How do you Reconcile Evolution with Genesis?

I think the names of those two trees in the Garden of Eden shout symbolism louder than anything else in the Bible, BUT I think all of Genesis is meant to be taken as essentially historical. So…

  1. Original Sin: Yes this is a story about the fall of man and our separation from God. But no, not the beginning of the homo-sapiens species.
  2. God made us from the stuff of earth, but there was no language for atoms and molecules, only the word “dust” and that was sufficient for the story being told. But through most of the Bible the “breath of life” means the word of God, and so instead of magic animating golems, the story I see being told is one of God speaking to those he adopted to raise as His children.
  3. I do not see Adam as a metaphor but as a real person. But while the middle east may be the home of the first civilization, the species migrated from southern Africa.
  4. The virgin birth is not inconsistent with science, we know very well that pregnancy only requires fertilization not sexual intercourse. And as for the resurrection I am with Paul who takes great pains to explain in 1 Cor 15 that this is a bodily resurrection to a SPIRITUAL body and definitely NOT a physical body.
  5. There is really only one substantial difference between man and the animals and it is not in the genetics or the brain but in the use of an abstraction capable language. That could well have come directly from God when He spoke to Adam and Eve.
  6. Sin is a matter of bad habits which are destructive of essential things like our freedom of will and our willingness to learn. But the real problem was the no-win situation we created which made God’s presence in our lives do more harm than good – it is really the only thing which can drive a wedge between a parent and his children. By blaming God for what happened we turned God from our best helper to the perfect scapegoat by which we could avoid all responsibility for our own lives.
  7. Physical death was always a part of life even in the Garden of Eden story where God told them that they would die if they ate the fruit. And I do say that the death which resulted was a spiritual death, for if your spirit is dead then when you die what is left of you but dust? You can suppose there is shadow or a ghost, but without life, how is that really any more than a badly blurred photograph.
  8. Evolution is about the origin of the biological SPECIES. But I do not equate that with humanity. If we only consider biology then we are just one of the animals. It is the mind which makes us human and that comes from very different inheritance than the DNA of biology – it is from all the media of human communication, meme life rather than gene life. As for the human spirit, I am again with Paul in 1 Cor 15 who says the physical body is first and THEN the spiritual body, which can be loosely connected with the existentialist maxim of existence (body) before essence (spirit).
  9. There is no direction inherent in the mechanism of evolution except that of survival, but the environment and its changes does impose some requirements. Obviously the great diversity of the species means this is very far from any kind of unitary direction. But none of this means that God did not have an objective, though that objective was likely very far from any narcisistic/racist anthropomorphic obsession with the homo-sapiens form. His objective was more likely to be simply someone to communicate with so he could share a heritage of love and goodness with them.
  10. I think making this “image of God” stuff into something about our physical form is pathetically anthropomorphic. Personally I believe the real image of God is already there to a great degree (good) in the nature of life itself: our infinite potentiality to His infinite actuality. The reason is, this makes for a perfect relationship of love where we can receive all that he has to give. But then you can say the image only comes into focus (very good) when we are capable of communication so that God can share of Himself with us more directly.

This is an assumption. Also, to say that “nothing in Genesis” should be taken literally is an overstatement. Are we talking Genesis 1, Genesis 1-3, Genesis 1-11, or the entirety of the book?

He did. Genesis 2:7. In the Old Testament, life is manifested in the breath, which comes from the Spirit of God. This is true of both people and animals, since both come from the ground (Gen. 1:24, 2:7) and both owe their lives to the spirit/breath/wind of God (Gen. 7:14-15). Gen. 2:7 essentially teaches that we, like the animals, are made of earth and owe our lives (breath) to God, our Creator (cf. Ecc. 3:18-22).

Because the author was imitating the style of the Sumerian king lists to make a larger point.

Now, a question for you: If Adam was the name of a literal man, why does the author consistently refer to him as ha’adam, “the man,” in the garden story? Why not call him by his God-given name, Adam?

Apples and oranges. I believe in the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ based on the testimony of the witnesses, the testimony of the Hebrew prophets, the testimony of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit to my heart and mind.

It depends what you mean by “the ability to tell” such things, and there is a concept known as “co-evolution” that you are missing.

What about a day-old infant who dies suddenly?

Gen. 3:16 says that the consequences of “the woman’s” sin was increased pain in childbirth, yet that has been part of the human condition since we first developed big brains and stood on two feet. (Big heads passing through narrower hips = ouch!) One of the primary functions of an origins myth is to explain “how we got to now.” This should serve as a clue to the genre of Genesis 2-3, but evangelicals have signed an oath not to let the word “myth” pass their lips …

A primate that had all the physical, intellectual, and emotional traits of a modern human would be a modern human, by definition. As for the “without a soul” thing, here is another view from an evangelical OT scholar:


In the 17th century, “man” was a pretty good translation of Adam. But to most people today, the first thing that pops to mind for “man” is… a man. And that’s definitely not the primary meaning of 'adam.

The typical Hebrew word for “man” is ish, and the Hebrew word for “woman” is ishah. When the Eden account first deals with characters of both sexes, it switches from using 'adam (actually ha’adam, which is 'adam with the definite article) to using ish and ishah (Genesis 2:23-24). The reason is that 'adam doesn’t really specify sex. It specifies species or kind: humanity or a human. While ish and ishah naturally pair to speak of man and woman, the normal counterpart for 'adam is behemah (beast): human and beast (e.g. Exodus 12:12; 13:2; Leviticus 27:28; Numbers 31:11).

There are a few places where it’s easy to see how 'adam isn’t really about sex/gender. For instance, there’s a law in Numbers 5:6 that starts “When a man [ish] or a woman [ishah] wrongs another ['adam]…”. The words ish and ishah show that the law applies to both sexes. The word 'adam shows that it deals with wronging any other human, regardless of gender. (Or, given another reading reflected in some translations, it deals with any wrongs that humans tend to do, not just wrongs specific to men as opposed to women.)

Another good example comes just after the great flood in Genesis 9:6. It uses a wordplay with dam (blood):

Whoever sheds the dam of 'adam,
by 'adam shall his dam be shed,
for God made the 'adam in his own image.

This isn’t just a command about killing men. It applies to women too! And while the first two references to 'adam refer to specific individuals (the victim and the executioner), the last refers to humanity as a whole.

So, the problem with defining 'adam as “man” is that it makes it sound like it refers to a man. Usually the word refers to humanity, and often it refers to any person, regardless of gender. To refer to a person with a focus on their humanity, 'adam is the word. By contrast, ish focuses on a person’s maleness and geber focuses on a person’s virility/masculinity.

As for the proper name, it’s hard to be definitive on where it’s used. Different translations see it first appearing in different places, since there’s nothing about the grammar that makes it definitive. The only place 'adam is stated to be a name is Genesis 5:2, but here it doesn’t refer to an individual (it refers to all humanity, male and female). So even when 'adam is a proper noun, it’s not necessarily the name of an individual man!


In the 17th century, “man” was a pretty good translation of Adam. But to most people today, the first thing that pops to mind for “man” is… a man. And that’s definitely not the primary meaning of 'adam.

Yes, I agree with this, ha’adam refers to humanity, not just men. But the word man can also mean humankind. My point remains, of course, that the fact that Adam’s name is the generic Hebrew word for man (or humanity if you like) and Eve is equally generic is a big giveaway that we’re not dealing with literal texts,


I feel Adam was a real person , death existed before Adam , the tree of life being an actual tree giving temporary correction to cellular decay .
As long as the fruit of the tree of life was eaten regularly , the cells didn’t decline in regeneration .

The sin wasn’t the aquiring of knowledge , but disobedience .

There is a line of thought that , had Moses not struck the rock , Christ’s death by crucifixion may have been avoided .

Resurrections still happen , often explained away with phrases like " the mind has an amazing ability to heal itself "…etc …

The Yale ( if memory serves ) baby study suggest babies 6 months old have a sense of morality ( right and wrong ) , possible even as young as 3 months old , even born with a knowledge of "good and evil "…

Everyone dies , not everyone is guaranteed a reprieve from the second death …( Christ’s gift to mankind /eternal life ) …

No first human ? Not sure that can be true , since evolution tends toward specific lineages /bloodlines …

Sorry for the brevity , I’m traveling over the highways at the moment .

After answering this question above in a list of answers to the questions in the OP, another thread has given me reason to answer this question in another form, as a homiletic narrative discussing how I understand the first part of Genesis. But I started with a preface about what went before in order to address the reasons why God did what he did, and I put that here.

So13.8 billion years ago (according to our measure of time), God created a place, time, and rules of automation we humans call the laws of nature, which incidentally made no distinction between substance and action (both matter and motion are forms of energy). So His very action was sufficient to provide whatever substance was required. And the rules provided for sufficient complexity for self-organizing processes to appear everywhere. But only in some places, and we don’t know for sure how rare they are, were the conditions right for the self-organizing process in biochemistry to acquire the ability to learn, grow, and adapt to changes in the environment – such as we call life.

Genesis says that God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. Now some might read this visually like a comic book, but what I read here is quite different: God formed our bodies from the stuff of the earth by the laws of its nature and then He spoke to us and brought our minds to life. What can I say? I am a scientist and that is how see the world, and thus it is only natural that this would be part of how I read the Bible also.

Now living things do not learn in a vacuum, so God could play the role of farmer to the plants and shepherd to the animals and finally when one arose capable of communication then God could be their teacher and parent. So He adopted Adam and Eve as His children. But as children grow, they cannot remain toddlers forever where you guard them from every danger. There comes a time when they must learn to be responsible for their own well being. Thus the parent makes this transition with a parental command something like, “do not play in the street, or you will die.”

In this case the parental command was about eating the fruit of one of two trees with names that frankly do not sound like biological species: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. While some choose to take this parable literally so they will not be in too much danger of learning something profound, I am willing to take my “talent” and invest a little thought to see where it will take me. The tree of life is easier for there are other references in the Bible. In Proverbs 3:18 it means wisdom. In Proverbs 11:30 it is the reward for righteousness. In Proverbs 13:12, it is a desire fulfilled. In Proverbs 15:4 it is a gentle tongue. In Revelations 2:7, eating of it is equated with being in the paradise of God. In Rev 22:2 it is a tree with many fruits which provide for the healing of all the nations. Adam and Eve were not forbidden to eat of this tree, and yet they did not eat of it. Why? As an evangelical Christian I would tend to sum all these things given in these passages in these words: developing a personal relationship with God. But whatever words you use, clearly these are things which are not so easy to acquire as reaching up and plucking a fruit from a tree.

Is it any surprise that doing the wrong thing represented by the other tree was different in this way. Doesn’t always seem so much easier to stumble and fall? Unfortunately we do not have help on the meaning of the other tree in the rest of the Bible. But we can take a clue from the first tree, and suppose that it also refers to something quite different from a magical fruit in a fairy tale. Well how about the actual words, “the knowledge of good and evil.” They seem rather puzzling. Why would a knowledge of good and evil be a bad thing? Isn’t the the objective of all our preachers in all our churches to teach us precise the same thing – to give us a knowledge of good and evil? Well in the context of the story this knowledge about good and evil sound like the other one – the tree of life, wisdom and all that. But remember, the tree of life wasn’t so easy to partake of. This leads me to ask whether there is shortcut people might take which is not a such good thing. Suppose the other tree represents getting the authority to say what is good and evil without having to go through the trouble of actually gaining any wisdom on the matter? Is that a troublesome enough thing to explain evil in the world?

Well… what comes to my mind when I think of this question is the Roman emperor Nero, who was declared god over the known world and dictator on all that was to be accepted as good or evil in the empire. Yikes! That looks like BIG trouble to me indeed. But what about Adam and Eve? What in the world could they do which would be like Nero being appointed emperor of the world? See that is the one of the complaints I often hear about this story. Why is there this poison fruit sitting in the middle of this garden which God made for His children. Well not only is it not a poison fruit, but I would suggest it is a part of them, in which case, being in the garden is unavoidable. And like the road which parents typically warn their children about, it has a very important function. The parental commandment “not to play in the road” isn’t meant to be forever. Can you see where this logic is leading? What is something which is a part of them, and which they will need in the future, but will put them in a position of authority on good and evil without having to actually learn this wisdom? Well they can be parents can’t they and if they do, doesn’t that put them in a position of authority? But does this necessarily mean they have any real wisdom?

So after their mistake, what happens? God goes to Adam and asks for an accounting. God gave him the commandment so he is the responsible party. And what is Adam’s reply? “It was that woman you gave me!” Pass the blame – modus-operandi for all human kind ever since. Where is Adam’s love for God and Eve? Nowhere in sight. Hardly surprising that Eve follows the same pattern. And where does God lay the blame? On all three of them, though just like a parent the whole purpose of the punishment distributed is to address their errors. To Adam, God is basically saying, you are on your own, cause from now on there is nobody to blame but yourself for anything which goes wrong. To Eve the message seems to be about paying more attention to her husband and about taking the matter of having children a very seriously. And what about the snake, also known as the angel Lucifer. What was that all about? Well Adam and Even wanted to pass the blame, so God gave them a real adversary. Responsibility and power go hand in hand. If you pass the blame then you give someone power over you.

Does this sound like I am finding the snake blameless? You betcha. An angel, as a product of design, is nothing but a tool – a servant. I am sure he was just doing his job to provide challenges to living things so they could learn and grow. Like a computer it might do a passable imitation of free will, but mostly it is only in interactions with people that they become unpredictable. BUT, if Adam and Eve want an adversary and someone to blame then far better that they should have Lucifer in this role, because blaming God will only bring disaster. Thus I find it rather amusing that Lucifer is typically given many goat-like features, for he is essentially a scapegoat. However, do not make the mistake of thinking that any of this means I have one iota of sympathy for this creature. I do not. It may be a role to which he has been assigned, but this doesn’t change what he represents. He is the personification of evil, and for evil I have nothing but contempt. BUT I do not believe in him as I believe in God. I will credit that he exists. But I will not credit him with the slightest responsibility for anything.

I take it you interpret the snake as an angelic being. I am not so sure, as the text itself does not indicate that, but acts as though it is just another animal, though more cunning than the rest. As I see it as figurative, I see the snake as our inner tendency toward sin and selfishness. If the garden is seen as a period of innocence, this would represent the turning point when self realization and the ability to choose right and wrong developed. That leaves open what the curse on the snake meant, but have not thought that through.

Yes. The passage from which the name “Lucifer” is derived is pathetically weak since it seems to be talking about a human king. But it is just a name given to this angel by tradition. But… in Genesis he is given the name of “adversary” or Satan, and in Revelation, it identifies the devil and Satan with an ancient serpent who is called the deceiver of the whole world (elsewhere he is called the father of lies). And it says he was he was a leader of angels who was cast out of heaven. Of course you might complain that Revelation is a dubious place upon which to base too much theology and I would agree.

Well at least you are not expecting me to take this to be referring to a talking animal. And the yes the biggest problem with your attempt to internalize this is that the curse definitely treats this as an actual being of some kind.

In my interpretation, I try to weave a middle path between the extremes of making the story into complete metaphor and the other extreme of complete literalism. On this path I see considerable liberty for taking both science and Christianity very seriously.

Interesting approach, though at times when trying to find the middle ground, more problems arise and neither view is satisfactorily explained. Not that we shouldn’t try, as a hybrid view may allow participants on both sides to hold their positions yet still agree in part. Blessed are the peacemakers…


The snake with it’s split tongue is a symbol for deception, thus chosen as a symbol of an adversary to truth.
With a scientific background I also read the bible in a way that it makes sense in a logically coherent framework, as I perceive God as a logician and not as a magician.
Once you see the fall as a poetic description of puberty, e.g. eating from the tree of self-realisation to make your own judgements you realize that there is no punishment by the God towards humanity but that becoming mortal is the logical consequence of realizing your material self and therefore separating yourself from the eternal existence in God.

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I appreciate those who read the bible allegorically. The bible is rich with symbolism but so many I encounter in real life read it literally, almost as if it was a contract they held with God spelling out what is owed to each party.

Interesting. I’ve always thought it made more sense to see God in His capacity as creator as wielding skill and knowledge rather than just a being whose wishes were magically fulfilled. But I find very little interest in such a view among Christians either in real life or on line. I think the reason most refuse to see God as skillfully manipulating materials and events is they just refuse to see God as operating negotiating any intrinsic restraints.

Personally I don’t think of God as having any hand in cosmic creation, but only in our own and even there on an individual basis. That turns out to be way too little to count as God at all for most. But I am content.

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The problem with most humans is that they think God ought to fulfill their wishes. God does not have to “negotiate restraints” as he put them in place. Considering the universe to operate coherent on unified laws, the origin of those laws suggest agency of a metaphysical kind. It is not logically coherent to postulate a God only as a creator of humanity as it would not be a creator God but a created God, as he would had a preceding cause, e.g.being in need of a creator or God’s God so your God becomes a finite thus time dependent element and a God that can not have created the universe thus not responsible for the order on which it operates. That opens several cans of worms.

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This is one of the few times you and i agree!

I can’t see how human evolution can be reconciled with Genesis 2:7, which describes how Adam was created from inanimate matter. If Adam was the living offspring of a pre-existing creature (in accordance with theistic evolution), why does this verse say he ‘became a living being’ after God breathed life into him? Are we to believe that after Adam was born to his mother, God then breathed life into him and he ‘became a living being’? The words of this verse makes sense only if Adam was created from inanimate matter, imo.

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And yet I have never read it that way. The truth is that we always come to a text with a filter of preconceptions in the way we give meaning to the combination of words. I was a scientist when I came to the text and it never occurred to me to think of God as some kind of ancient necromancer making magical golems of dust and bone. So when I read Genesis 2:7, it meant God created the body of man from the stuff of the earth according to its nature and then He spoke to the man and gave life to the mind. The plain fact is that science is part of the way I see the world and thus a text contrary to findings of evolution would only be intelligible as a fantasy story. I wasn’t looking for a fantasy story when I read the Bible so I didn’t see anything contrary to evolution.

I suppose you can ask what the people 2000 years ago saw when they read this text. I am quite sure they saw nothing contrary to evolution either. :grinning:

Because the body alone is not what makes us a human being.

I believe that God spoke to Adam and thereby brought the human mind to life. It was a life that could be communicated with others by human speech so it spread to others far faster than offspring or genetics.

Adam was created from inanimate matter by a process that took over 3 billion years.

Welcome, Edgar – thanks for sharing your views, and I can understand how this poses an issue to making sense of Genesis. Personally, I would compare Genesis 2:7 to Genesis 3:20 where Adam names his wife Eve because “she would become the mother of all the living.” Since this clearly doesn’t mean that Eve is the mother of all animals and plants, I think it’s safe to assume that “living” here means something less broad than the current scientific definition of “life.” Perhaps Adam becoming a “living being” is simply the act that differentiated him from the animals – it might be another way to express God’s conferring his image on humankind.

At a bible study this week we read this verse that applies:

Romans 8:11
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

It appears without the Spirit, we are just walking, talking dead guys.

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@mitchellmckain and @Edgar

I was wondering if this isn’t a little too specific.

God "breathes

and breathed [h5301, נָפַח, naphach]

into his nostrils [h639, אַף ,'aph ]

the breath [h5397, נְשָׁמָה, nĕshamah ]

of life [h2416, חַי, chay ]

and man [h120, אָדָם,'adam ]

became a living [h2416, חַי, chay ]

soul [h5315, נֶפֶשׁ, nephesh ].

It is my understanding that this is the same terminology used for any living animal. So this particular text is not so much about “human-ness” as it is about “living-ness”!

But if we are going to respond to @Edgar’s objection, which is that Adam is clearly produced from “inaminate matter”. Ironically, this fits the Genealogical Model to a “T”. @Swamidass discusses scenarios where God uses special creation to make Adam from “dust” and Eve from Adam’s rib.

But then Adam and Eve are sent to mingle with the pre-existing human population that God made (as described in Genesis 1) by means of God-Guided Evolution!

Here are two texts worthy of a case study:

Gen 1:20-21
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

God says “let the waters bring forth” sea life. And God creates them.
This is an intentional doublet – meant to show that both are true.

Is this a one-off eccentric text? No, it happens yet again!:

Gen 1:24-25
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

So, unless one wants to propose that the Oceans and the Earth produced these kinds … the way to reconcile the two ideas is for God to use Evolution for His own purposes.

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It’s allegorical, just like:

Psalm 139:13
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Is God knitting babies, Edgar?

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Luke 9:59-60 – "He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (cf. Matt. 8:20-21).

John 5:24-25 – “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”

I could go on, but you get the idea. (At least, I hope you do …)

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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