Historical Adam and Eve: Fact or Myth?

NPR has a story concerning Evangelicals and their belief in the historical Adam and Eve.  Now, I don’t believe in a historical Adam and Eve.  But for me, that belief doesn’t take away from the biblical narrative at all.

Anyways, this once again brings up the ongoing debate between science and religion.

“This stuff is unavoidable,” says Dan Harlow at Calvin College. “Evangelicals have to either face up to it or they have to stick their head in the sand. And if they do that, they will lose whatever intellectual currency or respectability they have.”

“If so, that’s simply the price we’ll have to pay,” says Southern Baptist seminary’s Albert Mohler. “The moment you say ‘We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,’ you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world.”

What do you think?  Is the belief in a historical Adam and Eve necessary for Christianity today?

Give the story a listen, read the article.  It’s worth it.

UPDATE: Now With Links!

My Turn – NPR and the Evolving Question of Adam and Eve

Oh No, Not More ‘Science v. Theology’ Nonsense…

Adam and Eve among Evangelicals and around the Blogosphere







30 thoughts on “Historical Adam and Eve: Fact or Myth?

  1. I was lucky enough to grow-up (50’s and early 60’s) with a father who was both a R.Catholic theist and also a scientist, and he believed in a theist evolution even before most in the RCC did. But, I myself, I am an Old Earth Creationist, so I will have to fall in with Mohler here for the most part. Certainly St. Paul believed in a historical Adam and Eve! (2 Cor. 11:3, etc.) It becomes a spiritual and well as a historical question in the end.

    • I definitely agree that it is a spiritual question. It could be a historical question as well, but I don’t think the historical aspect is important. The spiritual definitely is.

  2. Yes, we need the story of Adam and Eve. Without it we loose ‘the fall’ and the doctrine of ‘original sin’ from the Biblical Meta-narrative. Furthermore, the doctrine of original sin is essential to us if we are going to correctly understand the atonement of Jesus. If we also cast out Genesis 1-3 we essentially cast aside the Proto-evangelium of Genesis 3:15 which unravels Salvation History in the Old Testament.

    This whole debate between science and religion is the ongoing effects of the age of enlightenment. It is surprising to see this continued enlightenment talk when the ideology of the enlightenment is essentially collapsing around us due to the emerging age of post-modern thought.

    • You say we need the story of Adam and Eve. I would argue that myth is a type of story. The term “story” doesn’t necessarily imply historical fact.

      • Craig,

        The historical question is always important, but often it is itself one we cannot answer, but like the primeval or primal history, it is often first in importance, and thus we simply must accept it. This really is the spiritual essence of Genesis 1 thru 3. And then too the historical and incarnational reality of Christ as the Last Adam. It is here really that St. Paul moves, in the spiritual historical essence also…Rom. 5, ; 1 Cor. 15, ; 2 Cor. 11:3, etc.

      • Not that it will change much to your response, but I meant to say the historical is not as important. That’s what happens when I try to do 5 different things at once.

  3. Did you know they found the bodies of Adam and Eve? How did they realize this? (Not serious, but there is an answer)

    Getting to the point: dealing with our sin, even Christ coming to save us after the Fall in Genesis would seem difficult if Adam and Eve were not real people. How would you explain that then? After some evolutionary period God gave some sufficiently evolved primates a soul? I think Pastor Matt was getting into this about salvation history.

  4. Btw, Rod, would you consider yourself a conservative Christian? Just a friendly question. I have found it rather hard to really know where someone is coming from on the blog often. I mean what is conservative to one, and not to another, and a bit vice-versa.

      • Craig,

        Indeed some see my conservative manner across the broad. But this is kinda true, but not really in the American fundamentalist sense. I am certainly somewhat a Reformed conservative. But, I also have some dialogue with some conservative Roman Catholic people, though I am a convinced Anglican and mostly Low Church, but then some aspects of an Anglican High Church position pop-up, mostly about Mary as the Theotokos (close to Calvin I might add). But, I am a convinced conservative in the classic old Dutch Reformed sense. But, I am really affected by the Neo-Calvinist John Frame! Us conservative Anglican’s have a wide birth! 🙂

    • I just like to kid with Craig!

      Honestly, if anything, I am socially conservative but theologically I am more moderate. I am big into historical criticism but I can still affirm much of orthodoxy. It’s a mixed bag.

  5. Hey All,

    When you state that you believe Genesis 1-3 to be a myth, what is meant by this specifically? Are you simply saying that it is a story that does not have a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation? Or are you saying that it is a false fictitious story that is invented and thus should be tossed out of our intellectual consideration?

    If you take the latter stance, you will inevitably cause a theological domino effect that pulls out the rug from one’s soteriology. In other words, if you try to remove Genesis 1-3 from theological consideration it affect/effects Salvation History, undercuts the New Testament authors’ biblical exegesis of the Old Testament and unravels some 1700 years of theology on the doctrine of man.

    To simply say that it is a myth without considering this statements implications does not do the subject justice.

    PAX my friends…

    • I would say its more in line with what scholars call a true myth, it is a story based on a historical reality and theological truth. The theology is what matters

      “you will inevitably cause a theological domino effect”

      Sorry, nothing is inevitable. Soteriology is not everything that scripture has to offer.

  6. Rod and Craig,

    If one removes, discredits or diminishes the theology of Genesis 1-3, especially chapter 3… there will be a theological domino effect… This impacts the theology of Salvation history throughout the whole Old Testament, it would also undercut Paul’s exegesis and impact/change one’s Christology.

    I also agree that scripture offers a lot, however, where we probably disagree would be over the main theme of the Bible. I would simplistically say that the canon of scripture is about ‘Jesus.’ Then the next question would be, how does Christ define himself and especially how does he define his mission/purpose/reason for his incarnation…. thus one would arrive at the main theme of the Bible’s meta-narrative.


    • My Christology has actually gotten higher, more biblical, and more affirming of the creeds since taking Genesis 1-3 allegorically.

      If its good enough for the Early Church fathers, it is good enough for me (allegory).

      No undermining salvation history by any stretch.

      “the main theme of the Bible’s meta-narrative.”

      I don’t affirm a meta-narrative in Scripture. There are materials there for one, but they are constructed by the Church, i.e., all Christians.

      But yes, Scripture is all about Christ, to make it simple.

    • I agree that scripture ultimately points to Christ.

      My experience has been very similar to Rod’s.

      An allegorical interpretation of Genesis 1-3 hasn’t had the domino effect that you describe.

  7. Hey Guys,

    I think there is a disconnect between myth and allegory. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    When someone calls the text of Adam and Eve a myth, one is calling into question the very text itself… its origin, the validity of the text, the original authors, whether or not the event actually happened, etc… (i.e. source criticism)

    When you mention the word ‘allegory’ I think that term belongs more to the realm of biblical interpretation. Allegory takes a story, poem, or picture (regardless if it is a myth or not) and interprets it to reveal a hidden meaning. Allegory is an interpretive methodology that essentially treats the text metaphorically. Many of the church fathers implemented allegory in their Old Testament interpretations. Even the Apostle Paul implements this interpretive methodology in his epistles.

    While many of the church fathers employed allegory, I do wonder (I am not sure on this) if they engaged in source criticism? From my limited understanding on this subject, source criticism is a relatively new practice in that it is a fruit of the enlightenment and emerged on the scene in the 18th century from the work of Jean Astruc.

    • Matt,

      In my comment, what I said was that I believe in true myths. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but your concept of myth is that myth means false, untrue, with no historical grounding at all.

      That is not the concept of myth as I see it. Further more, and I am coming from a more post-colonial/post-modern view of history, all history has a relationship with myth and story. As humans, we depend on stories. There is nothing wrong with that. I don’t see a strict division between the two either in scripture or in contemporary times.

      As for the Fathers using allegory, they relied more on the philosophical resources of their times (the various forms of Platonism) rather any form of a proto-source criticism. There were Church fathers who used historical-grammatical interpretation.

    • Matt,

      Rod has some good things to say here, though I am not sure about “post-colonial/post-modern”? Our theological definitions sometimes get too big, and always need constant defining. I am passing along a link about Geerhardus Vos, who said, “Echatology precedes soleriology.” This is a complex theological subject, but really worth our study. It is here I always like to quote St. Paul’s 2 Cor. 4:6.. such a awesome verse!


      • Here is a quote taken from my own blog on this subject of creation.. Young Earth or Old Earth. ” Some see here a compound of opposites, but also in two distinct spheres: the invisible heavens where God and his angels dwell and the “embryonic” earth – as in Gen.1:2. An again in this view, the holy Scripture is speaking about salvation, and not natural science per se, i.e. intrinsically.” (my own statements) Note, the “Framework” of a few Reformed teachers: the Dutch Herman Ridderbos, and the American Meridith Kline. Again, this is a profound subject, and one we simply must be patient with, and hopefully take our time. But indeed Genesis is the so-called ‘seed-pot’ for the whole Bible and revelation of God! 🙂

  8. “Since the infinite wisdom of God is displayed in the admirable structure of heaven and earth, it is absolutely impossible to unfold The History Of The Creation Of The World in terms equal to its dignity.” (Calvin, Commentary on Genesis)

    “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of the things that are visible.” (Heb. 11:3)

    WE simply must be humbled as we come to this grand doctrine of Creation Itself! For God is the Creator! And we are but dust…in ourselves. But we have the imago Dei, but it must be renewed and made alive again! Not getting preachy, just reminding us of the reality here. Without God’s help, we know nothing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s