In Defense of the Historical Adam

The cover story in Christianity Today in June 2011 was "The Search for the Historical Adam." The subtitle read, "Some scholars believe genome science casts doubt on the existence of the first man and woman. Others say the integrity of the faith requires it." The number of professing evangelical scholars doubting or denying a literal Adam and Eve has continued to grow. Some say the account of Adam and Eve is a myth, a symbolic story to teach us theological and moral truth. Others say that Adam and Eve were the first two humans but that they evolved from ape-like creatures and became human when God breathed into them. Others say they really existed but that Adam was merely the head of a clan or tribe: Adam and Eve weren’t the only humans at that time but were chosen by God for His purposes. Still others take Genesis 1–3 as literal history: the first man Adam was made from dust and the first woman Eve was made from his rib.

So what is the truth and does it really matter anyway, as long as you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Good question. Let’s see what God’s inerrant Word says.

The Historicity of Adam

The historicity of Adam is abundantly clear from both the Old and New Testaments. Right from the beginning, the text describes real time and names people and places. Genesis 1 speaks of years and seasons and days with evenings and mornings governed by the sun, moon, and stars. Genesis 2 describes the location of the Garden of Eden and names four rivers. Genesis 4 names the city that Cain built. Genesis 6–8 describes certain events on specific days of different months of the 600th and 601st years of Noah's life. The eleven occurrences of the Hebrew word toledoth scattered through Genesis (in Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, and so on) and translated as "this the account of" or "these are the generations of" tie the whole book together as one historical record. Few evangelicals doubt the historicity of Genesis 12–50, but there is no break in the literary style between chapters Genesis 11 and Genesis 12. The Abraham and Terah of Genesis 11 are the same men in Genesis 12. The genealogies of Genesis 5 and Genesis 11 connect Adam to Noah to Abraham so that all of the men named were equally historical. The Hebrew verb forms in Genesis 1, which is often claimed to be a unique genre, show conclusively that the first chapter of the Bible is historical narrative just like the rest of Genesis.

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