Are There Reasons for Holding to the Historicity of Adam and Eve?

adam and eve

Among the various debates arising in modern theology, the historicity of Adam and Eve is one that is gaining ground.  Were Adam and Eve real historical persons or were they allegorical inventions pointing to the concept of sin?  For those who find Adam and Eve to be allegorical inventions, the name “Adam”[1] and “Eve”[2] were terms that pointed to the conscious life of the human race.  When Adam and Eve fell, it is seen as all of humanity’s rebellion against God.  While this is a possibility, I hold that Adam and Eve were actual historical persons.  I hold this view for four reasons.

Logical Necessity of the First Two Human Beings

There first exists, in my estimation, a logical necessity for there being two first human beings.  Over time, the population of the world has grown.  However, if you go back in time, the population grows less and less.  There have always been spikes and drops in the human population, but the overall direction is that the population of humanity has grown less and less.  It would logically seem that the population would dwindle to the point of having small communities which would in turn arise from the first two human beings.

Take for instance our Chilton Christmases.  My grandparents did not always live where they eventually settled.  They moved to the home place and began a family.  From these first two settlers my uncle and father were born.  My uncle met his sweetheart and married her.  They had two boys.  My dad met my mom and married her.  They had me and then my younger sister.  Now Christmas time was easy up until the next generation came.  Now that I have married and have a son, my sister has married, and one of my cousins has married and has children, Christmas time is a lot more hectic.  It is much more difficult to arrange a time to meet, as the families have other familial responsibilities.  All of this began with my grandma and grandpa.  If you traveled back in time, you would find less Chiltons.  Likewise, the same is true of the entire human population.  Eventually, you are left with the first two human beings.  Even if you subscribe to an evolutionary explanation, it seems to me that you would still forced to have the original male homo saphien (XY) and the original female homo saphien (XX).

ot scroll

Biblical Necessity of First Two Human Beings

Christianity does not hinge upon the historicity of Adam and Eve the way some would suggest.  Christianity DOES hinge upon the historicity of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead.  Let’s play Devil’s Advocate.  Some could say that Adam and Eve represent the first two human beings who had an encounter with God and chose to rebel against God.  This is a possibility.  However, one of the great concerns that I have is that the book of Genesis seems to indicate that Adam and Eve were historical persons.  In the listings of genealogies (even though there is possible evidence of some gaps in time), it seems to be held that Adam was a historical person.

Also, it appears that Paul held that Adam was a historical person.  Paul writes, “Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.  But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.”[3]  Paul seems to be showing that we are all under the same curse as we all came from the same person.  This fact also holds great ethical value, too.  We find that since we all come from the same starting point, we all have more in common than we might expect.  Regardless of race, location, and socio-economic conditions, all of humanity shares the same familial heritage.

god-sistine-chapel

Theological Necessity of Adam and Eve

Before there is a solution, there must first be a problem.  The problem of evil and sin are found in the story of Adam and Eve.  Now, one could argue that the theology could still be explained without Adam and Eve being historical.  However, I would still claim that there would have to be a historical event in real space-time for real sin to enter real humanity.  It may be that “Adam” and “Eve” were labels added to these persons or it could have been that “Adam” and “Eve” were the actual names of the first two human beings.  Nonetheless, for real sin to have entered real humanity, a real human must have had a real rebellion against a real God.  The results of such a rebellion are obvious.  Theologically, this set up a real salvation which came from a real Savior whose name was really Jesus offering real humanity a real opportunity to go to a real heaven.

Scientific Evidence for an Adam and Eve

When it comes to biology and DNA, I must confess that I am out of my realm of expertise.  However, that does not mean that there are no other Christians who are experts in the field.  One such expert is Dr. Fuz Rana of Reasons to Believe.  Rana wrote,

One recent study, carried out by an international team, examined genetic variation in fifteen African American and twenty European Americans. These workers characterized genetic variability by examining single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and categorizing the DNA sequence differences as benign, possibly damaging, and probably damaging.

They noted that African Americans harbor a greater degree of SNP diversity than European Americans. Interestingly, European descendents have a greater proportion of harmful variations than people with an African ancestry.

These results find explanation if humanity arose in East Africa from a small population, and recently migrated into Europe through a genetic bottleneck. Bottlenecks result when a population drops to low levels and then recovers its numbers, or if a small subpopulation becomes separated from the main group and then later grows in size.

Genetic and Copy-Number Variation

Another study characterized the genetic variability of twenty-nine populations from around the world by monitoring 525,910 SNPs and 396 copy-number differences.

Again, the patterns of genetic variability noted in these two studies for people groups from around the world fit with the predictions of the Out-of-Africa hypothesis.

A third recently reported study focused on about 650,000 SNPs found in the genomes of 938 people representing 51 populations from around the world. The SNP data clustered into a number of groups displaying a geographical relationship that indicates an African origin of humanity and subsequent spread around the world.

Overwhelming Evidence for the Out-of-Africa Hypothesis

These three new research reports can be thrown into a large simmering kettle of studies that support the Out-of-Africa model. (For a detailed discussion of the myriad evidences in favor of the Out-of-Africa Hypothesis see the book Who Was Adam?Collectively, the consensus that emerges from this work indicates that humanity originated recently (about 100,000 years ago) from East Africa (near the location theologians ascribed to the Garden of Eden) from a small population. Amazingly, studies using mitochondrial and Y chromosomal DNA markers trace humanity’s origin back to a single man and woman. These studies also indicate that humanity’s migration around the world began at or near the Middle East.[4]

Therefore, it can be concluded that there exists scientific evidence that suggests that Adam and Eve may have been historical persons.  From their rebellion, all of humanity has been affected.

Conclusion

When it comes to creation and the Bible, there is a multiplicity of theories.[5]  However, it seems to this writer that there exist good, solid reasons to believe that Adam and Eve were not symbolic concepts given to express an idea, but were in fact historical persons who introduced sin to the human race as described in the pages of Genesis.  What is most important is to realize that through the first human beings, rebellion against God was established.  This rebellion, or sin, required the need for a Savior.  This Savior came in the first-century and was known as Jesus of Nazareth.  This Savior died to pay the penalty for humanity’s sin and resurrected from the dead defeating death and the grave, establishing eternal life for all who would place their trust in Him.  As Paul writes, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.  As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”[6]  Jesus is the solution to your sin problem.  Would you receive Him today?

Christ Redeemer Moon


[1] Meaning “Man.”

[2] Meaning “Life.”

[3] All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007), 1 Corinthians 15:22–23.

[4] Fazale Rana, “A Burgoo of Human Origin Discoveries,” Reasons.org. March 13, 2008. Accessed July 22, 2013. [http://www.reasons.org/articles/a-burgoo-of-human-origin-discoveries].

[5] We will cover these three theories in a future article.

[6] Romans 10:9–11, NLT.

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3 thoughts on “Are There Reasons for Holding to the Historicity of Adam and Eve?”

  1. Honestly, there is no historical or scientific reason to believe that Adam and Eve were real people. Genetics, the fossil record, the limits of population growth, etc, etc all stack up against a literal belief in Adam and Eve. Even your point about the the logical necessity of there being 2 first human beings isn’t actually correct. In evolutionary biology, the changes happen over such a long period of time, that it would be impossible to find the point at which one species changes to another. In fact, there most likely isn’t such a point at all. We only see the differences by examining fossils from different periods.

    I highly suggest you read the book Why Evolution is True, by Jerry Coyne. There are plenty of other books that deal with the issues too, but this one is very well written, and very accessible to the lay person. Even if you come away unconvinced, you’d at least have a better understanding of what science says about this issue.

    Also, the talkorigins.org website is a great resource. It works as a repository for information on the evolution/creation discussion.

    My personal position is this: people can have theological reasons for believing in Adam and Eve, but not scientific ones. Science simply contradicts the idea.

    Hope these sources are helpful to you.

    1. I will check out the sources you provide. Some hold to a theistic evolutionary belief. While this is a possibility, there are many valid scientists who question some of the tenets of Darwinian evolution. One issue that must be addressed is the Cambrian explosion. This was, as you well know, a period of time when there was an explosion of life on the global scene in a brief period of time (brief concerning the vast amount of time we are speaking of). This tends to go against the thought that life developed over a long period of time. Nonetheless, even though I am not a Darwinian evolutionist, I do think a valid, cogent argument can be made for a historical Adam and Eve being the first two homo saphiens to meet and begin the human race as we know it even if one takes an evolutionary position. There can be a blending of science and faith and I think that is what you presented in your post if I understood you correctly. Check out the works of Fuz (Fazale) Rana. He offers a good interpretation of the issues, as well. Some of his work can be found at http://www.reasons.org.

      Blessings.

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