I would 2nd Pete Enns. His book Evolution of Adam got a 10th anniversary update and was just released. It’s been a while since I read it but he spends quite a bit of time on the Genesis narrative / A.N.E. narratives. He also spends quite a bit of time with Paul and 2nd Adam emphasis and what that means if Adam isn’t historical.
TBFNP just releases a 6 part video series to go along with the new version of the book.
Correct me if I am wrong, but his position seems to be that you only need an historical Adam if you want a wrathful God. But that is just not true. I see a need for an historical Adam even though I do not believe in a wrathful God.
He refutes the idea that a non-historical Adam threatens inerrancy. I agree with his reasoning on that one. Enns refutes the idea that a non-historical Adam threatens the sanctity of humanity. I agree with that also. He refutes the idea that a non-historical Adam threatens theology by divorcing it from history. I am not even sure I understand that objection. He refutes the idea that a non-historical Adam threatens our continuity with the history of the church, since the church has taken Adam as historical. This objection sounds like nothing more than the sort of obstinacy which has perpetuated so many other errors in the history of human thinking. Enns refutes the idea that a non-historical Adam threatens Paul’s integrity, since he read Adam historically. No but it does disagree with Paul’s theology.
For me, all the talk of necessity in regards to theological issues is ludicrous. I wouldn’t bother arguing that any part of it is necessary. For me the concern is what makes for the better theology – better for the survival of Christianity playing a continuing role in human affairs. To be sure the biggest danger I see for that end is insisting on theology which is contrary to the findings of science. But from my observation of Christian history, treating the contents of the Bible too lightly is nearly just as destructive to that end as well. And the simple fact is there is nothing to make an historical Adam incompatible with the findings of science. And yes it detracts from every passage in the Bible which treats Adam as a real person.
So when it comes to theological reasons, the top of my list of problems with a non-historical Adam – one which Enns does not address is this: the link the Paul makes between Adam and Jesus, would lead one from a non-historical Adam right to a non-historical Jesus. If Adam can be metaphorical then why not Jesus too? Plenty of people seem quite ready to jump on the idea that Jesus is just as mythical. And there seems to be quite a few that would happily edit Paul right out the Bible. Seems to me, that all of this is in the wrong direction and only reinforces the notion that evolution has no place in Christianity. I think it is important to resist using evolution as an excuse to start hacking things out of Christianity. You don’t want to believe in an historical Adam? Fine! But evolution has nothing to do with it. I believe in both just fine.
So the number one most important pragmatic reason to believe in an historical Adam is because we CAN. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with doing so. And this makes the strongest case that evolution is COMPLETELY compatible with Christianity. Of course there are some things which people have seen in the Bible that do have to go… justifications for misogyny, racism and slavery, for example. These as well as anti-science (flat-earth, young earth, and magical creation) interpretations of the Bible are things which should be removed because they will bring Christianity down and they are certainly not needed for the important and central message of Christianity of the saving power of having a relationship with Jesus.
I know this term is in vogue among Young Earth Creationists, but it is rather alienating toward those that are arriving at their best conclusions when recognizing the truth of both God’s Word and God’s World, yet arriving at different conclusions. Unless you include everyone that believes the Bible, it should not be reserved for only those that accept your own interpretation.
I think you make some good points, but that is not the thrust of his book, at least, from what I recall. I think it is surprisingly nuanced. I think you would enjoy reading it. Still, you made good thoughts, that help me think it through from another angle. .Thanks.
I’m also fine with that range of dates for Adam and Eve, given the other constraints (they were placed into or part of a much larger human population, as explained by biology). I wonder why you think that human civilization began that recently however. Not that I am an authoritative expert in anthropology, but AFAIK, humans have creating and transmitting culture for many tens of thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of thousands, as seen in jewelry, burial customs, paintings, language development (inferred), etc.
burying our dead? LOL Animals bury their dead. That means absolutely NOTHING!
Language began to develop many hundreds of thousands of years ago as attested by the genetic adaptations. BEGAN. When we can actually call this a language with all the representational abilities to rival that of DNA is another question entirely.
We began wearing clothing around 170,000 years ago as attested by lice genetics. BUT that clearly depends on WHERE the people lived so I think it is VERY dubious to make a connection with Adam and Eve on this one.
Jewelry from sea shells from 115,000 years ago.
Oldest cave paintings 45,000 years ago.
Civilization? No. None of the the above changed our basic hunter gatherer lifestyle. None of this requires a significant degree of specialization of roles in the community (no, not the sort of specialization of roles we find in chimpanzees). That changed with agriculture and the building of cities. Estimates of when this began changes from time to time and looking this up right now gives 12,000 years ago (and “BEGAN” is emphasized, which is why most give later dates of 7,000 to 10,000 years ago). And what we read of Cain and Abel firmly places that family after that time not before.
David Graeber makes an intriguing case for pushing the dawn of civilization back to at least 30,000 years ago. This depends of course on defining civilization less in terms of sophistication of buildings, food sources, and technology, and more in terms of sophistication of culture (organizing families and groups, etiological stories, strategies for reward/fairness/commonweal, etc.)
The alternative of defining civilization in terms of transition away from hunting/gathering could be construed as implying that people that continue to practice hunting/gathering are not civilized. I am confident you do not feel this way; I only point this out as a way of examining the assumptions and underpinnings of a position on the issue. If we consider the Hadza of Tanzania to be civilized today, why would we not consider hunter-gatherers of 30 millenia ago to be civilized?
I hope you have found this food for thought to be nourishing!
EDIT: I think you might be focused on a particular civilization, that of Sumerian late Stone Age/early Bronze Age, since the Garden and the named rivers suggest that setting. If that’s the case, your suggested date range of 6000 to 10,000 years ago makes a lot of sense. My only remaining objection would be to the statement that “civilization” began at that point.
Good point. I was reading about the Comanche Native American tribe in Empire of the Summer Moon, and they were the epitome of a hunter/gatherer tribe, following the herds of bison, yet had a quite well developed social structure, brutal as it was towards other tribes.
Last I saw it was “150,000 ± 100,000 years”, based on molecular clock data, which is incredibly sensitive to small errors in underlying assumptions, and hence should always have error bars. That ignores huge errors (both of these have actually been done), like using change rates for 1-year lifecycle organisms for 40-years lifecycle ones in the same area, or assuming that freshwater organisms on either side of a divide diverged when the mountains formed.
Are you talking about the Hadza people with mobile phones or the ones in the carbon offset market? LOL
I am not talking about the way some people use the adjective “civilized” for various groups of people. I am talking about changes in the whole human race seen in the difference in the way people live now compared to the way hominids lived millions of years ago. And regardless of philosophical arguments by such as Graeber, the measurable difference is the advent of agriculture.
And the point for me is that if Adam and Eve story is a significant event in human history then it should be somehow associated with the biggest changes in how human beings lived. Otherwise, who cares whether they existed or not? Is the communication with God and our relationship with God an insignificant detail or is it something which affects everything? If not then perhaps we should be giving all of our attention to science and none to religion.
What else could it be? Perhaps an inspired allegory about something real that happened in another time/space (“quantum field”?) i.e. outside of our Big Bang universe? In other words, reality may encompass more than our puny perspective.
Graeber’s brand of anthropology is actually a recommendation of yours, seriously? (occupy it!)
Mitchell’s views about human origins according to Judeo-Christian-Muslim Scriptures now appear much more “orthodox” than yours, Chris. (Although still being “open to it” means actually being “open to it”, not just as a token evangelicalistic claim.) Perhaps you prefer “liberal” or “autonomous” to “orthodox” when it comes to “private interpretations of Genesis”?
Maybe we would care because the big change has to do not with agriculture, but with the relationship between God and man. Food for thought.
As for agriculture, I would note this: Agriculture emerged in many locations across the globe almost simultaneously. The historical record thus contravenes the idea that a Near Eastern couple were the sole or primary inventors of agriculture.
I recall specifically stating that A&E HAD to have come AFTER the advent of agriculture. So I think you misunderstood the gist of what I was saying. The point is that changes before agricultural civilization had to be minor ones because the measurable a changes are clearly on a much slower time scale (more like an evolutionary time scale) compared to the changes afterwards.