When it comes to the discussion over creation, historical Adam, the fall, the flood, and the age of the earth, many people mistakenly think that the issues only involve the interpretation of Genesis 1–11. It is important to remember that the teaching of the New Testament is also significant to how we understand these issues. The authors of the New Testament refer back to the historicity in Genesis 1–11 in order to make a number of different theological points. This article will consider 10 New Testament texts and why they are relevant to how we should understand the above issues.
In Mark 10:6–8, Jesus quotes from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in a straightforward, historical manner. Jesus’ use of Scripture here is authoritative in settling a dispute over the question of divorce, as it is grounded in the creation and purpose of the first marriage (cf. Matthew 19:4–6). These verses are especially significant, as Jesus said in verse 6, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.” The statement “from the beginning of creation” (apo archñs ktiseōs—cf. Mark 13:19–20; John 8:44; 1 John 3:8) is a reference to the beginning of creation and not simply to the beginning of the human race.1 Jesus was saying that Adam and Eve were there at the beginning of creation, on day six, not billions of years after the beginning.
The evolutionary timeline makes no sense considering what Jesus says about creating man at the beginning of creation.
It is estimated today, by naturalistic scientists, that the universe is around 13.8 billion years old. This means that if you try to argue for theistic evolution or an old earth creation position, then man was created after 99.99997 percent of those billions of years had passed.2 The evolutionary timeline makes no sense considering what Jesus says about creating man at the beginning of creation or with what the Bible teaches about God forming the earth to be inhabited (cf. Isaiah 45:18).
In his gospel account, Luke, a trustworthy historian (Luke 1:1–4), traces Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to the first man and father of all mankind, Adam:
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli . . . the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:23; 38)
Why does Luke trace his genealogy back to Adam and not just to Abraham (cf. Matthew 1:1–17)?3 Because he is writing to more of a non-Jewish audience, Luke traces Jesus back to the first man Adam. New Testament scholar Darrell Bock notes that this “indicates Jesus’ relationship to all humankind as their representative. The universal perspective fits very nicely with the Lucan emphasis on salvation for all (Acts 10:34–43, 17:22–31).”4 Luke’s genealogy presents Adam alongside numerous other historical individuals (Abraham, Joshua, David, etc.) in order to link him as a real person to Jesus, so Adam cannot be interpreted symbolically. Luke clearly understood Adam as a real, historical person who was foundational to understanding the history of Israel and the coming Saviour of the world (cf. Luke 24:47).
Interestingly, in the next account after the genealogy (remember: there were no chapter or verse divisions in the original New Testament manuscripts), Luke focuses on Jesus’ temptation by Satan (Luke 4:1–13). This is interesting as “unlike Adam, another ‘son’ of God, who sinned (Luke 3:38), Jesus overcomes the tests (cf. Genesis 3).”5 Whereas Satan’s first step in tempting Eve was to distort the truthfulness of God’s Word (Genesis 3:1), Jesus overcame Satan’s temptations by quoting Scripture, saying to him, “It is written,” which has the force of or is equivalent to “that settles it”; and Jesus understood that the Word of God was sufficient for this (see Luke 4:4, 8, 10).
Jesus not only implicitly refers to Adam and Eve (“made them male and female” in Mark 10:6) but explicitly refers to their son Abel. Jesus believed that Abel, like Adam, existed at the “foundation of the world” and that Adam, Eve, and Abel were historical.
[S]o that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation . . . . (Luke 11:50-51)
Theologian Jud Davis rightly asks the question of Jesus’ words in Luke 11:50–51: “Would this be true if millions of years of human evolution preceded Adam and Eve? Were there really no murders before Adam’s time?”
In this passage Jesus talks about the blood of all the prophets shed from the foundation of the world; the foundation period begins with the initial creation week in Genesis 1 (see Hebrew 4:3–4). Jesus is paralleling the murder of the first martyr, Abel (Genesis 4:8), with the last martyr in the Old Testament, Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:22).6 Theologian Jud Davis rightly asks the question of Jesus’ words in Luke 11:50–51: “Would this be true if millions of years of human evolution preceded Adam and Eve? Were there really no murders before Adam’s time?”7 The first human murder recorded in the Bible is that of Abel (Genesis 4:8). It is clear that Jesus accepted the early history in the book of Genesis as being reliable. Jesus also made a connection between Moses’ teaching and his own (John 5:45–47), and Moses made some very astounding claims about six-day creation in the Ten Commandments, which he says were penned by God’s own hand (Exodus 20:8–11; Exodus 31:17–18).
In speaking to his disciples, Jesus compares the end-time judgment of the world with the judgment of the flood in Noah’s day:
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:26–27)
Jesus did not consider the account of the flood a myth or legend: the meaning of the passage would lose its force if it were. Jesus not only refers to the individuals as historical but cites parts of the narrative (such as eating, drinking, marrying, and entering the ark) as real historical events. The people of Noah’s day seemed unconcerned with God and concerned only about life and celebration. The flood is not just a story with a theological point as Jesus uses it as analogy with the judgment at the end of age, which will also be a global, historical event (see Acts 17:31). The flood not only destroyed human life that inhabited the world at that time, but it also destroyed and reshaped the entire physical world (Genesis 6:13). The word Luke uses for “flood” also sheds light on the nature of the flood. It comes from the Greek word kataklysmos from which we derive our English word cataclysm—a clear reference to a global catastrophe. If Luke had believed that the flood in Genesis 6–8 were local, covering only the region of Mesopotamia, then why did he not use the Greek word for an ordinary local flood, plemmura (Luke 6:48)? Because Jesus believed the flood was a global catastrophe and not a local one.
When Paul visited the Areopagus in Acts 17, he knew the religious background of the Greek people to whom he was preaching (Epicureans and Stoics), so he knew the issues he needed to address. The Greeks were polytheists, so after seeing the idol to an “Unknown God,” Paul used it as a springboard for explaining who the one true Creator God really is:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us . . . (Acts 17:24–27)
By stating these things in his preaching, Paul deliberately went against the prevailing philosophies (he did not incorporate Greek philosophy into his message) of the day by proclaiming God as Creator of everything.
Paul defines God as the “Lord of heaven and earth” (cf. Exodus 20:11; Isaiah 42:5), who does not live in temples made by human hands. God is the one who gives “life and breath” (cf. Genesis 2:7) to everything, so it is he, not Zeus, who is the source of life. Paul then explains that God created mankind from “one man”9 (Adam, cf. Romans 5:12). He knew it contradicted the Athenian worldview, which was evolutionary at its core: that they originated from the soil of the ground in Attica (Athens).10 Paul deliberately refers to Adam in order to show that all people have their roots in the one man God originally created.11 By stating these things in his preaching, Paul deliberately went against the prevailing philosophies (he did not incorporate Greek philosophy into his message) of the day by proclaiming God as Creator of everything. In Acts 17, Paul accepts that the history in Genesis 1–11 is true and reliable, and he uses it not only to teach theology but history, as that theology is grounded in that history. Paul’s argument on Mars Hill involves God as Creator, mankind made in God’s image and coming from the man God originally created, our sin (idolatry), and a coming day of judgment. Therefore, all men everywhere now need to repent and trust in the risen Lord Jesus (Acts 17:30–31).
What Paul teaches in Romans 1:18–20 is central to our apologetic argument for the existence of God. In Romans 1:18, the apostle Paul moves from righteousness revealed (Romans 1:17) to wrath revealed:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18–20)
For Paul, God’s wrath is a present reality.13 It is the experience of the outworking of his handing people over to their sinful behavior (Romans 1:24, 26, 28). Paul states that God’s wrath is revealed against the ungodly and unrighteous who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” The truth is that which can be known about God in creation. The reason men can suppress the truth is that they are creatures of God, made in his image (Genesis 1:26–27), and because of the clear witness of God in creation. The knowledge of God is manifest14 in unbelievers because God has “shown it to them” by the things that have been made (revelation in creation). People have been able to understand God’s revelation of himself since the very beginning of his creation (see Acts 14:15–17; Acts 17:18–31). The words “the creation of the world” (apo ktiseōs kosmou), as in other New Testament texts (see 1 John 1:1, 2:13–14), refer to the beginning of the creation week in Genesis 1. Paul is saying that God’s revelation of himself through creation has been clear since the creation week in Genesis 1, which refutes an evolutionary or long-age view of creation since man is as old as the rest of creation. The truth that Paul says is being suppressed is Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
In Romans 5:1–11, Paul describes the reconciling work of God’s love in Jesus on behalf of sinners, which leads him to contrast the work of Adam and Jesus:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. (Romans 5:12; cf. 13–19)
Jesus died a physical death on the cross because the first man, Adam, brought physical death into the world.
Paul states that sin came into the world through one man (Adam) and death through sin, which of course is an allusion to Adam’s disobedience in Genesis 3. Paul recognizes that the punishment that God promised in Genesis 2:17 was fulfilled, and death came into the world (cf. Genesis 3:19). Paul’s teaching in Romans 5:12 is incompatible with evolution, which demands that physical death has always been in the world. Theistic evolutionists then have to reinterpret death in Romans 5:12 as being spiritual. Yet, it is clear that Paul had both physical (Romans 5:14, 17) and spiritual death (Romans 5:16, 18, 21) in mind, which might be called “total death.”16 However, if the consequences of Adam’s disobedience were only spiritual death, then the question would be, Why did Jesus have to die a physical death? The question for theistic evolutionists is, If physical death has always been present in the world, then given Paul’s argument that physical death came into the world because of Adam’s sin, what difference did one more death (i.e., of Jesus) accomplish? Jesus died a physical death on the cross because the first man, Adam, brought physical death into the world (see below). Without the explanation of Adam sinning, as the Bible describes, this would mean that God is responsible for the suffering and evil we see in the world.
In Romans 8:18, Paul writes that the Christian’s suffering of this present age is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Romans 8:19–22)
The Greek word for creation (ktisis) in verse 19 clearly refers to the non-human creation; the creation is distinguished from humanity in verse 21.18 In verse 20, Paul explains why creation is anticipating the revealing of the sons of God. The reason Paul gives is that the present creation is not the way God intended it to be. It is this way because Adam’s sin spoiled God’s very good creation (Genesis 1:31), and as a consequence it is now in frustration. Paul is drawing upon Genesis 3:17–18, in which creation is cursed by God due to Adam’s sin and is the reason it is subjected to frustration. The word futility indicates that creation has not filled the purpose for which it was made.19
There is nothing in Genesis 1 that indicates that there was any kind of corruption in the original creation (Genesis 1:29–31).
Paul’s comments in Romans 8:20 clearly reflect his belief that the fall in Genesis 3 brought about a change in the workings of creation (cf. Romans 1:21; Romans 5:12). Paul continues to trace the consequences of Adam’s disobedience to the futility to which creation has been unwillingly subjected and is now corrupted because of man’s disobedience. What is more, if Paul did not have Genesis 3 in mind (as some scholars think), then the question is, When did God subject the creation to futility? There is nothing in Genesis 1 that indicates that there was any kind of corruption in the original creation (Genesis 1:29–31). If creation were already in a state of futility at its creation, then how could it be subjected to corruption, since it would already be in that state? God’s subjecting the creation is clearly a reference to the curse in Genesis 3:17. Paul makes it clear that there is going to be a work done in creation itself and not just human beings. Paul’s point in verse 22 is that the creation is groaning and suffering, not from natural disasters and suffering before the fall and not just because it has sinful mankind in it, but from the fall of Adam in Genesis 3, which the context in Romans 8:19–22 makes clear.
In 1 Corinthians 15:21–22, Paul connects Jesus’ death and resurrection to the foundational historical events of Genesis 3. The Christian faith is dependent upon the historicity of these events.
For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21–22 NKJV).
In verse 21, Paul tells the Corinthians that death came through a man, namely Adam. He then uses the Adam-Christ typology to explain the reason for the resurrection. In verse 22, Paul points us to the mortality of the human race because of our relation to Adam. However, those who are in Christ will be made alive (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23). The claim that Adam was not historical overlooks the fact that the parallel between Adam and Christ is too close for one to be historical and not the other (cf. Romans 5:15, 17, 18, 19). Moreover, how could a mythological figure affect the human race in such a negative way? Paul further states that Adam was the first man (see 1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. Genesis 2:7), which should alone refute any idea that there were pre-Adamite humans. The focus throughout 1 Corinthians 15, however, is on Christ’s resurrection from the dead—a physical resurrection with spiritual implications. If we reject the biblical revelation that God created Adam supernaturally, we have to reject that physical death came about because of his disobedience.21 Then there really is no need for the cross, atonement, or a new heaven and earth. Biblically, all of these are needed because death and suffering entered into the creation through Adam’s disobedience toward God in Genesis 3 (Romans 5:12–21, 8:19–22; Revelation 21:4, 22:3). It was through Adam that death entered into the world, and it was through Christ that death was conquered: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). Theistic evolutionists believe death has always been in the world, but Jesus did not die on the cross to defeat an enemy he made at the beginning of creation. The fact that death is called an “enemy” implies that it is not natural, and therefore biblically it cannot have been part of the original state of creation in which God created humanity.
In his second letter, Peter warns believers that in the last days scoffers will come scoffing at the belief that Christ will come again (2 Peter 3:3; cf. Acts 2:17). The scoffers base their ideas upon the assumption that the world has not changed, deliberately ignoring two major events in the history of world:
They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. (2 Peter 3:4–6)
Peter’s understanding of these two events (creation and the flood) is key as it helps us see how the apostle read Genesis.
Peter’s understanding of these two events (creation and the flood) is key as it helps us see how the apostle read Genesis. This in turn informs our understanding of the issue of the earth’s age. The scoffers of Peter’s day are very much like modern day sceptics in that they “willfully forget” the facts of biblical history. The scoffers, Peter suggests, “are not ignorant or naive, but willfully disobedient, maintaining a view of the continuity of human history that blatantly flies in the face of the Old Testament.”23 Peter’s reference to heavens and earth is a clear reference back to the creation account in Genesis.
The scoffers “willfully forget” that God created the world not only by his Word (cf. John 1:1–3) but out of water and by water (see Genesis 1:1–2). The reference that the earth was formed out of water and by water is an indication that Peter clearly understood Genesis as straightforward, historical narrative according to the plain sense of the text. Peter’s understanding of Genesis is important, as Genesis makes it clear that the world was covered with water on days one and two. However, secular cosmology of the world has the earth starting out as a molten blob. Peter goes on to say that the water of creation was used in the destruction of that same world. Given that Peter is following the Genesis narrative, the water he refers to that destroyed the world is probably a reference to the water mentioned in Genesis 7: the fountains of the great deep and the windows of heaven. The flood not only destroyed human life that inhabited the world at that time (2 Peter 2:5) but it also affected the entire physical world (Genesis 6:13). Therefore Peter, by reminding his readers of the supernatural creation of the world and the global cataclysmic flood, defeats the argument of the scoffers, which is similar to the modern belief in uniformitarianism, that “all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4).
The New Testament authors did not treat Genesis 1–11 as myth or allegory, but as an impeccable, accurate, reliable historical account (see also 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:13–14; 1 Peter 3:20; 1 John 3:12; Jude 11–14). The New Testament authors accepted the very persons (Adam, Eve, Abel, Noah) and events (creation, the fall, the flood) that are the least acceptable to critical—and some evangelical—scholars today. As Christians we need to understand Genesis 1–11 as the inspired authors of the New Testament did.