NPR’S Adam and Eve Story

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August 10, 2011 Tags: Human Origins

Today's entry was written by Darrel Falk and Kathryn Applegate. You can read more about what we believe here.

NPR’S Adam and Eve Story

The conversation regarding the historicity of Adam and Eve, described so clearly in the cover story of the June issue of Christianity Today, continues in an unlikely place—at National Public Radio. If you haven’t already heard it, you’ll want to listen to this story. BioLogos Senior Fellow Dennis Venema does a beautiful job summarizing the genetic data in a non-technical way, and Karl Giberson addresses the serious danger to the Church if we ignore this data. While we at BioLogos appreciate many aspects of the story, we need to make one all-important clarification: the debate over the historicity of Adam and Eve is primarily a theological debate, one that is more complex than the story lets on. All science can say is that there was never a time when only two people existed on the earth: it is silent on whether or not God began a special relationship with a historical couple at some point in the past. This subtle but extremely important point was missed entirely in the NPR story. It is a consideration that we raise repeatedly at BioLogos. See, for example this article by Daniel Harrell and this series by Denis Alexander.

Evangelical Christians have long suspected there are allegorical components to the Genesis story—a talking snake, for example—but as to whether Adam and Eve were not real people, there has been much more hesitancy--and for theologically important reasons. The science itself is silent—the most it can say is that there were never just two individuals who were the sole genetic progenitors of the entire human race. Several independent lines of genetic evidence unambiguously point to this conclusion. Science also make it very clear that humans developed through an evolutionary process. As Christians, we interpret all this in light of our belief in God as Creator.

It is important for Evangelicals to know that science is silent on the historicity of two people named Adam and Eve, just as it is silent on the existence of persons named Abraham, Isaac, and Moses. Adam and Eve may well have been two real people, who through the grace of God entered into a paradisiacal relationship with him, until—tragedy of tragedies— they allowed their own self-centered desires to reign in their hearts, instead of their love for God. Although genetics convincingly shows that there was never a time when there were just two persons, the Bible itself may even provide hints of the existence of other people—likely we’ve all wondered about those hints since we were children. “Did Cain marry his sister?” we want to know. “Who were the people that Cain was afraid of as he wandered the earth after killing Abel? If they were his brothers or nephews, why didn’t the author refer to them that way?” The author doesn’t seem to be as puzzled by this as we are. We’ve always known about those little pointers—in fact, ancient interpreters wrestled with them too, long before Darwin or modern genetics appeared on the scene. So it ought not to necessarily surprise us for genetics to come along and confirm that, sure enough, there were others around at the time of Adam and Eve.

The NPR story, as much as we appreciate it, implies that, according to science, there are only two options for Christians—dismiss the conclusions of science, or dismiss the notion of a historical couple named Adam and Eve. This is simply not the whole story. Any dismissal of a historical couple, who entered into relationship with God only to sin and break that relationship, is going to have to come from theology. There is no scientific reason to upset that theological apple cart. Indeed as scientists, we must respect the theological diversity of Evangelicalism.

Science is an amazing tool that gives insight into our world, one which is so effective that it is allows us to become virtually certain about some things. The earth does revolve around the sun. The universe was created over 14 billion years ago. All species came about through a gradual process that included natural selection, genetic drift and sexual selection. Christians should see all of this as the product of God’s masterful plan and ongoing activity. Christians should also see that science is silent on the existence of a specific first couple who enjoyed a special relationship with God. Exploring that is beyond the purview of science.


Darrel Falk is former president of The BioLogos Foundation. He transitioned into Christian higher education 25 years ago and has given numerous talks about the relationship between science and faith at many universities and seminaries. He is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.
Kathryn Applegate is Program Director at The BioLogos Foundation. She received her PhD in computational cell biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. At Scripps, she developed computer vision software tools for analyzing the cell's infrastructure, the cytoskeleton.


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beaglelady - #63724

August 10th 2011

So acknowledging that sin entered the world through the fault of human rebellion against God is not enough!  The first sinner just had to be named Adam for everything to work?


Jon Garvey - #63729

August 10th 2011

Beaglelady, the article takes no position on this, but merely points out that the historicity of A&E cannot, and therefore should not, be excluded on scientific grounds.

The same is true of both points in your post: sin entering the world through human rebellion is a purely theological question, and largely hinges on the Genesis 3 story being taken seriously. For as things like gnosticism show, other explanations for sin than human rebellion are possible, such as the messing up of the creative process by an incompetent Demiurge.

Likewise, the existence of a first sinner, whether named Adam or not, is a theological question, with discussion necessarily revolving round the reliability of the self-same passage.

I think BioLogos is wise not to be saying, “We want to show how science and Christian faith are compatible, provided only you subscribe to one particular strand of theology with no particular bearing on the matter.” BioLogos has a particluar remit to US Evangelical Christians. There doesn’t seem to be much sense in reaching out to them by marginalising their mainstream doctrines.


Darach - #63725

August 10th 2011

“Any dismissal of a historical couple, who entered into relationship with
God only to sin and break that relationship, is going to have to come
from theology.  There is no scientific reason to upset that theological
apple cart.  “

A really important point. The main thing evolution challenges is the
literal interpretation of God taking a lump of clay and forming it into a
human being. But that is one of the most common metaphors in the bible.
Isaiah 64:8  we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Our traditional theological understandings of Original Sin works just
as well with God calling one couple to federal headship of the human
race that already existed.



What evolution does, is give us an opportunity to reassess the theology
we have inherited from Augustine, who interpreted what the bible teaches
about human nature and the gospel through the framework of his literal
interpretation of Adam and Eve. Question a literal Adam and Eve and
people think the whole gospel will fall apart, instead we have an
opportunity to look again at what the NT teaches us without Augustine’s
1600 year old interpretation of Genesis telling us what it has to mean.
Was Paul saying in Romans 5 that Jesus came to save us from the sin of
Adam? Or was Paul reading the story of Adam figuratively as he says in
Romans 5:14 Adam was a figure of the one who was to come” and
using Adam as a typological  picture to illustrate how Christ came to
save us? If Paul was speaking figuratively about Adam, then nothing in
Paul’s theology in Romans 5 depends on Adam being literal



“Indeed as scientists, we must respect the theological
diversity of Evangelicalism.” Though it is a lot easier from the more
radical evangelicals to respect this theological diversity, than it is
for traditionalists who feel the radicals are tearing the gospel apart.


Cal - #63727

August 10th 2011

Well, in a sense, Adam and Eve could’ve been the first humans. Not in the scientific classification sense of Homo, but rather as the first Humans made from the Hominids. Homo divinus as it were.


beaglelady - #63728

August 10th 2011

Where in Genesis is federal headship headship of Adam discussed?  Does every human alive at the time know about it?


Nancy R. - #63730

August 10th 2011

The NPR piece hops around from one soundbite to another without fleshing out any theology; you really can’t expect more than that in a 7-minute piece that’s attempting to present all sides of a complex issue. More disappointing to me, though, is that it really did not explain at all how one can be a serious, Bible-believing Christian without accepting that Adam and Eve were an actual historical couple. One can only surmise that some of the people interviewed somehow believe such a thing - but how? Too bad that wasn’t addressed; this would have been better as a series than a stand-alone piece.


mikitta - #63731

August 10th 2011

One thing that we need to remember is this.  The Bible, including those first three chapters of Genesis ARE literal truth.

What they are NOT is COMPREHENSIVE truth.

If you take a small child to a fireworks exhibition, you say to them - look at all those pretty lights up in the sky.  People put them there, isn’t that cool? 

While it is most literally true that people put those lights in the sky for that child’s and everyone else’s entertainment, it is NOT the comprehensive truth.  You would not sit that child down for hours and explain to them all the complexities required to make even one rocket fly.  How is a small child to understand physics, chemistry and economics?  Knowing that “People put them there” is enough literal truth for that child to understand.

Thousands of years ago, when the book of Genesis was being written and compiled, those authors, through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had the LITERAL TRUTH.  They would never have understood the comprehensive truth.  WE aren’t advanced enough yet to understand the comprehensive truth, although we are closer to it than Moses in the tabernacle was.

That God created the heavens and the earth - literally true.   That He took 6 whole days to proclaim His creation - literally true.  That He selected one man and one woman to enact His first covenant with (because I think the Adam and Eve story is actually about God attempting to enter into a covenant relationship with them) - I believe that is literally true. 

But we don’t have the entire story.  So we can NEVER say it was exactly THIS way or exactly THAT way.  All we can say is that what we have is a sufficient framework for faith in a loving Creator who desires a relationship with us and Who sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins.  That is all we need for faith.  All the comprehension comes about as we, as a race, mature.  In time, it will all be revealed, and there will be so many aha’s and oh my’s we will wonder that we ever saw it through such a limited lens.

God Bless,
mik


freetoken1 - #63732

August 10th 2011

Dr. Applegate writes

div>”Any dismissal of a historical couple, who entered into relationship with God only to sin and break that relationship, is going to have to come from theology.”


freetoken1 - #63733

August 10th 2011

Don’t know what happened with the last post - it should have been:


Dr. Applegate writes:

span style=“font: 14.0px Arial; color: #000000”>”Any dismissal of a historical couple, who entered into relationship with God only to sin and break that relationship, is going to have to come from theology.”

br>

May I suggest that the only tools for addressing the historicity of “Adam and Eve” has to come from historiography , and not from theology?

br>

br>


Papalinton - #63734

August 10th 2011

I just love all these interpretations and re-interpretations searching out for a semblance of acceptance.  Ah!  Apologetics in action.


beaglelady - #63735

August 10th 2011

I have a nephew named Adam. That should count for something.


Darach - #64000

August 12th 2011

“I have a nephew named Adam. That should count for something.”
Not possible. Paul said Jesus was the last Adam


beaglelady - #64001

August 12th 2011

We’re doomed!


Ashe - #63736

August 10th 2011

i>So it ought not to necessarily surprise us for genetics to come along and confirm that, sure enough, there were others around at the time of Adam and Eve.

i>
That’s an interesting point.

beaglelady - #63737

August 10th 2011

  So it ought not to necessarily surprise us for genetics to come along
and confirm that, sure enough, there were others around at the time of
Adam and Eve.


And just when did Adam and Eve live?


Nancy R. - #63739

August 10th 2011

Beaglelady, I noticed that assertion as well. Isn’t BioLogos neutral on the historicity of Adam? And yet this essay (which is an official statement rather than one of those “the views reflected are those of the author” pieces) obviously leans waaay over to one side.


beaglelady - #63741

August 10th 2011

Beaglelady, I noticed that assertion as well. Isn’t BioLogos neutral on the historicity of Adam?

On the surface, yes.  But behind the scenes…...


Ashe - #63742

August 10th 2011

I don’t get it, what’s wrong with a diversity of views?


beaglelady - #63747

August 11th 2011

Did I say that there was something necessarily wrong with a diversity of views?


Jon Garvey - #63745

August 11th 2011

If “sin entered the world through the fault of human rebellion against God” (#63724), then clearly this event, with or without a historical Adam and Eve, occurred after God had revealed himself  to all or some of mankind, in sufficient clarity for humans to know how to rebel against his will.

Archaeology gives no evidence of named deities before the late stone age, in Mesopotamia. However, it does not appear that most of the deities of that time made much in the way of moral demands, though devotional requirements are another matter. Is the rebellion of Genesis portrayed as a moral or a devotional matter?

If at that time God revealed himself to all mankind, that seems to be a parallel event to your #63728, ie if God revealed himself to all people, he could have equally made them aware of a federal head.

If, alternatively, God only revealed himself to a few people, then particular historical individuals were involved. Might they not have been called “Adam and Eve” (unless our aim is purely to gainsay Scripture)?


glsi - #63743

August 10th 2011

I think NPR could do an interesting companion piece on some of the modern day creation myths such as “RNA World” and other chemical stories that feature spontaneous generation and living things jumping up out of stone soup or snowballs.   Then they could give some stats on how many educated people and scientists actually believe the stories without ever having any actual evidence to prove them.  And when that gets too dry they could have some scientists a la Francis Crick saying that none of those stories are even remotely feasible from either a biochemical nor thermodynamic point of view and then cue in some audience grabbing tales about spaceships and aliens.   


Papalinton - #63744

August 11th 2011

Below is an overview of the current status of discourse re Adam and Eve story:


http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/adam-and-eve-raise-their-ugly-heads-on-npr-2/

Happy reading.  It also mentions BioLogos’ stance on this issue.

Nancy R. - #63746

August 11th 2011

Thanks for sharing; that’s an interesting piece. It points out how evangelicals and atheists hold fast to the same assumption: without a literal Adam and Eve, Christianity makes no sense. Why believe that Jesus was real if you don’t accept that Adam was real?

Of course, many Christians have no trouble believing in Christ while accepting the mythological nature of the Adam account, just as we accept that Genesis 1 is not a scientific explanation of the creation of the universe. Anyone not bound by a rigid interpretation of scripture can appreciate the difference in genre between the Genesis accounts and the Gospel.

The “Why Evolution is True” piece does reflect the current BioLogos editorial position all too well, however. “The tortuous ways accommodationist Christians try to save the story” of a literal Adam and Eve do not reflect a clear reading of scripture, even while attempting to accommodate an old earth and an evolved humanity.


Ashe - #63751

August 11th 2011

I like how “Darwin’s Pious Idea” put it, there is an historical Adam, his name is Jesus. 


Pete D - #63755

August 11th 2011

Kathryn says:

<i>All science can say is that there was never a time when only two people existed on the earth: it is silent on whether or not God began a special relationship with a historical couple at some point in the past. </i>

A little later, Kathryn then says:

<i>Any dismissal of a historical couple, who entered into relationship with God only to sin and break that relationship, is going to have to come from theology.</i>

Please tell me how theology can establish the historicity of an actual couple who entered into a relationship with god. This is like saying studying Greek mythology can establish the historicity of actual people who had a relationship with Zeus.


Pete D - #63756

August 11th 2011

Well, I guess I should have noticed the font effects in the toolbar above the comment field!


Papalinton - #63764

August 11th 2011

“This is like saying studying Greek mythology can establish the historicity of actual people who had a relationship with Zeus.”


No it can’t establish historicity, but studying Greek mythology can clearly give an insight into how christianity was formed and developed, and that Greek mythology, along with Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Palestinian, indeed all ANE mythologies are antecedents to the development of the christian mythos.

It’s not rocket science to note and trace elements accreted from earlier belief systems.  And equally how christianity itself, can form the basis of later variant belief systems, such as Mormonism.

beaglelady - #63999

August 12th 2011

Oh, moderator! Cleanup on aisle 2, please.


BenYachov - #64487

September 5th 2011

>The science itself is silent—the most it can say is that there were never just two individuals who were the sole genetic progenitors of the entire human race.

What is the philosophical nature of this so called scientific “certainty” btw?

Is it the probable “certainty” of flipping a billion coins at once and believing it is not very likely they will all come up heads on the first toss?

Or is it the “certainty” that 2+2=5  is false and pretty much impossible in any conceivable reality?

Because the later seems to me, is against the philosophy of science.  Thus I think it premature to tout that “science” has completely eliminated the possibility humanity came from a two person bottleneck.

Never the less this whole discussion is a moot point.   There is no reason why Adam and Eve’s children couldn’t have mated with their unsouled hominid contemporaries.  This view has precedence in Rabbinical Tradition  & see no reason why Christians could not agree with it as well.  There is no reason why we can’t have a Theological Monogenism and a biological Polygenism.  

See here or click on my screen name:
http://www.aish.com/print/?contentID=48931772&section=/tp/i/moha

It’s that easy.  I’ve dealt with this issue in the past I don’t see why it keeps coming up?

All liberal Christian views that deny a real Adam & Original Sin are IMHO on the same level as persons who deny Jesus literally rose from the dead but only came alive in people hearts but his body still rots in a tomb.

The doctrine of Original Sin is as basic a belief in Christianity as the Deity of Christ and the Trinity.  If you deep six it then you are not a Christian.  The stupid thing is it has nothing do with wither or not you believe in Theistic Evolution, ID or whatever.  Theistic Evolution is perfectly compatible with belief in a real Adam.  Belief in a real Adam is as necessary as belief in a literal resurrection.

Denial of a real Adam and The Fall is what fuels much of the ID movement.  I believe after reading Thomistic Philosophy the whole Evolution overthrows teleology nonsense is a dead horse.  One you cast away the whole Evolution = unreal symbolic Adam and Fall nonsense  then the war is over.  You will.

It’s really that simple.


BenYachov - #64488

September 5th 2011

>Of course, many Christians have no trouble believing in Christ while
accepting <b>the mythological nature of the Adam account</b>, just as we accept
that Genesis 1 is not a scientific explanation of the creation of the
universe. Anyone not bound by a rigid interpretation of scripture can
appreciate the difference in genre between the Genesis accounts and the
Gospel.



Ironically this is also a rigid fundamentalist liberal either/or
fallacy.  Specifically the idea Genesis is telling a symbolic story
& therefore the personages in the story where not literally real. 
That is silly of course.  Even the most hyper-fundamentalist YEC doesn’t
believe a literal 7 headed monster via the Book of Revelations will
take over the UN during the End of Days.  But he believes in a literal
real Anti-Christ as well as he should.

The Book of  Revelation itself contains real historical references that
refers to real historical persons told in a stylized symbolic way.  Who
here will claim Nero wasn’t a real person just because he is shown as a 7
headed beast(a forerunner to the Anti-Christ at the End of Days)? 



Adam and Eve where real if you are a Bible believing Theistic Evolutionist.



The problem of Adam & Eve are non-Problems.


BenYachov - #64489

September 5th 2011

Lastly consider the Nephilim in Genesis 6:1-8.  Since Angels are by nature substantive forms and not entities with any material components then how can they mate with human women?   Now if they possessed the bodies of other hominids who had no souls that would make more sense since the Incarnation is something only God can by His direct power effect.

Just saying.


beaglelady - #64491

September 5th 2011

Since Angels are by nature substantive forms and not entities with any
material components then how can they mate with human women? 
 

Hey, “what happens here stays here”


BenYachov - #64492

September 5th 2011

Nay this has nothing to do with Vegas.  How do I know this? I’ve been playing FALLOUT:NEW VEGAS on both my XBOX 360 & PC.

It’s nothing like Vegas.


hseeley - #66800

December 27th 2011

Contrary to scientific belief, the earth is actually the center of the universe and the sun does revolve around the earth. This is true if one understands infinity. In an infinite universe every point one occupies is the center for there is no place to measure from or to. If you move to Mars, the same holds true. The same goes for time in an eternal universe, there is none. For in an eternal universe there is no beginning and no end, therefore there is no time to start or begin. These two concepts of time and space only hold true if we reduce our existence to finite and that we have a beginning an an end. As far as we can ascertain, from scientific inquiry, this universe has both a beginning and an end, as does life as we know it.  And we are therefore not the center of this seemingly finite universe. But where in God’s creation can there exist finite and time bound life if He is eternal and infinite?

Where in this finite and time bound world do we find God? How do we conceptualize that we and our world are created by God when our very existence screams of not-God?  Science, being a product of a limited and finite universe rends it incapable of even conceptualizing the existence of an eternal and infinite God.

It seems to me that trying to reconcile this question with science, theology, or both, is to seek but do not find.


tiopapo - #67024

January 11th 2012

One little problem….The universe is finite!


tiopapo - #66801

December 27th 2011

{comment} I just finished reading “The Language of Science and Faith” by Dr. Collins. I had read also The Language of God” and was intrigued by both.
I was brought up in a Christian (Pentecostal) home, parents missionaries to Cuba,PR and Honduras, but at 24 whenI asked the “why” questions I received answers that were lacking in reason, eventually I left the faith and became a new age follower of popular Hinduism. In 2006 read The Case for Christ” and I found the reasons I always wanted to believe. 
Since 2007 I have been studying (informally) Christian Theology, and Apologetics intrigues me deeply. 
But the science question is of most importance since I use it for my witnessing.

Now,“Biologos” presents evidence for evolution, the allegorical genre of Genesis and OT. and  I do believe the science conclusions yet there is a question about “the fall” I still have trouble comprehending if for example if  there wasn’t an actual “Adam”. As Christian I was taught that we fell from grace at one point in time in human history. That is, what I got as a child was the picture that man was created without sin (since God can’t create sin), that man at one point disobeyed or decided not to follow his creator’s will and became a sinner. 

Now, if we take evolution as fact; When is that fall take place, when is man first disobeying God? 
The other picture is that Jesus came to do what we were supposed to, live without sinning (besides redeeming us). I heard that Jesus was thought to be the second Adam, all of these doctrines point to an actual fall from grace. The implication is that humans are created with the intension from the Creator to never die, in this planet earth….but man created with a free will chose to transgressed against his creator. 

Recently I watched Dr. Misael Rodriguez (a medical doctor) explain that the science (or belief) behind Cryonics comes from the idea that human are not supposed to die. This declaration intrigued me because the Adam implication with the theology that presents a fallen creature that obviously wasn’t fallen atone point! 
I want to know how to reconcile evolution and the no actual Adam with this “fallen state”. Is it a matter of how we were going to choose anyway? If so; Couldn’t God prevented it?   

We know of creatures that have not fallen, Angels and one can say that angels were created before we were, Lucifer rebells, enter evil in the universe and then by the time we arrive, the universe was fallen…ok..but then  The Resurrection  conveys a restoration to, a fix of sorts to a  original intention, and the belief of the resurrection of the body conveys the same restoration to an ideal original intention of the creation process. In other  words God can’t create sin or evil nor I suppose ( I could be wrong) He creates creatures to sin. So if God’s creation is good why create an imperfect creature, fallen with evil like us?  
The literal Adam fixes my dilemma here, but I can’t ignore science and evolution, so what is the answer? 
Thanks,

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