Literal Interpretations and the Genealogical Adam


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.

It does not mention “humans”, only the civilization of Adam.

No one was intrinsically righteous (except by faith says Hebrews) in Adam’s lineage from the beginning, but that wasn’t the reason for the flood. The reason for the flood is because wickedness had grown. They had become very evil, and they had the added burden of knowing the true God and still being evil. There is nothing in the story that makes us think those outside that area were equally evil or responsible. One can be unrighteous without being evil. Maybe they were righteous too.

The “intent after all” was to restart the civilization of Adam, which had grown too evil.

You think I’m being novel here, but there is a lot of precedence, both recent and ancient for what I am telling you. You might want to read:


The survival of the Cain-ites is implied in both testaments…

Which would be consistent with treating the flood cycle more believably!

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I’d be interested to know how you got “the civilization of Adam” out of it.
Here’s the NIV version: "The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” Mistranslation? Other translations seem similar.

Now of course the original reason for the flood was that people had become too noisy and were keeping the gods awake at night. The Hebrews, being more interested in a righteous god, felt that wickedness would be a better justification for genocide than noisiness. I’m not sure that’s an improvement.

I’m not easily finding the telepathic gorilla’s take; one would seem to have to wade some distance.

What implication would that be?

There seems to be a hunt of making a connection between the Cain-ites and the Kenites… with some how a lineage of Cain surviving the flood.

Where is that implied in both testaments? I’ll admit I’ve never heard of Kenites. Anyway, wouldn’t Cain’s descendants have been in the flood zone? I believe the land of Nod, wherever that is, is part of the biblical world. Of course, any of the people on the ark, including Noah, could have been descended from Cain through multiple lineages.

(When I say “people on the ark” I don’t wish to imply that there actually was an ark or that any of those people actually existed; it’s a fairy tale.)

If it’s a new idea, why have you presented it as traditional theology? Is “traditional” yet another word I don’t understand the meaning of? But OK, expose me.

It should be apparent that I refer to the most natural reading, which I suppose is the same as the plain sense. Now, this tells us what the story says, but it doesn’t tell us whether story was intended to be believed. Could have been allegorical, could have been didactic, or could have been just a story. None of that matters to the interpretation of what events or conditions the story reports. And I don’t see a reasonable way to interpret the story as failing to claim that Adam and Eve were the sole humans, that the animals were all created after Adam but before Eve (as failed attempts to produce a companion), and that Eve was made from Adam’s rib. So go ahead, explain how this other interpretation makes sense in the story.

And please don’t forget the villain in the story - the talking snake.


The basic idea is to develop a narrative that allows a Christian to embrace the rather robust evidence for evolution… while at the same time making it possible for a Christian to accept one additional miracle: that God used a miracle to create Adam and Eve , so that their offspring would mix with the larger evolved population - - thereby unifying humanity into a combined grouping.

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I completely fail to understand this rationale. How about you?

@John_Harshman there are layers of meaning that the English translation is losing, and this is confusing you. In encourage you to look at these verses tracking what the original Hebrew is using for the term “human” and “man” and “mankind”. This website is pretty easy to use and can help you:

What you will find is that all these references to “human” use the term “adam”, even though (see Genesis 6:1-4) there are other words for “man” available to them. This gets to my original caution about needing to look at the original language.

So the text is saying that God regretted making Adam and decided to wipe out his lineage (at least as was visible to the reader) in a flood. Of note, the Genesis narrative is very much about the rise of civilization. So this appears to be a telling of why the original Adamic civilization was wiped out.

Of interesting note, there are a few candidates in archeology that some have supposed might fit this description too, of civilizations in the recent past in the Middle East that were wiped out a large regional flood. Even if you do not think Scripture is inspired, it is possible that knowledge of these events might have inspired the myths if that is what you think they are. If one takes Scripture as a legitimate account, it could be an import part of our origins too, a part that we can actually find view into in archeology and Scripture.

Rationale for this?

Do you mean you don’t understand why we would rationally want to do this or why this model could be internally rational?

Bit of both. It isn’t rational to make up a story for the sole purpose of saving the truth of another story. If the story conflicts with the data, the simpler conclusion is that the story isn’t true, not that it should be saved by making it untestable. It would only seem rational to a person who has a prior and unchangeable commitment to the factual truth of Genesis. And that isn’t a rational commitment.

And it so far seems not to make internal sense either. Why wouldn’t humanity already have been unified? How would Adam’s offspring mixing with the larger population unify humanity any more than would the offspring of any other people already in the population?

I think the text is saying that only if you have a story already in mind and want to make Genesis fit into it. The consistent use of one out of several terms for “human” is not a strong argument. And I don’t see Genesis as a single story, much less one about the rise of Adamic civilization, whatever that might be. It was clearly stitched together out of disparate fragments, each with its own point. The Noah story isn’t even original to the bible. Or do you reject the prior sources?

None of this is going to be convincing to anyone who doesn’t already have a strong need to believe it, which I unfortunately lack.

Incidentally, if it’s a local flood there’s no need for an ark. Just ask Noah to move elsewhere for a while. He doesn’t even need to take any animals with him; he can just get some new ones there, which is good, because he can’t possibly preserver most of the species just by taking two. It’s a story.

In a word: tolerance.

In terms of rationality, we are always integrating separate stories together into larger whole. That is the work of historians, and also of scientists (in a different way). It is a profoundly rational thing to do, because it presumes realism: that all the true stories arise from the same physical world that we all share.

Of course, you do not think the Genesis is a story with referents to the physical world. Fine. I’m not arguing with you. However, a large number of people do think it is a real story and a perceived contradiction has created an immense amount of conflict. If we remove that contradiction, Adam and Eve might become no more a stumbling block to understanding science than belief that Julius Caesar once existed, or that perhaps Hercules was a real person in history.

That seems like a better world for all of us. It would be a world more tolerant of differences.

That is not what is being proposed. We are not saying that Adam comes for the purpose of unifying humanity. That is not it at all. Rather, we are saying that humanity is unified along several dimensions. For example. Adam and those outside the garden are already unified in being the same biological kind (rejecting polygenesis). This part is of the puzzle has primarily to deal with affirming much of traditional theology which has strongly rejected racism (even when science fully embraced it for a time). That is what is driving concerns here, that people rightfully want to avoid a racist account of origins.

The reason that descent from Adam becomes important more broadly is because ancestry is important. To be clear, ancestry is very important outside theology too. In theology, however, there are several puzzles resolved by natural descent. Far from being esoteric nonsense, I wonder if the conversation here might help us all make better sense of things like societal injustice, which we should think about in relation to “ancestral sin”.

Theology is engaging the grand questions we all ask. It uses a different language than science, but it seeks also describe things in the physical world. Before we dismiss it as nonsense, remember that it is the language and logic of MLK’s voice, which we do well to understand and recover now:

Science cannot see nor end injustice. We really should be looking to something beyond science to make sense of our current moment.

I can do without the proselytizing, which I assure you is convincing only to someone who already believes. I’m afraid I am not finding any of your arguments sensible, and I again think they would be sensible only to someone who has a prior need to believe them. Briefly:

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I suppose I’m not trying to convince you or proselytize you so that is fine by me.