Adam as the first human is theologically necessary or not?

Dr. Michael Reeves in this article argue for a real Adam as a theological necessity.

Reeves debunks Denis Alexander in Creation or Evolution. Alexander’s position is similar to Biologos.

The article by Biologos here states: “Bible as properly understood (that is, within the relevant contexts of the ancient Near East, Second Temple Judaism, and the first-century Greco-Roman world) really does not demand a historical Adam and Eve anyway.”

It would appear that Reeves’ theological position is at odds with Biologos, especially regarding the work of Christ.

Theologically considered thoughts anybody?

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To clarify, BioLogos hosts conversations between various people in a network where people share certain common commitments, but individuals in that network have different perspectives on historical Adam and Eve. When you link to a specific authors’ article posted on the BioLogos website, it reflects the views of that author, not the organization. The views of the organization are expressed in the Common Questions articles, which explain a spectrum of views on historical Adam.

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The thing about a historical Adam and Eve, and the doctrine of original sin, is that it gives us someone to pass the buck to.

  • Us: “It was original sin.” Blame Adam and Eve.
  • Adam: “It was that wife that you gave me.” Blame the wife, and blame God.
  • Eve: “The serpent deceived me.” Blame the demon. “I need deliverance ministry.”
  • And of course, the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on…
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That’s a really long article. I didn’t read it all, but here are a few comments from the first part.

When Jesus taught on marriage in Matthew 19:4–6, and when Jude referred to Adam in Jude 14, they used no caveats or anything to suggest they doubted Adam’s historical reality or thought of him any differently than they did other Old Testament characters.

In Exodus, Pharaoh’s magicians are not named or limited to two men. Hundreds of years later, extrabiblical literature added more detail to the story, including portraying the magicians as two men named Jannes and Jambres. 2 Timothy 3:8 brings these flourishes into the text of the New Testament: “As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth.” Paul used no caveats or anything to suggest he doubted J&J’s historical reality or thought of them any differently than he did other Old Testament characters.

If someone wants to believe J&J were supernaturally revealed as the actual magicians in Pharaoh’s court, they are welcome to do so. Many others will draw different conclusions. Perhaps Paul is not uncovering or confirming historical facts, but using a well-known story to illustrate a point. His point isn’t nullified if those characters are a fictional embellishment. Christmas pageants don’t cease to proclaim the truth of the incarnation if they happen to depict precisely three wise men. And humanity doesn’t lose its creator or God’s image based on whether Adam is depicted as one man.

Unlike J&J, Adam appears several times in the New Testament. Rather than strengthening the case for an individual Adam, the variety of these different mentions problematizes a simplistic literal reading. Yes, Jude locates Enoch as the seventh from Adam. Jude then quotes Enoch, but the quote comes from the extrabiblical 1 Enoch and not Genesis. Earlier, Jude relates how archangel Michael fought the devil over the body of Moses – another story not found earlier in the Bible. Jude is not a great example of someone who sticks to the historical truth of the Old Testament.

Matthew 19:4–6 is more interesting. As the article notes, “Genesis sometimes use the word ’ādām to mean “humankind” (e.g., Gen. 1:26–27).” These verses in Matthew show that this wasn’t lost on Jesus. He even changes Genesis to make it more clear that it is talking about all people and not just one man. Rather than “in the beginning,” Jesus says that “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’” Jesus reads Genesis 1 as revealing that God creates us all – from the beginning to now.

Then Jesus quotes Genesis 2, but he completely skips over the account of Adam and Eve! Instead, he draws out a narrative aside that is spoken to later readers: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The man and wife spoken of isn’t Adam and Eve (they didn’t have parents), but everyman and everywife.

So while Jesus quotes from both Genesis 1 and 2, he doesn’t mention an individual Adam or individual Eve! He seemingly goes out of his way to draw from these chapters in ways that universalize their message rather than tie it to two people. And in so doing, I think Jesus shows us how to read Genesis well.

But on to Paul. After many words on Romans 5, the article reaches a stunning conclusion:

Where did sin and evil come from? If they were not the result of one man’s act of disobedience, there seem to be only two options: either sin was there beforehand and evil is an integral part of God’s creation, or sin is an individualistic thing, brought into the world almost ex nihilo by each person.

I think this shows how the case proves too much. As the article tells it, not only does the whole Christian faith depend on the historical existence of one man named Adam, it also depends on the non-existence of a historical woman named Eve and a historical serpent who tempted them. If those two existed, then sin didn’t begin with one man’s act and evil was in a beast before it passed to people. Since Paul said it was one man – not a man and a woman and a snake – you either take him at his word or toss his faith.

Or, perhaps there is a third way. If you can make room in Paul’s Adam for Eve, you can make room for all humankind. After all, that’s how Jesus seems to have read Genesis’ Adam. Why couldn’t Paul do the same? Once we allow for that possibility, the weight of grounding the Christian faith is lifted from the historical Adam’s shoulders. The historical man might be in certain texts or certain authors’ minds or he might not, but nothing depends on him. What matters is that Adam shows us humankind and thereby shows us ourselves. As long as we can see ourselves in Adam’s fall, we’ll have no grounds for thinking that without one man we’d no longer need a Saviour.

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Appreciate your caveat - that spectrum of views in the Common questions doesn’t fully address Reeves’ theological view.

NT Wright position is rather, what might I say, interesting and that is being generous.

Well I stopped reading where I got to here.

How do we know they don’t add fictional figures? Genealogies in the ANE often did add fictional figures. In particular in Kings Lists which the Biblical genealogies mirror.

So you end up with circular logic. Since Adam is in a genealogy he is real which makes the people in the list real.

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I skipped down to the article’s conclusion:

His [Adam’s] physical fatherhood of all humankind preserves God’s justice in condemning us in Adam (and, by inference, God’s justice in redeeming us in Christ), and it safeguards the logic of the incarnation.

Recognizing that Adam is humankind doesn’t destroy the connection. If anything, it makes our connection to Adam more direct, no longer dependent on ancestry.

The Bible has lots to say about how ancestry doesn’t count for much. We can’t determine our standing with God by who our parents were. Whether Israel’s kings followed God was not determined by who their father was. To be a real child of Abraham means living the same faith, not being his literal descendant. To be in Christ does not require a genealogical pedigree to Jesus.

It’s fun to speculate on whether there was a literal man named Adam or whether the serpent was really just a clever beast. Those who see more in those characters are not undermining the faith or dismissing Genesis. Paul writes that “the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning,” but this doesn’t show that everything rests on taking the serpent literally as a beast and refusing to see Satan in it.

It’s no more dangerous to see humankind in Adam than to see Satan in the serpent. Was there also a literal man and a literal snake? That’s trivia, not questions that should upend anyone’s faith.

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Here is a recent Bishop Barron interview on the topic of Eden and the fall. I think he provides a good example of somebody who delves deep (with patristic legacy) into what the story has been taken to mean.

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A great example! It reminded me of another… In Jude 9 we have a reference to the intertestimental book The Assumption of Moses:

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (NIV2011)

Since Jude used no caveats or anything to suggest they doubted the historical reality, should we assume therefore that this is a factual account of what happened when Moses died?

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According to the Bishop, everything flows from a mountain. I like his consistency. Therefore, we have Genesis as poetry, as a picture, not necessarily real with a talking snake and a tree……

…interesting approach whereas both Christ and Paul speak of real people. So I assume the Bishop would see this as a historic poem and draw theological statements woven throughout all of scripture

People make references to fictional creations all the time. That’s people now days and people then. No reason to believe it’s a modern invention. People quote and allude to entertainment just as much to facts.

Someone is dancing really good and another says , “ yo he’s killin it like Michael “ and they are referring to Meyers, not Jackson. They don’t believe the Haddonfield massacres really happened.

Or a man’s wife comes down the stairs dressed up and he says “ ahh Aphrodite descends “ does not mean they believe in Greek mythology.

A common one nowadays is to hear people say “ bruh he’s strong like Hercules Hercules Hercules “ with a Eddie Murphy voice do they don’t believe that they were real.

In the Bible we see a story of Jonah. We can be fairly certain Jonah was a satirical work of Jewish fiction. Jonah was real but Jonah was used in a fictional tale.

Jesus would have been just as able to hyperlink and associate truths with fictional tales.

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Adam as the first human is theologically necessary or not?

Depends on the theology.

In my theology? Yes. But my theology does not equate humanity to a biological species. In my theology there is an inheritance we have from the evolution of life on this planet in our DNA and another inheritance of the mind we have directly from God. This I take to be the meaning of Genesis 2:7, “then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” God made our body according to the laws of nature which include evolution and God created our minds through inspiration (word derived from divine breath). For this reason, I can take many details in the Bible seriously and accept a date for Adam and Eve close to the beginning of human civilization 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. But it is the inheritance of the mind which we have from Adam and Eve not the genetic inheritance of DNA which comes from evolution, therefore we do not have to be all genetically descended from Adam and Eve, let alone for us to be genetically derived from only them. That inheritance of the mind comes to us by human communication and can easily be transmitted to cover the globe in less than a thousand years.

But there are other theological systems and many do not require a real Adam.

I consider those not requiring a real Adam to be a better option than the ones which try to put Adam and Eve back to 40,000 years ago or more because I think these would reduce them to near insignificance, having no effect on how we lived for 3 times or more longer than all of human history. That is a big theological problem for me. Better to believe that they never even existed and take them as metaphorical, than to do that.

I’m wondering: What are the options?

  • One, single, instantaneous creation of one male human being;
  • One, single, instantaneous creation of one female human being;
  • Gradual evolution into existence of a group of male and female human beings, the original source of which was a single, non-living piece of material;
  • etc. covering all possible variants.

Is there a concise, comprehensive, collection of variants written by somebody somewhere in the past? Or am I obliged to concoct my own list of variant beginnings by reading a couple of hundred essays by different people who agree or disagree with each other?

Edited 11/7/2021.

You may have left something out of your last bullet point. :slightly_smiling_face:

My bulleted points weren’t intended to be complete in part or whole. The “concise, comprehensive, collection of variants written by somebody somewhere in the past” which I would like to see, would be. My wild guess, given the failure to point me to such a list so far, is that there ain’t one. So, if I really want one, I’m gonna have to collect every known essay on human variants and make my own list.

The list I envision would include the plausible and the ridiculous-but-relevant variants, one of which would be: “Gradual evolution into existence of a group of male human beings, the original source of which was a single, non-living piece of material”.

In all these stories about stories about stories is there any literary analysis? I can’t see any. Any deconstruction that reconstructs to something objective? Or at least consensual?

Maybe it should have read “…male and female human beings”? Just a thought. :grin:

You mean: "Gradual evolution into existence of a group of male and female human beings, the original source of which was a single, non-living piece of material” ???

What?! A group of men and women gradually evolving into existence from a single, non-living piece of material? Are you nuts??!! :rofl:

I’ve never traced a genealogy through Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings like Luke did for Jesus. Or made comparisons of real characters to fictional characters that just don’t work if the characters are actually fictional. This is just bad liberal apologetics that can’t admit Jesus and Paul may have gotten it wrong. They most certainly reference real people that didn’t exist. And since their audience tended to accept the historicity of these figures we have the problem of them being deceptive otherwise. Appearance of age is God being deceptive? How about appearance of historicity?

Many conservatives will never buy this “it’s just a literary reference” and rightly so. It’s bogus and just another force-fit belief in attempt at preserving some from or inerrancy/infallibility/certainty. It’s not reasonable. It’s just necessary to preserve other beliefs. Backed into a corner eisegesis.

If the Bible can make all sorts of scientific errors, I’m not sure what the issue is with historical ones? There are certainly moral problems as well.

Both garden stories (yes there are two contradictory versions) are pure mythology from start to finish. The only historicity in the account is in how it represents humanity’s disobedience and defiance of God throughout time and how it represents God as the omnipotent creator of the world.

Vinnie

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