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Don Stewart :: Were Adam and Eve Actual People?

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Don Stewart
Can a person accept the Genesis account of creation without believing that Adam and Eve were actually the first humans?

Allegorical

Some Christians view Adam and Eve as allegorical figures. These scholars believe there were humans, or sub-humans, existing before Adam and Eve. The anthropologist H. Wade Seaford writes:

A literalistic interpretation of the creation story generates insurmountable problems for contemporary Christians who are acquainted with scientific knowledge. The human species did not begin in the ecological and cultural setting described in the opening chapters of Genesis. There were many populations of people before Adam and Eve, as literally understood. Only by allegorical interpretation can theology, be noncontradictive to archaeology, biochemistry, biology, and paleoanthropology (H. Wade Seaford in The Genesis Debate, Ronald Youngblood Ed., Nashville: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1986, p. 163).

Representative Of Humankind

Other Christian scholars see Adam and Eve as representative of humankind, not as literal individuals. George Kufeldt, an Old Testament authority, writes:

At issue is the significance and meaning of the Hebrew term adam. It is certain that its meaning here is not a personal name since it has the definite article: 'the' adam. Since the text says that God created 'the' adam male and female, it is apparent that the adam is to be construed as a collective noun, to be interpreted something like 'mankind, humankind, human race.' . . . Theologically adam is 'Everyman/Everywoman' (George Kufeldt in The Genesis Debate, p. 149).

Evidence for humankind living longer than 10,000 years ago leads many to take Adam and Eve as representative of humanity. Tim Hawthorne writes:

Others see Adam (the Hebrew word for man) and Eve (Hebrew, living) as representing all humans of their day, Genesis itself indicating that there were others . . . among whom Cain went to live. For me, this view fits better with what we know of early man. There is evidence for instance, that homo sapiens lived in Australia and America 10,000 years ago (Tim Hawthorne, Windows of Science and Faith, Leceister, England, Intervarsity Press, 1986, p. 86).

ADAM AND EVE WERE REAL PEOPLE

However, when one studies the Bible it becomes clear that the historicity of Adam and Eve is essential to the message of Scripture.

1.Treated As Actual Humans

As we read the early chapters of Genesis, we find Adam and Eve treated as real people. There is absolutely nothing in the account to suggest that they were anything but actual people. Furthermore, the human race had to start somewhere! Why not with Adam and Eve.
2.Children Were Born To Them

The Bible records Adam and Eve giving birth to children (Genesis 4:1,25). This is another indication they were real people.

3.Phrase Used Of Real People

The repeated phrase in the Book of Genesis, This is the history of, is used not only of Adam and Eve, but of other people who actually existed. Since the same phrase is used of those whose existence is not in doubt, Adam and Eve should be treated the same as them-people who really existed.

4.Old Testament Genealogies

The chronology of the Old Testament also gives evidence to the existence of Adam and Eve. In 1 Chronicles 1:1, Adam is listed first in the genealogy. He is named with other people whose existence is not in doubt.

5.Genealogy Of Jesus

The New Testament clearly teaches that Adam and Eve were actual people. In the genealogy of Jesus, Adam is considered to be a literal person. The Gospel of Luke records that Jesus' lineage went back to,

The son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God (Luke 3:38).

Adam's existence is put on the same level as the existence of God in this passage. It is also plain that Jesus was a descendant of an individual named Adam seeing that all other names in the genealogy were of individuals.

6.Jesus' Testimony

We refer to the testimony of Jesus:

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female (Matthew 19:4).

This passage teaches that Adam and Eve were literally created by God.

7.Sin, Death, Salvation

The biblical teaching of sin entering the world, death as a result of sin, and the need for the death of Christ upon the cross, are all based upon the fact that Adam was an actual person. The Apostle Paul believed in a literal understanding of the Fall of Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 3.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. . . Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses (Romans 5:12,14).

In this passage Adam, as the first man, is credited with the responsibility of bringing sin into the world. He is also compared to Moses, a historical figure.

8.Adam, The First Man

Scripture specifically says that Adam was the first man.

So also it is written, The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

9.Doctrine Of Resurrection

The biblical doctrine of resurrection is based upon a literal understanding of Adam:

For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:21,22).

The past resurrection of Christ is consistently portrayed in Scripture as literally occurring. The same holds true for the resurrection of believers in the future. Because of Adam all of us die, because of Christ, believers shall be raised to be with Him.

10. Adam Was Formed First

In another place Paul wrote:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression (1 Timothy 2:13,14).

This testifies to his actual existence as the first man.

Summary

From the biblical evidence it is clear that Adam was an actual human being-the first creation of the Lord.

Eve


Eve's literal existence is also essential to the message of the Bible. The following biblical teachings are based on her existence:

1.The basis of a biblical marriage (Matthew 19:4-9)

2.Divorce (Matthew 19:4-10)

3.The evils of (Romans 1:25-27)

4.Immorality (1 Corinthians 6:13-16)

5.The husband to be head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23) (1 Corinthians 11:3)

6.The wife to be submissive to husband (Ephesians 5:22,24)

7. The spiritual role of women (1 Timothy 2:11-14)

Circumstantial Evidence

Dr. William Smith, a scholar of one hundred years ago, wrote the following concerning the biblical account of Adam and Eve and the Fall of humankind.

We must not omit to notice the traces of these truths, which are found among many nations. The Greek legend of Pandora traces the entrance of evil to a woman; the Buddhist and Chinese traditions refer the beginning of sin to eating forbidden fruit and desiring forbidden knowledge; and most systems of mythology make the serpent a type of the power of evil, and a divine personage his destroyer. Delitzsch well says, 'The story of the Fall, like that of the Creation, has wandered over the world. Heathen nations have transplanted and mixed it up with their geography, their history, their mythology, although it has never so completely changed form, and color, and spirit, that you can not recognize it. Here, however, in the Law, it preserves the character of a universal, human, world-wide fact: and the groans of Creation, the Redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and the heart of every man, conspire in their testimony to the most literal truth of the narrative.' The recollection of the tree of life is preserved in the sacred tree of the Assyrians and Hindoos, and in other Eastern systems of mythology (The Old Testament History, edited by Dr. William Smith, 1865, p. 29).

Recent Evidence

There is also recent evidence that Adam is not merely a word for humankind in general, but it is an actual proper name. In the 1970's, tablets were discovered in northern Syria at a place called Ebla. In the ancient cuneiform text, the name Adam was discovered as a personal name. This is the first example found outside of Scripture where the term Adam was applied to an individual. Therefore it is not necessary to assume that Adam is some kind of word referring to mankind in general rather than a name of one specific individual. As we have seen, the Bible consistently treats Adam as an individual and so should we.

Summary

The Bible consistently teaches that Adam and Eve were actual people, and that their literal existence is essential to understanding the remainder of Scripture. Any attempt to allegorize them, or to make them representative of mankind, places many major biblical teachings at risk.


CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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