Adam lived 4000 BC?

Genesis 5—”Adding up the genealogies, Adam and Eve lived around 4,000BC, which is impossible.”

If you impose modern perceptions on the Torah genealogies, the ages add up to place Adam and Eve’s creation at around 4,000BC, and Noah at around 2100BC. As any serious Biblical scholar knows, this totally misinterprets Hebrew genealogies, which are understood to omit generations in huge leaps. Thus Jesus can correctly be called “Son of David” and David the “Son of Abraham” (Matthew 1). Basically, Hebrew genealogies are intended to trace ancestries and lines of descent; not multigenerational time-spans. The Bible never uses these numbers for the purpose of calculating when Adam or Noah lived, which we would expect to find if we were intended to read the genealogies in the modern sense.

If one puts Matthew 1:1 in the pattern of Torah genealogies, it could read as follows: “And Abraham was 100 years old [ at the time he begat `Īsāac through whom his line continued to David ], and he begat David. And David was 40 years old [ an approximate date for when Solomon was born, through whom Jesus would come ], and he begat Jesus Christ.

One might ask why, then, are all the numbers so meticulously recorded? The reason is to chart the gradual progression of diminishing ages from 960-year old Adam down to modern 70-year lifespans.

We find this understanding of genealogies expressed in other parts of the Bible—Matthew 1:8 omits three names between Joram and Uzziah. When you compare the genealogies in Ezra 7 and 1 Chronicles 6, it is clear that Ezra deliberately skipped from the eighth name to the fifteenth name, thereby abridging his list, but in a way that was legitimate within the traditions of Scripture. Terah’s age in Genesis does not add up unless we understand 11:26 in the ancient sense.1

This pattern of skipping generations and leaving only the important ancestors is still practiced today by some societies in Africa which have retained the ancient understanding of genealogies.

In the Qur’ān , we find an even more perplexing genealogical issue, where Mary the mother of Jesus is described as the sister of Aaron:

“At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: ‘O Mary! Truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! O sister of Aaron! (ياُخْتَ هَرُونَ) Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!'” [Al-Qur’ān 19:27-28]

The early Najrani Arab Christians found this strange, since Mariam mother of Jesus lived a thousand years after Miriam sister of Aaron and Moses.2 There have been at least three theories to reconcile this baffling passage:

1. When the puzzled Sahaba asked Muhammad about this problem, he said that it was a metaphorical use of sister, to connect to pious persons of the past.3

2. Zakir Naik, apparently not satisfied with the hadith’s explanation, alleged that the Arabic term daughter (ukhta اُخْتَ) equally means descendant in classical Arabic (without giving a single proof or example). The problem is that were this true, both the sahaba and Najrani Arabs, who unlike Naik had Arabic as their mother-tongue, would not have ever asked the question. Furthermore, Naik must then deny that Mary was in the line of David, not Aaron, which is why she went to Bethlehem for the census.

3. Abdul Siddiqi suggest that Mary mother of Jesus had a sister named Aaron, but this contradicts the explanation of Muhammad (pbuh).

  1. Kaiser, Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation (Grand Rapids, Mich,: Baker, 1972), pp.13-28.
  2. related by Mughirah ibn Shu’bah in Sahih Muslim , #5326
  3. Sahih Muslim, Book 25, Number 5326: “Mughira b. Shu’ba reported: When I came to Najran, they (the Christians of Najran) asked me: You read” O sister of Harun” (i. e. Hadrat Maryam) in the Qur’ān , whereas Moses was born much before Jesus. When I came back to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) I asked him about that, whereupon he said: The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostles and pious persons who had gone before them.

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