Historical Adam: Yes or No
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8/29/2015 at 6:30:39 PM GMT
Posts: 5
Historical Adam: Yes or No

Over the past several years, I have focused on whether or not there was an historical Adam. To aid my study, I developed a Word table of documented views on a historical Adam by 86 scientists, theologians, biblical scholars,and pastors, along with my categorization of their views. The current score is Yes (44), Yes, but not the first human (5), Probably (2), Maybe (5), and No (30).

I have attached the table here as a PDF file in case anyone is interested or would like to proposes additions, corrections, or comments.

August 2019 update: The Word table now contains 164 views on Historical Adam - Yes, Maybe, No.


Ed note: Updated 4/1/2020

Last edited Wednesday, April 1, 2020
9/1/2015 at 4:48:05 AM GMT
Posts: 20
Paul, this is a very interesting list. It seems to me that sometimes you take someone's answer to be "No" when all they really seem to be saying is that Adam and Eve were not a progenitor pair, as with Clouser and Polkinghorne. From what you quote for those two I would not necessarily put them in the "No" category. I also think it's important to "pigeon-hole" these thinkers with respect to broader theological questions. E.g. is it really possible to learn anything significant by comparing Karl Barth with Robert Strimple? I would also wonder if some of the scientists listed have a commitment to orthodox Christianity or an evangelical view of scripture. If some commitment to scripture isn't informing their view, how is that helpful other than to say this is what modern science thinks?

9/2/2015 at 3:41:06 PM GMT
Posts: 5
Terry, Thank you for your response. That's the kind of input that I was hoping to receive.

9/10/2015 at 8:44:27 PM GMT
Posts: 5
Alot of great references there, and helpful at least as a quick survey; there is obviously subjectivity in both the approach (consensus does not determine truth) and in names (some of the best theologians I am aware of were excluded (e.g., John Goldingay, Daniel Migliore, Herman Bavinck, Thomas Oden, Jurgen Moltmann, for starters), but it was interesting to look through and a great bibliographical resource.

9/10/2015 at 9:34:37 PM GMT
Posts: 12

Adam is presented in Genesis as the progenitor of Abraham's Nilo-Proto-Saharan ancestors in the R1b haplogroup. These people had a distinctive red skin tone. Jeff A. Benner, an expert on ancient Hebrew, explains:

"We are all familiar with the name "Adam" as found in the book of Genesis, but what does it really mean? Let us begin by looking at its roots. This word/name is a child root derived from the parent דם meaning, "blood". By placing the letter א in front of the parent root, the child rootאדם is formed and is related in meaning to דם (blood).

By examing a few other words derived from the child root אדם we can see a common meaning in them all. The Hebrew word אדמה (adamah) is the feminine form of אדם meaning "ground" (see Genesis 2:7). The word/name אדום (Edom) means "red". Each of these words have the common meaning of "red". Dam is the "red" blood, adamah is the "red" ground, edom is the color "red" and adam is the "red" man. There is one other connection between "adam" and "adamah" as seen in Genesis 2:7 which states that "the adam" was formed out of the "adamah".

In the ancient Hebrew world, a person’s name was not simply an identifier but descriptive of one's character. As Adam was formed out of the ground, his name identifies his origins."

We are told that Adam was formed from the dirt or dust. As this account has an original Nilotic context, we must consider the nature of the soil in the region of the Upper Nile. Here red sediment washed down to the Upper Nile Valley from the Ethiopian highlands left a layer of red clay. These soils have a cambic B horizon. Chromic cambisols have a strong red brown color, the skin tone of Abraham's R1b ancestors.

That said, Adam is also presented in Scripture as the founder of the whole human race, especially in the writings of St. Paul. Paul makes the parallel between Adam, the man through whom sin and death entered and the True Adam - Christ - through whom the tyranny of sin and death is overthrown.

Last edited Thursday, September 10, 2015
9/29/2015 at 9:08:10 PM GMT
Posts: 0

This is a very helpful list.  I am currently writing a graduate thesis on Evolution and Original Sin, and this could be a helpful resource for finding the opinions of several scholars at a quick glance.  Thank you.

9/29/2015 at 11:28:25 PM GMT
Posts: 5
You're welcome. I'm glad that you are finding it to be helpful. Any chance I could get a copy of your thesis at some point in the future?

11/9/2015 at 7:45:54 PM GMT
Posts: 3
I definitely take Adam and Eve to be real people, namely, the first to be offered a covenant by God. But not only does Genesis not say they were the first humans or that all humans descended from them, but in Rom. 5 Paul refers to the fact that before Adam "sin was already in the world" but God didn't hold it against them because where He has given no law (covenant) He does not hold people responsible for worshipping false gods. Augustine has not served us well join these points, and the result has been a lot of needless agonizing by Xns who take science seriously but also want to be faithful to God's Word.

Roy Clouser

11/24/2015 at 3:55:03 AM GMT
Posts: 5
Roy Clouser, Thank you for your input. I will correct your entry in the table to "Yes, but not the first human," and replace the quotation with your comment above. For whatever it's worth, I now have 130 entries: Yes (56), Yes, but not the first human (18), Maybe (9), and No (47). After I add a few more entries, I'm going to attempt to correlate the responses somehow.

12/7/2015 at 9:51:40 PM GMT
Posts: 58
Give me ~ 1/2 Yes. I'm neither a theologian nor active scientist; I'm proud to take the roll of "Average Joe". I also think they were specific individuals that were preceded by "pre-Adamites", as Dick Fisher calls them.

Nevertheless, this topic is one I have found very interesting given the findings of modern astronomy, along with some interesting scriptural points.

1) The genealogies of Ezra and Chronicles reveal a missing of 6 generations, implying (to me) that there may be many more genealogies that were not deemed worthy of memorization. If so, the 6,000 year idea is not a valid restriction on Adam's approximate age.
2) King James uses the phrase "living soul" as imparted ("breathed") by God into Adam. This would be a major distinction between Adam and preAdamites, making Adam the first of a kind: a spiritual kind.
3) Adam is not mentioned until chapter 2, and there is reasonable argument for a separate author than the one for chapter 1.
4) A day may simply refer to a sequential day of observation by an eye-witness to highlights of creation, not a time stamp for creation itself.
5) Astronomy today may be seen as helpful to a more literal view. If so, Gen 2 might gain favor as also a more literal or historical presentation. Protostellar (accretion) disks, when heavily illuminated, should look blue (watery blue) due to Rayleigh scattering -- the same process that gives us a blue sky. Astronomers show evidence favoring the Sun formed, as with most stars, within a cloud that produced many other stars. The range, IIRC, is close to around 3000 neighbors. Astronomers statistically show that several very massive stars will likely form and form early, which are prodigious in light flux, especially in the blue part of the spectrum. The Sun may have produced a "first light" event as light broke through its natal cloud. Other blue disk, or at least one other (above or below), may account for the day 2 acct.

These are subjective views, of course, but the amount of objective evidence emerging is certainly intriguing.