New book about Adam and Eve by William Lane Craig

It was just Paul trying to work out why the Son of God had to die and getting it as right as he could for the mid-50s AD which has had an appalling but unavoidable legacy for two thousand years.

We just have to be honest now.

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It’s Genesis, it’s Romans and it’s really the whole evangelical theological framework. As Pete Enns has been arguing for a long time: evolutionary theory can’t just slot into evangelical theology with a few adjustments here and there, at least not in the long-term. It requires a full synthesis, and that is very hard work.

To reformulate evangelical theology around the reality that Adam and Eve weren’t the two historical individuals who messed things up is to pose new answers to some of the most fundamental theological questions: on human nature, on sin and evil, on the legitimate tools to interpret Scripture etc.

Again, this is very hard work. Not least because evangelical institutions (churches and groups of churches, seminaries etc) are built on this framework and therefore it’s not easy for the leaders, scholars and pastors who inhabit them to change their minds without calling into question the very foundations of their theological heritage and being seen as compromising. That’s how I see it, anyway (and again, I say this as a self confessing evangelical).

For what it’s worth, one of the most helpful pieces I’ve read on how we might understand sin without a historical Adam and Eve and a first sin is Christopher Hays’ essay in Finding Ourselves After Darwin, which I believe was produced in conjunction with BioLogos. He thinks through how biology, psychology, moral awareness, culture and sociology, our spiritual nature’s and even spiritual forces have all played their role in the existence and universality of sin.


I uncritiquely agree with the very hard work needed. But we’re up against biological - genetic - limits that predicate Hays’ emergent chain you describe. Which breaks down with the spiritual and therefore with sin itself. Or rather goes from the rational to the metaphoric. We need to deal with the metaphor of sin fully rationally. For me sin deconstructs to abuse of power; it does harm, it’s unfair, it’s selfish and it’s justified by exceptions based on power. We ‘sin’ because we’re pack monkeys. We sin in relationship, in growing concentric circles of evil yang inextricable from good yin. Until we deal with the biology, the genetics, the evolution, the anthropology, the psychology, the sociology, the culture, the religion, the class, the privilege, the education, the art, the history of morality we can’t play the God trump card.

Yes that is the issue. Penal substitution is entrenched in evangelical ideology and it is tied into how Adam and sin are understood. Romans. Understanding Genesis as non literal is the easy part. People could more easily be convinced of this if not for Jesus conquering and atoning for the sin brought forth by one man. The hard part is untangling the soteriological mess many conservatives and evangelicals are trapped in. Because of this interpretation of Jesus’ sacrificial death, Paul and some other verses which are all force-fit into one salvific narrative, they kind of need a literal Adam. But once you start tweaking with the central narrative and penultimate doctrine of someone’s faith the resistance will be very strong. And I must admit, the rabbit hole is very very deep: once Adam and Eve go, why stop there? Huge huge HUGE swathes of the are not historical. I struggle with this. I tell myself God made a covenant with Israel but after relegating so many stories to the dust-bin of non-historical, I sometimes wonder “what covenant?” Jews were originally polytheistic and did they just become another highly ethnocentric and xenophobic group who thought their Gods were better just as everyone else did? The issue is hardly just an interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis.

The key to improving the reception of science in some circles might very well be achieved through better soteriology than science education. A different model of Biblical inspiration and a discussion of hermeneutics is needed. At some point, we have to look to the reason why people hold such views, why they won’t let them go and the shock and horror this will bring to their “certainty” about what God’s word is. We are talking a huge paradigm shift.


I’ll put it on the list. I think I have one of his works on the new perspective on Paul.

Not sure yet but the interpretive key may be hinted at in the beginning of the chapter where Paul says “we all sinned” in Adam. Right off the jump Adam looks like a collective humanity. Because it is absurd to think anyone alive today literally sinned when Adam sinned. We live 6/50/700 thousand years after him.

Edited to add a quote from the book (I skipped the basic science info at the beginning):

“To illustrate I pose the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, who dug in against scientists, with Galileo from the generation following Luther, who permitted science to reshape his thinking. Luther said this of the facts in the Bible that seem to conflict with the external realities: “The more it seems to conflict with all experience and reason, the more carefully it must be noted and the more surely believed.” When Luther turns to Eve being formed from a rib, he says, “This is extravagant fiction and the silliest kind of nonsense if you set aside the authority of Scripture and follow the judgment of reason.” But perhaps this illustrates his heel digging the most: “Although it sounds like a fairy tale to reason, it is the most certain truth.”2 Here Luther contrasts “reason” (or scientific thinking) and faith or Scripture. One might call Luther’s approach the dominating approach to science and faith because he chooses—against reason, he admits—for the Bible to dominate the evidence.”

That is generally how the “debate” goes in my estimation. Less to do with science and more to do with inspiration and soteriology.


Nick, this isn’t very fair for you to say considering:

You have failed to do the same. You make sweeping arguments using generalizations without any source citations, and yet you expect everyone else to cite sources and give you arguments in answer to your sweeping generalizations. No way, that’s not fair.

If you have sources you’d like to bring forth, please share them so that the sources can be discussed properly, as opposed to simple generalizations and sweeping remarks.

Thank you. I hope you’re well, my friend.
-Joshua W.


Today, my pastor said (to summarize): “All of us have a bias. The right bias is to take the Bible at its word. I take the Bible to say that all humanity came from one man, as in what Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17: 26.”

26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

Tough one. I’ve emailed him, and would like to talk with him more (he knows I am EC). If anyone has insight about how to approach this well, I’d appreciate it.

(note:see emailed response back–I’m impressed)


That’s tough. He wants to take the Bible at its word, but the word he’s focused on has been added in translation. The Greek has “From one he made all the nations” or, in some texts, “From one blood he made all the nations.” I appreciate the transparency of how the NASB translates it: “and He made from one man every nation of mankind.” Like other older versions, they use italics to mark words that have been added for clarity.

But I doubt pointing this out would go very far. All it would do is perhaps reveal that his position isn’t based on what he claims it’s based on.


That is brilliant! It does help me though. Thanks. I should have thought of looking that up. It will still help me think it through.

To be fair, he also developed it in another tangent, which was applicable as well… An anti racism one, that we are all related.

And, in fairness, the racism point is probably his main thrust with the Adam comment supporting that, just as we might say Jesus was talking about marriage, not whether Adam was literal in his mention of AandE. It is pastor appreciation month, perhaps one of Walton’s Lost World books would be a nice token.


oh, my goodness! yes, I don’t realize or appreciate that enough! I am ashamed to admit that I criticize way too much. Thank you! I do appreciate that.

I also did get an email back from him already. He said that he was trying to develop how we can develop a good , Christian bias rather than simply the Epicurean and stoic biases the Athenians had.
It was well put.

The translation difference is because the oldest and most reliable manuscripts don’t have haima (blood) and the Greek grammar doesn’t require something English grammar does require, so translators have to guess what was elided unless they want to sound stilted and unnatural. Word for word it’s “He made them of one, every ethnicity of men/people.” So it’s not weird linguistically to look forward to the immediately following anthropon for what was ellided. “He made them of one man/person, every ethnicity of men/people.” KJV and some other translations that have blood are translated from the Textus Receptus, a different source manuscript (reconstructed from many copies of documents using textual criticism) than modern translations which rely on the UBS/Nestle-Aland NT.


Isn’t “ethnicity” immediately following rather than “people”? I thought that if one was going to fill in the blank based on the later phrase, it would be “From one nation he made all the nations.”

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I saw an abstract for a paper arguing that once, so you could probably make a case. Maybe especially if you could show that hainos/blood and ethnos are synonyms or conceptually related somehow, which would explain the later redaction adding hainos that shows up pretty early in the manuscripts. The case for man is based on the idea that it was the common ground Jewish understanding that everyone was descended from Adam. It looks like it is presented as given information here, not a new assertion.


This paper argues that the sentence is deliberately ambiguous, referring either to the Genesis creation account or to the Stoic belief in the unity of humanity.


He seeks to answer two questions: whether his theological commitments as a Christian necessitate believing in a historical Adam and Eve

Clearly not.

I believe they are historical. And I do think an historical Adam and Eve works better with Christian theology. But necessitate? No.

what science can tell us about that couple

It can and does tell us that no such couple are the sole progenitors of the human species unless you date them so far back in time they are not of our species and of no significance to human civilization.

Craig concludes that it was written in mythological terms and, while intended to teach theological beliefs, was not meant to be taken literally

Wow! He actually got something right. Astounding!

Adam must have lived circa 700,000 years ago.

So for 690,000 years 690 times the duration of human civilization, the existence of Adam and Eve made no alteration whatsoever in the way that these hominids lived. This is even before any of the hominids had any language. Tell why they should be called human, and why those that went before them should not? :confused:

population genetics can rule out a pair of sole genetic progenitors for humans within roughly the past 500,000 to 700,000 years.

Ah, so that is what is important to Craig. So when Craig said the story wasn’t to be taken literally what part of the story does he mean? Apparently the magical golems of dust and bone are not what Craig meant. OH… I get it! It is the part in chapter 4 where it says the earth is filled with people whom Cain is afraid will kill him. Ok…

takes evolution as a given

Does he?

That would be interesting.

What did he write that would say this? Because his obsession with Adam and Eve being the sole genetic progenitors doesn’t really fit with this.

Unless you are familiar in detail with all of Craig’s theological commitments and understand their implications better than he does, you’re in no position to state that. Presumably what you mean is that your beliefs as a Christian don’t compel you to believe in a historical Adam. Well, good.

Craig’s A&E are not the sole progenitors of the human species nor were they members of Homo sapiens.

No alteration apart from giving them the cognitive capacity and immaterial soul needed to be human.

How do you know that?

Because both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens display characteristics that justify calling them human, suggesting that this was inherited from their common ancestor.

I don’t know what you’re trying to say here.


Pretty much the entire science section of his book.

He doesn’t claim Adam and Eve were the sole genetic progenitors of humans. Not only is he not obsessed with sole genetic progenitorship, he doesn’t care at all about it. In short, what are you talking about?

You said…

Relying on less-formal studies, he concludes that population genetics can rule out a pair of sole genetic progenitors for humans within roughly the past 500,000 to 700,000 years.

Ok, I know you said it didn’t seem to have much to do with his argumentation. But I think it does. I think that is the whole underlying reason for his argument. Unless… you can tell me something he said which doesn’t agree with this. Does he actually say somewhere that Adam and Eve are not the sole progenitors of the human species?

One can mine the findings of science for justifications for just about anything. Doesn’t mean one agrees with the context of those findings. So my question is what did he actually say in agreement with evolution? To me what you describe looks like a the argumentation of an old earth special creation of A&E sort of theology.

from Wikipedia

Using statistical methods to estimate the time required to achieve the current spread and diversity in modern languages, Johanna Nichols—a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley—argued in 1998 that vocal languages must have begun diversifying in the human species at least 100,000 years ago.[32] A further study by Q. D. Atkinson[12] suggests that successive population bottlenecks occurred as human African ancestors migrated to other areas, leading to a decrease in genetic and phenotypic diversity. Atkinson argues that these bottlenecks also affected culture and language, suggesting that the farther away a particular language is from Africa, the fewer phonemes it contains. By way of evidence, Atkinson claims that today’s African languages tend to have relatively large numbers of phonemes, whereas languages from areas in Oceania (the last place to which humans migrated), have relatively few. Relying heavily on Atkinson’s work, a subsequent study has explored the rate at which phonemes develop naturally, comparing this rate to some of Africa’s oldest languages. The results suggest that language first evolved around 50,000–150,000 years ago, which is around the time when modern Homo sapiens evolved.[33]

Do you have evidence of language before that time?

I want to know what part of the Genesis story does Craig think should not be taken literally? And I don’t mean what you assume he means, I want to hear things he actually said about this.

I would look for myself, but I don’t have a copy, one is not available in the library, and I it is not the sort of book I would spend the money or bookshelf space on.

Ok looking up Craig shows that he has said elsewhere that Christianity is compatible with evolution but he does think that God had to intervene.

He says they don’t have to be. That’s why my next sentence read, ‘we eventually learn that his model allows for an unspecified amount of admixture from other hominin lineages into the descendants of Adam, eliminating the need for such a tight bottleneck.’ He’s quite clear on the subject.

And I already gave my answer. His entire treatment of A&E is predicated on the reality of evolution, including the evolution of Homo sapiens.

No, he’s postulating something like a single miraculous change to a regulatory gene in Adam and Eve, coupled with the infusion of an immaterial soul. It’s certainly not science but it’s not standard OE creationism either.

From the last article cited by the Wikipedia article: “A population bottleneck causing a loss of phonemes would push back, or even reset the phonemic clock. As a result, our date estimates should be treated as minimum ages for the origin of language. It is thus possible that language arose before the last speciation event in our lineage, or even before the appearance of behavioral modernity.”

There’s not much evidence either way, but limited anatomical evidence suggests that Neanderthals could have had language.

If I have time I will summarize his summary.

“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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