The Bible contains many genealogies. They can be very boring and when I read through the Bible I often skim over them without studying them in detail but they do shed light on one very controversial issue regarding the interpretation of the Bible.
The first eleven chapters of Genesis are a history of the whole world. They tell how the world was created and describe events that affected the whole world, such as the flood and the building of the tower of Babel. Chapter twelve begins an account of the life of one man, Abraham, and the rest of the Old Testament is about him and his descendants.
There is disagreement about how the first eleven chapters of Genesis should be interpreted. Some think they tell of literal historical events; some think they are not intended to be taken literally and that real history begins with God’s call to Abraham (or Abram, as he was then called). The Bible’s genealogies show which interpretation is correct.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Those who reject a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 consider this the beginning of real history in the Bible. There is one problem with this view; this isn’t the first time Abram is mentioned. In the previous chapter he is listed among the descendants of Shem.
These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
How could a real, historical individual be a descendant of Shem unless Shem was equally historical? And if Shem was real the worldwide flood must have actually taken place. Chapter five traces Shem’s ancestry back to Adam. It is obvious that Moses considered Abram, Shem, and Adam to have all been real people and that he considered all of Genesis to be actual history.
The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles consists entirely of genealogies. They begin with Adam and end with a list of the people who returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. No distinction is made between the names taken from the first part of Genesis and those that came later. The author of 1 Chronicles considered all of Genesis to be equally historical.
Luke 3:23-38 contains Luke’s genealogy of Jesus. It goes all the way back to Adam with nothing to indicate that any part wasn’t historical. Luke accepted all of Genesis as being literal history.
If the people who wrote the Bible believed that all of Genesis is literally true why should we believe otherwise? The account of creation in Genesis is the foundation on which the rest of the Bible is built. Doubts about the truth of the foundation will eventually lead to doubts about all that is built on it. Here is something an atheist said about this on an internet forum.
I can’t say it’s no longer used, because it is still used heavily – but the concept of “bible as the literal word of God” seems to be falling out of favor at a rapid pace in exchange for a much more liberal allegorical take in christian circles.
The problem here for Christians is that while at the moment it helps make their position seem more reasonable to those who don’t know better, down the line I see this as the loose thread poking out of the sweater… just begging someone to come over and pull.
I don’t think science will be the eventual undoing of this particular faith… I think they can manage it just fine for themselves once they have voided their own authority on their own beliefs.
Even though he is an atheist he has a better understanding of the importance of Genesis than many Christians do.
The reason many Christians reject the literal truth of Genesis is the belief that science has proved that it can’t be true. There are scientific theories about the origin of the earth that contradict the Genesis account but contrary to popular opinion these theories haven’t been scientifically proven to be true and there is much evidence that they are wrong. In fact there is evidence that these theories are wrong. You can find some of that evidence here:
Here are some related entries in this blog:
Posted on October 26, 2013, in Bible study and tagged 1 Chronicles, Abraham, Adam, Babylonian captivity, Bible interpetation, creation, flood, genealogies, Genesis, history, Jesus, Luke, Seth, tower of Babel. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
I’d say the biggest backup for the Bible is the genealogy. Even those verses may seem boring, but I’m glad they took the time to write it.