Podcast S2E11 - Adam & Eve

Jim Stump is joined by BioLogos president Deb Haarsma to talk about one of the perennial science and faith topics—Adam & Eve. They lay out some of the different perspectives on Adam & Eve and also some of the problems that come along with each perspective, bringing in science where it’s appropriate but also finding that science won’t lead us to definitive answers on many of the questions that arise.

Because this is a complex topic with many different perspectives, we asked several experts to join us in this episode and to respond to some of the different viewpoints on Adam and Eve. You’ll hear William Lane Craig, Ken Keathley, Anjeanette Roberts, Andrew Torrance and Dennis Venema who each provide their own take on some of these different Adam and Eve perspectives.

Listen: https://biologos.org/podcast-episodes/adam-eve

What an ambitious episode! It was great to hear from many different voices, and to step back to look at big questions. By the end I had follow-up questions for everyone, some of which I had exasperatedly asked while listening.

It also left me feeling somewhat homeless, since my own take on Adam and Eve doesn’t neatly fit any of the three categories given. I expect I’m not alone in that. I don’t envy anyone who tries to distill Christian ideas on Adam and Eve into something both accessible and accurate.

I liked William Craig’s comments about Adam needing to speak about all people, not just a representative, and that original sin is biblically underdetermined and less important than maintaining that all sin. But right after that he made an argument I wouldn’t expect from someone well-versed in this topic:

It seems pretty clear that both Paul and, significantly, Jesus regarded Adam and Eve as real people that actually lived. And so the person who takes a purely mythological or symbolic approach to these narratives is going to be in the very awkward position of correcting the Apostle Paul and even the Lord Jesus himself on matters of doctrine, and that, I think, is an extremely uncomfortable position to be in.

He doubles down on this near the end of the episode. This seems to be a bait-and-switch between what Paul and Jesus believed about certain historical or scientific facts and what they taught as a matter of doctrine. Jesus and Paul’s views on Adam don’t need to make us any more uncomfortable than acknowledging that poppy seeds are smaller than mustard seeds but we can trust what Jesus teaches about faith. To raise the stakes and say our christology depends on Jesus always speaking with historical and scientific precision seems like a poor way to defend the faith.

I was surprised to hear @DeborahHaarsma say that Adam means earth. The word might have emerged through taking the feminine word for ground, adamah, and creating a masculine form, adam, but there are other ideas as well. Even if that is how the word emerged, we don’t determine a word’s meaning by its origin, especially not for a Hebrew word that appears in Scripture 500+ times. (Doing so is the first fallacy in D. A. Carson’s classic Exegetical Fallacies.) By looking at how the Bible uses the word, adam means humanity or human, not earth.

I tend to harp on this because missing the actual meaning of adam makes it harder to see how the Eden account invites a symbolic reading. (Also problematic is seeing Genesis 2–3 as “pretty cut-and-dry.”) It’s a story about a person named Humanity, sandwiched between two other accounts of adam/humanity’s creation (Gen. 1:26–27; 5:1–2). That alone should open a few new doors in how we read it, including a door out of the room that dichotomizes “historical” and “non-historical” readings.

Since I’m curious about objections to a symbolic reading beyond the genealogies, I wondered about Ken Keathley’s comment that 1 Kings connects Adam to all of human history and salvation history. Did he just misreference the genealogy at the beginning of 1 Chronicles, or does he have some narrative in 1 Kings in mind?

To end on a positive note, I think this by Deb Haarsma is critical for determining how much rests on our view of Adam and Eve:

If the Adam and Eve question is used as a litmus test for orthodoxy, for one’s view of the authority of Scripture, then it really becomes a dividing point. But I’d rather the discussion then be about those orthodox theological points and about the authority of Scripture than about Adam and Eve as a proxy for that.

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If you read apologetics literature from the 1600s you’ll see rhetoric like this with respect to geocentrism. I don’t think views like WLC’s are going to stand the test of time. Like you, I would say that the theology remains even if the pre-scientific understanding it comes with is not up to current standards.

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That’s something I always try to emphasize. The problem I have is separating the theology (which all Christians tend to agree upon) from the rhetoric. What are maybe some helpful strategies you’ve come across in your teaching on these topics on a regular basis? For example many students I can encounter seem to be unwilling to even dare to think of separating the two and then I get nasty evaluations and then some depending on the student.

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I think that this is my favorite episode so far!

I’m currently “on the fence” but leaning more and more towards Biologos’ position every day. As someone who is not well-versed in scientific thought I appreciate the scientists that are brought onto the show and hearing how their faith impacts their work and vice-versa, but benefit more from the theological/ Scriptural discussions because it is more within my wheel-house of understanding and what I struggle to reconcile with the most when contemplating these things. I would love to see more material like this in the podcast that look at how we should understand Scripture in light of evolution and similar controversial, scientific subjects.

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I recently decided to re-read the Bible again so obviously Adam and Eve were on my mind a lot! Was really excited for the podcast when I saw the topic, but unfortunately it didn’t address the issue I’m struggling with ATM. What I got reminded of while reading it few weeks ago was the problem of creating Eve out of Adam’s rib. Perhaps some will say it’s a silly issue but aren’t Christians being teased about that, because obviously this is not what science says? And that would make Eve Adam’s identical twin, where do you go from there? Another problem with “out of rib-creation” is that some Christians use it to justify misogyny, so yeah, I think that little verse is hugely problematic. I can only accept it as symbolic, but what is it supposed to symbolise?

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Could be a culture/translation issue: (I found the stuff below in past posts, to avoid retyping :wink: )

BioLogos Advisory Council member John Walton has a whole enlightening book,The Lost World of Adam and Eve on understanding the account of Adam and Eve in its ANE cultural context. I dug up some points from Proposition 8 “Forming from the Dust and Building from the Rib” for you. I don’t think the rib part of the story implies that Eve was somehow created lesser than Adam according to the text.

Earlier in the book, Walton establishes reasons for seeing Genesis 2 as a “sequel” to the corporate creation of humanity in God’s image in Genesis 1 instead of seeing it as a retelling or more detailed account of the sixth day of creation described in Genesis 1.

Was Eve built from Adam’s rib? Walton says, no, because of Adam’s claim that she is “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” The Hebrew word translated ‘rib’ is used forty some times in the OT and in no other place is it an anatomical term. It usually refers to one side or the other. In Akkadian, a cognate is used to refer to an entire side or entire rib cage, like the English “a side of beef.” The word chosen in early Aramaic and Greek and Latin translations can mean side or rib. In English the word “rib” was selected over “side” with the earliest English translations and the resulting interpretation became entrenched in our translations.

Walton claims the ancient context would have understood God as cutting Adam in half to make Eve. He argues (using ANE lit and lexical studies) that the "deep sleep’ Adam experienced would not have been imagined by the ancients as some sort of anesthesia for divine surgery, but rather, preparation for a divine vision. The point of the vision was to help Adam understand an important reality, the reality of woman’s identity. (As Walton does much of the time, he argues the creation narrative was not to explain “where woman came from,” material origins, but what woman’s function was.) Since Adam and Eve are human archetypes, what is true about Eve would be understood to be true of all women. The narrative sets up the rationale for why an individual would establish a bonded, binding relationship with a biological outsider. Marriage is pictured as recovering an original state of wholeness. So women are not to be seen as mating partners, but as essential allies, as “the other half.” (End summary of Walton’s discussion)

When we understand more about the cognitive environment of the original audience, what we find is a text that elevates the identity of women and the significance of marriage much higher than probably would have been typical in its historical context. It’s not mysogynistic at all. The fact that over the centuries people have read their own sexism and bias into the text is not God’s fault.

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I really enjoyed this episode. Years and years ago I started moving further and further away from literal interpretations of genesis. It was easy once I thought about how the same spirit that influenced and encouraged the language of revelation and the poetry in the Torah is the same one that helped with Moses write the creation account.

For me something I considered to are these things.

  1. Sin is only sin once God calls it sin. That’s why sin could not have existed, even with death, prior to whatever may have happened with the first humans God revealed himself to.

  2. No matter how you look at it death had to exist in the world prior to the events in genesis. Fruits are living things. Sure they are not beings but it’s a life form and if they were eating it then they were ending it’d life. If they plucked it, and say it down, it would rot. They had to understand that things can cease and change.

  3. The death with Adam and Eve that would come upon them was obviously not physical death. They did not die on that day. I don’t think the snake told a half truth, but a complete lie. The death was about the relationship between the creator and its creation.

So I guess for me what makes the most sense is that at some point God came down and revealed himself to a man and a woman and he led them to a special garden. Maybe he brought the man first and then later on brought the woman. Don’t know, and it’s interesting, but not essential for me to know to understand the point of genesis. I do wonder if the tree of life was something special and that if they ate of it they could keep on living. A fruit version containing the miracles of healing and life like Jesus’s touch and words did. That’s why he drove them from the garden. The others, outside of the garden, were the ones Cain feared. Scripturally I see three kids mentioned by Eve.

It’s all great and this podcast ad a whole has really helped my faith. It helped secure the fact that I don’t have to say it must either be scientifically factual and true or wrong and false. But that it can be a fable pointing towards a truth and that I can also say that science can’t account for everything and that by faith Jesus did come back from the dead, that he did do miracles, and that he will one day establish a world where heaven and earth overlaps and we love eternally with him.

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If it had not existed, then Adam would not have known what it meant, it seems.

Welcome to the forum, Mi!

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