Where are Adam and Eve in the Story of Evolution? Four Possibilities

Adam and Eve could be historical individuals, even if they evolved.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/guest/where-are-adam-and-eve-in-the-story-of-evolution-four-possibilities

This article described four possible scenarios (at least) for how to interpret Adam & Eve. While there are several additional possibilities… I was delighted by all four descriptions!

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Interesting that the book should emerge from several years of dialogue between Christians who accept evolution. Dr. Haarsma laid out the interpretive options as they now stand, but I wondered about this statement:

“These scenarios are also consistent with core doctrinal commitments regarding humans being created in the image of God and the reality of sin as disobedience to God’s revealed will.”

I don’t think that sin can be limited to “disobedience to God’s revealed will.” Consider Romans 2:12-16:

12 For all who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous. 14 For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. 15 They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, 16 on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.

It’s pretty clear to me that sin is transmitted within cultural and family systems (in addition to our own inherent selfishness). Whatever the Adam and Eve story might actually mean sin does not make sense to me without thinking of it in the context of an ancestral population bottleneck.

What’s not clear to me however, is why there is an insistence that this be about modern humans (which is clearly what options 1 and 3 appear to indicate). Hominids have been flaking sophisticated stone tools, creating representational art, and controlling fire a good deal longer than modern humans have been around. All of which are evidence of the ability to conceptualize.

Then there is the matter of interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals. The lines drawn around Homo Sapiens might be a good deal fuzzier than first appear.

Which really suggests to me that a theological view that is anchored to some sort or privileged position for homo sapiens risks creating blind alleys that we are going to have a very difficult time backing out of.

At the moment, I am cautiously inclined to option 4 but that is subject to change without notice.


I think the silence on pre-sapiens hominids is a low- cost concession to the bias of most Evangelicals.

If we struggle over Homo sapiens turning the corner into Moral Agency… we can be sure that trying to wedge earlier hominids into the equation will create unnecessary “noise”.

[quote=“SMittelstaedt, post:4, topic:36171”]
It’s pretty clear to me that sin is transmitted within cultural and family systems (in addition to our own inherent selfishness). Whatever the Adam and Eve story might actually mean sin does not make sense to me without thinking of it in the context of an ancestral population bottleneck.

First of all I’d like to state that, like @gbrooks, I am very pleased that all 4 ‘options’ are reasonable scenarios and offer support for the Genesis version of ‘Adam & Eve’. In my case, the skepticism that served me well in my career in science left me with serious doubts about the inspirational value of the Old Testament and Genesis in particular. Reading Teilhard de Chardin (especially his later works) which support evolution and particularly the evidence for the Noosphere following upon the initial Cosmosphere and the subsequent Biosphere–this helped me reconcile my science with Scripture. And joining in the Biologos Forum has definitely helped putting the final pieces in place, for me at least.

Steve, your reference to ‘our own inherent selfishness’ translates to me as The Selfish Gene that propelled Richard Dawkins’ on the road to fame (to the consternation of @Relates who, correctly, believes it has been overblown). As to your concern about the ancestral population bottleneck, that also seemed to me like an insurmountable barrier whether one favored the Original Sin scenario, or, like me, favored Original Blessing. Again, following Chardin’s lead makes sense: Humanity arose from the Homo sapiens species in an Epi-genetic Great Leap Forward that allowed the primate brain (much larger thru exaptation than needed for survival) to be 'programmed’ to act as a super-computer and deal with abstract thoughts and ideas. This enabled the newly-minted human to distinguish right from wrong (individual conscience) and also to form larger more effective communities whose rules, mores and ethics constituted a social conscience.

In my view, the greatest threat to humankind occurs when the social conscience gets warped and overrides the individual consciences–the Moral Majority. Then we are faced with the greatest of evils: the Holocaust occurring in a Christian nation or Isis atrocities in an aggressive Islam. God’s Original Gift to humans–a rational Mind–allowed for the advances seen in civilized societies, but also allowed for the added power of one or more individuals who lead those societies. A diseased conscience in just one of the leaders of such a society can lead to a misuse of power that can be the Destroyer of Worlds as stated in the Bhagavad-Gita.
Al Leo

This is exactly my problem. The capability for abstraction appears to be a good deal older than modern humans. If we can conceptualize, we can think about ourselves. And we can choose.

I like how you conceptualize yourself. :wink:

I may be choosing to believe the evidence by the experts that supports my pre-conceived beliefs; i.e. Tattersall, Diamond, & Dawkins support for the GLF. What evidence do you believe that really supports the capability for abstract thought–and its transmission thru language–before ~40K yrs. ago? Drawing a few parallel lines on a chuck of ochre falls far short of that, in my opinion.
Al Leo

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I’m thinking about primitive art plus at will control of fire plus flaking of symmetrical tools.

Taken individually they may not mean much but taken together the ability to conceptualize seems like a reasonable conclusion.

I agree that it took a major improvement in the operation of a primate’s brain to conceive of a biface tool–to "see’’ within a core stone the hand axes that were potentially there inside it. But that does not meet the threshold of abstract thought in my opinion. And teaching that art to the younger generation, in all probability, depended mostly on visual copying, not oral instruction. But who can say for sure? I just hope that God has all of this ‘on tape’, and if we please him in this life, he will allow us access to his tape library so we can see exactly how it DID happen. {Sort of a childish wish, perhaps, but as Paul said: Who can conceive of what God has in store?}
Al Leo

This is not a hill I am prepared to die on but the challenge I would like to pose is to try actually knapping a flint and building a fire (out of whatever natural materials happen to be at hand). It is not as easy as one might think and even learning through visual demonstration is at least suggestive of the ability to abstract.

The learner has to be able to replicate the task in whatever environment they happen to find themselves in.

I am certainly NOT contesting the fact that the average Neanderthal or early Homo sapiens was not MORE competent evolution-wise than I am. I would be lost if I had to make fire or hunting tools without the help of other humans in a working society. But I think the important question is: Do I realize that I am a Creature and the Higher Power that created me might have certain things in mind for me to do; i.e. am I able to covenant with my Creator? Making microlithic tools and needles to sew clothing, while admirable accomplishments, are not indicative that early Homo sapiens was covenant-capable.
Al Leo


At the core of creation is morality. Conceptual thought is nothing without moral agency being included. And that is what is being presented in the Adam & Eve cycle.

Isn’t “the law” in this passage more about membership in the chosen people of God (Judaism) than about God’s revealed will? There are plenty of places in Scripture where God reveals his will to people outside the Jewish covenant community.

The contrast between hearing and doing “the law” in v.13 indicate that Paul has more in view here than simply membership in the covenant community. What we see in vv. 14-16 is conscience performing the same role as “the law” does for the Jew. Notice that in vv. 21-22 Paul provides examples drawn from the 10 Commandments – theft, adultery, idolatry. The entire flow of Paul’s thought in Romans 1:18-3:20 is to establish the principle that everyone – Jew and Gentile alike – stands condemned as sinners and in need of the righteousness that comes through faith. Here is Douglas Moo’s introduction to the passage:

a. The Jews and the Judgment of God (2:1-16)
Paul develops his critique of the Jews in these verses in three paragraphs. The
first, w. 1-5, uses the second person singular to accuse the Jews of earning
for themselves the same wrath that is already falling on Gentile sinners. This
accusation is the main point of 2:1-16. God’s judgment is "according to truth,"
and he must fairly assess the works of every person (v. 2). And this criterion
of impartial “fairness” applies even to the Jew who is proud of being a member
of God’s people (w. 3-5).

The second two paragraphs (vv. 6-11 and 12-16) interrupt the second
person “accusation” style (it is resumed in v. 17) with explanation (in the
third person plural) of the indictment in vv. 1-5. Both paragraphs serve to
validate the inclusion of Jews along with Gentiles under sentence of God’s
wrath by showing that Jews stand on the same basic ground as Gentiles when
it comes to God’s judgment. For, in the first place, God’s impartiality demands
that he treat all people the same, judging every person according to what he
has done (vv. 6-11). To this, the Jews may object that they possess, in the
Mosaic law, a distinct advantage over the Gentiles. So, in the second place,
Paul shows that possession of the Mosaic law will make no difference in this
judgment (v. 12) — for (1) it is not the possession but the doing of the law
that matters (v. 13); and (2) the Gentiles also have “law” in some sense (w.

Rom.2:[quote=“Jay313, post:16, topic:36171”]
The contrast between hearing and doing “the law” in v.13 indicate that Paul has more in view here than simply membership in the covenant community.

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.

I may be wrong, but I have always thought that in these passages Paul was establishing the principle that a person need not be part of the Jewish covenant community to be a follower of Christ. Perhaps, as the first quote above indicates, each of us has been given a conscience by means of which we potentially can discern God’s will and become responsible for obeying it, without being a member of a covenant community–even a Christian community._It is my personal belief that being born into a Christian community (a Cradle Catholic) gives me a ‘heads up’ in both discerning and then choosing to follow God’s will, but I have met Gentiles whose chances of a reward in the afterlife seems as good or better than mine. Their parents and the society they were born into was effective in ‘bending the twig’ in the right direction.

In this regard, as I have noted in previous blogs, two passages from John’'s gospel seem to carry opposite messages, at least to me: John 14: 6 seems to require Jesus (Christ) as my savior; and John 6:44 seems to say that God calls each of us to heed Christ’s (Jesus) message, where Christ is God’s saving grace directed at any intelligent being anywhere in the Universe. But we suffer no penalty if circumstances prevent us from ever hearing of Jesus.

John14:6. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father
except through me.”

John6:44 “ No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.”
Al Leo

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That has been a common, though definitely minority, position in the church for a long time. Some traditions label it “heresy,” while others don’t. It is my opinion that there is no salvation outside of Christ, but I will not object if God does as he pleases without consulting me first.

I agree there is no salvation outside of Christ, but I do not see the name “Jesus” or “Yeshua” as a magic incantation. Could someone from a pre-Christian society deduce a conception of God and Christ sufficient for salvation? eg Job 9:33?

I will go along with you on this, @Jay313, if you concur that the Chess Master Allegory of salvation is how Christ does it!