Answer by Diane Eager
This question reminds us of a church enterprise we came across recently. An Australian country church brought the local hotel when it went bankrupt. Their aim was to make it into a youth centre. They discovered the publican had named the toilets Adam and Eve, but they had to change this because the street kids didn’t get it. They didn’t know who Adam and Eve were.
We are not surprised by this question in a world where knowledge of the Bible is low both in and outside of the church, and where liberal theologians teach Genesis is just myth, and claim their god used evolution so there never was a literal first man and woman.
So, what do we know about Adam and Eve?
Adam is the first created man. His creation is clearly described in Genesis 2:4-24, where we are told God made Adam from “dust of the ground,” i.e. raw materials. He was not derived from any pre-existing animal.
Eve was the first woman. She was made after Adam, and she was not made from the ground, but from Adam’s side when God put him to sleep. Thus Adam and Eve were one flesh and their unique creation differed from all other creatures God made.
It is also of interest to note that God named Adam, but Adam named Eve.
If you try to reconcile this account with evolution, which has man and woman evolving in parallel from some already existing ape-like creature, you can’t!
So is this account meant to be taken at face value? Let’s see how Adam and Eve are treated in the rest of the Bible.
Adam and Eve were the first married couple. Eve is described as Adam’s wife, not just as a woman, and they are always used to show God’s pattern for marriage. This is affirmed by Jesus, when He was questioned by the Pharisees about divorce. He said: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:4-5 NKJV)
The implications are profound: God invented marriage for male and female, and there is no room for same sex relationships. Secondly God hates divorce, and thirdly he did not make it for polygamy. (See Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, Malachi 2:13-16, 1 Timothy 3:2)
Adam and Eve are also used as role figures in who is the authorised preacher in the New Testament church. (See 2 Timothy 2:13)
Some theologians claim that the story of Adam and Eve is just symbolic, and is there to give moral direction. However, the militant atheist Richard Dawkins points out the folly of this kind of thinking. He wrote: “All too many preachers, while agreeing that evolution is true and Adam and Eve never existed, will then blithely go into the pulpit and make some moral or theological point about Adam and Eve in their sermons without once mentioning that, of course, Adam and Eve never actually existed! If challenged, they will protest that they intended a purely ‘symbolic’ meaning, perhaps something to do with ‘original sin’, or the virtues of innocence. They may add witheringly that, obviously, nobody would be so foolish as to take their words literally. But do their congregations know that? How is the person in the pew, or on the prayer-mat, supposed to know which bits of scripture to take literally, which symbolically? Is it really so easy for an uneducated churchgoer to guess? In all too many cases the answer is clearly no, and anybody could be forgiven for feeling confused.” (Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth, Bantam Press, 2009, pp7-8)
Dawkins in correct: How can the record of Adam and Eve have any moral authority if it is not historically true? If it didn’t happen it is a fairy tale, and cannot be the basis for right and wrong, and cannot be used to define and enforce lawful behaviour.
Dawkins’ point is a particular challenge to so-called evangelicals who claim the creation/evolution debate is not a salvation issue. Genesis 3 clearly tells us how sin came into the world, how God judged it and set in place the plan of salvation. The serpent deceived Eve into eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, which God had forbidden them to eat, and she then gave some to Adam, who also ate. God then judged the serpent, promised a Saviour who would defeat Satan, but suffer in the process, and God then judged Adam and Eve. God’s judgement included spiritual and physical death. This is another flat contradiction of evolution, which is a process of death and struggle that supposedly happened for millions of years before man came into the world.
The Apostle Paul makes it the clear that sin and salvation are firmly based on Genesis 2 and 3 being the real history of human origins. He wrote: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned, … For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” (Romans 5: 12,15 NKJV)
Note the “one man” principle: one man Adam brought sin, and therefore death, into the world; one man Jesus Christ paid the penalty, death, and brought God’s gift on new life into the world. This could only be true if Adam was as real as Jesus, and the entrance of sin and judgement into the world was as real as the death of Christ, which paid the penalty for sin.
Note again the “one man” principle of salvation only works if the creation of Adam and Eve is true in all its detail. The Apostle Paul also tells us “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 NKJV)
Now let’s go back to Genesis. Adam was created as one man, then Eve was created from tissue taken from him. In Genesis 3:20 we are also told “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.” Altogether, this means the entire human race can be subsumed into Adam. Therefore, when Christ paid the penalty for Adam’s sin He paid the penalty for all, and therefore, forgiveness and eternal life are available to all.
We are also given some other details about Adam and Eve that contradict the evolutionary story. They were created as fully formed adults who could marry and reproduce. If evolution is true they must have come into the world as babies. They were given work to do, initially as gardeners, and then farmers. This is a denial of the evolutionary story of mankind evolving as hunter-gatherers who took vast ages to settle down to farming.
In summary: Adam and Eve were the first parents of the entire human race. They were uniquely created by God, and it is in only the events of their lives that we can understand our origin, our sinful nature, and our necessity for Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
Illustration: Adam and Eve, Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
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