Who were the historic Adam and Eve, how modern scientific discoveries support the biblical account, and answers to the major challenges to the reality of our first parents.
Adam and Eve were real people. But because the best accounts of Adam and Eve are found in the Bible, many critics challenge their existence. Throughout the years, opponents to the historicity of Adam and Eve have challenged the biblical record on several fronts. Even Christians, including Bible college and seminary professors, have argued against a historical Adam and Eve. Often because of evolutionary thought, many claim they were mythological or allegorical figures with no basis in real history. But are they right?
Our aim is to examine Adam and Eve from the Bible, consider some of the theological implications for believing in a real Adam and Eve, and finally to address some of the major challenges to the historicity of the first humans.
According to Scripture, Adam and Eve were the first human beings on the planet. In Genesis, we are told God “formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7). This man, called Adam, was the first human being. But God did not create Adam to be alone. We read further along,
“But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man…The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” (Genesis 2:20–22, 3:20)
In the plain reading of Genesis 1–3, we learn that God created the first two people: Adam and Eve. They were placed in the and given everything they needed: food, work, companionship, and fellowship with God as they walked with him in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). It was perfect, almost.
Then something happened.
A serpent entered the garden to tempt Adam and Eve. God had given food from every tree in the garden, but commanded the man and woman not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve believed the serpent, ate of the fruit, then gave to Adam who also ate of the fruit (Genesis 3:6).
This event was catastrophic. Now known as the fall, God judged Adam and Eve for disobeying his command. And true to his word, Adam and Eve began the process of death. The Bible tells us that Adam lived for 930 years and then he died (Genesis 5:5).
Adam and Eve died because of the fall, but the fall didn’t just affect them.
Since their sin, every other person born after them were plunged into rebellion against God’s order. That includes you and every other human being you know. And this rebellion is also the reason we die today. Through Adam’s sin, death came into the world (Romans 5:12).
But Jesus demonstrated he has power over death. Jesus came, lived, was crucified, and rose from the dead (Luke 24:46). Those who are in Christ will not have to suffer the eternal consequences of sin. Through Adam sin entered the world, but through Christ we can be saved from the punishment of sin.
That’s why a historical Adam and Eve are so important. If you deny a real Adam and real Eve, many of the doctrines in the Bible (including the gospel) would be incoherent. On many occasions, New Testament authors connect a historic Adam and Eve to foundational doctrine and it does not make sense if Adam and Eve were mythological
Consider the following passages that refer back to a historic Adam and Eve.
By connecting to their real existence and activities, the New Testament overwhelmingly affirms the historicity of Adam and Eve. It’s not possible to deny a real Adam and Eve while at the same time believing the rest of the Bible. Hence it is vital to believe in an actual Adam and Eve to maintain a coherent biblical theology.
Paul underscores why a historical Adam was so important. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22). The apostle said that we suffered the consequences of our sins because of a real Adam, but also that in a real Christ we can overcome a real death and be reconciled with the real God.
But not everyone believes the Bible about Adam and Eve. There are many attempted challenges to the history and theology connected to an actual Adam and Eve. Here are some of the more popular disagreements with the Bible’s account of our first parents.
Evolutionary thought permeates our culture.
In its popular form, evolutionists argue for the common descent of human beings from other animals or human-like creatures. According to them, Adam and Eve could not have been created in the way a plain reading of Genesis 1–2 suggests since modern humans evolved from pre-existing creatures.
These critics seek to mythologize or allegorize the narrative of the first few chapters of Genesis. For instance, when recounting the narrative of Adam and Eve, The Washington Post proposed:
First, the story existed as myth, inspired in part by the Babylonian creation story, then Saint Augustine made it fact, and biblical literalism reigned for centuries until the Enlightenment, when representation of the couple in art and literature became so accurate that they seemed too human, too real, and people started asking questions, and before long secularism and science turned the story back into myth.
But is that accurate? This does not read the Bible as an integrated whole.
The biblical authors knew what mythology was. On numerous occasions, they clearly distinguish historical fact from mythology (1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 1:16). So when the Bible itself argues for the historicity of Adam and Eve as Jesus, Luke, and Paul did (see above), it affirms the historicity of Adam and Eve. Later teachers may have also affirmed the reality of Adam and Eve, but so did the authors of Scripture before them. That’s why a mythological or merely allegorical Adam and Eve does not match the rest of biblical teaching.
Another similar challenge to the historicity of Adam and Eve relates to the genre of Genesis. In other words, we shouldn’t believe Adam and Eve were real people because the primary account of their lives is found in a poetic section of Scripture. According to this view, Adam and Eve were merely poetic devices.
Like the first challenge, this argument doesn’t work for the same reasons. Jesus and other New Testament authors refer to Adam and Eve as historical figures. That means the biblical authors read the first chapters of Genesis as history. To deny the historicity of Adam and Eve by turning them into literary characters, one also must deny what Jesus taught (Mark 10:6).
Dr. Terry Mortensen also agrees when he said:
The early chapters of Genesis are not poetry, a series of parables or prophetic visions, or mythology. The chapters recount God’s acts in time-space history: acts of creation, providence, and redemption.
When we insist that Genesis 1–11 is history, we are not saying that this section of the Bible is only history, i.e., that it was only inspired to satisfy some of our curiosity about origins. It is far more than history, for it teaches theology, morality, and redemption, and those truths are vitally important. But Genesis 1–11 is not less than history, and what it teaches on the latter themes is rooted in that history.
Yet another different challenge is an internal critique of Genesis. God promised Adam and Eve a certain judgment if they ate the forbidden fruit:
[B]ut of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Genesis 2:17).
How is one supposed to reconcile the fact that God promised a particular judgment for a particular sin with a judgment that was not fulfilled? Put another way, why didn’t Adam and Eve die immediately when they ate the fruit? Bodie Hodge addresses this supposed contradiction. . .
The Hebrew is, literally, die-die (muwth-muwth) with two different verb tenses (dying and die), which can be translated as “surely die” or “dying you shall die.” This indicates the beginning of dying, an ingressive sense, which finally culminates with death.
At that point, Adam and Eve began to die and would return to dust (Genesis 3:19). If they were meant to die right then, the text should have simply used muwth only once, which means “dead, died, or die” and not beginning to die or surely die (as muwth-muwth is used in Hebrew). Old Testament authors understood this and used it in such a fashion, but we must remember that English translations can miss some of the nuance.
Still others have challenged the historical record in that Adam could not possibly have named all the animal species in one day. Adam named all the animals on day 6. And he must have named all the animals in one day, because that was the rationale for God creating the woman (Genesis 2:20)—since she was also created on day 6. According to Scripture,
Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name (Genesis 2:19).
There are currently millions of species of animals on the earth. The question is how could Adam have named all the animals on a single day? The narrative strains at believability if we are to believe Adam named millions of animals in less than a day.
But consider the situation.
In the first day, Adam named all the animals created at that time. It is likely that Adam had to name only a couple thousand proto-species of land animals—a task which could easily have been achieved in a few hours. Assuming Adam had to name 2,500 proto-species, or kinds (mostly at the family level of taxonomy), at 5 seconds per animal, it would have taken him approximately three and a half hours to complete the task. This was very doable, even for a person today.
Others have challenged the possibility of a historic Adam and Eve on evolutionary grounds. They contend that human DNA is so similar to chimpanzee DNA, thus making our first parents unnecessary. Mainstream numbers change, but studies have suggested that human and chimp DNA is about 95–99% similar. Is that possible?
Although the DNA studies do confirm similarities between human and chimp DNA, the latest research by geneticist Jeffrey Tomkins puts the similarities closer to 80-88% compared to 95-99%. And that number may be modified even further as more research comes to light.
Taking the more reliable results provided by the earlier BLASTN version corroborated by the whole chromosome alignments of Nucmer obtained in this study, it is likely that the 88% similarity number is considerably more accurate than other methods to date. Additionally, studies show that chimpanzees have a genome size about 8% larger than humans, so “the actual genome similarity with human, even using the high end estimate of 88% for just the alignable regions, is realistically only about 80% or less when the cytogenetic data is taken into account,” according to the latest Tomkins study.
The Bible affirms the historic accounts of Adam and Eve. However, there’s even more scientific literature that confirms the historicity of the first parents. In a well-documented presentation, Dr. Georgia Purdom outlines several reasons we should trust the Bible when it talks about Adam and Eve.
In conclusion, the Bible confirms the historicity of Adam and Eve. They were real people, specially created by God, and every person born is related to them. Moreover, there is nothing in scientific research that has been able to disprove the existence of Adam and Eve.
Most importantly, the gospel is dependent upon an actual Adam and Eve. Both in the New Testament (Romans 5:12–14) and in the Old Testament, we see a historical Adam and Eve connected to the promised Messiah. When God judged the serpent after the fall, there was a glimmer of hope that he hid in the judgment:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).
Theologians understand this “offspring” of the woman to be none other than Jesus Christ. And just as Eve found hope in God’s promised offspring, so also we look to God’s promised offspring of redemption, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Adam and the Genome illustrates that, as new scientific data accumulate, evolutionists find new and more nuanced ways to contradict the Bible.
How the fossil record, evolutionary assumptions, artistic license, and anatomical differences do NOT confirm common ancestry between humans and apes.
Genetics confirms the recent, supernatural creation of Adam and Eve and refutes the evolutionary narrative on human origins.
People make the claim that it is impossible to get 7 billion descendants from two people. In kindness, where does the Bible say this is impossible?
Because of the impact of evolution on the theological world today, an increasing number of evangelical scholars are denying Adam’s historicity.
The recent publication of Adam and the Genome illustrated how evolutionists find new and more nuanced ways to contradict the biblical account.
Many people think of the forbidden fruit as an apple. Is that what the Bible says?
Does it really matter what we believe about Adam? Yes it does! There are enormous moral and spiritual implications of these truths.
Eve found hope in the same promised Seed that we all look to.
Therefore, it is claimed, the Bible does not deal with the issue of the age of mankind or even how man came into existence.
Many women have the impression that the Genesis account of Adam and Eve imposed a humiliating, subservient role on women. Is this really the case?
Due to a mixture of biblical and secular reasons, an increasing number of evangelical scholars are beginning to deny the supernatural creation of Adam.
The issue is not whether a person can be a Christian and believe in evolution but what one has to concede theologically in order to hold to their belief.
The Bible is full of historical accounts, but they leave out fascinating details that we’d love to know more about. Is it okay to look further?
In secular culture it is common to view the biblical history of Adam as a story, myth, or a parable but this is now also becoming the standard interpretation for many within the evangelical community.PDF Download
Dr. Terry Mortenson, AiG-U.S., responds to a recent blog post by Dr. Peter Enns that strongly accused Ken Ham of teaching obvious error and misleading Christians.
This article reveals how young-earth creationists have concluded the approximate age of Adam and to explain the reason for a 6,000 year range between both groups.PDF Download
Genesis 1 and 2 seem to indicate different times for the creation of Eve. Was Eve created on Day Six or not?
Did God contradict Himself concerning what He said Adam could eat?
This paper will show that Christian professor Daniel Brannan’s arguments are based on faulty premises regarding Adam’s constitutional nature, the nature of Adam’s perfection and Adam’s free choice.PDF Download
The June 2011 issue of Christianity Today spends a lot of ink searching for the historical Adam or explaining why we shouldn’t expect there to be one.
Darrel Falk of BioLogos recently presented an article proclaiming the coming acceptance of evolution among evangelical Christians. He intends to fight against the biblical idea of a young earth.
There has been a lot of talk recently about a New Perspective on Paul (NPP). Writers previously thought to be evangelicals have used this new idea to open an assault on Adam and Eve.
Some have claimed that the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean what it says in Genesis 2:17, since Adam and Eve didn’t die the moment they ate.
Often, people say that they can’t believe the serpent in Genesis 3 spoke because they claim animals don’t speak.
Why would God tell Adam and Eve to “replenish” the earth in Genesis 1:22 if they were the first humans?
“Why is Adam translated either man or mankind and not Adam?”
How could Adam have named millions of different species on Day 6 if it was only 24 hours? This is a common objection to a straightforward view of Genesis 1.
Many evangelical Christians don’t realize the importance of the Genesis record and its implications on other areas and doctrines of the Bible.
Despite the large number of cartoons and the almost universally accepted tradition, the Bible does not say that Eve ate an apple. Why then is it so popular to believe that she did?
Did Adam have a belly-button? I believe we really have an answer to that, and we can say, 'No — Adam didn't. Neither did Eve.'
Adam's rib is not a topic you'd expect to be discussed in courses promoting evolution. So I was intrigued to read in Discover magazine that the subject of Adam's rib arose repeatedly.
This highlights the uncertainties and complexities of attempts to reconstruct the past. It is at present just as consistent with the data to state that the real Adam and Eve lived in the same place.