Chronological Gaps in Genesis 5?

I am talking about a very limited subject, but one which has been constantly misinterpreted by the scholarly community. I am referring to the issue of whether there are gaps in the genealogy in Genesis 5.

In other genealogies, there do appear to be gaps. For instance, in Matthew 1, there are three kings that are deliberately left out in order for the number in each segment to equal 14. Matthew is making there the theological statement that Jesus is the Davidic king. But is the same thing true whenever we see genealogies in the Bible?

In Genesis 5, we see this formula: X lived Y number of years and fathered Z. After fathering Z, X had lived Y1 number of years (having had other sons and daughters). I would beg to ask those who favor a chronological gap in the geneaologies this question: how does one account for the word “after,” as in Genesis 5:4? Where exactly is the gap supposed to fit in this genealogy?

Furthermore, at the beginning and end of Genesis 5, it is obvious that there is no gap: Adam fathered Seth, and Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Are we to now suppose that there gaps in between the 2nd and 9th generations? Would it not appear more natural to interpret all the generations as having no gap, since the genealogy plainly starts and ends that way?

It is an inclusio, which is a fancy term that means “literary bookend.” The inclusio here is the no-gap genealogy of Adam-Seth and Noah-sons. Usually an inclusio means that whatever is in between is to be treated in a similar way. For instance, in Matthew 5, the Beatitudes start and end with Kingdom Beatitudes. Hence we can infer that all the Beatitudes in between also are referring to the Kingdom.

What is the importance of discussing this question? Well, it does have a bearing on whether Genesis can be made to fit with the theory of evolution. Evolution requires billions of years. Those scientists who require an old earth to fit their theories (which BY NO MEANS constitutes all scientists), but who also want to square their ideas with Scripture, tend to interpret these genealogies as having gaps. I wish to close that gap to these scientists. Just because there are gaps in some genealogies does not mean that there are gaps in all genealogies in Scripture.


  1. October 3, 2005 at 6:33 pm

    So, for the sake of argument, you’d be willing to allow gaps in the Matthew and Luke geneologies, but not in the Genesis ones?

  2. Mr. Baggins said,

    October 4, 2005 at 10:16 am

    There *are* gaps in Matthew’s genealogy, as almost all commentators recognize. I don’t think there are any in Luke, and there are certainly not any in Genesis 5 and 10.

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