I was pretty keenly interested to read the paper, since it coincides with a topic I found myself thinking about over the past week quite a bit, i.e. whether the Bible is telling two different accounts of different events, or two accounts of one creation of humanity.
I was rolling my eyes at AiG’s insistence to read Genesis literally, when it occurred to me to ask, does it ever actually say that Adam and Eve were the first people? A more simple and intuitive reading seemed to be that the creation of humankind is described at the end of Gen 1, and the story of Adam is a separate event concerning the spiritual transformation associated with the dawn of agriculture.
I’m not a Christian, so all this is simply my own perspective and speculation, but I do welcome other thoughts and evaluation of these ideas!
There are a number of clear references, it seems to me, in Gen 2 to ‘tilling the ground,’ to the plants and herbs and animals ‘of the field’ as opposed to ‘of the earth’ from Gen 1, which could refer to domesticated crops and animals? The phrase for birds seems to be identical, however, and for cattle/herd-animals, but these categories both include wild and domestic variants. I would love to know what this distinction looks like from someone who knows Hebrew.
Even more interesting is the connection of Adam personally to the dust of the ground. The feminine form of ‘Adam’ is ‘adamah,’ soil. By saying Adam is formed from the soil, does it mean that Adam was ‘formed’ spiritually from physically working the land in a way unlike previous humans, who were hunter-gatherers? Certainly it is difficult to think of any more profound change in humanity, requiring a greater shift in the way we interact with and view the world and our place in it.
I would also suggest that it then becomes rather silly to suggest that the ‘Knowledge of Good and Evil’ must be passed down genetically to all humanity rather than the traditional ways that knowledge is spread, by word and deed to other humans. And who today is untouched by the sins of civilization?
To elaborate, I would suggest that hunter-gatherers had a spiritual understanding perfectly adequate to living a hunter-gatherer life. (It was good.) It would have been highly conserved—changing extremely slowly over generations. But when suddenly a lot of changes happened in a shorter time period (the rate of change accelerated), it was no longer sufficient—man was not formed to till the ground. This is where Adam’s new relationship with God has to form. And Adam and Eve set out on the path towards understanding good and evil—towards re-forming a morality which is different from just accepting the way things have always been.
But the thing is that as soon as you have the greater knowledge, you also have responsibility. Adam tried to pretend he had never taken that step, to deny that anything was different, but knowledge like that can’t be put back, undone, or reversed. The first thing Adam did with it was fail to take responsibility. It’s completely understandable—the enormity of what they were setting in motion would intimidate anyone! And yet the only way to travel the road to becoming better involves failing repeatedly, and with far greater consequences than if you’d never set foot on that road to begin with.
I was thinking this all fit extremely well together, and then I read Gen 5 which seems to explicitly tie together the creation of humankind and the man named Adam, which rather took the wind out of my sails a bit. I was hoping to gain additional insight into this issue from reading the article (which I have been sadly remiss in addressing so far) and although it excellently covered many points and provided a deeper understanding for me of how to interpret Genesis within a Christian framework, I didn’t see Gen 5 explicitly addressed.
I did find very interesting how the author tied ‘dust of the ground’ to natural mortality, and how the ‘breath of life’ represents a spiritual rather than physical transferrence. Just about my only quibble was as I outlined above: that I would occupy a middle ground between Augustine believing that pre-fall humanity was in the highest possible state of perfection, and the author believing that they were not right with God at all.
I’m sure as this is just a broad outline, that there are still many holes to be patched and arguments to be made, at least in my thoughts (again, the article is much more comprehensive and water-tight than my leapfrogging about) but I believe I should curtail myself before this comment begins to get as long as a paper itself!