Question regarding Genesis, Adam, Eve, and Early Humanity

If I accept that death existed before the fall (of course at least animal death must have occurred always), and Adam and Eve were literal people that were later added to a special Garden (whether they were formed evolutionarily or specially created), with access to a tree that granted them indefinite life (provided they had access to it), what became of those hominids/humans outside the garden that did not have access to the Tree of Life? Those that specifically came before Adam and Eve? Did they just live and die as animals? Or did they, too have access to indefinite life?

*I know Adam and Eve, if literal people, must not have been created immortal otherwise a Tree of Life would be pointless.

*I know our current genetic diversity could not have come from just Two individuals within 10,000 years.

*IF Adam and Eve were the first Two individuals that could be called Human, they must be almost 100,000 years old and predate any human fossils/skeletons known to science. UNLESS those humans we have found were NOT human, but rather apes of some kind, OR they were Human but did not have access to the Tree of Life. There should otherwise be no human remains before the Fall occurred.

*I do not believe the Image of God is a gift, bestowed like a blessing. I believe it is something that developed as man did, from beast (no image) to man (image). Eventually, Humans began displaying this image in their thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Such as when they were able to feel guilt, remorse, love etc. And when they painted, created music and worshipped.

If this is not the case then it, more likely than a blessing, is referring to a literal, physical image when both Angels and the LORD take on a visible form (they usually appear as Human). Perhaps we evolved to resemble this form they prefer and it was theirs first.

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I’ll give you a very confident “I don’t know, and I’m not sure that it’s possible to know.”


Somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 is about the date for the most recent common ancestors of all modern humans, I think.


Interesting to think about. As I recall, our late friend Glenn Morten (gbob here) held that Noah’s flood was when the Mediterranean flooded about 6 million years ago, pushing humanity back to that time, and putting Eden somewhere below the Med. I do not agree, but find it an interesting proposition.
In any case, the question of when humans became human and really what does that mean is up for grabs. Some of those unknowable questions and the problems raised by the pre-suppositions you placed on the story are part of why I tend to see early Genesis as a theologic composition, not historic.


The most recent common ancestor of all currently living humans was much more recent than that – more like two or three thousand years ago. See Modelling the recent common ancestry of all living humans | Nature. This assumes, of course, that that ancestor was part of a larger population of humans.


The oldest remains that can be identified as homo sapien have been dated to 200,000 years ago. In outward appearance they would appear to be “human” but probably not in the way they behaved. Modern “human” behavior appears to have been developed 50,000 to 70,000 years ago. Interestingly some of these behaviors also appeared in other species, such as Neanderthal, even earlier. So the first question would be how do you define “human”? Second question would be, “What does it mean to be made in the image of God?” Which, BTW, I don’t think means to be made to look like God. Angels took on the form of humans when they appeared to them, but even that appearance must have different in some way. After all, usually the first words spoken by an angel was “Do not be afraid.”


The interpretations of Glenn Morten were fascinating. I bought his book to read more about these. I think that the interpretations were interesting from at least two viewpoints.

One viewpoint is that he took both the beginning of Genesis and the scientific knowledge seriously, and tried to match these. His knowledge and research showed that the flood described in Genesis resembled the filling of the Mediterranean basin after the break of the western land barrier. As far as I understood, no other known flooding could match the description of the flood in Genesis. He dared to take his observations to the rational conclusion, despite the fact that the supposed flood happened millions of years ago. Probably he was the only one supporting this interpretation but it shows how difficult (practically impossible) it is to match scientific knowledge about the past to a strictly literal interpretation of the Genesis, at least if we take science seriously.

During that time, the four rivers mentioned in Genesis (or at least an interpretation of the rivers) ran to the Mediterranean basin not far from each other. These created paradise-like conditions within an otherwise dry environment. Findings suggest that hominids lived in this area, or at least region, during that time. After the Mediterranean basin was filled with water (turned into sea) and geological changes altered the flow of Eufrat and Hiddekel, and dried the fourth river (Piison?), similar kind of conditions were never again experienced in the region. The flood destroyed the former paradise-like areas associated with the four rivers mentioned in the beginning of Genesis.

Another viewpoint is the question: if there were any connection between these events and the stories that circulated among ancient humans, for how long time could stories about past catastrophes survive in the shared verbal memory of humanity? I do not believe that anything could have survived millions of years but stories of some ancient events could have circulated for a very long time. Such stories could have risen from visible signs of the past in the landscape, such as signs of ancient rivers that had later dried. Signs of separate events could have merged in the minds of ancient people to a single story. This is of course just speculation.


I find it a weak possibility too tbh. I can’t really accept that it was anything else but the ability to reason and, well, be what separates us from the animals.

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I am convinced SOMETHING happened involving God. We sin, we suffer because of this sin. Doing things our way is always DISASTEROUS for us, but animals never self-destruct in the same manner. We are intelligent beyond all other species. We can reason, think and create. NOTHING else on earth does this. It is clear the basic message of Genesis IS true. And even death before the fall is not a problem except when it involves humans due to our ability to suffer and fear for our situation and state of existence. We are aware, that makes it matter. It isn’t such a bad thing for animals.

I currently see Humans created in Genesis 1 and living outside Eden before Adam was either picked or specially created, as described in Genesis 2, which I believe is a sequel text. I see the Tree of Life inside Eden, where only Adam and then Eve had access to it. Therefore I see those outside suffering and dying as beasts, despite having been made in the Image of God. I see God calling this “very good”. I see Adam (and later Eve) as the only ones who had indefinite life via the Tree.

I see Eve either specially created or also brought into the garden, with Adam being shown a dream to let him know she was his other half and the same flesh.

But I struggle with this view. I cannot accept that God created Humans in His image and let them live and die like beasts. Why could they not have access to Eden and the Tree of Life?

The Black Sea and the Persian Gulf are additional candidates of which I am aware, and they filled back in much more recently (<20,000 years ago, versus 5.3 million years ago for the most recent floodings).

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God only knows the answer to your question. Consider that until Adam and Eve, developing humans intuitively knew evil and good but did not know sin because God had not yet revealed himself, as he would to Adam and Eve. Same is true for people outside the Garden. Yet in just two generations from Adam “people began to call on the name of the Lord.”(Genesis 4:26) Whether eternal life became possible is up to God. The Bible says ther is but one way to eternal life and that is through Jesus Christ.

Lots of intense questions Benjamin!! Ultimately, they are sources of endless discussion. The biblical text only says something in great brevity…and then moves on. This leaves room for us to learn plate tectonics, human development and more — pretty much on our own. And there are many views/perspectives on “when” Adam and Eve could have lived-- and what all that meant. I have read 10-13,000 years ago in some…and about 500,000 yrs ago in the works of others…

Whether one calls the image of God a gift or not — it certainly is stated in the Bible that God intended us to have that image (whatever that means). This was unlike what exists with other created beings.

All for now…thanks for the thoughts.

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My take is centered around the “Breath of Life” stated in the creation account. If humans were living beings before the protected Garden, we are not discussing physical life but the ephemeral aspect of the “spiritual” or “everlasting” life. I do not see the spiritual life as having any meaning without the higher “gifts” of the mental and moral capacities that are the specific reason for the Garden story.
A focus on the creation account’s physicality is directly opposed by the nature of the events of the story and the ancient literary tropes in which it is presented. (re Walton, O’Brien, and Wilcox)
It’s all about WHY, and not HOW existence is explained. In essence, it is the 2001 Space Odyssey scenario of lighting the fire of both moral, ethical, and spiritual life into flame.

The problem with this idea is how the gift of this enlightenment gets from Adam, Eve, Cain, and Seth to the not-yet-enlightened outside the garden. Perhaps spreading by the spiritual form of a genetic source or just by interacting with the population. In the 2001 scenario, prehuman apes exposed to the Object has the same problem of spreading the enlightenment.

There is a discussion of when people become accountable for their actions. Is a mentally handicapped held to the same standards as an average person? When does God take note of a child’s choices versus a teenager’s choices or an adult’s? When does sin become sin? Yes, leaving the methodology up to God’s action takes it out of the realm of practicality and puts it right back to the miraculous. However, as long as we are dealing with the Scriptures, the miraculous has to be part of the story or it has no meaning.

If we couch the discussion on this level, it is easier to make sense of a Biblical prehistory with a Garden of Eden, and the creation story, without diluting the impact of the spiritual and moral conundrums.

I’d be interested in hearing your comments!

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Hi Benjamin,

Your deep questions and sincere concerns are conveyed clearly and are genuine given the presuppositions you describe. I would only seek to encourage you and other readers here that God’s word is our authority and can be trusted completely as it reveals who God is, who we are and most importantly who Christ is and how we as fallen mankind can be reconciled to God through His life, death and resurrection.

In Genesis, God reveals to us how He created all things by the power of His Word as He spoke creation into existence as a supernatural event that only He could reveal to us as nothing of the current natural laws or observations can ever hope to understand or reveal what God did in creation.

In God’s word, it is clear that He created man as male and female, in the image of God…image bearers of God on the earth…living, personal, self-conscious, spiritual, physical, moral, volitional, intellectual, emotional, relational, immortal. There were no ancestors of the first man and woman…they were the first as is clearly revealed in scripture in Genesis and affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:4.

Further, scripture reveals that death did not exist before the first man sinned (Genesis 3:6-7). This is affirmed in Genesis 1:31 where God declares His creation to be “very good” and then again in Genesis 2:25 where the man & woman have no shame as sin and the fallen nature have not yet entered creation. And finally and most clearly in Romans 5:12-21 where we are given the powerful and stark contrast between the one man, Adam, and the one Man, Jesus. The first man Adam brought sin, death, and condemnation to all of mankind. The one Man, Jesus Christ, also referred to as the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), brought the grace of God, justification, righteousness and eternal life. Jesus, God the Son, came into this world as a man in order to save man…this is the glorious gospel and our hope and salvation.

Hope this helps and encourages you to look into these things in God’s word.


Elsewhere in the Bible, the breath of life is simply the act of breathing, of being alive. I do not understand spiritual life and I do not believe we “have” a soul, but rather are souls.

NOTHING I have read has made that make sense yet :frowning: I can’t accept that God allowed Humans to live and die from creation, only to favour a couple and offer only them the Tree of Life.

At least for any Humans outside Eden, it becomes sin when God tells them not to do it and they do it anyway. If there were any Humans outside the Garden, seems they were pretty much left to their own devices. I am afraid, the more I look into it, that the ONLY way to read Genesis, is to accept that there really only were Adam and Eve in the beginning. I always wonder, how would we read it if we did not have the fossil record we have today? We’d read it like every other person throughout history has and not try to kid ourselves. But that is too pessimistic.

The more I struggle with this subject, the more inclined I am to accept this as the only way to view the account.

I have always paused at this. The first man and the last man, not literally, but figuratively. Adam may have been the first man in this sense only. And that would make him an archetype of some kind. But then we still have to deal with those outside the garden. I mean, did Adam have a supply chain for Tree of Life Fruit that he sent around to all the pockets of Humans out there in the world? How would him being an archetype explain anyone existing outside Eden?

Well, you do have to understand that the standard Christian theology proposes a tripartite existence made up of Body, Mind, and Spirit. In the same way, the TriUnity Deity is made up of three-in-one beings, so we are the dim mirror image. It is commonly accepted theology that the “Breath of Life” in Hebrew is the “Breath of Spirit of Elohim” which is found in both animals and mankind which is the “body life”. Yet it also is shown throughout scripture as another deeper second gifting which is illustrated in the prophets and the New Testament.
So we are both, and one and three at the same time also.

Yep. You’ll have problems then.

No, you are incorrect. You are assuming that everyone throughout history reads it the way we do. They have not and we do not!. We are ingrained with a modern scientific worldview that is very difficult to shed when reading a document intended to be read as a religious foundational text, 3000 plus years in the making! There are so many things we see that is what makes this discussion so impossible for us to understand.

My viewpoint is to see the story as an entirely religious text, which has no bearing on the physical aspects of life and death. It is the first chapter about what Yeshua Jesus says to Nicodemus in John chapter 3. There is a spirit world and a physical world. You can understand the physical side, the HOW, but you can never understand the Spiritual world of WHY until you place your faith in Elohim God. If you use those criteria for understanding Genesis, you can avoid all the pseudo-scientific Answers in Genesis claptrap.
Once we dispose of thinking the creation story is based on physicality, and let modern science speak to the HOW, then the WHY of the Breath of Elohim God, and the story including death in the Garden makes sense.
At leastt o me it does.

Many believe the tripartite body-soul-spirit model but there is very little support for it in the biblical scriptures. Soul and spirit have been used in the NT to point to certain functions of a human but not as three separate parts in human.

More biblical models are to understand humans as whole creatures (soul refers to life as in the creation story [hebrew ‘nephesh’], or to the ‘mind’ functions of a human), or alternatively as soul&body creatures. In the latter alternative, the soul is not understood in a similar manner as in the Greek philosophy where the soul is the eternal and good part captured in a ‘prison’ of a bad material body.

I agree with Benjamin in that we rather are souls than have souls. That is at least the picture drawn in the OT scriptures. The idea of a separate soul seems to be a later addition. However, it should be noted that Jesus spoke about soul and body, although it is somewhat unclear what he meant with the word ‘soul’.

The writings of early church fathers show how mixed the opinions were during the first centuries. Those having their background in the Alexandrian school (such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen) valued the teachings of Platon and built their teachings about the soul on that. Others partly disagreed. For example, a writing of Tertullian (a treatise on the soul) seems to give a mixed opinion as it accepts the existence of a soul but mostly condemns the numerous alternative descriptions of the soul presented in Greek philosophy as heretical. It also seems that his interpretation about the word ‘nephesh’ (‘soul’ or living organism) in the creation story is not quite correct. So, if we are not always sure what to believe about souls, we are in good company.

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Thanks for the reply! I understand what you are saying, as it defiantly reflects the Hebrew understanding. Yet the adoption of a Trinitarian “image of God” has changed our understanding of what the “Image of Man” is. The Old Testament in what is describes gives a changing image over time. As the New Testament appears the “I and the Father are One” and many other hints, Our image of the aspect of “Soul” has changed.

So the tripartite image of Elohim God, is reflected in our own image as well. Obviously, than we can ever understand. Any attempt to make the conundrum of the Tripartate godhood is fraught with difficulties. So I can say, I heartily agree with you, while also saying that there is more to it!

thanks again!

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The tree of life is a relationship with God. The Earth with this relationship is Eden. The breath of life is the inspiration of God. After God spoke to Adam, all the other people are the same as children waiting for that inheritance of the mind to spread over the whole earth.