My Turn – NPR and the Evolving Question of Adam and Eve

Painting from Manafi al-Hayawan (The Useful An...

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It is not about whether or not Adam and Eve existed - it is about whether or not what the story actually meant exists. What if Adam represented Israel or some smaller group of primitive peoples? Adam in of himself doesn’t exist, but those people do. Thus, the story remains true, with the meaning existing, but Adam, who was never meant to exist anyway, doesn’t. What is at stake here is not the inspiration of Scripture, but our own private interpretations, and very much, our doctrinal pride.

I am amazed that as open-minded people come, as serious as they are about studying, as moved by the Spirit of Knowledge to seek God’s Truth, they still, often times still come down to a black and white view.

From NPR:

But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account. Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: “That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.”

Um… what if we were never really meant to understand all of humanity descended from Adam and Eve but that they represented a covenantal people which fell? Or some yet actually undiscovered notion…

But, I love statements like this:

“From my viewpoint, a historical Adam and Eve is absolutely central to the truth claims of the Christian faith,” says Fazale Rana, vice president of Reasons To Believe, an evangelical think tank that questions evolution. Rana, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ohio University, readily admits that small details of Scripture could be wrong.

No. Jesus Christ is the absolutely central truth of the claims of the Christian Faith. That’s why Christianity has become what it has in the eyes of many – because Jesus Christ is no longer the ‘absolute central’ anything in the Christian Faith.

Anyway, James McGrath has a post up with links to others.

Everyone else, go read John Walton’s book, Lost World of Genesis One.

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The Study Bible Wars: NLT 1, ESV 0

ESV Study Bible Hardcover Cover

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I wanted to highlight just a few things about the NLT Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible as a point of comparison. This post is not meant to be all incluvise or even a review.

In Genesis 1.26, the NLT Study Bible reads,

Let us make is more personal than the remote “Let there be” (e.g., 1.36). The plural us has inspired several explanations:

  1. the Trinity;
  2. the plural to denote majesty;
  3. a plural to show deliberation with the self; and
  4. God speaking with his heavenly court of angels

The editors answer these objections, and I’ll skip most of what they say. No doubt the editors, translators and others who worked on the NLT Study Bible, the scholars anyway, are devout ‘orthodox’ Christians believing in the Trinity. Yet here, they allow for a more scholastic approach which keeps the integrity of the passage free from later dogmatization. They note, “The concept of the Trinity – one true God who exists eternally in three distinct persons – was revealed at a later stage in redemptive history, making it unlikely that the human author intended that here.” They conclude the note by stating that option 4 is the the most likely answer. And indeed, it is. This is the position of ancient Jewish interpreters as well, as demonstrated in the Jewish Study Bible.

The ESV Study Bible notes that the “text does not specify the identify of the “us” mentioned here.” Ahh… the false notion of Scripture interpreting Scripture. A starting point for the interpretation of Scripture cannot be Scripture, as it allows for circular logical to act as the foundation of the loudest voice being right. The ESV Study Bible Editors goes on to note what the NLT Study Bible does, that the ‘us’ (as it is in other places in the OT) is the heavenly court. Yet, they end by stating,  “Many Christians and some Jews have taken “us” to be God speaking to himself, since God alone does the making in Genesis. 1.27 (cf 5.1); this would be the first hint of the Trinity in the Bible (cf. 1.2).”

But it’s not. It is actually the heavenly court which was the understanding of the people who first read this passage. While it is easy for us to sit here today and reread the original works, the Scriptures were not created in a vacuum. The writers used the lexicons and encyclopedias of the day so that those who heard them then would understand the meaning of the text. How arrogant of us to think that the people for whom it was written didn’t understand it, and yet, we do.

Overall, I like the ESV Study Bible notes, but in several areas, the NLT Study Bible remains intellectually honest.

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Getting Genesis 2:19 Right

Dr. Mariottini writes:

The teacher tried to explain how the creation of man and animals in Genesis 2 fits into the creation of animal and man in Genesis 1. In the process, the teacher gave the student the most unconvincing answer that I ever heard.

He then goes on to talk about translation issues, involving the Hebrew Language – something the Hamites miss. Further, he talking about doing injustice to the Text to try to reconcile something by using non-biblical presuppositions which is needed to combine Genesis 1 and 2. Anyway, it is worth a read and you should take it to heart.

In my opinion, those who truly believe in the Inspiration of Scripture have no need to force passages together against their nature.

What if the Historical Adam was Real? A New Approach

Adam & Eve in garden of Eden

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Reading this post, which in part reads,

In Genesis 2:15, God “took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”  God acts upon humanity here, taking him and placing him in the garden with a specific task.

…got me to thinking.

The Bible is centered around Covenants. As a matter of fact, the first few pages of the text gives us covenants galore. Marriage. The Edenic Covenant. The Post-Edenic Covenant. We know that each Covenant led to another, with the biggest being what we call the ‘Old’ leading to what we have long called the ‘New.’ Further, I would postulate that humans are made persons, given personhood or divine status under, and only under Covenant with God. I realize that this is difficult to handle, mainly because we do not understand Personhood or human flourishing, which in my opinion can only be complete in God, and the more so, covenant with God. Brueggemann says something similar,

“the Old Testament has no interest in articulating an autonomous or universal notion of humanness.” […] its articulation of what it means to be human is characteristically situated in its own Yawhistic covenantal, interactionist mode of reality, so that humanness is always Yahwistic humanness, or we may say, Jewish humanness.” (page 57 – Walter Brueggemann, An Unsettling God (ht – Rodney))

So, in an undeveloped notion, and one which I would like your insight on, I would propose that in reading Genesis 2-3, we separate it from Genesis 1. Whereas Genesis 1 is universal, Genesis 2 pertains to Israel. (If you continue to read Genesis 1 and 2 as a mesh, you are doing violence to the Text.) In that, we find that God, as he does throughout Genesis until we get to the tribes of Israel, carves out of humanity a Person, Adam. He (see above) takes this man from out of the human species and places him in the Garden to form a covenant with him. In doing so, God inaugurates what it actually means to be human, a person, the Creation of God. Thus, Adam becomes the first person.

If we take Scripture as a grand narrative, then we understand first the nearness which God seeks with His Creation, and it is always through a Covenant in which God acts to bring to Him some segment of the populace. Second, we understand the role in which singular individuals play in that Covenant. There is Adam, Noah, Abraham and finally, Jesus Christ. All of these represent a large group. It may be that Adam is the progenitor of the Imago Dei which is only fully realized at the Incarnation. This placing of Adam, out of humanity, into the Garden of Eden created a special relationship between the Created and the Creator which was the promise and goal of God for humanity, but the Covenant was broken. Now, this view, as niave as I am in hoping that the multi-sides of the argument can come to some sort of respectful compromise, would allow the Text to remain violence free, especially in trying to get Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 to fit seamlessly together. Further, this allows for the Grand Narrative to remain pegged to an identifiable figure while allowing science to help us understand the origin of our species all the while relying upon the divine for what makes us, well, us. Finally, this places a focus on the unique relationship between God and His image.

I would like to develop this maybe. Thoughts anyone?

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A Day is (not) a long time in Genesis 1

Joshua 1:1 in the Aleppo Codex.

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Thanks to Jeff for this quote from Allen P. Ross

What God created is here called “the heavens and the earth,” a poetic expression (merism) signifying the whole universe. Other examples of this poetic device are “day and night” (meaning all the time) and “man and beast” (meaning all created physical beings). “Heaven and earth” thus indicates not only the heaven and the earth but everything in them. Genesis 2:4 also uses this expression in a restatement of the work of creation throughout the six days.

via Scripture Zealot.

Ross goes on to state (and Jeff links to more scholars at the bottom – scholars of Hebrew) that day (yom) in Genesis 1 actually refers to 24 hours. Walton, I believe, agrees.

Not knowing Hebrew, but knowing how to use certain resources, I tend to agree. Of course, I don’t think that Genesis 1 refers to a 6-day event, but an event celebrated by 6 days of ordering. In other words, while the days are literal actual days, the text is not referring the beginning of the universe. I realize that this is a difficult concept to grasp, but we have to look at the entire text and how the audience would have received it in order to ascertain the correct meaning.

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Jason, C. John Collins, and the need to have Adam

Jason has reviewed a book which fits into the recent discussion on the historical Adam:

C. John Collins, (Phd, University of Liverpool) professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, St Louis, has written a good book on the subject of the historical Adam. From the very beginning, he lays out plainly what he believes. The introduction declares that the historical belief was that Adam and Eve were literal, historical people and that creation occurred in six days. He then states that we may change our views on the length of time in which creation took place without changing our core beliefs, but that we are in danger of disrupting the story line of the Bible…..

via Book Review: Did Adam And Eve Really Exist? by C. John Collins | Pastoral Musings.

Here’s the issue as I see it – one which those who need an identifiable Adam, singular, fail to resolve. Why is it that their ‘story line of the Bible’ is the only one considered? If their story line is in danger of collapsing, is their story line valid?

I’ve read the accolades given to Collins and his work and the are impressive, but it seems to me, from reading Jason’s review and others, that Collins set out to prove something which he already believed. While he makes allowances for science and evolution, he needs the historical Adam and because he sees Adam as historical, he then reads others as seeing it as well.

For me, I don’t think that a singular individual needs to have existed in order for the narrative of the Text to remain true. We know that singular individuals have represented whole lands, etc… in Scripture and other literature of the time. So why is is that so many still insist that a singular, identifiable person exist? There is a lot of interplay here – check with a Hebrew Scholar – with number in Adam. Adam may mean one person or many.

Also, I am still interesting in Paul’s use of tupos in describing Adam. I hope that I’m able to get it it later.

Anyway, read Jason’s review (formatting, Jason!) as it is one which made me interesting in the book.

Non-literal Numbers in the Old Testament

This is such a simple concept that I almost feel ridiculous writing about it, but YECs have swarmed this blog lately.  I thought non-literal numbers in the rest of the Old Testament merited a mention.

Charles Isbell was my first professor of Old Testament (though I’m sure it may have grated on his nerves as a Jewish professor to teach a course called “Introduction to the Old Testament” at a secular university like LSU).  One of the books assigned for this course was Isbell’s God’s Scribes.  In that book, though I can’t put my hands on it anymore, I remember there being a chapter on non-literal use of numbers in the Hebrew Bible.  Even as an evangelical, this chapter didn’t really bother me at all.  People use non-literal numbers all the time.  All that to say, Young Earth Creationism is absolutely lost on me.

I believe there are almost innumerable examples of non-literal use of numbers in the Bible.  Here are a couple of candidates:

  1. 2.5 million people leaving at the time of the (Exodus 12:37) Not likely (though I also realize that some have argued that “thousand” may not really mean “thousand” there).
  2. 430 years of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41) – Exodus 6:14-25 actually only calculates 4 generations between Levi and Moses. That this time period lasted 430 years seems doubtful to me.
  3. The ages of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 20) – I’ve always wondered what the King of Gerar would have wanted with a perhaps nearly 90 year-old, barren woman, but maybe that’s just me.
  4. Jeremiah’s 70 years (25:11) – Jeremiah said the people would serve the King of Babylon for 70 years after the land became a ruin and waste …. Nope, at least not if one reads the 70 absolutely literally.

Perhaps not all of these would work, but there are a myriad of other candidates.  These are just the first that sprang to mind.  I would obviously add to this list of non-literal use of numbers – 6 days of creation, the life spans of people in the book of Genesis, the numbers in the flood account (since they don’t all agree) …  and, oh yes, the age of the earth if you calculate it based on the Book of Genesis.

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Even the Bible doesn’t talk about Adam

Well… not in the way in which we normally assume. David Lamb has a post up which explores a few odd and end things, but this caught my attention:

the popular version of “The Fall” isn’t really either (see text below).  The humans aren’t called “Adam” and “Eve” yet, but simply “the man” and “the woman”.

God Behaving Badly 5: What really happened in Genesis 3? « David T. Lamb.

So… not even the Bible is YEC?

Whew… glad no one built and Ark Park or anything. That would have been embarrassing…

Tim Keller, ANE Myths, τύπος, and the Mythological Adam

Tim Keller – THE GOSPEL COALITION – supports the allowance of science to teach about God’s Creation. Further, he understands the nature of myth:

Kenneth Kitchen, however, protests that this is not how things worked. The prominent Egyptologist and evangelical Christian, when responding to the charge that the flood narrative (Gen 9) should be read as “myth” or “proto-history” like the other flood-narratives from other cultures, answered:

The ancient Near East did not historicize myth (i.e. read it as imaginary “history”). In fact, exactly the reverse is true—there was, rather, a trend to “mythologize” history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms.

In other words, the evidence is that Near Eastern “myths” did not evolve over time into historical accounts, but rather historical events tended to evolve over time into more mythological stories. Kitchen’s argument is that, if you read Genesis 2-11 in light of how ancient Near Eastern literature worked, you would conclude, if anything, that Genesis 2-11 were “high” accounts, with much compression and figurative language, of events that actually happened. In summary, it looks like a responsible way of reading the text is to interpret Genesis 2-3 as the account of an historical event that really happened.

He goes on to speak about the use of Adam in Paul’s writings, specifically, Romans 5. He is correct, that for the bible to retain the authority traditionally assigned to it, that we must allow the authors to retain their authority of interpretation:

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 biblical authority.

But, again, what if we are applying to Paul the strict literalism of a physically identifiable pair when his rhetoric may in fact imply something different? Do we continue to force Paul to abide by our understanding of him, or allow that we may not completely understand him? Paul calls Adam a tupos,

ἀλλὰ ἐβασίλευσεν ὁ θάνατος ἀπὸ Ἀδὰμ μέχρι Μωϋσέως καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς μὴ ἁμαρτήσαντας ἐπὶ τῷ ὁμοιώματι τῆς παραβάσεως Ἀδὰμ ὅς ἐστιν τύπος τοῦ μέλλοντος.

That particular word is used in the Maccabean books to represent a pattern or an example (3 Maccabees 3:30; 4 Maccabees 6.19). Why then would a pattern need to be ‘real’ any more than some of the opponents in Galatians and the letters of Ignatius need to be? What? You say you don’t know rhetoric or the criticism in this field being used to reach into the mind of Paul who was arguably, the greatest rhetorician of his day? What if Paul was using the story of Adam as a pattern or an example? Does a physical identifiable pair, etched forever in history, need to have actually existed  for Paul to have used it to show to the Jewish readers the pattern fulfilled by Christ?

Paul was using history, of that I am assured of; however, he doesn’t need to be a literalist in the modern sense.

Click here for another response to Keller.


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The Ark Park is Scary

Joel brought this place to my attention yesterday.  Just check out this from their FAQ page:

The Ark Encounter is a one-of-a-kind historically themed attraction. In an entertaining, educational, and immersive way, it presents a number of historical events centered on a full-size, all-wood Ark, which should become the largest timber-frame structure in the USA.

“Immersive”??? Are they planning to drown everyone just like in the story???

And again under the question about whether or not it will be an amusement park:

The Ark Encounter will be an immersive, historically themed experience for the whole family focused on having fun while learning about history. It is not an amusement park. It will feature a number of daily live performances, as well as live special events. It will also include “edu-tainment” aspects–educational and entertaining experiences within each attraction.

Daily live performances??? Really???  At the ark park???

You can leave me out.

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Overemphasizing Adam

Let me start off with what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that Adam is unimportant.

With that out of the way, in some discussions I’ve glanced at lately, I do think that some assign more importance to Adam than necessary. What I’m referring to is the idea of “no literal Adam = no Jesus.”  Perhaps someone has covered this ground already. In fact, I hope they have, and I’m a late to the game. Only my schedule has flown all over the map this summer.

I’ll just make three brief points about “no literal Adam = no Jesus.” First, I don’t think this does justice to relative lack of a role Adam plays in the rest of the bible, in general, and Hebrew Bible, in particular.  I know that some people read parts of the Hebrew Bible, but I’d swear that the only part that many pay attention to is Genesis 1-5.

Many people don’t realize that the Hebrew Bible contains only one undisputed reference to Adam outside of Genesis 1-5.  The reference comes in the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 1:1.  The word Adam in Hosea 6:7 is likely referring to a place as in Joshua 3:16.

The New Testament, in general, also contains very few references to Adam, especially outside of the epistles attributed to Paul.  The only time a gospel writer explicitly mentions Adam is Luke’s inclusion of him in Jesus’ genealogy.

At this point, I would ask the question: Does “no literal Adam = no Jesus” make more out of Adam than scripture actually does?  The Bible came along just fine, at least from my perspective, without mentioning Adam nearly as often as some groups seem intent on mentioning him in modern times.

Second, I would mention another related point.  Since the Hebrew Bible makes little reference to Adam outside of Genesis 1-5, messianic hopes develop among a people for whom, in their scriptures, Adam does not play that significant of a role, especially compared to say … Moses, who has four whole books devoted to his activities.  In light of this, I don’t think it makes sense to say “no literal Adam = no Jesus.”  A person can still have messianic hopes without having everything hinge on Adam as evidenced by many Jews in modern times who maintain messianic hopes while not having a doctrine akin to the Christian doctrine of original sin.

Finally, from my perspective, it is not Jesus’ connection with a literal Adam that imbues his death with utmost significance, but rather his resurrection from the dead.  I doubt seriously New Testament authors would really have thought to relate Jesus back to Adam if they did not believe he had been raised from the dead.

At any rate, this is my two cents.  I think we must discuss Adam.  Yet I also believe that the relative importance that we attach to him often does not reflect the relative importance of he plays within the whole of either the Jewish or Christian scriptures.

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