Did Jesus believe Genesis?
Published: 11 July 2015 (GMT+10)
R.N. from the UK writes:
I am a 6 day young earth creationist like yourselves, and look forward to reading Jonathan Sarfati's "The Genesis Account". I remember reading somewhere that Jesus quoted x amount of times from Gen. 1–11, but can't remember exactly how many times. When I tried to google it, I came across this article: [deleted per our feedback rules]. This seems to indicate that Jesus quoted Genesis only once, and only related to marriage. Can you clarify this please? Also, I don't agree with the premise of this article at all. I was wondering what your thoughts on it were.
Lita Cosner, CMI-US, responds:
The Gospels record Jesus quoting Genesis 1–2 once, in Matthew 19:4–5, and the parallel Mark 10:6–7. However, that is the most restrictive way of counting references. Other instances of Jesus referencing Genesis in the Gospels are:
- Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25—mankind is in the image of God.
- Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51—Jesus references Abel as a historical, righteous person, and the first of the martyrs.
- Matthew 24:37–39; Luke 17:26–27—Jesus compares His coming to the time of Noah’s Flood.
- Matthew 26:52—Jesus references Genesis 9:6 when he says “Those who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
- Mark 13:19—Jesus references God creating the world.
- Luke 10:19—Jesus gives the disciples authority to tread on serpents.
- John 8:44—The devil is a liar and a murderer ‘from the beginning’
So there are at a minimum 8 significant references Jesus makes to Genesis 1–11. This does not tell the whole story, of course (for a more thorough treatment, see The use of Genesis in the New Testament), and most of them only make sense if Jesus is referencing them as history.
So at a minimum, we can say:
- Jesus believes that God created the world, and that mankind was ‘male and female’ ‘from the beginning of creation’, and this tells us something normative about marriage.
- The devil is ‘the father of lies’ and a murderer—he has something to do with why humans die, and ‘treading on serpents’ is somehow linked to the demons being subject to the disciples.
- Abel was a real person and was the first martyr.
- The Flood was a real, cataclysmic event that killed all people on earth outside the Ark.
Combine this with an absolute absence of Jesus ever disagreeing with anything in Scripture, and we have pretty good grounds for claiming that Jesus believed all of Genesis.
But was Jesus simply accommodating his listeners? There’s no reason to suppose that He did. The examples that the author of this article gives are lazy at best:
- Mark 4:30–32—In first-century Palestine, if you wanted to say something was really tiny, it was ‘like a mustard seed’. It was the smallest seed someone would come in contact with, and the fact that it grew into a large plant also makes it good for contrasts. Jesus was speaking proverbially in this passage.
- John 12:23–24: Jesus was not talking about biological death, but what happens in a phenomenological sense.
- Mark 13:23–26: Jesus was using standard apocalyptic language in this passage, which everyone knows is symbolic. Even those who take a more literal approach to apocalyptic language don’t believe the moon literally turns to blood with hemoglobin and red blood cells.
Jesus clearly interpreted Scripture plainly and used it in a way that was consistent with a historical record. He did not, however, speak literally, as the last examples show. This shows the importance of understanding what the Bible intends to communicate, and taking that communication at face value.