Genesis Genealogies And Messianic Promise -- By: Andrew E. Steinmann

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 176:703 (Jul 2019)
Article: Genesis Genealogies And Messianic Promise
Author: Andrew E. Steinmann

Genesis Genealogies And Messianic Promise

Andrew E. Steinmann

Andrew E. Steinmann is distinguished professor of theology and Hebrew at Concordia University, Chicago, Illinois.


Because they include numbers indicating ages of the pre- and postdeluvian patriarchs, the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 have often been used as chronological information useful for determining the date of Creation. However, since antiquity it has been recognized that these genealogies present insuperable difficulties for such chronological calculations. This article explores these problems as well as ancient and modern proposed solutions. This study suggests that the genealogies were not intended to present chronology but to present the history of the messianic promise from Adam to Abram.

Since antiquity the pre- and postdeluvian genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 have been used extensively in speculations concerning the date of Creation and the age of the earth.1Such speculation began as early as with Josephus2in the first century and has continued from the second-century Jewish Seder ‘Olam Rabbah3 to Bishop Ussher in the seventeenth century4 to contemporary evangelicals.5Based on the Genesis genealogies,

modern Jewish rabbinic reckoning of Creation places it at October 7, 3761 BC. The temptation to view the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies as primarily chronological or at least secondarily intended to provide a chronology of the early chapters of Genesis comes from their extensive use of numbers. The age at which a patriarch “fathered” the succeeding generation is given along with the age at which the patriarch died. In addition, the Genesis 5 genealogy lists the number of years lived after the patriarch “fathered” a succeeding generation. This seemingly provides an unbroken chain of generations from Adam (5:1–3) to Abram (11:27) and appears to offer the data to calculate the age of the earth.

However, from antiquity there have been those w...

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