Is Genesis 1-11 a literal account of historical events? Or is it merely a collection of poetic allegories meant solely to teach us spiritual lessons?
Well, the truth is that Genesis 1-11 does teach us valuable spiritual lessons—but it also provides accurate accounts of early history.
Not everyone believes in a literal Genesis. Even some Christians think the first book of the Bible is mere allegory instead of historical truth.
But what did Jesus think about Genesis? What did the patriarchs think? What about the authors of the New Testament?
Let’s take a look at Scripture to answer these questions.
What Jesus Thought About Genesis
All throughout Jesus’ ministry, He treated the Scriptures as fact. For example, when He claimed He was God in John 8-10, the Jews were offended, so He quoted Psalm 82:6 and then said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:34-35). That means the Bible is a faithful, reliable, and trustworthy witness.
Then, in Luke 24:25-27, Jesus rebuked His disciples for not believing everything the prophets had spoken about Him. This shows us that Jesus thought all Scripture should be believed.
We also see Jesus treat accounts from Genesis as historical fact. He referred to…
Adam and Eve as the first married couple (see Matthew 19:3-6, Mark 10:3-9).
Abel as the first martyred prophet (Luke 11:50-51).
Noah as a real person and the Flood as a real event (Matthew 24:38-39).
Lot and his wife as historical figures and Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction as a real event (Luke 17:28-32, Matthew 10:15).
In each of these passages, Jesus referred to Genesis accounts as historical facts, not allegories. For instance, if you look at Mark 10:6, Mark 13:19-20, and Luke 11:50-51, you can tell that Jesus believed Adam and Eve existed at nearly the same time that God created the world.
Mark 10:6 says, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’” (ESV, emphasis added).
If Jesus believed Adam and Eve lived millions or billions of years after Creation, He wouldn’t have said “from the beginning of creation.” It seems that Jesus believed the Creation Week consisted of literal 24-hour days, not million-year periods of time.
How Old Testament Authors Viewed Genesis
Jesus isn’t the only biblical figure to interpret Genesis literally. If we look at the Old Testament, we only find a few references to Genesis 1-11, but each one treats those chapters as historically accurate accounts, not allegories.
We can see this clearly in the way the Jews treated genealogies. In Nehemiah 7:61-64, those who volunteered to serve in the new temple had to prove their priestly lineage. Those who couldn’t show they were descended from Aaron weren’t allowed to serve as priests.
Then, in 1 Chronicles 1-8, we see a long series of genealogies that goes all the way back to Adam. If we compare the series of names from Adam to Abraham in 1 Chronicles 1:1-28 to the genealogy in Genesis 5 and 11, we don’t find any missing or added names.
Clearly, the ancient Jews took painstaking measures to ensure accuracy in their genealogies. Why? Because they pointed to real historical accounts of their ancestors.
How Did New Testament Authors View Genesis?
Once again, we see genealogies in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38, but this time, they’re for Jesus. These lists of names indicate that the authors believed Genesis 1-11 was a historically accurate passage. After all, Matthew and Luke recorded these names to show that Jesus truly descended from the patriarchs.
Paul also treats the patriarchs as real, flesh-and-blood people. He built his doctrine of sin and salvation on the fact that Adam brought sin and death into the world (Romans 5:12-19). He confirmed Genesis 3 by saying that the serpent deceived Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:13-14). And he took Genesis 1-2 literally when he affirmed that God created Adam first and then created Eve from Adam’s body (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).
Finally, Paul says people have observed the evidence of God’s existence since the creation of the world (see Romans 1:20). This seems to indicate that Paul believed mankind existed shortly after God created the earth, not billions of years later.
Why Does It Matter if We Read Genesis 1-11 Literally?
Some may think it doesn’t matter if you believe Genesis 1-11 is literal or figurative. But as we saw in this article, many of Scripture’s foundational doctrines—such as the doctrines of sin, salvation, and marriage—are based on a literal interpretation of Genesis.
At Answers TV, you can find many videos that show why it’s so important to understand Genesis 1-11 as God intended.
Our culture is crumbling around us. Could Genesis be the key to reclaiming it for Christ? In this video, Ken Ham presents a strong challenge to the church and explains why a belief in a literal Genesis is so important to our faith.
Discover what drives Ken Ham to keep strongly defending biblically authority in today’s scoffing world. In this video, you’ll learn the deep meaning of each primary word in Genesis 1:1 and an enlightening paraphrase that sheds light on the rich meaning of the Bible’s very first verse.