Literal Interpretations and the Genealogical Adam

I see a number of problems with this. I also have two questions: where can one find this “traditional theology”, and what is “a very long time”?

Now I doubt that the translators of the King James bible were anti-evolution; I doubt they had ever considered the matter. Of your points, I don’t see #1 as relevant to YEC except as it might remove one claimed reason for rejecting the idea of speciation.

#2 also doesn’t seem relevant, and clearly “land” is what the translators meant by “earth” most of the time anyway.

#3 would need some support beyond the Hebrew meaning of “adam”. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are clearly in contradiction on a number of points, and while Genesis 1 is a grand account of God’s creative power, Genesis 2 is largely a set of just-so stories, any serious reading of which seems as impossible as a serious reading of Kipling. And the clear implication of the Eden story is that it concerns the creation of the first couple, sole ancestors of all, as well as of all the land animals, at least. Any other reading is wishful.

#4 also seems irrelevant; even if DNA is not found in Genesis, we must understand the events of the story, taken literally, in light of modern knowledge. Adam must have had DNA, and so must his rib; any being made from his rib would have that DNA just as much as a graft removed from a fruit tree perpetuates the genome of that tree. Why else use a rib rather than form Eve afresh from the dust of the ground?

#5 also seems irrelevant, as does the absence of the terms “human”, etc. While there is no explicit claim of anything outside the garden, the whole plot of the story makes less sense (if that’s the word) if the first couple are not the only couple. Regarding where Cain got his wife, that objection assumes that the bible is a single, consistent story, which is clearly not true.

Now that’s unworthy of you. Of course they had no concept of a globe, but the story does refer to a worldwide flood, however you choose to describe the world. That’s also the claim of the source material, the Utnapishtim story. I would like to see some support for the claim that the idea of a worldwide flood is recent. What’s the oldest source you know of that claims the flood of Noah was regional?

@John_Harshman it seems that your goal is to demonstrate that a literal interpretation is false. You seem opposed from the outset to see if any literal interpretations could be valid.

Is that an accurate view of your position?

Likewise @John_Harshman, what are your personal views on the Bible? It sounds like you are an atheist or an agnostic, not a Christian. Is that correct?

Basically, yes. I’ll give a few comments (summarizing things I’ve said elsewhere on the blog).

it’s a truism that it is impossible to fully translate from one language to another. Even more so from an ancient language to a modern one.

perhaps, though unlikely IMO. Hebrew has a much easier way to say “of many kinds” than the consistent phrase it does use, which seems to naturally translate as “according to its kind.” Regardless, I reject any position that treats this in a scientific concordist way.

The word 'erets can mean either “earth” or “land.” I’m actually OK with earth/world in the Flood story as long as we don’t think in terms of “globe.” The world under concern is defined by the Table of Nations in Gen 10. Whether this is simply the known world to the author or whether earth/world is used with some intentional hyperbole, the text can’t rule out what we think of as a large regional flood.

All possible. Moreover, the use of 'adam in Gen 1 is most naturally taken collectively (i.e., more than a couple)


Well, technically, “human(ity)” does appear n many translations now that “man” no longer carries a gender-neutral sense for many. But I get your point. I’m not sure what you mean about Adam here, however. Plenty in church history thought Adam & Eve were the first and originally only humans. They did not refer to them as Sapien, of course.

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@deuteroKJ thanks for the great summary.

Yes, and, as you know, I’m making a contextual case that their notion of “human” is bound to Adam’s lineage.

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Look here: The Origin of Young-Earthism 50 Years Ago. As surprising as this may sound, YEC is more defined by a global flood than the age of the earth. We can trace how this idea arises about 150 years ago, and the becomes popular about 50 to 60 years ago. It is a very recent belief.

If you doubt me, try and find the first reference to Noah’s flood covering mount Everest? Or Australia? Or the Americas? Or carving the Grand Canyon? All this is totally new, really within the last couple generations if you care about what most Christians have believed.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Robert Byers’ Goals Here

No. Is there anyone here who claims a literal interpretation is true? My attempt is to establish what a literal interpretation implies. Now I do think the story is ridiculous, but a clonal Eve is the least of its problems.




Also, “literal” interpretation is not really the most precise term. A better explanation of the hermeneutic in YEC is a historical-grammatical reading that favors a plain reading. Emphasizing a “literal” reading of the English translation is just not a sensible position. The term “literal” reading of genesis is a colloquial term for this type of reading of Scripture.

For example, Genesis does not teach a clonal Eve by this hermeneutic. It does not teach that original sin transmit by DNA. It says nothing about people outside the Garden.

If you want understand the rules of this approach to Hermeneutics, a reasonable summary of the rules are in the Chicago Statements on Inerrancy and Hermeneutics.

That’s unworthy of you. Mt. Everest, Australia, and the Grand Canyon are all quite recent in Western consciousness, and the Americas only a bit less recent. There are thousands of references to phenomena attributed to the Flood of Noah far outside the Near East. Consider, for example, one of the earlier-attested fossils, Homo diluvii testis. Are you familiar with it? Even Cuvier considered the Flood to be the most recent of a series of worldwide catastrophes. What about Bishop Ussher, for that matter? This notion that belief in recent creation and a worldwide flood is recent just isn’t supportable. It became unfashionable during the Enlightenment but had a revival with U.S. Fundamentalism. You’re talking of the Enlightenment position as if it stretched back to the beginning of biblical interpretation.

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It seems that no one claimed that the flood was global till about 150 years ago. Remember, in the 1400’s, the America’s are discovered. No one claimed that the Americas were covered in the flood. It just is not an important point till about 150 years ago.

Yes that is true, but that was driven by other things than theology and Scripture. (1) people found fossils of sea life on mountains, and (2) there were myths of floods floating around in different cultures. No one made it a fundamental point of doctrine or theology that there was a global flood till very recently.

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Granted, but is this quibbling over language very helpful?

Genesis doesn’t teach a clonal Eve; of course Genesis knows nothing about clones. It merely says that Eve was created from Adam’s rib. How else, given our knowledge of genetics, could it work? Genesis of course says nothing about the doctrine of original sin, only that the first couple and their descendants were cursed to suffer in childbirth, have difficulty in farming, etc., and were ejected from the garden so that they wouldn’t eat from the tree of life and live forever. That is indeed the plain reading. That there were no other humans is not explicit, but the story makes much less sense as a story if there were. Among other things, it’s a story about the origin of people. The story of the Elephant’s Child isn’t about how one particular elephant got his trunk.


This is where many of us feel very differently. Many of are convinced it makes more sense as a story this way. To understand why. you’ll have to read more about what has been proposed. It is a new idea, and you haven’t been exposed to it yet.

Yes. You wanted to know what “literal” interpretation is, so I am explaining what it is. There is a difference technically between literal and plain.

I didn’t know we were arguing about whether it was a fundamental point of doctrinal theology. I thought we were arguing about whether people thought it was true. A worldwide flood and recent creation was the common position among Christians up until around the Enlightenment. Agree or disagree?


I do not think they had a concept of “worldwide” that matches our own. Rather, the notion of a worldwide (as we currently understand it) flood arises historically as a reaction against the Enlightenment. You just seem to be unaware of that history.

There is good evidence, for example, that Mesopotamia knew of the Indus Valley Civilization, but they did not mention them in Genesis 10-11. The Indus Valley was not part of their world, even though they knew it existed.

2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Robert Byers’ Goals Here

It seems that there are at least several literal interpretations that could be true, meaning they are not in conflict with evidence.

Whether at least one is true or not depends on uprovable details of the distance past.


You are wasting considerable talent and time dueling with @swamidass on these marginal issues.

The key to the dispute is whether or not chapters Genesis 1 and 2 were INTENDED to be veiled or not. The casual reader thinks they are 2 versions of the same events.

But the critical reader sees the differences in the account that make this impossible. For anyone so disposed to argue about the meaning of the word “day” for 20 years… it takes a willfully stubborn mind to miss these differences… unless nobody has ever heard them properly explained.


That’s a lot to get out of a single lack of mention. It’s also a stretch to get from “Mesopotamia knew” to “the writers of Genesis knew”. If all who were not in the ark died, human and animal, wouldn’t a local flood require that only that area had any people or animals in it at the time? The intent, after all, was to wipe out all humans. To suppose otherwise is to suppose that everyone outside the local area was righteous.