From the Dust to the Dust

(Grant Aaron Taylor) #1

Hey guys, new to Biologos and new to the idea of Theistic Evolution. My question is if you take Genesis 2 as history, maybe not exclusively literal history but history none the less, then how do you interpret God making Adam “from the dust”. If this is a metaphor, what is it describing. Any help would be most welcome!

(Phil) #2

Great to have you here! You bring up a good question, and one that there are going to be a variety of positions taken by forum participants, but that is what makes it interesting.
Of the top of my head, in an astronomical sense, it is literally true in we are made of stardust, from elements forged in the heat of stars, but that is reading modern science into the text, which is really not proper interpretation.

When we get past that, some feel God created Adam as a special creation in the midst of a population of humans, and thus is “from the dust” while others feel that he was a chosen representative from that population, and being “from the dust” is something that is poetic and in fact is also said to be true of you and me when we read Psalm 103: 14"For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." as well as elsewhere in the scriptures. The latter interpretation is what I lean toward.

What is it describing? I would say it describes our being created by God through no work of our own, that it describes our humble beginning and humble ending, and our dependence on God for our very being.

As to whether you take Genesis 2 as being history, that depends on how you define history. I would suggest reading John Walton’s book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve. You may not agree with everything there, or everything here, but it is good food for thought.

(Grant Aaron Taylor) #3

Thanks for the response. Ill definitely check Walton’s book out. As it stands right now, by history I mean an account of things that literally happened. The account may be non-literal, but it is still an account of chronological events. I’m not yet sold on the idea that Adam and Eve are purely allegory, mainly because other Bible writers quote them so much. But I recently came to accept evolution, so I’m very open to new ideas at the moment. By the way, I’m really glad I found this site. Definitely had my ideas challenged in the best possible way!

(George Brooks) #4


You have to ask yourself what else would someone raised reading texts from Old Testament scrolls believe?

Jesus knew the scrolls. How would he know exactly which parts are historical and which are legends? Was Jesus born a carpenter, or did he have to learn the craft? If we proposed a time travel scenario, would Jesus already know how to drive a stick-shift sports car? Or would he have to learn it?

In the Book of Job, the writer describes snow and hail being stored in treasuries (warehouses) in the sky, until such time as God needed to use his supply. Were these things written because they were true? Or because that was the best estimate of reality at the time?

(Christy Hemphill) #5

Welcome, Grant Aaron. (I’m married to an Aaron Grant, so your name will be easy to remember.)

I like to read the Bible scholars who attempt to situate the narrative of Genesis in its cultural context and try to think about which concepts and expectations of the original audience the writer might have been tapping into by framing things the way he did. I don’t think Genesis 2 is “history” or “myth.” It is doing something different. It’s telling about a historical event (God establishing relationship with humans), but using a narrative style where the main objective is to communicate theological truth, not objective facts.

From what I have read in Longman’s and Walton’s books, the Genesis 2 account of the creation of Adam and Eve is similar in certain ways to creation stories from other religions and cultures of the ancient near east. That does not mean that the composer of the Genesis narrative “borrowed” from other literature or that Genesis 2 is not true. But, it does indicate that there were certain cultural expectations about how these creation narratives were expected to go. People were created out of stuff; clay, mud, dust. They were endowed with life because a deity breathed on them, or cried on, them or bled on them. That was just how the story was supposed to go. So I don’t necessarily think the “Adam was created out of dust” or God breathed in him the breath of life" part was extremely salient “new information” that carried all this deep significance and meaning. Maybe it was more of a signal or conceptual trigger that activated people’s expectations about what kind of narrative this was going to be and what questions it was going to answer. To a certain degree the narrative accommodated their expectations for how the story should go when it was setting the scene and providing the context for the important message. The important messages stand out because they diverge from the expectations.

(Bruce Holt) #6

Hi Grant!

Welcome to the BioLogos forum. I’m glad you found the site as well.

I do a lot more reading in the forum than writing, mainly because of time constraints, but I wanted to point you to a video that you might find helpful. Phil and Christy have already mentioned John Walton’s writings, and just a few days ago I was watching Walton’s presentation at the BioLogos conference in 2015: Investigating What the Bible Claims Concerning Adam and Eve. If you don’t think you’ll be able to get through Walton’s books soon or you just want a preview of his ideas, this could be a good place to start. I think the whole lecture is worth watching, but he specifically addresses your “from the dust” question starting at about the 20 minute mark.


(system) #7

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