What Are We to Make of Adam and Eve?
One of the most important questions concerning the origins of life is about Adam and Eve, suggests theologian Alister McGrath.
Are Adam and Eve real historical figures that lived 6000 years ago, or are they metaphorical representations? It is an interesting question, says McGrath, because based on one’s response, the whole theory of evolution would shift the time frames back a very long way from what many evangelicals hold as true.
There are those who would say that Adam and Eve designate specific historical figures. That makes some sense, acknowledges McGrath, but it makes even more sense to say that Adam and Eve are stereotypical figures that encapsulate the human race as a whole. They represent the vast human potential as created by God, but also the capacity for going wrong.
The story of Adam and Eve is the story of all of us—people created with the greatest of intentions and great gifts—but still with the ability to fail. The Adam and Eve story tells us that this is not accidental—this is part of what it is to be human.
The real question is: is there anything to be done about this human quandary? Science doesn’t have a huge amount to say about how we understand Adam and Eve. Yet in Romans, Paul writes that Christ is the second Adam, who offers a second chance for humanity. This is our story, we have gone wrong but there is something to be done about it. And that something is the transformation that is brought about by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.
Alister McGrath is professor of theology, ministry, and education and head of the Centre for Theology, Religion, and Culture at King’s College, London. He is also involved in theological research and the professional development of clergy from a range of Christian denominations. McGrath has written many books on theology and history, including Luther’s Theology of the Cross and Surprised by Meaning. McGrath is an ordained minister in the Church of England and spends his Sundays pastoring and preaching in a group of rural churches in the beautiful Cotswolds, close to his home in West Oxfordshire.