23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Luke 3:23-38, ESV

Who are all these people?

Did you read all these names, or did you skim them? It’s ok I’m not judging you. Genealogies are certainly not my favorite sections of the Scripture to read either. Some of our apprehension about reading these lists of names we can hardly pronounce likely stems from feelings of ignorance. Have you felt it too? What am I supposed to do with this list? Who are these people? Should this list mean something to me personally, or is it worth skimming without investing much thought into it? 

An old Princeton Theologian, B.B. Warfield, wrote a most helpful article entitled “On the Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race.” In that article, he discussed the purpose of these infamous lists of biblical names was not to reconstruct a “definite chronological scheme.” To put it more simply, if we assume that genealogies in the Scriptures are tracing the exact linage with precise detail, we have accidentally missed the point. So what is the purpose of those lists of hopelessly unpronounceable names? The function is theological. Assuming this answer is correct, what is the theological purpose for this particular genealogy in Luke 3? Warfield’s entire article is in a sense written to answer this question. Dr. Warfield wrote, “So far is it from being of no concern to theology, therefore, that it would be truer to say that the whole doctrinal structure of the Bible account of redemption is founded on its assumption that the race of man is one organic whole, and maybe dealt with as such. It is because all are one in Adam that in the matter of sin there is no difference, but all have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:22 f.), and as well that in the new man there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all and in all (Col. 3:11). The unity of the old man in Adam is the postulate of the unity of the new man in Christ. 

The New Adam

Luke’s record of Jesus’ lineage is traced back to the Garden of Eden. Was Adam a mythological figure? No. Adam was the first man whom God created from the dust of the earth. According to the Maker’s good design, Adam was given the responsibility of reflecting God’s goodness by ruling the animals well and subduing the earth. He was meant to live and rule with Eve as they together would fill the earth with God’s glory. However, Adam wasn’t only the first of our species, but he was our representative to God. In the Garden of Eden, there were two sacred trees in the midst of it. God gave free rein to Adam over the trees, but withheld from Adam and Eve the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God’s covenant with man is recorded as, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” You surely know the ending of this story. Adam sinned. In Adam, we all sinned according to the Apostle Paul. Our fallen race has forever since been replaying that same story over and over again. God commands and we fail to obey. The Hosea prophecied against his countrymen in speaking against them for God, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.” In Romans 5:12 Paul taught us that sin entered into God’s good creation through Adam’s rebellion and that same rebellion is still being played out in our own individual lives.

This is the purpose of Jesus’ entrance into the world. Jesus was sent by the Father in the fulness of time to be a new representative for man. Jesus is a new Adam. Paul calls Jesus the last Adam in 1 Corinthians 15 and extols the obedience of Christ and the reward He merited for us all. Unlike Adam, Jesus perfectly fulfilled the righteous demands of God, and by faith, we receive the rewards due to Christ because He represented us. That is the reasoning for Paul’s frequent use of the phrase “in Christ”.

Does this list mean anything to me?

Look at this list and consider all these people named between Adam and Christ for a moment. There is something poetic here I want you to fix your eyes on. Between Adam and Christ are seventy-five people’s names. There are two representatives, Adam and Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” So then, which category would each name be placed into? Can we categorize people accurately? No. We can’t know who was in Adam and who in Christ. Only Jesus the righteous judge has the wisdom to separate the sheep from the goats. However, the question is valid. Each person is born fallen in Adam and is in need of being redeemed in Christ. With all that being said, you’re not mentioned in this list, but you and I are swept into the whole of humanity that is found to be in Adam or in Christ. Which is your representative head? Are you in Adam and therefore destined for death or are you in Christ and destined for life eternal?

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

-Acts 16:30-31, ESV