Did Mary Descend From David?

Joseph Francis Alward
May 27, 1999

Alleged prophecies relating to the Jesus' David ancestry and his virgin-birth have long been a source of confusion and argument. In what follows, we will describe this conflict and the attempts by inerrantists to resolve it by claiming that Jesus' connection to David was through Jesus' mother, Mary.

Joseph Weds Mary

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Jesus Descended From King David

The Old Testament tells us that from the seed of King David will arise a savior of Judea who will rule the earth:

"The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.....I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely."(Psalms 132:11 and Jeremiah 23:5-6)

Apostle Paul also noted that Jesus was a descendant of David: "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3).  Since a man born of a virgin and a holy ghost has no mortal father, it is impossible that Jesus was the biological son of Joseph who descended from David. Thus, Jesus' birth could not have fulfilled the David prophecy unless Mary, his mother, was descended from David. We will now explore this possibility.

Was Mary a Descendant of King David?

Defenders of inerrancy, who strain mightily to prove that their Jesus was of the seed of David, point to the genealogy in Luke:  "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."(Luke 3:23).  Inerrantists reject the obvious meaning of this verse and claim that the word "which" refers all the way back to Jesus--not to Joseph. Thus, the inerrantists claim that Jesus was a "son", or descendant, of Heli, who they allege must have been an ancestor of Mary.  Once the reader jumps over that hurdle of unbelievability, the inerrantists claim that the readers should be able to reason through a two step logical argument which leads to the conclusion that Mary is the daughter of Heli. Here is the argument:

The inerrantists claim that since the reader knows that Jesus was virgin-born, they would naturally conclude that Jesus could not have been the "son" of Heli in the usual meaning of the term, but some other kind of "son", or descendant.

The next cognitive step required by the inerrantists' convoluted logic is to recognize that since a virgin-born Jesus could not have had any kind of paternal ancestors, it follows logically that Heli must have been one of Jesus' maternal ancestors. Thus, Jesus' mother, Mary, was descended from Heli, who was descended from King David.

Thus, in order to fulfill the prophecy that Jesus was of the seed of David, but still virgin-born, the inerrantists have to attach an improbable interpretation to the wording of Luke 3:23, then pretend that Luke believed that his future readers would naturally and without difficulty work their way through the logic above, without help.

They Wouldn't Have Believed It

No matter how inerrantists present their extremely improbable case for Mary being a descendant of David, it wouldn't matter since even if there had been any suggestion that Jesus traced his lineage back to David through his mother, the Bible writers would have been laughed out of town because, in Biblical times,

"Women did not count in reckoning descent for the simple reason that it was then believed that the complete human was present in the man's sperm (the woman's egg wasn't discovered until 1827). The woman's womb was just the soil in which the seed was planted. Just as there was barren soil that could not produce crops, so also the Bible speaks of barren wombs that could not produce children." [1]

Thus, if the author of Luke had wished to risk personal ridicule by implying that Mary could transmit King David's seed, he almost certainly would have anticipated the incredulity of the masses and told the readers that this was happening for the first time ever. Furthermore, Luke would have alerted the reader that he wasn't going to bother putting Mary's name anywhere in her genealogy, and he also wouldn't have forced the reader to mentally reposition the parenthetical remark in "Heli begat Jesus" verse in order to see its "true" meaning.

Mary Was Levitic, Not Davidic

There is no evidence that Mary was a descendant of David, but Dennis McKinsey, the editor of Biblical Errancy [2], points out there is some evidence that she was a member of a completely separate line, a descendant of Levi, the great-grandfather of Aaron and Moses. That evidence comes from the pen of Luke, who wrote that Elisabeth, who was a daughter of Aaron, was the cousin of Mary. Here is the story:

After telling Mary that the Holy Ghost would cause the virgin Mary to conceive Jesus, he also tells her that he had already done something similar for her cousin:

"There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. (Luke 1:5)....And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren."(Luke 1:36)


We have seen that it is very difficult to accept the inerrantists' interpretation of Luke's writings. The readers should ask themselves: Which is more likely: that the bible was written by fallible men, or, every word in the bible is literally the word of god?

[1] Paul Carlson, New Testament Contradictions, page 2.

[2]  Biblical Errancy, Issue Number 6, June, 1983.


This article needs revising.  Include comments about the Cursed line.  Jer 22 shows the Cursed Line.  See Big Bible Lessons on my page.