The Biblical Adam: Man or Myth?

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Creation-of-AdamGrowing up I believed in myths. On Christmas Eve, our family huddled up in front of the evening news to see how Santa’s trip from North Pole was going. The radar’s flashing reindeer got us excited to set out milk and cookies as we awaited the arrival of jolly Old Saint Nick.

On Easter morning, my sister and I hustled to the window to see if we could find paw prints from the Easter Bunny so we could know which way he hopped after filling our baskets with candy. And a loose tooth was always followed by hopes that the Tooth Fairy would leave a stack cash in the middle of the night.

Most children believe in some type of myths. And most of us, as we grow up, learn to leave our myths behind. We get smarter. We become more educated. We see behind the curtain, as it were. It is a mark of maturity to discern between what is true and what is merely a story.

There are some things however that are not myth, even if they are a bit mysterious. One of these is what the Bible teaches about the first man, Adam. The Bible presents Adam as a real, historical, man from whom all other people descended. In Acts 17:26 Paul said “[God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.”

There are many other places in the Bible that present Adam as a historical person including Genesis 1-3, 5; 1 Chronicles 1:1; Hosea 6:7; , Luke 3:38, Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49; 1 Timothy 2:13-14; Jude 4.

Holding to Adam’s historicity is essential for many reasons. For instance, it means that all people, regardless of ethnicity or cultural background, have the same nature and dignity. We’re all made in God’s image and we all have the same problem of sin. There may be many reasons we divide, but we all find unity in the same family, descended from Adam.

If this isn’t true then the door is wide open for certain groups to justify racism or elitism of one culture or ethnicity over another. Now, most people who deny Adam’s historicity wouldn’t advocate racism, but they undermine the foundational Biblical teaching that guards against it.

But affirming Adam’s historical existence isn’t just a historical, scientific, or anthropological issue, it’s a Gospel issue. Romans 5:12-21 clearly portrays Adam as the representative head of natural man in whom all people are condemned because of his sin.

If Adam is made out to be a myth, then the analogy of Christ’s work breaks down and we are left with Adam merely being an example to avoid and Jesus being an example to emulate. This is a far cry from what the Bible teaches. As Dr. Albert Mohler says, “Jesus didn’t come to improve our evolutionary line, He came to redeem sinners.”

The Bible begins with the account of God creating the world which is followed by a fall that came through the sin of Adam (Gen. 1-3; Rom. 5:12). If we dismiss that event as myth, then the dominoes of what the Scriptures teach us about God, His revelation to us, our sin nature, redemption in Christ, and the resurrection from the dead begin to tumble as well.

The doctrine of a historical Adam is an extraordinarily important issue that demands our attention. As I prepared to teach Romans 5:12-21 (which might be one of the toughest and amazing texts in the Bible) I spent some extra time revisiting the historical Adam debate. Below are some of the resources that a few friends helped me compile. I commend this study to you as a means of not only believing in the first Adam, but even more importantly, the second Adam, Jesus Christ who died and rose to give life for all those who will believe.

 

Articles

Was Adam a Historical Person by Guy Walters (Ligoneer)

“The Search for the Historical Adam” by Richard Ostling (June, 2011)

Christianity Today’s cover story that details some of the modern thinking on the issue.

 

“Sinned in a Literal Adam, Raised in a Literal Christ” by Tim Keller (June, 2011)

Part of an interview in which Keller discusses the implications of believing in a literal Adam.

 

“10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam” by Kevin DeYoung (February, 2012)

Short, punchy, and sets the stage well for the traditional view.

 

“Thoughts on Kevin DeYoung’s Restless Comments on the Historical Adam” by Peter Enns (February, 2012)

A well argued, but not convincing rebuttal to Kevin’s 10 Reasons article. His conclusions are concerning to me.

 

“Adam in the Epistles of Paul” by D. A. Carson (1980’s)

He’s basically the Yoda of all Christian thinkers, so it’s deep and wide and good stuff.

 

“If the Apostle Paul Believed in the Historical Adam, Must We.”  by John Starke (February, 2012)

A good summary of DeYoung, Enns, and Carson’s work.

 

Books

“Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care” by John Collins (May, 2011)

 

Audio / Video

“Adam and the Gospel: Is a Historical Adam Necessary?” an excellent discussion at Southern Seminary with Dr. Albert Mohler, Dr. Jim Hamilton, Dr, Stephen Wellum, and Dr. Thomas Schreiner (Fall, 2011)

 

“Historical Adam Discussion” a good podcast with Dr. Darrell Bock (DTS) and Dr. Richard Averbeck discussing the necessity of the historical view. (May, 2013)

 

“The Historical Adam” another podcast discussing the traditional Reformed perspective of the issue with Rick Phillips, Nick Batzig, and Kenneth Kang-Hui.

 

“Christians Divided Over Sciene of Human Origins” an interview on NPR in which Dr. Albert Mohler defends the historical teaching of Adam and Eve. (September, 2011)

 

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