Further musings on Adam and Eve

I posted earlier regarding Adam, Eve and the issues I found in trying to reconcile scientific understanding with Genesis. The original discussion is still here but locked from further comment due to having expired. I have read new information that has caused me to update my thoughts on the matter though. Namely, the book “Four views on the Historical Adam”, in which I found the Archetypal view almost completely convincing. All other views had far too many flaws to accept unfortunately, and I didn’t even bother reading the YEC viewpoint, naturally. I believe this post consists and discusses every sensible and relevant issue and understanding of Genesis to date.

Ultimately, I am still confused and bothered by my lack of a solid position to take on Genesis that reconciles what I know about both it and the World around me. No doubt this post will reflect that confusion. Perhaps no definite answer can be found? Perhaps I am making the terrible mistake of assuming that there can be a definite reconciliation? Another user here by the name of RalphDaveWestfall had this to say on the matter of Biblical interpretation:

“I see the Bible as a means of communication designed to project a saving message to all kinds of different people and groups over thousands of years–to male and female, intelligent or not, more or less educated, young and old, rich or poor, in all kinds of languages and cultures in different stages of civilization. It could serve that same purpose in the ancient world with a literal interpretation of Genesis, and in ours with an allegorical one.”

And now I am not entirely unconvinced that he is spot on. It is actually a brilliant view on the Bible and I have added it to my quotes collection. So whoever this user is, thank you.

There is also a new idea (to me) I have seen floating around this forum lately that suggests Adam and Eve were only ‘undying’ as they had direct access to the Tree of Life, and that they weren’t created as immortal beings. Once cut off from it their lives was no longer sustained and they experienced natural death. I am not sure if the Tree of Life was Jesus Christ Himself or a literal tree. It seems to me that the Tree of Life IS in fact God, and that dwelling with Him directly is how their lives were to continue indefinitely. But this would also make the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil a metaphor too. Fruit is consistently used as a metaphor or parable in the Bible, I see no reason not to seriously consider that the eating of the fruit in Eden was simply the process of reaping the wages of sin.

So in light of the new information and ideas I have discovered, I would like to state that the ideas I present here are just that, ideas, a way to fill the gaps in our understanding and find a snug fit between the Bible and our understanding of the World. I must also bring up a point that a John H. Walton addresses in a book titled ‘Four Views on the Historical Adam’, and that is the fact that ‘Adam’ is a Hebrew word and the Hebrew language did not exist during the time of any supposed individual in any garden of Eden who is referred to as ‘Adam’. Therefore Adam cannot be the actual name of the Man who, with his wife, committed the original sin. The Hebrew language was apparently formed sometime after the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The Exodus takes place chronologically AFTER the events in the Garden of Eden.
It is possible that Adam was not an actual individual but a representation of Mankind as a whole. Eve being the ‘daughter of all’ seems to suggest that she is also a representation.

However there are five FACTS regarding Genesis that must be listed and recognized before any reconciliation attempt between Genesis and our modern scientific understanding of Human origins can begin. And they are thus:

  1. The Genesis account exists.

  2. ‘Adam’ is a Hebrew name which belongs to a language that did not exist when the first sin was committed in Eden, therefore there was no individual specifically named ‘Adam’ in Eden.

  3. There was a first, original sin committed by Man as Man was not always around to commit it. Therefore the committing of sin by Man had a beginning.

  4. There must have been an individual later called Adam in the Hebrew language who was the biological father of an individual called Cain.

  5. Cain found a wife East of Eden in a land called Nod. Therefore other, non-related Humans existed separately from any literal Adam, Eve and their offspring.

Based on these five facts, I have come up with some ideas that fit what is written in the Genesis account with our modern understanding of the World around us. I am ALMOST entirely convinced that the forming of Adam from the dust of the Earth and any references to moulding man’s form like clay is entirely metaphorical and not to be taken literally. Though Jesus did use mud to heal a Man’s sight. And were it not for fact 4 listed above, I would be entirely convinced that Adam is indeed simply a term or archetype for Mankind as a whole.

My ideas:

“The Lord God formed the Man from the dust of the Earth. And breathed into his nostrils, the breath of life” - I am going to suggest here that it is entirely possible the singular being named Adam was specially created from the dust of the Earth as a miraculous event after other Humans had already come into being, after they had already evolved. After all the Bible states that God made Humans in Genesis 1 then made Adam in Genesis 2. I suggest that the purpose of an evolved race of Humans separate from Adam is to provide the genetic diversity required for Adam’s descendants to become “as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.”
Whether this is the case or not, one thing is certain… Cain found a wife East of Eden in a land called Nod. This confirms that other Humans existed separately from any literal Adam and Eve.
So the biblical text supports a special creation event of a single person called Adam that was created AFTER Humans had already been designed through the process of evolution, perhaps as the first Man with the characteristics to begin a special, intimate relationship with God in Eden? The first Human being created with the special ability to reason and learn right from wrong, to think and communicate in a higher manner than his fellow Humans outside of Eden and able to worship and love God. Created with access to abundant life by direct connection to God. I have no doubt the general population of Human Beings were intelligent, able to craft tools and shelters etc. But they were not like Adam. I would suggest that these original Humans were the primitive Hominids found in the fossil record and traces of which are found in our own DNA Today. Perhaps they hybridised with Adam’s offspring through unions like Cain’s and his wife’s, creating a new sub-species of which we are all a part of Today. This would explain how we have our God-given characteristics that separate us from animals and our genetic variety as a species.
How much time passed between the making of Man and the special creation of Adam is unknown to me but seeing as though Adam was tasked with tending the fields and tilling the ground, because no one else could do it at that point, it is reasonable to suggest the fall of Man occurred around the Neolithic dawn. This is also when towns and villages started cropping up, when Man went from being Nomadic to settling down in one area and building permanent residences. And it is written that Cain built a city and named it Enoch, after his son.

But returning to Genesis 2, God states that “it is not good for the Man to be alone”. This may also be referring to an individual Man specially created, a Man named Adam. God decides Adam needs a helper. The helper is not specified as Human like Him yet, a helper can be anything, like a Dog helps a Man on a farm. So God brings all the creatures He had made for Adam to name them. “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals”. The creatures God brings to Adam may very well have been creatures God also specially created for the garden of Eden, and not all the creatures he made throughout the Planet. But whatever the case there, none of them were what Adam yearned for. So God took Adam’s rib and made a female like Adam named Eve. Eve was created from Adam, flesh of his flesh and blood of his blood so that their bond was immediately apparent and special. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
It is possible the outside Human beings did not have such deep and meaningful relationships prior to Adam and Eve. They may not have been monogamous prior to Adam and Eve beginning this concept. Cain could very well have introduced the concept to the other Humans when he chose his wife from among them, or perhaps only Adam, Eve and their blood descendants were and are able to think and feel so highly?
However where does original sin fit into that? It is possible that before Adam and Eve, Perhaps Humans simply acted as other creatures do, unable to sin, only acting out of survival, out of necessity, because sin had not entered into the World at that point? There would have been no way for a Human Being’s actions to be good or evil yet. So sin also introduced the concept of judgement. There was no way to judge a Man for killing another until sin entered the World and created the distinction between right and wrong, between killing and murder. Their descendants however were awoken to the fact that killing could be murder and murder was wrong, and so to continue to perform such an action when it was now known to be wrong became sin. Just as a child can perform a horrible act but not be judged because it does not know better, however when that child learns the difference between right and wrong, it can be judged for continuing to perform those horrible acts. Romans 5:13 would seem to agree when it says: “for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” Perhaps sin pre-existed in some form as potential but was only really born when the first, direct and knowing disobedience was committed? The actual act was sin and from then sin was? Like evil existing because good exists BECAUSE there is a distinction between the two? Perhaps even after Adam and Eve caused sin to enter the World, it took some time for it to spread, as there would still have been many Humans still ignorant of good and evil? I would suggest that sin was bred into Humanity through Adam, Eve and their descendants. And the pure, outside Humans remaining continued to live and die as they always had up until they became extinct. This may help explain why innocent Babies still die though they have not committed any sin themselves.
But to continue Genesis 2’s account, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” because sin had not entered into the World yet, nakedness was not considered anything special, anything to become excited over. It was simply the absence of clothing which was only used then to keep warm. Perhaps Humans were still hairy then and actually required no clothes at that point? Perhaps clothing was developed post-fall? Perhaps clothing was already being worn by other, outside Humans and only gained a second purpose of hiding genitals after Adam and Eve sinned? Whatever it was, God seemed to think they would need clothing outside Eden as he made for them garments.
Adam and Eve would have lost their ‘undying’ status upon eating the fruit and eventually died as other Humans did and do throughout time. Or perhaps what died that very day was their spiritual life? As mentioned above, perhaps the fruit was simply the reaping of the wages of sin, and not a literal fruit? Perhaps the Tree of Life was God Himself? In any case, it seems they were initially created as fully developed adults. As awful as death is, it is essential for a corrupt entity to never live forever lest the corruption they sow would also never end. Perhaps their connection to the Tree of Life had lasting effects on them which allowed extended life spans that got lesser and lesser throughout the generations of their descendants? Perhaps there was some kind of gene that was slowly bred out?

So in light of this musing and to summarise, Human Beings came about via a process called evolution. I find it reasonable to believe Human Beings were at that time like children or other creatures in their minds and unable to identify right from wrong and therefore unable to sin, even if they performed actions that are now known as sinful.
It is possible God then specially created a unique being named Adam from the dust of the Earth in a single, miraculous event and separated him from the rest of Humanity to live in a place called Eden. God then decided Adam required a helper and after presenting him candidates, none of which were deemed suitable by Adam, God specially created Eve from Adam. The Two lived in the garden of Eden until they ate of the forbidden fruit (whether a literal or metaphorical event) and sin entered the World through this act of disobedience.
They were then banished from Eden, and cast out into the rest of the World where they struggled for survival as other Humans did at that time. But God did not completely abandon them. They had children who grew up knowing God and knowing good and evil as their parents did. One of which was named Cain, who chose from the other Humans in the outside World a wife for himself, introducing his inherited characteristics into his children. Thus a new, hybrid race of Humanity was born which outlasted the previous. Perhaps there is a connection to the sons of God taking wives from the daughters of Men somewhere here. This new race could be the one we are a part of. Less than Adam and Eve yet more than the rest of Humanity once was. Acutely aware of and able to choose between good and evil, able to worship God and able to truly love. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned–”.

Is it reasonable to believe that both Adam and the outside population were all Human species, but Adam was specially created to introduce a new race into the mix, with new characteristics not found in the outside population itself, through unions such as Cain’s and his wife’s. Thus the outside population was basically a farm of genetic diversity to keep us from becoming inbred. Cain carried Adam’s characteristics which he spread by choosing a wife from the outside population and having children of which would have done the same thing too. Rinse and repeat. In the end, Adam’s line, the outside population and the offspring of the mix of the two would all have been Human, but only those with Adam’s genes carried the new characteristics of the Humanity God wanted us to be. Surely this wouldn’t be considered a ‘genetic bottleneck’? Just the dawn of a new race? The long life spans would have assured there would be many individuals at once.

I cannot but conclude that either Adam was a special creation event, separate from the rest of Man as a literal individual, or Genesis is non-literal, poetic writing of no real use in the origins debate. But this causes a lot of possible issues for Paul’s theology in Romans… “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned–” Paul obviously maintains that Adam was a literal person.
The only problem I see is what Paul means when he states “and in this way death came to all people”. What kind of ‘death’ is he referring to? We would be mad to accept that physical death did not occur before Adam and Eve sinned, death has been around since the first lifeforms ceased to live, so what is the meaning of this statement? Is he talking about spiritual death? But were the outside population spiritual creatures? Perhaps only Adam, Eve, their children and the offspring of their children were spiritual creatures?
If that is correct then Paul must only be referring to the descendants of Adam and our physical deaths. If Adam never sinned, then the outside Human population would have never been required. Only existing as a fall back plan in case God’s new race failed, the fall back plan that would have ended up being enacted upon because Adam DID sin and God had prepared for it. So I suppose God knew all along that we were always going to sin. And as a result, death became a curse for all Adam’s descendants, It is in our very genes and can be traced all the way back to the original sin. If this were not so, then Infants which have never known the law and therefore never sinned would never die.
Of course all of this could be avoided if, as I mentioned at the beginning of this paper, Adam and Eve were merely archetypes, representations of mankind as a whole and not literal people, but the problem with that view is three-fold:

  1. Wherever they are mentioned in the Bible, they are spoken of as if they were individuals.

  2. Adam being the biological father of Cain and Abel.

  3. Paul’s theology seems to depend on them being literal people.

However, considering what I wrote earlier regarding sin having not always been committed by man as man was not always around to commit it. There is still the fact that there must have been a first sin committed originally after which all other sinful acts followed. It is therefore reasonable to suggest that Paul is referencing this first sin committed by an ‘Adam’ (Man) when he is making his comparison between Adam and Christ. So whoever this first sinner was, is perhaps who Paul is speaking about?

I do have trouble accepting that God specially created Adam from the literal dust of the Earth in a miraculous event. Especially when the rest of Humanity had been made through the process we call evolution. It seems to me that God could have simply created all Men in this miraculous event. But he did not, so why would He have done so for Adam? The more I learn, the less I believe that He created Adam this way at all. Perhaps the dust of the Earth passage is a metaphorical reference to how all living things were made. From the base elements found in the Earth? Perhaps Adam was simply chosen apart as the best and brightest of Man at the time? Chosen to receive the characteristics that would eventually, through mixed breeding or revelation, separate Man from the animals. After all, primitive Hominids were more or less just intelligent animals. They showed no signs of being any more intelligent than say, Porpoises, only they had opposable thumbs, Porpoises do not. Perhaps it was only through Adam that we became something more…?

And what about the Neanderthals who lived alongside of sapiens for tens of thousands of years, who went extinct 40,000 years ago, and which most of us have 1 to 2% of their genes from cross breeding?

Good luck. I’ve read a considerable number of pages on this topic and have decided no one’s “answer” is ever satisfying on all levels. You have to prioritize something, whether it’s biblical inerrancy, NT references to Adam and Eve, the concept of Fall and Original Sin, ANE literature studies, anthropology, genetics… and proceed from there.

I think it was Walton in a column here said maybe we should move away from talking about scenarios as right or wrong interpretations and start calling them more preferable or less preferable interpretations.

What do you prioritize @Find_My_Way?

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Exactly Patrick. I talk about this extensively in my ‘theory’ which I have provided above, though I understand if you missed it in the massive wall of text :slight_smile: I would love a better reconciliation however. If one can be proffered.

I can’t prioritize. I need them all to fit together. If the Bible shows itself to be in error, then Christianity in my eyes has died. If Modern science is waved aside in favour of the Bible, then we have died intellectually…

Not going to happen. But have at it, anyway. I think you’ll be disappointed, because from the outset, you have tied the life of Christianity to an errorless Bible. (Who is going to be the arbiter of what counts as an error?) The life of Christianity is in Christ, the Person the Bible reveals.

Your timeline is way off. For the most accurate update timeline see Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari - Google Books

What presuppositions do you have about the Bible? You can’t really evaluate what the Bible says in some objective vacuum. What is it for? Who is it for? How does God communicate through it? What constrains our access to its Truth? What authority do its truth claims have? What exegetical approaches are valid ones for getting at those truth claims? In what way is it inspired and infallible and in what way is it a human product? Until you’ve really thought through and come clean about your doctrine of Scripture and what it’s based on, it doesn’t really make sense to ask what Scripture says about Adam and Eve. Any given person’s take away of “what Scripture says” about them is largely a reflection of what they believe about the Bible in the first place.

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Thanks! I’ll look into this book. As long as it isn’t diseased with personal bias and a hatred for God from the get go. I don’t doubt my timeline is off. My ‘theory’ is merely a collection of possible explanations. The finer details are up for correction. I don’t make claims for that exact reason, everything I bring up is merely a suggestion.
I would still try to incorporate the banishment from Eden with the rise of the Agricultural Revolution though, it seems to fit with what is written in Genesis.

Maybe you could take a crack at it even though you don’t believe it, you know, for curiosity’s sake? I’d be interested if an Atheist could try and fit history together with Genesis. Think of it as a fan theory people make up for their favourite stories or films :wink:

If it is true, and supposed to be taken as truth, then it MUST fit with reality. Any interpretation that does not fit with reality MUST be false. And if there is NO interpretation that fits with reality then the Bible itself must be false.

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The book was written in 2015 and is the compilation of the latest scientific works done in archaeology, genetics, and history.

Even as a young Catholic in parochial school in the 1960s, the nuns taught Genesis was an allegory. Catholics know that Genesis isn’t a history book and certainly not a science book. To me, it seems senseless to try to take what we learned in geology, archaeology, genetics and other sciences and fit it into a literal read of genesis. Why waste your time on this? If you are interest in history study history. If you are interested in geology, study geology. Pick a subject you are interested in and study it. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

@Find_My_Way Sure. But whose reality does it need to fit? If the Genesis account fits an ancient reality and a spiritual reality but not necessarily a modern scientific reality or a literal historical reality, then can we decide it doesn’t fit reality? Privileging modern scientific presuppositions about reality is picking a priority.

The way I see it, all attempts to make Genesis 1-2 literally harmonize with traditional systematic interpretations of Paul (Fall, Original Sin), modern genetics, evolutionary anthropology, and Western conceptual constructs of the immortal human soul and hypotheses concerning its advent all end up pounding square pegs into round holes.

Genesis doesn’t explain or speak to all we know about science or theology or answer every question we put to it. It speaks to what it speaks to.

I think it may have been an interpretive mistake when we (Christians historically) started assuming that “image bearing” and “having an immortal soul” were one and the same thing.

I also think it may be an interpretive mistake to associate “sin” coming into the world with the dawn of moral consciousness. I think sin has to do with law and rebellion and accountability and covenant-breaking. Until God chose to relate covenantally with humanity and made clear his “law” and they made their rebellion official, there was no sin, even though there probably was immorality.

Paul on Adam makes more sense to me if he is interpreted along the lines proposed by some of the people advocating New Perspective. This view departs from traditional Reformed and Lutheran interpretations and focuses on Jewish conceptions of law, grace, and membership in God’s chosen people. It is a more corporate than individual theology. Jim Stump has a nice summary of N.T. Wright on Paul, Adam, and biblical authority that you might find interesting. Of all I have read on historical Adam, I personally appreciate Wright’s approach best. He is a genius, an amazing scholar, and over it all he has a pastoral heart. http://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/nt-wright-and-the-historical-adam-reviewing-surprised-by-scripture-part-2

I suppose then that my priority is modern science. Seeing as that is free from superstition and, when conducted properly, personal bias. I can trust that science reveals the one, true reality we live in. Therefore I suppose whatever I am to believe in the Bible must fit or somehow be reconciled to that.

N.T Wright has an interesting approach. Perhaps I should just accept that one? It seems to match the quote from the Biologos forumite I added to my OP. I’m going to edit my ‘theory’ and erase parts that are out of my league in understanding. I will keep the interesting concepts however, as I believe some have merit. For example the part on original sin. I still maintain there must have been an original sin as there was not always a vessel for it to be committed through here. Therefore the committing of sin had to have a beginning.

It’s worth reading up on at least. There are really smart people on both sides of the “There is a God/the Bible true” vs. “There is no God/The Bible is a collection of ancient nonsense” debate. That’s one reason I think the whole idea that if a person rationally examines the evidence, the one right and intellectually tenable position will be obvious is suspect. If it were really that obvious, geniuses would all come to the similar conclusions. Seeing that they don’t, and seeing that you are starting from the Christian side of things, it makes sense to me to find some of the smartest Christians you can find and let them do the heavy lifting, intellect-wise. They are also the ones that are going to interact most honestly with the geniuses on the other side, instead of just engaging in straw man and ad hominen arguments that essentially preach to the choir. Life is short. We don’t have time to figure out everything for ourselves from scratch. Sometimes you just have to decide who you are going to trust to digest it for you and go with that. I have never read a Wright book I did not find fascinating.

And yeah, I agree that you need to do something to address the idea of original sin. Even if you nuance it away from all the entailments its picked up over the course of Christian thought, I’m not comfortable with theologians who just wave their hands and make that concept go away from the New Testament.

Another book you might find good food for thought in is Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism. It’s not about Adam per se, and it can get kind of repetitive (I think the chapters were meant to stand alone to some degree so profs could use just one chapter of the book in a class, but that means that a certain amount of the material is repeated from chapter to chapter). It seems like some of the issues that you are struggling with concerning reconciling the character of God with the notions of divine providence and foreknowledge and sin and the problem of evil relate specifically to how they are presented in some forms of Reformed theology. Olson does a nice job laying out the issues and discussing them from a different perspective.

I have found that more often than not, personal bias and desire come into these conclusions more than an honest following of the argument. Take Dawkins for example, the man DESPISES God. He is obsessed with his hatred for the very idea and as a result, his arguments and position reflect the fact that he simply does not WANT to accept God’s existence. His credibility is shaken due to his mindless hatred and he often resorts to ad hominem attacks and ignorant claims. Preaching to the choir is EXACTLY what Dawkins does. His biggest followers are those just like him, ignorant and hateful.
I don’t want to be like that.

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Well, I wouldn’t put Dawkins in the category of genius, at least in the field of philosophy. He should have stuck with biology.

I have actually never read Dawkins, though I did read parts of Alvin Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies that interacted with Dennett, Dawkins, and Kitcher. He didn’t make them sound very impressive. But I guess I am in the choir. :smile:

Great statement! You live in 2016 and your children’s’ lives will extend into the 22nd century. Help them learn the science and encourage them to use their minds to do great things. And along the way great things will come out of science that will improve you life, your wife’s life and your children’s and grand children’s lives.

Take a look at Dawkin’s “the Magic of Reality”. It was written by Dawkins for children your son’s age. It is fantastic.
You and your son would enjoy it. And no, you (or your son) won’t catch atheism from it. :grinning:

You know I’m already in trouble because I let him watch Cosmos and then he went around saying he wanted to be a cosmologist like Niel deGrasse Tyson when he grew up. I’d probably get kicked out of my nice Evangelical organization if my kid went around saying he wanted to be a biologist like Richard Dawkins when he grew up. If anyone saw that book on my shelf, I’d have let him watch some nice episodes of Jonathan Park Creation Adventures to do penance and restore my good name. But maybe if we see it at the library sometime, we’ll sneak a peak… I do have a kid’s book with an intro by Jerry Coyne, that’s bad enough.

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Your description of the Christians around you Christy, is a part of what I call the civil war of Christian theology. And why I no longer go to Church or maintain fellowship with believers.
Running from challenges and knowledge unless it conforms to their pre-conceived notions… Singling out those who don’t… Limiting the information their children have access to instead of letting them truly learn and think for themselves… I mean, I could totally understand if you never bothered to help your child gain access to a book on the healing properties of crystals and Reiki… Because that stuff actually is absolute nonsense. But the fact Dawkins is an ignorant and obsessed bigot when it comes to God and theology, does not cancel out the fact he is a brilliant biologist and your child could learn a lot about the natural World from his works on just that subject.