This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 44, number 4 (2021). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal please click here.
Philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig’s latest work, In Quest of the Historical Adam, is an impressive, bold interdisciplinary exploration into the historicity of Adam (and Eve). Analyzing key texts in the Old and New Testaments, Craig concludes that Scripture presents Adam as a historical person and progenitor of humanity who introduced moral evil into the world through disobedience.
Craig adopts an evolutionary perspective on humanity’s origin. To reconcile a human evolutionary history with the biblical account of humanity’s creation, he makes the case that Genesis 1–11 belongs to a genre called mytho-history (a sacred mythical origins narrative that also makes allusions to real people, places, and events). Craig holds the view that it is up to modern science to determine who Adam was and when he (and Eve) lived. Based on the evidence from anthropology, Craig provisionally concludes that Adam lived between 750,000 and 1,000,000 years ago as a member of the hominin species Homo heidelbergensis.
Craig’s theological and scientific conclusions are unlikely to be accepted by many evangelicals and theologically conservative Christians. Because my training is in the life sciences, I touch only briefly on the theological concerns I have with Craig’s proposal, including the need for a stronger demarcation between myth and history. Instead, I direct most of my focus on the scientific issues — in particular, how symbolic artifacts in the fossil record provide compelling evidence that Adam (and Eve) are best understood as modern humans, who alone display cognitive capacities that reflect the image of God.