ’s mission. Others point out an apparent element of sinfulness: Rahab was a prostitute, Tamar posed as a prostitute to seduce Judah, Bathsheba was an adulteress, and Ruth is sometimes seen as seducing Boaz—thus Matthew emphasizes God’s grace in response to sin. Still others[who?] point out their unusual, even scandalous, unions—preparing the reader for what will be said about Mary. None of these explanations, however, adequately befits all four women.
Nolland suggests simply that these were all the known women attached to David’s genealogy in the Book of Ruth.
The conclusion of the genealogy proper is also unusual: having traced the ancestry of Joseph, Matthew identifies him not as the father of Jesus, but as the husband of Mary. The Greek text is explicit in making Jesus born to Mary, rather than to Joseph. This careful wording is to affirm the virgin birth, which Matthew proceeds to discuss, stating that Jesus was begotten not by Joseph but by God.
Luke states that Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was a "relative" (Greek syggenēs, συγγενής) of Mary, and that Elizabeth was descended from Aaron, of the tribe of Levi. Whether she was an aunt, a cousin, or a more distant relation cannot be determined from the word. Some, such as Gregory Nazianzen, have inferred from this that Mary herself was also a Levite descended from Aaron, and thus kingly and priestly lineages were united in Jesus. Others, such as Thomas Aquinas, have argued that the relationship was on the maternal side; that Mary's father was from Judah, Mary's mother from Levi. Modern scholars like Raymond Brown (1973) and Géza Vermes (2005) suggest that the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth is simply an invention of Luke.
These two Gospels declare that Jesus was begotten not by Joseph, but by the power of the Holy Spirit while Mary was still a virgin, in fulfillment of prophecy. Thus, in mainstream Christianity, Jesus is regarded as being literally the “only begotten son” of God, while Joseph is regarded as his adoptive father.
Matthew immediately follows the genealogy of Jesus with: "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit".
Likewise, Luke tells of the Annunciation: “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
The question then arises, why do both gospels seem to trace the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, when they deny that he is his biological father? Augustine considers it a sufficient answer that Joseph was the father of Jesus by adoption, his legal father, through whom he could rightfully claim descent from David.
Tertullian, on the other hand, argues that Jesus must have descended from David by blood through his mother Mary. He sees Biblical support in Paul’s statement that Jesus was “born of a descendant of David according to the flesh”. Affirmations of Mary’s Davidic ancestry are found early and often,.
Mary is very highly regarded in the Qurʼan, the nineteenth sura being named for her. She is called a daughter of ʻImrān, whose family is the subject of the third sura. The same Mary (Maryam) is also called a sister of Aaron (Hārūn) in one place, and although this is often seen as an anachronistic conflation with the Old Testament Miriam (having the same name), who was sister to Aaron (Hārūn) and daughter to Amram (ʻImrān), the phrase is probably not to be understood literally.
According to Muslim Scholar Sheikh Ibn Al-Feasy Al-Hanbali, Quran used "Sister of Aaron" and "Daughter of Amram" for several reasons. One of those is the "relative calling" or "laqb" that always used by Arabic Literature. Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Abu `Abd Allah al-Shaybani, for instance, is prevalently called "Ibn Hanbal" instead of "Ibn Mohammad". Or, Muhammad bin Idris asy-Syafi`i is always called "Imam Al-Shafi‘i" instead of "Imam Idris" or "Imam Muhammad". This is how the Arabs refer to famous persons in their daily life. The same applies here; Sister of Aaron refers to "daughter of Aaron's siblings'", and daughter of Amram refers to "direct lineage of Amram" (Amram's descendents). This means that Mary was from the line of Amram, but not of Aaron's generation.
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Genealogy of Jesus
Pre-existence of Christ
Birth of John the Baptist