t f p g+ YouTube icon

Was Adam a Real Person? Part 1

Bookmark and Share

September 2, 2010 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's entry was written by Denis Lamoureux. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Was Adam a Real Person? Part 1

The historicity of Adam and Eve is a critically important topic in the discussion of Christianity and human origins. Although BioLogos takes a firm stand on the fact that Adam and Eve could not have been the sole biological progenitors of all humans (see here), science does not rule out the possibility of a historical Adam and Eve. Indeed, there is a wide range of Christian perspectives on this topic, several of which have been explored here on the BioLogos Forum in posts from Tom Wright (here and here), David Opderbeck, Pete Enns, Daniel Harrell, and Alister McGrath.

In the final chapter of Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution (2008), Christian scholar Denis O. Lamoureux presents another important perspective, stating, “My central conclusion in this book is clear: Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.” Also summarized in a slide-audio web lecture with a two page handout A and B, today's post is the first of a three-part series taken from Lamoureux's I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution (2009), in which he argues forcefully against the historicity of Adam, primarily on biblical grounds.

Part 1: The De Novo Creation of Life

De novo creation is the ancient conceptualization of origins found in the Bible. This term is made up of the Latin words de meaning “from” and novus “new.” Stated more precisely, it is a view of origins that results in things and beings that are brand new. This type of creative activity is quick and complete. It appears in a majority of ancient creation accounts and it involves a divine being/s who act/s rapidly through a series of dramatic interventions, resulting in cosmological structures (sun, moon, stars) and living organisms (plants, animals, humans) that are mature and fully formed.

Considering the limited scientific evidence available to ancient peoples, this conceptualization of origins was perfectly logical. As with all origins accounts, including those held by us today, the ancients asked basic etiological questions (Greek aitia: the cause, the reason for this). These included: Where did these things or beings come from? Why are they this way? Who or what is responsible for their origin? There was no reason for ancient peoples to believe the universe was billions of years old, and they were unaware that living organisms changed over eons of time as reflected in the fossil record. Instead, the age of the world was limited to the lengths of their genealogies, many of which were held by memory, and therefore quite short. Biological evolution was not even a consideration because in the eyes of the ancients, hens laid eggs that always produced chicks, ewes only gave birth to lambs, and women were invariably the mothers of human infants. Living organisms were therefore immutable; they were static and never changed.

In conceptualizing origins, ancient people used these day-to-day experiences and retrojected them back to the beginning of creation (Latin retro: backward; jacere: to throw). Retrojection is the very same type of thinking used in crime scene investigations. Present evidence found at the scene is used to reconstruct past events. In this way, the ancients came to the reasonable conclusion that the universe and life must have been created quickly and completely formed not that long ago. And this was the best origins science-of-the-day.

Grasping the notion of de novo creation is one of the keys to understanding Genesis 1 and the origins debate. This creation account refers 10 times to living creatures reproducing “according to its/their kind/s.” Young earth creationists and progressive creationists argue that this phrase is incontestable biblical evidence against biological evolution, because God created separate groups of organisms. They term these groupings “created kinds” or “baramins” (Hebrew bārā’: to create; min: kind). However, this popular anti-evolutionist belief that the Creator intervened dramatically in the creation of individual groups of plants and animals fails to appreciate the ancient mindset and its intellectual categories. The phrase “according to its/their kind/s” reflects an ancient phenomenological perspective of living organisms (Note: this is not to be confused and conflated with our modern phenomenological perspective. What the ancients saw, they believed to be real and actual, such as the literal movement of the sun across the sky. In contrast, what we see today, we understand to be only apparent and a visual effect, such as the “movement” of the sun). Ancient people always saw that birds reproduce birds, which reproduce birds, which reproduce birds, etc. They retrojected this experience back into the past and came to the logical conclusion that there must have been some first or original birds that the Creator had made de novo. Thus, the de novo creation of living organisms, such as birds in Genesis 1, is based on the classification of life in static or immutable categories, as perceived by ancient peoples like the Hebrews. More specifically, it reflects an ancient biology; and in particular, an ancient understanding of taxonomy. This biblical fact has a very challenging implication.

Ancient biology profoundly impacts the conceptualization of the divine acts that created living organisms in Genesis 1. Stated precisely, God’s creative action in the origin of life is accommodated through ancient taxonomical categories. In the same way that Genesis 1 filters divine events regarding the origin of the heavens through a 3-tier astronomy and the ancient notion of de novo creation (i.e., God using the firmament to separate the waters above on creation day two, and His placing of the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament on day four), the common phenomenon of seeing living organisms reproduce “according to its/their kind/s” profoundly shapes the events regarding the origin of life. The writer of Genesis 1 attributes the origin of the basic kinds of plants and animals to de novo creative acts by the Creator. In other words, ancient science directs the Holy Spirit-inspired biblical author’s conceptualization of divine creative activity. Ancient peoples saw that the basic kinds of living organisms around them never changed, and that these reproduced only after their kinds. It was perfectly logical for them to connect these two observations and then come to the reasonable conclusion that creatures must have originally been created quickly and completely formed. We would have arrived at the same conclusion had we lived at that time. So here’s the bottom line: Genesis 1 does not reveal how God actually created life.

To be sure, this idea is challenging and even threatening to many Christians. But the Message-Incident Principle sheds light on the situation. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit descended to the level of the biblical author of Genesis 1 and used his incidental ancient science regarding biological origins in order to reveal the central Message of Faith that He was the Creator of life. Of course, some are quick to ask: Did God lie in the Bible? Absolutely not! Lying requires a malicious and deceptive intention. The God of the Bible is not a God of malice or deception. Rather, by grace the Holy Spirit came down to the level of the ancient Hebrews and employed their ancient understanding of origins—the de novo creation of life—in order to communicate as effectively as possible inerrant, life-changing, spiritual Truths. The ancient origins science is a vessel that delivers “living waters” (John 4:10) to nourish our thirsty souls. To conclude, God accommodates in the Bible and simply does not reveal how He made plants, animals... and humans.


Denis Lamoureux is the associate professor of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. He holds a PhD in evangelical theology and a PhD in evolutionary biology. Lamoureux is the author of the books Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution (2008) and I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution (2009). More on his work can be found here.

Next post in series >


View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Loading...
Page 17 of 17   « 14 15 16 17
BenYachov - #30143

September 15th 2010

>Are you involved with the RC church in a professional capacity?  Have you been to seminary?

No I’ve been involved in Apologetics till I became disenchanted and found philosophy.

>Can folks count on anyone to be familiar with Catholic doctrine, besides you and BenYachov?

I reply:  beaglelady you originally said “I have a Roman Catholic friend who holds a PhD and teaches religion in a high school in NYC.  I asked her if Roman Catholics had to believe in a literal Adam.  She replied, “No, we aren’t fundamentalists!”  You cited an anonymous  Catholic authority against my contentions regarding Catholic teachings on Adam.  I responded to you by citing know public Catholic authorities.  Now maybe President Obama has jerks working for him that don’t support his formal policies.  But what his policies are are in fact a matter of public record.  The CCC, the Writtings of the Popes, Ott & Denzinger are there to read or not to read.  Your friend is not.


BenYachov - #30144

September 15th 2010

BTW we don’t even know what your friend means by “[not having] to believe in a literal Adam.  We are not Fundamentalists”?  Does she mean not having to believe in any  type of real physical Adam whatsoever?  Or does she specifically mean we don’t have to believe in an Adam who lived four to six thousand years ago who was formed literally by dust by a direct supernatural act & not from any evolutionary process?

See my problem?


Norm - #30151

September 15th 2010

Rich, Rich,

Guy you seem like a real good and considerate fella but your last arguments there against Dick are full of a lot of baggage themselves. I’m sure you are aware that there were various interpretations of Jewish thinking during the first century.  Those few who followed the messianic understanding and those literalist that did not. Jesus constantyl castigated the leadership for being out of step so precedance for some of what Dick is stating has solid backing. The Jews then turned around in 90AD and got rid of the heavily messianic literature that had such an inflence upon the first century Christians and after a few centuries the Christians followed suit by following in line with the literalist Jews. These are not new revelations so Dick isn’t declaring anything that most astute scholars haven’t already recognized to one degree or another.

It seems though that you are falling back on tradition for your point in decertifying Dick which is humurous because of the complete lack of accord among Christians for 1900 years. We simply have much more research and resources available to even the common layman then did most of the scholars for the last 1800 years. Your chiding does not hold up and you should drop it.


Rich - #30187

September 15th 2010

Norm:

I don’t want to pick on Dick and will let him off the hook if he doesn’t want to answer.  My point is that he could have saved himself a lof of grief if he had undergone the training which would have enabled him to communicate much more easily with the Biblical scholars.  His choice of autodidacticism therefore puzzles me.

My own doctorate is in religion, and I’ve published (not in church journals but in refereed secular academic publications) material on the Hebrew Bible which involved a close reading of Genesis 1-11.  I’m familiar with what Bible scholars at places like Chicago and Yale do.  This is how I can tell that Dick’s comments would seem very strange to most scholars, and would predict that they would ignore his e-mails. 

The difficulty you run up against is that it’s just plain obvious that the Garden story is mythical (in the literary sense), and that “Adam” represents the human race.  To look for a historical Adam is pointless, like looking for a historical Prometheus (“forethought”) who gave fire to man.  The very intelligent men who wrote the Garden story did not think they were giving a biography of their great-great-great-...grandfather.  Dick hasn’t recognized the genre of the text.


Rich - #30225

September 15th 2010

beaglelady:

It’s the same with Catholicism as with ID.  If you want to know what an ID proponent believes, you don’t go to Ken Miller or Panda’s Thumb or Wikipedia or the reporter covering the Dover Trial to find out.  You sit down and spend hours or days working through the ID proponent’s writings, no matter how hard you find the science, until you get the position straight.

If you want to know what the Catholic Church teaches, you don’t go to a random schoolteacher or lay person, or low-level parish priest who may well be in defiance of several of those teachings.  You read the official documents put out by Rome, and you read the writings of theologians who have been licensed to teach by the Vatican, and you struggle through them no matter how hard they are, until you understand them (and you get help from reference books or professors of theology if necessary).

In answer to your question:  you can probably trust Catholic bishops to know doctrine better than Anglican/Episcopalian bishops.  But that’s not saying much.  Cardinals, being hand-picked by the Pope, likely know the official line better.  But a professor at a Catholic university or seminary, who specializes in dogmatic theology, is your best bet.


Norm - #30428

September 16th 2010

Rich,

You’re point is understood and I do appreciate your scholarly knowledge. I do not begrudge the academic but sometimes it seems that the clique becomes over protective of their “rights as scholars” to the exclusion of the possibility that someone else’s ideas outside has merit. Anyone with knowledge of biblical scholars already is well aware that academia doesn’t always manifest itself with the correct solutions by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes Dick probably will not get a hearing from scholars as it looks like he has chosen to present his work to the knowledgeable layman instead. It will remain to be seen if his ideas will gain traction in the long run but I already see that here on Biologos some are already picking up on his approach because of the disenchantment with the scholarly crowd.  I want to be open minded even if I reject significant literalist portions of Dick’s determinations. This historical Adam issue is more important than I think the typical scholar sometimes realizes and it is going to challenge them and so Dick provides a service in that the debate has fuel added to the fire. So far the refutation has been anemic in my estimation but only time will tell.  This is healthy for all.


BenYachov - #30452

September 16th 2010

>The difficulty you run up against is that it’s just plain obvious that the Garden story is mythical (in the literary sense), and that “Adam” represents the human race.

I reply:  So is the AMERICAN PIE song in our day & the Book of Revelation.  Yet both are mythical ways of describing real history with real people.  Genesis my use mythic language but it is also Divine Revelation.  You can’t scientifically prove the existence of an Adam (since archeology & genetics can’t by definition detect metaphysic, ie who among our ancestors first had souls) but you can’t scientifically disprove him either.  Just as you can’t scientifically disprove the resurrection.

Thus there is no logical, scientific, biological, philosophical or biblical reason to deny the existence of a real Adam.  That is a brute fact.  Plus practically you are not going to get Evangelicals on board with Evolution if you do(we Catholic will by nature be alright).  Evangelicals will accept Old Earth Creationism & there is therefore no logical reason why they wouldn’t accept Evolution.  But this “no Adam” crap they won’t accept it & there is no rational reason for them to do so other than a fundamentlist insistence on a liberal dogma.


BenYachov - #30454

September 16th 2010

Comment removed by moderator.


Daniel Baright - #30538

September 17th 2010

I’m not allowed to chat at the public computer but am compelled to leave some comments.

First, I learned from Karl Giberson’s SAVING DARWIN that Adam is Hebrew for man.  I find it interesting that the ancestry of physical Jesus in Luke 3:22-38 (KJV) leads back to physical Adam (man / humans or I’m not allowed to chat here at the public computer but am compelled to leave some comments.

‘a’ man?) and then to God as Adam’s father.  Other NT references, on the other hand, seem to lead from the physical Adam of Genesis to a spiritual Christ rather than the physical Jesus.  I Cor.15:22 refers specifically to Christ (rather than Jesus). I Cor.15:45 (KJV) references ‘the man Adam’ (of Genesis) as ‘a living soul’ but the last Adam as ‘a quickening spirit.’  In the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, this ‘life-giving spirit’ is identified as Jesus.  One wonders what the authors of the CEV were thinking when they translated ‘Jesus,’ implying physicality, rather than ‘Christ,’ implying spirituality.  All this seems to go to Denis Lamoureux’s point at 28017.


Daniel Baright - #30540

September 17th 2010

An additional note of curiosity:  Jude 14-16 has Enoch as the seventh from Adam.  It could be speculated, I suppose, that Mathusala of Luke 3:37 had a brother, Enoch, not in the lineage of Jesus.  (Of course, if one were an Evolutionist one might just mislabel this speculation a ‘fact’ or near truth certainty.)

Also, a note to Daniel 27890 and Chris 27892:  While technically the ‘Evolution’ of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by means of Natural Selection primarily concerns speciation, the epistemology of Evolutionism is dependant upon the notion that chemical homologies equate to biological homologies.  Thus a last universal common ancestor, LUCA, is directly inferred by any theory of Evolution, Darwinian or not.  While there have been theoretical attempts around the reality of the global biogenesis that is indicated by the fossil record and early carbon tracings, personally I find such hypotheses used to justify LUCA as being non-parsimonious.  In my view, it is unfortunate that theory, Evolution, has taken precedent over evidence, i.e., observable facts.

I am quite fond of Louis Agaasiz’s ESSAY ON CLASSIFICATION (1857) but without the references to supernaturalism as was typical of his day (i.e., the times—hah).


Daniel Baright - #30549

September 17th 2010

I’m not allowed to chat at the public computer but am compelled to leave some comments.

First, I learned from Karl Giberson’s SAVING DARWIN that Adam is Hebrew for man.  I find it interesting that the ancestry of physical Jesus in Luke 3:22-38 (KJV) leads back to physical Adam (man / humans ) and then to God as Adam’s father.  Other NT references, on the other hand, seem to lead from the physical Adam of Genesis to a spiritual Christ rather than the physical Jesus.  I Cor.15:22 refers specifically to Christ (rather than Jesus). I Cor.15:45 (KJV) references ‘the man Adam’ (of Genesis) as ‘a living soul’ but the last Adam as ‘a quickening spirit.’  In the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, this ‘life-giving spirit’ is identified as Jesus.  One wonders what the authors of the CEV were thinking when they translated ‘Jesus,’ implying physicality, rather than ‘Christ,’ implying spirituality.  All this seems to go to Denis Lamoureux’s point at 28017.


BenYachov - #30571

September 17th 2010

Adam can & does often mean “Mankind” in Scripture & it’s used as a proper name or title for the First Man too.  As too the genealogies one could believe they have gaps even huge gaps(I never understood the objection to huge gap.  The objector’s never offer argument just empathic assertions there could not possibly be huge gaps in the Biblical genealogies) or one could believe they have some symbolic value not literal.


ChrisMuriel - #66496

December 12th 2011

Rom 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

I don’t see anything De Novo about this statement. It clearly says “one man’s disobedience” not humanity’s disobedience. And he is real in Paul’s mind. 

Also Jude calls Enoch the 7th from Adam. And I don’t think he’s quoting from Harry Potter.


Page 17 of 17   « 14 15 16 17