Adam and Eve?

By James M. Rochford

Critical biblical scholars do not believe that Adam and Eve were real people; instead, this account is just a myth or fable about the moral fall of humanity.[1] Recently, theologian Peter Enns wrote, “The Bible is ancient literature that speaks from an ancient point of view… These stories clearly and undeniably look so very similar to the stories of other ancient cultures and have nothing to do with history or science as we think of those ideas today… Divorcing the creation stories of the Bible from their ancient settings and forcing them to speak to contemporary scientific discussion over evolution isn’t just wrong or stubborn or misguided… It is sub-Christian.” However, there are a number of reasons to reject such a view:

The NT authors believed that Adam and Eve were real, historical figures.

The NT authors compare the historicity of Adam with the historicity of Jesus (Rom. 5:12-15; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45; Acts 17:26; Lk. 3:38, Mt. 19:4-5). Paul refers to Eve as a real, historical person, as well (1 Tim. 2:13-14; 2 Cor. 11:3). There is nothing in the text that indicates that this section is mythical, rather than historical. In fact, the repeated expression toledot is used throughout the book of Genesis (“This is the account…”) to explain all of the historical events of Genesis from beginning to end (Gen. 2:4; 5:1; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12; 36:1).


Why are australopithecines so similar to humans, if they didn’t evolve from one another?

Human beings are the most effective hunters on Earth. When the human race entered into the wild, they were highly effective at wiping out other species. Because humans were highly dangerous, God may have flooded the world with pre-human hominids, preparing the animal kingdom for the most dangerous predator: humans. Ross writes,

In Africa, where several hominid species predated humanity, the extinction rate for large mammals during the human occupation period is 14 percent. In North and South American and Australia, where no such hominids preceded humans, the large-mammal extinction rate during the human occupation periods stands at 73, 79, and 86 percent, respectively. In such places as Africa, the fossil record reveals a sequence of hominids that spanned several million years, with each successive species slightly more capable of hunting birds and mammals than the previous. This increasing exposure to gradually improved predation skills may have allowed birds and mammals to adapt step-by-step to the shock of a sinful super-predator.[2]

For this reason, God could have providentially used earlier hominids for a divine purpose.

Human beings have less genetic diversity than any other species.

Genetic similarity supports the notion of descent from an original human pair (or at least a small gene pool, rather than a large one). Ross and Rana write,

Human beings display much less genetic diversity than any other species. For example, several recent studies report a much more extensive genetic diversity for chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans than for people… This means that when comparing DNA sequences for any two chimpanzees, any two bonobos, any two gorillas, or any two orangutans, a much greater genetic difference will be observed than for any two human beings compared. The human similarity is observed worldwide, regardless of race and ethnicity.[3]

Additionally, all humans have mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that traces back to a single, ancient ancestor, whom geneticists have dubbed “Mitochondrial Eve.” Moreover, all humans have Y-chromosome DNA passed on from an ancient common ancestor dubbed “Y-chromosomal Adam.” However, a number of qualifications need to be made regarding this genetic information:

Modern geneticists do not teach that “Mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosomal Adam” lived at the same time. In fact, these two ancestors were separated by thousands of years. Of course, given the destruction of humanity in the Flood, this would separate Eve from our nearest male common ancestor: Noah.

Some modern geneticists claim that Mitochondrial Eve dates back to 200,000 years ago. However, these molecular clocks are not all that accurate, because mutation rates and population changes affect our dating by the means of genetics. Ross and Rana date Mitochondrial Eve somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago.[4]

Modern geneticists argue that Mitochondrial Eve probably lived in a population of roughly 10,000 other humans. Modern geneticists believe that our hominid predecessors encountered a catastrophic collapse. Genetic diversity was lost, and humans encountered a genetic bottleneck. Therefore, while our mitochondrial DNA traces back to one woman, this doesn’t necessarily mean that she was the only woman alive at the time. Yet this is far from saying that humans arose from a large population. In fact, this genetic bottleneck theory is even less likely. Ross and Rana write, “Both fieldwork and theoretical work demonstrate that population collapse leads relentlessly toward extinction rather than toward recovery and flourishing population growth.”[5] In other words, it’s highly unlikely that this genetic bottleneck theory would occur.

This evidence is a direct attack against the multi-regional hypothesis (i.e. humans evolved worldwide in a single, universal species), and it confirms the out-of-Africa theory,[6] which is very close to the biblical account: a small population of humans grew to become a large one.

Human innovation abruptly surged roughly 40,000 years ago.

There is a large gap between Australopithecus and Homo habilis or Homo rudolfensis several million years ago. However, more recently (~40,000 years ago), human innovation exploded. Paleoanthropologist Christopher Stringer writes,

For millennia upon millennia, we [hominids] had been churning out the same forms of stone utensils, for example. But about 40,000 years ago, a perceptible shift in our handiwork took place. Throughout the Old World, tool kits leapt in sophistication with the appearance of Upper Paleolithic style implements. Signs of use of ropes, bone spear points, fishhooks and harpoons emerge, along with sudden manifestations of sculptures, paintings, and musical instruments… We also find evidence of the first long-distance exchange of stones and beads. Objects made of mammals bones and ivory, antlers, marine and freshwater shells, fossil coral, limestone, schist, steatite, jet, lignite, hematite and pyrite were manufactured. Materials were chosen with extraordinary care: some originated extraordinary catalogue of achievements that seem to have come about virtually from nowhere—though obviously they did have a source: What was it?[7]

A number of aspects of human culture emerged abruptly at this time:

(1) Humans created novel stone tools. While earlier hominids used tools, the period from 50,000 to 40,000 is a “quantum leap”[8] in tool manufacture.

(2) Humans developed highly sophisticated weapons for hunting. The animal remains are more diverse during this era, which suggests that humans began hunting difficult game like buffalo and wild boar. Moreover, they also learned to fish with nets and hunt with traps.

(3) Humanity developed in its social structure, living in communities, rather than isolated.

(4) Humans began to make complex jewelry for themselves and one another. Of course, jewelry offers no benefit for survival; it reflects the creative capacity for the aesthetic.[9]

(5) Humans developed detailed art—specifically cave paintings. Archaeologists have discovered roughly 150 caves with paintings and carvings.[10]

(6) Humans developed music at this time, developing flutes and whistles out of the bones of birds.[11]

(7) Humans created clothing for themselves, which is a unique human distinctive. No other species tries to cover its nudity.[12]

(8) Humans also buried their dead. In Sungir (an archaeological site in Russia dated to ~30,000 BC), there is a grave with an older man with two children. The burial place was filled with grave goods (e.g. ivory-beaded jewelry, clothing, and spears). Of course, our belief in the afterlife still persists to this day. Columbia University Professor Alan Segal authoritatively wrote, “Most, if not all, of the world’s cultures maintain some sort of belief in life after death.”[13] This human feature dates back to the earliest humans.

Modern archaeology and anthropology has confirmed a number of details in the Genesis account.

Genesis teaches that the early humans were primitive—not civilized. In fact, the Genesis account describes that the first humans learned about raising animals (Genesis 4:20), tent-making (Genesis 4:20), music (Genesis 4:21), and metallurgy (Genesis 4:22). Consider how different our understanding would be if the Genesis account taught that men were born into a civilized society, and then fell into an uncivilized one.

Genesis teaches that humans were the last species to be created. Of course, modern biology agrees on this point. For instance, biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich write, “The production of a new animal species in nature has yet to be documented.”[14] Consider how different it would be, if the text told us humans were created first.

Genesis teaches that human beings began in the correct general area of the world. Consider how different it would be if the text told us that the first humans originated in North America or Australia, when we know that they originated near the Fertile Crescent (which is immediately next door to east Africa, where anthropologists date the rise of Homo sapiens). Moreover, some biblical scholars believe that “Cush” (Gen. 2:13) is actually modern day Ethiopia, which would fit precisely with modern paleoanthropology.[15]

What about theistic evolution?

Some Christians argue that God worked behind the scenes through the process of evolution. This view is called theistic evolution. Christian advocates of this view are Kenneth Miller, Tremper Longman, John Polkinghorne, Peter Enns, Francisco Ayala, Alister McGrath, Karl Gilberson, and Francis Collins. Others like Bruce Waltke believe that Scripture and Science are simply answering two different sets of questions, and do not intersect.[16] To support this claim, they note that God often creates through an indirect process. For instance, God is said to create (Hebrew asah) humans in the womb (Job 10:8; Job 31:15). The term translated “made” (asah) in Scripture is also used for the creation of humans (Gen. 1:25-26), as well as the term used for describe star formation (Gen. 1:16).

Moreover, Isaiah explains that God “formed” (Hebrew yatsar) humans in the womb (Is. 44:24), and this same word is used to describe how God “formed” Adam from the dust of the Earth (Gen. 2:7; c.f. Gen. 1:24 other species). Advocates of theistic evolution argue that God obviously used a natural process for fetal development, and he could have used a natural process for creating the first humans, as well.

The Bible depicts God as the cause behind natural events. He creates the rain and mist (Job 5:10; 36:27; 1 Kings 8:35-36), the snow (Job 37:6), the growth of grass (Deut. 11:15; Ps. 104:14), the lightning (Ps. 135:7), the atmosphere (Gen. 1:6), the planets (Gen. 1:16), the laws of nature (Jer. 33:25), and the clouds and wind (Jer. 10:13). Of course, each of these elements of life can be explained by natural law. However, Scripture teaches that God is the ultimate cause behind every cause. Therefore, according to theistic evolution, God used a natural process to create the first humans. According to this view, God isn’t dethroned by discovering a natural process; instead, he is described by it.

While this view has some merit, it doesn’t take into account a number of aspects of creation.

Theistic evolution is often guilty of double talk.

If God manipulated the gene mutations in our distant ancestors to create humans, then this isn’t evolution; it’s intelligent design. Philosopher Greg Koukl compares this to deliberately stacking a deck of cards by randomly shuffling them. This is a nonsensical statement. Either, the deck was stacked (i.e. intelligent design) or it was randomly shuffled (i.e. naturalism). But it cannot be both.

Moreover, an information infusion is needed at key points in the history of life, which physical law cannot produce. While God may have designed the laws of physics to permit life, these laws are not capable of creating the information needed for something as complex as DNA (see our earlier article “The Origin of Life”). In fact, if the laws of physics were capable of creating the first self-replicating cell, then we would be able to find evolutionary pathways through chemical necessity or physical law. However, no chemical necessity has been found in chemistry that would produce life deterministically.

Think about it like this: computer programming is necessary in order to have Microsoft Word on your computer. But this, by itself, is not sufficient to produce a well-crafted essay on this writing program. You need another infusion of information in order to have an essay. Similarly, the laws of physics are needed to create life, but these alone are not sufficient to create life. Other infusions of information are necessary.

Theistic evolution often doesn’t account for the historicity of Adam and Eve.

The NT authors believed that Adam and Eve were real, historical figures (Rom. 5:12-15; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45; Acts 17:26; Lk. 3:38, Mt. 19:4-5; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; 2 Cor. 11:3). Some theistic evolutionists reply that God breathed a spiritual component into two evolved, humanoid primates, thus making the first humans. However, it seems odd to have image-bearing humans walking around on Earth with non-image-bearing humans. Did these other primates think, feel, or fall in love? Could they have interbred with Adam and Eve? This suggestion seems to be out of the bounds of biblical teaching (specifically with Rom. 5:12ff).

Theistic evolution doesn’t account for the use of “bara” in the creation of humans.

While Genesis uses the Hebrew terms asah and yatsar to describe the creation of the first humans, it also uses the Hebrew word bara (Gen. 1:27). Biblically, only God can bara (“create”) something.[17] Consider the use of this Hebrew word throughout the Bible:

“I will perform miracles which have not been produced (bara) in all the Earth” (Ex. 34:10).

“The Lord brings about (bara) an entirely new thing” (Num. 16:30).

Create (bara) in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10).

“You send forth your Spirit, they are created (bara)” (Ps. 104:30).

From these uses of bara, this act of creation is always supernatural—not natural. While theistic evolution is permitted by the use of asah and yatsar, it seems to be precluded by bara (Gen. 1:27).

Theistic evolution doesn’t explain the creation of Eve.

Eve was certainly a supernatural and special creation of God—taken from Adam’s rib (Gen. 2:21-22). Therefore, while God might have created the first man through evolution, he still would need to intervene to create the first woman. By holding to theistic evolution, we might gain ground with naturalistic scientists. Yet as soon as we say that Eve was a special creation, we will lose whatever ground we supposedly gained.

Theistic evolution doesn’t explain the spiritual component of human beings.

While material bodies might be able to evolve, our immaterial souls cannot evolve. God would need to intervene to give the first humans souls or spirits. Theistic evolution does not, in fact cannot, account for our spiritual component.

Theistic evolution doesn’t account for the language of animals reproducing “after their kind.”

This language seems to imply some sort of boundaries on the different species. If there weren’t some sort of boundaries, why did God even bother mentioning it?

Theistic evolution makes the assumption that God did not intervene into his own universe.

This seems closer to deism, than theism. Since there is good evidence that God intervenes into his creation (e.g. origin of the universe, origin of physical law, origin of first life, miracles, etc.), it seems that we should not make this assumption. Imagine if a lion escaped from its cage in the zoo. Hours later, the zookeeper finds a mutilated body, but he quickly speculates, “The person probably died from natural causes.” Of course, the zookeeper is probably right. The person probably did die from a natural cause: the lion was hungry! In the same way, since we know that the God of the Bible is not confined to a naturalistic cage, it shouldn’t surprise us to see him entering into the cause-and-effect process of nature. As Christians, we shouldn’t be dogmatic about when and where God intervened over the course of 3.5 billion years of life’s history. However, on the other extreme, we shouldn’t dogmatically claim that God was “hands off” with this process either.

What about Biologos?

BioLogos is a group of Christian scientists—headed by Francis Collins—who argue that science and God are mutually exclusive subjects. The one has no influence on the other, so we shouldn’t appeal to God as an explanation for any phenomena in nature. In fact, these scientists feel that Christians will be embarrassed in the future, when science fills in the gaps in our understanding. The BioLogos website (hereafter BioLogos) argues, “If gaps in scientific knowledge are used as arguments for the existence of God, what happens when science advances and closes those explanatory gaps?”[18]

As Christians, we do not want to make speculations that will make us look foolish in the future. This is a legitimate concern on their behalf. And yet, while this approach definitely defends us from potential embarrassment, it also makes us inept at offering any sort of positive case for the existence of God, which the Bible claims we can make by appealing to nature (Ps. 19:1-4; Rom. 1:19-20). If some Christians are too rash in claiming God is the cause for scientific phenomena, BioLogos has swung the proverbial pendulum to the other extreme, robbing us of making any sort of appeal to design in nature.

Moreover, BioLogos cannot stay consistent with their own view. While they reject God’s intervention in the biological realm, they appeal to God as the Cause behind (1) the origin of the universe, (2) the fine-tuning of the universe, and (3) the presence of objective moral values. They write, “Of course, God can be still be used as a hypothesis for the existence of the universe… There does not seem to be any way to explain the detailed properties of the laws of nature from within science… A completely natural account of our origins may be insufficient to explain present observations of human behavior.” Thus while BioLogos disagrees with a “God of the gaps” approach, it seems that they use God to fill certain gaps, but not others.

Yet this inconsistency has long been noted by critics of their perspective. For instance, atheist George Cunningham notes this inconsistency, when he writes, “This is exactly what Collins does to explain the big bang, the anthropic coincidences, and the Moral Law.”[19]

Why can God be posited as a cause in cosmology and physics, but not in biology. If God can intervene into nature, why can’t he interfere into any or all of it? As Christians, we believe in a God who performs miracles, intervening into our world of cause and effect. For instance, if you are a Christian, ask yourself: What was the natural explanation for the resurrection of Christ? Of course, the Bible tells us that this singular event cannot be explained with a natural cause, because it was supernaturally caused. Naturalistic scientists would search indefinitely to find a natural cause for the resurrection, because there isn’t one.

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[1] For instance, biblical scholar Alan Richardson compares the narrative material in Genesis 1-11 to the parables of the New Testament. Richardson writes, “A parable is a story which may or may not be literally true (no one asks whether the good Samaritan ever literally happened); but it conveys a meaning beyond itself. It implies that beyond the words of the story which our outward ears have heard there is a meaning which only our spiritual hearing can detect.” Richardson, Genesis I-XI (London: SCM, 1953), p. 28. Cited in Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Third Edition. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1998. 214.

[2] Ross, Hugh. More than a Theory: Revealing a Testable Model for Creation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009. 189.

[3] Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. 59.

[4] Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. 66.

[5] Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. 74.

[6] Evolutionist Francisco Ayala writes, “Most scientists argue instead that modern humans first arose in Africa somewhat earlier than 100,000 years ago, and spread from there throughout the world, replacing the preexisting populations of Homo erectus and related hominid species, including Homo neanderthalensis.” Ayala, Francisco José. Darwin and Intelligent Design. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006. 48.

[7] Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie, African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity (New York: Heny Holt, 1996) 195-196. Cited in Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. 84.

[8] Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. 85.

[9] Ross and Rana write, “Personal adornment offers no immediate advantage for survival. Rather, this behavior reflects advanced cognitive capacity and artistic expression.” Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. 87.

[10] Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. 88.


[12] Ross and Rana write, “Clothing use also appears to be a practice associated exclusively with humans.” Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. 90.

[13] Segal, Alan F. Life after Death: a History of the Afterlife in the Religions of the West. New York: Doubleday, 2004. 18.

[14] Paul R. and Anne H. Ehrlich Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species (New York: Ballantine, 1981), page 23. Cited in Ross, Hugh. The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998. 64.

[15] We might ask: What if the Garden did not include Ethiopia, but was limited to Mesopotamia? The “out of Africa” theory uses genetic similarity to date and locate the original humans. However, this genetic evidence does not mean the first humans lived in Africa. They could have migrated. Many human populations have collectively migrated thousands of miles. Moreover, the Bible teaches that the first humans were formed in the Garden, but their population expansion occurred outside of the garden’s territory. Therefore, they could have migrated to East Africa, as anthropology teaches. See Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. 61.

[16] Waltke writes, “The purposes of Genesis and science also differ. Genesis is prescriptive, answering the questions of who and why and what ought to be, whereas the purpose of science is to be descriptive, answering the questions of what and how. The narrator of the creation account is not particularly concerned with the questions a scientist asks; rather, he wants to provide answers to the questions a scientist asks; rather, he wants to provide answers to the questions science cannot answer—whereas created this world and for what purpose?” In his footnote, he writes, “This should not be understood as an argument for or against evolution. If the creation account is not meant as science, then it should not be pitted against scientific theories.” Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 2001. 75.

[17] Hebrew has different types of verb forms. The qal form of bara has only God as its subject.

[18] “Are Gaps in Scientific Knowledge Evidence of God?” BioLogos. January 1, 2014.

[19] Cunningham, George C. Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Really Be a Believer?: A Geneticist Responds to Francis Collins. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2010. 170.