Interpreting Luke's Genealogical Account

There are quite a few Evolutionary Creationists that assert that Adam was a “real” individual, but one of many humans at the time. There are also quite a few that view Adam as part of an allegory and not a “real” individual. Personally, I’m still sitting on the fence on this topic. But for those of you that believe in a “non-literal” Adam, how do you account for the genealogy of Jesus from Luke chapter 3 that traces back to Adam? Thanks in advance for your input.


As I am sort of on the fence also, guess I am in the same boat and am interested in what is answered. I am in a Bible study on Genesis now, and have to admit the more you study it, the more I am leaning toward the total non-literal interpretation of the first chapters, as it has all the characteristics of an epic story written later to give a back history. So, the genealogy becomes problematic.


I’ve been in an e-conversation for several weeks, and the study I’ve done has left me with a similar experience. The more I look at it, the more it reads like an allegory. Now, the allegory could actually contain some elements of real events, but the Luke genealogy is certainly nudging me to accept an historical Adam.

Well, @cwhenderson, before you get fully nudged… don’t you think you first have to resolve which Genealogy is the most likely to be correct one (assuming either of them could be)?

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When it came to current affairs Luke was quite the careful historian. However, he had to use some source for the genealogy. I have never heard anyone address what that source might be. But whatever the source, if it included mythological characters I am sure he would have included them as if they were real people. He wouldn’t have known any different.

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I’ve read plausible explanations for the difference between Matthew and Luke genealogies – ie Matthew focusing on kingship of Jesus, or Joseph vs Mary lineages. I just haven’t read much from theologians regarding Luke’s inclusion of Adam.[quote=“Bill_II, post:5, topic:36744”]
When it came to current affairs Luke was quite the careful historian. However, he had to use some source for the genealogy. I have never heard anyone address what that source might be. But whatever the source, if it included mythological characters I am sure he would have included them as if they were real people. He wouldn’t have known any different.

You may very well be right, Bill, but this argument will give any staunch inerrentist fits! I suppose this could be greatly influenced by one’s view of what “God-breathed” really means regarding scripture.

Mileage will vary! When I examine the different epochs represented in the Bible, in the interests of correlating with the Adam Ancestry of Jesus - - I come up with a thin bowl of pottage.

How can Adam be literal if most of the OT timeline is barking-crazy-out-of-sync with what archaeology and ancient records tell us about when the events of the Adam-to-Jesus timeline could have happened?

For those who prefer a global flood over a grand regional one, the timeline puts the global flood somewhere and somewhat around the 5th dynasty of Egypt. And yet we have zero record of any flooding other than the annual flooding of the Nile river & delta … with no massive destruction layers interrupting the continuity between very very ancient Egypt to merely “ancient Egypt”!

We have thousands and thousands of ice core samples displaying seasonal yearly layerings of glacial ice that - - when carefully viewed and counted - - literally count up to more than 100,000 years!

So please tell me, Curtis, how would your literal Adam fit into these relatively fixed milestones of the ancient timeline?

I agree with you on virtually all points. The only possible explanation that would make sense (if indeed Adam was truly historical, which I am not yet conceding) is a single individual in the midst of what existed Homo sapiens at the time. I’m not doing a complete 180 here, if that’s the impression I gave.


Yes, that does seem to be the most plausible way to work out the details.

From my viewpoint, if I can stick to my guns about God-in-Human-Form not being able to summon Cosmic omniscience due to the limitations of His human body … then I can certainly summon up an even less difficult parallel with the all-too-fleshy human scribes.

There are plenty of Evolutionist Christians who have decided to interpret the Genesis Creation Story as a story that was intended to be eventually revealed to future generations … with allegorical elements and historical elements.

But I do not believe God gave those scribes any significant skills in telling the future. While some may howl and protest that I could ever say such a thing, I don’t see how I have much of choice.

What Choice do I have?
If the Genesis scribe(s) can describe a celestial ocean, a molten-cast-firmament, a belief that stars are so small (ranging anywhere from child-sized to, say, a large wagon) - - and that they can come to Earth without destroying Earth long before they arrive - -

then I am compelled to conclude that these scribes had many insights, but the knowledge of Earth and the heavens immediately beyond the Earth was not conveyed to them by any divine fountain of material truths.


I go by John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

The Holy Spirit works with what you know. It doesn’t say He will correct you just that what you recall is what He wants written down.

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Looking around I found Pete Enns covered Denis Lamoureux on a similar topic. I haven’t listened to it yet, so you’ll have to let me know if it makes sense!

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Thanks, Matthew, my next course of action was to dig out my Denis Lamoureux books!

Not saying you shouldn’t go ahead and dig out your Lamoureux books, but why so impatient? At least give me a chance to weigh in before seeing what an actual scholar has to say! Haha. Actually, I pulled out my friend James Edwards’ commentary on Luke to see what he had to say. Interestingly, I have no idea of his opinion on the historicity of Adam, but his interpretation fits well with a figurative interpretation of Adam. Here are a few of his key points in the section titled “The Manifestation of the Son of God (3:21-4:13)”:

"In the Third Gospel, the baptism, genealogy, and testing of Jesus in the wilderness are unified by the common theme of the Son of God… (These) unite to clarify and confirm the annunciation promises to Mary in 1:26-38…

"The voice from heaven identifies Jesus as God’s son, thus also echoing the enthronement of the Israelite king in Ps. 2:7. The filial intimacy and obedience that were imperfectly foreshadowed by the king are perfectly fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is also the perfect fulfillment of the original concept of sonship that was linked to Israel’s call in Exod. 4:22-23…

“Luke’s first unique emphasis in the baptism occurs with mention that “all the people” were being baptized… Luke embeds the baptism within the larger phenomenon of the baptism of the crowds, thereby shifting the baptism from a solo event of Jesus to a communal event of God’s people… After the baptism, while Jesus prays, the Father anoints Jesus with the Holy Spirit and declares him the Beloved Son. The Spirit of God enables Jesus to embrace his identity as the Son of God and to assume his vocation as the Servant of God… The baptism of Jesus with “all the people” emphasizes his identification with sinners, indeed his vicarious baptism on behalf of them. In the dispute between Moses and Pharaoh in Egypt, Moses refers to Israel as “God’s firstborn son” (Exod. 4:22-23). Early in Israel’s history, “Son of God” is thus defined in corporate rather than individual terms … In the baptism, Jesus – the true Son and thus Israel reduced to one – stands in the water with sinners as himself the “firstborn Son” to redeem and restore the original ideal of divine sonship (Rom. 8:29). As the Beloved Son in whom God is pleased and on whom God’s Holy Spirit rests (1:35, 3:22), Jesus is both the model of Israel’s sonship and the means of its fulfillment. In Jesus, the Son of God endowed with the Spirit of God, “all people will see God’s salvation” (3:6).”

"23-38 Luke’s genealogy includes many features that are unique … it is unusual to find a genealogy within a narrative rather than before it … (and) ordered from present to past … In contrast to Matt, Luke’s genealogy mentions no women … (and) traces the genealogy back to Adam … Most unusual, all known genealogies trace back to a human figure, but Luke’s alone traces back to God. Luke’s exceptions to the well-established protocol of genealogies reinforce the dual foci of the baptism: Jesus, the Son of God, stands in solidarity with humanity. Jesus’ baptism with “all the people” (3:21) connects him spatially with humanity; the seventy-seven names in the genealogy connect him temporally with humanity. … By placing Jesus in a human lineage that begins with “son of God,” Luke signals his dual identity, human yet divine, both son of man and Son of God.

“The Messiah sent by God is thus not like Melchizedek, who appears mysteriously without father or mother … Jesus, rather, is a son of Adam, indeed the “last Adam” (Rom. 5:14, 1 Cor. 15:22, 45-49) … But the divine sonship is transmitted through a long list of names. All human history, in fact, intervenes between Jesus’ sonship and God’s fatherhood … Jesus is “the Son (who is) the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29), who stands in solidarity with humanity – sinful humanity – which he came to redeem.”
(End of quoted material)

On the issue of Matthew’s genealogy vis-a-vis Luke’s, the main problem is “Luke’s omission of the name of every Davidic ruler between Jesus and David (except Zerubbabel and Shealtiel). Even Solomon is omitted…” In a footnote, Edwards quotes I. Howard Marshall as saying, “The problem … is insoluble with the evidence presently at our disposal.” Edwards’ own suggestion is that Luke’s revisions “distinguish Jesus as the only and true heir of ‘the throne of David his father’ (1:32) who ‘will reign over the house of Jacob forever’ (1:32).”

Summing up, Luke’s unique positioning of the genealogy within the narrative and his unique approach to genealogy, tracing backwards all the way to God, connect the themes of divine sonship and kingship, and remind us that where Adam and Israel (as well as we ourselves) corporately failed, Jesus has identified himself with us and stands in solidarity with us, and he did not fail.

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The link to Lamoureux’s video is perfect! And by incrementing the suffix number at the end of the URL, you eventually get to the video where he specifically analyzes Luke vs. Matthew genealogies.

He pretty much dismisses the theory that one of these ancestries is based on Mary; I’m really not clear why anyone ever thought that.

Great stuff!

One telling objection to all these genealogies is that they are too short
Cave paintings of beautifully depicted animals date back nearly 30,000 years which would require about. 10,000 generations. Now either Adam came tens of thousands of years after these people or biblical genealogies were not to be taken literally


Thanks, Jay, this is really helpful. I was planning on reading through Lamoureaux’s written material, so I was really excited to see @pevaquark’s post with some of his videos!


I was just thinking about that aspect when I was watching a Rick Steves travel show about the caves. No travel snob remarks about Rick, he has some good stuff. Anyway, he mentioned the time frame of the paintings, and you could only reflect not only onthe age of the paintings, but the age of the caves that had eroded into the limestone in their present form at that time, then the age of the limestone that formed long before that before being uplifted from the sea.

Yes, this is the crux of the matter. If we take Genesis 1-2 to refer to the creation of mankind/Adam, then we are anywhere from 200,000 to 40,000 years removed from the writing of the texts. Not only are the genealogies “too short” to cover that many years, but it is inconceivable that those names (let alone stories) were passed down as oral tradition over that vast span of time. That is one reason why most conservative scholars seem to be pursuing the ad hoc Adam scenario. He must be recent enough for the stories to have a chance of being passed down, as well as avoiding the problems of genetics and the historical difficulties of the rest of Gen. 1-11, such as the invention of agriculture, the confusion of languages, and Noah’s flood, to name just a few. (Of course, the regional flood is the original “work-around” solution.) All of it just strikes me as the counsel of desperation.

The major problem with conservative scholars and a figurative interpretation of Genesis 1-11 comes down to the inerrancy debate. Still, it seems exceedingly odd that the simple presence of Adam’s name in Luke’s genealogy can be cited by some as “proof” that Adam must be a historical person, but that same genealogy is so fraught with problems that scholars simply throw up their hands and say, “We can’t solve it!”

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I wanted to point out just a few key features brought out by the commentary:

  • The connection of sonship and kingship. (These ideas eventually merge in Christ, just as priest and king do.)
  • Christ’s identification with the people of God in baptism. (Corporate solidarity.)
  • Christ assumed his vocation as the Servant of the Lord at his baptism. (As we resume our vocation as image-bearers when we are baptized.)
  • Israel saw itself as corporately taking up Adam’s task. (God’s firstborn son). “Son of God is thus defined in corporate rather than individual terms.” (Again, corporate solidarity.)
  • Luke traces back to Adam and to God for theological reasons, not to make a minor point about Adam’s historicity. Adam, like Israel, is a corporate figure, not an individual man.

Edit: One last thought. Zerubbabel and Shealtiel are likely the only Davidic rulers mentioned because of the connection to the rebuilding of the temple. But this makes the absence of Solomon even more puzzling …

If the presence of Adam’s name is conclusive, then we must confess that there was a discussion between the Rich Man in hades and Abraham in Heaven, and whether or not sending Lazarus to warn the Rich Man’s family would do any good.

He was mentioned… and the discussion they had was specifically quoted.

Must be real.

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Why couldn’t Adam have come tens of thousands of years after these people? That is debatable, but this doesn’t mean he couldn’t still be a real historical person.

This is what I currently believe. There were many humans alive at during Adams time and life, but he is mentioned as the first breaker of law. That is his importance, the first breaker of law, became a slave to law , then some people lived, then eventually Jesus, the second Adam, who is the free’er/conquerer of law.