Garvey Contemplates The Generations of Heavens and Earth

Responding to my book, Garvey argues that allowing for people outside the garden is helpful to theology, recovering the original understanding of Genesis.


These three books form a Garvey-Swamidass trilogy of sorts.

Funnily enough I spoke to my daughter for the first time since publication this morning, and she asked when the third in the trilogy was coming out. I replied that since God’s Good Earth is about the old creation, and Generations of Heaven and Earth is about the new, there wasn’t much further scope!

I didn’t think of sandwiching Genealogical Adam and Eve in between - it shows there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Thanks for the very kind review, Josh.


Even though “allowing for people outside the garden” has been discussed by theologians for many centuries, both of you are doing a tremendous service to the general public in promoting that discussion beyond the walls of the academy (and rabbinical literature, of course.)

Despite the popularity of Wikipedia-bashing, I find this entry yet another example of a very helpful summarization of a topic:

Peaceful Science readers may find the aforementioned article helpful preparation for reading the Swamidass and Garvey tomes. (In this context, I’m using the word “tome” not to imply that their books are excessively voluminous but that they are weighty in their significance and that they will appeal to the general reader as well as the scholar.)


While you are on a spree, I would suggest a fourth volume, the film version of which could go straight to DVD to save on distribution costs: Noah Your Way Around the Ark: It Takes All Kinds.


Real masochists could instead read the tome by David N Livingstone on historical Pre-adamism, Adam’s Ancestors.


Another update - Wipf and Stock have put out a social media communication on points taken from the book here. Very pretty!

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See this review of @jongarvey’s book by @PaulB:

I just now finished reading Jon Garvey’s “The Generations of Heaven and Earth” and all I can say is WOW!! What a wonderful complement to “The Genealogical Adam & Eve.” I only hope that I live long enough to see all of this sorted out by theologians and others. I am 77 years old so they better not waste any time.

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Except that “Adam’s Ancestors” doesn’t get into the theological issues of a genealogical Adam and people existing outside the garden before and alongside Adam, and "The Generations of Heaven and Earth does.

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@paulb what do you remember from @jongarvey’s book? Why should people read it?

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Here is my recently submitted but not yet posted Amazon review of “The Generations of Heaven and Earth”:

Jon Garvey’s book is a companion volume to S. Joshua Swamidass’s book, “The Genealogical Adam & Eve” (GAE). It is not necessary to have read GAE first, because Garvey includes a summary of the scientific side while presenting the theological implications of an historical Adam who lived around 6,000 years ago.

GAE’s claim is that it is scientifically plausible that a historical couple living in the Ancient Near East, among an existing human population around 6,000 years ago, would almost certainly be common ancestors of everyone living since the time of Christ. This claim is based on detailed computer simulations that consistently showed that our probable most recent genealogical ancestor lived two or three thousand years ago, and that anyone living more than 6,000 years ago, who left any descendants, is a common ancestor for the whole human race.

Garvey has attempted to integrate a genealogical Adam and Eve into a coherent biblical theology without any radical revision of traditional Christian theological doctrine by examining its consistency with a number of issues, including the two creation stories in Genesis, the conflict of good and evil, original sin, atonement theories, and the metanarrative of the Bible. Garvey thinks of this as restoring the plausibility of older teaching which had been made to give ground progressively in the light of the “assured results” of science.

Garvey’s contention is that “Genealogical Adam is not just another concordist theory, attempting to find a fix for the incompatibility of the Bible account with other sources of knowledge, but instead as a means for recovering the original intention of Scripture” (p. xv), which is that Genesis 2 introduces the theme of a new creation that occupies the whole of the rest of the Bible.

Genealogical Adam implies some kind of distinction between Adam and those outside the Garden of Eden and the gradual merging of those distinctions through interbreeding as Adam’s genealogical descendants spread across the world. Garvey concludes that “there is no longer a scientific argument against the existence of the biblical Adam and Eve, provided we are willing to embrace the evidence that other, fully human, people existed “outside the garden” before and alongside Adam.” (p. 250) “If we take Genesis 1 and 2 as sequential, and chapter 1 as describing the creation of mankind en masse, including those who lived before and alongside Adam, then we have a human race created in the image and likeness of God which possesses all the intellectual, artistic, and cultural attainments that scientific and historical research has revealed to be ubiquitous from prehistoric times.” (pp. 116-7)

Garvey proposes that cultural inheritance can be as pervasive as genetic inheritance, and it is quicker and does not depend on any genes becoming fixed in the whole population: just on the spread of a strong idea or a habit. It is culpable sinners who are formed through sinful communities. “[I]t is only possible to become human at all through the absorption of our parents’, and community’s, culture. Our nature is not exclusively “from our genes,” and in fact genetics has a relatively minor role in the inheritance of complex behavior.” (p. 184) “If Adam were indeed the first person to have a true relationship with God, it would have affected every subsequent relationship of his.” (p. 185)

Garvey notes that at some stage the apparently chronological narrative of the Bible has to become history. A Genealogical Adam within history solves the problem of where one places the division of allegory and history by placing it with Adam.

Every chapter ends with a short section titled “Conclusion relative to Genealogical Adam.” The book includes a nine-page bibliography, a general index, and a scriptural index.

It’s going to get really interesting when theologians react to this book and to Swamidass’s “The Genealogical Adam & Eve.” Perhaps those theologians, pastors, and Christian philosophers and scientists who had already come out publically for an historical Adam who was not the first human (e.g., Denis Alexander, Kathryn Applegate, Gleason Archer, Craig L. Blomberg, Roy Clouser, C. John Collins, Gregg Davidson, Darrel Falk, Gary N. Fugle, Daniel M. Harrell, Carol A. Hill, Tim Keller, Kenneth W. Kemp, Derek Kidner, Gavin Ortlund, Alvin Plantinga, Harry Lee Poe, John Polkinghorne, Jeffrey Schloss, John Stott, John H. Walton and N.T. Wright) were on the right track after all.

The book’s strength is that it enables the traditional doctrines associated with Adam to remain intact, while maintaining consistency with secular findings on history, archaeology, and various evolutionary understandings of creation.

I can recommend this book to anyone interested in the issues surrounding a historical Adam and Eve. It is a fresh look which should elicit much commentary in the near future.


You’re too kind, Paul :blush:

… even kinder if that review goes up on Amazon!

It will balance the troll on Facebook (I’m told) who poo-pooed the “2000 year most reason universal ancestor” as ignorant or a lack of proof-reading.

I’m looking forward to reading your books, they sound great! Will you also be interviewed or reviewed by Christianity Today or TGC?

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Hi Michelle, and welcome to the community.

Nobody’s asked me for an interview yet (probably a good thing as I’m spending the week transferring to a new computer operating system and it will take a while to get the web-cam working for Zoom!).

Maybe at some stage Josh and I will do a web conversation, if we can find a time when we’re both awake!



@jongarvey, I suggest you reach out to Rebecca Randall at CT. Would you like an introduction?

@Michelle, I suggest you send them a note too!

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By all means - the more introductions the better!

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Sure, I will submit posts recommending a book review to both CT and TGC.

I also mentioned your books to WORLD magazine (not sure if they’ll do the review, but they thanked me for the suggestion).


FYI: I also posted about your new book at the end of a couple of threads on BL where people were asking questions about how to interpret Genesis 1&2


Got any links, Michelle?


The Gospel Coalition is an excellent idea. @swamidass, I haven’t talked to Don Carson in a while, so I’ll send him a note recommending book reviews and interviews.

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post # 117 in this thread

post # 37 in this thread

my participation in those two threads inspired my husband (John Ols) to get involved, as well, so he also put in a couple replies (not about genealogy, because that is not his area, but about traditional Biblical interpretation, because he has an MDiv from Gordon Conwell)

I ordered a copy of your book. After I read it, perhaps I could start a “book review” type of thread there, too.