Genealogy of Jesus in the gospel of Luke leads to Adam. (3:23-38)

Considering the idea of non-literal Adam and Eve, how can we reconcile the fact that in the gospel of Luke we have genealogy of Jesus mentioned which leads all the way to Adam? (Luke 3:23-38)

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Welcome Titus,

This is an interesting question, as you wait for responses you may find it helpful to have a read of a similar thread from back in 2017:

You may also generate a few more response if you provide a few of your own thoughts along with the question. You don’t need to provide any answer, but ‘showing your workings’ so far will give people something to spark from. Theology is a community project.

That in mind, welcome to our corner of the internet. I trust you’ll find the answer you are looking for.

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I see it as making the point that Adam is the son of God and Jesus is the Son of God. I don’t personally think the point is diminished if Adam is taken as an archetype of corporate humanity or the ancestors of Israel and not a historical individual. It just underscores Jesus’ full humanity and God’s special choosing of humanity as his children. Where other humans have fallen and failed, Jesus will be faithful.

I think this is a good observation about the placement and literary function of the geneology. (Note that for Luke inclusion of all people in the story of redemption is a driving concern, whereas for Matthew literal ancestry to Jewish historical figures was in view. Adam, whether taken as historical or archetypical is an inclusive figure who “belongs” to the whole human race, not just the Jews.)

But Luke uniquely offers us Jesus’ genealogy between the baptism and the temptation. This is a curious placement for a genealogy, and at first pass it might seem to interrupt the flow of Luke’s narrative. We might expect Luke to place the genealogy at the beginning of his Gospel (such as we find in Matthew), or perhaps at the end of Luke chapter 1, right before Jesus’ birth. Yet Luke strategically places it here, just prior to the wilderness temptation.

The key to understanding the placement of the genealogy is found within the genealogy itself. Unlike Luke, Matthew’s gospel is written to the Jewish community. As such, Matthew’s genealogy (presumably following Joseph’s line) links Jesus to King David, the greatest of the Jewish Kings, and then to Abraham, the father of the Jewish people. And there Matthew’s genealogy stops. But Luke’s gospel is written to a non-Jewish audience, and his genealogy does not focus on Jesus’ relation to Abraham. Instead, Luke (presumably following Mary’s line) traces Jesus all the way back to Adam, and then ultimately to God.

Matthew’s genealogy presents Jesus as the second David, a son of Abraham. Luke’s genealogy presents Jesus as the second Adam, a son of God.

And thus Luke offers us the genealogy — linking Jesus to Adam, and ultimately to God — as a means of introducing Jesus’ wilderness temptation. It is Jesus — the decedent of Adam and the Son of God — who will overthrow the Devil. With the placement and nature of his genealogy, Luke intends us to see Jesus’ wilderness temptation as a recapitulation of Adam’s garden temptation.

Where the first Adam failed, the Second Adam would succeed.

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I would assume that to provide a genealogy from Adam to Jesus has got to be about tying things up. To imagine that the genealogy for anyone could stretch back tens of thousands of years is not credible. It has to be understood in terms of literary intent rather than taken to be a factual line of decent.

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Great explanation. But how should we reconcile the fact that the gospels were written in greek? What I mean by this is that if we consider Matthew’s gospel to be written to Jewish people, why is it written in greek? Neverthless, your explanation is sound. Thank you.

The Jews of the time period were a conquered people and Koine Greek was the lingua franca when the Gospels were composed. Jesus and his disciples most likely spoke a Galilean dialect of Aramaic. People think Jesus probably knew enough Greek to communicate with non-Aramaic speakers and maybe some Hebrew from his religious education, though there is evidence that some of his Old Testament quotes were most likely from an Aramaic translation of the Torah. In the early first century, Jews of the Diaspora were Greek-speaking. See here for an explanation: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/diaspora.html

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