Taking Genesis 1-3 at Face Value: Is it Compatible with Recent Genome Research?

Posted By on July 26, 2012

[Addendum 7/27/2012: I hope readers will have a look at the comments on this post when they are done reading the post. There are some good, coherent questions asked. I hope readers will see that these questions only *appear* problematic *since* they are asked from the perspective of the traditional reading of the Genesis 1-2 story. As I’m trying to demonstrate in this post and my replies to comments, if one doesn’t start with the presuppositions of the traditional view, but with the presupposition that there are two human creation stories, these questions can be answered coherently, given the latter presuppositions. That’s the point of the exercise. MSH]

In earlier posts on the question of a historical Adam, I provided links to the recent genetics research that has questioned the validity of a historical Adam and its correlate, that humanity had its biological beginnings with a single human pair (Adam and Eve). Since that time, a book has been produced, co-authored by three scientists, that disputes that conclusion on the basis of genetics.1 That’s no surprise. The statistical interpretation of the genetics data is going to be challenged in the years ahead. The issue if far from settled. Setting the scientific debate aside, I want to ask some different questions, worded quite deliberately as follows:

1. Does Genesis 1-2 really teach that all humans came from Adam and Eve?

2. Can Genesis 1-3, taken at face value, be reconciled with the denial that all humans came from a single pair?

These questions might sound silly, but I think you’re in for a surprise. In what follows I’m going to conduct an exercise in taking the text for exactly what it says. The goal is to address both of the above questions. In doing this, readers should know this didn’t take any inventive imagination on my part. The first question is actually an old one within Christianity, before and after Darwin. It’s just that most Christians (including scholars) are unaware of that.2 For those unaccustomed to what I do at this blog (read: why Mike irritates many readers), this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve suggested that Christians (laity and leadership) have misread something for centuries, even millennia. But I’m not marrying myself to a position here (just dating ). I’m proposing a reading that is very straightforward, throwing out how believers (and unbelievers) have understood Genesis 1-2 and just letting the text say what it says without inserting items it doesn’t actually say. Let’s just observe the text and see what happens. For those who like to think and who don’t define biblical theology by their own tradition, that should be fun.

One last note as we begin. I am choosing not to base any reading or conclusion on the editorial process behind Genesis. That is, I’m not going to retreat to any explanation based on how there were originally two creation stories edited together. For this exercise, I don’t care how the text came to be what it is; I only care about what’s in it.

Reading Genesis 1-2 Closely

Let’s begins with some observations from Genesis 1-2. Genesis 1 has no reference to a garden or Eden, while Gen 2 is focused on that place on the earth. In Genesis 2, Eden plainly has geography (Gen 2:10-14). What this means is that Eden is not to be regarded as the whole earth, or even a big part of it. The Bible makes no such claim, though Christians habitually assume it. Further, even the garden into which Adam and Eve are placed isn’t synonymous with Eden. Note what Gen 2:8 actually says: “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” The garden is within Eden; it is not, precisely speaking, Eden itself.

In Genesis 1:26-28, humanity is created by God, but the humans are not named. They are given the task of representing God (my view of the image) by being fruitful, multiplying, and filling *the earth* (not Eden), and then subduing it in a stewardship role. God tells the humans that they have every green plant for food, but says nothing about a garden in Eden, a tree of life, or the tree that they should avoid. More particularly, Genesis 1:11-12 says, “And God said, ‘Let the earth (‘erets) sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed (Hebrew; sorry again for the font problem for transliteration: deshe’ ‘eseb mazria’), and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth (‘erets).’ And it was so. The earth (‘erets) brought forth vegetation (deshe’), plants yielding seed (‘eseb mazria’) according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit (‘ets ‘oseh peri) in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” The sixth day brings this creative activity to a close (Gen 1:31). And so these humans were created on the earth to overspread the earth. There isn’t a single reference to any garden or place named Eden. Their creation took place on the sixth day. It’s crystal clear.

When we go to Genesis 2, a different picture emerges. The first three verses read:

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

We learn here that the work God had done – described in Genesis 1 – was finished in six (or seven, depending on how one takes the phrasing) and that God rested on the seventh day. These verses are in effect a “curtain closing” for Genesis 1.

The next verse (Gen 2:4) begins with the refrain “these are the generations,” a phrase that will be repeated throughout Genesis to announce a lineage or genealogy of some kind *that is distinct in its own right* (see Gen 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27: 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9, 37:2).

4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

The statement is a curious one. Traditionally, it has been understood as looking back to Genesis 1, thus co-identifying the activity of the two chapters (i.e., they are about the same set of events). Then, the argument goes, Genesis 2 telescopes on Adam and Eve, so that the two chapters don’t contradict but complement each other. After all, Genesis 2 is describing the same set of events from chapter 1 but in different ways.

Is it? The very next verse argues against that.

5 When no bush of the field was yet in the earth3 and no small plant (‘eseb) of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground.

Here’s where things get interesting. Let’s look at verses 5-9 as a unit:

5 When no bush of the field was yet in the earth (‘erets) and no small plant (‘eseb) of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land (‘erets), and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground; 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The clear, face-value reading of this passage informs us that before God created “the man” there were no “small plants” (‘eseb) on the earth(‘erets) – precisely the opposite of what we read in Gen 1:11-12.

Is this a contradiction? Or are we reading about a different, subsequent creation, so that there is no contradiction (i.e., the contradiction idea would extend from the traditional approach)? You might wonder how you could get the latter or what I mean by the suggestion. Bear with me.

The passage could be read as describing God’s creation activity – distinct from the creation acts in Genesis 1. The several references to the earth (‘erets) and ground (‘adamah) in the short passage could be taken to refer to activity at one location on the earth – the garden God planted in Eden. This appears unlikely in the translation I used above (ESV, save for the item noted in footnote 3) because of the way ESV translates verse 8 (“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed”). This rendering gives the impression that verse 8 occurs after the material of verses 5-7 in linear sequence, but that isn’t how the text must be read. In Hebrew we have a simply narrative sequence (a waw consecutive in grammatical lingo). But narrative sequence does not require linear chronology. We could accurately translate the form this way:

So the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

This rendering gives the impression that verse 8 is a summary of verses 5-7, meaning that the creative acts described in 5-9 are describing a discrete creation in its own right. Any linkage to Genesis 1 is therefore only an assumption and need not be the case. Essentially, here’s what I’m suggesting:

Gen 2:1-3 marks the final curtain of God’s performance in Genesis 1

Gen 2:4 introduces a new creation episode. The traditional view takes “in that day” to mean “at the same time,” so that Gen 2:5-9 is a new way of describing the same events of Gen 1. However, “in that day” could very easily be construed in the sense of “right on the heels of” Gen 2:1-3. That is, right after God was done resting He got busy again- this time creating a special human (male) for a special place (presumably for a special purpose -perhaps to elect them as His own children amid the rest of humanity [created in Genesis 1], thereby providing a point of analogy with his later election of Israel). Later in Genesis 2:21-23 God creates a second special human, the female counterpart to the earlier created male human.

Gen 2:5-9 then describes activity in the garden, with verse 8 being translated in such a way as proposed above to connect the statement of verse 8 with the rest of verses 5-9. It is in these verses that the first references to a tree of life and a forbidden tree (“of the knowledge of good and evil”) occur. These items pertain to God’s activity and will for the two new humans he creates in this chapter.

Contextual and textual support for this approach comes from the fact that Gen 2:1-3 has God resting — in a statement summarizing the events of Genesis 1 — whereas Genesis 2 has no such idea. If Gen 2:4 begins a new generation following the events of Genesis 1, then the creative content of Genesis 2:5-9 would speak for itself as additional activity of God. Again, the point here is that the text could be taken completely at face value, adding nothing, and yield this meaning.

Genesis 2 continues on to give us the specific geography of Eden and the garden which God makes within it (Gen 2:10-14). God places the new man in this garden and gives him commands (Gen 2:15-17). God then decides to create the man’s female partner (Gen 2:21-23), completing the couple.

By way of summary to this point, we’re reading Genesis 1-2, starting afresh and noting only what it says, dispensing with the traditional ways of reading it. The text has told us the following:

1. Genesis 1 describes the creation of human beings. (The process is put in pre-scientific or supernatural terms, and so doesn’t give us a scientific perspective on how this happened).

2. The human beings of Genesis 1 are God’s imagers (again, which I take to mean God’s representatives) on earth.

3. The human beings of Genesis 1 are not in a garden in Eden (there is no garden of Eden in Genesis 1; the command to “subdue the earth” would speak of the whole earth, wherever humans are, not Eden, which is nowhere in view).

4. Genesis 2 describes a distinct and separate creation of two humans. (Again, the process is put in pre-scientific or supernatural terms, and so doesn’t give us a scientific perspective on how this happened).

5. The two humans of Genesis 2 are in a garden in a place called Eden (which is clearly not synonymous with the earth since it has specific geography on the earth).

6. Since the two humans created in Genesis 2 are not the humans created in Genesis 1, the two humans in Genesis 2 cannot be seen as the progenitors of the humans of Genesis 1. The humanity of Genesis 1 was to image God in all the earth, not Eden, and so the Genesis 1 creation speaks of a divine origin (by whatever means) of human life on the planet. The humans of Genesis 2 are parallel to and consistent with those goals, but their story is more specific. They have a more particular purpose, which is revealed in Genesis 3.

7. The humans of Genesis 1 and 2 are qualitatively the same. That is, the two humans in Genesis 2 are no more human than those of Genesis 1. There is nothing in either chapter that differentiates the humans in either chapter. The only thing that distinguishes them are the sequence of creation (two separate acts in an order) and where they live. All the humans in view are (!) human.

It is at this point that readers familiar with my view of Romans 5:12 will be ahead of the curve. If you’re new to the Naked Bible, I advise you to read the posts at this linked archive so you will be able to catch up and follow how my view on that issue dovetails here. For that reason, I’m not going to unpack the full argumentation of what I say in the next section. You’ll just have to catch up.

Reading Genesis 3 in Light of This Approach to Genesis 1-2

Genesis 3 is the story of how the two humans of Gen 2 disobeyed God, a failure that had ramifications for all other humans who would descend from them. Regular readers will know that I understand the “fallout” of the Fall (sorry, just had to say that) as being humankind lost mortality. As mortals, any human who lived long enough (i.e., didn’t die in childbirth or after being aborted) would invariably and inevitably rebel against God or fail to conform to his standards of holiness. The only exception was Jesus, as he was also God incarnate. In other words, humans invariably and inevitably sin/fail to meet God’s standards of holiness, required for eternal life with him in his presence, because they are mortal humans and not God (they do not possess God’s attributes to the extend he does, by definition). Humans did not inherit guilt, the traditional Christian understanding of what happened at the Fall; they are all guilty on their own account, since they are human. It’s a vicious, inescapable cycle that requires divine intervention (a plan of salvation, accomplished only by a sinless Savior, and not involving human merit).

But all that pertains to humans who descended from Adam and Eve, right? After all, they were the ones whose failure resulted in the loss of mortality for all humans … right? So what about all those other humans from Genesis 1 if we’re reading Genesis 1 and 2 as separate creations of human beings?

Ditto for them. The humans of Genesis 1:

  • … are not in Eden; they are living in an imperfect world (by definition, since it’s not Eden).4 That is, there is no divine environment to prevent them from offending God or to lead readers to think they could avoid doing so.
  • … are mortal; there is nothing in the text to suggest they are immortal since they aren’t in Eden. This is why the humans of Genesis 2 are cast out of Eden and blocked from the tree of life. God’s presence and the tree of life (symbol or otherwise) were the basis of their contingent immortality. Minus both of those, “they shall most assuredly die.” Humans outside of Eden with no access to the tree of life were already in that boat.

Do you see the result? All humans, whether from Genesis 1 or 2, are mortal and will therefore incur guilt before God due to being imperfect creatures (“not God”). Consequently, they are in need of salvation apart from themselves. Though it sounds odd to cast things this way, there’s nothing spectacular or clever about it. The ideas are simple and derive from the text. They just aren’t the thoughts we normally think in these areas.

But all the above shows is that all humans are in the same predicament. We aren’t told in the text (with respect to the reading of it proposed here) whether all humans were offered salvation. We know that the two humans in the garden of Eden were forgiven and redeemed. What about the other humans proposed in this reading?

The answer to this question is found outside Genesis 1-3, and so I don’t want to spend too much time on it here. But I’ll describe it briefly. It is at this point that the notion of Adam’s conceptual and theological correspondence to Israel is telling. Think about it. Adam (and of course Eve) was God’s special human creation. You could consider his special creation as an elective choice of God. God wasn’t content with the humans of Genesis 1. He decided to come to earth in this place called the garden of Eden (and anyone who reads such texts in light of ancient Near Eastern contexts knows that garden imagery is a stock description of “the place where the god/God is.” God decides to come to earth and dwell with humankind. Two humans are created for that purpose, to dwell in God’s presence (and where God is, his divine council is as well — had to throw that in for readers attuned to the divine council theology I’ve spent a good deal of time developing). Adam is therefore the son of God (cp. Luke 3:38) — just like Israel will be called the son of God (Exod 4:23) — just like the king of Israel is called the the son of God (Psalm 2:7) — just like Jesus, the messianic king/servant, is the son of God, so that those who believe in him can be called the sons/children of God (John 1:12; Rom 8:14, 19; Gal 3:26; 1 John 3:1-3). It isn’t until God’s covenant with Abraham, a later descendant of Adam and Eve, that readers are told that it would be through Abraham, a descendant of Adam (Luke 3:34-38), that the humans outside the elect lineage (which began with Adam) would be redeemed through the descendant(s) of Abraham (and so, the descendants of Adam).

Bottom line for our purposes: the humans of both Genesis 1 and 2 are in the same predicament and in need of salvation, and salvation is extended to all those humans through the decision / grace of God.

What I’ve described is consistent with what I’ve said earlier about what Paul says in Romans 5:12, 18-19:

5:12 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.”

Rom 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

In an earlier post, I suggested some thoughts about how these verses could be taken without a historical Adam. Now let me suggest how these verses could be viewed in concert with this “face value” reading I’m suggesting in this post.

Paul’s theology is consistent with the reading proposed here. All humans — whether those created in Genesis 1 or the human family of Adam and Eve, the humans created in Genesis 2, are under condemnation in that they will all sin/fail God because they are mortal and imperfect. They need salvation and cannot save themselves because they are human, inherently flawed, dependent, and contingent. Human salvation was accomplished by Jesus. Though Jesus was a human descendant of Adam, and thus subject to human frailty, he was unique in that he was also God. Only he did not sin like all humans because he was (uniquely) God as well. But he did die. And it was through that voluntary death on the cross that both the plagues of humanity can be solved: mortality yielding to immortality, and the guilt we incur via our own sins being forgiven.

Implications of this “face value” reading of Genesis 1-3

So where does this reading leave us? What if we read Genesis 1-3 so utterly plainly, setting aside the way we have been mentally conditioned by (most of) historic Judeo-Christianity? What if we just look at the Bible … nakedly?

Personally, I think it’s very helpful,5 but it naturally comes with the risk of ostracism from those who want to stick to the traditional reading and do battle with science, or make the Bible into a science book.

What follows are the implications of this reading as I see them. I’m not claiming that the text of Genesis 1-3 produces a scientific reading, or the current scientific view being put forth about human genetics. Readers know I don’t think the biblical writers knew anything about modern science; they were part of the pre-scientific world in which they lived, God having made the choice to use people at that time and place to communicate to their own audience, knowing their theological message (if not the particulars) would extend to readers far future. Rather, I’m claiming that this reading of Genesis 1-3 can certainly co-exist with science, including what many geneticists are now saying.

So, what does this view give us?

1. This view does not require that all human beings come from a single pair of humans. Rather, there were humans on the earth along with the pair known as Adam and Eve. It therefore matters not if the human genome data requires more than a single pair of humans. This view also doesn’t require one specific view of how humans wound up here, so long as God is in the process.

2. This view retains a historical Adam and Eve, the human pair of Genesis 2, co-existing with other humans who did not come from them. This view therefore also creates no tension with Adam being named in Old Testament genealogies.

3. This view allows Paul to affirm a historical Adam and Eve.

4. This view is consistent with other ANE creation stories in that it is a story designed to tell us how humans got here and why they are not gods, and how they can rightly relate to their creator. It is epic myth, which doesn’t mean it’s completely a-historical. (Forgive me for the line … it’s the myth that is true).

5. This view does not alter the universal human need of salvation or the solution to that predicament being found in Jesus Christ.

6. This view makes other passages in the early chapters or Genesis more comprehensible. For example, the classic “conundra” created by Gen 4:8-17 are now easily answered. The question of where Cain’s wife came from is not difficult — she came from the other humans out there in the world into which Adam and Eve were expelled. Other people were already there. When Cain worries (Gen 4:13-14) that someone will find him and kill him after he murdered his brother and is exiled, his worry becomes legitimate — there are lots of people out there in the cold, cruel world, and he has no family now for protection. When Gen 4:17 has Cain building a city (did his wife help?) this view handles that with aplomb — there were lots of other people already living to help him construct his city.6

But what does the view cost?

1. This view requires contending that the Church has misread Genesis 1-3 for a very, very long time.

2. This view requires adopting my view of Romans 5 / the Fall.

3. This view requires surrendering the notion that Genesis is giving us science. You have to be content with it being consistent with science.


  1. I speak here of Science and Human Origins, by Ann Gauger (PhD in developmental biology; senior research scientist at Biologic Institute; former post-doc at Harvard), Douglas Axe (PhD from CalTech; director of Biologic Institute; former Cambridge post-doc), and Casey Luskin (M.S. in geological sciences; research coordinator at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture). This book has in turn has generated exchanges between the authors and those who disagree with their take. See here and here.
  2. The intellectual history of the issue raised by question 1 is detailed in the recent scholarly work by David N. Livingstone, Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins (Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context), Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). My phrase “within Christianity” includes what would have, in times past and now, be considered as “believing Christianity” –  as opposed to Christianity defined only in its broadest possible terms. Like myself in this and earlier posts, Scot McKnight has also drawn attention to Livingstone’s book with respect to the Adam controversy. While there was no evangelical consensus in the late 19th century (continuing through today) as to how to take Darwin’s theory of evolution, it is important to acknowledge that theologians such as B. B. Warfield were open to certain “pre-Adamism” ideas. The point of my present post is that Genesis 1-2 could be read “literally” to support the idea of non-Adamic humans.
  3. ESV and other translations cheat here, translating ‘erets as “land” to avoid tension with Gen 1:11-12, where the same word is used when God did indeed have the earth bring forth the plants prior to the creation of humans. See the discussion for my thoughts on the word in this chapter.
  4. I don’t want to digress here about the presence of “chaos” within all creation, save for Eden. Creation was untamed but still called “very good” by God in Gen 1:31. Again, the idea of a global perfect earth is based on the error that Eden = all the earth. The text never says that. See here for some basic thoughts on this as it pertains to why natural disasters happen.
  5. One potential problem for this reading is found in ` Cor 15:22 (“as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”). The potential problem would be that this verse seems to encompass all humans, not just the humans descending from Adam. It seems to say that what Adam did affected all humans, as opposed to the notions of the humans from Gen 1 being in need of salvation because of their own mortality and the invariably human propensity to sin. This issue actually depends on what words like “all” mean. That isn’t sophistry. If you look at the analogy in the verse, the “all” wording can be taken by universalists to mean that all humans will be cured of sin by Christ, just as all were put in need of salvation by Adam. But few Christians would be in that camp, and that view of course has problems with other passages. So the meaning of the verse and “all” is *not* self evident. The same thing goes for 1 Tim 2:4 (the verse about God wanting all persons to be saved, which creates tension with other passages that speak of election to salvation of some but not others. One could argue that the “all” of 1 Cor 15:22 actually is restrictive, but that’s beyond the scope of the present post.
  6. The traditional view has great difficulties in Genesis 4. It must either affirm that only Adam, Eve, and Cain are living after Abel is murdered (and that is the plain implication of Genesis 4) or posit (i.e., invent) long stretches of time for Cain to find a wife also born from Adam and Eve later on, and then more stretches of time to have enough people born and grown so Cain can build a city — something he obviously couldn’t do by himself. These have been classic dilemmas given a traditional approach to Genesis.

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102 Responses to “Taking Genesis 1-3 at Face Value: Is it Compatible with Recent Genome Research?”

  1. Kirk Shelton says:

    I had considered before a position similar to this, but couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a move unmerited by the text, that I was reading modern concerns into it. I think you’ve done a good job here demonstrating that it is a legitimate plain reading of it. It may be the correct answer as science holds us accountable and forces us to examine our interpretations. And this view does, as you started to point out, satisfy the perceived need for a historical Adam and Eve elsewhere in scripture.
    However, it does seem to leave some perceived requirements for Adam and Eve as the sole progenitors of mankind unsatisfied. Paul in Acts is recorded as saying that God made all nations from one man, and Jesus seems to allude to Adam and Eve as being married since the beginning of creation. These minor concerns could feasibly be addressed well. However, you mentioned Paul’s use of Adam as the “one man” through whom sin entered the world. I understand how it could be merely a metaphor, but it still seems to me that Paul considered Adam the literal first man to exist. Even if not, the question would remain of how, then, sin did enter the world. If I understand the view outlined in your post, it seems like all of the people are individually responsible for their own “falls” (Both the first created progenitors, and their descendants). I suppose Adam could still be the representative, or ‘case study’ of this universal human tendency toward inevitable sin.
    The view you present here is, to me, much more satisfying and readily acceptable than Peter Enns’. It is somewhat similar to that of the Historical Adam Society too.
    As always, it’s something to think about, and offers a potential solution to these concordism problems.

    • MSH says:

      Paul’s statement in Romans 5:12 has sin entering the world by Adam. That of course would be true so far as Scripture tells us. Paul is therefore reading Gen 3 correctly — taking it for exactly what it says. One could posit that the presumed other humans from Gen 1 could have sinned, but we aren’t told anything about that, as the goal of Scripture was to trace the human story through the elect humans, Adam and Eve.

      The statement of Acts 17:26 is interesting, and more malleable than it would appear on the surface. It says (ESV): “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.” Most readers would assume that the one man was Adam, but might it be Noah? After all, it was through Noah and his three sons that all the nations (post-flood) come. They are listed in Genesis 10. And Genesis 10’s table of nations seems to clearly be the context of the second half of the verse — which alludes to Babel and Deut 32:8-9, where the nations were disinherited by God, and their boundaries fixed, and their people allotted to the sons of God.

      Although unusual to our ears, this perspective is not unworkable, and its advantage is that it derives from a simple, straightforward reading of the text.

  2. Paul says:

    What could be then the meaning of “all” in 1Cor 15:22?
    Could Paul be saying all the descendants of adam die, and likewise all “descendants” of Christ shall be made alive. If not, what does he say then?

    • MSH says:

      It depends on how one views the “made alive” part of the verse. If it is a general resurrection (of believers and unbelievers), then it would be “global” and that would be a problem for the view I sketched in this post. However, if the point is “raised to eternal life with God/Christ,” then it would be restricted to the elect/believers. Taking that angle, if one posits that the whole point of the Adam story was to trace the history of elect humanity (through all its failures and God’s salvation history), then the “all” is necessarily restricted to those who would be elect, following Adam as the first elect human.

      • Richard Brown says:

        Or, just for thinking, … “in Christ shall all be made alive” or “in Christ all are made alive”, and from that point, the individual Adams have an opportunity not too far removed from that of the First Adam. In the Name/Person of the Son of Adam & God are all their/our names collectively written in the Lamb’s Book Of Life, not dissimilar to Adam [or, in light of MSH’s post, Adam G2]? Will they erase… or merit erasure? Adam G2 was given Life and there was apparently nothing to gain from the serpentine ‘deal’ offered, other than “knowledge of evil”.

  3. David Lemmons says:

    What about Genesis 3.20? How do you explain Eve’s name?

    • MSH says:

      I think the easiest thing to say (with respect to the view sketched in this post) is that her name — only given AFTER they are forgiven — is an announcement that the human line of Genesis 2 would not be terminated. She would be the source of all human life extending from Adam’s line (but not the other line).

      Yours (and others) in the comments are good questions. I’m hoping that readers will see that the point of the exercise is to show that the view I sketched in the post is as workable as any other (i.e., all the views have a problem or two, but the problems aren’t insoluble).

      • Charlie says:

        Could the phrase “mother of all living” possibly refer to the fact that outside of the atonement of Christ none are “living” and that Christ the Redeemer is “her seed” from 3:15?

        • MSH says:

          I think that’s premature (i.e., reading the NT back into the OT).

          • charlie says:

            Is that a rule? Let me go another direction, this word living is chay, right? Does it apply only to humans? I see no reference to humans in this passage so it is either implied or taken literally that she is the mother of ALL life (plants, animals, amoebas). That would make no sense! So I am compelled to believe that this passage is refering to something other than the breath of life, possibly eternal life. We know that a death sentence has already been pronounced on both Adam and Eve so are they really living? How would she then be the mother of all who have eternal life when she is no longer immortal? “Her Seed” is traditionally thought to be the first prophetic road sign of the coming Messiah and only through Him do we have the hope of eternal life.

            • MSH says:

              Since it comes on the heels of the curse, which involved childbearing, it could be argued (implicitly) that it refers to human life. Additionally, it would seem if the seed was meant that’s what it would say, given that the seed had just been mentioned. But again, that is implicit.

              • Charlie says:

                As far as reading the NT into the OT what is your take on this 1 Chronicles 5:1-2, it seems very clear that there is foreshadowing of the Messiah through the lineage of Judah, why could we not apply a similar conclusion regarding the “living” that could only come through the works of the Messiah?

  4. Cris Putnam says:

    Mike, as usual, it is extremely provocative. It seems coherent in isolation but it presents problems in light of all of scripture. You mentioned 1 Cor 15:22 but Paul also seemed to parse Adam as the original human, Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being…” (1 Co 15:45) the language ” ? ?????? ???????? ???? ” and again in v.47 The first man was from the earth…” where “first” really seems to mean original in this context.

    • MSH says:

      “First” would = “first in the Genesis 2 creation act”; “first from earth” would describe that from which the man was made in the Genesis 2 creation act (the other humans weren’t made from the earth/dust of the ground).

      If Paul has his eye on the salvation history of human life from Adam, then Paul’s reading of Genesis is very straightforward and makes sense.

      These questions (yours and from others) only APPEAR problematic SINCE they are asked from the perspective of the “traditional” reading of the Genesis 1-2 story. As I’m trying to demonstrate, if one doesn’t start with the presuppositions of the traditional view, but with the presuppositions that there are TWO human creation stories, these questions can be answered coherently, given the latter presuppositions.

  5. Bran says:

    If Adam and Eve gained the knowledge of good an evil, and having that knowledge leads to the capability to sin, couldn’t it be that Adam,, Eve and Cain, introduced this knowledge into the wider human population simply by interaction? It seems this idea could answer the difficulty concerning Cor 15:22

    • MSH says:

      The knowledge of good and evil did not *lead* to the ability to sin (no idea where you heard that); it was the *result* of sinning (“their eyes were opened” AFTER they sinned).

      • Bran says:

        It comes from the idea that they did not know they were naked until they had eaten the fruit. The story seems to me to be a tale of mankind gaining the ability to discern right from wrong. I understand that Adam and Eve knew that God said not to eat from the tree, and thus knew they should not do it.. I am wondering about the rest of mankind, the people who would not have been given any such direct order (as far as we can tell.)

        I am wondering this because there is a difficulty concerning original sin with the two creation interpretation (which I have personally subscribed to for a while). I thought that the issue can be addressed simply through interaction, where the knowledge of what is right, and what is wrong (good and evil) is passed onto to the other people from Adam and his family. II think this could be an answer for 1 Corinthians 15:22. Adam gained the knowledge of good and evil, which was passed onto other people via interaction, and thus caused the other people to now be accountable for what they previously may not have been accountable for (due to ignorance)

        • MSH says:

          The text really says the opposite – since the tree was “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and their eyes were opened AFTER eating, they didn’t learn about right and wrong before eating. I actually don’t think it has anything to do with them learning right from wrong anyway, but that’s a bit of a rabbit-trail (short version: parallels to the phrase in the OT show it speaks of a loss of innocence, which is not the same as not knowing right from wrong). Eve very clearly knew what it was she was not supposed to do. She understood right behavior vs. wrong behavior, and chose to do wrong.

  6. kennethos says:

    Without getting too deep, just yet…
    1) Is this the longest post? (Almost feels like it.)
    2) Hoping somebody like Ken Ham doesn’t hear about this. There’d be some upset YEC folks screaming on here, when some of us need to slowly ponder our way through this, to ensure faithfulness to Scripture doesn’t bump into our respective traditions, confession, and science.
    3) Do we have any quick and dirty links for historical theologians who were ostensible OK with pre-adamic peoples? (If not, that’s OK, but it would be nice to look at them online somewhere.)
    As always, Mike, gracias for doing the big-brain work for us. (and being the target! 😉

    • kennethos says:

      Btw, are the links working in this post? It seems a few places are supposed to have links, and nothing works. Just curious.

    • MSH says:

      In order:

      1. Yes; it’s the new champion, at nearly 4900 words.
      2. I really don’t care what Ken Ham thinks. Despite the ugliness of his disposition in recent years, I’m guessing he still means well.
      3. I’d have to go through Livingstone again for this. There were two kinds of “non-Adamism” in view in these debates of a couple centuries ago: (1) there were humans outside the line of Adam; genuinely human, but not related genealogically; (2) there were “pre-Adam” humans that eventually resulted in Adam (a more evolutionary view). Maybe I’ll go back and pluck some names from Livingstone’s book at some point.

  7. Kirk Shelton says:

    Such a view could either accomodate some form of Darwinian evolution (man arising from pre-human stock), or suggest a view in which some people truly do not have a common ancestor with others (perhaps not today, but would not have in the past).

    If I begin from this reading of Genesis and progress through theology, I need to address the “problem of evil.” Traditionally I could point to the “Fall” as the culprit. Here, it’s muddied. I could perhaps still attribute it to sin, though I’d need to specify whether I think sin was from the beginning or not. Was Adam, as I’d worded it before, a ‘case study’ or illustration of an already universal tendency? How could the sin of Adam bring death into the world, or was there death already?
    I should like to adopt this view long enough to make a solid effort at working out the kinks. It’s something the Historical Adam Society has disappointed me on: making the provocative point but failing to address the implications and problems with it, and refusing my attempts at contact.

    • MSH says:

      The fall isn’t muddied here (or in my view of Romans 5:12; I’m not sure you’re familiar with that and its ramifications). The traditional view of Romans 5:12 has serious problems (see the archive), and is not immune at all from the problem of evil (which really isn’t about Gen 4 per se, but is about things like foreknowledge, predestination, and God’s ability / inability to stop evil or not care about evil). Sure, there is a question as to whether the failure of Adam and Eve were predestinated, but that is apart from how Gen 3 is understood in general.

  8. […] Eden. Note what Gen 2:8 actually says: And the Lord God planted … … Visit link: The Naked Bible Genesis 1-3 at Face Value Is it Compatible with … ← Jesus' Resurrection: Was Paul Hallucinating? | the Uncredible […]

  9. Ed Babinski says:

    What’s wrong with Genesis 1 and 2-3 being two different non-historical tales (myths), and the Hebrews didn’t want to jettison either, nor harmonize them completey? There’s other tales in the Bible, both OT and NT, that are not harmonized completely. It’s only apologists who seek total harmonization.

    Why does Genesis 1-3 have to be historical? Do you really want to believe that certain plants came about due to a curse from God in order to punish the earliest human farmers? Do you really want to believe that serpents are “cursed” to go on their bellies all the days of their lives and eat dust? How can you prove to a biologist that such behavior is part of a “curse?” Going on one’s belly enable snakes to sneak up on their prey, so lying low to the ground is a blessing for such a predator. And the snake’s tongue flick is necessary for their sense of smell to find prey and mates, so again, not a curse. Snakes also evolved their belly crawling long before any possible humans were around. Quite a retroactive “curse” at that!

    And do you want to believe that the same God who tells us to care for our children and love them simply tossed his own children out into a cursed world after their first act of disobedience? Is that a story about an understanding Father? Or that the same loving Father who tells us to love our children simply drowned 99.9% of His own along with every animal on earth whose nostrils contained the breath of life? What kind of parenting lessons are being taught in the primeval “history” chapters of Genesis 1-11?

    • MSH says:

      It doesn’t have to be historical (see the earlier posts on this topic).

      And what you wrote here shows me you aren’t aware (or not following perhaps due to a lack of clarity on my end) what I think about Genesis 3 (I don’t think the serpent was a member of the animal kingdom). The same can be said for the comment content with respect to the issue of evil. I just don’t look at things this way. The “God and Haiti” post on this blog gives my basic thoughts on the issue (but there’s a lot more in the “Myth” book draft).

  10. HaMetumtam says:

    In Gen 2:4 you are suggesting B’Yom can be translated to mark a progressive aspect rather than a reflexive statement (In that day) could you expand on that if you understand me. As it makes a big difference to the reading and would this be the same bet-segol that causes the different reading in Gen 1 creation account ?
    Also was Gen 1 mankind eliminated in the flood ? only the line of Adam remains post flood (keeping away from the rabbit trail of nephilim) is this correct ? if so it seems the purpose of creating humankind in Gen 1 outside the garden was to highlight re-occurring election theme in my understanding ? and could Gen 2:7 be considered by way of contrast… the Spirit of God/breath being put into Adam, whereas there is no account of this in Gen 1 ? is there any significance in this..bearing in mind that this would not make them non human…the unregenerate are spiritually dead but still human…it may have some evolutionary fuel ? not that i have that as a presupposition that has to be accommodated, it’s just there in the text and missing in Gen 1…. if we are no longer looking at Gen 2 as the telescope view of Gen 1 then why is it missing.

    • MSH says:

      I’m saying the syntax of Gen 1:1-3 does not point to a linear progression of vv. 1-3; rather, v. 2 is parenthetical, and vv. 1 and 2 are dependent clauses (v. 3 is the independent clause). An alternative view is that v. 1 is a title and unrelated to vv. 2-3. That view would then have v. 2 only as a dependent clause to v. 3.

      I actually think all that is pretty clear from the video (not sure you watched that or just read the post):

      (it’s the first video at this link): http://michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/videos/

    • MSH says:

      On the other elements … Here’s how the view described in this post would respond ….

      The flood narrative is concerned only with the line extending from Adam. The biblical writer isn’t concerned with anything or anyone else, so we can’t speculate about other humans. This is *especially* true if the flood was a local flood (covering only the eastern Mediterranean area / ancient Near East or Mesopotamia/Canaan).

      Gen 2 is the humanity whose focus is God’s election.

      Gen 2:7 is, as you note, a textual difference. Since breath is part of life/personhood elsewhere, it would seem tenuous to take that phrase as inferring some special element into the humans of Gen 2. The humans of Gen 1 are God’s imagers, as are the descendants of Adam through Seth – Gen 5:1), and so one doesn’t seem “more human” than another. And Gen 5:1-2 is a potential problem for the view sketched in this post. It can be read two ways. Here is the passage with annotations (if you have not read the earlier post on the word ‘adam with or without the definite article, you need to so as to follow this):

      1 This is the book of the generations of ‘adam (no definite article). When God created man (‘adam; no definite article), ?he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man? when they were created.

      Here’s the issue. Neither occurrence of ‘adam in 5:1-2 has the definite article. That would suggest that it should be translated “Adam” (personal name). If so, then it connects the Adam of Gen 2 to the humanity created in Gen 1, undermining the view of Gen 1-2 sketched in the post to which this comment was appended. However, the fact that v. 2 has “he created THEM, male and female) seems to require, by context, that ‘adam here is not a personal name (you can’t have a name point to one male person and have that name refer to both male and female). And so, vv. 1-2 would refer back to Gen 1’s humanity (it’s basically a quotation from Gen 1:26-27). Then, it could be argued that the ‘adam of 5:3 refers to the specific Adam of Genesis 2. That works with the context because the genealogy winds its way through the MALE descendants. Genesis 5:1-3 would, in effect, show us either an editorial merging of the creation events of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, OR an original textual description that accomplishes that interweaving.

      Again, this is just an exercise in showing how the text of Gen 1-3 (and now 5:1-3) can be read at face value from the presupposition that there are two separate human creation events in chs 1 and 2. If one presupposes that, this is how the above issue could be addressed.

      • HaMetumtam says:

        Thank you very much, this is very interesting to ponder. Hope there is plenty more to come. Yes i agree Gen 2 were the elect but i was saying without Gen 1 humanity you couldn’t have the theme of election as there would be only one people group (Adamic) and you cant have a choice with 1. Not significant though.

        I like the kingship motif being applied to Adam for the representative of humankind and have that as an explanation of a universal fall. I know you have explained it before but i’m disagreeing with it,(in case you point me to a video:).

        The reason i like the kingship representation of Adam is Paul’s use of Adam as a universal representative of unregenerate men and by contrast Christ as the universal rep of all the regenerate. you are either In Adam or in Christ. Seems there are only two camps in the world….I can still go for your view and it would possibly make this kingship rep view clearer, but i dont have to take your view of Rom 5. But thats getting off topic and it’s a great topic.

        • MSH says:

          I don’t see how Adamic kingship presents any problem for my view. It’s something I’m quite aware of (and am appreciative of) due to my divine council research.

      • Charlie says:

        You state: “the fact that v. 2 has he created THEM, male and female) seems to require, by context, that adam here is not a personal name (you cant have a name point to one male person and have that name refer to both male and female). ”

        2:24 states: “…and they shall be one flesh.”

        Could this provide an explanation for THEM refering to the proper name Adam and encompassing both the male and female?

        • MSH says:

          it’s still two becoming one — if I am tracking your question properly.

          • charlie says:

            I was attempting to argue that it could be a proper name encompassing both the male and female due to the “one flesh” clause and the fact that Eve (unlike any other woman since) was originally part of the body Adam. This seems to lend to special circumstances that cannot be duplicated.

  11. Patrick says:

    This view makes the “other people” relating to Cain’s dilemma more rational to me.

    Here’s a thought. We already know the bible is limited to the knowledge of the ANE Jewish writers.

    Example, in your mythbook, you pointed out the 70 dispersed nations were not to be viewed as all humanity, just the 70 groups the Jews knew of when they penned Genesis.

    So, maybe Adam is the first human they were personally aware of, as opposed to the first human literally. Or, maybe that has no bearing on this at all(probably).

  12. Anonymous says:

    Mike, very interesting approach. How would you understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:4-6 where he seems to make a direct connection between Genesis 1 & 2 as referring to the same two people?

    Also, it seems like the substance of Genesis 2 drives the notion that Adam is in fact the first and only human in existence. Having Adam name all those creatures seems to clearly be an exercise to show his utter uniqueness in all creation, does it not?

    The naming of Eve in 3:20 also seems to support that Eve was the first and only woman who “was the mother of all the living.”

    The flood account has bearing on this as well. God gave Noah and his three sons the same mandate given to the first humans (9:1), and he widened their diet affirming that it was to them (their predecessors) that he gave the original dietary provision (9:3). Subsequently the entire earth spoke one language and dwelled together (11:1ff), and it was from there that languages were confused and people scattered.

    If science is right, we have far more to deal with than Gen 1-3… we must necessarily go to 11. Or would you say that the flood was localized, and 11 speaks only of Noah’s descendants?

    One final thought for now. You say Genesis 2 “is the humanity whose focus is Gods election.” That would seem to me to be difficult to uphold because God made no covenant with Adam as He did with Abram, for example. From Adam came a massive swath of humanity, from whom only a sliver covenanted with God. Nor do we have any indication in the Bible that God had a unique relationship with Adam or his descendants which He chose not to have with other humans. What we find instead is that from Adam came all the people groups of the earth.

    My understanding of Genesis 1 & 2 is that they are written from different perspectives. Genesis 1 is written from the progressive, forward marching perspective. Genesis 2 is written from the cursed-earth perspective looking back. Regarding 2:5, the key feature is the prepositional phrase “of the field.” That phrase marks the bushes/plants as distinct from the vegetation in 1:12. In other words, “here is what happened before we had to eat from the plants of the field.” There is a distinction between eating from seed-bearing vegetation in Genesis 1-2, and eating from the plants of the field which came as part of the curse in 3:18. And that distinction provides us the perspective from which Genesis 2 is written.

    (forgive me for raising so many different points, but hey, your post raised a lot of issues :D)

    • MSH says:

      On Matt 19, someone arguing this perspective could say Jesus was simply citing from both stories — they’d only look like they were the same thing if one starts with the presupposition that they are. Looking at them as separate creation narratives wouldn’t deny the validity of either, and since Gen 2 doesn’t use the “male and female” phrase, if Jesus wanted to make the point that “this is the way of nature, including humanity,” where else would he go? Besides, the “two creations” view would see the humans of both chapters as truly and equally human, so the human species is male and female, and that was God’s intention for the procreation of all humans. (In other words, it could be theologized fairly quickly).

      On the naming of Eve, see the other comments; someone else asked that and I replied.

      The post-flood issue would of course involve the whole earth, not Eden. After the fall, it could be argued that all humans inhabited the earth, and so once the earth (or the portion flooded) was repopulated, it would make sense to give the same mandate. I don’t see this affecting the perspective of the post at all, really.

      On the last point, many theologians would see God’s plan of salvation beginning with Adam, not Abraham. In fact, covenant theology (basically, reformed theology) presumes that. I’m not a covenant theologian, but this issue is well-worn by that approach.

      Your last point is understood, but the point of the exercise is to illustrate how someone with an different perspective could argue the view in the post using only the text.

      • Malkiyahu says:

        In Matthew 19:4-6, He might not be referring to Genesis 1-2 at all. He could just be referring to Genesis 5:1-2.

      • Charlie says:

        Taking this view into consideration we have no way of knowing where the wives for the generations of Adam originated (thus impossible to know to what extent dilution occurred). So there are only 4 individuals aboard the ark who are confirmed Adamic and that would be Noah and his sons. Noah’s wife or the wives of Shem, Ham and Japheth could have originated from outside an Adamic bloodline. All offspring from these three brothers would have some trace of the Adamic bloodline as well as possible traces of other bloodlines as well.

        • MSH says:

          It is true that the genealogies (bloodlines) of women in general aren’t given, so this would in theory be possible if one held to the “two human creations” idea. But it would run counter to other items in the flood narrative that seem to desire “orthodoxy” in areas that would only later be revealed in the Mosaic law (e.g., the comment that sacrificial animals on the ark were “clean” — this is something only later demanded under Moses; and so, one could theorize that if the biblical story is about Adam’s bloodline to Noah and on to Abraham (which later genealogies show), then the wives would still be in the Adamic line out of concern for that purity/solidarity. But that’s a guess.

          • charlie says:

            The wives of Noah and Shem, yes…not necessarily true for the wives of Ham and Japheth for the purity of those geneologies seem to be of lesser importance.

  13. Gabriel Powell says:

    Mike, very interesting approach. How would you understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:4-6 where he seems to make a direct connection between Genesis 1 & 2 as referring to the same two people?

    Also, it seems like the substance of Genesis 2 drives the notion that Adam is in fact the first and only human in existence. Having Adam name all those creatures seems to clearly be an exercise to show his utter uniqueness in all creation, does it not?

    The naming of Eve in 3:20 also seems to support that Eve was the first and only woman who “was the mother of all the living.”

    The flood account has bearing on this as well. God gave Noah and his three sons the same mandate given to the first humans (9:1), and he widened their diet affirming that it was to them (their predecessors) that he gave the original dietary provision (9:3). Subsequently the entire earth spoke one language and dwelled together (11:1ff), and it was from there that languages were confused and people scattered.

    If science is right, we have far more to deal with than Gen 1-3… we must necessarily go to 11. Or would you say that the flood was localized, and 11 speaks only of Noah’s descendants?

    One final thought for now. You say Genesis 2 “is the humanity whose focus is Gods election.” That would seem to me to be difficult to uphold because God made no covenant with Adam as He did with Abram, for example. From Adam came a massive swath of humanity, from whom only a sliver covenanted with God. Nor do we have any indication in the Bible that God had a unique relationship with Adam or his descendants which He chose not to have with other humans. What we find instead is that from Adam came all the people groups of the earth.

    My understanding of Genesis 1 & 2 is that they are written from different perspectives. Genesis 1 is written from the progressive, forward marching perspective. Genesis 2 is written from the cursed-earth perspective looking back. Regarding 2:5, the key feature is the prepositional phrase “of the field.” That phrase marks the bushes/plants as distinct from the vegetation in 1:12. In other words, “here is what happened before we had to eat from the plants of the field.” There is a distinction between eating from seed-bearing vegetation in Genesis 1-2, and eating from the plants of the field which came as part of the curse in 3:18. And that distinction provides us the perspective from which Genesis 2 is written.

    (forgive me for raising so many different points, but hey, your post raised a lot of issues :D)

  14. Gabriel Powell says:

    Here’s another thought that came after sleeping on this. The Bible in multiple places speaks of humanity as coming from dust (Gen 2:7; Job 34:15; Ps 90:3;1 Cor 15:47, 48, 49). Do you honestly believe that a sound counter-argument is to add unsubstantiated qualifications that those speak only of the Adamic line?

    While there are a lot of aspects to your re-interpretation, would you agree that your perspective hinges almost exclusively on your re-translation of “in the day” in Gen 2:3? Because if that really does telescope backward, then all your other arguments are not difficult to handle.

    For example, you emphasize the difference between the garden and the command to spread throughout the earth. That’s not a problem because the command was to multiply and fill the earth, something that Adam and Eve did and could have obeyed starting from one location (the garden was “base camp” for multiplying and spreading). They themselves did not need to become world travelers to obey the command.

    Regarding your footnote 6 on Genesis 4, the traditional view need not “invent” long stretches of time. Since Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old (5:3), it is quite likely that Adam and Eve would have been well past 100 when Cain killed Abel. And since Adam and Eve were created as adults, they were able to have children immediately rather than waiting 15-20 years, which means they could easily have had dozens of children at the time of Abel’s death. And since many of those children would have been well past 50 at Abel’s death, they also would have had children and even grandchildren. The time is there, the people are there, there is no problem.

    • MSH says:

      The traditional view DOES need to invent long stretches of time to avoid Cain building a city by himself. And is the text really saying that Cain feared people yet unborn would kill him in 20 years or so?! That’s special pleading if there ever was any. It’s a real problem, not an imagined one. In other words, regardless of the Adam issue, these are problems for a traditional view of Adamic humanity, and have been well traveled for centuries (I didn’t discover them for discussion in the post).

      The post was intended (as I keep saying) as an exercise in reading the text at face value in the event the statistical genetics argument put forth by Venema (and embraced by others) is correct. I’m not married to it (only dating it, as it has some real advantages). Someone holding that view would say the “dust” language simply refers to humanity from Adam’s line (and then they could say, “that’s basically *all* humanity after the flood anyway — go read the Table of Nations”).

      For me, all this is an experiment in thought. I think I’ve been clear about that, as well as the things I like about it. The only things related to it that I’m quite confident about is the Romans 5:12 thing, but I’ve been there for years (and have yet to have anyone solve the problems [exegetically, not with imagination] with the traditional view that started the whole chain of posts on that subject. But that subject and this one, while related, are not the same, so I’m just thinking out loud about the Adam stuff.

      • Gabriel Powell says:

        RE: Cain. I’m just not seeing how we need to “invent” long stretches of time. Was I wrong in my extrapolation of the potential population by the time Seth was born? Wouldn’t Cain be fearful of the (potentially) dozens of siblings he already had? It’s not difficult for me to believe that upon finding out the situation, Cain’s other siblings would be tempted to go after him and seek revenge.

        It seems like you’re reading into “he built a city” more than absolutely necessary. Could it not simply mean essentially, “He settled down and established a fixed dwelling place as opposed to sending his offspring to fill the earth.” Does “city” in the Hebrew have such a definition which precludes one man from starting one?

        I appreciate your consistent reminder that this is a thought experiment. But it seems to me that because it is just that, its easy to wave away counter-arguments with, “Well that’s only a problem with your presupposition,” when exegetical details must be dealt with. Historically, the Bible has been viewed as encompassing all of history (start to finish), all humanity, and indeed all creation. The view described in this post undermines that and assumes that all the “totality” language is actually limited to a tiny slice of what actually exists.

        For example, one response you gave regarding the Flood narrative is that it is only concerned with Adam’s line. But that seems to be a shallow and narrow view of the text because the destruction, textually, is not limited to Adam’s line or based on land boundaries. The destruction is “limited” to every breathing creature under heaven (Gen 6:17)–including birds who could easily fly away from any local flood. Furthermore, if there was humanity outside Noah who were untouched by the flood, Genesis 11:1-9 would be totally unnecessary since there would already be people scattered all over the place with many different languages.

        You’ve responded to Acts 17 by saying that it could potentially refer to Noah. Fair enough, but you must be consistent. If it did refer to Noah, then the Flood must be global and all post-flood humanity would have come from Noah. While I think Acts 17:25 refers to Adam, I’m ok with it referring to Noah. If Adam, then there is no non-Adamic line. If Noah, then the non-Adamic line ended at the flood. Is there another option?

        Regarding Eve’s name, you said, “[it] is an announcement that the human line of Genesis 2 would not be terminated. She would be the source of all human life extending from Adams line (but not the other line).” My question is, can you support that exegetically? Where are the limiting factors in “all the living”? What textual content tell us her name is an announcement/promise? Again, because this is a thought experiment and not a fully invested theological system, it seems to me you’re willing to indulge in special pleading for this position while you despise it where you see it in the traditional view.

        Finally, regarding Adam as being the focus of God’s election. You seem to be borrowing wood from your opponent’s camp to build your fire. I do not hold to covenant theology, and one reason is because I see zero biblical evidence for a formal covenant between God and Adam (unlike what we see with Abraham). But in order to contend for this view of Genesis 2, you adopt a covenant view (which you don’t agree with?). Is that a correct assessment?

        • MSH says:

          You wouldn’t just need one generation; you’d need multiple generations to get a sufficient number of adults (unless all the women were having triplets and more every childbirth). Your scenario under-estimates the needed manpower and how many births it would take to get there. And you also haven’t addressed why Cain was fearful – it makes little sense to be fearful about someone coming after you decades into the future (especially when, by then, you’d have so many co-workers to protect you!).

          I’m not sure if you are having trouble understanding the post. It’s a thought experiment. I don’t “hold” this view, so I feel no compulsion to defend it. Sure, I can find some exegetical defense for all this stuff (that’s what scholars do!), but that wouldn’t make it true. The whole point is that someone COULD begin with entirely new presuppositions about Gen 1-2 and read the text in a different way. So, when I get questions in the comments, I’m answering like a person with those “other” presuppositions. And I’ve said that many times. What you really need to do is start thinking about what if the genetics material is correct. That’s far more useful. I don’t think the science is settled, but in another 5-10 years, as genetics keeps advancing, this may be at the level of something unassailable. At that point, as has been done for centuries, biblical scholars and theologians will need to re-assess the meaning of Scripture. That process isn’t at all new (a heliocentric solar system used to be thought heretical). This enterprise will either be done well, or not. It’s best to start thinking about it now.

          I don’t see a covenant with Adam either, but this view doesn’t need one, so who cares? God doesn’t need to strike a covenant with someone to choose them for some purpose. Where would we get such an idea?

          • Gabriel Powell says:

            (First, I hope my comments are read conversationally, and not as having any anger or ill-temper in them. I appreciate the back-and-forth discussion)

            The good news is that genetic studies have no say on origins of humanity. At best it could come up with theoretical constructs, but they would be indemonstrable and unprovable. The situation is completely different than the heliocentric issue because that is something we can presently see with our very eyes as to the present nature of our solar system. And it is also something that requires only a slight alternation in terms of biblical interpretation.

            Put another way, geneticists can no more prove that humanity came from X than time-traveling scientists could prove that all the fish Jesus fed the 5,000 men came from the lake. Those transported scientists would have all the scientific data (fish’s DNA) to assume the fish were born and grew up in a lake, were caught, and then cooked; but they would be wrong. Frankly, science could never get that experiment right. In the same way, genetics cannot prove the origin of humanity because–if the Bible is true–then humanity is the result of God’s miraculous power which is outside the realm of science.

            Therefore, to play around with the idea that we need to re-interpret the Bible (indeed create an entirely different worldview) based on something science has no jurisdiction on seems to make the tail wag the dog. It would not be dissimilar to denying the resurrection or the virgin birth on the basis of science. It is, in fact, the exact same thing.

            RE: Cain. We seem to be two planes passing in the night on this one. Again, more than likely Cain already had multiple adult siblings, and possibly adult nieces and nephews by the time he killed Abel. He would have feared them, the ones presently alive. My dad is the oldest of 9 and I have 30 cousins. That’s with multiple (in both generations) miscarriages, some small families, and no twins or triplets. In the span of about 50 years (starting with my dad’s birth), my grandparents spawned almost 40 grown adults. It is probable that Eve, her daughters, and granddaughters would have birthed many many many more in the first 100 years of time. Since Seth was born when Adam & Eve were 130, it is very reasonable to think there could have been well over 50 people whom Cain would have feared.

            • MSH says:

              Gabe – I follow on your note.

              You’re too dismissive of the genetics material. You’re not a geneticist. Neither am I, so we have to let the geneticists hammer this out. It’s really not different than the heliocentric issue. That issue was a clear instance where science and the church said diametrically opposite things. We can snicker now at the oddity that was the church’s view since the Bible says anything at all about the earth being the center of the universe. But regardless of their misreading, their position was the dogma of the day, and directed all thinking on the issue for Christendom. We can see genetic information with our eyes (what do you suppose a crime lab scientist is looking at when they run a DNA profile? And they’re using their eyes). While I’m not a geneticist, I used to work in a genetics lab while in grad school. There were photocopies and scans of genetic profiles (literally( laying all over the place. I couldn’t decipher the information since it’s not my field, but I could sure see the results (and it wasn’t just numbers). And then there are microscopes (really, this objection is very odd).

              You’d need a workforce of hundreds or thousands to build a city — and that doesn’t count all the mothers staying at home with kids. You are simply dramatically under-estimating this issue.

              In any event, genetics affects our very lives every day. The security of genetics knowledge is literally a life and death issue when it comes to medical treatments. This isn’t a casual science that incorporates guessing. It’s real, and the information we are now seeing and mapping is the way God made us. We need to take it seriously and start thinking carefully about a biblical response (which isn’t prooftexting). If we believe that God designed humans no matter what the mode of causation or process, then the information within us is God’s truth. If we believe the Bible is God’s truth, then these two truths must be reconcilable, as there is no other source of truth (at least if we want to maintain the uniqueness of the God of Israel).

              • Gabriel Powell says:

                Please understand I am not dismissing the science of genetics for present day application in any way. That would be indeed be an odd objection.

                What I am objecting to is using what we can presently see to extrapolate back into history. Simple example: if you affirm that Adam was indeed made out of dust, you must also affirm that DNA testing cannot tell you where Adam came from. DNA testing would naturally conclude Adam had two human parents. And yet he came from dust. Or again, DNA testing of the wine in Cana would naturally conclude it came from grapes–when it fact it came from plain water miraculously converted. This a problem for all fields of science.

                All science is not merely naturalistic, but necessarily anti-supernatural. It is so not because of dogmatism but by definition. In order for science to “work,” it has to assume there was no supernatural intervention which altered the natural progression of things. Science cannot account for supernatural intervention, therefore wherever the Bible claims such, science will naturally come to false conclusions.

                Therefore, for us to alter our understanding of God’s description of His actions in history on the basis of a god-less framework seems a bit untoward.

                Every Christian believes this (we must to affirm the resurrection and many other miracles Jesus did). The question is not whether or not we believe it; the question is why aren’t we consistent?

                • MSH says:

                  What you’re doing with the idea of Adam being made out of dust not only doesn’t address the issue, it isn’t even helpful. Here’s what I mean.

                  When you cite the verse about Adam being made out of dust as thought it resolves something about the genetics issue / historical Adam debate, I have to conclude you’re saying one of the following things.

                  1. That Adam was made of dust (not just out of dust).
                  2. That somehow the “dust origin” exempts Adam from the DNA issue.

                  I’m sure you aren’t saying #1 (if you cut Adam open dust wouldn’t blow out). So #2 is where I’ll focus. It’s very obvious that Adam being formed out of dust is to be taken either metaphorically (it’s a figure of speech), or that it’s the language of miraculous power. I presume you are in the latter category. If that is the case, then you have a problem (the same problem as if you chose the former, actually). Adam had DNA regardless of how he originated. How do we know? Because the Bible has him fathering children in his own image. Dust doesn’t have human DNA. Only human DNA can lead to another biological human (unless you want Adam to be a mad scientist in antiquity who could create people out of test tube or something — and trust me, I know people who go there). Anyway, Adam is not all exempt from the human DNA issue because he was human and had human DNA. And his DNA was transmitted through his offspring. (Again, he wasn’t made of dust, even if we take the language of Genesis literally that God made him *out of* dust). And if Adam is the father of every human being, then that puts him precisely in the crosshairs of the genetics discussion/problem.

                  So your point didn’t actually get Adam out of anything; he’s still at the center of the DNA discussion.

                  • Gabriel Powell says:

                    I think we’re on similar tracks, but coming to different conclusions. Yes, the Bible is clear that Adam is made “out of” dust. Dust is the material from which Adam was made just as water (and water alone) is the material from which Jesus made wine. The wine could no more be traced back to the water than Adam’s DNA could be traced back to dust. That should be something we can agree on.

                    And because Adam’s DNA could not be traced beyond himself, genetic studies of human origins are rendered useless. Science is trying to get into a history that didn’t exist. Again, a scientist doing a study of the wine Jesus created could not accurately trace the wine back to a vineyard.

                    It’s the exact same concept which must be applied consistently to documented miracles whether they be Jesus’ acts of creation in the Gospels (wine, fish, bread, healing), or his acts of creation in Genesis. We seem eager to affirm Gospel miracles, but for some reason resistant to affirm Genesis miracles. Why the inconsistency?

                  • MSH says:

                    This just misunderstand genetics. You wouldn’t find a geneticist in the world who’d agree with you here. To test that, email Todd Wood at Bryan College; he’s the young earther who’s a geneticist. He has said publicly that the genetics behind the debate is solid, though he disagrees with the conclusions.

                    You really shouldn’t be making claims about genetics unless you’re a geneticist.

  15. blop2008 says:

    Another detail to take into account to show the validity of the doubling of creation narratives in Gen 1 and 2 is the fact that there are account doublets throughout the entire book of Genesis, showing it was a purposeful concious knitting and/or editing by the author(s). There are two flood accounts merged together. There are two incidents (two versions) of Abraham and his wife getting in trouble with a king etc.

    My paraphrase of Thomas L. Brodie (Genesis As Dialogue Commentary):

    “The final form of Gen is a unity since it is not just a mix of different sources that are broken and unstructured; it is a complex unified text. Gen has diptych patterns or doublets that span throughout the entire book. It often balances two versions of views of the same stories one against each other. It is a dialogical complex and thus a literary masterpiece filled with insightful historiographic information. Were all these features deliberate by the author(s) of Gen or is it just a happening of second nature (it just happened to be finally formed this way?)”

    “Repetitions and doublets in apposition (two creation accounts, Joseph reveals himself twice): Repetition occurs frequently in art and in the ANE, repetition is abounding in a vast array of texts. Repetition occurs at different macro levels: Sentence repetition, event repetition, and account repetitions. Even book repetitions (cp. 1 and 2 Samuel vs 1 and 2 Chron).”

    Another insightful comment by the same specialized commentator on Genesis:

    ” Within the Adam-Noah story (chaps. 111), for example, there are six twos or pairings: In chaps. 15 Two accounts of creation (1:12:4a, and 2:4b-24). Two accounts of sin (2:25chap. 3; and 4:116). Two sets of genealogies (4:1726; and chap. 5). In chaps. 611 Two balancing parts of the flood story (chaps. 67; and 8:19:17). Two texts based largely on Noah’s sons (9:1829; and chap. 10). Two texts of human finiteness (Babel, the failed tower, 11:19; and Shem’s fading genealogy, 11:1032). ”

    Thomas L. Brodie, Genesis as Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, & Theological Commentary (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) 16, Questia, Web, 24 Aug. 2010.

    The doublets of accounts continue throughout the book of Genesis like this. Some of them are hard to detect because they are well merged, but they are there indeed.

    • MSH says:

      It is possible that this is behind Genesis 1-2 and its creation descriptions, though I deliberately ignored that (as noted in the post) since the illustration / experiment is about how someone not knowing or caring about (pre rejecting) that could just read what’s there.

      And if there were two accounts, for me that does not prove JEDP as a whole (which claims to trace whole sources throughout the Pentateuch, not just the early chapters of Genesis). Readers know I’m not enthused about the standard documentarian idea.

    • Malkiyahu says:

      This comment, to me, is evidence in favor of MSH’s view of the two accounts. As these quotes point out, throughout Genesis the author gives two accounts of two events in very similar ways, making them “doublets.” That is (if I understand it) MSH’s argument about the two creation accounts: two accounts of two different events written as a literary doublet, so that both use the same words.

  16. CT Janitor says:

    the story of how the two humans of Genesis 2 were deceived into disobeying God”

    “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”
    1 Timothy 2:13-14

    A question has always lingered with me. What exactly happened just after Eve at the fruit? It appears from the text that nothing happened UNTIL after both EVE and ADAM had eaten.


    • MSH says:

      I’m aware of 1 Tim 2, so I should word that better.

      Sweet about being a custodian – I did that for many years in grad school, along with security work, and listened to C2C all the time!

  17. CT Janitor says:

    I observe the prevalent use of the word “FALL” to describe what happened to Adam, Eve, and all mankind as a result of eating the restricted fruit.

    I also observe that God is recorded as having stipulated that man would “surely die” as a result of eating the fruit.

    Why then do men persist on using one word to describe such a serious event, but God uses a different word?

    (Hmmm. My janitorial mindset observes that throughout Scripture “angels fall; but men die”… Just sayin’).

    “The tiniest pebble can hold open the largest door…”

  18. Richard Brown says:

    July 26:

    I have a list, Michael, of reflections on the above. One of them is whether the “man” of your Genesis 1 is in any way morally or spiritually distinct from, say, the trout or the bear or the odd bird. We have no theology for “sin” attributed to any animal. Scripture treat Adam-G.2 as an utterly unique being, set apart from, created differently from, and given [originally] authority over the other created beings. If Adam-G1 is just another intricately-designed mammal, why would we infer any moral or salvific properties in the discussion thereof? The inference is not derived from the text.

    Did A-G.1 survive the flood? Apparently the Nephilim and Rephaim did.
    then, also fairly recent:
    “Starting a decade ago, a team led by Sarah Tishkoff and Joseph Lachance of the University of Pennsylvania drew blood from five individuals in each of the three groups. Using the latest genetic technology, Tishkoff spent $150,000 to read, or sequence, the DNA of these 15 people. The research was reported Wednesday in the journal Cell. …. the team discovered a huge range of genetic diversity between the three groups. The human genome contains about 3 billion letters, or base pairs, of DNA. Before this study, scientists had found that about 40 million of these letters vary across human populations. But in the 15 Africans, Tishkoff and Lachance found 3 million more genetic variants a huge treasure trove of human diversity. Among this stunning variety…
    The oldest modern human skull, found in Ethiopia, dates to 195,000 years ago. For more than 150,000 years, then, humans shared the planet with cousin species.”

    • MSH says:

      First, it isn’t “my” view. The post was a thought experiment, designed to show how Gen 1-2 could be read in a completely different way.

      I’ve read this article, too. Very interesting. But all these groups are humans. And humans are humans. There is no way to group them by point of origin, so it really isn’t something that is going to be “mappable” to any view of Genesis.

  19. Very interesting post that helps to reconcile the Bible’s creation account with science. I’ve recently begun to think that the creation of Adam and Eve was a spiritual creation, not physical. Do you think the Genesis 1 “human” lineage possessed souls?

    • MSH says:

      By definition you cannot have a human being without an immaterial component. That would be called a corpse or an animal (this is not to deny certain higher animals consciousness; it’s to say that animal consciousness isn’t human consciousness).

  20. Malkiyahu says:

    Thank you for this post. As someone who believes in looking at the Bible nakedly, I find it extremely interesting and thought-provoking. If I may point out a minor error, you said, “This view requires adopting my view of Romans 5 / the Fall.” Technically, it doesn’t require that, it just requires NOT adopting the traditional view involving inherited guilt.

  21. Shaun says:

    Excellent post! Ive had the same thoughts but not the technical knowledge to back it all up. But one thing doesnt line up. In the first creation story everything is said to be good after it is made. But then in the second story its a cruel world outside the garden.

    So what does good mean in Gen 1?

    And, if Gen 3 isnt the story of how everything went bad, when/how did that happen?

    • MSH says:

      First, “good” does not mean perfect. Chaos is restrained in Genesis 1, not eliminated (that is for the eschaton; Isa 27:1, et. al). (I speak here of the primeval water tehom/taham/tiamat wordplay here – see Mabry’s article on “Chaos” in the IVP Dictionary of Wisdom and Poetic Literature on this; it’s very good). Outside the garden there can be death – it is not the abode of God; it isn’t Eden and so is not perfect. Evangelicals have tended to conflate Eden and “non-Eden” for some reason. Gen 3 is about sin and moral evil, not about the forces of nature that are tamed but not eliminated (if humans get in the way of nature behaving as it was created to behave, they’ll get hurt and die, but there is no moral evil involved there). If you have the Myth book first draft, this is in the first couple chapters.

  22. Doug Overmyer says:

    I want to think about this from a different angle, and I’m posing a thought somewhat from ignorance, because I haven’t taken the “How We Got the Old Testament” class yet.

    If the Pentateuch and other Hebrew scriptures were compiled primarily by Jewish scribes during the exile in Babylon, we should consider their motives in how they arranged the texts: to maintain the identity of their people and assure them that their God, while allowing them to be exiled, was in control and not defeated.

    Gen 1 takes the shocking position that their god was the Most High God and it was He who ordered the universe. What makes this shocking would be the obvious view that their God had been defeated by the gods of Babylon, or at the very least, God had abandoned them.

    After Gen 1, the Biblical authors would get to the point for their audience (Jews) and focus immediately on the relationship between God and their (Israel’s) progenitors, not caring so much about the rest of the world, because after all, through THEM, the rest of the world would be blessed. Thoughts?

  23. Matthew says:


    I’m glad to hear some talk about the Tree of Life. Until recently I didn’t give it much thought, but the fact that it was something guarded from the outside world (i.e. non-eden) is very relevant. I can’t believe that I’ve missed this fact for so long. Critical reading skills can never be exhausted nor over-appreciated. That aside, what do you think changed that made nakedness relevant to Adam and Even? I mean, they were always naked… so, how does the knowledge of good and evil make that relevant. Also, why did God want to cover them? I definitely understand the Christology in the animal covering, but why cover them at all, and what’s it have to do with good and evil? Thoughts?



  24. Jason Leonard says:

    Wow, what a read! Thanks so much for detailing your thoughts here. I was a YEC for many years, but within the last year I’ve tried to at least better understand alternative views. This is because I better understand scientific evidence on the issue and have had more exposure to cultural contexts for the Bible.

    I have to say, early on it was confusing to think about anything but the traditional approach, but it just didn’t fit the evidence right (even if evolution didn’t seem right either). Then you commented on Peter Enns’ book a few months back, and I still hadn’t put it together and kind of ignored the issue – it was tough to work out without the resources. But your timing in returning to the topic here is perfect.

    Your explanation really patches many of the holes I had trying work through things in my mind (without time to study). I don’t know how your position differs from Peter Enns’ (his book is on my wishlist) but it is well thought out. It makes perfect sense to me, without being overwhelming as I try to search for more understanding of the “Adam as a type for Israel…” theory.

    I hope everyone here is sharing this post with their friends; many may ignore us or laugh at us, but it’s time people like us get more active! It’s a shame ideas and teaching like this tend to get cast as contradictory to scripture, when in reality it’s the caricatured (and misunderstood) view of these positions that are contradictory…

    You are also right that most, but not ALL of the church, has held to the traditional view. Some highlights from many of the early bishops and theologians of 1st/2nd/3rd century shows more than a few at least understood Genesis as a figurative device. I think the deviance from that view was bound to happen though as Christianity spread by the Gentiles, who had slightly different cultural contexts for understanding the literature.

  25. Mark Lundgren says:

    Just to jump on one theological aspect that is required by your suggestions: if “good is not perfect” as you state in one of your replies, doesn’t that necessitate “good” also being “flawed?” Since God’s “first” creation was apparently a bit of a mess, that means that the perfect God intentionally made an imperfect world. This would seem to be a theological contradiction regarding the attributes of God. If God deems something “good,” doesn’t that necessarily mean good in all its parts? Particularly if sin has not yet tainted creation?

    (And while I’m looking at the other comments, for one like you who is a champion of examining context, trying to make the “one man” in Acts 17 refer to Noah is a bit of a stretch. Paul mentions the one man in the context of Creation. Difficult to get that all the way to Noah.)

    • MSH says:

      Yes, God can call something good that isn’t perfect. That’s up to God. Imperfect need not mean flawed in a negative sense. It may simply mean “short of the ideal that we’ll see at the eschaton.” By definition, if all the earth wasn’t Eden, then that which isn’t Eden isn’t perfect. Imperfection also doesn’t have to mean evil (these are theologized ideas that are vulnerable to logic). If God decides creation is good to the point he has fashioned it, knowing full well that someday the entire earth will be like Eden, then that which God endorses cannot be deemed evil by any coherent thought process.

      You misread my reply to the Acts 17 question (as to intention). I’m not defending my position. I’m answering questions as someone would if they started with the presuppositions outlined in the post. I never said it was complete and invulnerable. I said it was helpful in several regards and worth thinking about. It’s actually unclear what the context of Paul’s statement is. It depends on a decision as to which contextual item near his statement we want to adopt as his intended context. You have mentally inserted it as the context (which is quite normal and understandable, and very defensible). But if someone is approaching it from an entirely different trajectory, they could say what I said. Here’s what I mean — here’s the passage:

      24 ?The God who made the world and everything in it, being ?Lord of heaven and earth, ?does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, ?as though he needed anything, since he himself ?gives to all mankind ?life and breath and everything. 26 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, 27 ?that they should seek God, in the hope that ?they might feel their way toward him and find him. ?Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

      ?In him we live and move and have our being;
      as even some of ?your own poets have said,
      For we are indeed his offspring.

      Verse 24 has creation in view. The quotation in view is in verse 26. In that same verse (26) we have the language of the Table of Nations (from the sons of Noah) and the Babel dispersion event (Gen 11:1-9; cp. Deut 32:8-9). In fact, one could argue that Luke is moving from creation toward Babel and then gets to his quotation — for which reason some might say requires the Noahic angle.

      In short, you could argue either approach textually.

  26. Ken Yakovac says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I was introduced to this interpretation of the text 25 years ago by the so-called ‘identity’ Christian groups and I’ve been wrestling with the ramifications since then. Ever since I’ve been following your work I’ve contemplated emailing you for your opinion on this as a legitimate languages scholar, but didn’t want to take advantage of your time. So, I guess I’m not crazy after all. What a relief. :-)

  27. David says:

    Thank you for this post, I really enjoy the “face-valueness” of it and it seems to confirm a lot of the same questions I had or could not reconcile. I had put together the interpretation for a separate human race in Genesis 1 verses that of Genesis 2.

    I had a thought going to Noah’s Flood, and the issue of it being worldwide or not. Geologically speaking, it seems there is little to no evidence of it being a global flood but rather one can find good evidences of a “known world” flood across Mesopotamia. My questions/thoughts to you would be, is it possible to interpret the flood with respect to the corruption of the line of Adam, that is pre-Israel. It would then be an attempt to start over that israel line to show that even a fresh start does not mitigate sin from our daily lives. Another way to put it, If Genesis 2 is focused on a progenitor of Israel, could not the rest of the pre-Abrahamic stories be read in that light also? How would one then read the tower of Babel?

    • MSH says:

      There is certainly conceptual overlap with Adam-Israel and the flood (Adam’s lineage is saved) and the deliverance of Israel through the Reed Sea. This is especially transparent given how the raging sea is a common symbol in the OT (and ANE) for the forces of chaos, in this case, opposed to God and threatening his plan/people. For the Babel question, I’ve written a lot on the significance of that event, esp. Deut 32:8-9. See my divine council website for that – the paper on Deut 32:8 and the sons of God (www.thedivinecouncil.com).

  28. Jeda R. says:

    My wife and i are studying the bible along with your website and i have to say we are so happy to have this information. Our eyes have been opened by simply reading the bible simply for what it says…with out tradition… I have learned more in the past few years coming to this website than i have growing up in traditional christianity… i believe you are on point with this post. Thank you Dr. Heiser!!

    we are praying for you.

    • MSH says:

      Thanks; I appreciate it. Just letting the Bible be what it is excites people who try it. We don’t need protection from the Bible.

  29. Marie says:


    I was wondering if you think that Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life and that being excluded from it and the garden was the cause of death for humans. I don’t think they did and if they didn’t then cause of death changes. When the serpent asked Eve what God had forbidden her, her answer was :

    Gen 3:3 “but as for the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You are not to eat from it, nor are you to touch it, or you will die.'”

    Not even touch it?

    Because earlier in the preceding chapter we read:

    Gen 2:9 The LORD God caused every tree that is both beautiful and suitable for food to spring up out of the ground. The tree of life was also in the middle of the garden, along with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

    Here I am reading (and this is where I need input or clarity on the sentence) that the tree of life was in the middle of the garden….. were both trees forbidden since Eve informed the serpent tat the tree in the MIDDLE of the garden was forbidden….?

    Would appreciate your thoughts on this

  30. O Normann Sæterlid says:

    Genesis 1 – 3
    Very interesting study Michael, Thanks. Here are some Red Line observations.

    In Gen 1:27 God (elohim) created man in his own image (man and woman), versus in,
    Gen 2:7 the LORD God (YHWH elohim) formed man of the dust of the ground (Adam).

    From your lectures we know the difference of the specie uniqueness of YHWH-elohim (Jesus) and the other elohim – sons of God. What we see here could be that these specie differences are derived from each of these as originators as the text imply. After the elohim rebellion and the fall of Adam, denoted – the seed of the woman and the seed of the “serpent”; as this “serpent”-elohim rebelled, he was from origin the prince (elohim) of the earth we now call Satan. – Creation was Good before this rebellion in Gen 1. And why a new creation had to correct their mistake by YHWH-elohim stepping in.
    Now here is my further implication:

    – The Three of Good and Evil originated as such from the rebellion of the elohim Adversary that corrupted all his adam-kind, it was good when created, but rebelled. These were created in their image as “man and woman” alike, so “bene elohim” are alike and have reproductive capability to manifest their specie kind, heavenly seed banks  bene elohim and different from malacim-angels non-productive.

    – Jesus was the Three of Life – His specie uniqueness was made image and originated the immortal Adam (I agree with your image of God, but the same the elohim passed it on from Jesus as their creator, while Jesus imaged directly here), – and Adam was created out of the dust (manifested directly in matter), Why?. Because no female pair was akin to YHWH-Jesus and therefore He later had to extract X from Adam and make a double XX – the genetic woman, Eve.

    – What we see here is that Adam and Eve where forbidden to mingle specie with this fallen Three and Fruit, but the Adversary enticed her to intake his fruit, maybe Cain? of which he demonstrated that evil nature. And Adam likewise, but the offspring was carried away to the other kind and was the first nephilim, and the corruption upon YHWH elohim – specie ensued the curse where Adam lost his Light garment of the Holy Spirit and saw his nakedness/shame

    – After Noah this/these fallen elohim in rebellion repeated the task and created their image which again mingled with the generations (or directly) and created new nephilim. Seeding tare among the wheat(generations).
    Therefore, the genetic blueprint originated from different specie mix will ensued, despite Noah’s generations where pure, and all died. The two stage creation between Gen 1 and 2 is hard to refute and this Red Line could explain what happened. The time space between them we do not know, but fossils shows different (lower) humanoids in progress from the Gen 1. But the classical Evolution of happenstance from the goo via the zoo is stupid the same.
    The Bible is quite accurate. Yet I would like to go deeper and start from the creation of our universe Gen 1:1-3. Where Gods first spoke the light into this space-time existence and following is not a big bang but a plasma-universal unfolding and proven by true astronomical observation that indeed can explain big bangs ridiculous non observable hypothesis and failed explanations of countless anomalies.

    Now a new heavenly seed bank is manifested, the second Adam – the Bride of Christ, a pure YHWH-elohim specie breed. The Last shall be the First.

    In Christ.

    • O Normann Sæterlid says:

      Obs mistake; Adam knew Eve and begot Cain, The underlining question is What is the Three of knowledge of good and evil.

      • MSH says:

        There’s no mistake in the line you quote; simple grammar there. And the tree is a tree, though I view the point of the story as theological.

  31. Mark says:

    I know its been a while since this post was published and it is very intriguing. I am curious if you have come across any ancient writings that have a similar view of Gen 1 and 2 as you have outlined here. I would be interesting in reading more.

    • MSH says:

      The medieval (11th century) rabbinic scholar Rashi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashi) held a similar view. Same for Ibn Ezra. There’s an article in German about rabbinic interpretation. The sort of thing I’m arguing for is in the rabbis and their own writings suggest it’s even earlier (in Jewish material): P. Schäfer, “Zur Interpretation von Gen 1:1 in der rabbinischen Literatur.” (“On the interpretation of Genesis 1:1 in the Rabbinic Literature”). I would trust the church fathers here one way or the other, since none of them knew Hebrew (Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Jerome excepted). Not sure if that’s what you meant by “ancient writings”.

  32. mark says:

    The question of sin entering the world through Adam rather then any other humans that may have existed prior to Adam is quite plausible. Paul stated that where there is no law there is no sin. Therefore, if these Pre-Adamic humans were not given any specific moral code than they could not have sinned. It would seem to me that God chose Adam to begin the next stage toward his ultimate goal of creating man in His image (Character development)
    One interesting possibility is that the other humans could have been created en-mass with the contributions of other inferior elohim , after all we are told God said “let us make man after our kind…”,whereas Adam is created by YHVH Himself . This might explain why God would do His work through Adam. Only God could and would take the ultimate authority on the manifestation of this process.If the inferior elohim were given instructions to these prior created humans, there would not have existed the same authority or binding judgement as if had originated with God Himself.

    Now I am not saying I necessarily believe that there has to be two creation accounts but it is interesting to ponder how and why. Thanks for the spiritual brain buster!

  33. Dawn says:

    Question for you MIke.

    This is in regards to scientific stuff, specifically evolution. Is it significant that in Gen 1 that certain groups of animals came from the water…and others came from the earth? Let the waters bring forth and let the earth bring forth?

    Also, would it be significant to note that Gen 1 has the fowl being brought forth from the waters, and Gen 2 has the fowl being brought forth from the earth? There also are no “waters” mentioned in Genesis 2 for the sea creatures to come forth from. So….did Adam name the great whale?

    Which I guess that brings me to some descriptions from the book of Revelation where you have a beast out of the earth and a beast out of the sea…wonder if that is significant as far as talking about 2 groups of humans?

    • MSH says:

      Since I don’t assign any scientific intent to Genesis (one way or the other) I don’t see these things as *scientifically* significant. They would have other significances (literary, theological/symbolic).

      The “beast in the sea” is a well known (across the Mediterranean) chaos symbol – that which needs subduing and that which opposes or threatens a divinely (God or the gods) mandated order of things (“creation order”). It may or may not also suggest evil.

  34. James H says:

    I find this position very interesting. I generally disagree for multiple reasons that a comment block does not afford space. However, one part in particular seems to be a huge jump into what the Bible doesn’t say more than what the Bible does day. Your section on humans not in Eden and being mortal has some issues with a complete lack of textual support anywhere else in the Scriptures. I may just be missing your assertions, but a face value reading of this passage affords no such conclusions, because it mentions no such humans in that said environment any where else. Maybe you can speak to this a bit. Thanks!

    • MSH says:

      another person that has mistaken this post for a *position* as opposed to the thought exercise it was. The post is clear that it’s a thought experiment.

  35. Patrick says:


    Could Mark’s suggestion above have potential validity? First time I’ve encountered the idea that Yahweh could have empowered other “elohim” to be part of creating.

    Also, consider the latest on genome research, it’s changed some lately:


    • MSH says:

      Mark? Put me back in the loop – I don’t see any context in my comments view.

      Saw that article on genetics and Adam and Eve, too. We’ll be seeing those sorts of things for years to come.

  36. Paul Owen says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    Excellent overview. I came to this same reading of Genesis 1-2 about a year ago, and am working on an article on this topic. Thanks for confirming that I am not completely nutty to see the implications of the creation stories, and how a sensitive literary reading of the text may help us with a thorny apologetic problem!

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