Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflexions on the Historical Adam

Whether you like it or not, the false issue of Creation vs. Evolution is the dominant intellectual roadblock on their way to a relationship with God.

So, here is my feeble attempt at helping my brothers and sisters in the faith dealing with our Biblical ancestor, Adam.

First things first. It is important to realize at the account of Genesis 2 refers to a local creation in Mesopotamia, whereas Genesis 1 refers to the universal creation. The fact is spelled out in nicely:
The Lord God planted an orchard in the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow from the soil, every tree that was pleasing to look at and good for food. (Now the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were in the middle of the orchard.)

Now a river flows from Eden to water the orchard, and from there it divides into four headstreams. The name of the first is Pishon; it runs through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is pure; pearls and lapis lazuli are also there). The name of the second river is Gihon; it runs through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it runs along the east side of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:8-14 NET)
A further important point is that the text of Genesis does mention either directly or indirectly that other humans are there for Adam's descendants to mix with.
Then Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to endure! Look! You are driving me off the land today, and I must hide from your presence. I will be a homeless wanderer on the earth; whoever finds me will kill me.” - Genesis 4:13-14 (NET)
Obviously, that means someone else that his two parents. If there were only 2 persons on the whole planet, it would be very easy to avoid getting killed.
And Adam had marital relations with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son. She named him Seth, saying, “God has given me another child in place of Abel because Cain killed him.” And a son was also born to Seth, whom he named Enosh. At that time people began to worship the Lord. (Genesis 4:25-26 NET)
Cain had marital relations with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was building a city, and he named the city after his son Enoch. (Genesis 4:17 NET)
In these cases, we need other humans around for these men to get married and have children!

On the non-Biblical front, this explanation fits with some scientific conclusions, such as the existence of a single language about 50'000 years ago, and the need of a population pool of thousands of individuals in order to have a reasonable mutation rate.

Objections and Questions

Objection #1: The most obvious apparent contradiction between we read so far and the Bible is in Paul's preach to the Athenians in the book of Acts.
From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth (Acts 17:26a NET)
Now, the common interpretation is that we are talking about Adam here.
There are different ways we can handle this while keeping the inerrancy of the Bible in mind:
  1. The one man doesn't need to be Adam. It could just as well be the first proto-human.
  2. Here the text mentions how the nations of the Earth came from one man. One thing that is interesting is that the text of Genesis 4 onwards mentions cities and the like. In a way, Adam could be seen as the father not of humanity, but of civilization.
  3. The 'entire earth' could be the entire known world of the time.
The first one does not require a lot of analysis, we can take it as that. The second answer needs a bit of work to see if it fits with known facts. As for the third, it is intellectually tenable (and a good answer for some other intellectual challenges the Bible gives us.)

Let us give the second option a hearing...

The first constraint that we have is that Adam and Eve's story happened roughly 6000 years ago, so we have to see if the evidence fits around 4000 BC.

I am not an expert on the subject, but I see from Wikipedia that this more or less corresponds to the rise of civilization. The oldest civilization, Sumer, is from the same area as the Adamites, and was originally settled in the 5th millenium BC, with a start of writing in the third millenium BC. It is not clear when the rest of the characteristics of civilization came in the picture, but it more or less agrees with a 4000BC time frame.

But then comes another objection: if the Adamites brought civilization to the world, how come that Central and South American peoples such as the Aztecs and the Incas had such an advanced civlization? The current models point to a migration previous to 10'000BC after all. I think that there is enough room for contemplating a sea-borne migration that reached a little later.

Question #1: If Adam's sons could marry local girls, why couldn't Adam do the same? This is something that the Bible doesn't tell us anything about. Here are some options:
  1. There could be a symbolic reason for this. Adam and Eve had the first recorded marriage after all. When we get into symbolism, the sky is the limit :)
  2. Adam might have been somewhat different from the other hominids in the area, and God wanted someone who was exactly like him. This idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds, as our human ancestors have an history of inter-breeding across species.
Question #2: If other humans were around, will they go to Heaven or Hell? The Bible isn't explicit about this, but it does tell us something important.
So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. (Romans 5:12-14, NET)

I do not understand that passage much, except for the part that Sin entered our world after Adam. So these pre-Adamites can either be
  1. Soulless animals, in which case there is neither Heaven nor Hell for them. That would make Adam and Eve the first spiritual beings.
  2. Humans with a soul, but living in innocence. In such a case, they would go to Heaven, as their conscience would not accuse them (Romans 2:14-16)

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