The BioLogos Statement on Adam and Eve

For about a decade, this has been their statement, reported here (Were Adam and Eve historical figures? - Common-questions - BioLogos). As I was asked to leave BioLogos, this statement quoted to me several times as their official position. “BioLogos opposes the traditional account of Adam and Eve.”

At BioLogos, we are passionately committed to taking the Bible seriously and to seeking a scientific understanding of God’s creation. How do the Bible and science inform our understanding of Adam and Eve?

Traditional de novo view

In one traditional view, Adam and Eve were created de novo—they were created by God as fully formed humans with no ancestors. God made them quickly and completely as fully formed humans with no biological ancestors. Advocates of this view also typically maintain that all humans who have ever lived are direct descendants of this original pair. The Genesis account is taken to be a record of real events similar to the way a journalist would record them today.

However, some features in the biblical text suggest that there are other layers of meaning that this traditional view does not account for. Genesis 4 refers to other people (in cities, Cain’s wife) who do not seem to be descended from Adam and Eve. And some elements of Genesis 2-3 indicate that at least on some level, the text is describing Adam and Eve as archetypal figures—statements about all of us.

When multiple interpretations of Scripture are possible, the church can benefit from considering what God has revealed in the natural world, because a proper interpretation of Scripture will not conflict with what we find there. At BioLogos, we are persuaded by the scientific evidence that human beings evolved, sharing common ancestors with all other life on earth. Furthermore, it increasingly appears that the genetic diversity among humans today could not have come from just two individuals in the past, but a population of thousands.

Traditional interpretations of Scripture should not be lightly dismissed, but neither is it responsible to ignore or dismiss the results of scientific inquiry simply because they conflict with traditional interpretations.

Other Options for Understanding Adam and Eve

There are several options open to those who desire to remain faithful to Scripture and take science seriously. Some Christians, such as Alister McGrath and C.S. Lewis have suggested a non-historical model. In this view, the early chapters of Genesis are symbolic stories in the genre of other ancient Near Eastern literature. In this view, Adam and Eve were not historical figures at all, and the early chapters of Genesis are symbolic stories in the genre of other ancient Near Eastern literature. They convey important and inspired theological truths about God and humanity, but they are not historical in the sense people today use the word.

Other Christian leaders (such as Billy Graham and Tim Keller) are open to models that see evolution as compatible with Adam and Eve as real historical people. In one version, John Stott suggests that God entered into a special relationship with a pair of ancient representatives of humanity about 200,000 years ago in Africa. Genesis retells this historical event using cultural terms that the Hebrews in the ancient Near East could understand.

In another version (defended by Denis Alexander) Adam and Eve are recent representatives, living perhaps 6000 years ago in the ancient Near East rather than Africa. By this time humans had already dispersed throughout the earth. God then revealed himself specially to a pair of farmers we know as Adam and Eve—real people whom God chose as spiritual “recent representatives” for all humanity.

While the de novo creation of Adam and Eve is not compatible with what scientists have found in God’s creation, the other views outlined here are consistent with both sound biblical interpretation and current scientific evidence. Of course there is further theological work to be done on this and other important doctrines such as original sin. BioLogos is actively promoting dialogue and scholarship on this issue. While Christians may disagree about how and when God created the first humans, we can all agree that God made humanity in his image, all people have sinned, and that salvation is found in Christ alone.