My review of Craig's Historical Adam book


Review of “In Quest of the Historical Adam”

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What is the traditional interpretation?

That’s your conclusion, and I think both sentences are dubious. Is Genesis really the foundation of Christianity or of scripture? And are the “sands” of science equally shifting? Science advances in the light of observation and testing. How would hermeneutics advance?


I’d agree with you here @John_Harshman .

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Hi @BenKissling - You attributed the following “major concession” to Craig :

old-earth, interpretations of Genesis are quite recent in history

But you omit some extremely important history: non-literalistic interpretations of Genesis by highly respected Christian scholars are quite ancient

For example, Augustine of Hippo, the scholar claimed as inspiration by both the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, stated that the 2 creation accounts in Genesis are clearly contradictory, so God clearly was not providing a 144 hour chronology. Instead Augustine concluded, in keeping with the best science of his time, that all of creation occurred in a single instant.

Do you not think that Augustine’s full commentary is relevant to our interpretation of Genesis today?


Honestly I’d like to see the quote from which @BenKissling makes that claim. I’m very doubtful a convincing quote exists.


Thanks for sharing. I’ve been curious about this book, and so far since it’s come out just listened to Alisa Childers talk about it on her podcast with a guest. (She s
seems friendly to RTB.) So I appreciate hearing from other who have read it.

So you haven’t read it yet? But I am also curious about this.

He debunks the popular claim that the Hebrew word rāqîaʿ translated as “sky” or “expanse” means the ancient Hebrews thought the sky was covered with a solid dome in which the stars were embedded (pp. 188–191).

Do you mind explaining/summarizing how he debunks this?

Commenting on the review itself: I agree with many of your conclusions. I’ve seen him roasted by atheist YouTubers because of his conclusions that Genesis 1-11 must be mythohistory because it’s too fantastic to him. All they have to say is that they don’t believe the gospels are true because the content is too fantastic for them. Case closed really.

That his hermeneutic dismantles what he’s known for defending (the historicity of the Bible) makes me sad. It is so odd to me that he never questions the modern scientific consensus. I agree with you that this book is a positive development because it shows Genesis is worth defending as a true, historical account in its entirety.

I expect that he most definitely has. If you are in any way invested in the Genesis account and possess an awareness of natural history, such questioning is inevitable. For many of us raised in the church, the outcome of that investigation is that acceptance of the scientific consensus becomes the only rational option. Young earth creationism is found to be untenable. I would have to be willfully blind to accept that a worldwide flood resurfaced the planet 4500 years ago. It was a long struggle to come to a place of accepting the general outline of mainstream history and science, and that was driven by solid evidence and not some shift in worldview or philosophy. It was not a resolution I wanted or expected.

But there is no going back. I cannot unknow what I have learned. It is not that the modern scientific consensus is unquestioned, but that questioning is a quest completed. Because the consilience of the scientific evidence does not broadly change, there is no need to keep revisiting established fact.

I do not know if you take yourself as yet being on a journey or have arrived at a destination concerning origins, but despite my contrary stance I do appreciate your postings representing a minority view here. Best wishes and hope all is going well with the young family.


Do you mean to say that the sky is a solid dome in which the stars are embedded, despite what those silly scientists claim?

I have read it and don’t recall any quote that would support his claim.

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I appreciate that’s where you came to. I just think there’s so many things that could overturn it. I think all of the Bible makes a YEC interpretation the most coherent and I don’t have enough faith that the current scientific consensus will never be overturned to change that view. I appreciate that Craig believes AE to be historical; and the best case to be made is that a single couple were the beginning of all humanity. But I’ve always had a sense that @swamidass has at least the imagination to think that the modern consensus could be overturned even if he thinks the possibility is almost nothing. But I don’t see that WLC has the imagination to consider that from the way I’ve heard him speak. That’s what’s surprising to me. But I could be reading both wrong.

Thanks. I think my journey is circular. I read/listen to a good argument for the consensus; I read/listen to something poking holes in that argument. I’m excited to see what comes of James Webb telescope observations. So nothing in science has changed my mind on the Bible - although it has changed how I read Genesis 1! so I’m mostly having fun learning. Family is doing well; lots of life changes so it’s been a bit crazy lately.

Um, no. [Chuckle] That’s why I asked in the same post what Craig said regarding raqia. My current view is that the word describes a protective barrier that is the 1st heaven (what we can visibly see - what’s closest to us) that holds back the chaos waters/2nd heaven above (what we can’t see). So it’s phenomenological. God wanted us to know that there is a separation between the earth and its waters and the rest of the heavens and its waters that’s uniquely there to protect and care for us. There is no one literal raqia, but God did create a protective barrier - it’s anything from the atmosphere to the local bubble (there was a few articles about that recently - interestingly the solar system is right in the middle and star formation radiates out from it - I’m probably describing that horribly) I also think it makes sense as I chuckle when I often see water metaphors describing objects in the heavens. And I still think there’s a good possibility that dark matter roughly corresponds to the waters above.

See how non-literal I can be? :sweat_smile:

Ok, the way you worded it didn’t give that impression so thanks for clarifying. I’m curious too.

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I’ll take this a different (but not opposing) direction than @RonSewell’s response. In a sense, this misunderstands WLC’s project. It can be construed as “speculative theology”: If x is true, then what is the best way to incorporate x into our theologizing? For WLC, the x is the scientific consensus. Conversely, for @swamidass, the x was the special de novo creation of A+E, and then the resulting theologizing had to do with incorporating genealogical science into a model that might work.

Of course, there are differences. WLC is more confident on (and would support) the scientific consensus (at least the bulk of it) than @swamidass is on de novo A+E. But the speculative (or hypothetical) nature of the project should be kept in mind. It’s sort of a “for the sake of argument, let’s assume…then what?”

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From what I understand of Craig’s work, this (“Gen 1-11 must be mythohistory because it seems too fantastic to me”) is either a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of what he is saying. Or oversimplification to the point of falsehood. The argument is about the intent of the text and has nothing to do about Craig’s personal incredulity.

Here’s how I would paraphrase what he’s getting at instead: Gen 1-11 is plausibly considered mythohistory because (among other reasons) it, in effect, presents itself as fantastic. The original audience would have seen certain elements as fantastic and not literal/factual.

E.g., the serpent is spoken of as if it is nothing more than an animal, albeit the most clever one, yet it talks. But the original audience would have known that snakes do not talk. We can read this and suppose that maybe there was some kind of supernatural power behind the serpent’s power of speech, but that isn’t explicitly stated in the text. Another hypothesis (and not even mutually exclusive to the first) is that this “fantastic” element is signalling that the text is meant to be taken non-literally in some respects.

The same genre analysis doesn’t apply to the Gospels, which clearly do present themselves as intending to be read factually (e.g., the introduction to Luke or the conclusion to John) and the supposed “fantastic” elements are generally nothing of the sort: they are clearly explained as miracles and explicitly attributed to divine power. So I don’t think it is at all fair to Craig to say that he’s somehow contradicting himself by arguing for the historicity of the Gospels on one hand, but the… mythohistoricity? :smiley: of early Genesis.

On the contrary, he does question the modern scientific consensus. For example (going by what he’s said in his Defender’s podcast), he’s not convinced in the effectiveness of Darwinian mechanisms to produce all the diversity of life, so he leans towards a progressive creationist view.


Yeah that’s right.

Don’t forget the history too. This is a pushback on what was thought to be the consensus by many people. It was also an effective pushback, in that the current consensus echoes WLC and my work.

Yes, I understand that. I was referring to my perception of their worldviews and opinions, not the contents of their books.

I had watched Sean McDowell’s interview with WLC and I wasn’t surprised that Ken Ham later picked up on this quote.

Now, I would be disingenuous, Sean, if I were to say that I don’t want the young earth creationist interpretation to come out true. To me that is a nightmare, my greatest fear is that the young earth creationist might be right in his hermeneutical claim that Genesis does teach those things that I described earlier. And I say that would be a nightmare because if that’s what the Bible teaches, it puts the Bible into massive, I think irredeemable, conflict with modern science, history and linguistics and I don’t want that to happen.

To me, he obviously can’t imagine a world in which the consensus is wrong. I give WLC the benefit of the doubt here that he doesn’t want the Bible to be shown as non-authoritative in the things that it teaches. But it is kind of baffling to me that a Christian wouldn’t consider that if YEC is true the kind of conflict between what the Bible teaches and modern science, linguistics, and history is only is the same story repeated over and over in the Bible. That is not a nightmare. That is looking at a serpent on a stick to be healed when it sounds like the dumbest idea ever.

Why wouldn’t a Christian consider this is all true right now?

I agree it’s an oversimplification, but his personal incredulity and views on science seem to have still influenced his view of the text’s original intent, based on these quotes from the same interview.

I think it should prompt us not to be over literalistic in the way we read these narratives. And once you begin to look at them in terms of mytho-history it’s difficult to look at them any other way.

“It” there seems to be the conflict with science. So the conflict prompts one to read the narrative in a certain way. THEN one BEGINS to look at them in terms of mytho-history.

I have long been suspicious of things such as the creation of Eve from a rib out of Adam’s side as though God performed some sort of literal surgery on the man and built a woman out of it or that God shaped this figurine out of dirt and breathed into its nose the breath of life and the statue came alive. It seemed to me that this was clearly figurative language, but I didn’t have a reason for thinking that until I became acquainted with this genre called mytho-history.

Don’t you do the same thing when you interpret the waters above the firmament as anything but actual water, or the firmament itself as some kind of nebulous non-solid “barrier”?


Roughly so, but from the opposite direction. I assumed the text was literal, but was just confused since I didn’t think to read the text outside of a modern literal context, and never thought to address the question of what the firmament was. Probably was afraid of asking the questions - GAE really gave me the confidence to start asking them I think. I began to study cosmology, then began listening and reading about ANE culture (kicking and screaming a little bit inside, because I assumed it belittled the text before I realized the value of it, tbh). Based on what he said, WLC thought the text was non-literal and came across a genre that confirmed his original reading.

The greatest intent of the text - any biblical text - is God’s care and love for us I think. The firmament points to the separation between the earth and the heavens to keep us safe. But then Jesus came to be the bridge, so no separation is needed. He is lifted up between earth and heaven. As I was typing this, John 1 and 3 came to mind. Since John obviously had Genesis 1 in mind, I just went back and read John 1-3. It’s just verse after verse about the heavenly bridging the earthly, so he was very aware of what the firmament meant. And then in Revelation it dissolves into 1. Pretty cool. Great confirmation he wrote both too. :slightly_smiling_face:

None of that, I’m afraid, made any sense. A bridge and a barrier are the same thing? And this has to do with cosmology and/or dark energy how? Literal is non-literal. Ignorance is strength.

I never mentioned dark energy. I also mentioned the barrier/separation between the earth and the highest heavens is eventually no longer needed, so I’m wondering if I’m just explaining that poorly or you’re not reading that carefully. :sweat_smile:

I was trying to explain Jesus bridged the separation in physical reality. It points to the spiritual reality of what He has done to save sinners and reconcile God and man.

Genesis 1 creation days emphasize that the earth and heavens were created specially and distinctly from each other beginning with the creation of the firmament in day 2. When they are recreated at Jesus return, that is no longer true.

We’re getting way off topic so maybe if you have more questions for me, you can start at new thread?

The former. What do you mean by “no longer needed”? Do you mean that it was once there but has recently disappeared?

What does that mean? Was the sky a solid dome until the crucifixion?

But they weren’t, you know. Earth is just another planet among countless objects in a huge universe. There is no separation and never has been.