Editor’s Note: In this four-part series on “The Inerrancy and Historicity of Genesis 1-3,” Dr. John Yeo will examine:
- What is Biblical Inerrancy?
- What is the Literary Genre of Genesis 1-3?
- How Should I Interpret Genesis 1-3?
- Is Genesis 1-3 Historically True?
Is Genesis 1-3 Historically True?
The historicity of Genesis 1-3 has been traditionally maligned and attacked by liberal and neo-orthodox theologians and their biblical scholars.[ref]Cf. Robert B. Strimple, “Was Adam Historical?,” Westminster Seminary California, July 26, 2010, accessed January 22, 2014, http://wscal.edu/resource-center/resource/was-adam-historical.[/ref] However, in recent years, there have been doubts and even protests against the historicity of Adam and Eve from scholars who identify themselves as “evangelicals.”[ref]Cf. Richard N. Ostling, “The Search for the Historical Adam,” Christianity Today, June 3, 2011, accessed January 22, 2014, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/june/historicaladam.html?paging=off. See also, Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012); Denis O. Lamoureux, “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View,” in Four Views on the Historical Adam, ed. M. Barrett & A.B. Caneday (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 37-65; and Kenton Sparks in “Enuma Elish and Priestly Mimesis: Elite Emulation in Nascent Judaism,” Journal of Biblical Literature 126.4 (Winter 2007):625-648.[/ref] In this blog entry, I will present arguments coming from two proponents who advocate the view that Adam and Eve did not exist as historical personages. By virtue of their perspective, they deny the literality and historicity of Genesis 1-3. Throughout this entry, I will critique what these proponents have written and defend the literal and historical understanding of Genesis 1-3 and the historicity of Adam.
Proponent #1: Peter Enns
Peter Enns is currently teaching as an affiliate faculty member at Eastern University. He is a former Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies for the BioLogos Foundation and was Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary from 1994 to 2008.
In one of Enns’s blog entries for BioLogos entitled “Adam is Israel,” he asserts:
Israel’s history as a nation can be broken down as follows:
- Israel is “created” by God at the exodus through a cosmic battle (gods are defeated and the Red Sea is “divided”).
- The Israelites are given Canaan to inhabit a lush land flowing with milk and honey.
- They remain in the land as long as they obey the Mosaic law.
- They persist in a pattern of disobedience and are exiled to Babylon.
Israel’s history parallels Adam’s drama in Genesis:
- Adam is created in Genesis 2 after the taming of chaos in Genesis 1.
- Adam is placed in a lush garden.
- Law (not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) is given as a stipulation for remaining in the garden.
- Adam and Eve disobey and are exiled.
“There are two ways of looking at this parallel. You could say that the Adam story came first and then the Israelites just followed that pattern. But there is another way. Maybe Israel’s history happened first, and the Adam story was written to reflect that history. In other words, the Adam story is really an Israel story placed in primeval time. It is not a story of human origins but of Israel’s origins. Everyone has to decide for themselves which of these readings of Genesis has more “explanatory power.” I (and other biblical scholars) come down on the second option for a number of reasons, some having to do with Genesis itself while others concern other issues in the Bible.”[ref]Peter Enns, “Adam is Israel,” BioLogos, March 2, 2010, accessed January 17, 2012, http://biologos.org/blog/adam-is-israel (italics are original to Enns).[/ref]
Evidently, Enns believes that Genesis 1-3 is nothing more than “the exodus, the crossing of the Red Sea and the history of Israel up to the exile” as simply retrojected into the primordial past of creation. As reflections of the true historical kernel found in the history of Israel, the creation story and the fall of Adam are merely considered “myths” like the other stories of the ancient Near East (hereafter, ANE). This is certainly what Enns intends when he states, “the Adam story is really an Israel story placed in primeval time.” A major premise of Enns’s view of Genesis 1 as “myth” then is that the creation story never happened because “Israel’s history happened first, and the Adam story was written to reflect that history.”
Enns includes the account of creation in Genesis 1 as “the taming of chaos” which is in direct correspondence with the creation of Israel by God at the exodus through the defeat of the gods after the Red Sea is divided. Thus, the separation of the waters and the creation of the people of God in Genesis 1 mirror the parting of the Red Sea and the creation of Israel, the people of God. Although the typological parallels between the “covenant of works in Adam and Israel are widely recognized, especially among his former evangelical, Reformed colleagues, Enns’s view of Genesis 1-3 as “myths” falls out of the bounds of orthodoxy and an evangelical view of Scripture.
Enn’s Perspective on the Date and Composition of Genesis 1
With respect to the dating of Genesis 1, Enns believes that it was written during the Babylonian exile in response to the Babylonian cosmogonies such as Enuma Elish and Atrahasis. Enns sees two distinct creation stories in Genesis 1-2[ref]Enns, Evolution of Adam, 68.[/ref]—the first being found in Genesis 1:2-2:3 and the second in Genesis 2:4-25.[ref]Ibid., 50-53[/ref] The former was influenced by Enuma Elish, while the latter (including Genesis 3-8) by Atrahasis.[ref]Ibid., 53-56. See also Enns’s comparison between the flood narrative of Genesis 6-9 to the Mesopotamian flood story known as the Gilgamesh Epic on pp. 46-50.[/ref] Enns stoutly notes that,
The presence of these two different creation accounts is troublesome for readers who assume that Genesis 1 and 2 are historical in nature and that the Bible’s first priority is to recount history accurately. Yet the divergence of these stories cannot be reasonably questioned. To stitch them into a seamless whole would dismiss the particular and distinct points of view that the authors were so deliberate in placing there.[ref]Ibid., 52.[/ref]
Enns, in his BioLogos blog entry regarding “Adam and Israel,”[ref]Ibid., 65-70.[/ref] highlighted the correlation between the history of national Israel and the mythic Adam:
This mirroring [between Adam and Israel] can hardly be coincidental. Adam in primordial times plays out Israel’s national life. He is proto-Israel—a preview of coming attractions. This does not mean, however, that a historical Adam was a template for Israel’s national life. Rather, Israel’s drama—its struggle over the land and the failure to follow God’s law—is placed into primordial time. In doing so, Israel claims that it has been God’s special people all along, from the very beginning.[ref]Ibid., 66.[/ref]
Enns concludes that Genesis 1 was written during the Babylonian exile and indirectly influenced by Enuma Elish:
The Adam story functioned as Israel’s creation story and was probably rethought and retold along the way as Israel grew and developed in its self-understanding. In exile, faced with this national crisis and asking themselves basic questions of self-definition, their relationship with God and so forth, Israel’s theologians added another creation story, Genesis 1, modeled more along the lines of the stories of their captors, the Babylonians, with perhaps Enuma Elish exerting an indirect influence. I am not suggesting that Genesis 1 was “written” at this point out of whole cloth, especially since the themes are not necessarily strictly Babylonian, and Israel was hardly immune to Babylonian influence before the exile. But what became Genesis 1:1-2:3 seems to fit best in the context of national struggle. The story stresses the sovereignty of Israel’s God over all of creation, who alone made all that is, and this set Israel’s God apart from the gods of Israel’s captors and of every other nation. Hence, what we call Genesis 1 was put at the head of Israel’s national story, a collection of writings either composed or brought together in what eventually came to be called the Bible.[ref]Ibid., 141. Note that Enns earlier stated on p. 68: “A postexilic writer/writers (perhaps the shapers of the Pentateuch) introduced an alternate account of origins, Genesis 1, modeled after common themes found in Enuma Elish, that focused on God’s sovereignty and might over his creation, not to mention the rhythm of the week and Sabbath rest…In my opinion, the editors of the Pentateuch subsumed the older story under the newer one so that Genesis 1 became the story of the creation of the cosmos and Genesis 2 became the story of Israel’s creation against the universal backdrop. This may be why these two different creation stories are placed next to each other as they are.” Note that Enns’s view that Genesis 1 was written during the Babylonian exile as a response to the dominant culture is in agreement with his colleague at Eastern University, Kenton Sparks, who argues that a Priestly Writer wrote Genesis 1 modeled after the Babylonian cosmogony in “Enuma Elish and Priestly Mimesis: Elite Emulation in Nascent Judaism,” Journal of Biblical Literature 126.4 (Winter 2007):625-648.[/ref]
But Enns’s theory that there are two different creation stories is contextually mistaken.[ref]Although they are not in agreement with Enns, proponents of the “framework view” have also argued for two distinct creation accounts in Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25. See Lee Irons with Meredith G. Kline, “The Framework View,” in The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, ed. David Hagopian (Mission Viejo, CA: Crux Press, 2001), 217-256. Significantly, both Kline and Irons have explicitly rejected “animal ancestry” for human origins.[/ref] Genesis 2:4-25, when read in the context of Genesis 1:1-2:3, should be understood as an elaboration of the events of “the sixth day.” John Collins cogently states,
It is often said, for example, that we have in Genesis 1-2 two different creation accounts (1:1-2:3 and 2:4-25), which come from separate sources. We also hear frequently that the two accounts may even be difficult to reconcile with each other. As for the question of separate sources, the arguments for and against such sources will be forever indecisive, since none of these putative sources is actually known to exist. The only text that we have is the one that places the two passages together. Further, we have no reason to expect that whoever did put these passages together was a blockhead (or a committee of blockheads), who do not recognize contradictions every bit as well as we can. … I argue for a version of the traditional Rabbinic opinion, namely that, far from seeing two discordant accounts, we should see Genesis 1:1-2:3 as the overall account of the creation and preparation of the earth as a suitable place for humans to live, and Genesis 2:4-25 as an elaboration of the events of the sixth day of Genesis 1.[ref]Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?, 52-53.[/ref]
David Tsurmura similarly asserts,
… both chapters [i.e., Genesis 1 and 2] reflect the same cosmology. In Gen. 1:2, the initial situation of the “world” is described positively in terms of the still unproductive and uninhabited (tōhȗ wābōhȗ) “earth” totally covered by “ocean water,” while in 2:5-6 the initial state of the “earth” is described negatively in terms of the not-yet-productive “earth” in more concrete expressions, “no vegetation” and “no man.” And the underground-water was flooding out to inundate the whole area of the “land,” but not the entire earth as in Gen 1:2. Thus, Genesis 1 describes an earlier stage in the one creation process in which the waters cover the earth, Genesis 2a a later stage (in 1:9-10) in which the waters have separated and the dry land has appeared.[ref]David T. Tsumura, “Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction,” in I Studies Inscriptions from Before the Flood, edited by R.S. Hess and D.T. Tsurmura (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994), 28-29.[/ref]
Moreover, Tsurmura shows the continuous narrowing focus of the narrative in Genesis 2:5-6:
Therefore, the stage of the narrative setting in Gen 2:5-6 moves from the wider area, ’ereṣ [Heb. earth], to the narrower area, ’ădāmâ [Heb. ground], from whose “dust” (‘āpār) “man” (’ādām) is going to be formed (cf. v. 7). This focusing (or narrowing down) of the geographical area as the setting for the Eden narrative is certainly the primary purpose of Gen 2:5-6… In other words, the garden, the main stage for this Eden narrative, is part of Eden, which is part of the land, which is part of the earth.[ref]David T. Tsurmura, Creation and Destruction: A Reappraisal of the Chaoskampf Theory in the Old Testament (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2005), 81-82.[/ref]
Thus, if the earth is viewed as “universal” in scope in Genesis 2:5, it stands to reason that the universal scope of Genesis 1 had continued into Genesis 2:5, only to be further narrowed or telescoped into the “land” and even further still into the “garden.” This contextually justifies the interpretation that Genesis 2:5-6 is a more detailed account of the “sixth day” of Genesis 1.[ref]There is an apparent contradiction between Genesis 1 which has the animals created before mankind on day 6, while in Genesis 2:19 the animals are allegedly created after Adam. The Hebrew verb in question is a “waw-consecutive imperfect” or wayyiqtol form of the verb “to form.” Literally, the text reads “and the Lord God formed.” But C. John Collins convincingly argues that the phrase could also be taken as “and the Lord God had formed,” i.e., a pluperfect/past perfect tense verb (cf. the NIV and ESV translations). See C. John Collins, “The ‘Wayyiqtol’ as ‘Pluperfect’: When and Why,” Tyndale Bulletin 46:1 (NA 1995): 117-140. Even if it may be established that the animals were created after Adam, but before Eve, as the other English translations imply (i.e., NASB, NRSV, NKJV, JPS), that does not “prove” two creation accounts per se. Genesis 1 is a compressed narrative that summarizes the events of the creation week, while Genesis 2:4-25 presents a more in-depth narrative as to what specifically occurred on the 6th day. The narrative in Genesis 2 pointedly reveals that Adam’s creation was “incomplete” because he did not find a suitable “helpmate” among the animals. His completion or wholeness required the creation of Eve from one of his ribs. This then harmonizes with Genesis 1: “male and female he created them” (v. 27) which would chronologically place the creation of “Adam and Eve” after the creation and naming of the animals.[/ref]
Additionally, Enns’s suggestion that Genesis 1:1-2:3 fits the period of the Babylonian exile is certainly mistaken due to the unlikely triumphalism of the Israelites during that time. Would the defeated and downcast Israelites, as Enns presumes, have the audacity to depict their cosmogony in terms of a sovereign victory of Yahweh over the Babylonian god, Marduk, in relation to their respective cosmogonies? While prophets of the Lord did, in fact, predict the deliverance of Israel from their Babylonian captors, as in Micah 4:10 and Isaiah 47, the prevalent mood among the rejected Hebrew people was anything but triumphant. In Psalm 137, an exilic psalm, the psalmist did not display the kind of Israelite triumphalism over their captors as Enns thinks. For example, verses 1-5 state:
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst of it, we hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ How can we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill” (Isaiah 47:1-5 NASB).
Thus, if the Israelites, as Enns believes, shared the common ANE worldview that “this world takes the shape it does because it is a mirror image of the invisible world,”[ref]Oswalt, The Bible among the Myths (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 62.[/ref] then the Israelites would have understood that the Babylonian high-god, Marduk, defeated Yahweh, the God of Israel, when the Babylonians took them as captives from their land in 586 BC. To posit that the Israelites would somehow deny the victory of Marduk over Yahweh, as critical scholars imagine, is highly unlikely, especially if the Israelites did, in fact, share the same worldview as the Babylonians.
It is apparent that the best context for Genesis 1 and 2 belongs within the period of Moses who received the creation story as divine revelation from God inspired by the Holy Spirit. As noted in Numbers 12:6-8a, the Lord spoke directly and plainly with Moses: “He [the LORD] said, ‘Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses, he is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD.” While the text is silent about whether or not God gave Moses the creation account by divine revelation, it is interesting to further note that Moses had spent two periods of forty days with God alone on Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 24:18; 34:28).
In spite of our conjectures, the account of creation is a part of the Pentateuch that has been traditionally ascribed as the work of Moses. Since no human being experienced the events of creation firsthand, Moses is surely the best candidate in biblical history (cf. Number 12: 6-8) to have received such a divine revelatory account as recorded in Genesis 1. By contrast, however, Enns knows that in order to circumvent the clear teaching of creation and the fall of Adam, he needs to discount the literality and historicity of Genesis 1 and 2.
Proponent #2: Denis O. Lamoureux
Denis Lamoureux is currently Associate Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. He holds doctoral degrees in both evangelical theology and evolutionary biology.
Lamoureux, who is a self-professing evangelical, states,
Real history in the Bible begins roughly around Genesis 12 with Abraham. Like many other evangelical theologians, I view Genesis 1-11 as a unique type of literature (literary genre) that is distinct from the rest of the Bible. So from my perspective, was Abraham a real person? Yes! … Even though I do not believe that Adam was historical, I thoroughly believe in the historicity of Jesus and biblical testimonies of His life.[ref]Lamoureux, Historical Adam, 44.[/ref]
I do not believe that there ever was a historical Adam. Yet he plays a pivotal role in Holy Scripture. Adam functions as the archetype of every man and woman. In Genesis 2 and 3, he is an incidental ancient vessel that delivers numerous inerrant spiritual truths. … Adam’s story is our story. … The nonhistorical Adam is you and me. But the Good News is that the historical Second Adam died for our sins and frees us from the chains of sin and death. Amen.[ref]Ibid., 65 (italics are original to Lamoureux).[/ref]
Lamoureux justifies his non-literal reading of Genesis 1 by appealing to the two-triad structure as found in Genesis 1.[ref]See the previous blog entry under “framework interpretation” for the diagram.[/ref] He states,
Genesis 1 is built on an ancient poetic framework, casting doubt on the belief that this chapter is ‘an objective description of God’s creative activities’… The parallel panels in Genesis 1 are evidence within Scripture itself of poetic license, and they indicate that the biblical author never intended to offer a list of divine creative acts in a chronological sequence.[ref]Lamoureux, Historical Adam, 232-233 (italics are original to Lamoureux).[/ref]
Clearly from his statement above, Lamoureux appeals to the same two parallel triads structure that is more typical of the “framework interpretation” in order to justify a non-literal reading of Genesis 1. While it is evident that the two parallel triads are present in the text, it is also apparent that the correct genre for Genesis 1 is “historical narrative” and not “poetry” or “semi-poetry” (see previous article refuting “framework interpretation”). The notion that the phrase, “And there was evening, and there was morning–day x” should be considered as a “poetic refrain” is not true to biblical poetry (note that the so-called “refrain” is not repeated on day 7). Rather, biblical poetry is clearly marked by “parallelism” along with a high degree of imagery.[ref]Cf., the works of Adele Berlin, The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism (Revised & Expanded Edition; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008) and James L. Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981). Note that Berlin explicitly states that Genesis 1:5 belongs to “prose” and not “poetry.” See Berlin, 35.[/ref]
Genesis 1 rather has all of the earmarks of “biblical narrative” along with a literary structure that is foregrounded in order to help us understand the theological intent of the passage. The fact that biblical narratives contain “literary structures” does not make them “poetry” or “semi-poetic.”[ref]So Meredith G. Kline, “Because It Had Not Rained,” Westminster Theological Journal 20 (1959): 156.[/ref] There is a recognized repetitive device, which may be called “formulaic repetition,” in which the narrative inserts a formulaic pattern. Note that any changes in the pattern, whether an addition or deletion, should be carefully scrutinized.[ref]See Norman Habel, Literary Criticism of the Old Testament (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1971), 14-15.[/ref]
- The formulaic pattern found in Judges 2:11-12 is used as a preface to its other occurrences in Judges 3:7-11, 3:12ff., 4:1ff., 6:1ff., 10:6ff., 13:1ff.
The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh…
And they served Baals (or some other gods)…
Therefore the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel.
So he sold them into the hand of — for — years.
Then the sons of Israel cried to Yahweh for help…
And Yahweh raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel…
Note that “this literary structure is expanded to provide a theological rationale for the writer’s interpretation of the entire history of the judges in the preface of Judges 2:11-23.”[ref]Ibid., 15.[/ref]
- A comparable literary structure is evident in the treatment of the kings of Israel and Judah throughout the book of Kings. In the case of the kings of Judah the following sequence is regularly used to introduce a king:
Year of office of the reigning king of Israel.
Name of the king of Judah and his father.
Age at date of accession and duration of reign.
Name of the mother and king of Judah.
Judgment on his religious activities (good or bad).
Examples of this formal introductory sequence appear in 2 Kings 14:1-3, 15:1-3, 16:1-3, 18:1-3 and elsewhere.
Note that in the two examples above that there is a clear repetitive pattern that is a part of “historical narrative” and yet the “formulaic repetition” structures the narrative in order to highlight an overarching theological message. Note also that when there is a change to the repetitive formula—whether it be an alteration or deletion —careful attention should be paid to it since an emphasis is being highlighted. Robert Alter comments,
… a time-honored tradition of storytelling may have prescribed a mode of narration in which frequent verbatim repetition was expected, the authors of the biblical narratives astutely discovered how the slightest strategic variations in the pattern of repetitions could serve the purposes of commentary, analysis, foreshadowing, thematic assertion, with a wonderful combination of subtle understatement and dramatic force.[ref]Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1981), 91.[/ref]
This is clearly the case with the repetitive pattern found in Genesis 1 especially with regard to the differences of the repetitive structure found in days 1-5 while days 6 and 7 are noticeably distinct (see the previous entry on “How Should I Interpret Genesis 1-3?”). Therefore, even though we can recognize the literary structure of two parallel triads, the text itself is not poetic and does not allow us to interpret it figuratively, i.e., allow the “day” to mean “billions of years.”
Was Adam Historical?
The fact that Genesis 1 and 2 are “historical narratives” should alert us to the fact that Genesis 3 represents the culmination of the creation story. E.J. Young believed that the main intent of Genesis 2 was not to continue the “order of events” of creation in Genesis 1 but to begin, in topical fashion, to prepare for the scene for the temptation and fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden as depicted in Genesis 3. Young explained,
First the ground is watered and then man is created. For man the garden is made, God’s garden, and man is placed therein. The garden, however, is a place of exquisite beauty, and trees are made to grow therein. Thus we are prepared for the prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. … He [Moses] emphasizes just those points which need to be stressed, in order that the reader may be properly prepared to understand the account of the fall.[ref]Edward J. Young, Studies in Genesis One (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 1964), 74-75.[/ref]
William Henry Green also held that Genesis 2 was a narrative link that logically unified the creation of “the heavens and the earth” to the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve. Green averred that the vegetation mentioned in Genesis 2 had to deal with the planting and forming of Eden alone.
Chapter ii alleges nothing respecting the relative priority of man or plants. It does not deal with the general vegetation of the globe any further than to carry us back to a time when it did not exist. Of its actual production ch. ii says nothing. Its positive statement is restricted to the trees of the garden of Eden (vs. 8, 9), and we are nowhere informed that these were brought into being at the same time with vegetation elsewhere. Nothing is said of the origin of grass and herbs, or of trees, outside of Eden, except in ch. i.[ref]William Henry Green, The Unity of the Book of Genesis (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895), 23.[/ref]
From a narrative perspective, it is clear that Moses intended Genesis 1-3 as beginning from a universal perspective of creation (i.e., forming and filling; Genesis 1) → to the creation of humankind and the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2) → to the Adamic probation, complete with the two trees: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life (Genesis 3). (Note also that the Tree of Life reappears in Revelation 22:2. If the Genesis 3 is ahistorical, why would the Holy Spirit inspire John the Apostle to see a vision depicting the Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem?)
The fact that these are “historical narratives” requires that we should take these texts at “face value” and let them speak for themselves. Adam does not represent “every man,” and he is not a fictional character that belongs to a retrojected account of national Israel. Adam is employed in Scripture as a historical personage. Note the important historical references to Adam throughout the Old and New Testaments:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
- Note that Paul states very clearly that through Adam (i.e., “one man”) sin and death entered the world (v. 12). The apostle continues to show that mankind is not responsible for “sin” where there is no law (v. 13), since the law came through Moses. The question implicitly posed is: why then are people dying from Adam to Moses if there is no accounting for sin until the law? The answer is already given in v. 12, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all sinned,” i.e., all sinned in Adam. This passage is clearly teaching the doctrine of “original sin,” that the sin of Adam was imputed to his posterity along with its penalty, i.e., death. Jesus Christ, however, reverses the curse and brings “justification” (v. 16) and “life” (v. 18). This is nothing less than the Gospel itself.
1 Corinthians 15:45-49 (see also v. 22):
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
- The typological comparison between Adam and Jesus, the last Adam is obvious. Note that Paul states very clearly that the first Adam was “from the earth, a man of dust” whereas Jesus, the last Adam, is “from heaven” (v. 47). If Adam was not a historical person, the analogy between Adam and Christ rings hollow.
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”
- (Also the parallel text in Mark 10:2-9): these texts that show Jesus quoting from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24. Note also that that Jesus explicitly states “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (v. 4). It is obvious that Jesus thought of Adam and Eve as historical persons and that He understood Genesis 1 and 2 as “historical narratives.”
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.
- Paul in vv. 24-25 teaches about God as creator and then moves toward the creation of Adam in v. 26. Once again, this squares with the story of the historical Adam in Genesis 1 and 2 as well as in Genesis 10 where we get the genealogical “Table of Nations.”
1 Timothy 2:13-14
For Adam was formed first, then Eve;14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
- Note that Paul not only asserts that Adam and Eve are historical; he also followed the storyline from Genesis 2 (i.e., creation of Adam and Eve) to Genesis 3 (i.e., the account of the fall).
1 Chronicles 1:1; Luke 3:38
- These two passages are genealogies that include the historical Adam. Interestingly, the former begins with Adam and the latter ends with him. If Adam were regarded by the Old and New Testament writers as fictional, then why include him in the genealogies?
In conclusion, it is clear that the Bible teaches that Adam and Eve were historical persons. The premise that Adam is a mythical character without an historical basis cannot be proven by Scripture. Indeed, it is certain that both Enns and Lamoureux do their best to deny the clear teaching of Scripture in order to read their scientific theories of “theistic evolution” into the Bible. But this is not a “agree to disagree” peripheral issue. It is nothing less than an essential teaching of the Christian faith because the Gospel of Jesus Christ hangs in the balance and is severely undermined without it.
The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, could not have been more explicit in his teaching on the historical Adam. It was through Adam that sin and death entered the world and because of this reason alone did God send His only begotten Son so that He might save lost humanity and draw all humanity to Himself. If Adam is mere fiction, then the truth of the Gospel that Christ came to save sinners who inherited Adam’s sin has no real foundation for our redemption in Christ’s atoning work. The urgent call to bring sinners to the cross is undermined and the only question to seriously ponder is: Saved from what?