Which Scenarios of Adam Will be Helpful?


I think the “sense” it makes is that it fits both categories of information that we have.

There are lots of things about Christianity that I would say challenge the average mind.

But we have the information corroborating a very old Earth.

We have the information corroborating the Evolution of the primate category of life.

And we have the Bible.

The @swamidass scenario(s) fit all three.

That’s quite an accomplishment!


Hi @gbrooks9,

Thank you for your post. Having read @swamidass’s explanation above, where he states that the other humans around in the time of Adam were also made in the image of God, I am now happy to concede that the theological objection I raised earlier, which you quoted in the preceding post, is moot. @swamidass does not maintain that Adam and Eve interbred with hominins who were not made in the image and likeness of God.

It remains to be seen how the Catholic Church will respond to @swamidass’s proposed scenario, and I should sound a note of warning: proposals involving human beings living before Adam, as advocated by pre-Adamites, have been condemned by the Catholic Church in the past. Still, if Joshua feels that the hypothesis he is advocating is different in kind from previous proposals, then he deserves a fair hearing. Cheers.



Thank you very much for that paper on the evolution of the human brain. I had forgotten about it.


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Still planning on responding to your earlier post, but this deserved a response first.

I agree that we do not know for sure how they will respond. I will be curious to see.

However, this is not a pre-Adamite proposal, as has been condemned by the Catholic Church. In the past every pre-Adamite proposal was also a polygenesis proposal that denied the unity of all mankind. For this reason, I do not consider it a pre-Adamite proposal. This is not what it is. Likewise, Kemp’s proposal is not a pre-Adamite proposal, because it is not a polygenesis proposal. A few of the key differences:

  1. Pre-Adamite proposals deny that we all descend from Adam right now, while a Genealogical Adam asserts the opposite, that we do all descend from him.

  2. Pre-Adamite proposals teach that Adam was biologically better than others around him, while a Genealogical Adam affirms monophylogeny, affirming alongside modern science and theology that we are the same biological type.

  3. Pre-Adamite proposals teach that Adam was theologically better than others around him, while a Genealogical Adam teaches (at least in some proposals) that he was the first one Fallen; it would be better not to be in his line.

  4. Pre-Adamite proposals necessarily deny sole-progenitorship and monogenesis, while Genealogical Adam affirms theological sole-progenitorship and monogenesis by way of genealogical descent from Adam.

  5. Pre-Adamite proposals usually (if not always) presume that Adam is the first person with the Image of God, and that those before and alongside Adam are not in God’s image, while a Genealogical Adam (at least as I personally put forward) emphasizes that those outside the garden are in God’s image too.

With this in mind, we can see that Kemp’s proposal is just an adjustment of the polygenesis model. He takes (alongside the pre-Adamite models), #2, #3, #5. Kemp does not make a distinction between genetic and genealogical ancestry (most likely conflating the two), so his notion of descent is genetic.

So, it should be clear that we are talking about a very different proposal with a Genealogical Adam. It is neither polygenesis or a Kemp proposal. I should also add that I am encouraging multiple ways to work this out.

Here are some modifications that could be interesting to consider. Here is just one. The origin of the Image of God in an ancient sole-genetic progenitorship 2 mya (as @agauger suggests) but a couple that is not the Adam and Eve of Scripture, followed by a recent Genealogical Adam 10 kya who falls, and is the Adam and Eve of scripture. It is not clear, for example, how this could conflict with Catholic theology.

All this is to say that I agree we should take a stand against polygenesis, and for the unity of mankind. That, I think, is what is interesting about a Genealogical Adam. It actually strongly scientifically and theologically disputes polygenesis, and affirms the unity of mankind. It just does it in a way that is different than biological monogenesis or genetic sole-progenitorship.

And that is a key reason why I do not use the terms “pre-Adamites” or “non-Adamites”. Instead, I would say that we are talking of “those outside the garden” who are the same biological type as Adam, and (in this sense) Adamites too. I also go to lengths to emphasize that they are not less human or sub human or not fully human. Rather, they are human in a different way than us, and in a way that does not exist any more. We can just as easily say that Jesus is human in a different way than us, even though he is fully human.

I’d point out again that “human” is a loaded term, and we do not have to designate these people out side the garden as the “humans” to whom theology refers. So there still may not be “humans” before Adam (in a theological sense).

And I do believe this is substantially different. I think it solves the key problems of polygenesis in a better way, preserving much more of traditional doctrine in a manner consistent with science.

Curious your thoughts @vjtorley.

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And I will agree as well.

When I use the term “pre-Adamite” it is purely to provide a frame of reference, and something for YECs to research on their own. No doubt, the great majority of YECs will be surprised to learn that there was ever any discussion of a population of humans separate from the descendants of Adam & Eve!


This is a fine summary of the limits of Pre-Adamite proposals of the past!

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Likewise to you. And I’ll try to respond to the points you’ve put out here.

I do not think this needs to force a rethink. There always be dispute about the precise dating and nomenclature of specific chronological sub-species. Whether or not the common ancestors was Heidelbergensis is really beside the point. There was a common ancestor of Neandertals, Sapiens and Denisovans at about 700 kya that could very well have been sole-genetic progenitor without conflicting with evidence.

There will be debate about the precise taxonomy, nomenclature, and timing of this group, However, that is all beside the point for you. You can suppose that they exist.

That is another view you could take. However, that means that there two distinct species that were both “human” at the same time, and even became “human” at different times. How do you make sense of that?

I think it is hard to argue for the existence of beings with a mental life like our own prior to 20 years ago, with the rise of the internet. Prior to 400 years ago, with the rise of printing press and science. Prior to 6,000 years ago (or so) with the rise of written language. Prior to about 12,000 years ago with the rise of agriculture.

It seems to me that our mental life would be totally unrecognizable to a Homo sapien living 20,000 years ago.

The rise of civilization, with (1) agriculture, (2) cities, (3) warfare, (4) written language, (5) societies larger than 30 people, (6) the domestication revolution, and just about everything else. It is important to note, also, our biological capacity for entering into civilization preexists by at least 50 thousand years the rise of civilization. By the time civilization arises, everyone alive already has the capacity to enter into it.

So this cognitive breakthrough is much more like a new discovery, a new knowledge, than it is like a new biological ability. Looking at the fall, too, Adam is not special because of his abilities, but because he takes from the Tree of Knowledge. Perhaps it makes sense to look at him as the rise of a particular type of knowledge, rather than a particular type of intrinsic capacity.

Yes, however, their offspring would most likely have to have interbred with others too. So they would not be our sole-genetic progenitors. They could be our sole-genealogical progenitors.

I think there are some questionable equivocations that are being made here. We should separate them out, pointing out that different models might handle them as distinct concepts. The problems are you are raising are only problems because you are collapsing them (as many others have) into a single idea:

  1. The Image of God.
  2. Rationality or reason.
  3. Human dignity
  4. Human rights
  5. An Immortal Soul

It is dangerous to conflate these things together as if they are the same thing. For example, an embryo and a profoundly mentally disabled person does not have human-like reason, but I believe they equally bear God’s Image as all of us, and deserve dignity and rights as we all do. Linking rationality to God’s Image, dignity, and rights ultimately undermines the key things that concern you (and most of us).

So, handling them separately, we can answer your question in one way. There are other approaches too.

The nature of the “immortal soul” is mysterious. However, I would say both these things (soul and rights) are granted by God. So they are given to us when God decrees it, which I would say would correspond to some discrete point in origins, even if human cognition develops over a period of time. Depending on what we mean by the “Image of God”, perhaps that is the point at which this happens.

One approach that makes sense to me is to say that our value derives from the fact that God finds special value in us. Because he values us, he can bring us back from death and keep us immortal (which how we mean we have an our immortal soul), and why we have rights to life (because someone greater than us finds value in our life). In this relational account of the soul and rights, the point in our origin where God decides to value us this way might actually be what the Image of God is (in at least some senses).

When does this arise? I’m not sure it is possible to figure that out from archeology. We just do not know, thought we know it happened at some point. As for rationality, perhaps there were some key leaps or not. That is really beside the point. We have the capacity now, and it might be a pre-condition for the Image of God, but it is not to be conflated with the Image of God itself.

Separating these things, I feel, gives a much more robust and stronger affirmation of human rights and dignity. It makes sense that universal rights, dignity, and immortal souls can arise suddenly in our origins; it is a relational act of God, not a biological process. Then we can take what ever model of cognitive origins makes most sense, sudden or gradual or (most likely) a combination of both.

I appreciate the exchange too. I think this does give some ways forward. I am not, however, a philosopher or a theologian. So it is helpful to work this out with others with different training.

If it helps, when thinking in terms of our present-day relation to Adam, we are "infra-Adamic " while in relation to us, Adam is “supra present day humanity.”
Those humans created before Adam, in Genesis 1:26-27 ff., are “imago Dei” humans, and they were around for a significantly long time, before the Adam story even begins in Genesis 2:5 ff. You might even have reason to refer to Adam as the first “post imago Dei human,” upon his fall, because he betrayed God’s calling on his own identity. All of this betrayal happened AFTER the beginning of the seventh day of creation. And now, through outcompetition, warfare, or interbreeding, all who remain are genealogical descendants of that fallen couple.

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I do emphasize that there are other approaches too. There is no reason, however, to believe that there needs to be a single origin of the Image of God, rationality, a soul, dignity or rights. God can bestow these things to a whole population at once if he wants. It is only the notion of “original sin” and a Fall that seem to require (for some) a historical single man Adam.

If you do not like the approach I took, it should be fairly easy to make a model that does work for you @vjtorley.

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This is close to how Calvin and Luther might have put it, as I understand it. In some early interpretations, the Image of God meant being a heavenly being, and being expelled from the Garden left us without access to heaven, and therefore without the Image of God.


^^^^^^^ Yes, that. That is on the right track. Look at all these scriptures which explicitly say Christ is the image of God…

Colossians 1:15 says that Christ is the image of God, and further that as far as we are concerned God has no other image than Christ. It says of Him, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”. That Christ is God’s image is confirmed in 2nd Corinthians 4:4 which says of Christ “Who is the image of God.” Hebrews 1:3 says that Christ is the “exact representation” of God’s being or nature- in other words, an image.

Christ is the image of God, and God has no other image that is accessible to anyone but Himself. That is why when Thomas asked to see the Father, Jesus said “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” That is why 1st Timothy 6:16 describes Christ in the full glory of God with these words: “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see". It is why the first chapter of the Gospel of John says “18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Some translations say “He has explained Him” for that last phrase. Further, in chapter six that gospel declares “46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.”

One must take the scripture (Genesis 9:6) which says that “God made man in His own image” in light of this larger picture. He did, but that does not mean that men currently born into the world are in the image of God. It is what is in heaven where His will is done and what can happen on earth when God’s intent is fulfilled in our lives.

When we are born in this world, we are not born in the “image” of God. All men are born in the likeness of God, but not the image. We have an earthly image. This is why it is written (John 3:7) “you must be born again.” If you were born in the image of God the first time, you would not need to be born again a second time. When we are born again, we have a heavenly image, and through faith and the renewal of our minds by the Holy Spirit we become conformed to that new image which we have. Here are some scriptures which support this declaration, starting in Romans chapter eight:
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
And further in Colossians the third chapter…
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
And then from 1st Corinthians the fifteenth chapter:
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such as they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such as they also that are heavenly 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
And also in 2nd Corinthians the third chapter:
“18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

From these four passages, and from others besides, it should be clear that man is not automatically born “in the image of God”. All men are made “according to the likeness” of God, but this is not the same thing as being created “in the image” of God. Only those in relationship with Him are in His image. Hitler was not created “in His image”, nor was Jack the Ripper, or any other number of notorious monsters in human form. They were according to the likeness of God in the sense that they had the potential for connectedness and moral awareness. They used that god-like capacity to ungodly ends.

We are not made in His image when we are born. An image is an exact representation. We are according to His likeness, but our natural image is more similar to that of Adam after the fall. We who believe are being conformed to God’s image by the renewal of the Holy Spirit. This is what the scripture teaches.

To that you may say “Aha but Adam was made in the image of God.” Well, he started that way. Then the fall happened. By the end of things not even Adam considered himself to be in the image of God, only the likeness. See Genesis 5:1 which is the towledah for “the generations” or account of Adam. He says that God made man “after the likeness” of God, but never mentions “image”.

When we are born again, and Christ said we must be born again, we are re-born in His image. As we walk with Him in faith we are conformed to that new image which He has given us. This is a view consistent with Romans 8:29 and the rest of these verses.

I wish some theologians would take a look at this. The scriptural evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that Christ in the heavens is the Image of God and without fellowship in Him we cannot be conformed to that image.

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This does make a lot of sense, but it is a bit more complex from a sociological point of view.

This view is going to be hard to put forward in our cultural context. Right now, most people view the Image of God as did Martin Luther King Jr, as a foundation for universal rights and dignity. For that reason, suggesting that we do not all bear the Image of God raises very strong emotional opposition.

If one wants to change that view, it will require articulating a stronger and more coherent understanding of universal rights and dignity than MLK. This, at the moment, seems to heavy of a lift.

Indeed. I find that most Americans are belligerently opposed to the very idea that they can learn anything new about the bible. At least not something so fundamental as that. The things is though, those scriptures say what they say. And they don’t say what Dr. King and most pulpits today say that they say.

Like with natural science, I don’t view matters of truth or fact as being decided by a majority vote. Going out and looking at what either nature or the scriptures are saying is a lot better way to discover the facts about it than asking a bunch of people who also are not looking. Or just looking at what their religious organization says they say rather than going directly to them and seeing what they actually say. The other Martin Luther, the one for whom Dr. King’s father was named, would approve I think.

I mean it may be harder to get people to accept this in the short term, but in the long term I don’t think we can get through the sorts of questions we have been tying ourselves in knots about here without getting this one right- by the scriptures. So trying to skip this part because its too much trouble is going to wind up being even more trouble when formulating coherent ideas on the issues we are discussing here. And not only is this view scriptural, it makes a lot more sense. Hitler wasn’t in the image of God and trying to make that an intrinsic characteristic of being human rather than only the capacity to be so intrinsic solves so many problems, including ones we may not have faced yet, that its worth the trouble IMHO.

And bear in mind that for some this capacity is realized, and that in the timeless realm of heaven where God sees the end from the beginning it IS present reality. Here it is still unrealized potential, waiting for relationship with God which conforms us to the Image. So it is more complicated, but the basis for human rights coming from God is still there. It is based on what we can be by our very nature, even if we are not there yet.

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Just commenting from my point of view on the discussion arising from this post of yours, with a reiteration of something I said earlier.

Adam is important to redemptive history because he trangressed a command of God. But he is important on a greater scale because he was given a command by God, in a way that no other human before had.

Our models need to encompass what the Garden was intended to achieve for and through the human race created in his image, as well as what happened when Adam failed.

Adam was called from that race (whatever we conceive about their intellectual, moral or spiritual capacities) in order to be the forerunner in a new phase of creation involving covenant intimacy with God and, it would seem, an “absurdly” elevated role over God’s whole creation, including the angelic order. That role does not constitute “the image”, though it does embody what the image entailed, just as Abraham’s individual role was as forerunner of redeemed mankind.

The image was the basis and form of mankind’s creation, so could not be lost without mankind ceasing to be human. In any case, the calling of God is irrevocable - and that is also so for the positive role Adam was intended for in the Garden. That’s why it’s important not only that it is Adam’s descendants who are redeemed in order to be glorified with Christ, but that Christ himself should be of Adam’s line.

In the old theology of atonement (a strand neglected but still valid) Christ defeated Satan’s plan to dethrone Adam by achieving, as the son of Adam, what Adam failed to achieve. God’s choice of both humanity generally, and Adam particularly, was thus vindicated through the salvation of Adam’s line.

Since Satan no longer had a hold on the race through the accusation of sin, he can be justly punished, and mankind can be justly glorified. So God is indeed to be praised for redemption and remedying Adam’s sin, but even more for achieving the purpose he initiated before there was sin.

That’s why it’s worse to be “infra-Adamic” than “pre-Adamic”, but better to be a redeemed sinner than a pre-Adamite: Eden was a positive watershed (ultimately) more than a negative one.



The problem with metaphysics is that they can “be” and “do” whatever someone says they are…

Growing up, after almost any ghost movie we might see, my teen friends and I would argue non-stop about whether a ghost could influence the location or movement of a material object.

It was all so “logical” - - no matter what we opined.

Hebrew Bible
The phrase “image of God” is found in three passages in the Hebrew Bible, all in the Book of Genesis (1-11):

Gen 1:26–28
And God said: ‘Let us make man in our image/b’tsalmeinu, after our likenesss/kid’muteinu; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female created He them. And God blessed them; and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.’

Gen 5:1–3
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him. Male and female created He them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.

Gen 9:6
One who spills the blood of man, through/by man, his blood will be spilled, for in God’s image/tselem He made man.

Extra-biblical sources

The Pseudepigrapha, as intertestamental books and elaborations on Old Testament writings, are helpful in learning of plausible understandings ancient Jewish communities possessed about the Image of God, as mentioned in Genesis 1:27. Although the Pseudepigrapha texts are numerous, the only book noted to make reference to the imago dei is 2 Enoch—namely, 2 Enoch 44:1-3 and 2 Enoch 65:1. And, quite fascinatingly, the text only makes reference to the concept twice, and each time shares a different understanding.

2 Enoch 44:1-3: The Lord with his own two hands created mankind; and in a facsimile of his own face. Small and great the Lord created. Whoever insults a person’s face insults the face of the Lord; whoever treats a person’s face with repugnance treats the face of the Lord with repugnance. Whoever treats with contempt the face of any person treats the face of the Lord with contempt. (There is) anger and judgement (for) whoever spits on a person’s face.

According to the translator and/or editor of The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, this verse has similarities in structure and meaning to Genesis 1:27 and Wisdom of Solomon 6:7, respectively. It is estimated the reference to “small and great” concerned ranking and responsibility. If such an estimation is to be credited as a valuable and acceptable interpretation within this pericope, then it would seem the writer of 2 Enoch 44 is arguing every human being, irrespective of social standing in societies, is an exact copy—a duplicate—of the LORD.

Certainly this passage exceeds Genesis 1:27 in its descriptive nature: 2 Enoch 44:1a details how humans are made in God’s image—namely, as duplicates of God’s “own face.” Although it can be argued the reference to God’s “own face” is a metaphor for God’s likeness, the passage carries the usage of “face” forward by emphasizing what is done to the physical human face is, in turn, done to the face of LORD—and, as is important for this writer, when one damages the face of another human being created in the very exact image of God’s face, one damages God’s face and will incur the expected consequences of such an offense.

2 Enoch 65:2: 2 And however much time there was went by. Understand how, on account of this, he constituted man in his own form, in accordance with a similarity. And he gave him eyes to see, ears to hear, and heart to think, and reason to argue.

This chapter of 2 Enoch almost functions as its own retelling of the creation account, albeit in a very truncated manner. The verse preceding 2 Enoch 65:2 rapidly recounts the nonexistence of any created thing, and then quickly reveals God created everything, whereas the creation of humans may be spoken of and in more detail than the other created things were [addressed].

Interestingly, 2 Enoch 65:2 speaks of humankind’s relation to God as “constituted in his own image,” while simultaneously noting this image is “a similarity,” rather than something that is directly imaging God. This verse is quite similar to Genesis 1:27 in that it acknowledges God made human beings in God’s “form,” “image,” “similarity,” or “likeness,” but it fails to detail what exactly about human beings distinguishes them from other created things and makes them like God.

The Pseudepigrapha’s contributions to the discussion of the Imago Dei as presented in Genesis 1:27 surely heighten the controversy concerning interpretation, as it adds ancient select and unidentified voices and perspectives regarding the Imago Dei to the conversation. On the one hand, 2 Enoch 44 offers modern readers the understanding the imago dei is reflected in the face—possibly, simply meaning the very being of a human person—of a human, while 2 Enoch 65, on the other hand, suggests human beings are made in the Image of God, but it, like Genesis 1:27, is not defined and humans are left to figure out its meaning in light of many contexts.

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But I am talking about the text. It says what it says, and making sense of it all is their job. One which too many have forsaken. I do not consider the extra-biblical sources authoritative and most theologians don’t.

Another interesting fact is that in two of your three examples in Genesis the text is mistranslated “man” when the Hebrew is “ha-adam”, not “adam”. That is, “the man” or sometimes “of man”.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Catholic-Notion of Genealogical Adam