Talking to Pastors about Adam and Evolution: Options

Talking to Pastors about Adam and Evolution: Options November 3, 2011

Last week I spoke to a gathering of pastors from the NY Metro presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of America on the problem of evolution and Adam. This topic is a particularly pressing problem for this denomination, since the Westminster Confession of Faith (their doctrinal standard written around 1650) presumes, understandably, that Adam was the first human, created specially by God without any preceding evolutionary process.

I thought I’d summarize what I said to these pastors. My aim was not to force upon anyone views they are not prepared to ingest, but simply to present the options, my own position, and why I arrived at it.

So, my first point was to lay out the options for thinking about Adam in view of evolution.

Evolution can either be accepted (in some form) or wholly rejected. If rejected, one has no problem with an historical Adam as first man, but then one has to find ways to neutralize the scientific data, which is attempted in various (but unconvincing) ways. (Google Al Mohler, Ken Ham, and Hugh Ross.)

No need to get into that here. This group of pastors was already (largely) aware that evolution cannot be dismissed, and so we proceded to other things.

If one accepts evolution, the first thing to note is that one has left the biblical worldview. I think this is an obvious point, but needs to be stated clearly. As soon as evolution is accepted, the invariably result is some clear movement away from what the Bible says about Adam.

Hence, if one wishes to bring Adam and evolution into conversation, one is left with the theological burden and responsibility of bringing them together somehow in a manner does justice to both. The second part of my talk was focused on how that conversation can proceed with integrity (see below).

Back to the flow chart.

So, once one accepts evolution, the question becomes “what do I do about Adam?” I see two choices: Adam is either historical (in some sense) or he is not.

If one wishes to retain a historical Adam, the two options I am aware of (if you know of others, please let us know) are:

(1) “Adam” was a hominid chosen by God somewhere along the line to be the “first man”;

(2) “Adam” was a group of hominids (a view that accounts best for the genomic data that the current human population stems from a few thousand ancestors, definitely not two ancestors).

In my opinion, these two options fail for the same two reasons:

(1) They are ad hoc, meaning that are invented for the sole purpose of finding some way to align the Bible and science. It is generally a good idea to avoid ad hoc explanations, and we rarely tolerate them when others make use of them.

(2) The “Adam” that results from these ad hoc maneuvers is not the Adam that the biblical authors were talking about (a chosen first pair or group of hominids). No biblical teaching is really protected by inventing “Adam” in this way.

This brings us to a non-historical Adam–meaning Adam in the Bible as parabolic, metaphorical, symbolic, or “supra-historical” (a term I learned from Richard Clifford, meaning a truth transcends history but told in historical terms, and therefore not meant to be taken literally).

I gave three options for a non-historical Adam (there are more). The red line joining them indicates that these options are not so much distinct as they are variations on the larger category “non-historical.”

One option is to understand Adam as a literary figure, which would relieve the pressure of thinking of Adam as the first human. A mythical understanding–which is the most common, I think, among scholars of the Bible and the ancient world–means that the story of Adam is a concrete expression of a deeper reality. (Some would argue that story is really the best form to communicate “deep reality,” but we’ll leave that to the side.)

A third option, which I throw in because I happen to think it has a lot of merit, is to see the story of Adam as a story of Israel and not as the story of the first human. I will explain that more in my next post.

Anyway, those are the options as I see it. Which option(s) is(are) best depends on one thing: accounting well for the relavant exegetical and historical factors.

That is the subject of the next post, but let me preview it here briefly. Any attempt to account for Adam in an evolutionary scheme will have to account for “data.” Scientists work this way, too. “Models” that account for most of the data well (not forced, ad hoc, or idiosyncratic) are models that need to be considered.

Bringing Adam and evolution into serious conversation is really a matter of building convincing models.

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  • Hi Dr Enns, I asked this question on D Williams’ blog post ( about your comment on Genesis and Evolution, and wanted to hear your take. And I believe it relates to “bringing Adam and evolution into serious conversation.” I understand that Gen 1 doesn’t necessarily speak scientifically to evolution, let alone the realm of science. So then, what can be the context (or framework) for us modern men to adopt scientific models to our Christian understanding while looking at Scripture? Does this mean that Scripture can have no direct bearing on how Christians engage science? Maybe one step further, in regards to evolution, can we only accept or reject it based on scientific data?

    • peteenns

      This is a big question, Paul, where knowledgable Christians disagree, but my basic starting point is this: the Bible is ancient literature with a powerful message that transcends its context–but part of that transcendence is not that it can speak to scientific matters. I would also quickly add that “science” is not the be-all and end-all of human knowledge, only for those things that can be known scientifically (if that is not too circular a way of putting it).

  • *Talking to Pastors…

    • peteenns

      Yikes. Me and my typos. My fingers are slower than my brain. I need a live-in proof reader. It’s sort of a family joke. Thanks Matthew.

  • I love your very helpful chart. Is it going to be in your forthcoming book?

    Where on the chart would you put Denis Lamoureux’s Gradual Polygenism (from his “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution, p. 290)?

    • peteenns

      No, these charts are not in the book. I made them up for the seminar in NYC. It seemed to be helpful and I had fun laying it out in this way.

      • Christine Johnson

        So you made up the chart to fit into your view? HUH? Is that not true just your view then? So why give it as fact?

        • peteenns

          Not exactly sure what you are asking, Christine. I made up a chart to try to lay out what I see as options. That’s all. I didn’t “give it as fact” but simply tried to express what I think.

  • Caleb G

    Excellent overview and a very helpful flowchart.
    Lamoureux would fall on the non-Historical side. He has explicitly said he does not believe in Adam. Beyond that he would probably fall into the Literary Character since (as far as I can tell) he doesn’t connect his Gradual Polygenism to the Adam. Correct me if I’m wrong since its been about a year since I read Lamoureux’s book.

    Dr. Enns, would the understanding of Adam as the individual biological progenitor of the entire human race fall under a different category than seeing Adam merely as the “first man” in a representative sense? Or would that not be an option once you accept evolution since the evidence points to homo species always consisting of several thousand individuals?

    Also, does your understanding of Adam as proto-Israel depend on a dating of the Eden Narrative (Gen 2-4) after the exile? I’m looking forward to reading the book when it comes out.

    • peteenns

      Caleb, on your last question, the answer is yes–although that does not mean the story was written out of whole cloth at that time. I would rather say a reworking of the ancient story is postexilic. Adam as sole progenitor would come at the top of the chart for those who reject evolution, at least as I see it. You re right about Denis L. He likes to say “ANE means no A&E.” I don;t think he is committed to a literary Adam as opposed to a mythic one.

  • RJS


    How do you define “biblical worldview” here? Is this referring specifically to things like ancient near east cosmology, understanding of biology, etc.? Or do you mean something more than this?

    • peteenns

      I mean the way the biblical authors look at the physical world–specifically here, the way authors of the time thought of human origins.

      • AHH

        I’d suggest that this is not a good phrase to use for “talking with pastors”, especially conservative ones.

        As you probably know, in Evangelical circles, “worldview” is a big concept, usually referring to entire metaphysical frameworks. So one might contrast “theism” and “naturalism” as competing “worldviews”. So if you say you are leaving behind the “Biblical worldview”, to some that phrase would be identical to leaving behind Christianity. Which of course is not what you mean.

        Maybe some phrase like “outside the Biblical writers’ view of nature” would be more accurate and less likely to be misunderstood.

        • Jeff Young

          This is an excellent observation, AHH. I think that term is far too incendiary in the way Dr. Enns employs it (and most would not get that meaning out of it – has he defines it). And, thanks for seeking clarification on what Dr. Enns meant. Great comment!

  • Joshua S.

    I like the Adam as proto-Israel idea. That would make sense with the way Paul handles Adam, views of the servant in Deutro-Isaiah, and Christ as the perfect Israel. I look forward to the next post.

    • peteenns

      One issue, Joshua, is whether Paul sees Israel as proto-Israel. I have been in discussion with people who say that he does (which means the evolution problem pretty much goes away). But I still can’t get beyond the universal (Jewish/Gentile) emphasis on Romans where Adam for Paul is the figure who unites humanity into one family. Just my opinion, of course.

      • Norman


        I think Paul dichotomizes the Jew and Gentiles much more than we might grasp from a cursory reading of Romans 5. It helps to investigate more of Paul to grasp his two “man” of humanity concepts; and Ephesians 2 appears to conceptualize these two manifestations of “mankind” in a way that should throw some light on his Romans 5 discussion and add pieces to the puzzle. 🙂

        Eph 2:11-17 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands– (12) remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, ALIENATED FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (13) But now in Christ Jesus you WHO ONCE WERE FAR OFF have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (14) For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (15) by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, THAT HE MIGHT CREATE IN HIMSELF ONE NEW MAN in PLACE OF THE TWO, so making peace, (16) and might RECONCILE US BOTH to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

        The point above is that I don’t believe Paul is speaking as much about biological mankind as he is speaking toward a corporate understanding of folding faithful humanity into one collective entity. Bringing the two separate entities of “man” together in one faithful “Man” Christ does not appear a biological supposition of Paul but a faith centered application. I do not therefore see Paul changing course in Romans 5.

        I do also believe that Adam represents Proto Israel corporately and I think we see Paul subtlety apply that understanding in Romans 7 where it has been recognized by some scholars that Paul speaks of himself as Israel and Adam in a collective approach effectively taking his readers back to Adam and the original Garden. He then speaks of the members of this “Body of Death” being delivered from this wretched “man” represented by Adam’s shackles.

        Rom 7:9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
        23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

        I believe this ties in with Paul’s discussion in 1 Cor 15:21-22 & 45-49 concerning Adam representing Proto Israel and Christ supplanting him.

        1Co 15:49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust (the first Adam), we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (Christ the last Adam).


  • If one does not believe in the infallibility of scripture, then he could not be ordained in the PCA.

    • peteenns

      That’s probably true, Buck, but that does not settle how scripture is to be interpreted.

  • AMBurgess

    Hi Pete,
    Thanks for all your work in this complex and often emotional topic. I know a lot of people appreciate it.

    Do you think Genesis at least hints that there are members of the human race not descended from Adam and Eve? I think it may be a reasonable reading.

    • peteenns

      Hi AM. I think that the Garden episode actually assumes that there are other humans, those outside of the Garden. Do you mean others thereafter?

      • AMBurgess

        I just wanted to point out that the biblical worldview does not necessarily assume that Adam is the first human chronologically. You seem to agree. Couldn’t one say, then, that human evolution is compatible with a fairly literal reading of text?

        • peteenns

          For Genesis, I think yes. But for Paul’s use of Genesis….. hmm, that’s the issue, I think.

          • AMBurgess

            Are you referring to Acts 17:26? But the “one” doesn’t have to refer to “one man”, right? I think there still may be room for human evolution if you opt for “one blood” or “one race”.

            Btw, thanks for taking your time to respond to these comments.

          • peteenns

            AM, I was referring to Paul’s use of the Adam story.

          • AMBurgess

            Does Paul’s use of the Adam story preclude the idea that there were other humans at the creation –or calling, as it were–of Adam? I don’t see how it does.

          • peteenns

            I think that’s the big question. I am ENTIRELY open to a different perspective on this, but it seems to me that Paul’s argument in Romans depends on Jews and Gentiles having as their common ancestor the first human.

  • Ruth Haydon

    I find Ken Hamm and other creationist viewpoints very convincing. What facts do you really have to support evolution? I don’t find the fossil record very convincing because the bones are never anything close to a complete skeletal record. I am also not convinced of the reliability of carbon 14 dating. Why is it so hard to believe in a God who can create the world in seven days? Evolution seems to be based on a lot of unsupported suppositions. I am not looking at the data now, but find it more credible to believe in a historical Adam and Eve then in everything happening at random over billion of years. Are we talking of theistic evolution, where God is in control of the process?

    • peteenns

      Ruth, the evidence is for true, trained, experienced scientists to hammer out, not you or I. But, as I am quick to say, you are certainly free to believe as you wish. And yes, I am talking about theistic evolution.

      • Gretchen

        “the evidence is for true, trained, experienced scientists to hammer out, not you or I”
        Mr Enns….the EVIDENCE is for anyone to see..not just the true, trained, experienced scientist! That’s garbage! The only evidence I need is the world around me and the Bible to read…its all in there…including the “literal Adam”…he is not a figment, nor a theory, nor a story…if you believe he is, then what do you believe about God Himself…are you saying that there is no way God could have created all he did in one week…are you saying you know more than He! If you cannot take on faith what Genesis says..then I dont see how you can take on faith any of the rest of the Bible…

        • peteenns

          Gretchen, I appreciate your comment but I need to disagree with you. Of course evidence can be SEEN by everyone (well, if you’ve got the right instruments), but it takes tremendous expertise to INTERPRET the evidence. You and I both, I fear, are out of our element in that regard.

          And, let me say again, neither I nor the multitude of Christians who read Genesis non-historically/non-scientifically are saying for one moment that we “know more than God.” The entire issue is how God’s word is rightly understood.Think of it this way: If you don’t believe in a flat earth with a dome overhead and an ocean above and below with the sun moving around the earth, than you and I are in the same boat. We both think about the physical world in ways that the inspired biblical authors did not. Do you see that your argument applies to you as well?

          • Bob T

            Paul seems to indicate that the evidence carries it’s own presuppositions that are supplied by God and that we should submit to (cf. Rom.1:18ff). The problem is we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the evidence contained in creation and the revelation of God in His word that interprets it for us.

            I humbly submit that your view is a Pandora’s box leading to exegetical chaos in that it is subject to an authority above Scripture itself. Nor is your illustration about the earth being flat very compelling since it is not an example to be found in Scripture or very charitable to those who wrote it (I bet you have spoken to others about beautiful “sunsets” and “sunrises” at some point … but you don’t appear to allow writers of Scripture the same luxury.

            Scripture states God made the Sun stand ? Obviously not a science lesson, and yet that’s how we would describe it today (eg. even Keppler quipped, “if the Sun revolved around the earth what would it look like to us?” – yet it was as much a supernatural event as the first creation of the first man Adam from the dust of the earth. We can understand the extraordinary substance of it if we come with faith in God’s Word (heb.11:1-6).

            The authors of the Bible could have written on topics that contradicted commonly held views (remember that the Holy Spirit is the real originator of Scripture anyway). Scripture states that God sits above the “sphere” of the earth – Isa. 40:22. Even inspired men needed instruction about what Scripture taught… the N.T. is full of examples – e.g. Jesus and His disciples.

            Interesting you are constructing an argument that fails at the most fundamental of hermeneutical principles – Scripture interpreting Scripture…. I believe that is what your last caller may have been attempting to say. Your methods are bordering on so many aberrations cf:
            Lose the historical Adam and you loose the historical resurrected Jesus and the historical gospel. But what does science care about any of these…. only to say it has the authority to rule on whether or not any of those events “really or actually happened”. And so the battle over Genesis. Science has it presuppositions too and many are far to willing to rush to them. Even you admit that much of science is not “for you and me but the experts” – so now our views of Scriptures lie in the hands of how and what the “experts” tell us about HISTORY. I can’t recall a historian teaching any of my biology classes. It is amazing how quick folks are willing to leave the truths of Scripture in order to be seen wise in the eyes of men.

            Sorry Peter, not ready to drink the Cool Aid — p.s. WTS is my Alma Mater to – 79-83!

          • peteenns

            Bob, I appreciate your comments, but, in a sense, we all drink some sort of poison. I am familiar with the your brand. I’v even tasted it.

            Yes, what I am advocating is “exegetical chaos”–for those whose belief system requires thoroughgoing exegetical certainty ad transparancy. Perhaps you feel your system has reached that goal?

            From where do you get the notion that “the most fundamental of hermeneutical principles [is] Scripture interpreting Scripture”? And what does that even mean?

            Are you suggesting Isaiah’s “sphere” is a globe?! It is a disk.

            What modern people mean by “the sun rises” is not what ancient people thought. For us it is a figure of speech. For ancients it described reality.

            Evolutionary biology is not a brand of history, but of biology. And yes, science can tell us about het past. And no, our view of Scripture does not rest in the hands of scientists–but neither should our view of Scripture be stubbornly resistant to true advances in human knowledge. At least, that is my opinion. You are certainly welcome to have yours.

  • Dan

    I do follow the Genesis debate, but I haven’t heard much about the Adam as Israel option (I think I saw something about it on the Biologos website once but didn’t think much about it). Could you point me in the direction of some notable proponents so I can read up on it?

    • peteenns

      Dan, sorry I missed you comment. I am not aware of any one source that explores this, but, for example, looking at the wisdom resonances is something James Barr has done. I came across this idea originally from the backdoor, though studying wisdom lit., then looking at Irenaeus understanding of the Garden episode. Along the way I was struck by the Book of Jubilees, which portrays Adam as a priest (so clearly Israelite), and later rabbinic sources that make the connection. It always caught my eye but I never did anything with it in writing until recently.

  • Thomas Renz

    Your “first chosen pair” historical option, as presented here, appears to assume further that all of humanity is biologically descended from Adam in which case there may be a third option in the category “historical Adam”: One hominid pair was made human (“human” being a theological category, not a biological one, i.e. this hominid pair would not be biologically distinct from other hominids but “created in the image of God” they are in a special relationship with God and appointed as God’s representatives). All their descendants are human, just like all descendants of Jacob are Israel. But over time other hominids, who are not biological descendants of this first human pair, are incorporated into the human family, just as some Egyptians joined the Israel that was led out of Egypt and some Canaanites joined the Israel that came to occupy the land. Adam would be the ancestor of all humanity in the sense that Jacob is the ancestor of all Israel.

    • peteenns

      Thomas, others are attracted to the option you lay out, but I find it rather involved and contrived (ad hoc). The reason I am making the assumption of biological descent because that is what the ancients assumed–hence the genealogies.

      • Thomas Renz

        Pete, I thought we had already left behind “what the ancients assumed” by the time we get to the “historical Adam” box in your chart. The option I described above is arguably less involved and contrived than the “hominid group” option. In fact, many (not all) versions of the “non-historical Adam” look ad hoc to me and none of them describe “the Adam the biblical authors were talking about” so your two reasons against the left side of the chart seem to apply just as much to the right side.

        For those who have decided that we cannot “read Adam” the way (we believe) the ancients read Adam, the question is whether an altogether new reading of Genesis is required, in which case more conservative attempts at coming to a new reading by way of making adjustments to the old reading look “ad hoc” and doomed to fail, or whether our new model may be in continuity to the old, a reading that arises from a development and modification of the traditional reading in which case brand-new readings look like “throwing out the baby with the bath-water”.

        • peteenns

          And this is where, I think, a conversation with the ancient church fathers may be very helpful for establishing some sort of “continuity” with the past, i.e., they were not not fundamentalist literalists. The challenge, though, as I see it, is that evolution was a game-changer that could not have been addressed until recently–unlike Augustine talking about, say, the comos.

  • Micah

    Mr. Enns,

    Have you read “Beyond Creation Science” and are you familiar with the “Covenant Creation” view of Genesis?


    • peteenns


      • Micah

        I would be happy to send you a copy of the book if you are interested. My older brother is one of the co-athors.

        Basically the Covenant Creation model sees Genesis One as the creation of the old covenant world. You can see the connections throughout the Bible between the “land” (Israel) and “sea” (gentiles). (Same with the animal language.) All are encompassed within the covenant world but only “man” on the land had access to the inner sanctuary (Garden).

        It is very similar to your Adam as Israel idea. I don’t think we can ignore that correlation. CC also fits well with Walton’s idea of a non-concordance view of Genesis. I also believe that it really helps when dealing with the way that Paul deals with Adam.

        In short, Adam is the first “covenant man”. (Of course this will open questions regarding the idea of the immortality of the soul and those humans who are not in any way connected to the “covenant world”, but that is a different thread.)

        The interesting thing is that there is an incredible correlation when it comes to eschatology. We see the NT writers routinely using Genesis language when talking about the New Covenant and soon to come dissolving of the Old Covenant order. Check out Paul’s use of Genesis 1 in 1 Corinthians 15. Notice how he works backwards through the creation account. 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21 are also great examples as well as the way Paul uses the greek word “stoicheion” and “ktisis”

        Anyway, I think you might find the view insightful and complimentary to some of your ideas. I would be happy to get you a copy.


  • EricG

    Ruth – I’d suggest checking out the genetics evidence if you are interested in the evidence for common descent. It is very powerful.

    • AHH

      And the best place in my opinion to get an accessible overview of the multiple lines of strong evidence for common descent, from a Christian perspective, is Darrel Falk’s book Coming to Peace with Science.

      • peteenns

        That is a very clear and irenic book.

  • Chris Fets

    Your flow chart fails at the very first node. To wholly except the evolution theory isnt the only option, even for serious thinkers and scientists. I would say for a christian it is the worst option.

    then one has to find ways to neutralize the scientific data

    That is your main point for leaving out the main question. And its wrong. It is not about the data, it is about the interpretation of the data. You have to leave the data-interpration of the theory if macro-evolution in order to believe the biblical account literally. Right here i am not arguing that you have to do that necessarily but cutting your flow chart at this signifcant position is simply a wrong visualization of the current scientific account. There are a number of “true, trained, experienced scientists” who in fact interpret the data differently. Including the micro-biology professor of technical university of munich siegfried scherer, oxford professor john lennox and others.
    Scientific data is not the slave of one particular view/interpration, although this is the image that a lot of people want to paint. Christians shouldnt and dont need to buy that – this misleading is not science but ideology.

    • peteenns

      Chris, I appreciate the point, but all I really mean here is that evolution, however interpreted, means that there was no first man created from dust ort a woman from his side. I do not commit myself to any particular way of addressing the data (since I am not a scientist). If you know of trained scientists (without a literalist apologetic agenda) who take the biblical account as a historical record of human origins, I am open to hearing what they have to say.

  • Thomas Renz

    I suspect that many who are open to modifying and reforming their readings, but weary about chucking them and replacing them with an entirely different reading, will see a big difference between “there was no first man created from dust or a woman from his side” and “there was no first man and woman”.

    Nathan’s story about a poor man owning a single sheep and a rich man owning lots of flocks but stealing the poor man’s sheep is fictional but it concerns real events. “There was no rich man stealing someone else’s single sheep” but “there was a rich man”, certain, historical person who stole (and more) – David.

  • Thomas Renz

    Which is to say: There may have been readers throughout the ages who read the opening stories of Genesis as metaphorical, reading them as a-historical is probably anew development one won’t find among the Church fathers.

    • peteenns

      I think you are right, which brings us back to the beginning: what do we do about Adam in view of both scientific and ANE evidence to the contrary that no one until recently had to deal with.

      • Thomas Renz

        Thankfully, this blog post is merely about laying out the options 😉

        (As far as dealing with a larger body of evidence is concerned, Adam is maybe not in a unique position. Have not similar questions been raised about the historicity of Joseph, Moses, Joshua and David?)

        • peteenns


          Indeed, similar questions have been raised about OT historicity–from David back.

  • Don Johnson

    My thinking on this is evolving. Thanks for the interaction that helps this.

    The basic problem of society is how does one encourage cooperative actions and discourage non-cooperative actions. Why does not everyone just take up stealing for a living? The reason if there are too many stealers, then nothing is produced to steal; so there are natural limits on non-cooperative actions. So groups are formed that promove in-group cooperation, where it is considered immoral to do non-cooperative actions inside that group but it is still recognized that in defending the in-group, one may need to do non-cooperative actions, such as killing one’s enemies that want to steal from you. So the crux becomes defining the in-group’s boundaries in a way that they at the very least survive in bad times and thrive and grow in good times. In Bible terms the in-group are known as Israelites or Jews or (later) believers in Jesus and the out-group are known as gentiles and (which later includes) Jews that reject Jesus. The story of Israel goes back to Abraham, whom Paul says is a model for both Jews and gentiles. But the Torah goes back to Adam, unifying all of humanity as at least potentially a part of the in-group. So there is a core in-group, but members can be added from the out-group. Brilliant! A dynamic tension is created, the boundary is established, but it is porous.

    • Don Johnson

      In case it is not obvious, Abraham represents the people of faith and Adam represents all people. So Matthew can trace back to Abraham and Luke can trace back to Adam.

  • Caleb G

    Dr. Enns, I’m still waiting for the answer to this question: Would the understanding of Adam as the individual biological progenitor of the entire human race fall under a different category than seeing Adam merely as the “first man” in a representative sense?

    Also, do you see the Adam/primeval man motif expressed in Ezekiel 28, Deu 32:8, and Job 15:7-8? Do you see any connection between the figure of Adam in Scripture and the primeval man motifs in Adapa, Atrahasis, and/or Enkidu?

  • peteenns


    I think that the first man as representative option is not really separate from the biological option in the ancient mindset. I am more than willing to be wrong on that, but I see representation as being a function of biological descent (hence the genealogies) not a distinct option, as it is sometimes used today to wriggle out of the evolution problem.

    I don’t see a primal man motif in Deut 32:8 or Job 15:7. I do in Ezek 28:11ff., although this simply establishes the motif (which I never doubted existed). It does not establish (1) historicity of Adam, (2) the antiquity of the specific Israelite version of the motif in Gen 2-3 as the basis for Ezek 28.

    • Caleb G

      Dr. Enns,
      I agree about Deu 32:8, although I do think there some primeval human motif in Job 15:7 because Eliphas asks Job is he was the first אדם born. However, I do not there is a literary connection between Job 15:7 and Gen 2-3.
      Do you concede any possible connection between the motif used on this Ezekiel 28 and Gen 2-3 and the primeval human motif used in ANE literature like Adapa, Atrahasis, and/or the Epic of Gilgamesh?

      • Caleb G

        Sorry for the spelling errors. You can erase that last comment. Let me try that again.

        Dr. Enns,
        I agree about Deu 32:8, although I do think there is a primeval human motif in Job 15:7 because Eliphas asks Job if he was the first אדם born. However, I do not think there is a literary connection between Job 15:7 and Gen 2-3.
        Do you concede any possible connection between the motif used in Ezekiel 28 and Gen 2-3 and the primeval human motif used in ANE literature like Adapa, Atrahasis, and/or the Epic of Gilgamesh?

        • peteenns

          Oh, I certainly see that connection, Caleb (though still not Job unless you point a gun to my head).

    • Thomas Renz

      If “the first man as representative option is not really separate from the biological option in the ancient mindset,” the opposite is arguably true as well, the adopted son was not distinguished from the biological son. To use a later example, if you could be a member of “those who returned from exile” without having physically returned from exile yourself or being a biological descendant of someone who did, as the lists in Ezra-Nehemiah arguably suggest, it is not possible to use DNA evidence to suggest that “no-one really returned from exile” because we do not have a group of people that are genetically sufficiently distinct from other Judahites.

      This gets me back to my earlier point. Whether or not “representative” and “biological” are distinct in the “ancient mindset” is neither here nor there, once we have decided to step outside this mindset. Once we start asking the biological questions that had not been asked before, we have to make the distinctions that had not been made before.

      • peteenns

        I definitely see your point, Thomas. I’m just not sure how easily this can be applied to the Adam issue.

        • Thomas Renz

          Alas, not always but a lot of the time when we’re seeking answers to questions which the text was not designed to answer, we get stuck…

          If, say, the book of Genesis is broadly a theological re-telling of ancient historical traditions (of general ancient Near Eastern traditions in chaps 1-11 and of specifically Israelite traditions in chaps 12-50), then the main interest may well not lie in history, certainly not in history for curiosity’s sake. But in so far as the text makes historical claims, even if in more figurative than realistic ways, we will want to ask historical questions along the lines of “how does this fit with what else we know about the history of early humanity?” Since our knowledge is different from that of the implied readers of Genesis, these are questions the text is not designed to address and finding answers is a matter of (imaginative, if not speculative) story-telling which seeks to do justice to all the evidence, rather than a matter of being good readers of Genesis. Put differently, it isn’t a matter of filling the gaps in the narrative but of reading between the lines to tell a new story which does justice to both Genesis and everything else we (think we) know. The task of exegesis in this respect is of course to ascertain what sort of historical claims, if any, are being made.

          If the book of Genesis does not re-tell historical traditions, or does not do so in chaps 1-11 but from 12 onwards, if it presents storied theology without historical claims, there is of course no reason to ask many of those questions. The same goes, if the traditions used made (largely inaccurate?) historical claims but were not used with any historical interest.

          • Thomas Renz

            My argument here assumes that “we” want to take any historical claims made in Genesis seriously. It is of course true that many today believe that historical claims are made but that it is ridiculous to take them seriously.

  • barlow

    I’m unclear how we are to rationally pit one science against another. Population genomics makes claims based on evidence, and you are giving that science quite a high degree of influence over your historical conclusions about Adam. But theological science makes claims based on evidence too. For instance, the difficulty of reconciling a just God with a creation intended to operate by tooth and claw seems to be a theological objection to evolution. Solving the objections from genomics and solving the objections from theology seem like equally rational pursuits. I’m trained in theology, and so I implicitly understand the chaos that would result from viewing God as having created a world that was supposed to run according to survival of the fittest. I don’t have a clue why population genomics says that there had to be 1000 people. What about the generation before those 1000 people were homo sapiens? Was it morally okay for them to kill each other in the pursuit of resources?

    For me, the chart starts a bit differently. Either there is a good God or there isn’t. And if there is a good God, then how could he possibly create a terrible world on purpose?

    • peteenns

      Barlow, theology is not a science in the sense that of physical science in that the evidence they consider is of a very different kind. The entire question is what Genesis is actually prepared to speak to, and whether God’s word can speak in contextually limited ways. As for your chart, you are free to construct one to your liking, but note the assumption you are making–namely that if there is a God you already know what he would do.

  • Robert Novak

    Dr. Enns,

    I understand that it is certainly possible for the theory of macro-evolution to be substantiated someday. We may come to the day when the inherent difficulties of the theory are overcome; violation of entropy laws, total absence of fossil records, the mathematical absurdity of time and chance coming together into organic chemicals, the further mathematical absurdity of those organic chemicals coming together into long chain proteins (followed by myriad other absurdities just to reach the first operational cell), contradictory evidence for the age of the earth that potentially limits the available time and chance to a finite number of trials, etc., etc. But for now, those are pretty big problems : ) And since all of the evidence we do have is still best explained by the positing of a common Creator creating creatures to operate in a common biosphere within a common food chain ; it becomes clear that the theory of evolution is (a brilliant, complex and seductive) ad hoc argument that has been invented for the sole purpose of aligning the vibrant beauty of the created order with the metaphysical beliefs of naturalist scientism. The towers of the city of man are spectacular, are they not! I would encourage you to take your own advice and reject ad hoc arguments, especially ones that go against the authority of Scripture (that is, until something other than philosophical speculation is brought to the table in favour of that view)

    • peteenns

      Robert, you may need to sit down with some biologist, geneticists, anthropologists, and archaeologists. You are free to believe as you wish, but…really….macro-evolution is unsubstantiated? And current disagreements over certain scientific issues (an expected dimension of all scientific investigation) substantiates the scientific validity of the biblical story of origins? This is all philosophical speculation? Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin. But again, you are free to believe as you wish.

      • gmv

        Many of us have spoken with biologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, and geneticists. There are many PHDs in those fields who are creationists. Just study human anatomy, at not only a gross anatomical level, but at the microscopic level, and you will understand just how fall short evolution falls as an explanation for the complexity and amazing design seen there. No, evolution has not been proven; it is merely a lot of hand-waving, smoke & mirrors, and assumptions and presuppositions coming together; and if you doubt it, you are labeled as uninformed, ignorant, or plain stupid. You may believe the story of evolution, but please stop teaching pastors and other church leaders that me MUST reinterpret the Bible in light of modern “science.” You do the church a great disservice.

        • peteenns

          GMV, I would suggest that you cast your net more broadly to speak with scientists who see things differently and who will take to time to lay out in detail and in understandable terms why. I would also suggest that for many Christians, a great service is done by this very conversation, not a disservice.

          • gmv


            How do you get around the fact that your view undermines what Jesus and Paul both say about Adam, as well as the genealogies of Genesis 5 and Luke 3? Please answer these questions: Did Paul err when he mentioned a literal, historical Adam (Rom. 5, 1 Cor. 15, 1 Tim. 2)? Did Jesus err when He referred to a literal, historical Adam (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6)? If Adam was not a person, which name is the first real person in the genealogy of Genesis 5? How can the Bible be taken seriously since it says “Eve was the mother of all the living (Gen. 3:20), and we “know” that’s not true based on genomic data? Why believe the Bible when it says that from the three sons of Noah the whole earth was populated (Gen. 9:19), when we “know” this is not true? Your views do great harm to the historical view of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture.

          • peteenns

            GMV, the problem with your questions, for which you demand answers, is that you consider them somehow clinching of an argument, a slam dunk way of getting right to the heart of the matter. They are not. They are second order questions that can only be effectively engaged against the backdrop of many historical, exegetical, theological, and cultural issues. I fear that you will read that as obscurantist, but that is the way it is.

        • Norman


          Pete needs to continue doing what he does well and that is to help educate all believers including pastors on how to interpret scripture as it was originally intended in its ancient setting. Many of us have inherited very poor biblical theology causing us to develop irrational concepts concerning science. Science and Evolution stand on their own merits while an appropriate understanding of the biblical narrative reveals that it really isn’t a science book at all as many want to believe.

          I personally believe Pete is helping straighten out what has sorely been misunderstood by many of faith. However I disagree with Pete just ever so slightly because I don’t think he goes quite far enough “yet” in recognizing that Paul didn’t really employ much ancient science concepts (if we can attribute them to him) in his theological writings concerning Adam.

          When we grasp that Paul as a member of second Temple Judaism conceptualized Adam’s status as the first priest of Israel then the discussion is essentially over concerning whom Adam does and doesn’t represent. Luke 3:38 list Adam as the first “son of God” whom we all know fell from that position until (the last Adam) Christ the “son of God” redeemed those of faith back to Adam’s original status as “sons of God”. Christ came to Israel and redeemed them and as Paul says the Gentiles were then grafted into redeemed Israel. See also Rom 9:6-8.

          Rom 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

          Adam represents faith “man” (historical Israel) under the bondage of Law which is what Paul is trying to explain in Romans 5-8. Good theology will recognize this is the story and is not about the physical origins of humanity.

          So Pete stands on a very solid biblical foundation while those like Ken Ham who want to turn the bible into a science handbook have misappropriated its purpose and intent, missing its original context.


      • Robert Novak

        Dr. Enns,

        First, I want to thank you for your courteous remarks to all. I appreciate how important these issues are, and how important it is for everyone involved to strive for Christian charity in the heat of debate. Second, not to re-hash what others have said, but I have sat down with scientists and I have read the opposing viewpoints. Furthermore, I was proselytized into Naturalist Scientism through my education just like everyone else; I understand the system. The point I was trying to make is this: I have one good friend who is a Yale trained microbiologist and an atheist. I also had a professor who was trained in biology at your Alma mater under Ernst Mayr and subsequently held a position at Virginia Tech for 15 years until his creationist views became public. He was then promptly terminated after 15 years of faithful service (I sure you are able to sympathize). Both men are well trained, both men marshal the same data, both men then interpret that data based on their a priori metaphysical presuppositions and come to radically different conclusions. Dr. Yale constructs a brilliant philosophical speculation on what the evidence must mean in light of the absence of God. When presented with the above mentioned (scientific) discrepancies, he ascribes those to the “mystery” file and says that someday the city of Man will find resolution through our rational power. I will not summon Van Til at this point for the sake of brevity. What this uncovers is that Dr. Yale’s “mystery” file is what religion would call “articles of faith.” His belief in the metaphysical propositions of Naturalist Scientism are based in these articles of faith (spontaneous biogenesis, macro-evolution, etc.) through which he then interprets the data coming to his conclusions. I will not summon Derrida or Polanyi here for the sake of brevity. All of this is fine and good, the man is an atheist and he is being consistent, even though he is basically unaware that he holds a system of belief that is every bit as much faith-based as my own. Dr. Harvard, on the other hand, having Christian theist presuppositions, sees the data in light of the Creator God, and is able to handle the data in such a way that to my mind makes the best sense out of the most evidence. Dr. Enns, I realize that you are also looking at the evidence through Christian theist presuppositions (for the most part), and I like you am very sensitive to the stumbling block put up by interpretations of Genesis that refuse to take ANE literature on ANE literature’s terms. But I am not “free to believe whatever I want,” I am constrained to believe what the best available data is in light of (under the authority of) the best available exegesis–there is One author of both–and never free to believe what the best available exegesis is in light of (under the authority of) the best available data. I also understand that there is tremendous pressure from the academy to accept the conclusions of Naturalist Scientism, and that many believe that this is necessary in order to save the Christian faith. 1 John addresses this issue, and the Church has continued to address it in every generation since. I propose that there is a better way, one that takes the data seriously without taking the pagan presuppositions seriously…as difficult as that may be for darkened hearts to do so, we must do so. The city of God and the city of man are two very different things, and we synthesize them at even greater peril than the suffering we may experience by keeping them distinct. Thank you for your interaction, I know how busy professors are : )

        • peteenns

          Robert, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I feel I understand better where you are coming from. I appreciate the time and effort.

          These are technical matters and I have tried talking over the years to people in the sciences (practicing scientists) whom I trust, are Christian, and who I consider fair-minded—and of course all depends on what circle of friends we all talk to. But, talk we must, since the data are far, far too complex for non-specialists. And certainly, a blog is not the place to address scientific issues because of the inherent danger of taking such complex matters and making them digestible. Counterarguments can take textbook length responses and nuanced arguments to address

          I have heard of Scherer before– interesting stuff on the internet. I think it is hard to determine his position from the limited (and not necessarily unbiased) information available. I had no clue that there was a German anti-evolution group. Scherer seems to be starting from a position of what he feels is required of faith and then looking at evolution in that context. He is, though, a molecular biologist of some sort, but not a geneticist or an evolutionary biologist although it seems that he uses genetics. Unlike the vast majority of people thrown up in these types of discussions as weighty figures, he is an active and accomplished scientist with some relevant expertise.

          But, the problem with finding minority voices is that one can always find them. I know PhDs in physics who claim that Genesis 1 lays down physical laws, which tells me less about Genesis than it does their unfamiliarity with how ancient literature works. The same problem holds in Biblical studies. I know PhDs who say that Abraham wrote tablets in cuneiform, which were handed down to Moses, who wrote them in Hebrew. You can find individuals who will say almost anything. To make matters worse, sometimes these off-the-beaten-path theories are a mixture of interesting ideas and complete misunderstanding of issue in which they are presumably trained.

          So, what Scherer says will have to be hammered out among peers. Let’s see where it goes, but it is definitely a minority position, and I presume for very good reason. And I do not think one can claim naturalistic biases as the root cause for why some ideas are rejected.

          Naturalism is certainly a real issue in parts of the academy, but this doesn’t really account for the reason that most (the vast majority) of scientists accept evolution. It is the central theory that makes sense out of a wide range of seemingly disconnected data. Counterarguments, to be counterarguments, must enter the broader discussion, or else they remain ideologically based assertions.

          Thanks again for your thoughts, Robert.

  • “If one accepts evolution, the first thing to note is that one has left the biblical worldview. I think this is an obvious point, but needs to be stated clearly. As soon as evolution is accepted, the invariably result is some clear movement away from what the Bible says about Adam.”

    Well–what he says is correct concerning what happens if one accepts evolution–but he is advocating pastors to do exactly that–accept evolution and reject what the Bible teaches about origins/Adam! Hard to believe that a Homeschool conference would keep him on and eliminate me–and sad to see he is still spreading his false teaching, in this instance to a group of pastors. Read this article and weep–and pray that God will convict the church leaders Peter Enns spoke to, that they would reject this false teaching and adhere to the authority of the Word of God:

    • peteenns

      Ken, judging by your persistance, I am so sorry that you have such trouble accepting that others do not agree with you–and I say that will all sincerity. I am disappointed, however, that you continue to spread false information about those with whom you disagree–in fact, information that you know is false.

      You know that the reason why you were disinvited from the homeschool conferences has nothing whatsoever to do with how you think about Genesis but with the fact that, in the organizer’s judgment, your tone was not becoming of Christian standards. That is the only reason, and, as I was privy to the same conversations you were, I know that you know that was the reason. It is unclear to me why you continue to project the falsehood that this was an ideological conflict, especially since your views had never prevented you from attending before.

      Second, these pastors invited me to speak to them (along with three other speakers, one of whose views departed significantly from mine), knowing full well what I think. You seem to suggest that I descended upon them unawares to peddle my poison, but these are godly and intelligent men, who, by the way, hardly follow my thinking lock, stock, and barrel–had you been there you would have seen this. You seem to project a paternal oversight toward these knowledgable and capable pastors, but I assure you they have been around the block several times and are quite capable of thinking through issues on their own.

      Finally, although prayer is always a welcome thing, in this matter there is no need to weep and pray for these leaders, myself, or anyone else for having drawn different conclusions from you about Genesis. Where prayer seems to be needed is in guarding our tongues (Proverbs 8:13, Titus 2:7-8).

      My suggestion is that you continue to exercise your freedom in teaching what you wish to whomever wishes to listen. Others will continue to do the same and listeners will conclude what they wish. At the end, to paraphrase Jesus, wisdom will be proved right by how her children behave (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35). Ken, the Gospel is not so fragile that it needs your constant vigilance to survive. It has done well long before you or I came on the scene and will continue to long after we are gone.

      • Jeremy Ham

        This comment was not from Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis.

        • Jeremy Ham

          It is a quote of what Ken Ham said on his Facebook, but someone else posted this on your blog comments.

          • peteenns

            So, Ken Ham posted this on facebook but he didn’t post it as a comment here? Then who did, using Ken’s name? More importantly, these are Ken’s words, right?

  • Bill MacCallum

    When it comes to disagreements between science and the Word Of God, I will go with the Word of God, it’s author is perfectly reliable, science is not.

    • peteenns

      Bill, I agree that the Author is perfectly reliable. That is not where the disagreement lies. The issue is what God means to say to an ancient people in the opening chapters in Genesis. Many Christians (in my experience, I would say by far MOST) see that Genesis is not a book that speaks to matters of science. It is not a matter of choosing between God and science, but what it means to read Genesis well. I trust you will allow others to think differently on this. As I have said in many places, I have no interest in trying to change the minds of people who think differently.

  • Christine Johnson

    Mr. Enns, you stated to Robert that he should sit down with some biologist, geneticists, anthropologists, and archaeologists. I have sat down with all including a geologist, and someone with a PHD in astronomy. Each of these people have a much different view of Adam and creation.
    It is as you say ok to have your view, but I will be standing back and listening to you tell God why to tampered with his word!

    • peteenns

      Christine, see my comment to gmv above.

  • Craig

    Well, Jesus fully verified and accepted the Genesis account. So to reject Genesis as real history, you would have to reject Jesus and all his teachings as well. You would have to reject the genealogy mentioned in Genesis.

    Then you would have to accept that somehow new genetic information can spontaneously appear and that species can break through the species barrier.

    Scientific evidence tells us nothing. Scientists are the ones that tell us about the evidence so do you trust in man or trust in God/Jesus? That is the bottom line.

    • peteenns

      Craig, I can only say that your comment belies a number of crucial false assumptions and misunderstandings about what is at stake and how others think through this process. Have you taken the time to read–carefully and with patience–the views of those who disagree with you on these matters? I always find that to be a helpful exercise in checking and balancing our own perspectives. After all, we are all sinful, fallible, people. None of us has the corner on all truth.

      • Craig

        I think the Bible speaks for itself. To try to re-interpret it to your own liking and then telling others is preaching another gospel. Changing the word of God. Either Moses did get that information (The first five books of the Bible) from God or those books are false as well as many OT writers including Jesus.

        I have read what others posted here. Evolution is not even a consideration in the discussion because it is not a proven fact. By far, what we have discovered since Darwin 200 years ago speaks far greater against it being a fact than for it. I read scientific magazines. I see it clearly. They like to guess a lot. Like I said, the evidence does not speak. Scientists speak.

        • peteenns

          Craig, please read the comments to the previous commenters on this thread.

        • Thomas Renz

          Craig, we sometimes say that the evidence speaks for itself and there is truth in that in some contexts. But strictly speaking your last two sentences are entirely right: Evidence does not speak. Scientists speak.

          The same is true for the Bible and its readers. We sometimes say “The Bible says…” and this is not always altogether wrong but strictly speaking “the Bible does of course not speak for itself” (and certainly not in English). Bible readers speak.

          James K.A. Smith has an interesting book, , arguing that this need for interpretation in all communication is not in fact the lamentable, scandalous state of affairs it is often taken to be but God’s gift.

          • peteenns

            Yes, it is an uncomfortable fact that the Bible has to be interpreted. Literalism is not the “default godly hermeneutic,” a fact that can be seen by perusing the not only the history of the church but how the biblical authors interact with each other.

  • Gretchen

    I cannot help but say you are wrong…to disprove Adam and Eve as real people, as our first parents, as being created By God on the 6th day, is the same as disproving every other event in the Bible. If you cannot believe and read with ease the trueness of God’s Word and feel it necessary to rely on Science to tell you what happened, then you must not have any faith. If you say that Adam and Eve are not real, then what about Noah, Moses, David, Esther, Solomon, John, Paul, GOD and so many others in the Bible. Are they not real either? Do they represent some kind of “story” or “theory”? I just cannot believe that a person who can believe in part of the Bible, cannot believe in all of the Bible. Granted many interpret it many ways, and many of those interpret it to fit their desires. But when the Bible plainly states in the very first verse, Genesis 1:1 “In the BEGINNING God CREATED the Heavens and the Earth” and then SIX days later, he “formed man from the dust of the ground”…how much more “scientific” do I need to get! God spoke it and it happened! You cannot get inside the mind of God, you cannot NOT believe something so simply written! You just have to BELEIVE..if you cant believe the beginning, then how can you believe the end or anything in the middle!
    Luke 3: 21-38
    (21) Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, (22) and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”
    (23) Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, (24) the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, (25-36………)
    (37) the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, (38) the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of ADAM, the SON OF GOD.

    Mr. Enns, how much more plainer can it be…Adam was created at the beginning…the above is the geneology of Jesus. To deny any of it, is to deny God’s existance as well.

    • peteenns

      Gretchen, I really do understand where you are coming from, but when you say that these things are “plainly written” that we should be able to understand with “ease,” red flags go up all over the place. Since even before the time of Jesus, highly capable readers have been working through these very chapters to try to discern what exactly they are getting at. The BIble has posed interpretive problems for minds greater that your or mine for a very long time. Apparently, God may not be as committed to the type of Bible you are thinking of.

      Also, it is most certainly not true God’s existence is at stake or that every other event in the Bible rests on the type of Adam you are thinking of.

  • clarification:
    micro-evolution is proven scientific fact. it deals with the ability of a species to change within the same level of complexity. we can observe that today.
    macro-evolution is a theory, a model of how we can interpret the scientific data in a naturalistic way. it has never been proven and it probably can’t be. it is as much a faith (based on a worldview) as the faith in the “historical adam”.

    @peteenns: i know that macro-evolution implies that there is no historical adam. and i know that this is what you was writing about. but it is not about the interpretation of evolution but about the interpretation of data. what you postulate is that we should base our interpreation on a theory (a way of interpreting) which in its core is based on a naturalistic worldview – and not on the data itself. as others stated here, i also talked a lot to scientists, attended lectures and debates and read their books – from both sides. it is simply not true that the data forces us to macro-evolution. what scientists do say (the evolutionists) is the following: “there isn’t any reasonable alternative to macro-evolution”. not even richard dawkins would say that he has “proven” the theory – they just argue, think and interpret from a naturalistic worldview – and from this perspective there in fact is no reasonable alternative. but we don’t share this worldview – what you downplay as “current disagreements over certain scientific issues” are some serious issues that stay against macro-evolution. yes, this is something to expect in scientific investigation. but that doesn’t change that we nowadays have less reasons to believe in macro-evolution than we had when it was first coined. this may change (by the way the reasonable answer evolutionists give to that) – but this is the status quo. probably that was the thing @Robert Novak wanted to point out – the (literal) biblical account of our existence has in many ways less serious problems in respect to reality and the scientific data than the theory of macro-evolution – assuming we believe in a theistic worldview. no, the serious problems of macro-evolution do not substantiate the scientifc validity of the biblical story. but this reality, this facts are far from forcing a “reasonable” thinker, scientist, christian, whatever to believe in the theory of macro evolution. even first level biology scientists don’t. Prof. Siegfried Scherer is a well know micro-biologist at the secular german elite university TU München. He is still teaching, he still has his job and he is still believing in the historical adam. he made quite a few researches in the area of macro-evolution showing some of its problems within micro-biology. check it on google.

    • peteenns

      Chris, as with Robert’s comments above, I have had numerous opportunities to confer with practicing scientist in the relevant field. I am on very firm ground when I say that you are incorrect when you assert that “we nowadays have less reasons to believe in macro-evolution than we had when it was first coined.” The case is much stronger today than it ever was in the past – and the case is getting stronger not weaker. The information from study of the genome alone makes a strong case.

      From what I am told, the distinction between macro and micro evolution is an artificial distinction and that the philosophical commitment to naturalism is certainly a real issue in parts of the academy, but this doesn’t really account for the reason that most (the vast majority) of scientists accept evolution. It is the central theory that makes sense out of a wide range of seemingly disconnected data.

      Practicing scientists also us the word “theory” very differently than you do. It does not mean a stab in the dark, driven by naturalistic assumptions, guess at how things work.

      For what it’s worth, the Christians who are scientists that I know would never say that are naturalistic or are of a different religion, etc. Many feel that evolution is God’s way of creating (it is not a godless process) and that the Bible speaks of origins in an ANE idiom. There either/or between evolution and Christianity is something they would fully reject, as I do, and for many very compelling reasons.

  • peteenns

    I’ve gotten some very thoughtful comments this morning, and I ask that you give me a bit of time before responding. Busy day! Just wanted to thank you all in advance, and I will get to them as soon as I can.

  • Lyn Hettler

    Just to clarify, the creationists I know such as myself do not believe human genetics in the current population goes back to two people, we believe it goes back to eight people- Noah and his family. Everybody else was destroyed.

    I am not familiar enough with genome theory to know if scientists could accept an intial eight people as enough to account for the variation or if they would argue with that. We certainly believe that with some obvious serious climate change at the flood where lifespans were reduced down from many hundreds of years, it is entirely possible that cosmic radiation or new exposure to toxic elements did create some genetic mutations in Noah’s offspring, enough to create current variation. We do not try to dismiss any mathematics about DNA and human diversity, we just go back to eight people- or maybe you could say the first few thousand after the flood.

    By the way Dr Enns, I am wondering what you say about the enigma of the frozen woolly mammoths with undigested buttercups in their mouths and stomach. Surely there are mysteries of past catastrophes that are truer to the literal bible stories than to uniformity theory.

    • peteenns

      Lyn, it is my understanding that a population around the time Noah would not be enough time–unless one puts Noah about 100,000-150,000 years ago.

    • AHH

      Lyn, 8 does not work either. There is some uncertainty, but apparently the number pretty much needs to be in the thousands.
      The whole picture of the genomic evidence is laid out by a (Christian) expert in the field here:
      Some of the article will be over the head of those with no science background (and some bits are over the head of scientists like me with little expertise in genetics), but he does a decent job of occasionally stopping to summarize in layman’s terms.

  • John Gage

    Pete – Where does the biblical genealogy fit into your potential views of Genesis without an historical Adam? It seems hard to read Genesis 5 as anything but historical to me. At what point does the historical genealogy of the bible become actual history in your view? Noah? Abraham? Moses? (I am not asking about other humans existing before Adam, I am just focused on the genealogy).

    Thanks for your help.

    • peteenns

      Hello John,

      You are asking a commonly asked question, for it is often assumed that genealogies are about as clearly historical as one can get–I mean, it’s a list of names, with ages, etc. A lot of scholars have thought about genealogies in the ancient world, and they seem to serve theological functions, not so much, if at all, truly historical functions. I’m not sure what would come up if you googled it, but if you do, make sure you are reading something written by a reputable scholar, not simply an apologetic website. One thing that you will likely find is a comparison of the Sumerian King List to Genesis. The nature of that relationship is tricky to work out, but it gives you the idea of how genealogies were written and what they were intended to do. We shouldn’t think of them as we think of genealogical records today.

  • Jeff Young

    Dr. Enns,

    Very interesting note and chart. I too, with AHH, would recommend an adjustment in the phrase, “Biblical Worldview,” as this conjures up more than just the ANE pre- or non-scientific view of the world by the ancient human authors of Scripture. It would also be interesting to hear what responses you received.

    I appreciate your tackling of Genesis 2 as it seems no one really wants to deal with this (including myself). I feel very comfortable, having benefited from the work of the likes of Seely, Wenham, Walton, Waltke, et. al. with Genesis 1 as expressing Creation through the lens of the ANE worldview. But, Genesis 2 is another challenging issue. Looking forward to reading your observations on the possibilities (and your book in January).

    • peteenns

      Genesis 1 is easy compared to Genesis 2. I’ve wondered often whether Walton will take the next step and write “The Lost World of Genesis Two.”

  • Mark S

    Romans 5 blows up and sinks any theory that comes up against a Biblical, historical Adam.

    • peteenns

      Mark, if it were that simple, no one would be talking about it.

  • Jacob Arminius

    1. I have been reading all your articles and comments to others and notice you come across as very condescending, arrogant, flippant, and purely intellectual. And may I add that because you only refer to Augustine/Reformation you leave out all Eastern Saints and Fathers who saw the Genesis narrative as BOTH literal AND allegorical/metaphorical pointing us to Christ. When I say purely intellectual approach I mean Christianity is not only of the ‘mind,’ (a rational exercise and argument) but also a real encountering of the Living God in experience and heart that can not be explained simply rationally. (By faith we believe that Jesus rose from the dead – which in essence from a scientific intellectual perspective or endeavor is scientific nonsense). All the Saints of History (at least in the Eastern Tradition and Fathers who many claimed to see God) did not approach God, the scriptures, or our faith as a purely intellectual exercise, which I see you and this entire debate consisting of.

    2. You set up a false premise that if you “embrace evolution . . . then” but I have not seen yet what you mean by evolution. If you mean speck-to-soup-to-hominoid-to-man macro evolution, many can rightfully reject that as mythical presuppositional nonsense. If you mean micro-evolution in the sense that there is natural selection, speciation etc working within the species (the “biblical kinds” ) then there really is no issue to debate. And why the emphasis in God inspired scripture of “according to their kinds” when it comes to origin of the species if it is not true?

    3. Jesus affirmed Genesis as literal as did not Gospel writers. You can say all you want about Paul but what do you do with our Lord Jesus who affirmed Adam and Eve, the flood of Noah, the genealogies, and the events in the OT as historical realities (see small sample below). Is Jesus a liar? Is Jesus an ignorant noob speaking from a pre-scientific mindset? The one who created all things Himself does not know if Adam and the fall in Genesis are literal??? (Col 1:16-17)

    1. Matthew 19:4 Created male and female with Gen 1:27, 5:2
    2. Matthew 19:5–6 Cleave to his wife; become one flesh with Gen 2:24
    3. Matthew 23:35 Righteous Abel with Gen 4:4
    4. Matthew 24:37–39 Noah and the Flood with Gen 6:1–22, 7:1–24, 8:1–22
    5. Mark 10:6 Created male and female with Gen 1:27, 5:2
    6. Mark 10:7–9 Cleave to his wife, become one flesh with Gen 2:24
    7. Mark 13:19 Since the beginning of the creation which God created with Gen 1:1, 2:4
    8. Luke 3:34–36 Genealogies: Abraham to Shem with Gen 10:22–25, 11:10–26
    9. Luke 3:36–38 Genealogies: Noah to Adam to God with Gen 5:3–29
    10. Luke 11:51 Blood of Abel with Gen 4:8–11
    11. Luke 17:27 The flood came and destroyed them all with Gen 7:10–23

    Hope this makes sense as I do not claim to be a great writer, but these are some thoughts among many I have. I mean no disrespect. It is just fascinating to me that after 2000 years, this is all being debated now. How poor and hungry and ignorant our forefathers and mothers were being deprived of these “new truths.” How sad they believed the silly nonsense of Adam and Eve and a Fall that introduced death, mortality, and sin into the world. How wise we are today. Lord have mercy.

    • peteenns

      Jacob, Thank for for saying that I “come across as very condescending, arrogant, flippant, and purely intellectual” and that (in the last paragraph) you “mean no disrespect.” Concerning your three points, (1) I assure you this not a purely intellectual exercise; (2) your dismissal of evolution is certainly your prerogative; (3) the hermeneutical issues of both Jesus and Paul are things that many people have discussed–listing passages like these don’t end the discussion but augment it.

  • william hart

    adam in chapter 1 is #120 in the strongs hebrew low-degree of its kinds or mankinds. in chapter 2 eth-ha-adam #376 lords man,husbandman. most dont do the rdesearch and misapply the teaching. pretty hard to debate if you dont know the true story. remember the lord had know one to till the ground. so he formed adam to lead the way. if you teach adam and eve ate from an apple thats false teaching.