Why is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ early life different from Luke’s account?
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth and early life is different from Luke’s account because each writer focuses on the thoughts and experiences of a different person.
Matthew’s account focuses on events that involved Joseph. It describes Joseph’s reaction when he learned that Mary was pregnant, his dream in which an angel explained the situation, and the way he followed the angel’s instructions. (Matthew 1:19-25) It also describes how an angel warned Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt with his family and how he obeyed. Matthew then tells us that Joseph had another dream in which an angel told him to return to the land of Israel and that he returned and decided to settle his family in Nazareth. (Matthew 2:13, 14, 19-23) In the first two chapters of his Gospel, Matthew mentions Joseph’s name eight times, but Mary’s, only four.
However, Luke’s account focuses on Mary. It describes Mary’s visit from the angel Gabriel, her visit to her relative Elizabeth, and her words of praise to Jehovah. (Luke 1:26-56) It also describes what Simeon told Mary about Jesus’ future sufferings. Then Luke describes the occasion when Jesus visited the temple with his family when he was 12 years old. Even in this account, Luke quotes the words of Mary, not those of Joseph, and he tells us that Mary was deeply affected by these events. (Luke 2:19, 34, 35, 48, 51) In the first two chapters of his Gospel, Luke mentions Mary’s name 12 times, but Joseph’s, only 3. So Matthew tells us more about what Joseph thought and did. Luke, though, focuses on Mary’s thoughts and experiences.
Jesus’ family line is also listed differently in the two Gospels. Matthew lists Joseph’s family line and shows that Jesus, as Joseph’s adopted son, had the legal right to David’s kingship. Why? Because Joseph was a descendant of King David through David’s son Solomon. (Matthew 1:6, 16) However, Luke lists Mary’s family line and shows that Jesus had the natural right to David’s kingship “according to the flesh.” (Romans 1:3) Why? Because Mary was a descendant of King David through David’s son Nathan. (Luke 3:31) But why does Luke not list Mary as the daughter of Heli, her father? Because official records generally included only the men of a family. So when Luke lists Joseph and describes him as the son of Heli, people understood this to mean that Joseph was Heli’s son-in-law.—Luke 3:23.
The lists of Jesus’ family line in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke prove that Jesus was the Messiah whom God had promised. The fact that Jesus was a descendant of King David was so well-known that even the Pharisees and Sadducees could not deny it. Matthew’s and Luke’s descriptions of Jesus’ family line strengthen our faith and make us confident that the rest of God’s promises will come true.