Why the historicity of Adam is important

Adam and Eve Are Driven out of Eden by Gustave...

Adam and Eve Are Driven out of Eden by Gustave Dore. Picture portrayed over passage in Genesis. And he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (Gen. 3:24). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

via Christian Post By Kevin DeYoung , CP Guest Contributor (article 2/9/12)

In recent years, several self-proclaimed evangelicals, or those associated with evangelical institutions, have called into question the historicity of Adam and Eve. It is said that because of genomic research we can no longer believe in a first man called Adam from whom the entire human race has descended.

I’ll point to some books at the end which deal with thescience end of the question, but the most important question is what does the Bible teach. Without detailing a complete answer to that question, let me suggest ten reasons why we should believe that Adam was a true historical person and the first human being.

1. The Bible does not put an artificial wedge between history and theology. Of course, Genesis is not a history textbook or a science textbook, but that is far from saying we ought to separate the theological wheat from the historical chaff. Such a division owes to the Enlightenment more than the Bible.

2. The biblical story of creation is meant to supplant other ancient creation stories more than imitate them. Moses wants to show God’s people „this is how things really happened.” The Pentateuch is full of warnings against compromise with the pagan culture. It would be surprising, then, for Genesis to start with one more mythical account of creation like the rest of the ANE.

3. The opening chapters of Genesis are stylized, but they show no signs of being poetry. Compare Genesis 1 with Psalm 104, for example, and you’ll see how different these texts are. It’s simply not accurate to call Genesis poetry. And even if it were, who says poetry has to be less historically accurate?

4. There is a seamless strand of history from Adam in Genesis 2 to Abraham in Genesis 12. You can’t set Genesis 1-11 aside as prehistory, not in the sense of being less than historically true as we normally understand those terms. Moses deliberately connects Abram with all the history that comes before him, all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden.

5. The genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3 treat Adam as historical.

6. Paul believed in a historical Adam (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45-49). Even some revisionists are honest enough to admit this; they simply maintain that Paul (and Luke) were wrong.

7. The weight of the history of interpretation points to the historicity of Adam. The literature of second temple Judaism affirmed an historical Adam. The history of the church’s interpretation also assumes it.

8. Without a common descent we lose any firm basis for believing that all people regardless of race or ethnicity have the same nature, the same inherent dignity, the same image of God, the same sin problem, and that despite our divisions we are all part of the same family coming from the same parents.

9. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of original sin and guilt does not hold together.

10. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of the second Adam does not hold together.

Christians may disagree on the age of the earth, but whether Adam ever existed is a gospel issue. Tim Keller is right:

[Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the biblical authority. . . .If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument-that both sin and grace work ‘covenantally’-falls apart. You can’t say that ‘Paul was a man of his time’ but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching. (Christianity Today June 2011)

If you want to read more about the historical Adam debate, check out Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by C. John Collins.

For more on the relationship between faith and science, you may want to look at one of the following:

John C. Lennox, God’s Undertake: Has Science Buried God?
Should Christians Embrace Evolution: Biblical and Scientific Responses, edited by Norman C. Nevin
God and Evolution, edited by Jay Richards
Vern S. Poythress, Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach
C. John Collins, Science and Faith: Friend or Foes


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4 comentarii (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Christ, the second Adam « agnus dei – english + romanian blog
  2. Trackback: Darwin’s Doubt: Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (Kenneth Samples) « agnus dei – english + romanian blog
  3. Costin
    iun. 18, 2012 @ 09:18:38

    Hi, I might have a few unclarities, related to the points presented here:
    – You say that the Pentateuch is full of warnings against compromise with the pagan culture, but aren’t there many other rules in the Pentateuch that are not respected anymore, even by the most devoted Christians? Like God’s instructions for buying slaves, or that children who curse their parents, adulterers, and homosexuals must be killed, or other prohibitions against round haircuts, tattoos, working on the Sabbath, wearing garments of mixed fabrics, playing with the skin of a pig, etc.
    – What you say at point 8, why would we need to descend from the same ancestral parents in order to be regarded as equal? We are the same species anyway, we are sentient beings. I’m sure you don’t consider someone less human if he is not part of your family. I hope you’re not implying that without God we wouldn’t know right from wrong.
    – What bugs me most, is that for the historicity of Adam you mostly base your arguments on the Bible. That’s kind of a circular logic, like saying „How do you know the Bible tells the truth? – Because it says so in the Bible”. In the same way I can prove that the Greek gods are historical characters, just because it says so in various ancient scrolls and „holy” writings.

    • rodi
      iun. 18, 2012 @ 09:31:12

      Costin,
      no man could fulfill all of the laws of the Old Testament, therefore God sent Jesus in order to remove the requirement of the law. See:

      In Eph. 2:14-15, Paul is speaking about how the gentiles who were called the uncircumcision (v. 11), were separated from Christ (v. 12), but have now been brought near (to God) by the blood of Christ (v. 13). Jesus removed the requirement of having to follow the Law in order to please God, established justification by faith, and thereby united both Jew and Gentile into one group in Christ. This is when Paul says in verse 15 that he abolished in his flesh the enmity which is the law of commandments in ordinances.

      God in His omniscience knew that the man He created would „fall” and man, Adam, did. So as sin entered through Adam into the world, so Jesus removed the condemnation and we are now saved through justification by faith in God through Christ. All mankind are sinners through Adam, and Jesus the second Adam (came as a man and died on the cross) was the only man to fulfill the law as He lived a sinless life. That is why we focus and live our lives through God being revealed through Jesus Christ and His teachings.

      Of course you can only base the historicity of Adam on biblical teaching, it is the only historical document that is that old. If you were to study the historicity of China from several thousands of years ago, where would you go? You would go to any documents you could find from that timeframe and geographical location. You would let the text speak for itself.

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