This article first appeared in the From the President column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 45, number 01 (2022). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal please click here.
Did Adam and Eve really exist? One would think that the answer to this question is obvious. Of course, they did! Did not St. Paul make it crystal clear? “From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth” (Acts 17:26).1 Moreover, had the first Adam not fallen into a life of perpetual sin terminated by death, there would have been no need for God to send a Second Adam. St. Paul is emphatic: “Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21–22).
Christ is equally resolute. “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4). Jesus affirmed a historical Adam and Eve when He referred to the murder of their son Abel (Matt. 23:35). Not only so, but St. Luke, writing to a primarily Gentile audience, extends his genealogy past Abraham to the first Adam, thus highlighting Christ, the Second Adam, as the Savior of all humanity (Luke 3:23–38). Should that prove insufficient to Adam and Eve deniers, Chronicles provides a historical record from Adam to the Exile (1 Chron. 1–9). Likewise, starting at Genesis 5:1, Moses gives “the written account of Adam’s line.”
Denying the Historical Adam. With all this and more to commend a historical Adam and Eve, it seems incredible to think that anyone would deny such a foundational reality. Yet as Casey Luskin explains in our cover article — “Lessons Learned (and Not Learned) From the Evangelical Debate over Adam and Eve” (pp. 08–15) — more than a few prominent Christian voices actively seek to convince the faithful that the breadth of human genetic diversity irrevocably refutes the existence of Adam and Eve. According to Luskin, the debate over a historical Adam and Eve was pushed into the mainstream more than a decade ago when the premier evangelical magazine, Christianity Today (CT), ran a cover story on “The Search for the Historical Adam.” The article lent credence to the notion that modern human diversity is far too expansive to be explained by an original pair. Thus, the contention that modern humans “originated with a population that numbered something like 10,000, not two.”2 Those who hold otherwise are routinely demeaned. Daniel Harlow, a religion professor at Calvin College, has gone as far as to castigate those holding to a historical Adam and Eve as not only “anti-science” but guilty of bringing “unnecessary shame upon the name of Jesus Christ.”3
An Historical Adam, But… While a growing cacophony of voices argue that the historical reality of Adam and Eve has been as decisively refuted as has the geocentric model of the solar system, others such as the well-respected apologist William Lane Craig argue that Adam and Eve were members of an animal species — a species of apes on which God effected physical and spiritual renovations some 750,000 to a million years ago.4 But why go there in the first place? Why give currency to the notion of “broken pseudogenes” — junk DNA — as evidence for human-ape common ancestry? Why not opt for the historic Christian position that God miraculously created Adam and Eve de novo (from new)? Especially when there is ample reason to conclude that so-called pseudogenes are anything but the “junk” they are routinely purported to be!
As underscored by Luskin in our JOURNAL article, “the literature is replete with papers reporting specific functions for ‘pseudogenes,’ including producing functional proteins, functional RNA transcripts, or performing functions without producing any RNA” (13). Moreover, “the reason our genomes contain sequences that resemble proteincoding-genes that don’t produce proteins isn’t because they are discarded evolutionary junk, but because they are designed that way as important genomic regulatory and control elements” (14). To classify as junk that which is increasingly demonstrated to be anything but junk appears to be a classic case of buying high and selling low. Reminiscent of the “gap theory” that arose with the dawn of modern science as an attempt to reconcile the geological age of the cosmos with the Genesis account of creation — makeshift improvisation designed to resolve a perceived conflict between science and Scripture. And tragically, incessant innovations just keep on coming.
Whence Came Mortality? In October 2021, a full decade after lending credence to the notion that Adam and Eve did not exist, CT published a print interview with Craig titled, “The Headwaters of the Human Race.” In the interview, Craig divulged what he described as “one big surprise.” The surprise involved changing his mind on a question of surpassing consequence. “Previously,” said Craig, “I had thought that physical mortality was the result of the Fall. But I’m now convinced, based on my reading of Genesis 3, Romans 5, and 1 Corinthians 15, that Adam and Eve were created mortal.” To put it bluntly, in Craig’s considered opinion, Adam and Eve “would have naturally died even if they had not fallen” (emphasis added).5 My first reaction to reading the CT interview was disbelief. I truly could not so much as imagine such a thing. Yet in a 2022 podcast, Craig made it clear that it was his considered conviction that “Adam was not mortal in virtue of his fall; he was mortal in virtue of his creation” (emphasis added).6
So, is Craig correct? Was Adam really created mortal? Would he indeed have died even if he had not sinned? To answer in the affirmative is no small matter. For to do so is to stand against the weight of church history as well as to shrug off the pronouncements of church councils as of little or no consequence. Moreover, the second-century patriarch of Antioch, St. Theophilus, explicitly addressed this matter in affirming that Adam “was created neither mortal,” as Craig contends, “nor immortal; rather, [Adam] was capable of both mortality and immortality. Had he chosen the way of immortality in following the divine commandment, he would have received the gift of immortality as a recompense.” Instead, because “he turned toward works of death in disobedience to God, he became himself the cause of his own death.”7
The Western father St. Augustine is equally emphatic in this regard. “Until sin entered in, the human body could be qualified in one sense as mortal and in another sense as immortal; mortal because it was capable of dying, and immortal because it could not have died.” St. Augustine went on to say that “by refraining from sin, it [the human body] could have avoided death.”8
What may not be as commonly known is that church councils addressed Craig’s contention explicitly. As a case in point, canon 109 of the Councils of Carthage (A.D. 419) states “that whosoever says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal, so that whether he had sinned or not, he would have died in body — that is, he would have gone forth of the body, not because his sin merited this, but by natural necessity, let him be anathema.”9
What Craig describes as a big surprise is quite obviously not surprising at all. Not only was the contention that Adam was created mortal and would have died even if he had not sinned anathematized by church councils, but this aberration stands out as one of the main points of contention during the Pelagian controversy. St. Augustine going so far as to make clear that “the most pernicious evils of this heresy have been condemned, not only by Pelagius but also by the holy bishops who presided over that inquiry.”10
The Very Key to Scripture. In sum, three issues are of enormous consequence. First, while numerous evangelical voices contend that the historical reality of Adam and Eve has been as decisively refuted as the geocentric model of the solar system, the Holy Scriptures plainly say otherwise. Though the geocentric model of the solar system has indeed been decisively refuted, the existence of Adam and Eve remains inviolate. Furthermore, the contention that Adam was an ape on whom God effected physical and spiritual renovations in a timeframe extending to maybe as much as a million years ago is unwarranted. As Luskin makes plain, it is a classic case of betting on the wrong horse. Finally, to suppose that Adam was created mortal — that he would have died even if he had not sinned — is simply wrong. A matter that has been thoroughly considered throughout church history and comprehensively debunked.
The significance of a proper reading of science and Scripture can hardly be overstated. For to demean as “evolutionary junk” extravagant jewels crafted by an ineffable God is singularly wrongheaded. In the end, unwittingly or not, it serves to destroy rather than disclose the interpretive framework of Scripture, and thus dismembers truth. It is, as it were, to lose the very key to Scripture. “Just as if one,” said St. Irenaeus of Lyon, “when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skillful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should re-arrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox [or of an ape], and even that but poorly executed.” Worse yet, by drawing attention to the authenticity of the jewels, they “deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like and persuade them that the miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king.”11 —Hank Hanegraaff
- All Bible quotations are from NIV1984.
- Richard Ostling, “The Search for the Historical Adam,” Christianity Today, June 3, 2011, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/june/historicaladam.html.
- “Christians Divided over Science of Human Origins,” NPR, September 22, 2011, https://www.npr.org/2011/09/22/140710361/christians-divided-overscience-of-human-origins.
- William Lane Craig, In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2021), 359, 378.
- William Lane Craig, “The Headwaters of the Human Race,” interview by Melissa Cain Travis, Christianity Today, October 2021, 71.
- William Lane Craig, “Listener Questions about New Book on Adam,” Reasonable Faith Podcast, December 6, 2021, https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/listener-questions-about-new-book-on-adam.
- St. Theophilus, To Autolycus 27, quoted in Jean-Claude Larchet, The Theology of Illness, trans. John Breck and Michael Breck (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002), 25. Nemesius of Emesa (fl. c. AD 390) writes, “The Hebrews say that man came into existence in the beginning as neither incontestably mortal nor immortal, but at the boundary of each nature….For if God had made him mortal from the beginning he would not have condemned him to death when he had sinned: for nobody condemns the mortal to mortality.” De natura hominis, I.6.5–2, quoted in Nathan A. Jacobs, “On Whether the Soul Is Immortal According the Eastern Church Fathers,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, vol. 64 (2020).
- St. Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram 25, quoted in Larchet, The Theology of Illness, 25.
- The Seven Ecumenical Councils, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 14, ed. Henry R. Percival, Philip Schaff, and Henry Wace (repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983), 496.
- St. Augustine, “A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius” (c. AD 417), chapter 24, in Saint Augustin: Anti-Pelagian Writings, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 5, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Peter Holmes (repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980), 194. Later in “A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius,” Augustine questions Pelagius’s sincerity (see chapters 57 to 59).
- St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 8.1. in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 326.