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The Generations in Genesis


Genesis 5:1a

“This is the book of the generations of Adam.”


One of the problems that some people have with the book of Genesis is its authorship. The fact that Genesis is ascribed to Moses is well known. Nor is this merely tradition. Jesus, Himself, referred to the first five books of the Bible as being written by Moses. Yet, all the events contained in Genesis pre-date Moses – in some cases, by over a thousand years.


Many explanations have been given to reconcile this problem. Some have suggested that the entire book could have been given to Moses by revelation, directly from God. Now, God is Sovereign and could certainly have given Genesis by this method. However, most scholars prefer the idea that Genesis is structured into units, called toledots, and that Moses was able to edit these into the finished inspired document.


The Hebrew word toledot is found in phrases such as Genesis 5:1. “This is the book of the generations of Adam”, where the word “generations” is used to translate the Hebrew toledot. This phrase is used to separate what are probably the original family documents. It is likely that the phrase introduces the section compiled by the named person, though I should mention that some think the phrase actually concludes, or signs off, the section compiled by the named individual. Personally, I think the idea of the toledot as a heading is more likely, particularly when one looks at the toledot of Ishmael in Genesis 25. Either way, this toledot model neatly explains how Genesis can be at once inspired, contemporary, and part of the books of Moses.


Prayer: We declare and acknowledge that Your word, given in the Bible, is true from beginning to end. Thank You for the way that You have preserved it and given it to us today. Amen.


Ref: Sarfati, J. (2015), The Genesis Account, (Powder Springs, GA: CMI), pp17-19. Image: Isaac blessing Jacob, Jusepe de Ribera (1637), Public Domain.


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