Like Joshua’s version of the GA model (and unlike John Collins) I see Gen 1 as sequential with Gen 2, not as a recapitulation. I won’t develop why here, except to say that it renders the population outside the garden (in my model), wherever they may be scattered across the world and from the very start of humanity (whatever that is!), as “created in the image and likeness of God.”
The forming of Adam the individual, then, would not be a matter of “acquiring the image”, but of a vocation to a new role. Believe it or not there’s a passage in Irenaeus distinguishing the commission of ch 1 from the call of ch2.
Let’s leave Adam in the garden for the moment and consider the nature of those outside, and before. I actually agree with your Aristotelian concept of a change of form, and that’s partly from my esoteric view of evolution, but partly because the formation of mankind is specifically said to be an act of creation, and moreover, of creation in the divine image and likeness. So whatever it takes to be a man in the image of Christ, that is what Gen 1 refers to, and that is the nature of the human population around the world.
How that relates to evolution I’m happy to leave unsaid, because in my view Gen 1 is intended to teach that God made the world as it is (or at least, as it was when the story starts) as his temple, so any complications of evolution or hybridization are beyond its chronological view. But it allows men to be intelligent, technologically and artistically savvy, and in even, perhaps, culturally civilised - “Non-adamic” mankind is not bestial.
Hence they are separated from the animals both by their creational endowments, and by the creational commission of God to “rule and subdue.” And they’re separated from Adam by his special calling to initiate a new creation, of which more anon.
Those outside I see as responding by nature to God, but worshipping him “from afar off” by the very nature of the first, earthly and psuchikos creation itself, in which God is shown as elevated above the heavens, in the “cosmic holy of holies”. They have no sin because they have no law, but they are creatures of the earth. However, I’d quibble about their “awareness of the presence of God” because Gen 1 represents God as above, not as present: they are in the “outer court” of the land, not in the “holy place of heaven.”
And therein they differ from Adam, who is formed outside the garden and then placed into it, called to a new special and intimate relationship in a special sacred space on earth, “Paradise”, in which the barriers between God and man are dissolved. There he is to learn to know God’s wisdom through obedience, and (as per Ps 8, interpreted in Heb 2) to come to reign, under God, over all things, even gaining eternal life. The assumption is that he will, as it were, expand the borders of the garden through his offspring and service (as per Richard Middleton), thus progressively bringing about a new creation in which God’s glory fills all things. In other words, like Abraham and Israel he is called from humanity in order to return God’s new-creation blessing to humanity.
Two asides here: first to note that this idea of Adam as the (failing) agent of God’s new creation is not at all unique to me. It finds an exhaustive expression in Greg Beale’s New Testament Biblical Theology, and in Tom Wright, John Walton, John Sailhamer and many others.
Second aside is a further response to @ cwhenderson on Genesis imagery. The tree of life, as I replied to him before, surely represents the same eternal life of God we receive in Christ. But I hesitate to call it merely a literary device, for after all even in these last days we receive the life of Christ representationally through the physical act of partaking of the Eucharist. So the tree is no more “primitive” than the communion, and who knows if a real tree might have represented that life in the garden?
So in one way I’d be a lot more positive than Maximus the Confessor (but then he, like Irenaeus, was not at all considering the issue of mankind in deep evolutionary time). On the other hand, I’d regard “mankind outside the garden” as the pinnacle of the “very good” old creation (that we now know had prospered, without sin, for billions of years), but I’d regard Adam as the first, and in the event abortive, hint of the new creation that is the metanarrative of the whole Bible from then on.
I’d deal with Acts 17:26 just as you do, except for distinguishing that “one blood” from the “one man” in Romans 5 by whom sin came into the world.
We agree on the progression of evil as a, or the, major theme of Gen 1-11, but I see it is as the result of the the “one act of disobedience” Paul speaks of in Romans 5. “one man” and “one act” to me throws a spanner in the worlds of a corporate fall.