Mary’s genealogy; and Joachim and Eli

While writing up the post about Jesus’ genealogy the other day, I started wondering about Mary’s. I found this article, which sort of blew my mind: Why isn’t Joachim mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy?

Basically, the idea is that the genealogy as listed in the Gospel of Matthew (the one I referred to in my Jesus’ genealogy post) is believed to be that of Joseph, which shows Jesus’ legal lineage, and his claim to the throne of David through his legal father. The genealogy presented in the Gospel of Luke, however, which is different than Matthew’s, is argued by some to be that of Mary, which shows Jesus’ natural lineage, and his claim to the throne of David through blood.


One of things I found most fascinating is that some of the Church’s Big Thinkers argue that Mary and Joseph may have been first cousins. I’d never heard that before!

Many of the Fathers maintained that Jacob and Heli [see below for more on Heli — he’s listed as Joseph’s father in Luke, as opposed to the Jacob listed in Matthew] were brothers and that, after Heli died childless (or, at least, without any sons), Jacob took Heli’s widow for his wife. Of her was born St. Joseph. Hence, according to the flesh, Joseph would be the son of Jacob only; but, according to legal right of inheritance, Joseph would be the son of Heli also. This explanation is certainly plausible, and enjoys the favor of many scholastic doctors as well (including St. Thomas Aquinas) …

If Heli is Joachim [see below for more on that], then we may presume that Joachim died without any sons. Joachim’s widow (presumably, a second wife other than St. Anne) would have married Jacob and bore him St. Joseph.”

So to answer the question posed in the article title, and alluded to in the quote above, another theory is that the Heli that’s listed as Joseph’s father in Luke actually refers to his father-in-law, Joachim:

“… we may follow the opinion of other scholars who maintained that Jacob (Joseph’s father) had died young and that Joseph became a quasi-adopted son of Heli/Joachim through his marriage to the Virgin – for this reason, then, Joseph is called son of Heli.

Whatever the intricate details, the central claim of this theory is that Joachim was called Heli and that this “nick-name” would have been common knowledge to those for whom St. Luke was writing. This opinion is said to have been held by St. Jerome, and is defended with great vigor by Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide. It was a common opinion that enjoyed the favor of many scholars from at least the 1400s up through the early 1900s

We argue that Heli and Joachim are linguistically related, such that it would be very natural for a single man to go by these two names. Joachim seems to be a variant form of Eliacim, which is abbreviated as Eli, a variant of Heli. Hence, though the two names may at first appear quite different, there is a great linguistic similarity between Heli and Joachim.

In any case, there are many persons in the New Testament who are called by multiple names: Nathanael is called Bartholomew, Thomas is called Didymus, Cleophas is called both Clepas and Alphaeus (though this last is more debatable), Salome is called Mary (her full name being Mary Salome), et c.”

This is the genealogy as listed in Luke 3:23-38:

[God] (those in brackets were not listed in Matthew — he starts with Abraham)
Arni (Ram in Matthew)
Admin (missing in Matthew — maybe this was an admin mistake when transcribing? 😀 )
Sala (Salmon in Matthew)
Nathan (this is where the Lucan genealogy splits off from Matthew’s)
Shealtiel (and picks it back up again)
Rhesa (and diverges again)
Matthat (despite the fact that Matthan is listed here in Matthew, and so I might have presumed it’s the same guy, the article I cite above says Matthan and Matthat are two different men)
Heli (Jacob listed as Joseph’s father in Luke)

Also, St. Joseph is listed as eleven generations from Shealtiel in Matthew, while in Luke it’s twenty.

So interesting!

Another quick note about the possible Joachim/Heli connection — I’d only ever read the Behind the Name entry that says Joachim is a “Contracted form of JEHOIACHIN or JEHOIAKIM,” where Jehoiachin means “established by YAHWEH” in Hebrew, and Jehoiakim means “raised by YAHWEH.” This idea of it being “a variant form of Eliacim” was new to me, so I looked it up, and while I didn’t find that spelling I did find Eliakim, which means “God rises.” So indeed it does seem that Eliakim and Jehoiakim mean the same thing, or very nearly, and if it wasn’t for this bit of research today I never would have discovered that connection. What do you all think of Eliakim, possibly with the nickname Eli, OR Eli on its own, with the intention of it being a variant of Eliakim, as an honor name for Mary via her dad, as argued by the article cited above? Do you all find Eliakim/Eli more accessible than Joachim?


22 thoughts on “Mary’s genealogy; and Joachim and Eli

  1. Wow, so interesting!

    I feel like Eli is definitely more accessible than Joachim mainly just because of pronunciation, pronunciation is a huge thing for me, and that makes certain wonderful names (like Joachim) unusable for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So great that a really easy name can be a nod to St. Joachim! I get it about pronunciation, we’ve knocked some names off our list because we just couldn’t get past pronunciation difficulties — like Augustine — some people have no problem dealing with it, but it was a dealbreaker for us.


      • I love the name Augustine, but yes with the pronunciation thing! I swear, each philosophy professor I have had has pronounced St. Augustine’s name differently!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! There’s a St. Augustine’s school near me that’s been in the local news recently and it’s comical how inconsistent everyone is with pronunciation. I’ve heard one person say he changes his pronunciation depending on who he’s talking to!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I thought Joseph of Arimathea had an identical twin called Joachim, who married Ann. But Joachim could not father children, so Ann married again and went on to have many children. the youngest being the Virgin Mary. So although the Virgin Mary called Joseph of Arimathea her Uncle, and Jesuses called him Grate-Uncle Joseph. From my understanding he wasn’t a blood Uncle, unless Ann married another brother of Joseph of Arimathea??


  2. It appears that Matthew emphasizes Joseph in his narrative, and Luke emphasizes Mary. This gives credence to the thought that Joseph’s geneology is in Matthew and Mary’s in Luke.


    • Didactic indeed!
      I stand to be corrected but I feel Joachim must have been like a surname of some sort. There being differences in the Mathew and Lukan geneology I feel there were names omitted. If you check you will see that some were grandfathers but are listed as fathers in the geneologies.
      I maintain that Joachim is correct but as a surname for Heli. The bible says that people were given second names for specifications based on where they lived or the name of their fathers.
      E.g Jesus of Nazareth, David of Jesse.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In the first volume of the visions of the Catholic mystic Blessed Anne Emmerich (1774-1824) an Augustinain Nun as recorded by her secretary Clemens Brentano, she makes it cleal that the genealogy in St. Luke’s gospel was that of the blessed mother and refers to Mary’s father alternatively as Joachim or Heli. Mary and Joseph were kindred as were many biblical husbands and wives but not first cousins. St. Joseph’s grand mother’s second marriage (after the death of her first husband, Matthan) gave a son who was St. Mary’s paternal grandfather.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s