Is Noah's story and Christ geneology literal?


Creationist use it to show our species is 6000 years. are these parts of the bible historical and literal? what does that say about scientific findings that man has been on earth for 100,000 to 30,000 years? when did Adam live?


Also, if Adam was here 6000 years ago, when different humans were in Africa, asia, Europe. How do they all trace their origins from him?


It comes from an erroneous understanding of biblical geneologies. They believe that the descendents listed are the ONLY descendents, and that there are no descendents in between generations. But that’s not how ancient people regarded it. They might skip several generations at a time and focus only on the big or important names. It wasn’t intended to be a complete listing of every single person in the line.

That’s also why Jesus is called the “son of David”. He is in the line of David.

As to Christ’s geneology, there might be some missing names/generations. The author was using it to show a sort of balance and purpose to the timing of everything and show that God in in control of His plan.

So yes, Jesus’ geneology is literal, they were really men who lived who were forefathers to Jesus. But is it the complete listing of all of them? Probably not.

As to Noah, sure, it could be literal. It could also be a metaphorical story used to convey a truth God wanted conveyed. I myself lean towards a localized flood, maybe in the region of the Black Sea (some speculate a heavy, extended rain could have loosened the ground near Istanbul and opened up the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea, causing the Black Sea level to rise vastly, and make it appear as if the whole world was flooded.


Are you aware that there are two accounts of Noah in the bible? They follow the same plot line, but if you care about finding Noah to be “factual” and choose to be precise in all of the details, it could be a problem.

Consider this selection from NABRE Genesis 7: (Emphasis mine.)

1 Then the LORD said to Noah: Go into the ark, you and all your household, for you alone in this generation have I found to be righteous before me.
2 Of every clean animal, take with you seven pairs, a male and its mate; and of the unclean animals, one pair, a male and its mate;
3 likewise, of every bird of the air, seven pairs, a male and a female, to keep their progeny alive over all the earth.
4 For seven days from now I will bring rain down on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and so I will wipe out from the face of the earth every being that I have made.
5 Noah complied, just as the LORD had commanded.

And this version. NABRE Genesis 6

Preparation for the Flood.
14 Make yourself an ark of gopherwood, equip the ark with various compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch.
15 This is how you shall build it: the length of the ark will be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.
16 Make an opening for daylight and finish the ark a cubit above it. Put the ark’s entrance on its side; you will make it with bottom, second and third decks.
17 I, on my part, am about to bring the flood waters on the earth, to destroy all creatures under the sky in which there is the breath of life; everything on earth shall perish.
18 I will establish my covenant with you. You shall go into the ark, you and your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives with you.
19 Of all living creatures you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, one male and one female, to keep them alive along with you.
20 Of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal, and of every kind of thing that crawls on the ground, two of each will come to you, that you may keep them alive.
21 Moreover, you are to provide yourself with all the food that is to be eaten, and store it away, that it may serve as provisions for you and for them.
22 Noah complied; he did just as God had commanded him.


I like what zz912 said about the geneologies! I believe the Noah story to be literal, as Jewish and Christian tradition has believed for many centuries. You cant go wrong with that position, unless you are in a classroom with an untraditional professor. Haha!


Well, Provendentissimus Deus, Divino Afflante Spiritu, Humani Generis, and Dei Verbum are the authoritative Catholic documents that deal with this question.

Any Catholic interested should go to those sources, most notably Dei Verbum, which is the product of an Ecumenical Council.

None of these document compel a Catholic to take the entire Old Testament literally as positing only historical claims. Instead, they give wide, wide latitude on how much of the OT is read, used and understood. Provendentissimus Deus, in particular, speaks about dissenting from the consensus of the Early Church Fathers, and gives Catholics guidelines for doing it.

A Catholic might possibly be able to take the Noah story as literally true, but may in fact be dissenting in a tiny, innocent way from these documents by doing so, inasmuch as they speak of the use of reason to determine what the purpose of a passage of the OT is, historical reportage or spiritual teaching.

I encourage a thorough reading of these Church documents. They span approximate a century, from the 1870’s to the 1960’s, and deal with evolution, the infallibility of the Gospels, the nature of inspiration, and the rest of the questions people have concerning the use of scripture by Catholics.

They are reasonably concise and available free online from the vatican site and others. There are also good Wikipedia articles about each.


In regards to Genealogy:

Genesis has, Sem, Arphaxad, Sale Genesis 11:11 - 13
Luke has, … Sem, Arphaxad, Cainan, Sale Luke 3:35 - 36

Those genealogies are apparently incomplete. :wink:


Here’s a little trivia: ‘Cainan’ actually only appears in the Septuagint - the name isn’t there in the Hebrew version of Genesis (nor in the Samaritan version), so unless you’re using a translation of Genesis made from the Greek (like this one) you’re not gonna find him. For the record, it’s actually partly Cainan’s fault that the identification of Melchizedek with Shem (the idea you see some people - say Scott Hahn - propose) would never work in the LXX. That, and the fact that most of the patriarchs are presented to be a hundred years older when they bore children when compared with the Hebrew.

But yeah, you bring up a good point. The genealogies are not really ‘literal’, and so they are incomplete. Take Matthew’s genealogy for example: he constructs his genealogy (which in turn is based on the genealogies at 1 Chronicles 1-3) such that it is composed of three sets of fourteen generations each (a reference to David’s name, which in Hebrew is made up of three letters, the numerical value of which adds up to fourteen (d (4) + w (6) + d (4) = 14); incidentally, ‘David’ is the fourteenth name in Matthew’s genealogy). But in order to arrive at that symbolic number, Matthew deliberately omitted some generations out of the list; for instance, he left out at least four kings from the monarchical period (Ahaziah, J(eh)oash, Amaziah, Jehoiakim). Not to mention that Matthew seems to kind of slightly play loose with some names, perhaps in order to arrive at a symbolic/theological point. (Case in point here is his reference to ‘Rahab’ - I’ll refer you to my blog post about the genealogy for this.) There’s also even a few stuff like this (this is me quoting me from that blog post):

BTW, here’s something that’s ‘lost in translation.’ In Matthew, Esrom is supposed to be the father of an “Aram,” who is in turn Amminadab’s father. One might be tempted to connect it with the ‘Ram’ who fits the same description in the Hebrew text of 1 Chronicles and Ruth 4:19 - and there are some translations which ‘fix’ Aram into Ram. To complicate matters however, the Greek version of 1 Chronicles 2 has four sons of Esrom instead of the Hebrew text’s three (Jerahmeel, Ram, Chelubai) - the extra son is named Αραμ “Aram” (as in Matthew’s text), who is clearly not the same person as Ram. (For the record, the Greek version of Ruth 4:19 has Αρραν “Arran” instead of Ram.)

[INDENT]Hebrew (ESV): The sons of Hezron that were born to him: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai. Ram fathered Amminadab, and Amminadab fathered Nahshon, prince of the sons of Judah.

Greek (NETS): And Heseron’s sons, who were born to him: Irameel and Ram and Chaleb and Aram. (ὁ Ιραμεηλ καὶ ὁ Ραμ καὶ ὁ Χαλεβ καὶ Αραμ) And Aram became the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab became the father of Naason, ruler of the house of Ioudas.[/INDENT]

As for Luke’s genealogy, on the one hand it’s a very infamous piece of text: it is known for tripping up a lot of scribes because of the string of identical and highly-similar names. (Within the genealogy, you have two Matthats and two guys named Matthathias, two Judahs, two ‘Jesuses’ - the other ‘Jesus’ - the son of Eliezer - is usually rendered as ‘Joshua’ in modern translations - two Levis, two Cainans, etc.) Just look at how the names run in the original Greek and tell me that isn’t confusing.

Iēsous > Iōsēph > Hēli > Matthat > Leui > Melchi > Iannai > Iōsēph > Matthathias > Amōs > Naoum > Esli > Nangai > Maath > Matthathias > Semein > Iōsēk > Iōda > Iōanan > Rēsa > Zorobabel > Salathiēl > Nēri > Melchi > Addi > Kōsam > Elmadam > Ēr > Iēsous > Eliezer > Iōrim > Matthat > Leui > Symeon > Iouda > Iōsēph > Iōnam > Eliakim > Melea > Menna > Mattatha > Natham > Dauid > Iessai > Iōbēd > Boos > Sala > Naasōn > Aminadab > Admin > Arni > Esrōm > Phares > Iouda > Iakōb > Isaak > Abraam > Thara > Nachōr > Serouch > Ragau > Phalek > Eber > Sala > Kainam > Arphaxad > Sēm > Nōe > Lamech > Mathousala > Enōch > Iaret > Maleleēl > Kainam > Enōs > Sēth > Adam > God

These are the names as found in Greek text as published in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (27th edition). But in actual manuscripts, you’ll find that some of them have fewer than seventy-seven. All in all, the numbers could be anywhere between sixty-six (for example in the 4th century Codex Bezae, half of which is really just Matthew’s genealogy in reverse order!) to seventy-two (the number of names known to St. Irenaeus) to seventy-seven. So there’s the issue of whether Luke’s genealogy was passed down to us ‘uncorrupted’.



For the record, you’d notice that Matthew’s genealogy traces Jesus’ lineage back to Solomon, thereby establishing Him as a legitimate heir of the royal Davidic line - a King in a long line of kings. Luke on the other hand links Him to David via another son, Nathan. It’s common to harmonize the two genealogies (both of which also give different names for Joseph’s father!) by saying that one genealogy is actually that of Mary, while the other is that of Joseph. But it’s also possible to interpret these two conflicting genealogies in a symbolic way.

By linking Jesus with the other, non-royal Davidic line, Luke avoids connecting Jesus with the kings of Judah - that very same line which (save for a few bright spots) generally fell from grace by indulging in false worship. It would seem that Luke has taken the prophecy of Isaiah (“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit”; 11:1) and understood the reference to “the stump of Jesse” as meaning that the tree of the Judahite monarchy, the Solomonic line, had failed - was cut down - because of their unfaithfulness. For Luke, there will be a new beginning: a new shoot - a more faithful line - will instead replace that unfaithful lineage of corrupt and idolatrous kings. So he connects Jesus to Jesse and David not through Solomon, but through another son named Nathan. In other words, Matthew - a Jew writing for Jews - is keen to show Jesus as a legitimate son of David and ‘King of Israel,’ and constructs his genealogy as such. Luke - a gentile writing for gentiles - has a more universal scope (by tracing Jesus to Adam - and ultimaely to God) and is keen to show Jesus as one who will succeed where the idolatrous kings have failed and constructs his genealogy as such.

Matthew’s giving Joseph’s father’s name as ‘Jacob’ can also be seen in theological terms: the OT Jacob also had a son named Joseph. Just like the OT Joseph, the NT Joseph also has a penchant for dreams, and both bring their families to Egypt. Not to mention that Herod’s massacre of the infants in Bethlehem is presened as a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s words about Rachel (Jacob’s favorite wife, whose eldest son was Joseph) weeping for her children.


Thank you so much for the information. I presented it to my creationist friend and he immediately grudgingly though dropped that line of attack. his accusation is that catholics are denying the bible by not categorically accepting the creationist view of creation.

now on to the creation of Adam and six days.

He has dropped the claim adam was made 6000 years ago. But now question is did he evolve or made instantly from the soil? my view is that there’s no contradiction with the Bible to believe that forming Adam from the soil can be a form of evolution because it shows Adam’s body did not come from nothing but came from pre-existent physical matter/soil. so I think God forming Adam from soil is compatible with beleving God formed adam’s body through evolution of different species that ultimately came from dead matter like soil before God introduced life into the world. is this right?

another question. is the garden of eden literal? Are the trees of life/knowledge real trees with branches and leaves and fruit? I don’t think so but do protestants think so? I think if I can get him to accept that he does not take every part of genesis literaly then its not that wrong for catholics to take the 6 creation days symbolically as well.


The Garden of Eden was literal. Its physical boundaries are given in the Bible.

Noah and the Ark are literal.

The tree that Adam and Eve ate fruit from was literal. The Bible never calls the fruit an apple, but that it was good for food.

"Real History

"The argument is that all of this is real history, it is simply ordered topically rather than chronologically, and the ancient audience of Genesis, it is argued, would have understood it as such.

"Even if Genesis 1 records God’s work in a topical fashion, it still records God’s work—things God really did.

"The Catechism explains that “Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine ‘work,’ concluded by the ‘rest’ of the seventh day” (CCC 337), but “nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator. The world began when God’s word drew it out of nothingness; all existent beings, all of nature, and all human history is rooted in this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun” (CCC 338).

"It is impossible to dismiss the events of Genesis 1 as a mere legend. They are accounts of real history, even if they are told in a style of historical writing that Westerners do not typically use.

"Adam and Eve: Real People

"It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).

"In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).

“The story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if not written entirely according to modern literary techniques. The Catechism states, “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC 390).”

Source: Catholic Answers tract.

Regarding the age of the earth:

"The Time Question

“Much less has been defined as to when the universe, life, and man appeared. The Church has infallibly determined that the universe is of finite age—that it has not existed from all eternity—but it has not infallibly defined whether the world was created only a few thousand years ago or whether it was created several billion years ago.”

There appear to be gaps in the genealogy.



I agree! The question here is one of “truth”. There are many types of truths. Some stated facts are truths. There are also moral truths, religious truths, etc.

These events truly occurred. But the Catholic concept of the Truth of the bible is a belief in the truth of its Word and revelation, not in the literal quality of its details. The Truth of our beliefs is so much greater than that!


He is free, as are all Christians to believe in a literal 6 day creation if he chooses. I personally don’t see the evidence there. But if he wants to, more power to him.

But he cannot rule out a non-literalistic reading of the two creation stories (yes there are two). Let’s look a little objectively. How is a day measured? It is the time it takes for the earth to spin on its axis one time. Since the sun wasn’t created until the 4th day, how exactly would you denote between day and night for the first three days?

Ask your friend this:

If I told you a story and I mentioned that it was raining cats and dogs, am I telling you that felines and canines are falling from the sky? Of course not. But am I truthfully telling you that it literally did rain? You bet. So my story IS literal, but it is NOT literalistic. See the difference?

We can read the creation stories in Genesis, and understand them to be storytelling devices showing God’s complete control and creation of the universe. We don’t have to literalistically read the text to think it happened in 6 24-hour periods. God created light (Big Bang), He created the stars, sun, earth, planets, moon, etc. All according to His perfect and reasoned plan. The exact scientific process this happened is something we learn more about every day. That doesn’t mean it contradicts the creation stories. They were never intended to be a science manual. Just as my story was not intended to be a science manual for how the rain was falling.

Another good angle to ask your friend who wishes to be perfectly literalistic, ask him to give you his take on John 6 and the Last Supper in the Synoptic Gospels. If he is intellectually honest, he will have to admit that Jesus turns the bread into His Body.


No. Science cannot explain God’s miraculous work. It cannot study the soul. God did literal things. Christians need to know that.



At no time during the Last Supper does Jesus turn the bread or wine into literal flesh and blood but His real presence exists in both. Science cannot study miracles. There are no peer reviewed papers on the Book of Genesis but this subject is brought up here constantly as if there were. Let’s be honest, science and scientists cannot study this.

The writer of Genesis makes specific reference to evening and morning and day. God does not need the Sun to measure a day but this information is recorded.



Genesis has literal and theological truths.

Pope John Paul II refers to the two accounts:





Yes, it literally did turn from bread and wine into His Body and Blood. The accidents remained, so it continues to look like bread and wine, but it literally IS His Body and Blood.


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