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Was Adam merely an allegorical (fictional) person? Were the events recorded in the Bible Book of Genesis true and historical? And if so, who was he, and when did he live? Was the Garden of Eden a real historical place? How long were Adam and Eve In the Garden of Eden before they sinned? First, we will look at what liberal scholarship claims. Second, we will look at what the Bible says. Third, we will apologetically look at the historicity of Adam. Fourth, we will place other articles within this article for a deeper dive into those subjects. Take notice of them and scroll on, studying this article. If you want to go deeper on those points, then go back and click on the link. They are there for you if you want them. Please do not be put off by the initial wording of what liberal scholarship says. You must know to defend against it. NOTE: If we put a link to a word or phrase, it is to give more in-depth knowledge or debunk what liberal scholarship is saying. Not every word uttered by liberal scholars is wrong; that is untrue, but the very next word may be, making them dangerous. So, don’t be surprised by some truthful statements within the liberal scholarship section.
KNOW WHAT LIBERAL SCHOLARSHIP CLAIMS FIRST
Adam is the name given in Genesis 1-5 to the first human. Beyond its use as the name of the first man, adam is also used in the Bible as a pronoun, individually as “a human” and in a collective sense as “mankind.” Genesis 1 tells of God’s creation of the world and its creatures, including adam, meaning humankind; in Genesis 2, God forms “Adam,” this time meaning a single male human, out of “the dust of the ground,” places him in the Garden of Eden, and forms a woman, Eve, as his helpmate; in Genesis 3 Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge and God condemns Adam to labor on the earth for his food and to return to it on his death; Genesis 4 deals with the birth of Adam’s sons, and Genesis 5 lists his descendants from Seth to Noah.
Christianity and Islam adopted the Genesis so-called creation myth of Adam, and the name of Adam appears in the Christian scriptures and the Quran. He also features in subsequent folkloric and mystical elaborations in later Judaism, Christianity, and Gnosticism.
Composition of the Adam Narrative
In the entire Hebrew Bible, Adam appears only in chapters 1–5 of the Book of Genesis, except for a mention at the beginning of the Books of Chronicles where, as in Genesis, he heads the list of Israel’s ancestors. The majority view among scholars is that the final text of Genesis dates from the Persian period (the 5th and 4th centuries BCE). Still, the absence of all the other characters and incidents mentioned in chapters 1–11 of Genesis from the rest of the Hebrew Bible has led a sizeable minority to the conclusion that these chapters were composed much later than those that follow, possibly in the 3rd century BCE.
Mankind—Human Being—Male Individual
The Bible uses the word אָדָם (‘adam) in all of its senses: collectively (“mankind,” Genesis 1:27), individually (a “man”, Genesis 2:7), gender nonspecific (“man and woman,” Genesis 5:1–2), and male (Genesis 2:23–24). In Genesis 1:27 “adam” is used in the collective sense, and the interplay between the individual “Adam” and the collective “humankind” is a main literary component of the events that occur in the Garden of Eden, the ambiguous meanings embedded throughout the moral, sexual, and spiritual terms of the narrative reflecting the complexity of the human condition. Genesis 2:7 is the first verse where “Adam” takes on the sense of an individual man (the first man), and the context of sex is absent; the gender distinction of “adam” is then reiterated in Genesis 5:1–2 by defining “male and female.”
Connection to the earth
A recurring literary motif is the bond between Adam and the earth (adamah): God creates Adam by molding him out of clay in the final stages of the creation narrative. After the loss of innocence, God curses Adam and the earth as punishment for his disobedience. Adam and humanity are cursed to die and return to the earth (or ground) from which he was formed. This “earthly” aspect is a component of Adam’s identity, and Adam’s curse of estrangement from the earth seems to describe humankind’s divided nature of being earthly yet separated from nature.
Genesis 1 tells of God’s creation of the world and its creatures, with humankind as the last of his creatures: “Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.” (Genesis 5:2). God blesses mankind, commands them to “be fruitful and multiply,” and gives them “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (Genesis 1.26–27).
In Genesis 2, God forms “Adam,” this time meaning a single male human, out of “the dust of the ground” and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). God then places this first man in the Garden of Eden, telling him that “And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16–17). God notes that “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and brings the animals to Adam, who gives them their names, but among all the animals there was not found a companion for him (Genesis 2:20). God causes a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and forms a woman (Genesis 2:21–22), and Adam awakes and greets her as his helpmate.
Genesis 3, the story of the Fall: A serpent persuades the woman to disobey God’s command and eat of the tree of knowledge, which gives wisdom. Woman convinces Adam to do likewise, whereupon they become conscious of their nakedness, cover themselves, and hide from the sight of God. God questions Adam, who blames the woman. God passes judgment, first upon the serpent, condemned to go on his belly, then the woman, condemned to pain in childbirth and subordination to her husband, and finally, Adam, who is condemned to labor on the earth for his food and to return to it on his death. God then expels the man and woman from the garden, lest they eat of the Tree of Life and become immortal.
The chiastic structure of the death oracle given to Adam in Genesis 3:19 forms a link between man’s creation from “dust” (Genesis 2:7) to the “return” of his beginnings.
- A you return
- B to the ground
- C since (kî ) from it you were taken
- C’ for (kî ) dust you are
- B’ and to dust
- B to the ground
- A’ you will return
Genesis 4 deals with the birth of Adam’s sons Cain and Abel and the story of the first murder, followed by the birth of a third son, Seth. Genesis 5, the Book of the Generations of Adam, lists the descendants of Adam from Seth to Noah with their ages at the birth of their first sons (except Adam himself, for whom his age at the birth of Seth, his third son, is given) and their ages at death (Adam lives 930 years, up to the 56th year of Lamech, father of Noah). The chapter notes that Adam had other sons and daughters after Seth but does not name them.
Post-Biblical Jewish Traditions
God himself took dust from all four corners of the earth, and with each color (red for the blood, black for the bowels, white for the bones and veins, and green for the pale skin), created Adam. The soul of Adam is the image of God. As God fills the world, so the soul fills the human body: “as God sees all things, and is seen by none, so the soul sees, but cannot be seen; as God guides the world, so the soul guides the body; as God in His holiness is pure, so is the soul; and as God dwells in secret, so doth the soul.” According to Jewish literature, Adam possessed a body of light, identical to the light created by God on the first day, and the original glory of Adam can be regained through mystical contemplation of God.
Adam, Lilith and Eve
The rabbis, puzzled by the fact that Genesis 1 states that God created man and woman together while Genesis 2 describes them being created separately, told that when God created Adam, he also created a woman from the dust, as he had created Adam, and named her Lilith. Still, the two could not agree, for Adam wanted Lilith to lie under him, and Lilith insisted that Adam should lie under her, and so she fled from him, and Eve was created from Adam’s rib. Her story was greatly developed, during the Middle Ages, in the tradition of Aggadic midrashim, the Zohar, and Jewish mysticism. Other rabbis explained the same verse, meaning that Adam was created with two faces, male and female, or as a single hermaphrodite being, male and female joined back to back, but God saw that this made walking and conversing difficult, and so split them apart.
Eve’s Fault in the Fall
The serpent approached Eve rather than Adam because Adam had heard the word of God with his own ears, whereas Eve had only his report; Eve tasted the fruit and knew at once that she was doomed to death, and said to herself that it was better she trick Adam into eating so that he too would die, and not take another woman in her place. Adam ate the fruit unaware of what he was doing and was filled with grief. When Adam blamed Eve after eating the forbidden fruit, God rebuked him that Adam as a man should not have obeyed his wife, for he is the head, not her.
Adam and the winter solstice
An Aggadic legend found in tractate Avodah Zarah 8a contains observations regarding the Roman mid-winter holidays and, the Talmudic hypothesis that Adam the first established the tradition of fasting before the winter solstice and rejoicing afterward, which festival later devolved into the Roman Saturnalia and Calendar.
Children of Adam and Eve
Adam withdrew from Eve for 130 years after their expulsion from Eden, and in this time, both he and Eve had sex with demons until, at length, they reunited and Eve gave birth to Seth. A 2nd-century BCE Jewish religious work, the Book of Jubilees, tells how Adam had a daughter, Awân, born after Cain and Abel, and another daughter, Azura, born after Seth, and they had nine other sons; Cain married Awân and Seth married Azûrâ, thus accounting for their descendants. The Life of Adam and Eve and its Greek version the Apocalypse of Moses, recount how Adam repented his sin in exile and was rewarded by being transported to the heavenly paradise, foreshadowing the destiny of all the righteous at the end of time.
Adam’s Death and Burial
The Archangel Michael attended Adam’s death, with Eve and his son Seth, still living at that time, and he was buried with his murdered son Abel. Because they repented, God gave Adam and Eve garments of light, and similar garments will clothe the Messiah when he comes.
According to the Apocalypse of Moses, which probably originates in first-century CE Jewish literature, the altar of the Temple of Solomon was the center of the world and the gateway to God’s Garden of Eden, and it was here that Adam was both created and buried.
Attitude towards Adam
In the 17th-century book Kav ha-Yashar, the author warns not to talk negatively about Adam and writes that those who talk positively about Adam will be blessed with a long life. A similar warning can be found in The Zohar.
Adam and the angel Raziel
The Sefer Raziel HaMalakh (רזיאל המלאך) (Raziel the Angel) is a collection of esoteric writings, probably compiled and edited by the same hand, but originally not the work of one author, which according to tradition was revealed to Adam by the angel Raziel. The book cannot be shown to predate the 13th century, but may in parts date back to Late Antiquity, and like other obscure ancient texts such as the Bahir and Sefer Yetzirah, it has been extant in a number of versions. Zunz (“G. V.” 2d ed., p. 176) distinguishes three main parts: (1) the Book Ha-Malbush; (2) the Great Raziel; (3) the Book of Secrets, or the Book of Noah. These three parts are still distinguishable—2b–7a, 7b–33b, 34a and b. After these follow two shorter parts entitled “Creation” and “Shi’ur Ḳomah”, and after 41a come formulas for amulets and incantations.
The idea of original sin is not found in Judaism nor in Islam and was introduced into Christianity by the Apostle Paul, drawing on currents in Hellenistic Jewish thought, which held that Adam’s sin had introduced death and sin into the world. Sin, for Paul, was a power to which all humans are subject, but Christ’s coming held out how the righteous would be restored to the Paradise from which Adam’s sin had banished mankind. He did not conceive of this original sin of Adam as being biologically transmitted or that later generations were to be punished for the deeds of a remote ancestor. Augustine took this step, locating sin itself in male semen: when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, they were ashamed and covered their genitals, identifying the place from which the first sin was passed on to all succeeding generations. Only Jesus Christ, who was not conceived by human semen, was free of the stain passed down from Adam. (Augustine’s idea was based on the ancient world’s ideas on biology, according to which male sperm contained the entire unborn baby, the mother’s womb being no more than a nurturing chamber in which it grew.)
Adam’s grave: Golgotha replaces Solomon’s Temple
As mentioned above, the Apocalypse of Moses, Jewish writing containing material probably originating from the first century CE, places both Adam’s place of creation and his burial at the altar of the Temple of Solomon, seen as the center of the world and the gateway to the Garden of Eden. The early Christian community adapted this to their own legend of Golgotha, replacing the altar with the place of Jesus’s crucifixion. According to this Christian legend, current in the time of Origen (early 3rd century CE), the holy blood of Christ trickled down and restored to life the father of the human race, who then led the saints who appeared to many in Jerusalem on that day as described in Scripture.
Adam In Gnosticism
In the ancient Gnostic text On the Origin of the World, Adam originally appears as a primordial being born from light poured out by the aeon known as forethought. Accordingly, his primordial form is called Adam of Light. But when he desired to reach the eighth heaven, he could not because of the corruption mixed with his light. Thus he creates his own realm, containing six universes and their worlds which are seven times better than the heavens of Chaos. All these realms exist within the region between the eighth heaven and the Chaos beneath it. But when the archons saw him, they realized the chief creator of the material world (Yaldabaoth) had lied to them by claiming he was the only god. However, they decide to create a physical version of Adam in the image of the spiritual Adam. But Sophia later sends her daughter Zoe (the spiritual Eve) to give the physical Adam life before leaving the physical Eve with Adam and entering the Tree of Knowledge. However, according to the Hypostasis of the Archons, a spirit descends on the physical Adam and gives him a living soul.
Adam In Islam
In Islam, God created Adam (Arabic: آدم) from a handful of earth taken from the entire world, which explains why the world’s peoples are of different colors. According to the Islamic creation myth, he was the first prophet of Islam and the first Muslim. The Quran says that all the prophets preached the same faith of submission to God. When God informed the angels that he would create a vice-regent (a khalifa) on Earth, the angels asked, “will You place therein such that will spread corruption and bloodshed?” So God showed the angels, saying, “Tell Me the names of these?” The angels did not know of these, as God had not taught them. Then God allowed Adam to reveal these names to them, saying, “Did I not say to you (angels) that I know what is unseen in the heavens and the earth and I know what you (angels) reveal and what you (Satan) conceal;” the scholar Al-Tabari explained that God was referring to Iblis (Satan) of his evil plans and to the angels of their honesty.
Adam and Eve both ate of the Tree of Immortality, and both shared guilt equally, for Eve neither tempted Adam or ate before him; nor is Eve to blame for the pain of childbirth, for God never punishes one person for the sins of another. The Shia school of Islam does not even consider that their action was a sin, for obedience and disobedience are possible only on Earth and not in heaven, where paradise is located.
Adam fell on an Adam’s Peak mountain located in central Sri Lanka, the tallest in the world and so the closest to Heaven, and from there God sent him to Mecca, where he repented and was forgiven. At Mecca he built the first Sanctuary (the Kaabah – it was later rebuilt by Ibrahim) and was taught the ritual of the Hajj, and wove the first cloak for himself and the first veil and shift for Eve, and after this, returned to India where he died at the age of 930, having seen the sons of the sons of his children, 1400 in all.
According to the Ahmadiyya sect, Adam was not the first human being on earth. Still, when the human race came into existence, spread all over the world, and developed the ability to receive revelation, God sent Adam to each and every branch of civilization. According to a revelation from Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the community’s founder, the Adam mentioned in the Quran was born 4,598 years before Muhammad.
The Muslim thinker Nasir Khusraw offers another interpretation of Adam’s significance to the Islamic religious tradition. He writes that Adam was the first enunciator of divine revelation (nāṭiq) and Seth was his legatee (wasī). He argues that the descendants of Seth are Imams, culminating in the seventh Imam, Nuh/Noah who, in addition to holding the Imamate, would also hold the position of enunciator.
In the Islamic traditions (hadith), Adam is given the name by God known as the (Adam-I-Safi) or The Chosen One.
Historicity In Liberal Scholarship
While a traditional view was that the Book of Genesis was authored by Moses and has been considered historical and metaphorical, modern scholars consider the Genesis creation narrative as one of the various ancient origin myths.
Analysis like the documentary hypothesis also suggests that the text results from the compilation of multiple previous traditions, explaining apparent contradictions. Other stories of the same canonical book, like the Genesis flood narrative, are also understood as having been influenced by older literature, with parallels in the older Epic of Gilgamesh.
With scientific developments in paleontology, biology, genetics, and other disciplines, it was discovered that humans, and all other living things, share a common ancestor and evolved through natural processes over billions of years to diversify into the life forms we know today.
In biology, the most recent common ancestors of humans, when traced back using the Y-chromosome for the male lineage and mitochondrial DNA for the female lineage, are commonly called the Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve, respectively. These do not fork from a single couple at the same epoch, even if the names were borrowed from the Tanakh.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT ADAM
Adam (Person) First man and father of the human race. Adam’s role in biblical history is important in OT considerations and understanding the meaning of salvation and the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The creation of Adam and the first woman, Eve, is recited in two accounts in the book of Genesis. The intent of the first account (1:26–31) is to present the first pair in their relationship to God and to the rest of the created order. It teaches that with regard to God the first humans were created male and female in God’s image with his specific mandate to populate and rule over the earth. With regard to the rest of creation the first humans were, on one hand, part of it, being created on the same day as other land animals; on the other hand, they were distinctly above it, being the culmination of the creation process and sole bearers of God’s image.
The intent of the second account is much more specific (2:4–3:24); it seeks to explain the origin of the present human condition of sin and death and to set the stage for the drama of redemption. The story treats in detail aspects of Adam’s creation omitted from the first story. For example, it tells of the formation of Adam from the dust of the ground and of his receiving the breath of life from God (2:7). It recounts the planting of the Garden and the responsibility given to Adam to cultivate it (2:8–15). God’s instruction to Adam that the fruit of every tree in the Garden was his for food, except one, is carefully recorded, as well as the solemn warning that the fruit of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was never to be eaten, under the pain of death (2:16–17). Adam’s loneliness after naming the animals and not finding a suitable companion is also described, thus introducing the creation of the first woman (2:18–22). The creation of Eve from Adam’s rib poignantly portrays the essential unity of spirit and purpose of the sexes intended by God.
GENESIS 1:1 OTBDC: Is the earth only 6,000 to 10,000 years old? Are the creative days, literally, only 24 hours long?
The story does not end on such a positive note, however. It moves on to record the great deception Satan played upon Eve through the serpent. By clever insinuations and distortion of God’s original commandment (cf. 3:1 with 2:16–17), the serpent tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit and sharing it with Adam. Eve seems to have eaten because she was deceived (1 Tm 2:14), Adam out of a willful and conscious rebellion. Ironically, the two beings originally created in God’s image and likeness believed that they could become “like” God by disobeying him (Gn 3:5).
The effects of their disobedience were immediate, though not at all what Adam had expected. For the first time a barrier of shame disrupted the unity of man and woman (3:7). More important, a barrier of real moral guilt was erected between the first couple and God. The story relates that when God came looking for Adam after his rebellion, he was hiding among the trees, already aware of his separation from God (3:8). When God questioned him, Adam threw the blame on Eve and, by implication, back on God: “It was the woman you gave me who brought me the fruit” (3:12, nlt). Eve in turn blamed the serpent (3:13).
According to the story in Genesis, God held all three responsible and informed each one of the calamitous consequences of their rebellion (3:14–19). The two great mandates, originally signs of pure blessing, became mixed with curse and pain—the earth could now be populated only through the woman’s birth pangs and could be subdued only by the man’s labor and perspiration (3:16–18). Further, the unity of man and woman would be strained by man’s subjugation of her or possibly by the beginning of a struggle for dominance between them (3:16b can be taken both ways). Finally, God pronounced the ultimate consequence: as he had originally warned, Adam and Eve were to die. Someday the breath of life would be taken from them, and their bodies would return to the dust from which they were made (3:19). That very day they also experienced a “spiritual” death; they were separated from God, the giver of life, and from the tree of life, the symbol of eternal life (3:22). God sent them out of Eden, and there was no way back. The entrance to paradise was blocked by the cherubim and flaming sword (3:23–24). Only God could restore what they had lost.
The story is not devoid of hope. God was merciful even then. He made them garments of skin to cover their bodies and promised that someday the power of Satan behind the serpent would be crushed by the woman’s “seed” (Gn 3:15; cf. Rom 16:20). Many scholars consider that promise to be the first biblical mention of redemption.
The Significance of Adam
Adam’s significance is based upon several assumptions, the first being that he was a historical individual. That assumption was made by many OT writers (Gn 4:25; 5:1–5; 1 Chr 1:1; Hos 6:7). The NT writers agreed (Lk 3:38; Rom 5:14; 1 Cor 15:22, 45; 1 Tm 2:13–14; Jude 1:14). Equally essential to Adam’s significance is a second assumption, that he was more than an individual. To begin with, the Hebrew word adam (more correctly ’a-dha-m) is not merely a proper name. Even in the Genesis story it is not used as a name until Genesis 4:25. The word is one of several Hebrew words meaning “man” and is the generic term for “human race.” In the vast majority of cases it refers either to a male individual (Lv 1:2; Jos 14:15; Neh 9:29; Is 56:2) or to humanity in general (Ex 4:11; Nm 12:3; 16:29; Dt 4:28; 1 Kgs 4:31; Jb 7:20; 14:1). The generic, collective sense of the word adam is also behind the phrase “children (or sons) of men” (2 Sm 7:14; Pss 11:4; 12:1; 14:2; 53:2; 90:3; Eccl 1:13; 2:3). That phrase, literally “sons of adam,” simply means “men” or “human beings,” and when it is used the entire human race is in view. Indeed, the universalistic human connotation of the word adam indicates a concern in the OT going far beyond Israel’s nationalistic hopes and its God—to all the earth’s people and the Lord of all nations (Gn 9:5–7; Dt 5:24; 8:3; 1 Kgs 8:38–39; Pss 8:4; 89:48; 107:8–31; Prv 12:14; Mi 6:8).
It is no accident, then, that the first man was named “Adam” or “Man.” The name intimates that to speak about Adam is somehow also to speak about the entire human race. Such usage can perhaps best be understood through the ancient concept of corporate personality and representation familiar to the Hebrews and other Near Eastern peoples. Modern thinking emphasizes the individual; existence of the social group and all social relationships has been seen as secondary to, and dependent upon, the existence and desire of the individual. The Hebrew understanding was quite different. Though the separate personality of the individual was appreciated (Jer 31:29–30; Ez 18:4), there was a strong tendency to see the social group (family, tribe, nation) as a single organism with a corporate identity of its own. Likewise the group representative was seen as the embodiment or personification of the corporate personality of the group. Within the representative the essential qualities and characteristics of the social group resided in such a way that the actions and decisions of the representative were binding on the entire group. If the group was a family, the father was usually considered the corporate representative; for good or for ill his family, and sometimes his descendants, received the results of his actions (Gn 17:1–8; cf. Gn 20:1–9, 18; Ex 20:5–6; Jos 7:24–25; Rom 11:28; Heb 7:1–10).
As the original man and father of humankind, in whose image all succeeding generations would be born (Gn 5:3), Adam was the corporate representative of humanity. The creation accounts themselves give the impression that the mandates of Genesis 1:26–30 (cf. Gn 9:1, 7; Pss 8:5–7; 104:14) as well as the curses of Genesis 3:16–19 (cf. Ps 90:3; Eccl 12:7; Is 13:8; 21:3) were meant not only for Adam (and Eve) but, through him, for the entire race.
In Romans 5:12–21 the apostle Paul contrasted the death and condemnation brought upon humanity by Adam’s disobedience with the life and justification given to humanity through Christ’s obedience. More explicitly, in 1 Corinthians 15:45–50 (RSV), Paul called Christ the “last Adam,” “second man,” and the “man of heaven” in juxtaposition to the “first Adam,” the “first man,” and the “man of dust.”
For Paul, the human race was divided into two groups in the persons of Adam and Christ. Those who remain “incorporated” in Adam are the “old” humanity, bearing the image of the “man of dust” and partaking of his sin and alienation from God and Creation (Rom 5:12–19; 8:20–22). But those who are incorporated into Christ by faith become Christ’s “body” (Rom 12:4–5; 1 Cor 12:12–13, 27; Eph 1:22–23; Col 1:18); they are recreated in Christ’s image (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:49; 2 Cor 3:18); they become one “new man” (Eph 2:15; 4:24; Col 3:9–10, KJV); and they partake of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). The old barriers raised by Adam are removed by Christ (Rom 5:1; 2 Cor 5:19; Gal 3:27–28; Eph 2:14–16). For Paul, the functional similarity of Adam and Christ as representatives meant that Christ had restored what Adam had lost.
THE HISTORICITY OF ADAM
Critical scholars generally consider the first chapters of Genesis to be a myth, not history. They point to the poetic nature of the text, the parallel of the early chapters of Genesis to other ancient myths, the alleged contradiction of the text with evolution, and the late date for Adam in the Bible (ca. 4000 b.c.) which is opposed to scientific dating that places the first humans much earlier. All of this they consider as evidence that the story of Adam and Eve is mythical. However, the Bible presents Adam and Eve as literal people who had real children, from whom the rest of the human race descended (cf. Gen. 5:1f.).
Some argue, ‘Adam’s sin was God’s will, God’s plan.’
EPHESIANS 1:4: How is it that Adam and Eve were blamed for their actions before the foundation of the world?
Historical Adam and Eve. There is good evidence to believe that Adam and Eve were historical persons. First, Genesis 1–2 presents them as actual persons and even narrates the important events in their lives. Second, they gave birth to literal children who did the same (Genesis 4–5). Third, the same phrase (“this is the history of”), used to record later history in Genesis (for example, 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19), is used of the creation account (2:4) and of Adam and Eve and their descendants (Gen. 5:1). Fourth, later Old Testament chronologies place Adam at the top of the list (Gen. 5:1; 1 Chron. 1:1). Fifth, the New Testament places Adam at the beginning of Jesus’ literal ancestors (Luke 3:38). Sixth, Jesus referred to Adam and Eve as the first literal “male and female,” making their physical union the basis of marriage (Matt. 19:4). Seventh, the book of Romans declares that literal death was brought into the world by a literal “one man”—Adam (Rom. 5:12, 14). Eighth, the comparison of Adam (the “first Adam”) with Christ (the “last Adam”) in 1 Corinthians 15:45 manifests that Adam was understood as a literal, historical person. Ninth, Paul’s declaration that “Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Tim 2:13–14) reveals that he speaks of real persons. Tenth, logically there had to be a first real set of human beings, male and female, or else the race would have had no way to get going. The Bible calls this literal couple “Adam and Eve,” and there is no reason to doubt their real existence.
Objections to Historicity. The Poetic Nature of Genesis 1. Despite the common assumption to the contrary and the beautiful language of Genesis 1 and 2, the creation record is not poetry. Although there is possible parallelism of ideas between the first three and last three days, this is not in the typical form of Hebrew poetry, which involves couplets in parallel form. A comparison with the Psalms or Proverbs readily shows the difference. Genesis 2 has no poetical parallelism at all. Rather, the creation account is like any other historical narrative in the Old Testament. The account is introduced like other historical accounts in Genesis with the phrase, “This is the history of …” (Gen. 2:4; 5:1). Jesus and New Testament writers refer to the creation events as historical (cf. Matt. 19:4; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:45; 1 Tim. 2:13–14). The Ebla tablets have added an early nonbiblical witness of a monotheistic ex nihilo creation.
Contradiction with Evolution. The Genesis creation account contradicts macro-evolution. Genesis speaks of the creation of Adam from the dust of the ground, not his evolution from other animals (Gen. 2:7). It speaks of direct immediate creation at God’s command, not long natural processes (cf. Gen. 1:1, 3, 6, 9, 21, 27). Eve was created from Adam; she did not evolve separately. Adam was an intelligent being who could speak a language, study and name animals, and engage in life-sustaining activity. He was not an ignorant half-ape.
However, granted that the Genesis record conflicts with macro-evolution, it begs the question to affirm Genesis is wrong and evolution is right. In fact, there is substantial scientific evidence to critique macro-evolution on its own merits.
The Late-Date Objection. The traditional biblical date for the creation of Adam (ca. 4000 b.c.) is much too late to fit the fossil evidence for early human beings, which ranges from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. The early date for humankind is based on scientific dating and analysis of bone fragments.
However, there are false or challengeable assumptions in this objection. First, it is assumed that one can simply add all the genealogical records of Genesis 5 and 11 and arrive at an approximate date of 4000 b.c. for Adam’s creation. But this is based on the false assumption that there are no gaps in these tables, which there are.
This objection also assumes that the dating method for early human-like fossil finds is accurate. Yet these dating methods are subject to many variables including the change in atmospheric conditions, contamination of the sample, and changes of rates of decay.
It assumes that early human-like fossil finds were really human beings created in the image of God. But this is a questionable assumption. Many of these finds are so fragmentary that reconstruction is highly speculative. The so-called “Nebraska Man” was actually an extinct pig’s tooth! Identification had been based on a tooth. “Piltdown Man” was a fraud. Identifying a creature from bones, especially bone fragments, is extremely speculative.
There may have been human-like creatures that were morphologically similar to human beings but were not created in the image of God. Bone structure cannot prove an immortal soul was made in God’s image inside the body. Evidence for simple tool making proves nothing. Animals (apes, seals, and birds) are known to use simple tools.
This objection also assumes that the “days” of Genesis were twenty-four-hour solar days. This is not certain, since day in Genesis is used of all six days (cf. Gen. 2:4). And “day seven,” on which God rested, is still going on, thousands of years later (cf. Heb. 4:4–6).
It is impossible to affirm that Genesis is not historical. In fact, given the unproven assumptions, the history of misinterpretation of early fossils, and the mistaken assumption that there are no gaps in the biblical genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, the arguments against the historicity of Adam and Eve fail.
- L. Archer, Jr., An Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties
- Custance, Genesis and Early Man
- L. Geisler and T. Howe, When Critics Ask
- Norman L. Geisler, “Adam, Historicity Of,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 8–10.
- R. C. Newman, Genesis and the Origin of the Earth
- B. Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture
- Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001)