Why I Think Adam was a Real Person in History

(Jon Garvey) #21

But Phil, is your concept of “being human” a biological definition, a biblical one, or something else? We’ll discount those who exclude those present people lacking cognitive abilities, though medical ethics has a lot to do with that, and we’ll ignore those biologists and anthropologists who argued, on scientific grounds (eg Haeckel), that the “races” were species and that there was a greater gulf between an aborigine and a European than between a man and an ape. Science was wrong on that, and has moved on.

But although we are all Homo sapiens now, that is a taxonomic classification that doesn’t tell us what “human” means. Josh’s work discusses this in detail (as does mine). Since the biblical foundation for the anthropology of our race is Adam, the biblical definition of “human” is “descended from Adam,” rather than vice versa.

(Jon Garvey) #22

My linked article will save you the work, George. The fact remains that the Orthodox church historically accepted Augustine as an authority, though their spin on ancestral sin was more orientated towards the inheritance of mortality than guilt.

(George Brooks) #23


So when do you think the Eastern Orthodox definitively rejected Original Sin as the Roman Catholic Church formulated it?

(Jon Garvey) #24

Wrong question - the history of Orthodoxy and Catholicism is the story of parallel development in two languages (Greek and Latin), leading to eventual mutual alienation, and so further doctrinal evolution. In the millennium the two were in communion, doctrines were accepted, argued over, negotiated, understood differently and every combination of those - and not all the differences were regional or linguistic. Irenaeus was a Greek working in the West, Augustine an African working in the West, Jerome a Latin working in the East, Athanasius a Greek Egyptian working wherever he wasn’t exiled at the time.

But for the purpose of Phil’s query, to those from East and West genealogy from Adam was a major issue that Christ’s work dealt with, and the Reformation (being Western) found the Catholic view of inherited sin in their Bibles.

(Christy Hemphill) #25

When Kathryn brought up sole progenitor, it was not in the context of discussing Josh’s ideas of genealogical Adam and she even had a footnote clarifying that she was referring to the “the traditional idea that Adam and Eve were the only two people from whom all other people descended.” You objecting to a person talking about their take on the “traditional idea” because it does not interact with some other person’s unique definition of the words is really weird to me. How does choosing to use a definition that is different than someone else’s definition misrepresent their views if you aren’t talking about that person’s views? We are all allowed to talk about Adam without referencing Josh’s definitions and idiosyncratic perspective on things. We are allowed to talk about what most Christians we interact with believe, whether or not Josh or you approve of their definitions. Right?

(Phil) #26

In this context, my mind was looking at it in the Biblical sense, in relation to our fallen sinful state and Christ’s redemption. It does get intertwined, though, doesn’t it, when you look at the various interpretive scenarios. The recent hoopla looking at bottlenecks sort of brought that out to me, with the contention that a bottleneck not ruled out further back than 700K years was proposed to be significant, implying that humanity in the Biblical sense was around 700K years back, if one ties it to an interpretation of Adam and Eve.
In any case, it is interesting to look at the various interpretations. Who knows, one of them may actually be close to material beginnings.

(George Brooks) #28


My “take” on the 700k year figure was slightly different.

Chris Stringer’s 2012 chart showing broad lines of human evolution indicates that even Neanderthals were not yet on the Earth by 700,000. So, when the 700k figure was arrived at (based on an uninterrupted chain of hominid regression back to when there was enough noise to hide a 1-pair bottleneck), it pretty much closed the door on a 1 pair bottleneck during the time of either Homo sapiens OR neanderthalensis!

Note: For those readers new to this controversy, the 700k time frame does not mean there was a bottleneck of 1 pair 700,000 years ago - - it means that there is so much “static” in the numbers 700,000 years ago that there could be one and we would not be able to see it.

(Jon Garvey) #29

That may be true, Christy, but Genealogical Adam is referenced in Deb’s article, and is not quite a private opinion of a couple of random posters.

It was introduced to the Christian world in 2010 by David Opderbeck in a BioLogos article. I picked it up then and discussed it quite a lot in comments over the following years - at BioLogos (before continuing on my own blog). Joshua Swamidass, whilst a “BioLogos voice,” introduced it again in a thorough treatment - at BioLogos, and it has been a major point of discussion at BioLogos for a couple of years - ending in his changing from being a “BioLogos voice” to being banned from the forum. Finally, it is due for a major presentation at the forthcoming Dabar conference - sponsored by BioLogos.

Genealogical Adam, in short, was born and raised at BioLogos over the last 8 years, and so in a presentation on the very eve of the Dabar conference, it is surprising that its treatment was not a greater part of the context.

That said, I started my initial comment with gratitude for the overall content of Deb’s article.

(George Brooks) #30

Quite right, @Jon_Garvey! They believed the inheritance from Adam was “the disease of death”… not “Adam’s sin and its repercussions of evil”. Each person was inevitably to sin in his own way, paying the wage of his own destruction, without any recourse to Adam’s specific sin required.

Here’s my latest research on the matter:

(George Brooks) #32


In the midst of evolved humanity, God makes a special pair of humans with the same basic genetics… maybe there eyes were a little more blue? Their hair a little more blonde? Oh … wait… these aren’t Aryans, are they!?

But Eden is plunked down in the midst of all this raw “2001: Space Odyssey” scenery … and the drama is played out … and when the couple are evicted… they merge with their fellow genetic humans… who even have the same Image of God stamped on their “being”!

(GJDS) #37

I cannot help but think that so much effort is expended on this subject for so small a return. Gen 1 and 2 are biblical narratives that are part and parcel of Christian doctrine. I also cannot help but admire the writer(s) of Genesis who can convey the faith based message and yet leave many scratching their heads and running in almost any direction that fires their imagination. Kind of reminds me of some parts of the Gospels.

(Christy Hemphill) #39

I understand. I just find it weirdly ego-centric (or something) that interacting with a belief that lots and lots of people have is considered inaccurate somehow because it fails to interact at that moment with the opinion of a small minority, no matter how vocal that small minority has been. Referencing genealogical Adam to be fair and inclusive of a range of views is not the same thing as writing a whole article in response to that perspective. And it was Kathryn’s article, not Deb’s. :slight_smile:

(GJDS) #40

I take the “genealogical Adam” as a way of avoiding mixing genetics with the biblical message, and not a doctrinal issue. Can you elaborate on the belief of lots and lots of people?

(Matthew Pevarnik) #42

I get this perspective, but it feels a little hollow to me personally. Not that I disagree with any of them per se, but with the form of this kind of argument. Certainly with Christianity, if you can find a large number of church fathers or theological heaviweights throughout the ages who agree with you, most people use this to their advantage. I personally see this in YEC literature making claims of what x, y or z said; also in OEC literature. The problem I feel can exist with this line of argument though is that all of those people had no knowledge of many things that we know today. Of course there are scientific things, like genetics, and there is also our knowledge of the ancient near east, a goldmine neglected and undiscovered until long after most of these people (if not all?). It seems quite bizarre then to come in and reject all of the facts that we have today in light of someone who was evaluating and making origins positions without any of the same facts as us.

(Jon Garvey) #43

Think about it Matthew - I suggested that the broad traditional consensus on the importance of genealogy from Adam needed to be dealt with before criticising those who present a scientific view that is consistent with it. In other words, one must understand why the doctrine was developed in order to replace it - a question for theologians, not biologists like Swamidass.

The claim that we know more about genetics and the ANE is of no significance to the question unless we also know what those who formed the doctrine knew (but mostly we have forgotten it, and simply talk about what they didn’t know). It’s astonishing the blindspots you discover in modern knowledge when you trouble to read old books - a point strongly made by C S Lewis, for example, in his (now) old and forgotten introduction to a much older and important book by Athanasius.

The Bible writers, too, did not study genetics or ANE texts - but they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and they considered genealogical inhertance important enough for to fill chapters with it, and for two of the four gospel writers to include Jesus’s genealogy, linking him to the royal Davidic line, to Abraham, and to Adam. And the reason wasn’t inherited genetic traits.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #44

I did and came to the conclusions that I did just above. But I appreciate the advice to think more!

I get that, but at the same time we ought to be more careful with how we read theologians who are speaking on matters that overlap with the natural world. Certainly, (and not that this is necessarily similar), we have strong opinions against heliocentrism from some of the same theologians.

Okay. The Holy Spirit can inspire a lot of people to speak to them on levels they can understand- I think anyone who argues for a personal relationship with God must accept this-- even if our understanding of things is incomplete or lacking, that would not stop such a God from communicating. A simple example is of course the mustard seed example-was Jesus mistaken when it records in one version that it is the smallest seed in all the ‘world?’ Well, to read even a slightly more modern reading into that makes Jesus mistaken, but in context it is perfectly reasonable for such Spirit inspired words to be spoken and recorded. So it is certainly possible that the Spirit inspired the New Testament writers to speak in a way consistent with how the audience saw the world, but not in a scientifically accurate way.

(Jon Garvey) #46

Do you have references for that, apart from private opinions like Luther (before Copernicus published) in a Table Talk remark? I’m unaware that there was ever a church doctrine on geocentrism, but I have read Fathers discussing their current science as interesting, but indifferent to doctrine.

And the scientific inaccuracy in relation to biblical genealogy - Jesus’s link to the Davidic Covenant, affirming his kingship and confirming the prophets, the levitical priests as descendants of Aaron, the need for the gospel, in Jesus’s words, to go first to the children of Israel and only then to the Gentiles, his insistence to a Samaritamn that “salvation is of the Jews”, Hebrews teaching on the eternal priesthood of Christ being different because he was not descended from Levi, etc - is what, exactly?

(Christy Hemphill) #47

I was referring to the idea that Adam and Eve were the first couple from whom all humans biologically descend. The traditional understanding of “sole progenitor.”

(Matthew Pevarnik) #50

Do you recognize the Roman Catholic Church in any of this? Or perhaps Calvin preaching on 1 Cor 10-11:

"We will see some who are so deranged, not only in religion but who in all things reveal their monstrous nature, that they will say that the sun does not move, and that it is the earth which shifts and turns. When we see such minds we must indeed confess the devil posses them, and that God sets them before us as mirrors, in order to keep us in his fear. So it is with all who argue out of pure malice, and who happily make a show of their imprudence. When they are told: “That is hot,” they reply: “No, it is plainly cold.” When they are shown an object that is black, they will say it is white, or vice versa. Just like the man who said that snow is black; for although it is perceived and known by all to be white, yet he clearly wished to contradict the fact. And so it is that there are madmen who try to change the natural order, and even to dazzle men’s eyes and benumb their senses”-John Calvin, “Sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:19-24”, Calvini Opera Selecta, Corpus Refomatorum,Vol 49, 677, trans. by Robert White in “Calvin and Copernicus: the Problem Reconsidered”, Calvin Theological Journal 15 (1980), p233-243, at 236-237

Perhaps we also have Alexander Ross in England in the mid 1600s, described as ‘the vigilant watchdog of conservatism and orthodoxy’ who once likened Copernicanism to other heresies and their threat to the truth of the Scriptures:

It is but a conceit of yours to say, that the Scripture accommodates itself to the vulgar conceits, in saying,
the Sun riseth and falleth. I warrant you, if the vulgar should conceive that the heavens were made of water, as the Gnostics held; or that the Sun and Moon were two ships, with the Manichees, or that the world was made of the sweat of the Aeons, with the Valentinians; or whatever absurd opinions they should hold, you make the Scripture say so, and to accommodate itself to their conceits. as recorded in Dellenberger, Protestant Thought and Natural Science

Also John Edwards in the later part of the 1600s in England who wrote as the Archbishop of Canterbury who wrote A Demonstration of the Existence and Providence of God From the Contemplation of the Visible Structure of the Greater and Lesser World spending a decent amount of ink outlining why Copernicanism was not Scriptural.

I’m not an expert in this area though by any means but at the very least it is more than Luther’s ideas from one Table Talk that he may or may not have even said.

(George Brooks) #51

@pevaquark (and @Jon_Garvey )

The one thing that can be said about the confrontation between Creationist and Evolutionist is that they each have something they aren’t willing to let go of:

Pro-Evolution Christians see too much evidence for Evolution to be willing to let go of it.
And Creationists see too much Biblical Investment in the figure of Adam to be willing to let go of him.

As we’ve seen over and over again on these boards, this “collision of worlds” is matched muscle for muscle, apologia for apologia.

The classic seminar on negotiations and deal-making is to never, ever say:
“We’ve solved all our differences, except one!”
Now, you are doomed. If there is only ONE difference… there is no opportunity for trade off … for give and take… it becomes brute force against brute force! And frequently the only solution is to take one of your prior agreements and throw it back into the mix… but now everything is tainted… because each side knows where the comfort zone really is… and things drag on.

What does this have to do with the “@Swamidass Model” ?
We are in a similar situation: the YECs say - - you HAVE to accept Adam & Eve’s special creation! You have no choice… while the Evolutionists say, you HAVE to accept Evolution… the fossils are all around us… the thousands of years of ice cores and ocean sediments… you have to accept them.

But with the Swamidass Model, all of a sudden, the insistence has been replaced with “Why can’t these models happen together?”

Christian Evolutionists have already taken the miracles of Jesus seriously. They may even insist on more than a million people crossing the Red Sea. Christian Evolutionists are not opposed to miracles… they are just opposed to miracles that make them ignore all the evolutionary evidence.

On the flip side, there are Creationists who are already convinced of the geology of Earth … that the Earth is millions and billions of years old. But that’s irrelevant to their theological question of Adam’s role! YECs are very much a tougher nut to crack. They question just about everything … but even amongst the YECs we have significant investment in the idea that “kinds” of animals released from the Ark, “radiated and speciated” to help fill the earth with life. Other Creationists have shrugged off the idea of a Global Flood, and they find a regional flood more credible. And lastly, all those YECs who do believe God specifically created each and every species… well, the @Swamidass Model (which is a theological construct much more than a science presentation) allows for that as well! YECs frequently say Evolution is impossible … but if God “makes it so” - - how can they question the feasibility of God specifically controlling evolution to make all the creatures of the Earth a little more slowly than we have considered - - and with the exception of Adam & Eve and the animals they were charged to care for?

Scientists that are Christians know first hand that science does not describe the Virgin Birth, or the Raising of Jesus from his tomb… but they are devoted to these ideas, while science continues to explore the non-miraculous in the world around us.

So who can rightly and definitively say: God could not have used special creation to make Adam & Eve? As long as Evolution is being acknowledged for the creation of a stock of humans at the time that Adam & Eve are specially created (with identical genetics) … the two episodes of creation suddenly start to answer questions that nobody has really been able to answer before!

Cain? Why does he receive a mark to protect him from those who would kill him? Who would these people be? Well now we have the answer! Who does Cain marry? His sister? Really? But now we have a whole population of humans he can join … to fill that city he built… which YECs have to argue is a city “just for him … oh, and his sister!”

And on the other side, all the strange things about Earth’s creatures … that don’t make much sense without millions of years of development … now we have answers for that too… AND special creation for Adam & Eve.