Why does the Old Testament devote so much space to genealogical lists, while the New Testament advises to avoid them? Paul says, ‘…command certain men not … to devote themselves to … endless genealogies.’ 1 What is the difference?
# 1. The land of Canaan was promised to Abraham’s descendants. So it was very important for the Israelites to prove their descent from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (or Israel). Just for the interest, take note of the massive difference between the Bible and the Koran. The Muslims claim that they are also sons of Abraham because they are descendants of Ishmael. Ismael’s sons are recorded in the Bible in Genesis 25:12-18 and 1 Chronicles 1:29. Yet the Koran (that claims it is the final infallible revelation of Allah) has no genealogical lists that prove that Muhammad, their chief prophet (who is supposed to supersede even Jesus), descended from Ishmael.
The reason for the difference is that the Bible is about real people. The genealogical lists show that people not only lived in specific times, but that Jesus became Son of Man, a descendant of Adam. Another point of interest is that it is very important that Jesus is related to humans, since He would provide salvation for people. That excludes the angels, which means there is no salvation for the fallen angels and their boss, the devil.
# 2. In the New Testament the genealogical lists stop with Jesus. It is because the children of God are spiritually reborn or adopted into God’s Family. We are related to Jesus through His Blood and our names are written in the book of life that God Himself wrote. 2 God knows who His children are, and they will be revealed at the Judgment. 3
# 3. There are no more genealogical lists for the Jews, since the records were destroyed. The original genealogical lists were kept at the temple in Jerusalem. When the temple was set alight by the soldiers of the Roman general, Titus (in 70 AD) the lists were destroyed. If one studies the book of Hebrews, it is obvious that the old order or covenant has passed; the new covenant is in Jesus. The temple was destroyed, because the daily sacrifices were no longer needed. Likewise our names are written God’s book, and genealogical lists are no longer needed to prove one is a Jew, entitled to the country Israel. Now it is about the New heavens and earth, and being part of the family of Jesus makes genealogical lists superfluous.
The Bible’s genealogical lists are unique. No other religious books, that supposedly present revelations from gods or deities, have anything like them. The reason is quite simple: those gods do not control history, because they cannot. The Lord God Almighty is King of kings and Lord of lords. He rules over history and uses the genealogies to show how he planned the generations to lead to the birth of the Saviour, Jesus.
- 1 Timothy 1:3-4
- Exodus 32:32-33
- Revelation 20:15