Who Was Adam?
April 26, 2012
Updated June 28, 2018
6 comments 567 views
Who was Adam?
This simple question has become the great controversy of the day in not only the Christian Reformed community but in Evangelical Christianity as a whole. New scientific advances in investigating the human genome have raised some serious questions concerning the origins of man. The latest claim is that recent genome studies of our species tell us that humanity had arisen from a pre-existent humanoid community of non-homo sapiens origins. In other words, humanity, they claim, didn’t come into existence through one individual, but through many individuals.
So what does this mean to us as Christians?
Some have argued, and I believe rightly so, that if we say there was no historic Adam, the individual, then the very core of the Apostle Paul’s teaching on redemption is perilously at risk. (Read Romans 5:12-20)
In the end, it all seems to fall down to the question of how do we read the book of Genesis in the face of these latest scientific discoveries? For me, the question can only be answered by trying to understand the literary character of this first book of the Hebrew Bible itself.
As a way to explain this, I’d like to relate an experience I had concerning the book of Genesis. When I was studying Hebrew in Israel one of the ways I use to practice my language studies was by comparing my English Bible with my Hebrew Bible. One day I was deep in my studies when a native Israeli friend popped in my room and asked what I was doing. I showed her. She was bi-lingual and spoke and read fluently both Hebrew and English. She mentioned to me she had never read Genesis chapter one in English before. It just happened to be what I was reading at the time. So, she picked up my English Bible, read through the verses and immediately threw it down and yelled, “That’s awful!”
I knew exactly what she meant. There was no way that an English translation of Genesis chapter one could ever capture the full poetic depth and flavor of the original Hebrew words. I told her that she had to understand, to try to do full justice to all of the linguistic value of the original Hebrew words into English would mean writing a commentary rather than a translation. When we translate one language to another, especially Hebrew to English, one has to make a commitment, one way or another, that will always fall short of the prosaic and nuanced meanings of the words of the text found in the original Semitic language.
With that said it is clear that the Hebrew language of the book of Genesis is purposely metaphoric as well as poetic. It was after all written by tribal nomads. The very name of Adam itself, in the Hebrew language, seems to argue for this. In Hebrew, Adam can mean both the individual and all of humanity. The Hebrew Bible often uses it both ways. A good example of this can be found in Genesis 1:26;”Then God said, “Let us make mankind (Adam) in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” In this passage the word that is translated as Mankind is the Hebrew word “Adam” and it is conjugated in the plural.
Then in the next chapter, Genesis 2:15-17, we have the same Hebrew word, Adam, being conjugated in the singular.”The LORD God took the man (Adam) and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man (Adam), “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
As a Reformed Christian I think the best way to understand or interpret this Adam of Genesis is with a covenant point of view? It seems to me this individual Adam should be seen as having a unique covenantal relationship with God that is distinctively different from what God had with the rest of creation, including possibly other humanoids? In a theological way, what I’m suggesting is that we see the individual Adam of Genesis 2:15 as being the unique covenantal head of what becomes known as Adam who eventually becomes the whole of the rest of humanity. This would make biblical sense since throughout the Hebrew Bible both people and communities are always named after a founding individual. (Ishmael and the Ishmalites, Eber and the Hebrews, Nahor and the Nahorim, Moab and the Moabites, Ammon and the Ammonites, ect.) This way of seeing Adam would seem to best accord with the Apostle Paul’s view of Adam in Romans 5:12-20 as well.
I don’t have a problem with there being other humanoids or peoples in the world at the time of Adam’s appearance, or even that he may have descended from them. This actually would make biblical sense since we have references in this same Genesis story of both Cain and Seth marrying women and it is highly doubtful that they could, according to the Law of God, have been allowed to marry their own sisters or even close relatives. (Leviticus 18) Also there are other instances of people being mentioned, other than Adam’s family, who were around at the time of this Genesis story. An example of this is Cain fleeing to an already established community called “Nod”. (Genesis 4:16) And the statement of Cain to God about being killed by other people because they’ll know he had killed his brother Abel. (Genesis 4:13-15)
Some have argued that Adam had to be the first distinctively made human. I suggest a slight alternative to this. I suggest that this biblical idea of Adam being the Covenantal head of humanity would fit this idea of Adam being the first human who was made in the image of God. What I mean to say is that Adam’s image bearing of God is what made him distinct from other people at this time and made him the first true human being.
So, the question must be asked: What is this image of God that Adam was made in that made him so unique from the rest of the people on the earth?
Again, Genesis says that first Adam was put to rule over creation, to work it and to guard or protect it (Hebrew word “Shomar”). Second, Adam also seems to be the first of creation to have had an active relationship with God other than a passive relationship that the rest of creation had in merely reflecting his “invisible qualities” as mentioned in Romans 1:20.
It is this actively engaging first person relationship between God and Adam that defines their unique covenant relationship and I believe makes Adam’s humanity unique. It is this first person communication between God and Adam that is key here to explaining Adam’s being uniquely made in image of God. Part of this first person conversation between God and Adam has to do with a single command found in Genesis 2:16-17; “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
So why is this one command such an important one to this unique covenant made between Adam and God?
One of the greatest theologians of the early church, Augustine of Hippo, in the early fifth century A.D. argued that the breaking of this command represented Adam’s break from acknowledging God as God by putting himself in the place of God in his own heart and mind. Genesis 3:4-5 explains this. It says; “the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In other words when Adam choose to eat the fruit, he no longer had God’s opinion ruling his life but instead he replaced God’s opinion with his own. By doing this he became a god in his own opinion. Consequently he both lost the opinion and mind of God and severely damaged his bearing the image of God. In other words, this unique quality of Adam’s interpersonal relationship with God was nearly destroyed by his single act of disobedience to God’s command.
Hosea 6:7; “Like Adam, they have broken the covenant; they were unfaithful to me there.”
Here Adam broke the single command that made up the covenant between himself and God. And as the Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:45-49, it will take a second Adam, a new covenant head of humanity to restore us to the obedience of being image bearers of God once again. “45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”
The New Testament goes even further into the meaning our being “Image bearers of God”. Romans 8:28 is a good example of this. “29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Another is Colossians 3:9-10; “9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
This metaphoric language of the Hebrew book of Genesis is typical of all nomadic tribal societies throughout history. The language of the Hebrew book of Genesis is not precise and neat. It speaks primarily through pictures rather than exacting grammar. The name of Adam, himself, shows this.
As much as the name of Adam can mean both an individual as well as all of mankind, the name itself comes from the Hebrew word for red, adome and also from the Hebrew word for ground or dirt, adamah. Why? Because, as Genesis 2:7 says: “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground (adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” And, by the way, the “ground” or dirt of the near east is mostly red.
Although there are many other issues that could be brought up concerning the language of the Hebrew Bible as a whole the most important point here to make is that all of the Old Testament image bearers of God had something in common with us-it is the unique covenantal faith relationship between themselves and our God. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord going all the way back to Adam. Hebrews 11:1-2 & 39-40 tells us concerning them and us: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” ”39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
Christianity and science haven’t always had a cozy relationship. There was a Christian scientist named Galileo (1562-1642), who claimed that the earth orbited around the sun and not the other way around. Well, many Christians in his day said this could not be so because, as they read their Bibles, the scriptures seemed to very definitely say that the earth is in a stationary place in the universe and everything else moves passed it. Psalm 93:1, 96:10, and 1 Chronicles 16:30 say that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." Also, Psalm 104:5 says, "The Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." And Ecclesiastes 1:5 says that "And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place". Yet, how many today would claim that the sun orbits the earth or claim that the earth is stationary in the heavens. Nonetheless, many well-intended Christians in Galileo’s time felt the scriptures told them this was so.
But we know that the Bible often speaks figuratively about the natural world and wasn’t written to be an exacting book on science. Instead the Bible is fundamentally a book on how to be an “Image bearer of God”! The Bible is a Spirit inspired book focused on the faith relationship between humanity and God.
I feel the church is now facing its Galileo moment over the issue of “Who was Adam?” How do we handle what the newest scientific discoveries say about us and our origins? Do we deny the science? (Would that be honest?) Or do we see how the science actually harmonizes with what the Scriptures maybe telling us? No matter how we feel about this subject, one way or another, this is something we will need to come to terms with because the world around us will expect us to give them answers. And biblically speaking, isn’t that our job as Christians? Are we prepared to give an answer?
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
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"My findings were that the probabiity that Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 is narrative is between .999942 and .999987 at a 99.5% confidence level. I conclude therefore that it is statistically indefensible to argue that this text is poetry." Steven Boyd (Ph.D Hebraic and Cognate Studies, Professor of OT AND Semitic languages)
Chapter 1 (Genesis) was written in the Hebrew language which is consistent in using one structure for narrative and quite a different one for poetry. Hebrew poets like David used a SVO (Subject Verb Object) structure like English. In general, if the Hebrew goes VSO it will be narrative, but if it is SVO it will be poetic." Charles Taylor (Ph.D Linguistics, Professor of Theology).
Genesis One is definitely in Verb Subject Object structure, i.e. Narrative.
"The Search for Adam and Eve", was a Newsweek article by John Tierney, Lynda Wright and Karen Springen. This article of January 11, 1988 stated: "Trained in molecular biology, they [scientists] looked at an international assortment of genes and picked up a trail of DNA that led to a single woman from whom we are all descended”.
Maternal mitochondria DNA is passed relatively unchanged in the female line only. Over time, mutations occur in the DNA of humans. How many mutations have occurred since Eve? How fast do mutations occur? In other words, what is the rate at which the mitochondrial DNA clock runs? If the number of mutations since Eve were known, then one could calculate how long ago mitochondrial Eve lived.
"Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock", is a Science article by Ann Gibson. Article of 2nd January 1998 stated: “Mitochondrial DNA appears to mutate faster than expected, prompting new DNA forensics procedures..." For example, researchers have calculated that mitochondrial Eve - the woman whose mtDNA was ancestral to that in all living people - lived ... using the new clock she would have lived a mere 6000 years ago.
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." Robert Jastrow
Unique Origin of Eve
Ever wondered why our LORD God chose to make Eve as recorded in the Bible?
“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:21-23
Luke traces the family tree down through Heli, father of Mary, mother of Jesus, through David’s son Nathan, until we read in Luke 3:38:
“... Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.”
Therefore Adam, the son of God is related to the Son of God (our kinsman redeemer).
As Eve is related to Adam, Eve is also related to our kinsman redeemer.
"And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." Genesis 3:20
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” Acts 17:26a
“And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” 1 Corinthians 15:45
"Every word of God is flawless” Proverbs 30.6a
I want to thank you for your thoughts here. First off, there’s nothing that you wrote that I wouldn’t agree with. I agree with it all. Also, like you, I feel the Genesis story is also based on real events and not a fable or some kind of parabolic poetry. The problem with English speakers is they don’t appreciate the depth of meaning found in the original Hebrew words of Genesis. There is so much more written in these texts than I have found in any English translation that I have ever read. All translations fall short of the original language. My advice to reading Genesis is to get a good Hebrew-English concordance of the Old Testament and with a little effort you can see what it is I’m talking about. And, as for all those articles pointing to a single woman’s Mitochondrial DNA as the origin of all of humanity I’ve also have read and agree, would seem to be evidence for the existence of a Hava or Eve, or Noah’s wife at the least. Also I’m not at all opposed to the idea that Eve may have been born miraculously from Adam. The problem is the text itself says there were other people at the time of Adam and Eve. Genesis chapters 4 and 6 speak to this. For example, in chapter 6 you have several curious texts that say the daughters of Adam were either married or taken by the Sons of Eloyim (which can mean a whole variety of things) and were also taken by the Nephalim or the fallen/ tyrannical ones. These two sets of people are not identified as sons of Adam, in fact both texts seem to imply it wasn’t a good thing that the daughters of Adam were married or taken by these people. There is such a wonderful bountiful depth here in Hebrew Bible that I wish more people could come to appreciate.
Chuck Missler mentioned in his first session, listed below, that there are a couple of Hebrew characters near the word 'God', in the first verse of the Bible, i.e. In the beginning God created ...., i.e. characters that mean 'alpha & omega'. Revelation 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Jesus, our Lord, is there in the beginning as we also see mentioned in the book of John.
In Genesis 3: 15 and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
In John 3: 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
It is puzzling how can one claim to "believe in him" but doubt that He created the way He told us in Genesis and summarized (in stone) in Exodus 20:11
Chuck Missler - How we got our Bible Session 1 (OT) ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE7fnqPpWMA )
Chuck Missler - How we got our Bible Session 2 (NT) ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8au1UUN_qw )
I don't know what Churck Missler means. To begin with, Alpha and Omega are Greek letters, not Hebrew. Maybe he's referring to the Greek Septuigent of the Old Testament. Could you help me out, do you have a specific point to make about the blog I wrote? I want to apologize, I didn't listen to the three hours of Chuck Missler's sermon or teaching. I'll listen when I get some extra time.
Rob I think you have done your best to provide a good insiteful balanced approach to a discussion of who Adam is/was. However, within your "many" words, there seems to be a tendency in a few cases to look for problems where none exist. For example, when you mention Nod, you assume there was a community there. But Nod (which means wandering), is simply an identifier, like the name of a river, of an area. There is no indication that there was a community there already.
Also you mention that it is unlikely that Cain would have married his sister due to levitical laws. But you know that these laws were not given until later, and that even Abraham married his half sister. To suggest that this is a reason for proving other communities existed is simply not logical. Rather, it would be much more logical to assume that Adam and Eve had many other children, and that brothers married sisters at that time. I just saw a family on "America has Talent" which had 12 children in 18 years, and no twins. Isn't this also scientific evidence of such a likelihood for Adam and Eve that they also had many children even before Seth was born?
I think your synopsis of the meaning of "Adam", which is related to red, to earth, and is sometimes plural was well done, but it is certainly no indication that Adam was not a real singular living created being, created by God from dust in his own image. In fact, it would suggest that he was created from the earth itself, wouldn't it.
An explanation would be valuable, of why Genesis 4:26 would say that at the time of Enosh, Seth's son, men began to call on the name of the Lord, when obviously Abel and Cain were already sacrificing to God much earlier. At least this should highlight the value of context in understanding the meaning of a phrase or verse.
The story of creation should not be viewed as the point in time when heaven and earth and the universe were created, but rather as a repair. Because in Genesis 1: 2 it must say that the earth became desolate and empty "and not:" The earth was desolate and empty. "According to scientific knowledge, the earth was plunged into a catastrophe by cosmic influences around the year 10,000 BC. As a result, many beings on earth were destroyed, including the forerunners of the humans Neanderthals and Co. Of course they have now been excavated, but what cultural things have been found of them. Hardly anything but a pair of cave paintings. God has another, a new one Man made: "in his own image". This new man, as the excavations in the Middle East show, created an infinite number of inventions and cultural values in a very short time. This exponential increase began, as confirmed by science, around the years 3-5 thousand BC Why? Because the new Adam got a higher spirit than the first humans. In that sense, there is no contradiction between the Bible and science.
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