What if Adam was just a character in an Ancient Creation Story?


(Jon Garvey) #41

I was thinking about this after I replied to you - “allegorical” is really quite a specific word, where some fictional thing or person “stands for” a more generalised thing, and is often called by its name. So in the Bible, “Dame Wisdom” is like that.

As you say, “Myth” can’t really escape the aura of “fiction” it has acquired.

Maybe the least loaded term is “metaphor.” I like that because it is more what language always is in any case, and the Bible author is just doing it is a slightly different way to us. That leaves it open to discuss what he’s actually trying to say.

Edit: I should add John Walton’s concept of “archetype.” In this some individual person or event “stands for” its successors. And so he distinguishes by word studies where “adam” in the account means “mankind”, where it means “this particular man” and where it means “this man paradigmatic of all men.”

When I corresponded with him (before he published the “Lost World of Adam and Eve”) book he stressed that ANE archetypes usually existed, or were believed to have existed. Hence the earlier discussion in this old thread (I think) that the Wright Brothers were archetype flyers in that ANE sense, whereas Phileas Fogg is not.

(Jon Garvey) #42

That combination of words is Gordon Wenham’s preference (though I think he uses something like “mytho-historical”

(Guy Coe) #43

A lot of this depends upon first principles. Since I have in mind the idea that God wants us to do good, careful history, then to examine it carefully for what it means for us today, I’m “comfortable” with the idea of real events functioning in a manner that also permits a searching for applicative allegorical meaning as well, without destroying the reality of the historical core. Our discussion on how Adam’s story functions as an “archetype” comes to mind, without thereby denying he was real, without which, for some, he is rendered only an imaginative fiction, rather than a real person, the consequences of whose actions (and my own) I need to be saved from, being, as I am, too much like him.
That’s the uncomfortable ramification we’d all prefer to avoid… we all have a dog in this fight, but only God’s truth will win out.
We need to be saved from the kind of God-denying, “I can do just fine on my own” kind of thinking that goes along with these inquiries.
What a tragedy, for us as individuals, to be “created in God’s image and likeness,” only to turn around and deny He exists!
In doing so, we betray our own identity and raison de’etere!
Your thoughts on this, @jongarvey , @AJRoberts ?

(Guy Coe) #44

“I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving.And it will please the Lord better than an ox Or a young bull with horns and hoofs.The humble have seen it and are glad; You who seek God, let your heart revive.For the Lord hears the needy And does not despise His who are prisoners.” - Psalm 69:30-33 NASB

(Guy Coe) #45

The New Testament abounds with such examples of an historical core being combined with applicative later meanings, for example.
“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” - Romans 6:5-15 NASB


Just skimming through here, hopefully I can say more later.

  1. I don’t reject the idea that Genesis 2-3 is referring to an event, I would just extend how broadly it’s referring to an event.

  2. I would classify the historical-critical meaning of Genesis 1-11 as myth.

  3. I would classify God’s intent or the Christological meaning if Genesis 1-11 as allegory. This was probably not the historical-critical meaning or authorial intent at all.

  4. “There are sumerian king lists with names listed” isn’t evidence for the real existence of these people. Most secular scholars of myth, as far as I am aware, believe those are legends to be LINKED to more concrete history.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #47

@Mark now you are starting to sound like you affirm a historical Adam.


Haha. I don’t see any reason “the fall” event couldn’t have been the first “human” community, made of several thousand individuals. I feel like in some way, the evolutionary gap between human and non-human would have to be fairly distinct in order to maintain the unity of the human race.

I think Adam probably didn’t exist. If he did, the explanations of Adam on @Alice_Linsley’s site would be the closest to how I would see that work.

(Blake Reas) #49

I guess it wouldn’t affect me much. I hold to a rather idiosyncratic view of the Garden. I think it was a real place, but as many Rabbis and some Christian interpreters have noted the idea in the east can mean “aforetime” and it seems the Garden was a rather supernatural place. I take it that the Garden may have been a testing place for the first human beings, when they failed they where cast into a world “in media res” so to speak. The philosopher Hud Hudson has fleshed these views out in his book “The Fall and Hyper-time”. So, the short of it is, I find the arguments for and against interesting but at the end of the day I think the issue may be irresolvable. That drives YECs crazy.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #50

That is a wild swing. Either he didn’t exist, or he did exist in the recent past, attested in archaeological and scriptural evidence. Sounds quite a bit like a Genealogical Adam.


Call me an Adam agnostic then. :slight_smile:

(Kenneth Turner) #52

Tremper Longman likes the label “theological history” (I think he and Walton settle on this in The Lost World of the Flood). It still is in need of explanation, but may avoid the hurdles of “myth.”


I like Longman’s view, which he lays out a bit in his Genesis commentary. I think he still believes in an historical Adam though?

(Kenneth Turner) #54

He’s technically non-committal, but leans towards “no.” He mentioned a couple weeks ago (at ETS) that now he’s retired he’s free to say more about some things. He’s working on a book that includes interaction with evolution.


Sounds a lot like myself. Do you know if he thinks Noah was a real person? I feel like the two sort of go together. Would reading his book with Walton on the flood be useful? Their use of he term “hyperbolic” seems far too tame to describe the historical character if Genesis 1-11 to me, but maybe it’s useful?


@deuteroKJ That’s so interesting regarding his retirement. I felt like his throwaway comment “Adam could have been a hominid” in his Genesis commentary seemed kind of unnecessary.


I think the toughest verse for me to deal with for the “no Adam” position is honestly Acts 17:26. I think Enns has explained the Romans and Corinthians passages fairly well.

Paul/Luke’s comment in Acts is harder to deal with because in some ways, it seems like an argument is being made for the unity of the human race to non-Jews BASED on the existence of Adam. I have my ideas on how this passage might work with no Adam, but it’s tough.

(Kenneth Turner) #58

I’ve never heard/read anything from Longman that discounts a historical figure for Noah. IMO the book wasn’t the best of the Lost World series…but still has some good things in it.


Interesting. I wonder where he thinks the real figures begin and the mythical ones end. The standard place is usually Abraham.

(Kenneth Turner) #60

The difference between Enns and Longman is that Enns is fine with saying Paul believed in an historical Adam, but he was wrong; but Longman only seems comfortable with Adam as non-historical if Paul also held this view. I don’t know if this relates to the assessment of an historical Noah, but if so, it might be harder to explain away an historical Noah given his appearance in several (8) NT texts…and a few OT texts that seem to treat him as historical (beyond Genesis). I don’t know of a similar study that has pursued this issue like that of Adam.