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The Historical Adam, Round 2: Harry "Hal" Lee Poe


Musings on Our Speculations

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Now to Hans Madueme. One of the enormous problems with the Y-chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve studies and the theological debate that has followed is the absence of a commonly agreed upon scientific or theological definition of what it means to be human. One thing the studies demonstrate conclusively is that humans descend from a common couple: the parents of Y-chromosome Adam, who might more properly be called Y-chromosome Seth. I don't suggest or believe that this common couple is the biblical Adam and Eve, but I strongly insist that the science does not dispute the possibility or probability of a common couple as the progenitors of the human race.

If anything, these studies provide background to such problems as who the children of Adam and Eve might have married, and what was going on East of Eden. In suggesting that humans arose in a population group, the studies still do not in any way challenge the idea that humans came from a common couple and that humans survived while their hominid cousins did not. What the studies do reveal is the extent to which humans enjoy speculating to fill in the gaps of both theology and science.

Madueme seems to take the position that Adam and Eve must have been real people in order for the theology to work out right. While many Christians in the West hold to Augustine's view that sin and the punishment for sin are transmitted biologically from the original ancestors, Christians did not hold this view for the first 400 years after Christ, and the more ancient Eastern Church still does not believe this view. The Eastern Church continues to hold the view expressed by Paul in Romans 5:12 that sin entered the world with Adam, who experienced death as a result, and that like Adam, everyone else dies because everyone else sins.

In the opening of A Preface to Paradise Lost, C. S. Lewis said in order to judge a piece of workmanship we must first know what it is, what it does, and how it is used. He argued that most people cannot understand epic poetry because they do not know what epic poetry is or how it works. Essentially, John R. Schneider makes the same argument related to the opening chapters of Genesis. Some people would argue that Genesis 2 is like the parables of Jesus, but parables have a different form. In some ways, Genesis 2 is more like the apocalyptic imagery of Revelation of Daniel. The remarkable thing about a narrative story like Genesis 2 or Revelation is that it can be true without being factual. In that sense, the parables are similar. The Enlightenment standard of truth as empirical knowledge and brute fact is alien to the variety of forms revelation takes in the Bible (Heb. 1:1).

William VanDoodewaard argues that the greatest challenge to the literal interpretation of Genesis comes from modern dating methods. From my perspective, the greatest challenge to a young-earth view is the biblical text. The Hebrew text does not allow for creation to have occurred within the time frame of one week.

The tradition of English translations is to translate the sequence of creation as taking place on the first day, the second day, the third day, and on till the end of the week. In Genesis 1, however, the text gives the time frame as occurring on one day, a second day, a third day, and so on till the end of creation. Furthermore, the action takes place in the imperfect rather than the perfect tense. The thrust of the action is that God begins to say, "Let there begin to be and to continue being light." Something begins one day and has not stopped continuing. The creation of plant and animal life does not take place by fiat, de novo, fully formed and mature, as Aristotelian-inspired theology would have it. Instead, God instructs the waters and the earth to begin to bring forth life in a continuing stream.

For those who want to pursue this issue, I have discussed it in other places, notably "The English Bible and the Days of Creation: When Tradition Conflicts with Text," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 66:3 (September 2014), pp. 130-139; What God Knows (Baylor University Press, 2005), pp. 5-25; Science and Faith: An Evangelical Dialogue (B & H, 2000), pp. 71-81.

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