If Adam and Eve were real, how are we to explain the ANE parallels?

I believe Biblically it is most likely that Adam and Eve were real individuals, albeit not necessarily the first, otherwise, why would the Biblical author feel the need to write such long genealogies?

The one problem which I have is that if these are real events, why then would Genesis 2-3 use so many mythological ideas from the ANE?, such as:

  • Forming out of the ground (Song of the Hoe, Enki and Ninmah, Atrahasis, Gilgamesh)
  • Loss of immortality due to a serpent (Epic of Gilgamesh)
  • Sword guarding tree of life (according to George Smith)
  • A woman luring a wild man created out of the earth (Epic of Gilgamesh)
  • Dwelling of God in the midst of the springs of rivers (Baal Cycle)
  • Curses against the serpent (Book of the dead)

Now there are some explanations which may or may not be coherent:

  1. The fall of man affected all mankind, so vestiges of it are found in all cultures of the world.
  2. The inhabitants of the ANE remembered an event which took place in their history.
  3. The Sons of God given to the nations (Deut 32:8) revealed this information.
  4. The Biblical writers took a real event and embelished it.

What do you think?


Very interesting.

I would say the 1st two bullet points are of the same. It used created from dust because dust mean mortal. Created from dust, and dust we return to. I don’t think we ever had or lost immortality. Why would there be a tree of life if we were immortal, why would an immortal need such a tree?

But I think that is really cool to find out there were so many accounts of this with Adam. I think #1 is the best explanation, just like the flood. Everyone knew it happened, the Bible isn’t trying to convince anyone of this fact, they all knew there was a flood. The Bible has the authority from God when it tells of this story though, because we can see Jesus through it in the redemptive power of God in it.

I think the fall of mankind was possibly spread by word of mouth, like it was made known to man. That was what made us image bearers. We were homo sapiens, who had the mental capacity to understand this, and God revealed to us this mission by word to Adam. Adam and Eve were the first to sin and reject God. You can only reject something you know. And as Adam’s story spread, so did the knowledge of God, and man to reject Him, by trying to attain favor with God via their own strength. It wasn’t like the internet now, but word of mouth spreads fairly fast. Fast enough for Adam’s understanding of creation (not how God’s created us materially, but why God created us) to be known by most if not all man.

So I would lean towards a mixture of explanation 1 and 2. With a possible 3, though I think most of them if not all, were wiped out in the flood.

But I am not quite as educated as you. I find that really cool to learn. I always thought the creation account was only know by the Bible. It is really neat to know that many parts of the world knew this story, though many had different interpretations of it.

I don’t think all mankind was instantly screwed when Adam sinned. I think that Adam was aware of God, and rejected Him or tried to possibly please God of his own strength, which was sin. And anyone told of this could also now sin. And awareness of God and our mission/blessing was spread through language. So there are those who had great cognitive ability like humans (but were still homo sapiens), never knew God, and couldn’t reject God or sin, until they could, like the thousands of homo sapiens before them.

I know this can lead to a slippery slope to call those who haven’t heard of God homo sapiens and not humans… But that is to say, if you God hasn’t been made known to you, you are not an image bearer, then no, I don’t think you are human. So can we treat them as less than human? Which must quickly be met with , Absolutely not, or may it never be. Our mission is to share the gospel of God with everyone, so everyone can know God and glorify Him as an image bearer of him. An animal can never become an image bearer, it is ok to not value their lives. That is not to say that we shouldn’t be good stewards or animal or the plants. But to say that humans are valued much higher than animals, we are image bearers, and if you meat a ‘homo sapien’ they are a potential human waiting to know and glorify (or hopefully not, reject) God, and it is our duty to tell them, and ‘humanize them’. I know @Christy has warned of that slippery slope, and I don’t think I am going there.

That is how it makes sense to me, I hope not to offend or think I have the right to dehumanize anyone or say someone is worth less than a human (other than an animal) But that is just how I understand it, with probably using improper terminology.

I think I kind of aligns with @aleo and his original blessing. Animals and homo sapiens were destined to follow their biology, but their actions (good or bad) were not sins. But humans were given a conscience and could use logic to help them to do good things with tier logic. And when humans were given knowledge of God (the original blessing) and to be image bearers, they were able to avoid sin only through the help of God. But man wanted to use their own logic and strength to please God and live good, and they failed. The law or our conscience will always be violated of our own strength, it is only through God that we can live for God and glorify Him and be His true image bearers.

I think all humans are born sinless, until they sin. Born with the potential to know God and be His image bearer, or know God, and reject him. Like a child can be born into a masonry family, and be born with the potential to not be a mason, or to be one, but isn’t either until they can be. I don’t know at what age or cognitive ability is required to understand or know God, that is up to God. But I don’t believe you can reject something you can’t understand.

I hope I didn’t butcher that too much and confuse and spread heresy. I am still learning…this is just what has made sense to me and matches the scriptures best I can if one were to ask or ponder these interesting, yet extremely insignificant ideas in the scheme of things.

Are you talking about Enkidu? If that is the case, then the context is veeeery different.

Anyway. I go with John Walton on that, they were probably using elements that were common to the imaginary of the people at that time in order to convey a theological point, pretty much like the bible also uses the figures of the leviathan and the behemoth (I don’t buy the leviathan = crocodile hypothesis, though the behemot = hipopothamus seems more plausible). The bible itself contradicts a literal interpretation of Adam and Eve anyway (where did Cain’s wife come from?).

Now there goes a personal question of mine. Some translations use the word “dust” for the creation of man. What is the proper interpretation? Were man in genesis created from actual ground/mud or from dust, which could mean simply inanimate matter?

EDIT: In the case of Enkidu of the epic of Gilgamesh, he was pretty much made as a glorified clay doll before being turned into flesh as far as I know.

No I don’t mean the Nephilim, I mean the sons of God, who are divine, presumably immortal beings given dominion over the nations according to Deuteronomy 32:8 (Qumran).

Yeah, I think 4 is probably most likely, certainly more likely than humans actually being made from dust.

But behemot is described with a tail like a cedar?

Tail is a euphemism for the wiggly bits.

More plausible, not completely, hahaha. I still think he is just a mythological creature which was used as an element in the story, but the leviathan being a crocodile seems far more far fetched.

1 Like

I always took the “dust” thing simply as meaning smaller components of “innanimate matter”, the notion that things are composed of smaller component parts is not really that recent (Democritus in 460 B.C already had that idea). Of course, the precise knowledge of the properties of these particles is something we just came to know in detail from the beggining of the 20th century up to the present. In that sense, the theological point is right, humans and all life forms were made out of innanimate matter through the process which gave rise to the first life form and them through evolution, and at some point in the process we acquired consciousness, (possibly) free will, etc, everything that we could properly call a “soul”. And when we die, our bodies decay and turn back to that same dust which made us.

EDIT: Of course, if the proper translation claims that we were actually made from earth like clay dolls, that interpretation is thrown out of the window.

I have never bothered with these creatures. So i trust you guys know more about them!

Well, I personally believe that the whole book of Job is a parable anyway, so it is not a big deal that the creatures in it are ficticious.


Same here regarding Genesis… The whole notion that you can have 12 separate tribes created by 12 separate sons is virtually impossible…

Of course! But I think that is pretty much consensus here at biologos. Job is a little more tricky, it is a wonderful story, nonetheless.

I guess I agreed with this too, but I just didn’t like the word embellished. Like one used on their resume to make themselves seem more important than they actually were. I think that is just how they spoke then, or told stories. Like calling the flood global, I don’t think they were trying to make it appear as greater than it was, just that it was a large flood.

I guess it is mostly semantics, but I feel embellishment has a deceitful intent (generally to gain an advantage), and I don’t think the Genesis writers had that intent.

I don’t know a word I would use though, maybe exaggerate or dramatic?

I don’t think the genesis was even meant to be a materialistic/historical account. Who presenced the creation to write about it to begin with? I think the story is basically just trying to convey some important theological points:

1 - God created the universe ex nihilo
2 - Humans were made from innanimate matter of that same universe and became alive.
3 - God imbued humans with a soul/consciousness
4 - Humans are imperfect sinful creatures which stray away from the ways of God, and that is why they suffer

It is basically a “semi-speculative at best story” trying to convey these points. And that is really all they needed, they wouldn’t even understand it if it was written in light of modern science. But if you assume God actually exists, then these four conclusions are pretty much spot on even in the light of modern science.

I agree with everything in that post that completely.

1 Like

Even the conservative ESV study notes say that Hebrew scholars think the tail was a euphemism for a phallus and sinews of the thigh means testicles. Lots of interesting articles about this if you look on the internet. Here’s one I saw a while ago: https://geochristian.com/2011/02/20/the-esv-study-bible-on-creation-dinosaurs-in-job/

My point is more something like that: Since I believe the book of Job is a parable, the autor of the parable could have intended for the behemoth to be an actual hippo, especially since hebrews actually used the word behemoth to describe actual hippopotamus, but it could also been the case that he used the word to describe a mythical creature, which most certainly is the case for the leviathan, since it is described as breathing fire. One way or the other, the actual existence of these creatures is pretty much irrelevant.

Getting back to @Reggie_O_Donoghue’s original posting…

I think the amount of effort it takes to explain and harmonize these various factors is more than sufficient to compel a reader to assume that the Creation Story of Genesis is a colorful amplification of a basic world view of the ancients.

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

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.