Post Author: Bill Pratt
A few Christians have mistakenly supposed that they can use the genealogies in Genesis 5-11 to add up the number of years between Adam and Abraham. By doing this math, they surmise that the world was created somewhere around 4000 BC.
Hebrew scholars, however, have pointed out that the genealogies are not meant to give exact lineages, such as one might find on ancestor.com. They often would skip many generations, as they were focused on particular ancestors for particular reasons.
We know that the biblical authors did this. For example, Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus consists in three sets of 14 generations. The number 14 was important because 7 was thought to symbolize completion or perfection. But we know that when Matthew says that “Joram fathered Uzziah,” he omits three generations (see 2 Ch 21:4-26:33) so as to accomplish the desired pattern of 14. In Hebrew, to say someone “fathered” someone else can also mean that they are an ancestor or forefather of that person. It does not always mean that they are the parent of the person.
The bottom line is that one has to be very careful with interpreting genealogies in the Bible. They cannot be used to precisely date any event without other corroborating data.