Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Question or Topic
Do the Scriptures provide a genealogy, with an associated chronology, extending from Adam to Christ? If not, how are the dates determined for the length of this interval?
Genesis 5:1-32; 11:10-32; Luke 3:23-38
Luke traces the genealogy from Adam to Christ, through the line of Mary, the mother of the Lord. (Luke 3:23-38) Among the important reasons for this and the parallel genealogy, (the line of Joseph, as the Lord's stepfather, in Matthew 1:1-17), was to establish that the Lord was of the seed of David according to the flesh, (Romans 1:3, Revelation 22:16) and thereby legally entitled to the throne of David. (Acts 2:30, Psalm 132:11). It is important to note that entitlement to the throne of David did not rest solely on moral grounds, nor did it rest solely on legal grounds but on a balanced meeting of the two, as appointed in the divine purpose.
Chronologies are associated with the genealogy in Genesis 5:1-32 and again in Genesis 11:10-32. In the second case, there is an important distinction. While genealogies are given for the three sons of Noah, Japheth, Ham and Shem in Genesis 10 (often called "The Table of Nations"), only the genealogy of Shem is repeated in Genesis 11 with the chronology. The chronology is provided to mark the line of descent that would lead to Christ and not in the other branches of Noah's family. Thus, from the genealogies with chronologies in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11, it is possible to determine the approximate passage of time from Adam until Abraham.
The time that was to pass from Abraham and include the sojourning of his seed in Egypt is likewise marked out as spanning a period of 430 years (Exodus 12:40, Galatians 3:17) until the Passover night of the Exodus. Another key verse is 1 Kings 6:1 which measures 480 years from the time of the Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon's reign. With the information in Genesis and the consecutive time periods of 430 and 480 years respectively, it is possible to measure the first 3,000 years of human history, from Adam to Solomon. The general pattern is for the lengths of the reigns of the kings after Solomon to be given, to allow the measurement of time down to the end of the kings of Judah. At this point, the Scriptures provide correlation to the reigns of the Gentile monarchs, indicating that the fourth year of Jehoiakim was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar. (Jeremiah 25:1). This is the point where "the times of the Gentiles" begin and further chronological information with genealogies is not provided in the Scriptures. Secular history - records from antiquity - provide the corroboration of dates from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to Christ.
Bible chronology is not an exact and precise measurement of the passage of time but an approximate one. There is good evidence that about 6,000 years have passed from Adam to the present, but it is not possible to measure the time-span with precision to the very year.