I’ve heard this title’s question many times over the years. Can we even get an estimate?
We are certain from Genesis 5 and 10 that Noah was in the tenth generation from Adam because all the genealogical data is given from father to son.1 After Noah, we split into three sons (Japheth, Shem, and Ham), and from there, to everyone today.
The full genealogy from Adam to Jesus was 76 clearly listed generations, and from Noah to Jesus, it was 66.
In Luke 3, we even have a full biblical lineage from Adam to Jesus through notable progenitors, like Noah, Shem, Abraham, David, and Joseph (Mary’s husband), who was only the supposed father of Jesus (Luke 3:23). The full genealogy from Adam to Jesus was 76 clearly listed generations, and from Noah to Jesus, it was 66.
Given the age of creation, can we know the approximate generation number from Adam to people today? Actually, we can in some instances. The Queen of England (Queen Elizabeth II) has a lineage that goes back to Noah—which is fairly well-known based on the six Anglo-Saxon royal houses (Anglia, Kent, Lindsey, Mercia, Northumbria, and Wessex).2 In fact, this is the case with many royal houses in Europe. Though this lineage is known, it is deemphasized and largely ignored in our secular culture that insists in recent times that we are the progeny of animals instead of Noah.
Interestingly, I am aware of many of my genealogical lists through my father and my mother. Through one of my mother’s lineages, my genealogy connects to the same lineage as the Queen of England. She’s my cousin—a distant cousin. I am in no position to ever inherit that throne!
My closest direct ancestor with the Queen of England and her descendants is King Edward I, the Longshanks, who lived in the 1200s and early 1300s. (For the Hollywood crowd, this was the “bad guy” in the movie Braveheart.)
Where the Queen’s line continues with Edward I’s eldest son Edward II, my family line diverges with another of his sons, Thomas of Brotherton, the first Earl of Norfolk. In the list below, I split with the Queen between the 62nd and 63rd generation.
There are 21 generations between Queen Elizabeth II and Edward I the Longshanks; there are 25 generations between Bodie and Edward I the Longshanks. Subtract two to put us at the level of first cousins (19 and 23), and this makes the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, my 42nd cousin (by the common usage method (CU) not the consanguinity method [e.g., degrees and removals]).10
By this lineage, Adam is my 84th great grandfather, and I am in the 87th generation from Adam. Noah is my 74th great grandfather. There are 66 generations from Noah to Christ, and there are 77 generations from Noah to me. Subtract two from each side (64 and 75) to get to the level of first cousins. By tallying these up, we arrive at our Lord Jesus Christ being my 139th cousin (CU) in this lineage.
Is it feasible to have 66 generations from Noah to Jesus per Luke 3 (who lived 2000 years ago) and only 77 from Noah to me?
Is it feasible to have 66 generations from Noah to Jesus per Luke 3 (who lived 2000 years ago) and only 77 from Noah to me? There are a few things to consider.
When the Israelites were in Egypt, God gave them explosive growth just as He promised (Genesis 13:16, 22:17, 26:4; Exodus 1:7, 12, 20). In only four generations in Egypt, they were living contemporaneously with the tenth generation and beyond. For example, Moses was part of the fourth generation in Egypt on his father’s side (third generation by his mother Jochebed’s side per Exodus 6:20 and Number 26:59), and Joshua was the 10th generation (1 Chronicles 7:22–27)!
The point is that God gave the Israelites far more generations beginning at this point. This is actually a blessing from God, and the increase was clearly shown. By the time the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the population had grown to more than 1.2 million people, if you presume there are about the same number of females as males over the age of 20, in Numbers 1:1–3 and 2:32.
So the lineage of Jesus, which comes through the Israelites rapid growth period, is far more than typical gentiles—especially of that time (the Egyptians wanted to slow their growth if you recall). This rapid Israeli growth explains why there are more generations from Noah to Jesus down the line of Shem than there are generations from Japheth to me (Bodie).
Another reason for 77 generations from Noah in my lineage is that lineage also heavily depends on generation times in Japheth’s line—their ages for instance, particularly the age at which their respective sons were born.
Did you know that one of the presidents of the United States who was born in the 1700s still has two living grandsons as of the writing of this paper (2019)? John Tyler was the President who held office from 1841–1845 and was born in 1790. John Tyler had a son named Lyon Gardiner Tyler Sr. when he was 63 in 1853. Lyon Tyler Sr. had sons in 1924 (Lyon Tyler Jr.) and 1928 (Harrison Tyler), when he was 71 and 75 respectively. These living grandsons are only the third generation!11
Consider this in regards to Japheth and his progeny’s early lineage. We know Shem’s lineage includes ages of birth and death, but not Japheth’s lineage. Did Japheth and his early descendants live longer than Shem’s descendants for some time? It’s possible.
One historical account has Japheth’s grandson Togarmah living 600 years.12 Yet Togarmah was living at the same time as Shem (Genesis 11:10–11), his great-uncle who lived 600 years (502 after the Flood). Shem was in the first generation after Noah where Togarmah was the third generation after Noah. Shem’s grandson Salah, who was in the third generation after Noah, however, lived only 433 years (Genesis 11:14–15).
Did Japheth and Bedwig13 still live upwards of 700–800 years? It’s possible. Did they have children much later as Noah did (e.g., at age 500)? It’s possible. If so, then with these considerations, 77 generations could work out rather reasonably.
Gaps in genealogies can easily occur outside of Scripture.
A gap will not give millions of years, so don’t bother even considering it. Gaps in genealogies can easily occur outside of Scripture. These lists are not inerrant like Genesis 5, 11; 1 Chronicles 1–2; and Luke 3. The gaps in Matthew were intentional and without chronological data like Genesis 5 and 11.
But in my lineage’s case, it is possible there are gaps or errors (one possible gap is mentioned below). Ancient historical sources outside the Bible can err and get convoluted and should always be treated delicately.
In my research, one alleged gap actually gives a genealogy, albeit longer, that still traces my lineage to Noah. I call this my “long chronology.” The following 16 “missing progenitors” from the genealogy above are between #11 Japheth and #12 Bedwig:
This lineage adds a sub-lineage which can also be documented between the generations from Noah to Sceaf. This line presumes Sceaf is not a variant name of Japheth but a name of a person far down the line of Japheth.16 By this lineage, Adam is my 100th great grandfather, and Noah is my 90th great grandfather.
With this line, there are 66 generations from Noah to Christ, and there are 93 generations from Noah to Bodie minus two from each side (64 and 91) to get to the level of first cousins. By adding these up, we arrive at our Lord Jesus Christ being my 155th cousin (based on the CU method).17
Again, there remain 21 generations between Queen Elizabeth II and Edward I the Longshanks; there are 25 generations between Edward I the Longshanks and me (Bodie Hodge). Subtract two to put us at the level of first cousins (19 and 23), and the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, is my 42nd cousin (CU method). So this doesn’t change.
Outside of the historical documentation in Scripture, we need to be cautious.
Outside of the historical documentation in Scripture, we need to be cautious. In either lineage, I go back to Noah and Adam. Of course, all people after the Flood go back to Noah and Adam, according to God’s Word. But this effort gave me something tangible and two potential lineages. To a history buff like myself, this is exciting.
So about how many generations are there from Adam to people today? In these two lines, I have a range from 87 to 103 generations—or 88 to 104 if you count my children. Both are reasonable, given what we know, and useful for approximating others’ lineages. But I’m not absolutely firm on either one of them.
Bear in mind that if you are in the line of Israelites who had massive growth quickly, your generations could easily be more. And some cultures have quick generation times (e.g., Afghanistan even in modern times). Quick generation times can increase the number of total generations. In the case of former President Tyler’s grandsons who are still alive, it may be fewer, considering his family’s case in the last 230 years.
I encourage others to study their own ancestry. Perhaps you too can find some fascinating details of your heritage and even come up with numbers on your own. After all, this is but one lineage on my grandmother’s side. I have other lineages that I am still exploring.
Learning that we all go back to one man (Noah and ultimately Adam) only 4000 or so years ago is a great way to realize that we’re all One Race and One Blood with the same sin problem.
Noah had his Ark to be mercifully spared from the judgment of the Flood, and we all have Jesus Christ, the foreshadowed Ark of salvation to spare us from the judgment to come. Find out more about the first Adam’s problem and the second Adam’s solution that began in Genesis.