Why is the de novo creation of Adam and Eve important?

Like you, I am used to being misunderstood, and I could easily call it a minor disagreement which we could easily resolve in conversation. Realize, you are equivocating “de novo” with “'bara,” whether you mean to or not. “De novo” does not mean “de nihilo,” e.g. And, it’s about Eve, not Adam. Right?? @swamidass

I have not equivocated de novo with bara. I explain that de novo means suddenly created by a direct act of God, “from the dust and from a rib.” The Hebrew word there is asah (“made”), not bara. Nothing in that definition directly or indirectly references bara.

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Hebrew verbs cannot convey the duration of an action! Where do you get “suddenly” from? @swamidass “From the dust” and “from his tsela” can also be used colloquially. And Adam’s “tardemah” or “deep sleep” does allow it to be a visionary experience. Whereafter, she is presented as “new” to Adam, without any claim to no natural or supernatural history being involved.
Keathley neither addresses nor refutes any of these observations.
Your thoughts, @KenKeathley ?
Unfortunately, will be out of touch for several hours, now…

Adam introduces the question of what is human in relation to Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo Erectus, et al. If we suppose Adam was the first Homo Sapiens, the other “humans” were definitely alive at the time of his creation.


Joshua Swamidass:

I understand that it seems pretty clear to you, but it isn’t entirely clear to me. This circumstance rings a familiar note, recalling to my mind a curious experience after transitioning away from a young-earth creationist view. It seemed as if all of a sudden I could no longer remember the concerns that were so important to me as a young-earth creationist. They had been answered so completely that it now felt foreign to me that these things could be a concern at all. They no longer sprang immediately to mind, they were no longer obvious to me. It takes real, concerted effort to ignore the answers and put myself back in that mindset plagued by ignorance.

It’s almost as if something similar is happening here. I used to understand how these concerns were connected, the importance of a de novo creation of Adam and its connection to inerrancy. But enough years have transpired since those concerns were satisfactorily addressed that these things are not obvious to me anymore. I really struggle to remember how these things were put together.

Regarding Tim Keller

Let’s take Tim Keller for example. I am quite aware of what he said, that to him the text “sure looks like it’s saying that God created Adam and Eve.” Well, yes, of course it looks like the text is saying that—because it is. Genesis 1:27 literally says that God created man in his own image. Genesis 2:7 describes God forming Adam out of dust from the ground. But the question immediately presents itself: What does this mean? How are we to understand what it says? Does it mean the de novo creation of an adult male human? Keller seems to think so, but he does not provide any reason for thinking so. He just points to what the text says. That is why my question remains.

Regarding Kenneth Keathley

As for Kenneth Keathley, while he might not see “how we can arrive at such an understanding with integrity” (and I believe there is an answer), surely you can see that he didn’t explain the importance of a de novo creation of an adult female. He simply points to what the text says, that God made a woman from the rib he had taken from the man (Gen. 2:22). But why is it important that this be understood as a de novo creation of an adult female? He doesn’t say. This is why pointing to these resources—many of which I had already absorbed—isn’t providing the answer I am seeking. Notice that Keathley simply points at what the text says, as if that suffices, while admitting that he doesn’t see how someone could conclude with integrity that this is about God imparting a divine covenant awareness to the woman.

(He also says that the textual “skin” of Genesis 1–3 doesn’t readily fit over an evolutionary “drum.” I can readily and happily concede that point, for I agree with him—because I think the events of Genesis 1–3 occurred roughly six or seven thousand years ago; that is, it’s not describing anything evolutionary.)


Yes, Adam was formed by God from the dust of the ground, but this cannot necessarily mean the de novo creation of an adult human. Why? Because it is true of every one of us. We all are formed by God from the dust of the ground. Ps. 103:14, “For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Ps. 119:73, “Your hands have made and fashioned me.” 1 Cor. 15:48, “As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven” (cf. Job 10:8–9; 34:14–15; Isa. 43:7). And yet every single one of us was born. I don’t think it is controversial (within Christian circles) to say that this holds true for the billions upon billions of humans that have ever existed. So a good argument is needed for thinking that something was profoundly different for one human, Adam, despite the consistent language and biblical anthropology.

And if the de novo creation of Adam as an adult is important theologically, that case needs to be made. Thus far, I have not encountered anyone making that case, just people who point to what the text says with an emphasis on the crucial doctrine of inerrancy, as if that is sufficient and obvious. It is neither. There is what the text says on the one hand, and how it’s to be understood on the other. Everyone is basically clear on the former; it’s the latter that needs work. It needs to be argued why a de novo creation of Adam is important. One route toward an answer might be found in exploring the question I had asked, “What does a traditional theology of Adam lose if he was born?”

Indeed, as Keller suggested, our science of human origins must be consistent with what Scripture has to say about mankind and redemptive history but, in order for that to happen, we need a clear understanding of what it is saying—and, perhaps just as important, what it is not saying.

This is precisely the problem, yes. As I pointed out, there is what the text says on the one hand, and how it’s to be understood on the other. It’s the latter that isn’t being adequately dealt with.

An astute observation. I missed that one. Good show.

Quite right.


I understand what you’re getting at. We often want our interpretation of Scripture to make sense within a larger theological framework. Just pointing to the text and saying “that’s just what the Bible says, period!” is not always satisfying for everyone.

Some possible suggestions for why DNC could be important (based on what I’ve read over the years, and also my own speculation). Note that these reasons don’t necessarily assume any single GAE model, and might even assume different ones:

  1. To establish a discontinuity between humans and the rest of the living world, signifying our uniqueness of being image-bearers of God.
  2. Similar to 1), but DNC could be the way that God establishes a more personal relationship with Adam and Eve from the very beginning. “Indeed, while Adam is related to the rest of creation, specified by the fact that his body is made of the dust of the earth, his special relation with God is highlighted by the fact that his body is animated by the very ‘breath of life’ (Gen. 2:7)” (Longman, How to Read Genesis, p. 106). The answer can also slightly change depending on what view you take regarding the content of the image of God.
  3. To establish a more definite act of “ensoulment”. Many Christians have a Cartesian dualist picture of the soul where God can just take an existing hominid body and infuse it with a human soul - hence “refurbishment” instead of DNC. However, other views of the human soul which posit some less separability between body and soul (such as hylomorphic, or monist/physicalist) might make it impossible or awkward for this to happen in this way.*
  4. The DNC of Eve from Adam’s rib may serve to highlight her suitability as an equal helper for Adam (see Longman, same page). Perhaps if her physical body was merely taken from the existing hominid population, that would bring with it undesirable philosophical/theological baggage with it.
  5. This is more speculative: Remember that Christ, the Second Adam, came into the world conceived by the Holy Spirit - a special act of creation different from regular conception. Perhaps it would be more fitting if the First Adam also came into the world by a special act of creation?
  6. (EDIT: as Josh suggests below) DNC could be important to establish an “original righteousness” to humanity which could not be possible if they were generated from regular matter via natural processes alone. This is also linked to a certain view of the Imago Dei.

*Regarding 3), I’m not suggesting, though, that ensoulment means implanting some sort of new genetic material in Adam and Eve, because as Josh has repeatedly said, this would require ongoing miracles and/or undetected scientific mechanisms in order to guarantee that said genetic material would propagate to all of A&E’s descendants, assuming they interbred with other humans. Rather, there could be some complex metaphysical/spiritual machinery going on when ensoulment happens that necessitates God doing it via DNC instead of refurbishment.

None of these theological reasons, at face value, seem to be as important as the reasons for a historical Adam and Eve (no matter if they were DNC or refurbished), but they could be a starting point.


Do you think these people would be happy with a scenario where Adam/Eve are created De-Novo but are not the first human beings in a biological sense?

That makes sense. It seems like you are really trying to understand them, and that is a good thing to do. At this point, I’m conveying what I’m observing. Perhaps at some point you might be able to understand more by directly talking with them (and those with their concerns).

So, Ken grants that this is the case. He can imagine how this is not de novo creation. however, in the case of Eve, it is harder for him to make that leap.

That is a different question, and a good one. I list out several in the book. Here is one reason. Some understandings of original righteousness require de novo creation. Another (as stated by @dga471) is the parallel between Adam and Jesus.

In the cases I’ve presented, it is not about original sin. Rather the concern is about inerrancy.

Yes. We know they have no problem. Both Ken Keathley and Jack Collins endorse the GAE effusively (have you read their endorsements?). They both agree that Scripture does not map to scientific categories like “biological human”.

Adam loses no significance if he was born, formed of dust, just like every one of us is. Every human being is also “de novo.”
What makes Adam special was the LORD choosing him to live a priestly life in the garden, with the presence of the LORD closely discipling him, walking in the cool of the evenings with him.
What also makes Adam special is that he was first to be given a “Thou shalt not…” law, which he later deliberately broke.
Up to this point, the only human mandate given by God was given in Genesis 1:27, well before Adam came along.
These “imago Dei” humans were morally unsophisticated, not knowing “good and evil” as Adam came to know.
The apostle Paul said of them, that sin had not been accorded to them, because they had not sinned in the likeness of Adam.
It was through Adam that human death came, in the sense of being dead to God’s purposes by doubting God’s character and intentions towards him.
Adam was the first to truly merit a negative judgement, biblically. That’s VERY special, theologically, typologically, and ancestrally.
It is of absolutely no consequence for inerrancy if he’s not the first “imago Dei” human being ever (that was back in chapter one).
In fact, it may actually harm the case for inerrancy to insist otherwise!
@KenKeathley ? @swamidass ?


@KenKeathley is given as an additional endorser. I wasn’t able to access what he actually wrote. I asked the question because the article you linked has @KenKeathley making objections that seem linked to Adam and Eve being the first humans . I am quoting the relevant portion below-

He gives three criteria for an orthodox understanding of Adam and Eve (pp 120-21), and I believe they are worth repeating here.

  1. The origin of the human could not have come about by mere natural processes.
  2. Adam and Eve were “at the headwaters of the human race.”
  3. A historical fall must have occurred very closely to the beginning of the human race.

Adam and Eve being “at the headwaters of the human race” is the statement I am referring to here, and point 3 in connection to the fall.

The statement caused me to wonder how @KenKeathley viewed the “beginning of the human race”. I.e whether he was thinking if the human race in terms of qualities that make us distinct from neanderthals, or in spiritual terms as only the descendants of Adam. Hence my question to you.

Adam is frequently referred to as a “Son of God” in scripture. I have always seen that as pointing to Adams status as specially created by God and also connected to the imago DEI…

In your opinion, what is the imago Dei?

Yes you can access it. See here: The Genealogical Adam and Eve - InterVarsity Press. Or here: The Genealogical Adam and Eve Endorsements.

“Many Christians struggle with the challenge of mainstream science, especially on human origins. This book changes the game. The focus on genetic ancestry distracted us from genealogical ancestry. Scripture does not speak of genetics, but it does emphasize genealogy, presenting Adam as the genealogical ancestor of the human race. In terms that nonscientists can understand, Swamidass shows how scientific findings in genetics are entirely compatible with this biblical claim. The Genealogical Adam and Eve is creating a new conversation about human origins, and it is essential reading for everyone at the intersection of science and faith.”

Ken Keathley, senior professor of theology, director of the Bush Center for Faith and Culture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Certain theological views are well founded and fundamentally important to a well-grounded system of belief; it can be rationally responsible to maintain those views, even if, for the time being, the science seems to call them into question. I believe this is true of basic theological beliefs about the origin of humankind and of sin. These are too well connected to the kind of experiences that are universally accessible and all-but-universally recognized. Sometimes, if we wait, new light will come in the scientific thinking. And sometimes as well, someone with enough imagination will propose a workable scenario that helps us past the apparent hump. Dr. Swamidass has indeed provided an imaginative and creative way forward, promoting a truly ‘peaceful science.’ I am grateful for his work and commend it to you.”

C. John “Jack” Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary

That is a direct quote of Jack Collins. He is the one who emphasized that phrase, and then Ken quoted him.

Both Jack and Ken agree that the GAE satisfies this requirement.

I don’t know how to make it more clear to you. Scripture does not discuss the origins of Homo sapiens, or the homo genus. It does discuss the rise of Adam and Eve’s lineage. This lineage is the “humanity” of Scripture, and Adam and Eve (by definition in fact) sit at the head waters of “humanity.”

Notice also what Jack writes in his appendix (https://www.ivpress.com/Media/Default/Downloads/Excerpts-and-Samples/5263-Appendixes.pdf):

Swamidass’s focus on the genealogy rather than the genetics and his motivation for it is spot on: namely, the biblical language is concerned with line of descent, or genealogy; to appeal to the genetic questions, important as they may be for some purposes, foists a misleading anachronism on the biblical text. The same may well be true of the notion of human.

Look, also, what he says of my exegesis of the “mankind” of Genesis in the image of God:

One could wish that all discussions of these matters were as respectful of the language level and
communicative concerns of the biblical authors!7

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9 posts were split to a new topic: Is support of de novo creation motivated by fear?

I understand what you are saying. Its interesting that @jack.collins and @KenKeathley are in agreement.

It does lead to some disturbing questions esp if one assumes that Adam and Eve were fairly early (like 6000 years ago). We have discussed this before and you have pointed me to the book, so I will refrain from discussing it again

The “imago Dei” can be explored as a topic; de minimus, it means “God awareness” or “God-likeness,” evidently, as contrasted to everything else alive on earth. Other things would be language, cognition, relationality, spiritual awareness, able to reason from what is seen to what is unseen, being called as a steward of God’s good creation, taming nature… what things would you add?

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Or you could just read the book at this point. Right?

Isn’t it coming out in Dec? Did I miss something?

Yes you did. Pre ordered books are already shipping from IVP. I got my copies last week! We are already into our second printing run.

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I just see it in terms of the following-

  1. The vocational calling to multiply and fill the earth subduing it as representatives of God.
  2. The ability to relate with God an either human beings.
  3. God likeness in term of being able to create, character etc.
    The third is obviously perfected only in Jesus.

I asked because you seem to have shifted from your earlier position that the fall involved some actual changes in the human race associated with the knowledge of good and evil such as enhanced cognitive abilities.

No, I still maintain those views. Good list of “imago Dei” characteristics!

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