For Adam was formed first, then Eve;
1 Timothy 2:13
Last Wednesday (4/24/2013) I wrote about how many evangelicals are reconsidering the historicity of the biblical Adam. I had planned to write about why I consider belief in Adam’s historicity to be essential to the Christian faith. I’ll deal with that issue in two parts. Today I’d like to share why I’m comfortable affirming that Adam was a historical individual, the first and unique man created by God. Later this week I’ll discuss some of the theological implications of rejecting Adam’s historicity.
First, let me be clear that I believe a person can have authentic, saving faith in Jesus Christ while rejecting the historicity of Adam. While I think the issue of how we interpret Genesis 2-3 is vitally important I consider it an “internal” discussion between believers in Christ and not a reason for division. While I may strongly disagree with a brother or sister who rejects that Genesis 2-3 presents a narrative account of actual, historical events I would not reject such a person a non-believer simply on that issue. I am completely convinced that if we consider the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God we must conclude that Adam was a historical figure as described in the Genesis account, but such a belief is not necessary for true salvation.
As I stated in the first article in this series (see here), my belief in the historicity of Adam is based on a number of presuppositions. The first and most central of these is, “I accept the overwhelming evidence (both internal and external) that the Bible represents a trustworthy and supernatural revelation given by an all-powerful, all-knowing God who exists independent of and outside of linear time.” I recognize that since my reasons for accepting Adam’s historicity are based on the testimony of the Bible, my arguments will do little or nothing to convince those who reject the Bible’s authority or trustworthiness. For those of you who affirm the authority and divine origin of the Bible, here are my reasons for accepting Adam as a historical person.
- There is nothing in the literary form of Genesis, chapters 2-4 that would cause us to understand it as anything other than a narrative of actual, historical events. The events described (the creation of Adam, Eve, their temptation and fall, their expulsion from Eden, the birth of their children, the first murder, etc.) are given in exactly the same manner as events in other Old Testament narratives whose historicity has been confirmed by modern archaeology. The writer of Genesis (Moses) recorded the events of Genesis 2-4 in the same way he recorded events in the lives of the patriarchs and the Exodus.
- Adam is affirmed as a historical person in genealogies in both the old and new testaments (Genesis 5, First Chronicles 1, and Luke 3). Genealogies were of great importance to the Hebrew people, being the primary mechanism for the inheritance of land and their identification as God’s special covenant people. It is extremely unlikely that a “mythical” person would be given a place in a genealogy.
- The length of Adam’s life is given in Genesis 5:5. While not impossible, it seems odd that such a concrete fact would be recorded about a mythical person.
- God, speaking through the prophet Hosea, refers to Adam and to his sin of rebellion as a historical event. The testimony of this latter Hebrew prophet confirms his understanding of Adam as an historical figure.
- Jesus gives every indication of understanding the Genesis account of man’s special creation literally. When challenged by the Pharisees in Matthew 19 on the issue of divorce, He responded, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
- The apostle Paul affirmed Adam’s historicity multiple times. In Romans, chapter five, he states that it is through Adam’s sin that death entered into the world. In First Corinthians 15, he affirms that the first man (Adam) was created from the dust of the earth and became a living being. In First Timothy, chapter 2, he refers to Adam who was formed, “before Eve” and was not deceived as she was. There is nothing in any of Paul’s references to Adam to indicate that he understood him to be anything other than who the author Genesis presents him as; the first, uniquely created man.
I think the testimony of scripture, both old and new testaments, is very clear. There is nothing written to indicate or even imply that Adam is either mythical or symbolic. The scriptures present him as the first man and the father of the race of man.
In the next article I’ll conclude with a discussion of theological implications of rejecting the historicity of Adam. Stay tuned…