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



It seems like Longman, Middleton and PROBABLY Joel B. Green are the first actual evangelicals relatively comfortable with a no Adam position. McKnight’s insistence that the literary Adam is neither real nor fake nor mythical nor fictional, etc. made it impossible to know what he actually thinks. Haha. Very frustrating.

We’ll see where Dr. Craig comes down. I guess Lamoureaux could be considered evangelical too. I feel like Enns is just mainline now though. These other guys wouldn’t be proud to have endorsements from McLaren, Held Evans, etc. like Enns. As far I know.


I’m fine with Paul being wrong as long as it wasn’t on a point CRUCIAL to his theology or proclamation of the gospel. That’s why I find Acts 17:26 difficult.

(Kenneth Turner) #63

McKnight loves Rachel Held Evans (I know Rachel…we lived in the same town and I worked with her dad and even husband for a bit). I’m pretty sue McKnight is a no-Adam guy. I have no doubt Craig will settle on historical Adam…just hoping he ends up open to the GA model in his research (I have my doubts). Lamoureaux has no problem with the label “evangelical.” Has Middleton stated so bluntly that he’s a no-Adam guy?


Middleton, no. The model that he gives doesn’t really talk much about it though. He says, “maybe Cain helps explain the existence of other humans…but maybe I’m being too concordist.” Paraphrase. So I dunno. He would probably be agnostic. My guess is this question isn’t as controversial in Evangelical Canada so he probably doesn’t feel like he needs to come down hard one way or the other. I guess that’s how I feel in Eastern Orthodoxy too. The doctrinal statement for Orthodox seminaries is the nicene creed, the seven ecumenical councils, and being a baptized communicant, haha, not some democratically drafted statement from the last 100 yrs.


Craig might surprise all of us! I’m very curious what will come of this. Whatever it is, I’ll definitely read it. Fortunately, he’ll be getting to “the doctrine of man” in hopefully less than a yr in his defenders class so we’ll be able to hear a lot about what he thinks then. Goodnight forum.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #66

@deuteroKJ, he just signed up for the Workshop. We might have two dates though. Not sure if you’ll be in the same one.

(Jon Garvey) #67

Do you not think that raises more problems than a historical Adam and Eve? There is no evidence that there ever was “a first human community.” If there was, what was it and how did it form out of the humanoid populations spread across the globe for the past hundreds of thousands of years, interbreeding and apparently evolving in a messy way?

Did God call thic community together and make it human? If so, it’s just a corporate Adam. Was it a gathering of small Mesolithic or Neolithic family groups, and if so how did they come together into a community of several thousands, with all the logistical problems that suggests in a pre-civilzed age?

What kind of relationship did God have with it, and how did it go wrong?

Or was it in fact a scattered population of hunter-gathers - in which case, understanding any kind of new relationship with God, or a universal decline from it, is even more difficult to conceive.

(Jon Garvey) #68

One more interesting strand. If the Fall narrative is mythical, what is it mythical about?

I’ve just fortuitously come across a piece I wrote long ago based on N T Wright’s discussion on Romans 8.

In it, I dispute the likelihood that the doctrine of original sin only came into being in Judaism with the writing of 4 Esdras, after the fall of the Temple in 70AD, which Wright suggests was as climactic a motive for the Jews as the death of Christ was for Paul.

Nevertheless, despite my arguments, the fact remains that Wright is correct to say that 4 Esdras is the first recorded Jewish statement of the doctrine. So if Genesis 2-3 were an aetiological myth about evil in the world, the point seems to have escaped many, or most, Jews.

The alternative, I suppose, is that it is only intended as an aetiological myth to explain human death, a fact which hardly seems to require explanation.

Personally, I go with what Wright said elsewhere, that at the first fall of Jerusalem under the Babylonians, the Jews saw the parallels with their own situation. But if they didn’t (as at least appears to be the case) draw the conclusion that their experience was the result of Adam’s sin continuing in the world, then the Genesis account still wasn’t being taken as being about the mythological or even allegorical origin of either sin or death, but just a parallel set of earlier circumstances.

So which is more likely: that a divininely inspired account of events would not be fully understood by the Jews; or that a story with no particular reference to universals should become interpreted, in the New Testament, as the source of human evil?


Jon Garvey, these are excellent questions.

Let me try to give some basic responses.

  1. Around 200,000 years ago, were homo sapien sapiens scattered across the globe? What is the read on this? I know by 10,000 years ago they are. I very tentatively see the upper paleolithic as the point in which “the image of God” is manifest. But maybe it was 200,000 years ago, 100,000 yrs ago, OR at some other earlier point in human evolution. I would just disagree with Lamoureux by saying that this evolutionary transition is not one of degree but of kind, or form, or logos. Think of Denton/Owen’s forms. Perhaps interbreeding doesn’t destroy this “form.”

  2. Doesn’t your model still have to account for what separates us from animals? I don’t understand how the GA makes that any easier. Was the image of God manifest in the neolithic? Then what about the status of all who came before him? Was there a “fall” before Adam’s fall?

  3. I don’t think the author of Genesis 2-3 knew he was speaking about an evolutionary event 200,000 years ago. He, or God, was simply saying, wherever and whenever human beings arose, we blew it from the beginning, and this is is how sin worked its way into humanity. That is what I see Genesis 1-11 about. As a whole, Genesis 1-11 refers to the event of the fall. Have you read Collins piece on this? I follow his model more than anyone elses, though I also take a bit from Lewis. Also, I’m wondering if Denton’s suggested saltationary transition in human evolution, for example, he and Chomsky’s suggestion of a saltational event regarding the beginning of language might also be the beginning point of “humanity.”

Based on my understanding of God and theological anthropology, I would agree with Robin Collins that the spiritual state of these first humans would be one of a clear awareness of God’s presence, but I borrow from Maximus and say that humanity sinned “together with its coming into being,” so we didn’t stay in this spiritual state long! And then just as Genesis 4-11 shows, sin increased to the point where every desire of humanity’s heart was evil. Collins also links this “fall” to Romans 1. Interestingly, Maximus does something very similar!

And I have no problem with a “corporate Adam.” That’s how I deal with Acts 17:26. If God made all nations of men from one “humanity,” Paul’s main point could still make sense, I think.

What do you think @jongarvey?


From Middleton, with whom I would agree:

"Rather than an immediate change in human nature, the narrative of Genesis portrays a process by which humans come more and more under the sway of sin. After Cain’s murder, we find Lamech’s revenge killing of a young man who injured him, a killing that he boasts about to his wives (Gen. 4:23). Yet even here the growth of sin is intertwined with positive cultural innovation, such as the building of cities, the invention of new forms of livestock tending, musical instruments, and metal tools (Gen. 4:17, 20–22). But sin continues to infect the human race, until every “inclination of the thoughts of [the human heart] was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5), and the earth was destroyed or ruined (shachat) by the violence with which humans had filled it (Gen. 6:11).

Here we finally have something as pervasive as “original sin” in the later theological sense of the term—that is, a situation of communal and systemic evil we are all born into (but this is a historical progression and not a genetic inheritance). Such a developmental and communal view of sin as narrated in Genesis is true to human experience and is quite compatible with the evolution of religious and moral consciousness among Homo sapiens.

“…It is therefore plausible to think that the rise of moral consciousness was a decisive development among anatomically modern Homo sapiens, which resulted from a developing awareness of God’s call to a certain (moral) form of life.[5] It is also plausible to think that it was not long before these humans began to go against the new revelations of conscience, and thus sin was introduced into the world (and both moral consciousness and sinful resistance then spread to all Homo sapiens). While this may not be the Fall as a punctiliar event perpetrated by an original couple, it would still be a temporal event (and thus a historical Fall), which took place among early humans. This is a faithful interpretation of Scripture, and fully consistent with evolutionary science.”

Middleton is averse to anything beyond authorial intent however, and doesn’t like Paul Ricoeur’s interpretation of the fall. I LOVE what Ricoeur does.


The difference between me and Middleton/Collins is I would try to safeguard the distinctness and unity of the human race by saying that the image of God was manifest in some sort of punctiliar event. This is where I would borrow from Lewis, or Sergius Bulgakov. I think this could either be done through emergence aka Denton or through God’s bestowing a spirit on humanity aka Lewis.

(Jon Garvey) #72


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.

(Jon Garvey) #73

I’ve discussed with Richard at length where we (largely) agree and where we differ in our models, but one of the disagreements would be here. I don’t see that disobedience to a specific command of Yahweh not to eat the fruit (or even not to seek wisdom/the knowledge of good and evil apart from him) is the same thing as a call to “a cetain (moral) form of life.”

Well, we agree on this punctilinear event, and I appear more inclined to see the fall too as a punctilinear (ie historical) event. And probably for much the same reasons - creation in God’s image, life and death, righteousness and sin - these are very difficult to conceive in “fuzzy” terms.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #74

200,000 years ago Homo Sapien sapiens were confirmed to be in East Africa and North Africa and confirmed to be in present day Israel and present day Saudi Arabia. At the same time there was an archaic Hominid lets call them Homo Erectus which is confirmed to be over all Africa and Eurasia as far as Siberia and China. Plus Neanderthals over Eurasia and Denisovans in Asia from about a half million years ago to 45,000 years. At 200,000 years ago, it seems like the language, culture, and stone making technology of all human species were similar. Nothing in the archaeological or genomic records preclude Neanderthals and Denosivans (and remaining archaic hominids) from being assimilated through admixing into the greater numbers of Homo Sapiens sapiens Eurasian populations that live from 45,000 years ago until now. Meanwhile in Africa, the amount of our species genomic diversity in Afrcia, clearly shows that the entire continent had a huge population of Homo Sapiens sapiens for over 200,000 years.

(Neil Rickert) #75

I always took it as attempting to explain why humans are different from other animals. That is to say, I took it to be about human exceptionalism.

(Jon Garvey) #76

Neil - I don’t think that really works, except at the superficial level that clearly man is pictured in Gen 1 as the last piece in creation’s jigsaw, with an exceptional role.

That difference wouldn’t seem worth writing about in ANE terms, because nobody confused people with beasts. Where Gen 1 differs from the other ANE stories (particularly its closest parallel Atrahasis) is that it makes man a vice-regent for whom God provides food, whereas in Atrahasis (and elsewhere) man is created to do the labour thats too irksone for the gods, and to feed them. So that’s certainly exceptionalism, but not really differentiating men out from beasts so much as from the whole creation.

Gen 2-3 seems a bit different: for a start it’s not properly a creation story, but a commissioning story. Sure, the beasts are brought to Adam, apparently to find a suitable helper, and he names them (which is a token of rule), but the thrust of the story is appointment, command, disobedience and exile.

The serpent is a little ambiguous: at one level he’s one of the beasts who ought to be subordinate to Adam, but ends up having his word taken above God’s.

Alternatively, or additionally, Mike Heiser may be right and the serpent is a divine being - in which case his nose is out of joint because Adam has been promoted over his head, as it were. That kind of understanding seems to play out more in the rest of the Bible, and has little to do with human exceptionalism but angelic corruption and deceit.

The overall role given to mankind vis avis the beasts is stewardship on God’s behalf - it’s pretty much agreed that the human domination that Francis Bacon’s generation picked on had more to do with Renaissance Promethean anthropocentricsm than what the Bible was teaching.

(Ashwin S) #77

The interesting thing is that if we view Jesus as the image of God in its fullness, then no human being (including Adam) ever bore the image in its fullness.

Also there is a fundamental difference between the state of holiness that Jesus has vis a vis the state of innocence that Adam had. Holiness/being set apart is more about an absolute commitment to God above all other things. Something like what Jesus demonstrated on earth through his absolute obedience to the father.
Whereas, the fall is evidence that Adam did not have anything close to that kind of commitment towards God. The innocence of Adam was just the innocence of never being tested, and his fall is the assertion of his freedom,ambition and independence from God.

In a very real sense, the image of God is being formed in human beings even now… and the work will be completed in the bride of Christ when He returns.
It’s possible to view the image of God as a work in progress awaiting it’s ultimate realisation in and through Jesus.
So in Acts 17, what unites all humans everywhere is the purpose of God that they seek him and somehow find him… in finding him, human beings would then embark on the journey that Adam fell from.


@T.j_Runyon, @AJRoberts,

There has to have been a point where homo sapien sapiens were all in the same location, right? Otherwise, we would have fascinating cases of convergence on our hands!! So when is that supposed to have been? I’m referring to @Patrick’s post on this above.

(Jon Garvey) #79

Yes - in the light of Christ the concept of human creation “after the image of the image” is an important one that binds the Scriptural narrative together. Philip Edgcumbe Hughes explores that in The True Image.

As far as Adam is concerned, there is a parallel to the way that Jesus, the “second” or “last” Adam is said to have “learned obedience through suffering.” The idea seems to be that, unlike Adam, he responded obediently to testing, and so became humanly worthy to gain all that was originally meant for Adam and his offspring.

Cue Romans 5. But the background to that only really makes sense in the light of the task having first given to another, ie Adam. Great theological depths to plumb there.

(Ashwin S) #80

I agree here… This is why a literal Adam is so important.
Ultimately, the image of God is not about intelligence, creativity etc alone… if it was, Satan and the angels would bear the image of God.

In Jesus we can see the truth of the image of God revealed in a relationship/kinship with God. The image bearer can and does represent God as Jesus Represented the father.
I can’t see the image of God in human beings including Adam as anything other than a work in progress… of what can be… rather than what actually is.