Jack Collins, The Genealogical Adam, and Jon Garvey

@jack.collins is among the most important, of not the most important, theologian in the conversation about Adam and Eve right now.

@jongarvey addresses a recent post to him, writing…

@jack.collins comes alot on the forums, which is a good thing. He is also very supportive of a Genealogical Adam. You can read his response to my Dabar Paper here (which he gives me permission to share). http://peacefulscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/collins_swamidass_dabar.pdf I want to note a couple things from his review.

  1. @jack.collins is very supportive the distinctions between genetic and genealogical, and in our definitions of human.

Fourth, Swamidass’ focus on the genealogy rather than the genetics and his motivation for it is spot on: namely, the Biblical language is concerned with line of descent, or genealogy; to appeal to the genetic questions, important as they may be for some purposes, foists a misleading anachronism on the Biblical text. The same may well be true of the notion of human.5 One could wish that all discussions of these matters were as respectful of the language level and communicative concerns of the Biblical authors! 6

  1. @jack.collins is right that I made a mistake in describing “representational” theology of Adam. That is fixed in the most up to date version. I would say, having received his correction, that “representational” theology (just like “headship” theology) of Adam is consistent with a Genealogical Adam. A Genealogical Adam is one way to show that Adam’s representation of us is not arbitrary, but is found at the headwaters of humankind.

(2) Swamidass refers to a class of scenarios that involve representation (including one offered by me), in which the representation is potentially “independent of a genealogical connection to Adam.”10 I need to clarify that these scenarios are not all the same — those that have the representation at the “headwaters” of humankind are specifically responding to exactly the issue that Swamidass rightly concerns himself with, namely the seeming arbitrariness of God otherwise. The clarification, then, is that those who posit an imputation based on representation downstream from the headwaters of humankind suffer from this critique; I recognize that this is not what Swamidass is proposing.

  1. @jack.collins has a high respect for @jongarvey’s work, citing him in one of the footnotes. He might even be following the Hump.

Even though there are differences of emphasis, there is so much common ground that we can say that some notion of “original sin” (or whatever we want to call it) is part of Mere Christianity,14 and is therefore not itself any kind of open question.15

  1. See the blog of Jon Garvey, “Irenaeus (and others) on original sin,” for helpful spade-work on early Christians.
  1. He is very skeptical of a sequential reading of Genesis 1 and 2. I want to emphasize that he sees value here even if Genesis 1 and 2 are not sequential. This should not be a place where we grow dogmatic. It seems that, here, @TGLarkin, @Guy_Coe and @jongarvey say that they are sequential, but @anon46279830 and @jack.collins see it as recapitulatory. The common ground is that everyone is convinced of or open to “people outside the garden.” That should be the language used to be inclusive.

The Swamidass paper applies its biological theory under the reading of Genesis 1–2 that sees them as sequential accounts, in the way that John Walton has argued for. I will here simply note that this reading is exceedingly vulnerable to critical review. Another reading is better-attested, both within the canon and up close to it, and more readily supportable, namely that Genesis 2:4–25 narrate an expansion of certain events in the sixth day.9 My preliminary judgment is that the value of the proposal does not depend on the Waltonesque reading.

As I understand it, @jack.collins is skeptical of a sequential reading because of concerns of inerrancy in light of Jesus’s statement (Matthew 19:4-5):

4“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’a 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’b ?

As I understand it, his view is that Jesus has linked the phrase from Genesis 1 (made them male and female) with a phrase from Genesis 2 (a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh). This, in his view, indicates that Jesus was reading both chapters as descriptions of the same event. Now, I’m personally not sure that’s the case, but that is where @jack.collins and others (e.g. Andrew Loke) are coming from.

They all know much more theology, Hebrew, and Greek than I, so I am going to be reticent to dispute this with them. Instead, I’ll emphasize that we need both approaches to Genesis in the Peaceful Science tent.

I will, nonetheless, note that far more scholars than merely Walton read Genesis sequential. In August, we are going to have some opportunities to interact with Richard Averbeck on this, and perhaps @Philosurfer might jump in with some comments about the Concordia University scholars thoughts on this. I’m also not unconvinced this statement indicates Jesus read Genesis 1 and 2 as the same event, or is teaching this. It seems that the two phrases would necessarily be sequential any ways.

The key point for @jongarvey, however, is you have to engage that argument if you care to change @jack.collins’s mind. I’d be curious how you do that. Down the line, we will invite @jack.collins to hold office hours with us (What are Office Hours?), and hear from him directly. It might be a few months though. He is pretty swamped right now. Until then, I hope you can engage his argument regarding Jesus and Genesis directly.

Another new Hump topic for Joshua to split off, here.

This one revisits cosmic temple imagery to argue for the sequential nature of Genesis 1&2, so may interest all who took part in that discussion. I’d be interested to hear Jack Collins response to it, too, should he be around, since that is almost the only thing on which I disagreed with him in his book on Adam.


Awesome post!
Another contrast by which to evaluate the first and second pericopes is transcendence as compared with immanence; awe as compared with trust.
In the first, the transcendent God is presented as Originator, Observer, and Nurturer.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the wind of God was brooding over the surface of the waters.”. Transcendence in the cosmos, and on the earth.
In the second, all three facets are involved in situating and preparing the garden, its intimate inhabitants, and in theophanically manifesting Himself within it in a particular area of sacred Presence. Immanence on the earth, and unmediated friendship on offer.
What a magnificently beautiful way to begin to forge a worldview.
To move from being part of the faceless mass of endowed humanity in the first pericope, to being summoned to the intimacy of our own particular garden experience with God’s immanent presence as a friend, first and foremost, in the second.


What is it with Jack Collins and certain topics? It almost seems intentional, honestly. I pray that is not the case, and that he weighs in on this question soon!
I’ve no doubt he benefits from this kind of worldview!

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@Jack.collins is not at all opposed. He just views the nuances a bit differently than others here. He knows what he is doing. If and when he does show up, it is going to be an interesting conversation. For now, read his review of my Dabar Paper.


Your doubts are well founded.

First, the reference to a man united to his wife as one flesh is Genesis 2, which is perfectly consistent with the strange Special Creation story we encounter in Genesis 2.

What we see in Genesis 1 is essentially TWO (2) SENTENCES!:

Genesis 1:26-27
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. "

This does not seem to be the text Jesus references. And the text is perfectly consistent with an evolutionary understanding of a non-Adamite group.

In fact, one might say the remaining few verses does everything possible to distance itself from Genesis 2!


Gen 1:28-31
[A: How does one have dominion of all the sea’s fish from within Eden?]
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

[B: EVERY (?!) TREE SHALL BE FOR YOUR MEAT?! - Obviously not a reference to Eden!]
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Joshua, I think you should consider that when someone is worried about inerrancy to the degree that they use a quote from Genesis 2 to “clobber” an interpretation of Genesis 1, they are probably not going to ever feel right about Genesis 1 as a reference to a first/separate human population.

I could make a similar argument, and from it conclude that Jesus sees all of history as one giant event, which thereby negates the significance of any one of them, in particular.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” - Revelation 1:8
It may sound like I’m being facetious, but as far as I can tell, it’s the same kind of argument.
To which I’d counter --just because Jesus mentions two or three things in tandem, it doesn’t mean he’s conflating them into one thing.


Hi, folks. Sorry if my availability is limited, and thus I’ll have to be brief. OTOH, I’ve covered a great deal, in great detail, in my forthcoming monograph (I’ll reference that in a moment). I don’t mean to frustrate you by referring to it, but I do want you to buy it when it comes out this fall. :slight_smile:

(I’ve apparently already annoyed at least one poster here, and I do not how or why.)

I’ll just touch on the question of Genesis 1–2 and sequentiality.


My reasons for finding the two accounts as complementary are simple: they have to do with the literary judgment of what kind of thing Genesis is; the sociological assessment of what role it played in ancient Israel; the textual analysis of how the material in Genesis hangs together; and then, on respect shown to later writers who refer to the passages under consideration. (The citation in Matthew & Mark, which is in fact a bringing together of the two pericopes, is part of a much larger convention of reading — one that can be found in the Hebrew Bible itself, in the mainstream Second Temple period material, and consistently in Rabbinic reflection on the passages.)


I think that Walton’s idea of a cosmic temple (which is not unique to him) has lots of promise. But that doesn’t mean I agree with everything he argues in pursuit of it. (The sports analogy is game plan and execution.) John, for example, doesn’t take into account what qualified readers have seen in a text, nor does he attend to some of the other factors I’ve listed above. He’s still my friend.

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Here’s the info on my book: Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1-11 (Zondervan, 2018).

In the US, it’s at:

In the UK:

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No doubt someone will want more detail. I will supply some if requested, but I’ll also defer to the book, like I said!

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BTW, hi to everyone. Some of you, such as Jon Garvey, I’ve known about and appreciated for a while. Pleased to make your acquaintance.


I think some prefer a Neolithic date for Adam based on Genesis 4 (other reasons for the preference might exist). I don’t think the way the text works requires that — but, as Josh has pointed out, the genealogical approach does allow for it.

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And yours, Jack. I’m flattered.

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@jack.collins so glad to see you on the forum. Your reputation proceeds you.

Not your fault. Don’t worry about it.

Did I get your basic argument correctly? If so, I’m not fully convinced. Or maybe I just don’t understand. It is common to linguistically collapse events into the distant past into singular events. That doesn’t mean that they the same event. I’m not sure that is what Jesus is teaching there. As @Guy_Coe puts it (and I think he has a point here)…

I do here your argument that:

On that level, I’d be curious eventually to hear how you interact with Garvey and Postell’s work. @jongarvey argues that Genesis 1 is setting the backdrop for Genesis 2. If that is the case, several other passages make much more sense (e.g. Genesis 6:4).

I can see that, however I am not sure how that helps you. I think that @jongarvey (and I) are also arguing that genesis 1 and 2 hang together. They are meant to be read one after the other.

That being said…

It is okay if different paths are taken here. We do not have to agree on these details. And I am not sure why you need to listen to a lowly scientist like me :wink:. So, I am very grateful that you wrote:

Though, I do not want to identify a sequential reading of Genesis with Walton alone. It certainly has been a minority position in traditional theology for a long time.

Thanks again for joining us, and please do stay as long as you can. Any details you can educate us on would be greatly appreciated.


Sorry, I have to be brief. I’m busy correcting the proofs for said monograph! And they have a strict deadline! The argument is all laid out there.

Here’s the textual analysis part (summary!). The structure of 2:4 contains a well-known chiasmus, which usually invites the reader to find a sort of unity. Also, the “not good” of 2:18 contrasts with the “very good” of 1:31. And the creation Sabbath has begun in 2:1–3. It’s the literary style of Genesis to cover a broader stretch, and then go back and fill in some details. Finally, 5:1ff brings together 1:26–27 with chs. 2–4, which most readily indicates that they’re they same people.

My contribution to the discussion, such as it is, concerns the reading of 2:5–7. Several recent translations are following it, so I have clearly misled people. :wink:

History of readership: Throughout the OT (e.g., Psalm 104), the two pericopes are treated as covering the same events. (There’s a fair bit more, I’m just omitting them for now.)

Not sure I’m getting the issue with Matt. 19. All commentators (that I’ve looked at, anyhow) think that Jesus is seeing Gen. 1:27c and 2:24 as complementary accounts of the same event. (E.g., see Cranfield on the Greek text of Mark.) The ethical point is that “from the beginning it was not so,” which means something bad has happened to humankind, namely the fall, which follows. That’s not collapsing; it’s making use of a shared understanding of the two pericopes. That is, so far as anyone can tell, mainstream Jewish people understood the account in Genesis 2 to be about the sixth day.

You are allowed to be unconvinced! But, the proposal you’ve made is a worthy one, and, as I said, its value is not tied to that question. So take that as my heads-up from my guild. Peace!

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More likely you are holding me back from misleading people :smile:.

Point taken. Been starting to refine the Dabar Paper into the book. I’m taking your advice and disconnecting it from reliance on a sequential reading. You are right too, that this is just window dressing. Reading Genesis either way works fine for the Genealogical Adam. The key point is just whether or not there were people outside the Garden.

Well thanks for giving us a window into what is to come. When things calm down, I’ll look forward to engaging more.

I’d add that a non-sequential reading - or at least an incompletely sequential reading - will work for my treatment. It’s just less neat, and seems to leave the status of the humans outside the garden, on whom we all agree, I think, less clear. And it confuses the aspects of temple imagery that Walton and even Greg Beale miss.

Just to stir the pot, I’ll repeat from before that although Irenaeus undoubtedly takes the two passages to refer to a brief time (his Fall is all over by sunset on Day 6), yet he sees the purpose of Adam’s call as above and beyond the creation ordinance of Day 1 (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 12).

Conceptually, then, the text has moved beyond ch1, and that seems to me the introduction of the new drama that is totally absent from the creation narrative.

So, @jongarvey what about if we read them in the more common way, as recapitulatory. However, we’d say that Genesis 1 is talking about the creation of all humankind, but Genesis 2 is zoomed in, talking only about the creation of Adam. The can still, from narrative point of view, be functioning simultaneous. Genesis 1 would explain what is going on outside the Garden, which is “very good.” Genesis 2 would be explaining against this backdrop how it becomes “not good.”

Does that still work in your conception @jongarvey? Even if they are recapitulatory, there is still a strong contrast between Genesis 1’s sweeping scope, and Genesis 2 myopic focus.