A De Novo Adam's Language?

GA Adam must have had language as he was able to understand Eve and the talking snake. He supposedly didn’t have a childhood where his mother/father/sister/brother could teach him words and we know that language ability is not innate but emergent in the family culture/society/family in which a child is raised. Here is an interesting paper on the spread of language in the possible timeperiod of GA Adam.


How was GA Adam able to assimilate into society once he and Eve left the Garden? He would certainly be consider a foreigner to those groups.

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If the pre-Adam population was evolved with a God-shaped space in their minds, the de novo couple would be intrinsically interesting because of their relationship to the God they described.

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Also, not everyone insists he must be de novo. Dust might just refer to his mortality.

Did GA Adam have parents (and brothers and sisters) or not? If he had parents he would have learned the group/family language from them. If he didn’t have parents and was de novo as an adult, was he created with the local language in his brain? If so, he also must have had some kind of immunity to the local pathogens that the group he assimilated into had. Same goes for Eve. Contrary to George, I don’t think two new people from an isolated garden would have been accepted with open arms. They had no skills, no money, no animals with them. They would have been treated like immigrants are treated today perhaps worse.

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If we are going to consider the possibility that Adam was created de novo, it is not more absurd to think he created him with the ability to speak.

However, the point that is valid is that there is no need for speech if you are the only being with language. Historically, it was common to consider that Adam was in a community with God in the Garden, and then with Adam, Eve, and God. So they might have shared a language together. If there are people outside the Garden, maybe the language was given to Adam so that he would be able to communicate with them. Likewise, Eve would have either been (1) created fully formed with the ability to speak Adam’s language, (2) taught Adam’s language after begin de novo created, or (3) not been de novo created at all, but be brought to Adam in a dream. At this point we are considering very unique moment in history, outside the natural order.

It is hard to find a problem with it, if there is no evidence against it. I’m not insisting this how it must have been, but drawing analogy to the natural order is not going to disprove something granted from the beginning to be outside the natural order.

As for the talking snake, we have discussed this elsewhere:

From Luke 3:

36the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.

That is one place people point to in order to say God is playing a fatherly role to Adam in the Garden.

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So Jesus was the second son of God?

How do you think theologians have thought of this in the past? How do they think of it now?

That Jesus was both the Father and the Son at the same time?

Personally, I have no problem believing Adam had regular parents, but my guess is that he ended up being orphaned at a very early age in the garedn area, before forming any lasting memories of his physical mother. He was, at that point, according to the text, raised by the “Malak YHWH” , Who among other things, spoke with him (thus, teaching him language), and “walked with him in the garden in the cool (night breezes) of the evenings.” This character was very present in the garden, and is usually identified as the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. “Made from the dust” as a phrase merely recalls “let the earth (land) bring forth…” that was used in Genesis chapter 1 with regards to other animals… Adam is reminded he’s made of that same, creaturely stuff, though he’s been elevated by God’s calling to be a vice-regent over the whole project. We’re still doing that today; we are not totally at the mercy of nature and natural forces. We are responsible moral agents, invested with technological capacity.


Yes, I find it interesting that the Genesis story has a lot physicality to it. Eve talking to snake, Snake talking to Eve, Adam naming all the animals. Adam talking to Eve, Adam and Eve talking to a physical God walking in the garden. The authors made talking really physical. No thought or mental processes going on. All communications between all the parties in the Genesis story is through talking.

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Yeah that is right.

It is no wonder that theology has often identified “language” as a uniquely human trait, and so (incidentally) has science. This is not to say that other animals do not have rudimentary language, but it appears we alone have a a full theory of mind. In the Genesis story, Adam’s recognition that he is not like the other creatures is central to the narrative, as is the constant dialogue between different “minds” in the story.

An interesting book I’m through now, by the way, is on the evolutionary origins of language. It is a worthwhile read, and as this remains an open question in the field.

Isn’t it interesting how the theological term “Adam” is used in scientific work?

This one, also, is a really intriguing book, which gets into the challenge of evolving a full theory of mind.

Here is a book that I am reading now. Incorporates all the ancient genome data. Puts the beginning of language at Homo Erectus at more than 1 million years ago. Neanderthals definitely had language. And so did all species of genus Homo. Linguists are now using archaeology and migration of ancient people to find out how languages grow and morphed. One thing is certain is that the Genesis story is rather late to the party - about 4700 years ago at most. There is a rich linguist history to 12,000 years ago.

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I’ll check out that book. Though, very oddly, it seems to leave out the Great Ape Language Experiments. That is fairly important for the conversation.

Of course, that is true. Unless, of course, Adam was farther back in time. @Agauger sees him 2 mya. And even YECs are willing to bend the timeline back as far as 20,000 years ago.

Still a lot of people and time for GA Adam to assimilate. Billions of people live and die before GA Adam includes their descendants.

Depends when Adam lives. Population sizes were small before 10 kya, so intuitions are going to be misleading. And also, it may not matter, depending on the theology.

I don’t think so. Worldwide population 10kya is about 50 million. Several tens of millions across several species at 100,000 kya. And much shorter lifespans too.

Where is your reference for that? The meta-review I found was for 5 million at 10 kya.

From here:

Though keep in mind that this referes to peer-review studies, and there are a lot of unknowns. As I understand it, this data is used for climate modeling all the time. For example, see:




And at 12 kya, I think population size is 2 million, I think, in this model.

Hi all,

I have to say that the notion of Adam being created with the knowledge of a language strikes me as the neurological equivalent of Philip Gosse’s Omphalos. To know a language is to possess a memory of how to use its words and phrases, so we’re saying Adam was created with certain memories. In addition, our knowledge of a language is not merely a matter of semantic memory, but also episodic memory: we know how to use certain words because of the experiences we have had, which shaped our awareness. Without those experiences, our knowledge would be flat and lifeless, and our language would be devoid of shades of meaning (nuances) and emotional overtones. So to say that Adam was created knowing a language is really to say that he was created with memories of experiences he never had. Surely that cannot be right.

For my part, I prefer to think that the first human beings were taught language by God, at a time when they were still on speaking terms with Him, in the state of innocence.

By the way, I’d like to know what evidence there is for Neanderthal language. Patrick. Cheers.