Historical Adam

At a recent dinner meeting with friends, Tom asked me if I thought Job was a historical figure or not. We discussed the possibilities for a while, and agreed that a good interpretation of the biblical documents did not necessarily require a historical Job, but neither did they preclude Job being a real human being and his story being historical.

Then Tom asked if I thought there was a historical Adam. We agreed that this was an entirely different type of question. I said I hadn’t thought too much about it. Tom came down on the side of a historical man and woman who were the progenitors of all humans.

I just finished reading Craig, William Lane. In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2021.

First of all, it was a fascinating read for someone like me with a decided technical bent. Probably it would be difficult for someone who little technical background. For a guy whose background is theology and philosophy, Craig has played a pretty robust technical game with this book.

Now, Tom will be pleased to know that Craig favors a historical Adam and Eve. Not only will this please Tom, but most people who treat the early Genesis material as historical, as well. But it will not please the young earth creationists at all.

The reason for this is that Craig has to place the historical Adam at over half a million years ago, probably between a million and three-quarters of a million years ago. That will not fit with Bishop Ussher’s chronology by any stretch of the imagination.

Furthermore, the surprising upshot of this is that Adam and Eve were not Homo sapiens. Rather, they were of the species that is the common ancestor of both Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalis, along with some other extinct species of modern man.

This scenario requires that Neanderthals were fully human, made in the image of God. But of course they became extinct, but not before passing a lot of genetic material to us through interbreeding with sapiens.

It also requires that the large majority of the precursor species (Homo heidelburgensis) was not human. That is, members of that species had great rational abilities, but did not have a soul and did not know right from wrong. They were beasts.

But something happened and a single pair of them had a genetic switch turned on (a physical change) and at the same time were given souls (a spiritual change). The physical change was probably not a chance event, but was caused by an intervention by God, a bit of divine genetic engineering.

This is a perfectly acceptable idea to most evolutionary creationists. Adam and Eve were the original GMOs.

Then Adam and Eve and their progeny had to be isolated sexually from non-human homonins, probably because their self-awareness made them so different that they went to some place to be alone and build their family. Eventually, the other species all died out.

In the end, you’d have to say that Craig is saying that there is a possibility that all people today descend from a single pair. Most geneticists say that we came from a population of a few thousand, at the least. Craig has studied the statistical genetics and sees another way of interpreting the data.

As I say, this book is a fascinating read. Craig himself says that the quest for the historical Adam will never end. But this is a delightful addition to the literature of the quest.

Me? I’m not sure yet that Craig is reading Genesis 1-11 in the right way. I’m also not sure that he isn’t. I will be eager to hear what Tom thinks.

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