Heli (biblical figure)

Heli (biblical figure)

Heli is a Biblical individual mentioned in the Gospel of Luke as an ancestor of Jesus.

In Luke's account of the genealogy of Jesus from David via David's son Nathan, Heli is listed before Joseph, husband of Mary and after Matthat.

Luke 3:23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, of Heli, of Matthat, of Levi (...)

Heli is not mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus from David via David's son Solomon in the Gospel of Matthew, the only other canonical gospel to include a genealogy; that genealogy instead identifies "Jacob" as Joseph's putative father.


  • Two genealogies of Jesus 1
  • The curse on the Solomonic line 2
  • Saint Joachim and Saint Anne 3
  • References 4

Two genealogies of Jesus

Since Joseph cannot be both "begotten of Jacob", descended from Solomon (according to Matthew 1), and also "of Heli", descended from another of David's sons, Nathan (according to Luke 3) various explanations have been proposed for the Luke genealogy actually to be that of Mary. The view is relatively late; advocates of this view include John of Damascus (8th century), Annius (15th century), Luther, Bengel and Lightfoot.[1] Harry A. Ironside (1930) considered that it was simply preference to drop women's names out of the genealogy, hence Joseph was son in law of Heli.[2][3]

Prior to the explanation above, the explanation of Sextus Julius Africanus that there had been a levirate marriage and that Joseph's grandfather Mattan (descendant of Solomon) had had a wife called "Esther" (not recorded in the Bible) with whom he fathered Jacob (Joseph's father), but Matthan died and Esther married Heli's father Melchi (descendant of Nathan). Then when Heli died childless (again not recorded in the Bible) Joseph's father Jacob took Heli's wife to raise up children for Heli and left Joseph adopted in Heli's widow's house.[4]

Another possibility is that since both Heli and Jacob have a similar name listed as their father (Matthan in Matthew, Matthat in Luke), a discrepancy that can easily be accounted for by error, that the names Heli and Jacob refer to the same person. Matthew relied heavily on fitting existing prophecy to the narrative; in the Old Testament, Jacob (the last of the biblical patriarchs) also had a son named Joseph. This explanation fits for Heli/Jacob himself, but not for the earlier genealogies.

The curse on the Solomonic line

If the situation is reversed, Matthew's genealogy is that of Mary, Luke's of Joseph, then there is a problem with the curse on the Solomonic line, dating from the time of Jechonian where Jeremiah pronounced that no descendant of Jeconiah would again sit on the throne of Israel.[5]

Although Israel had at least one Solomonic descendant, Zerubbabel, as governor under the Persians, he was neither crowned king nor related by blood to Jeconian.[6]

Saint Joachim and Saint Anne

The apocryphal Protoevangelium of James gives the story of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne as the parents of Mary. This is largely followed in Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican tradition.


  1. ^ Lightfoot records Heli, or Eli, [for the name seemeth to be the same with his in 1 Sam. i. 3, 8cc.] was not the natural father of Joseph; for Matthew told us plainly before, that it was Jacob that begot Joseph; but Heli was the father of Mary, ...
  2. ^ Luke H. A. Ironside reprint 2007 "Women's names are dropped out of this genealogy, but here we are told that Joseph was the son of heli. This genealogy then is clearly the genealogy of Mary. Heli was the father of Mary, and Joseph by marrying Mary became the son of Heli ..."
  3. ^ John Gresham Machen Virgin Birth of Christ 1987 Page 203 "That is, Jesus was supposed to be the son of Joseph, but was really the son of Heli, etc. Heli would then be the father of Mary, and the word "son" would be taken in the wider sense of "descendant," the name of the mother of Jesus being unrecorded"
  4. ^ Brown R E Birth of the Messiah
  5. ^ ed. Allen Paul Wikgren Early Christian origins: studies in honor of Harold R. Willoughby 1961 "The tracing of Jesus through Nathan rather than Solomon may have been promoted by the curse of Jeremiah against Jechoniah"
  6. ^ John F. MacArthur John 1-11 MacArthur New Testament Commentary 2006 Volume 25 - Page 138 "descendants, the wicked king Jeconiah (also called “Coniah” or “Jehoiachin”) was cursed by the Lord: "Thus says the Lord, 'Write.... He was descended from the royal, Solomonic line through his legal (though not biological) father, Joseph."