Adam and the Genome: Some Thoughts from Dennis Venema

BioLogos is a place where people of differing views are welcomed, and gracious dialogue is possible.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Has anyone ever discussed having an interactive screen where the “Top 10” most popular scenarios could be listed for how Adam & Eve fit in the intersection between Bible and Evolutionary theory?

With each click, the scenarios can be followed back to the premises and explanations of each scenario. A mock-up could be put together in a macro-driven Excel file!

There is evidence from the ancient Near East for a rational person to conclude that a real person lived about 7,000 years ago who was the progenitor of the Adamic/Semitic race that were in the company of unrelated neighbors at the time, namely the Ubaidans and Sumerians. For example, the city of Enoch that Cain built is in the Sumerian King List called “Unug” in Sumerian that was rebuilt after the flood. For another example, the name “Ziusudra” ( see Sumerian flood account) is on at least one Sumerian King List and his name appears before it says “then the flood swept thereover.” This is all in my book, Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham.

I am glad that you and McKnight tackled the subject. As you noted in your articles replying to Poythress, very few evangelical scholars have truly grappled with the genetic evidence vis-a-vis Adam and Eve. Let’s hope your book encourages a few more brave souls to risk those choppy waters. Thanks!

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Thank you for your information. Do you know if there will be a “book table” at the upcoming conference where we can purchase books, or should we just click the Amazon button?

There will be lots of copies of Adam and the Genome at the conference. Dennis and Scot will both be there talking about the book, and the publisher (Baker) will have a book table.

I don’t know about a visual table, but our Common Questions page on Adam and Eve lists out a couple of the most popular options: Were Adam and Eve Historical Figures? - Common Question - BioLogos.

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What a great start!

I think I will try to put together a flow chart of schematic… with glowing “points of light” at various intersections…

I’m not sure exactly what I want to achieve… but I’ll see what I can do …

Denis Alexander states:
“Our task is to extract key theological themes from the biblical narratives, holding to mainstream science, and then ask how science and theology might generate an integrated account. If all truth is God’s truth, as Christians believe, such a task should surely be possible.”

Dennis Venema replies:
“Denis, you correctly note that neither Scot nor I decided to wrap things up in, as you put it, “big picture theology,” perhaps because of an allergy to concordism… For me personally, those sorts of models do have a concordist flavor to them… I recognize that some do feel very strongly that such models are possible, or even preferable. The more I have learned about the ancient Near East, the more I have my doubts about the profitability of such models.…It is speculation, though, since none of these models, in my opinion, can be established from either Scripture, or science, or a combination of the two.”

Dennis, I think Denis Alexander refers to an important issue and in my view you are not getting the point of what he claims. I would like to explain what is at stake in the context of Noah’s Ark:

  1. On the basis of emerging results in evolutionary genetics, as a scientist I reach the conclusion (like you) that humanity could not have had only two genetic ancestors at any time in the last several hundred thousand years (I have quoted your work here)

  2. With even more reason I conclude (and I assume you too) that humanity cannot be genetically descended from the 8 people within Noah’s Ark.

  3. As a Christian I belief (and I assume you too) that the Flood was an actual historical event (although interpreted and retold in Genesis in the rhetoric and theology of ancient Israel), and within the Ark was only Noah and seven others. The basis of this belief is that Jesus Christ himself and the apostle Peter teach us that in the Ark was a person called Noah together with seven others (Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5), that is, they support Genesis 6:18 and 8:18, according to which in the Ark were Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. Contrarily to the term ‘Adam’ in Genesis 1-3, in the case of the Ark one could hardly interpret that Noah was a generic name referring to “mankind” and not a personal one.

  4. As a rational thinker I can’t help asking (and I assume you too): What on earth can I do so that the scientific truth 2) and the Revelation truth 3) fit together in my mind?

  5. Working for achieving a logically consistent account integrating 2) and 3) is not “concordism” but simply a matter of intellectual honesty, and in my opinion also an inescapable moral duty of Christian scientists and theologians toward believers.

Should we claim that such a task cannot be other than “speculation without profitability”?
If YES, then I fear we are strengthening as well YECs as Jerry Coyne & Co.

I would be sincerely thankful if you could accept to clarify your position in this respect.


I sincerely think one of your troubles is your anxiety to engage your imagination more fully regarding this problem.

One other participant on the BioLogos boards does a good job explaining the clues in the Flood story to show that it was once a story about a regional flood (because there are logical contradictions found in the story).

But, of course, once you re-interpret the story as a regional flood, it creates a new set of logical contradictions. ( For example, it wouldn’t take anyone a year to for a bird to find land in a regional flood… even if you were swept out to sea!. )

You feel that if Jesus says it, it must be true. But what Jesus talked about came from writings that were widely known. Do you think Jesus would know how to drive a standard transmission vehicle? Or would you say he would have to learn how to do that?

Would you say that Jesus would know that the “stars” in the sky were not the size of typical meteors that could be found in local craters?

Jesus was a man with knowledge of the divine. But was he a man with knowledge of everything? I don’t think so.

Making him into the Perfect Historian and the Perfect Scientist seems like a impoverished attempt to justify an end to discussing the problems…

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Many thanks for contributing to this conversation.

Be reassured: I don’t feel “anxious” at all, even if I certainly try to engage my brain and imagination to get a coherent account that integrates Science, Scripture and Theology: “If all truth is God’s truth, as Christians believe, such a task should surely be possible”, as Denis Alexander rightly says.

The account I am working on describes a Flood which is both, regional and global:

  • Regional in the sense that the geographic area which was flooded can be considered limited to the region around the five antediluvians Sumerian cities in Mesopotamia.

  • Global in the sense that all people living in this region at Noah’s time (about 3,000 BC) perished in the flood (the 8 in the Ark excluded). And I assume that these some tens thousands of people were all the human persons existing on earth at this time.

At the same time, millions of non-personal human animals lived outside the flooded region (that is, almost the whole planet). They were Homo sapiens animals which had not yet been transformed by God into persons. Obviously outside the flooded region lived practically all the other animal species we know today as well.

The key point of my explanation is that after the Flood God transformed all the non-personal human animals living on earth into persons with awareness of moral responsibility and sense of law, the same way as He did to create the primeval human persons (see my Essay and my Article).

I can back this claim with several pericopes from Scripture, but for the moment it suffices to note that my account fits well with the available scientific observations, and also the teaching of Jesus Christ and St. Peter (Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5). Additionally it is theologically and anthropologically sound.

In the light of this account it becomes clear that the “Ark” was not only the wood vessel which Noah built and entered in with his family, but also the part of the planet outside the flooded region: It was really a huge “Ark” with place for all animal species living today!

Regarding Jesus-Christ I would like to stress that I belief he was fully man and fully God (the Incarnate Son of God or second Person of the Holy Trinity), and the Redeemer of the whole humankind (if we don’t believe this the whole discussion we are carrying in this Blog is nonsense!). This means that we have to take seriously what Jesus Christ says about the origins of humanity, and in particular that Noah was an historical person who was saved from the Flood through entering the Ark. By contrast Jesus says nothing about “a bird that [released by Noah?] took a year to find land.” By the way, which precise verse of Genesis do you mean by this?

I will be thankful for any further comment: With scientific and theological seriousness, and a bit imagination we can all contribute to the fascinating task of finding a coherent integrated account of the Ark and the Flood. “Such a task should surely be possible”.

@AntoineSuarez, a very clever scenario!!!

I hope you are able to persuade YECs of this figurative interpretation! It would save us all a great bit of time!

Thanks George for this encouraging comment!
I will try to do my best.

Antoine, are you actually comfortable with this scenario? God was so angry at the “tens of thousands” of human persons he had created that he destroyed all but 8 of them (those in Noah’s ark), but allowed “millions of non-personal human animals” (those not yet transformed into persons) to survive in areas beyond the Flood?? Seriously? One sees renditions of the animals being led, two by two, into the ark, including elephants, tigers, etc., species in no danger of extinction since most of them lived outside the localized Mesopotamian flood area. Absolutely incredible!

Sorry, but to me this appears to be a desperate attempt to rescue something of Scripture that is totally Fable, and by doing so, you endanger any credibility you may have for your cogent arguments. Why is it so hard to face the fact that the Old Testament contains some unbelievable myths and fables as well as some wisdom and guidance worthy of our attention? Why should we believe that, while God “spoke” to certain people 3,000 years ago, he no longer does so today?
Al Leo

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