Luke's Geneaology of Jesus and Adam

Could you advise how one can understand Luke’s geneaology of Jesus leading all the way back to Adam if evolution is true & Genesis is non-literal history? Did Luke understand it to be historical, ie a real Adam & Eve in a garden, and was therefore wrong but reflected the standard Jewish view at the time of writing?

A second question - given humans reproduce with 1 man and 1 woman, do evolutionists understand there to be an original ‘Adam’ & ‘Eve’ from whom the whole ‘modern’ human race/species came?

Many thanks, Peter


Luke used what was available, which didn’t include the discipline of history. His epistemology, like Jesus’, can’t work post-Enlightenment. And no, evolution doesn’t work that way. Beneficial mutations survive. That’s it.

No, because species evolve as populations.


Many also believe that the genealogies were also compressed in order to hit numbers like 7,14 and so on.

Biblical patterns concerning numbers and compressed genealogy may help.

There is also views, which I share, that Adam and Eve were two people selected out of the earths population, just like Abraham, Moses, Noah, and so on was , in order for God to guide.

So I see it as evolution happened as science shows. Eventually God called two humans apart from the rest, and brought them to a special place on earth which was the garden and ect and so them being historical figures , even if they had different names since hebrew was not the language they probably spoke, and they were wrapped in mystery in their story found in genesis. Or it was just simply a literary device by the author to make a point about Jesus being the new Adam.


A genealogy going back to Adam and to God makes good sense from a symbolic reading of Genesis. If Adam stands for humanity, which is what the Hebrew word adam means, then ultimately one would expect every stream of human descent to flow into the sea called Adam.

It helps that Luke goes one link further: “the son of Adam, the son of God.” This last link makes it all but impossible to read the genealogy as simply conveying details about biological descent. God is not Adam’s biological father. Even metaphorically Jesus is the son of God in a different sense than Adam.

Finally, there’s Luke’s cryptic introduction to the genealogy: “He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph.” This suggests that what Luke is presenting is what was thought, not some divinely-revealed pedigree chart. Of course that statement may only relate to Joseph being the presumed biological father of Jesus, but I think it’s likely the rest of the chain after the first link is similarly what was supposed. If the first link is broken, who cares what the rest of the chain connects to? It wouldn’t make much sense to start from a presumed but biologically faulty starting point but then switch to divinely revealed information about biological descent.

I think Luke took this information that was commonly known and shaped it for his own purposes. He made all the names add up to 77 (with the addition of Cainan who isn’t found in the Hebrew text of Genesis) with key people and events coming at multiples of 7. Just like Matthew, he crafted the genealogy to suit his purposes. The dramatic differences between Luke and Matthew’s genealogies (both of which claim to show Joseph’s line) show how flexible this type of account can be.


This has been discussed before! We do not have any content on this yet, but I’ve put it on the list to try and address in the future!


I think we have to consider Luke’s genealogy in light of Matthew’s.

Since both lead to Joseph and since both differ, I think we have to recognize both genealogies as not factually accurate.

In fact, we can show that Matthew is wrong simply by comparison to the Old Testament. Matthew skipped four generations.

I don’t know why Luke felt a need to include this inaccurate information, but he was just an imperfect man.

Marshall, extending the “as was thought” to more than the link between Joseph and Jesus seems inappropriate.

I agree!

Thanks for posting.

Hello Paulbert – or PeterC

I think your question is interesting, although I suppose one hardly ever hears it discussed except maybe at Christmas. And even then it is in comparison to Matthew’s genealogy. With that, there are several approaches that get taken…such as, for example, Matthew doing things in groups of 7 — since that number seems to symbolize some sort of perfection. In that reckoning, Jesus simply is the beginning of a “new” group of sevens — that is, the righting (eventually) of the Universe. If Matthew did his genealogy with a symbolic emphasis, then why not Luke? And the likelihood of both of them skipping generations – even an enormous number — to make their point eliminates the need to see the genealogy as documenting all known ancestors.

One would suppose they believed in an Adam.

As for the genealogies being accurate, it might depend on what standards of “accuracy” one uses. Some commentators note that getting all the details right in a genealogy – or having two slightly different genealogies for same person – is an item of concern only to the Western mind. If that is the case and we are applying our “Western” minds to something that should not be viewed from a “Western” mindset, then the items in Luke’s – and Matthew’s — genealogy are perfectly A-OK.

BTW — the commentators I refer to above are Robert Wilson (a chapter in I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood…and Raymond Brown’s Birth of the Messiah.

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  1. Genesis is history because Adam and Eve were real people who actually existed. Accordingly some people can trace their ancestry back to Adam and Eve and it is not millions of years ago but only thousands of years ago.
  2. Genesis uses symbolism because the serpent was not a talking animal but an angel we call Lucifer.
  3. Evolution is true because in addition to the overwhelming scientific evidence, we also read in Genesis 4:14 that the earth is so full of people that Cain is afraid that being a wanderer on the earth will get him killed by all these people.

Luke understood it to be historical and he was correct. However just because Adam and Eve really existed does not mean that God created Adam and Eve by necromancy from dust and bone, any more than they were tempted by a talking reptile. Nor does it mean Adam and Eve are the sole genetic progenitors of the human race.

The answer to your third question is that scientists can demonstrate that the homo-sapiens population was never smaller than 10,000 people. So not only did the species not come from a single couple in agreement with the Bible in Genesis 4:14, but there was no flood covering the whole planet with only 8 survivors. There is no concept of the world or earth as a globe or a planet in the Bible, but only as a portion so small it could be described as a flat table.

P.S. Of course you may notice that you are getting every kind of answer under the sun to your questions. This is the pervasive nature of religion where everyone sees things differently. Not so with the demonstrable scientific facts because for these we have written procedures anyone can follow to get the same result no matter what they believe.

Re Joseph, I dont think this has any baring on the geneaology. Rather Luke is relating what was commonly thought about Jesus, that he was the biological son of Joseph, but Luke knows better, ie that Jesus’ father is in fact God. But I take your other points.

I take Adam and Eve as historical people that lived roughly 6000 or so years ago, give or take. They just weren’t the First Humans Ever. First humans called by God, sure.

Evolution occurs by populations, not individuals. So there would never be a first two humans. Just like there isn’t a first two humans to speak modern English, and you can’t pinpoint an exact time when modern English began. It was a gradual transition via populations that continues to change today.

Unless being human isn’t a matter of biological species and having the right DNA. I think being human is more than this. Language is the one difference between us and the animals – a means of communication with capacity for encoding information that surpasses that of DNA. This means that we have an entirely different and likely more important inheritance than genetics. Information which could have come from a communication by God to Adam and Eve.

Yes, that was my reaction too when I heard someone suggest it could apply to the whole thing. But after a few years, I guess it’s grown on me!

I find it suggestive because Luke tells us his approach at the beginning of the gospel: “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you.” Luke doesn’t mention God supernaturally revealing details no human could know. He describes an investigation that I expect included talking to witnesses and reading other sources. I don’t see reason to think he used a different method to find out who people say Jesus’ father was and who people say Joseph, Heli and Matthat’s fathers were. So, I take Joseph’s genealogy like Paul’s list of who he baptized in 1 Corinthians 1: a fallible human recollection.

Well, Paul was there when he baptized people, so he had a memory of the events — fallible though it was.

Luke was not there during any of the “X begat Y,” so he has simply recorded the work of others.

And, yes, Luke did not claim divine revelation for his gospel. He clearly stated he used sources, and they were not God!

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Well, we may find dolphins have the same capability of language.

When I was young, I recall the textbooks said a difference between man and animals was the ability to use tools. Then Jane Goodall found chimps used tools. Then others found certain birds use tools.

So sometimes the differentiations are transient.

That would be so exciting, and I really wish that were true. But I honestly don’t think so. What they do have is really amazing – almost a biological version of GPS. Communication they have and probably some ability to communicate something of their sonar data to each other, but the hope that they have language has been looking less and less likely. Furthermore we seem to have overestimated their intelligence. Their brain-mass ratio probably has more to do with the difficulties they have with breathing and sleeping.

Finding other species with language will probably have to wait a bit longer… either new discoveries or new developments. The point wasn’t to say that human have to have that difference but only that this is the only concrete difference we can really find.

Communication is likewise found in many animals. That is why I was careful with the specification of a language with a capability for encoding information that surpasses that of DNA.

Excuse my ignorance but I dont quite get the logic of that. Most evolutionists today would argue that ‘modern’ humans are still evolving, but we reproduce with a man and a woman, hence why we can trace a family tree back into the distant past. Why is that different for previous generations?

It’s not different. Evolution occurs via populations, not individuals. Just like a Latin speaking set of parents didn’t give birth to a modern Spanish speaking child… the language evolved via a population.

Yes, individual mutations occur with one couple, but it takes getting fixed in a population for that to have an effect on the species as a whole.

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