But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. (Mark 10:6)
Our Lord Jesus made this statement to the religious leaders of His day when they attempted to trip Him up with a trick question. Who were the “them” to whom He was referring? They could only be human beings (not animals), since the question from the Pharisees that prompted the response was about the permission to divorce. It also appears that Jesus was referencing the Genesis account, since He spoke of the “beginning of the creation.” One could therefore conclude that Jesus was speaking about a “historical” Adam and Eve.
Historical—that is the important point. God made a special garden for Adam and Eve to start their lives in. Somehow, in the minds of some, that seems to relegate Adam and Eve (and their real lives) to a rural, even fairytale, existence. But that’s not the case.
The real Adam is vitally important to those who live in the hectic, high-pressured, and intense cities of our world today. The whole of Scripture makes no sense if Adam is not a flesh and blood human being in real history. The “man” in the garden is the “Adam” in the city.
Some, however, would disagree.
Their objections constitute the latest tactic in the ongoing onslaught against a recent creation. At first, opposition was only levied against the science involved (specifically, the aspects of the creation account that contradict evolution). Then, various groups began proposing compromises to try to “harmonize” the creation account with evolutionary science—theistic evolution, progressive creation, day-age theory, gap theory, etc. More recently, attacks have focused on the “literalist” view, with varying levels of pity and/or scorn expressed about those “naïve” enough to believe that the history recorded in Genesis should be taken literally.
And now, critics malign specific details of the creation week, with the issue of a “real” Adam receiving the most hostility. It seems that the more “urbane” the opposition becomes, the more the commentaries diverge from what is actually presented in the biblical text.
“This is a fact: the idea of a historical Adam and Eve is not true.” So insists Fred Clark in a recent Patheos blog.1 Bold denials of our Lord’s teaching have become more and more strident over the past few years. The common argument of such denials suggests that although the biblical text might present a particular event as though it actually occurred in the past, scientific evidence has clearly demonstrated that such a singular event did not occur.
Francis Collins (former leader of the Human Genome Project) and Karl Giberson dealt with this question more subtly in their bestselling book, The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions.
So how does this story fit into an evolutionary history where earth is billions of years old and humans originated hundreds of thousands of years ago in Africa? Is the story of Adam and Eve actual history or is something else going on here?...Literalist readings of Genesis imply that God specially created Adam and Eve, and that all humans are descended from these original parents. Such readings, unfortunately, do not fit the evidence, for several reasons.2
There is even a Historical Adam Society, an Internet blog and membership society founded “to advance the understanding of the relationships between science, history, and Christianity.”
“Historical Adam” is a Christian apologetic that embraces the Genesis narrative concerning Adam and his descendents, and operates completely within the bounds of scientific discovery and historical evidence. This position considers Adam to have been a real historical person.3
Sounds great, until one reads further into their position on when Adam came on the scene. “This position considers Adam…not to have been the biological progenitor of the entire human race since our species, Homo sapiens, is known from the fossil record to have been living 200,000 years ago.”4
This is very similar to Hugh Ross’ stated position on the Reasons to Believe website. Although they insist that they agree with historical Christianity’s position that “Adam and Eve were the first two humans,” their web page on this question goes on to cite the following:
Genetic, linguistic and pathogen studies support a historical Adam and Eve. This research indicates that humanity arose 1) recently (within the last hundred thousand years or so), 2) at a single location (close to where Bible scholars place the Garden of Eden), and 3) from a small population, arguably as small as a single pair.5
These and many other articles, books, and blogs attempt in various ways to either add credibility to the biblical account by citing scientific information that seems to support a “reasonable” interpretation (in their view) of the Genesis record; or, more often, they take away from the Bible’s credibility by insisting that science has proven the Bible to be incorrect.
At the heart of all of these efforts is the assumption that the biblical story is not in sync with the scientific, historical, and archaeological evidence cited by the majority of scholars today. In all cases, that assumption marginalizes or disputes the biblical text, thereby undermining the basic premise that God is truthful, accurate, and clear in His revelation to us. Among all those who question the historicity of Adam and Eve, there is an overt denial of the possibility of a recent creation and of the planet-covering cataclysm of the Flood of Noah’s day.
How, then, are we to react to these attempts to explain away the text? Are there criteria by which we may evaluate these issues? What biblical information is available to us that will help us weigh the arguments?
Jesus Is the Creator
This foundational truth may seem ancillary to the question, but the Bible is very clear. The same One who substituted Himself for our sin-debt on the cross and took His own life back from the grave is the One who spoke the worlds into existence (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 1:2). Surely He would speak accurately about the events of creation.
As noted earlier, Jesus declared that He made Adam and Eve at “the beginning” (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6). Jesus also spoke of Noah in the same manner—as a genuine historical character (Matthew 24:37-38). If neither of these things were true—if these biblical characters were just myth or some kind of representation of “spiritual truth”—either Jesus was mistaken or was “accommodating” Himself to the deficient scientific literacy of those pitifully ignorant disciples. Either way, the words of the Lord Jesus must be dealt with. He was the Creator (and thus the omnipotent, omniscient God of transcendent eternity), and therefore His understanding of events should take precedence over that of mere mortals.
Scripture Should Not Be Altered
This is another fundamental teaching of the Bible. Jesus Himself said, “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). The book of Proverbs tells us “every word of God is pure….Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” Paul insists (2 Timothy 3:16). Surely we are all familiar with these instructions.
Jesus used a play on words from the Psalms to “prove” His deity (Matthew 22:42-46, citing Psalm 110:1), and the tense of the simple Hebrew verb “to be” to prove the resurrection (Matthew 22:29-32, quoting from Exodus 3:6). Earlier, in the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insisted that the very letters of the text themselves were not to be tampered with because they were eternally correct (Matthew 5:18).
Please remember that this is the Lord of heaven and earth who is “interpreting” the Scripture. If He is that precise, what authority do sinful humans have to twist and deny that same Word?
The Gospel Message Is Built on a Historical Adam
Nothing is more basic. The genealogy of Jesus Christ is traced from Adam (Luke 3:38), and the necessity of a sinless human substitute is prophesied and declared throughout Scripture (e.g., Isaiah 53; John 1; Hebrews 1, 9–10; etc.). The entirety of the need for the reconciliation of sin and death is tied to Adam’s rebellion and Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 5:12-19).
No doctrine of Scripture is more clear and more replete throughout the Bible. Everything about our salvation hinges on the actual, historical event that is recorded in Genesis 3 and the required substitutionary atonement of our “brother” and “High Priest” (Hebrews 2:17). If Adam is not real, then Christ’s death on the cross was merely martyrdom by a well-meaning but totally confused messianic zealot.
Such a heresy should not be embraced by those who name the “name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). That’s why the apostle Paul used such strong language to the Galatians when he warned them about a different gospel: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
May our Lord’s mercy be granted to those who presume to place the word of secular scientists above that of His “only begotten Son.”
What Should We Do?
Those who genuinely struggle with the conflict between what they read and hear from others and what the Bible says need to be treated with gentleness, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). While we may feel strongly about the damage being done, the power of change lies with the Holy Spirit using the words of Scripture, not the debating skills of the human agent. Our job is to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
There are many who are in churches or institutions that either do not teach these foundational issues or that are consciously being led astray by blatantly secular teachers who are hostile to the biblical message. For those in such straits, the instructions from Jude are applicable: “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 1:22-23). This role is one of rescue rather than one of patient discipleship.
But there are others who understand the words of Scripture, and yet have chosen to embrace some form of compromise in an attempt to be accepted by those who have “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). In such cases, the Bible’s instructions are more stern. We are told, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).
Some we are to patiently disciple. Some we are to urgently rescue. Some we are to actively avoid. In every case, however, our efforts must be guided by God’s Word as we “praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:2).
The genes of the historical Adam are embedded in the “Adams and Eves” of today’s cities. More importantly, the sin of and judgment on the earthly Adam have been atoned for by the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the historical Adam was “made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
- Clark, F. Geocentrism and a historical Adam. Posted on patheos.com February 13, 2013.
- Collins, F. S. and K. W. Giberson. 2011. The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 208.
- Historical Adam Society. Posted on historicaladam.org.
- Historical Adam. Reasons to Believe, RTB 101. Posted on reasons.org.
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris III, H. 2013. Adam in the City. Acts & Facts. 42 (4): 5-7.