Other Humans Before Adam & Eve?

Simon Turpin of AiG–UK responds to biblical scholars who argue that Genesis 1 & 2 allow for pre-Adamite beings on earth prior to Adam and Eve.

by Simon Turpin on March 16, 2021
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Arguments from biblical scholars that find ways of reading ancient near Eastern1 or evolutionary ideas into the text of Genesis are becoming popular amongst lay people and Christian apologists. In a previous article I noted that apologist and theistic evolutionist Michael Jones (Inspiring Philosophy) has used several of these arguments to try and refute “young earth creation” (biblical creation). Based on the work of Old Testament scholars John Walton and Michael Heiser, Jones argues that Genesis 1 implies there were more people around than Adam and Eve (i.e., pre-Adamites) and that, therefore, in Genesis 2, which he believes is a sequel to Genesis 1,2 God elects Adam and Eve out of that group of people:

 . . . Genesis 1 speaks of encompassing all of humanity, not just one man or one couple, implying that when God made man in his image, it was meant to include all humans wherever they were existing at that time. Then Genesis 2 picks up after this with the creation, or election, of two specific individuals to act as priests in the garden of Eden. So, because of the tôlĕdōt in Genesis 2, the implication is that Adam came after when all humanity was made in the image of God and therefore was not the first human.3

While this view may seem appealing to those who want to accommodate evolutionary thinking with the Bible, there are several problems with it.

While this view may seem appealing to those who want to accommodate evolutionary thinking with the Bible, there are several problems with it.

Genesis 1

Genesis 1 gives us a historical account of the creation of the world that teaches God created all things in six 24-hour days (cf. Exodus 20:11). The flow of the creation account in Genesis 1 leads us to the pinnacle of God’s creation on day six, when he creates man in his own image:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26–28)

Do these verses suggest there were more than two people on earth at this point? No, since this is day six, mankind was the first couple (Adam and Eve). In Genesis 1:26, “man” (ʾādām, is without the article, i.e., anarthrous) refers to mankind because, after using the singular “ʾādām,” it says “let them (plural) have dominion . . .” Then in Genesis 1:27, “the man” (hāʾādām, with the article, i.e., arthrous) is used, which is followed by “ . . . in the image of God he created him (singular),” then “male and female, he created them (plural).” In Genesis 2:7–8, 15–16, 18–23, 25, 3:9 12, 22, 24, and 4:1, the arthrous “hāʾādām” is used and refers to the individual first man, Adam. Then in Adam’s genealogy, Genesis 5:1–5, it is always anarthrous “ʾādām.” In Genesis 5:1, “ʾādām” (twice) refers to the first man because it refers to “him.” In Genesis 5:2, it refers to “male and female . . . them,” who were “called “ʾādām” when they were created. So “ʾādām” refers to both male and female, but they were the first two humans (Adam and Eve). In Genesis 5:3–5, “ʾādām” clearly refers to the first man, Adam, who fathered Seth and had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 2

Before looking at the text of Genesis 2, it is first necessary to establish the context of the narrative. Genesis 2 is a more detailed account of the creation of mankind on the sixth day of creation and not a secondary and contradictory account of creation to Genesis 1 nor a sequel chapter to it.4

This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens . . . . (Genesis 2:4 (NKJV) )
Interestingly, this is the only time the phrase tôlĕdōt occurs without a personal name, the reason being that “Adam had no human predecessors.”

The key to understanding 2:4 is in the opening Hebrew phrase tôlĕdōt (“This is the history of”), as it formulates the structure of the book of Genesis.5 A number of scholars recognize that here tôlĕdōt serves as a heading that introduces a new section of the narrative.6 Interestingly, this is the only time the phrase tôlĕdōt occurs without a personal name, the reason being that “Adam had no human predecessors.”7 The tôlĕdōt serves two main purposes in Genesis 2:4. First, it “links 2:4–25 with 1:1–2:3. The language of 2:4 looks back to the creation account,”8 just as the tôlĕdōt in Genesis 11:10 looks back to a line of Shem in Genesis 10:1 and 10:21–31. Second, “its main purpose is to shift attention to the creation of man and his placement in the garden.”9 The setting of Genesis 2 is the garden in Eden, in which the LORD God places the man he creates (Genesis 2:8, 15). Because there was no man to work the ground (Genesis 2:5), this is the reason that the LORD God forms “the man” (hāʾādām) from the dust of the “ground” (ʾădāmâ). The description of the creation of the first man is given in Genesis 2:7:

then the LORD 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.

Like a craftsman who shapes his material, the LORD God “formed”10 (yāṣar)11 the man from the “dust” (ʿāpār)12 of the ground. The word “dust” is not a metaphor. It can only mean literal dust in the context of Genesis 2–3 because it is to dust that Adam will return due to his disobedience (Genesis 3:19; cf. Job 34:14-15). After the formation of man from the dust of the ground, he is given human life when the LORD God breathes into him the breath of life (cf. Genesis 6:17, 7:15, 22), which is “a clear indication of life—and thereby the lifeless body became a living soul, a living being.”13 Adam consists then of the material (dust) and immaterial (breath of life). It was not until the LORD God breathed into Adam that he became a living creature (as Paul also indicates in 1 Corinthians 15:45: “the first man Adam became a living soul”).

This means that you cannot place minutes, hours, days, or years between those two acts as they are distinct, inseparable, essentially simultaneous sides of the one creative event.

The forming of the man from the dust of the ground shows that the LORD God formed the body almost immediately without intermediate processes. The act of formation and impartation (the breath of life) are two distinct but inseparable acts—two sides of one creative act. This means that you cannot place minutes, hours, days, or years between those two acts as they are distinct, inseparable, essentially simultaneous sides of the one creative event. This, therefore, rules out the idea that man developed from a lower form of a pre-existing hominid. If Adam was not the first man and there were other hominids prior to him, then it raises the question: in what sense was he the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45)?

The ground was not only the place of Adam’s creation but also his home, and because of his later disobedience, it would become his grave (Genesis 2:15; 3:19). Adam’s value is seen not in what he was made from but rather in the unique way God formed him (cf. Genesis 1:27; Psalm 8:3–-4, 139:13–14). The man the LORD God formed is called Adam (Genesis 2:20; 3:17; cf. 5:1), who is the only human at this point as he is alone, which is not good (Genesis 2:1814), until God makes a helper who corresponds to him (Genesis 2:18–22).

The context and language of Genesis 2:7 clearly rule out any evolutionary processes. This is evident from the fact that: (1) man is alone; (2) God breathes into his nostrils the “breath of life”; and (3) he is formed from the dust of the ground.

Because Adam cannot find a helper (ʿēzer) who corresponds (kĕnegdô) to him from among the animals (Genesis 2:20), the LORD God puts him into a deep sleep (cf. Jonah 1:5–6) and makes (bānâ) a woman, who corresponds to him, from his “rib” (Genesis 2:18). The verb bānâ depicts the LORD God as “building” Eve out of the “rib” or side of Adam (Genesis 2:22). It is used elsewhere in Genesis for the physical building of a city and a tower (Genesis 4:17, 11:4; cf. Amos 9:6). The word rib (ṣēlāʿ) complements the word built, as it appears numerous times in the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:12, 26:20, 27:7, 30:4, 36:31–32, 37:3, 38:7). This is a beautiful picture of how the LORD God constructed the first woman. The term built also compliments the craftsman’s term fashion used for the creation of Adam (Genesis 2:7), as the LORD God is now working with hard material and not soft dust.15 Eve, unlike Adam, was not created from the ground, but her source comes from a “living creature.” There is no way to harmonize Genesis 2:22 with theistic evolution: it is describing supernatural creation!

In Genesis 2:22, Adam finally meets the one who corresponds to him, that the LORD God built to be a helper for him. After meeting the woman, Adam says, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she [this one] shall be called woman, because she [this one] was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). In Hebrew the three occurrences of the demonstrative pronoun this (zōʾt) in verse 23 show Adam’s exclamation of the one who rightly corresponds to him. The fact that the woman (ʾiššâ) came from the man (ʾîš) shows that they are made of the same stuff. Adam goes on to name his wife “Eve” because she is to become the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20).

By combining Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in this way, he in no way regarded them as separate, contradictory accounts of creation.

Most importantly, in Matthew 19:4–5 Jesus quotes from Genesis 1 and 2 as referring to the same people to make a theological point on marriage. By combining Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in this way, he in no way regarded them as separate, contradictory accounts of creation. Jesus understood the “male and female” of Genesis 1:27 as “the man” (Adam) and “the woman” (Eve) of Genesis 2:24. Genesis 2 is the beginning of the history of mankind on day six of creation week.

There is no hint whatsoever in Genesis 2 of a group of pre-existing people from whom God elects the first couple, Adam and Eve. Rather it talks about the supernatural formation of the first man (Adam) and the supernatural “building” of the first woman (Eve). The Bible makes it clear: all mankind came from the first man that God created (cf. Acts 17:26).

Footnotes

  1. Steve Ham, “Is the Meaning of Genesis Lost in the Ancient Near East?” August 19, 2015, https://answersingenesis.org/the-word-of-god/genesis-in-ancient-near-east/.
  2. Jones states: “Biblical scholar John Walton notes that the phrase [tôlĕdōt] in Genesis 2 is probably teaching the same idea and that what takes place in Genesis 2 is meant to be a sequel and not a recap of what happens in Genesis 1. After God establishes the cosmos, he then hones in on one region on the earth to create a garden environment, but this would mean what is commonly viewed as the creation of the first man in Genesis 2 is not actually the creation of the first man. Since in the prequel [i.e., Genesis 1] to Genesis 2 God elects all humans to be his image and this would take place before Genesis 2 and before Adam is believed to have been created from dust.” See “TOP TEN Biblical Problems for Young Earth Creationism” by Inspiring Philosophy, Dec 12, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AoLYeFi2ms. This supposed “biblical problem” for YEC was fourth in Jones’ list.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Jones gets the idea of Genesis 2 being a sequel to Genesis 1 from John Walton. See John Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 63–69. For a rebuttal of Walton’s reasons for understanding Genesis 2 as a sequel to Genesis 1, see Simon Turpin, “Genesis 2—Defending the Supernatural Creation of Adam,” Answers in Depth 11 (September 21, 2016), https://answersingenesis.org/adam-and-eve/genesis-2-defending-supernatural-creation-adam/.
  5. The Hebrew phrase tôlĕdōt occurs 11 times in Genesis (2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 27, 25:12, 19, 36:1, 9, 37:2).
  6. Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1–17: NICOT (Grand Rapids Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 2–11; Kenneth Mathews, The New American Commentary: Genesis 1–11:26 (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 1996), 26–41.
  7. Robert V. McCabe, “A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account (Part 2 Of 2)” DBSJ 11 (2006): 73.
  8. Ibid., 75.
  9. Ibid., 73.
  10. The reason “formed” (yāṣar) is used instead of “create” (bārāʾ, Genesis 1:27) is that the man is being made of an already existing material.
  11. See Jeremiah 18:2, 33:2; Isaiah 44:9–20, 45:9.
  12. This is a clay-like mixture that is used to plaster the walls of houses (Leviticus 14:41, 45).
  13. Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary On The Book of Genesis Part One: From Adam To Noah, Trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1944), 106.
  14. The fact that Adam’s being alone is not good shows that it is not yet the end of the sixth day, for part of the reason that creation is declared to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31) is that by the end of that day God had made a helper for the man (Genesis 2:18–22).
  15. See Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation & Commentary (London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), 9.

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