“The Nuggets killed the Lakers last night. They beat ‘em by 25 points.”
“I love this comic; he always kills me!”
“I deeply regret killing my wife, and I wish I could turn back time.”
All three declarations acknowledge the proper definition of the word “kill,” yet only one of these statements is likely to be of interest to a jury in a murder trial. Every time we assess someone’s use of language, we must first examine the context in which the words were spoken. As a 35-year-old skeptic, reading the Bible thoroughly for the first time, I found myself examining the words of Scripture in an attempt to understand Moses’ meaning related to the first two characters in the Biblical narrative: Adam and Eve. Were they real human beings? Were they allegorical figures described by Moses in an attempt to illustrate the plight of early man? Were they written figuratively to represent all of humankind? I knew from my professional work as a detective that the surest way to understand a statement was simply to examine its context and to compare it to other proclamations made by the suspect. As a skeptical seeker, I took the same approach with Adam and Eve. After examining every passage of Scripture, I found the following:
Adam and Eve Were Regarded As Real People
In the earliest accounts of Adam and Eve, Moses described them singularly (in contrast to his plural descriptions of other animal groups). The waters were teeming with swarms of living creatures and the skies were filled with birds (Genesis 1:20); the earth was bringing forth living creatures after their kind (v.24), filling with beasts and cattle. God created with great plurality in every category of creature except humans. Adam and Eve were described as singular individuals. It’s difficult to consider them allegorically or representatively, given that Moses failed to use language that could assist us to do so.
Adam and Eve Responded As Real People
Moses also described Adam and Eve’s behavior in a manner consistent with the behavior of real people. Moses put specific words on their lips as they interacted in the Garden, and like other real people, Adam and Eve responded to one another (and to God). Adam and Eve gave birth to specific individuals, and Moses intentionally noted the age of Adam when some of his children were born (Genesis 5:3-4). Adam’s offspring (Cain, Abel, and Seth, for example) were identified by name and had a personal history of their own, just as we would expect if they, too, were real people.
Adam and Eve Were Recorded As Real People
Moses placed Adam in genealogies alongside other specific individuals who we acknowledge as real, historic human beings. Moses repeatedly recorded the historic lineage of important people (like Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, and Terah) with the expression, “These are the generations of….” Adam was no exception. Moses used this same expression when recording the generations of Adam in Genesis 5:1. Other authors of Scripture repeated this inclusion in the lineage of real humans. Adam appeared in the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 1:1, in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:38), and in Jude’s reference to Enoch (Jude 1:14). These genealogies and references recorded the names of specific, real individuals, and Adam was included in their ranks.
Adam and Eve Were Referenced As Real People
Throughout the Old and New Testament, writers of Scripture referred to Adam as though he was a real person and not an allegory or representative of mankind. Job offered Adam as an example of someone who attempted to hide his sin (Job 31:33). Hosea offered Adam as a specific example of someone who broke his covenant with God (Hosea 6:7). In the New Testament, Paul repeatedly referenced Adam as a real person, calling him the “first man” (1 Corinthians 15:45), and describing both Adam and Eve as specific individuals (1 Timothy 2:13,14).
Adam and Eve Were Held Responsible As Real People
The historic Christian doctrines of sin and salvation hinge on the real existence of Adam as an individual human being, responsible for the introduction of sin into the world. In Romans 5, Paul wrote that sin entered the world “through the one man (Adam)” (verse 12) and that life was (and is) given “through the one man, Jesus Christ” (verse 17). Jesus, as a real man, serves as the remedy for sin; the responsibility for this sin was another real man, Adam. In the context of Paul’s divinely inspired teaching, Adam was every bit as real as Jesus.
Recent genetic research is challenging the notion that all humanity emerged from a single pair of humans, and some Christians are starting to rethink their interpretation of Adam and Eve in response to this challenge. The number of unanswered questions continues to grow. How reliable are the scientific conclusions? How can Adam and Eve be the source of all humanity if genetic research seems to indicate a much larger original group? Is there an interpretation of Scripture that can reconcile this apparent contradiction?
I’ve learned an important truth over the years as a detective: Every case has unanswered questions, and we successfully prosecute suspects in spite of this reality. We first acknowledge what is evidentially clear, and then search for reasonable explanations in the areas that are less certain. As Christians work to reconcile the nature of scientific evidence with the claims of the Bible, one thing is evidentially clear: The writers of Scripture describe Adam and Eve as real, historic individuals. We must begin here and then search for reasonable explanations in the areas that are less certain.