What does "historical Adam" mean? And why is it important?

This is probably the longest post I have placed on any blog, and I hope it will be the last detailed one, but I feel it necessary to make these points. The discussion regarding Adam and Eve has two basic lines of reasoning, biological and theological:

  1. Biological – very generally, this may be summarised as follows (and those with the technical expertise may wish to correct any detail if they so wish):

(a) This argument posits a continuation of change from a common ancestor over millions of years - presumably some type of animal that eventually mutated into a number of species (or intermediates if that is preferred) but eventually species now termed humans and apes were the end result.
(b) The line leading to humans as we know them may or may not be defined, but there is discussion of interbreeding, so we cannot designate a clear distinction or specific point at which human beings came into existence, but nonetheless, present day human beings are believed to have ‘come into being’ in some way.
© On this line of reasoning (without disputing any evidence from data or modelling) we may still be at a loss on how the population of 10,000 humans came about – although genetic diversity may suggest such a number.
(d) If the ridiculous suggestions such as bestiality was accepted, we are left with a huge problem regarding breeding between different species.

I am speculating now by asking questions – can we decide if an original human being can be thought to have existed? Is it possible to argue that there was an original male and female who gave birth to human beings? Or is it stated, by those committed to this outlook that a gradual change occurred in which various types of male and female bred for prolonged periods? Just how do we arrive at a population of human beings? If there were a variety of creatures who could breed, these by definition were one species; if so why would this mixture not exist today?

  1. Theological.

(a) This commences with a clear statement that God created Adam and Eve from the substance of the earth. Most Christians accept this to mean the atoms and molecules that make up all animal species.
(b) The involvement of God is central to this – we cannot ignore this point and skip into a lengthy and futile narrative on evolution and how God may have gone about doing this or that to accommodate a pet theory or a perceived consensus.
© The theological point is not about the material substance that made up Adam, but the purpose for his creation by God, which was to imprint the image of God, to breathe into mankind the breadth of Godly life.
(d) What God can do and reveal is not restricted to any notions we may have – by this I mean Genesis does not become relevant only if we can put a scientific gloss on it. We are however, required to show that it does not contradict our general understanding obtained from our life experiences, our faith, and our limited understanding of science.

The theological point also does not require detailed explanations of how children came about, since all reasonable people understand propagation is done by male and female giving birth. Trying to redefine Adam and Eve within an impossible constraint is ridiculous, and trying to read such nonsense into Genesis is adsurb.

God considered Adam’s actions as typifying all humanity (which I personally think He did) – we cannot restrict God’s actions just to fit our own notions.

We now may ask, what does the Bible teach us regarding God’s involvement with humanity? We can easily answer this by looking at other examples. Abraham was called by God, so was Moses, so was Isaiah, and on goes the list. In all cases, these people were changed into God fearing and God serving people.

The arguments against Adam are, as I have said before, flawed because people wish to read their speculation into Genesis, or leave out stuff out of Genesis, or isolate Gen 2 for special treatment that can be woven into the evolutionary narrative.

At no point does God ‘zap’ anyone, be it Adam, Abraham, Moses etc., nor do we need a biological explanation for any of these events. We also understand God was involved in the birth of Christ - I do not think this is a biological question either.

Genesis 2 shows us that God acted, created, in a particular way, to teach us that we as human beings can, and do, make choices contrary to His will, also contrary to our own good.

1 Like

Just got to this thread (looking after too many grandchildren to keep up) and am surprised and pleased by the general consensus represented (despite the apparent disagreements).

The only point I want to add is to the talk about God’s “adding” an “immortal soul” to the mix in Adam - a natural enough viewpoint when some of the sources like Kemp and The O’Floinn are Catholic.

Yet few of us here are actually Catholics, and there are problems with such an idea of “soul”, especially when it’s considered apart from Aquinas’s deeply Aristotelian grasp of “soul” as that which gives human form to mere matter, rather than any idea that it a spiritual “addition” to a human animal.

In Hebrew terms, of course, “soul” is even more a fundamental idea of what we are, not what we have. Immortality in the Garden was not intrinsic, but a gift of being in the garden - surely related in imagery to being in the presence of God. Adam was spiritual because God revealed himself to him, though he had to have been created capable of receiving such revelation.

We do maybe need to struggle, as Aquinas did, with the reality that dissolution of the body at death does not entirely extinguish us until we are re-embodied at the resurrection. But that does not equate to the Cartesian “immaterial soul” that most of us tend to have as our schema for “immortal soul”.

In other words, a historical Adam in the ANE certainly gained some new blessings from God, and certainly sullied them, and so it was through one man that sin entered the world. But those things need not have been, from the Gen 2-3 account, either biological or “psychic”. Likewise, mankind as a race received in the act of creation the privilege of being “in the image of the Image” - there is an ontological correspondence between humanity and Christ. Such an endowment, however it relates or not to Adam and Eve, must be beyond the merely biological, and certainly beyond the reach of a biological theory based on contingency rather than teleology.

And as GD points out, evolution alone cannot define a clear human category: we need more than biology even to allow the universal, “humanity”.

All of which leads me ever closer to the conclusion that we learn relatively little about human creation from any consideration of biological evolution: is “evolutionary creation” therefore not a rather misleading concept? It’s no more explanatory than “chemical creation” or “Newtonian creation” would be.

1 Like


I agree with your comments, and I feel we should emphasise an important point that seems forgotten in some of these exchanges (and I will use your phraseology) - and this is ‘the sovereignty of GOD’ in all of these matters. I have used the ‘centrality of God’ as the defining phrase, but I want to give my amen to yours. I think Gregory and myself may use other phrases at times, but we both reject the myth nonsense, because we both attest to the centrality (sovereignty) of God regarding Adam and Eve, and the creation.

This topic was automatically closed 3 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.