"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned-- (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." Romans 5:12 -14
Adam, Where Art Thou?
Is Adam a historical figure or is he a myth? Where and when does Adam fit into history? Is he the product of evolution or is he the creation of God? By far, the most perplexing question in the origins debate has to be, "What shall we do with Adam?" Most scientists accept it to be a fact that man had precursors and a theory that we are genetically linked to other primates, and modern man seems to have a history that can be traced many 10,000's of years, yet the historical setting, which is clearly established in Genesis, reveals Adam, Cain and Abel, tending flocks, tilling the ground and building cities. Scientists call this period the Neolithic Revolution and no evidence has been unearthed to push this period back beyond 10,000 years ago. So how is Adam to be the head of all human kind? Where in antiquity do we place him? And what about the doctrine of original sin? It seems no matter which approach we take; difficulties will arise.
The predicament is simple, if you believe that the earth is 10,000 years old. God created Adam six days after the universe was born, fully mature and intelligent. This certainly is the simplest reading of Genesis, and would cause no problems, theologically speaking, for the first few chapters of the narrative and would certainly agree with the doctrines of original sin and the unity of man; however, to hold this position, we would simply have to dismiss virtually all of the scientific data. Nearly 100% of all geologists, archaeologists and paleontologists, Christian or otherwise, believes the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that anatomically modern man can be traced, with little doubt, to more than 40,000 years ago. Many scientists believe modern man has been around better than 100,000 years! I just do not think that it is really sensible to conclude that all these scientists are deceived fools or compromising liberals, or that a great Satanic plot has blinded them all. I believe simply from a scientific perspective that this position is indefensible.
I wish to dismiss at this time, the notion that the opening chapters of Genesis should be or could be consigned to myth or allegory. I find no reason to reject the authenticity of the narrative simply because our understanding of science differs from what we interpret the Scripture to be claiming. Both Scripture and nature must agree. They are both the creations of God. It is our interpretations that are in error, not Genesis. Why should we doubt the Apostle Paul? It seems foolish to think he did not believe in a historical Adam. Several times, Paul establishes doctrine utilizing Adam as an example, e.g., Romans 5:12-19, 1 Cor.15: 45-49. To allege that Adam and Eve were not in fact historical figures, puts central Christian doctrine in a peril. If there was no Adam, then there was no fall and the cross of Jesus Christ becomes pointless! I'm sorry, I cannot see how I can have immovable faith in Scripture wondering which portions are "God breathed" and which are not. It seems clear; all of Genesis is a foundation to the veracity of God's Word. No, our answer is not to be found here.
There are three other major interpretations that seem to be prevalent. They do vary within themselves but the essence is the same. Please, be reminded that the highly qualified scientists who study paleoanthropology, archeology and geology are the most qualified to interpret this data. Let us be cautious not to dismiss their claims simply because they conflict with our traditional understanding. So let us explore these three.
1. Adam, ancient patriarch:
For Adam to be the progenitor of all mankind, created in the image of God, and if we accept the findings of science, we must determine that Adam was created more than 40,000 years ago, probably much more. This would satisfy the scientific data, but it would also generate problems, both with the text and with archeology. Many bible scholars agree that the genealogies listed in Genesis would allow for gaps but to require 100's of omitted generations seems far fetched. Also, there is the culture that Adam and his descendants are characterized as living in. They are clearly participants of the Neolithic Revolution and as previously alluded to, there is just no evidence to push this period before 10,000 years ago. I personally can't gather from the text, Adam, Eve and family in a "Flintstones" setting. It is disturbing to see how easily scholars will push Adam back in time whenever new evidence of the antiquity of man arises. The hope here lies in the possibility that modern man is not this old. It appears to me that the evidence is rather scanty beyond 12,000 years ago and who knows, maybe something new will be unearthed. In the mean time, however, this view seems tough to uphold.
2. Adam, recent patriarch:
Adam is the father of us all and lived less than, let's say, 15,000 years ago. The fossil evidence of so called "humanoids" concurrent of this era, is accepted with the consensus, but they are considered animals. It is believed they lacked the "inbreathing" of God, which is what makes us truly human. This is a position I wish I could accept. It would solve most of the difficulties of biblical interpretation (Gen. 4 does propose some) and could satisfy the historical setting. There are several obstacles this theory must overcome but one seems insurmountable, what happened to these creatures? Fossils of anatomically modern man are found around the world and are dated much earlier than this time and are traced up until at least the days of Adam. It must be confirmed that they were not truly human and that they have all died out and then the descendants of Cain rapidly spread out to many corners of the globe to become the American Indians, Australian Aborigines, etc., or, we must conclude that they are still with us today! Scientists skillful in these fields do not believe this is the situation at all. Let me add at this time that where the Bible is dogmatic, science must take the back seat. Little in science can be awarded the title "fact." Scientific theories are based on the best interpretation of the data available at that time. What is needed is a good sense of balance.
3. Adam, our representative:
Adam is not the ancestral head, but the federal head of us all, being created by God less than 7,000 years ago into a populated world. He was the first that God entered into a covenant with. A covenant of eternal life and being created sinless, he was to reveal God to humanity (a type of Christ). The first Adam represented mankind, as Christ, the second Adam did. We are not blood descendants of Jesus, yet His death, burial and resurrection are efficacious to all who believe, past, present and future. Could mankind have "fallen" in Adam likewise? Science is satisfied, because the date of man is not an issue here. The historical context is pleased as well. Adam and the kids are partakers of the Neolithic Age. The dilemma is the interpretation of a handful of key bible passages, Gen. 3:20, Acts 17:26, Romans 5:12-14, 1 Cor. 15:45. I'm not going to explore these in depth here (mainly because I don't feel qualified), but I would like to say that I've studied some interpretations of these verses and there is a possibility they might work, even though I feel like a scriptural contortionist sometimes to understand them in this way.
1. Gen. 3:20- Eve is not said to be the mother of all living "things," the word can mean "relatives."
2. Acts 17:26- Does not mention Adam.
3. 1 Cor. 15:45- Seems to prove the point, The emphasis is comparing Adam to Jesus. Jesus was not the last human being, was Adam the first?
4. Romans 5:12-14- Let's try a paraphrase, O.K. "Because of this, even as through one man the sin did enter into the world, and through the sin the death (spiritual); and thus to all men the death did pass through, for that all did sin; 13. for till law ("don't eat the fruit . . . ") sin was in the world: and sin is not reckoned when there is not law; 14. but the death did reign from (the generations of) Adam till Moses, even upon those (outside of the line of Adam) not having sinned (not having law) in the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a type of him who is coming . . . " (Y.L.T.) The belief is that this passage is again dealing with the federal headship of Adam. The Old Testament was written to the Jew first. It is primarily a history of one people, the chosen people of God, through whom the Messiah would come.
There is no easy answer here and I am not fully satisfied with any. So, should we discard the Bible? Not at all! I'm not arguing in a circle here. I have found, if we are open minded, the Bible through archeology, textual evidence, and fulfilled prophecy (not to mention the testimony of millions) would be found, beyond reasonable doubt, to be truly, the Word of God. Difficulties have come and gone in the past and a solution is at hand for those who keep digging.