The Genealogical Adam and Non-Adamic Beings

(Peaceful Science) #1

Continuing the discussion from Who best reconciles the Bible and Evolution?:

Thanks for the question @jpm.

Drawing on a conversation with @LorenHaarsma, we can think of three theological/historical eras in a scenario where Adam and Eve are couple in a larger population.

  1. Era 1 is before Adam and Eve are created, but there are still pre-Adamic beings around.
  2. Era 2 is after Adam and Eve are created, but they have not become universal ancestors of all living people, so there are non-Adamic beings alive.
  3. Era 3 is after Adam and Eve have become universal ancestors of all living people.

You are asking about the status of non-Adamic beings in Era 2.

FIrst, let me make a few points on the science. I assert that we are living in Era 3 at this time, because the length of Era 2 is most likely just 3,000 years. The more distant in our past Adam and Eve are situated, the faster Era 2 passes. It might have only been 1,000 years long if it happened when the population was smaller and if Adam’s descendents were travelers. All the same, genealogical ancestors are unobservable in genetic and archaeological data. We cannot be sure from evidence about exactly when each era begins or when it ends.

Second, let me make some theological points.

  1. We do not know from Scripture how non-Adamic beings are received by God, but we might point to passages in Romans about the law on our hearts or the age of accountability. Ultimately, however, this is a mystery.
  2. The Bible appears to teach a single origin to sin (“through one man sin entered the world”), but it does not teach a single origin to “Image of God.”
  3. Historically, there is a strong sentiment of racism underlying some contemplation of non-Adamic lines, but this is misguided for several reasons. As just two reasons, why would we think the Fallen line of Adam is better than not-Fallen non-Adamic lines? Moreover, we live in Era 3, unless Adam and Eve were less than 3,000 years ago, so we do not currently face non-Adamic lines.
  4. Mystery should invite us to imagine possibilities with the worship of creative curiosity. So I will indulge, not because I know the answer, but because imagination is the flourishing of the human spirit.

From that starting point, I draw heavily from CS Lewis, one of the foremost thinkers on non-Adamic beings, and his approach to theologize fiction. In the Chronicles of Narnia, we see unfallen non-Adamic lines everywhere, without a hint of racism. Likewise, in the Space trilogy, we see fallen non-Adamic lines and the true evil of which all are capable.

Adding to these musing, we can imagine an Adamic fall that reshapes the entire world of men by bringing God-Imaged Fallenness to all across the globe in a single instant. Perhaps it comes in the form a cataclysmic dream as @tremperlongman suggests for the Flood. In this case, all in Era 2 would have the same status.

Maybe the genealogy of Adam also includes adoption, as it does in the genealogy of Jesus. And Adam’s line grown not just by biology but also by the willful choice of non-Adamites to enter and join the world that Adam creates.

In this last scenario, I think we get a better account of the Fall, which hinges on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I think this is Knowledge of Good and Evil (as in moral capacity that brings responsibility) and Knowledge for Good and Evil (as world-shaping power that than can be used for good and evil). Adam and Eve choose to take world-shaping power for themselves, even though it brings them into accountability for the world they will create. This is how taking the fruit “brings death” to them.

We can understand God’s participation in bringing them knowledge (i.e. leather and farming) as respecting the decision to claim this world-shaping knowledge, and affirming consistent with the rest of Scripture that the knowledge itself is not evil. The end of their immortality and God’s physical absence from this world after the Fall can be understood as God’s response to knowing that Adam will use this knowledge to create a world of evil. He chooses not be complicit in the world of injustice that they will create, and that is why God no longer walks with us the same as He did in the Garden. He will not participate in our injustice. He will not remain present in the same way as in the Garden.

This, I would say, is the original sin of Adam and how if affects us all. From him, we inherit a man-made world of great injustice, in which we are all complicit. As reflectors of God by nature, we are crippled by God’s absence, and are bound instead to an idolatry that grows our injustice. We are shaped by his sin in an irrevocable way, except for Jesus. This, I would say, is how Adam’s sin “brings death to all mankind.”

The solution to this problem is for God somehow to find a way to walk with us again without destroying us, in a clear representation of Himself, so that we might have hope of reflecting Him again even though we are still bound to Adam’s world. This account cries out for the Incarnation and our basic need for forgiveness. It points to Jesus, as only He is the return of God to the world, to walk among us again and grant us forgiveness for our participation in a world of injustice.

In this account, the Fall gives understanding to the Incarnation.

I know @JRM is thinking about this some, and I look forward to hearing his thoughts on the genealogical Adam.

This, I feel, is a better account than most. I cannot call it true, because we have only just begun to dream of Adam. There is not just one option but hundreds. Facing the mystery, our generation needs the fearless imagination of creative curiosity.

Who best reconciles the Bible and Evolution?

The realization–from the Genesis text itself—that there were non-Imago-Dei beings living contemporaneously with HAADAM [[The Red Soil-Man, as my first year Hebrew professor at a state university insisted long ago, a well-known rabbi and Semitic Languages expert.]] was among the many breakthroughs which led me away from my Young Earth Creationist, Six Literal Days, "creation science, straitjacket.

Ever since, I’ve avoided calling that HAADAM “the first human”, because I’m not even sure how to define the term human. So I tend to call Adam “the first Image-of-God creature.” Yet, I didn’t make much progress in my understanding of the Adamic line versus other hominids until I started reading Biologos articles. What Dr. Swamidas has been writing in recent months has been a huge relief because it reassures me that my quiet speculations of past decades were not so off-base. I’d long assumed that humans today could be genealogical descendants from the Adamic line even if “The Adam” lived just a handful of millennia ago.

I had been doing a lot of research into my Y-DNA signature for genealogical purposes and that provided many unanticipated advantages for my grasp of the various Biologos articles about genomics discoveries and the basics of human ancestry. So this post by Dr. Swamidas is yet another reinforcement that my interpretations of Genesis and my grasp of the emerging science are not in conflict.

So, thank you, Dr. Swamidas!


Considering that “the dust of the ground” is a material which includes a lot of eroded rocks, “the geological Adam” would be a fitting term!

Of course, I’ve watched a lot of my Young Earth Creationist friends and acquaintances go ballistic when I dared suggest that “the dust of the ground” was the result of natural forces over vast periods of time—because they insist that the soil of the earth is yet another “instantaneously poofed into existence” creation which contains misleading appearance-of-age deceptions within it!

(George Brooks) #3


I think the three Eras cover the bases.

So which group of evangelicals most closely aligns with accepting Era 1?


So far I have been successful in resisting the urge to post any of the most obvious punchlines to that excellent set-up!

(Therefore, I am chuckling privately. And I will keep it that way.)

(Peaceful Science) #5

I think everyone in the Church accepts Era 1. Animals are pre-Adamic beings.

But you miss the point, the Three Eras are different phases of the same proposal. They are not separate proposals.

(George Brooks) #6


Are you executing a debating tactic? I know of no Evangelical group that would refer to “animals” as beings.

To be perfectly clear, Era 1 has to refer to pre- Adam life as hominids…not just animals or beings.

(Peaceful Science) #7

Not a debating tactic. One of the definitions of “beings”

An individual form of life; an organism

Being as I am using it is a very neutral term that can be invested with many different nuances. Everyone I know of believes that there were “beings” before humans. If we remember angels and the serpent, then most YECs also think this includes intelligent beings. In their model (not mine), some even say that these angels both (1) pre-exist humans, (2) are biologically compatible with humans, (3) are intelligent and (4) they are not exactly human-like.

Now, there is disagreement about whether “human-like” beings existing before Adam. But there is a long history in traditional interpretations, a minority position, that there are pre-Adamic human-like beings that are themselves not precisely human as we facilly understand it today. This position is currently represented in Reasons to Believe (old earth creationism) and most strands of evolutionary creationism.


Yes, I assumed that lots of Christians deny that there was “pre-Adam life” because that would, to them, imply that “pre-Adam life” evolved to produce the Adamic line. And that, obviously would be the evolution theory that they disdain.

I had understood gbrooks9 as being tongue-in-cheek in his remarks. And I was assuming that all of us were humorously considering the various ways evolution-denying Christians would interpret Era 1.

For example, some Christians would assume that a pre-Adam being would include Neanderthal Man, or Homo Erectus, and all other hominids. [We can’t expect the average Christian on the street to get any of this correct. For example, many Christians assume a classic Scala Natura poster (think Zallinger’s March of Progress) and think what they consider “cave men” are all considered the ancestors of humans according to “evilutionists”.] So they make jokes, such as poking fun at groups of people, e.g., “Liberals are pre-Adamic beings still around today.” )

I think Dr. Swamidass wrote an excellent description of the three eras, and I think George Brooks properly understood them—but I also assume that we are all observing the fact that most Christians would be very confused by the entire topic including the terminology.

What Dr. Swamidass says here about Era 3—and his recent exposition on the difference between Adam as genealogical ancestor and as genetic ancestor of humans alive today—is EXTREMELY important. Yet, I think only a minuscule percentage of American Christians have much of a grasp of such topics. Indeed, if not for my self-education related to my Y-DNA testing and genealogical research of my father’s lineage, I think I would struggle to grasp some of this. And for that matter, even then I had to read very slowly and carefully to make sure I understood everything that Joshua S. was explaining recently about Adam’s place in the human family tree and issues like MRCA (most recent common ancestor) mathematics, etc. And that is a very good thing that you have strong expectations for your readers!

I should emphasize that point. I greatly appreciate that Biologos scientists treat average Christians like me with intellectual respect—in the sense that you are willing to write on a plane above trite polemics and fifth-grade level science. I won’t name the offending ministries but we all know of those organizations which treat their readers as blind-followers who are expected to simply accept whatever they are told, and they get a steady dose of propaganda pablum and “these are the things which good Christians are supposed to believe!” (I often wonder if many Christians notice those kinds of differences. Of course, many Christian keep themselves carefully secluded in isolated echo-chambers. But most of their teenagers won’t be content there forever.)

(George Brooks) #9


Referencing angels as beings is not unusual. But referencing dogs as “beings” certainly would be.

Unless you intentionally want to confuse your readers, for the purpose of this thread you should replace “beings” with the word “hominids” … or maybe even “humans of non-Adam descent”.

(Peaceful Science) #10

I suppose the issue is complex to complex for a simple word choice. I’m sorry it was confusing. We talk about pre-Adamites and non-Adamites, the general notion is that these “beings” are of unspecified status but also sharing somethings if not most things in common with us.

Once again I am drawn to CS Lewis’s contributions here. Specifically, I think of the Chronicles of Narnia. The talking animals are nothing like the animals in our world, because the have what some scientists call the “human-condition”. This is a very hard to define notion, of which their remains debate about whether (for example) neanderthals share it with us too. Lewis’s Narnians, however, do clearly exhibit the “human-condition” even though they are not even biologically compatible with us.

They are, in my view, a clear example of non-Adamites that bear something of God’s Image, whose ancestors will never become Adamites because they are not biologically compatible with us. Moreover, they do not appear (for the most part) to be Fallen, nor does there appear any racism between these lines (except that there are only British people in Narnia, but that arise for a different reason).

I think the right way to describe Narnians is “beings”, as this is the most neutral term possible from which we can then discuss their status and state.

Any how, I have a hard time being 100% consistent in my language here, because I’m elaborating so many variations in how we might think about these questions. I do not think it is an exaggeration to call this line of think “understudied”. That makes it very fun.

I appreciate you taking the time to understand my contributions here. My observations are surprising, but I think and can and should reshape the debate.


Yes. Yes. And yes!

You choose very challenging projects for yourself. And I think we all appreciate that fact.

Nomenclature and definitions can be extremely difficult even with familiar terms. For example, let’s face it, even after so many centuries of theologians, we still don’t have much detail and consensus on what we mean by humans being endowed with the Imago Dei. (!) Even a concise summary/definition for the layperson often frustrates me!

Add to all that the difficulties in defining “human”, and whether various species of hominids were “human” or “pre-human”, I so often have to resort to statements like “The Bible describes Adam as the first Image-of-God creature.” The fact that Cain apparently married outside of the Adamic line and built a city while the Nephilim/Sons of God apparently represent non-Adamic hominids, I often struggle with terminology. [My linguistics background demands that I interpret “Sons of God” similarly to how many other cultures have used the phrase, which puts me opposite of many of my evangelical colleagues.]

FOOTNOTE: I strongly oppose the traditional excuse from my YEC heritage which claimed that Cain married his sister. I’m embarrassed to admit that I once taught those unscriptural “doctrines”.

I appreciate that you are willing to explore such “frontier territories” of thought—and I don’t expect you have everything perfectly and consistently worked out from the beginning. And as the science continues to advance and more Christians become familiar with it, Biologos is virtually alone in terms of scientists and Biblical scholars with the requisite backgrounds and knowledge to tackle these issues. (I’m embarrassed to imagine the directions in which some ministries will head as they cluelessly pontificate on these topics. Remaining silent when lacking knowledge is not their culture nor track record.)

(Jon Garvey) #12

Yes, I think the explicit and implicit ecidence in Genesis not only that there were “other people” around in Adam’s day, but the author works with that assumption, gives this line of exploration legs. It’s not just a way of twisting Genesis into an old-earth scenario from a primitive young earth belief, but a way of recovering what the text is actually seeking to teach, about (in torah context) the origin of Israel and its mission, and in Biblical terms about the salvation history of the Gospel.

In particular, it calls us to enquire just what is particular about Adam, rather than speculating on what “Image” might mean in the way of “spiritual awareness”, “rationality” etc. The story clearly teaches that Adam and his line are specifically involved with the worship of Yahweh - not with a dawning awareness of the numinous; and that their sin has to do, primarily, with disobediance to a divine command within a specific relationship (as Paul also teaches in Romans 5), not with the acquisition of “selfishness”. both of these things are often seen as evolutionary developments anyway, thus radically changing the theology - but MRCA, though compatible with evolution, does not depend on it but affirms historic doctrine.

Likewise, as your post suggests, looking towards a clearer view of what Genesis means by “man” is essential, because it cannot, in cultural context, mean Homo sapiens. It clearly doesn’t apply to dogs in Genesis’s own terms - but neither have we any justification to apply it to Neanderthals or Denisovans of which Genesis is ignorant. If the biblical mindset is that true adam is constituted by the race descended from the man of dust, Adam, then it could be the events of Gen 2-4 that define “man”, entirely independently of his biological or social constitution. So we don’t have to place the historic Adam in anything but a comprehensible historic setting.

As Joshua says, the approach is under-researched, partly because of the nasty track record of “pre-Adamic man” thinking historically - for which David Livingstone’s Adam’s Ancestors is essential reading. It’s been behind a good deal of my own thinking about the Fall over the last seven years, and productively so, whilst there is still much work to do.

FOOTNOTE: For Joshua or anyone else looking to follow up these ideas, here are some posts I’ve done based on it in the last few years:

(Albert Leo) #13

Jon, in an earlier post you wrote:
Quite apart from Darwinian mechanisms, the descent of man from other creatures poses the issue of human exceptionalism – there must be a discrete point at which mankind becomes truly human [my emphasis]” You suggest that this might be associated with the Neolithic revolution which "occurred at, maybe, 10,000BC, and at the same time we begin to see evidence for true cultic ritual for the first time." As an alternative you suggest it might be even later and closer to the Eden time-frame, "the Mesopotamian chalcolithic period around the 4th millennium BC."

In trying to discern a discrete point at which Homo sapiens became truly human (a creature that has the potential to become imago dei,I think the evidence is stronger for an earlier date: the GLF when they (proto-humans) prepared their dead for an afterlife. You may not accept the evidence for true cultic ritual extends that far back (~40K yrs.), but the expenditure of thousands of man hours to craft a necklace of ivory beads that was buried with a loved one is convincing enough for me. At this point in time, my ancestors wished to ‘covenant’ with their Creator.

At present, we know little of human culture between 40K BC and the Neolithic revolution, but it seems that the invention of agriculture and the birth of city states was a somewhat mixed blessing. The lust for extended power that accompanied this switch to urban environment may have encouraged the Biblical Flood story that God was disgusted with his creatures who so misused his precious gift of Mind & Conscience. (Many folks today join Rousseau in mourning the disappearance of the Nobel Savage, the class-free society of hunter=gatherers.)

So what’s wrong with this scenario: It’s timing? Its theology? It’s degree of non-orthodoxy?
Al Leo

(George Brooks) #14

@Swamidass and @aleo ,

From God’s perspective, morality trumps all technologies. “Truly human” could very well be when a hominid - - with or without specific inspiration from God - - arrives at Moral Agency!

(GJDS) #15

The weak point in your point of view, ironically, is what evolution insists, which is that creatures gradually changed into others with larger sized brains. Such a transition is postulated to occur over very lengthy periods - and yet no evolutionary view can accommodate the change you insist over a few thousand years. We would than add other objections, such as physical evidence.

Your approach seems opportunistic, in that when it serves your view, biology is fine, and when this does not work, culture steps in: just for fun.:hushed:

(Peaceful Science) #16

Being “human” is more than moral agency. Evolution cannot produce an immortal soul. As @Jon_Garvey explains aptly in one of his article, evolution can not appoint us to a role is for God alone to give us. Evolution cannot bring us into relationship with God.

It is hard to imagine evolution producing a theological human (homo divinus, or the “mankind” of Scripture) without God’s direct involvement somehow as an event(s) in time, with a before and after.

(George Brooks) #17


  1. The word “or” was invented so that I could recognize the view about God’s involvement.

  2. Your earlier statement that Moral Agency is not enough to be human can only be true if you know of some creature who is not human … but still has moral agency.

So what creature are you proposing? I’ve never heard of it.

(Peaceful Science) #18

It is pretty clear that monkeys and apes have moral agency in important ways. ( ). It is also pretty clear that a newborn baby does not have moral agency, even though she is a human. it is also pretty clear that the severely mentally disabled are still human, but they do not have moral agency. It would be shocking if Neanderthals had no moral agency, but it is unclear if they are the “mankind” of Scripture.

Clearly, moral agency alone is not enough to confer or define the “human-condition”. It is possible to imagine an evolutionary process developing “moral capacity”. It is possible to believe that “moral capacity” is a necessary precondition for the “Image of God.” However, there is something about the Image of God that precedes “Knowledge of Good and Evil” and that is given by God, not by evolution.

This is one of the teachings of Genesis, to which even most who deny a historical Adam agree.

(George Brooks) #19

I do not agree with this statement - - can you find even ONE prominent YEC who will agree to it?

(Jon Garvey) #20

Hi Al

As you saw, that article was written a long while ago, so I retain the right to tune my views!

The thrust of it, and of the whole “genealogical” approach @Swamidass has introduced again (and of one specific point that @Socratic.Fanatic has made) is that we perhaps should not automatically think of “Adam”, and ergo the Genesis concept of “man” (also adam) in terms of biological species, or natural endowments, or even some kind of rational or spiritual sense, whether of evolutionary origin or otherwise, but rather in terms of one individual designated and called to relationship with God, with whatever consequences that brings.

He would not necessarily be different in obvious ways from others around him, in an analogy to the fact that the second Adam, Jesus, was not obviously different from those around him, but was nevertheless the “New Man”. And so my speculations about the changes of culture in the Neolithic or Chalcolithic in that article were not intended to mean that man had reached the right stage for relationship with God then, but that relationship with God (and the breakage of that relationship) could have had observable effects on human culture afterwards.

So whilst I have no great quibble with your scenario as a possibility to explore (and indeed have been in long correspondence about a variant of it with someone recently), I believe your fundamental approach is different to mine. To start with:

> In trying to discern a discrete point at which Homo sapiens became truly human (a creature that has the potential to become imago dei, I think the evidence is stronger for an earlier date:

I don’t, au contraire, think in terms of “potential” regarding imago dei, nor of that “point” as marking the humanity of species H sapiens. Rather, Adam the individual is created in the image of God by God (not necessarily physically, you understand, but in the particular sense Genesis intends for adam, “man”). The creation of Adam is a spiritual, even a covenant, event and not a palaeontological or cultural one, which is why Genesis actually seems, on close examination, to assume other people, cities, even nations, being around. And also that’s why we learn about it from the Bible and not through origins science.

Auxillary parts of that hypothesis are:

(a) That Genesis 2 has a specified geographical and cultural setting which does match chalcolithic Mesopotamia, but doesn’t match hunter-gatherer palaeolithic culture in the ice-age.
(b) That Genesis 2 is about relationship with Yahweh, not simply awareness of the divine, and for that we have no evidence before Genesis. Remember that the torah , including Genesis, according to the text, was given to an Israel that had decisively rejected the gods of Egypt as false, even though at that time lower Egypt had a virtual monotheistic religion under Ptah. The origin of Yahwism, not the origin of religion, is what the story is about - and that as divine revelation, not human desire.
© That Adam is conceived primarily in relationship to Israel’s origins, with his genealogy of those who “call on the name of Yahweh” following through to Abraham and the promise/covenant. For the conventions of a biblical genealogy to skip generations, include tribes as well as individuals, inflate ages etc is very likely - but that it would in ten generations be intended to cover 40K years (a period of which any author of the time could have no knowledge - it would have to be inspiration by dictation) is, to me, unlikely in the extreme.
(d) The table of the nations doesn’t cover the whole world. That may, of course, be because it covers all that was known to Israel (but that’s inconsistent with their being told what had happened in the paleolithic revolution!). But what if it is intended as a semitic genealogy for that time, demonstrating how Adam’s knowledge, and sin, infiltrated the world?

On the other hand, your observations about the downside of the Neolithic revolution and its possible relationship to the Flood Narrative may be very relevant indeed. We are after all talking about the trajectory of sin in Gen 1-11. Rousseau’s “noble savage” may be something of a romantic notion, but the thrust of the garden narrative is that the opportunity to know God himself and transform the world for good became, in fact, a lapse into massive evil that corrupted everything. Humanity fell, and one would predict some signs of that in history.

Given the literary and cultural links between the Noahic flood and The Flood a key event in Mesopotamian cultural memory (quite probably that of c2900BC), we once again have an historical marker that points to the bronze age, rather than to the palaeolithic.

Such a hypothesis seems to me to retain a high view both of divine authorship (the spiritual story is true) and human authorship (a tradition of the events and the employment of genre is plausible). To me (and I have no claim to any authority), the palaeolithic idea requires, on the one hand, too little correspondence to the text and yet, on the other, a Qu’ran-like model of divine inspiration in which God reveals the distant past. It also requires a particular reconstruction of the paleolithic which is quite likely to be overturned by new scientific discoveries.