Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Historicity of Adam: Genesis DEconstructed and REconstructed

Perhaps you've caught the recent buzz about Tremper Longman III's remarks casting doubt on the UNDENIABLE BIBLICAL FACT that there was a real person named "Adam" who was the first man created by God, in His Own image, not from evolution but by God's own special act, formed from the dust of the ground on the 6th day. Longman is a super-scholar with a long list of credentials and books to his credit, but then again, so is Bart Ehrman. Ehrman's modus operandi is to heap as much doubt as possible on the Word of God, from the perspective of a former Evangelical. Unfortunately, Longman's remarks offer a subtle but equally potent attack on the inerrancy of Scripture - and this from a supposedly conservative Evangelical perspective. Perhaps he's just "reconstructing" the doctrine of inspiration?

One’s views about the historicity of early Genesis are a reflection of one’s view of Scripture. If one primarily views Scripture as similar to other ancient writings of the time period (Babylonian mythology, etc.), one will tend to view the Biblical writings through that lens and come up with ideas that seem sensible but actually disintegrate the unity of the Bible (and ultimately present the idea that it means something other than what it says). If one primarily views the Bible as God’s Eternal Word of Truth, as inerrant as God Himself is (though arriving by His Providence through the minds and experiences of imperfect and errant people), guarded by the Holy Spirit from any contamination or mistake, entirely pure and wholly true, one will tend to say that Scripture means exactly what it says – and that God was careful and exacting in His revelation.

What I have learned here is that Tremper Longman III, although he is 100 times more scholarly and studied than I am, is not a reliable witness about the unity and integration of Scripture. Let God be true, and EVERY MAN a liar. That includes me and you and Tremper. But this is exactly the point – Scripture calls us to trust it more than we trust our own thoughts.

Perhaps scholars like Longman end up spending so much time looking at the ancient cultures, archeological data, and other human/earthly factors related to Scripture that they lose perspective on the heavenly/inspired character of the Word.

My 5-year-old apparently has more faith in God’s Word than most super-scholars, and I take this as a warning against the subtle unbelief that sometimes accompanies “learning.” Ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the Truth – this is the danger for all of us knowledge-hungry seekers of insight from the Bible. May God help us to believe Him.

Here's the video where Longman expresses his doubts . . .

Editor's Note: Although I'm no fan of yellow shirts, I'm glad the colors in this video fit the color scheme of THEOparadox. That is the ONLY point of agreement I am able to identify between myself and this video.

If "Adam" in Genesis 1-3 is not a specific individual, but "mankind" in general, I suppose we have to rewrite Genesis 2:8-25 . . .

8The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the [committee of men] whom He had [caused to evolve].

9Out of the ground the LORD God caused to [evolve] every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

(I'm skipping verses 10-14 because they're not related to the discussion)

15Then the LORD God took the [committee of men] and put [them] into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

16The LORD God commanded the [committee of men], saying, "From any tree of the garden you [guys] may eat freely;

17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you [guys] shall not eat, for in the day that you [guys] eat from it you [guys] will surely die."

18Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the [committee of men] to be alone; I will [cause to evolve for them] a [bunch of women] suitable for [them]."

(I'm not sure how evolution works when you only have males, but I'll leave that as a question for Longman to answer)

19Out of the ground the LORD God [caused to evolve] every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the [committee of men] to see what [they] would call them (I guess they voted); and whatever the [committee of men] called a living creature, that was its name.

20The [committee of men] gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for [the committee of men] there was not found a [bunch of helpers] suitable for [them].

21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the [committee of men], and [they] slept; then He took one [or some] of [their?] ribs and closed up the flesh at that place (via some evolutionary process, no doubt).

(After all, evolution is the one thing a Bible scholar dare not cast doubt upon)

22The LORD God [caused to evolve] into a [bunch of women] the rib [or ribs] which He had taken from the [committee of men], and brought [them] to the [committee of men].

23The [committee of men] said, (Perhaps they had appointed a spokesman?)
"This is now bone of
[our] bones,
And flesh of
[our] flesh;

[they] shall be called [women],

Because [they were] taken out of [the committee of men]."

(at this point the logic is really breaking down!)

24For this reason (what reason? Tremper has taken all "reason" out of this passage) a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

25And the [committee of men] and [their wives] were [all]naked and were not ashamed.

Um . . . yeah. No further comment needed.

[WARNING: The next paragraph is entirely tongue-in-cheek]

Perhaps other individuals in Scripture were actually committees, too. Abraham might have been a group of people who "had lots of kids," and Joshua may have been an army that was "saved by YHWH," and Moses could have been 100 people who were "drawn out" by God. This would help us understand how a lowly sheep herder convinced the mighty Pharaoh to let the people go. Perhaps they all rushed at him with their staffs swinging. Ridiculous, you say? If we don't trust Scripture, how can anyone disqualify these theories? Next week I'll present an engraving by ancient Midianites that shows 100 shepherds attacking somebody. You can't argue with rocks, right?

Here's a scholarly (and, unlike the video you just watched, Biblically faithful) post from James Anderson in response . . .

Finally, I'd like to challenge those who support Longman's view to re-write Genesis 2 in a way that actually makes sense. Alternatively, I'd like to suggest you simply take it exactly the way it is revealed by an omniscient God.


  1. This is a good post that shows the impact that reading "The Peacemaker" by Ken Sande is having on your irenic style of writing.


  2. Truth,

    I'm getting less irenic by the day, and that's not necessarily a good thing. However, Sande offers 3 helpful categories, and I believe I have largely stayed in the center on this post (though I do often lapse into the other two) . . .

    Peace Faker - Avoids confrontation at all costs.

    Peace Maker - Lovingly confronts when it is needed, but overlooks issues when possible or advisable

    Peace Breaker - Enjoys confrontation too much to pass up any opportunity for a fight.

    As your handle indicates, the Peace Maker draws the line at truth but still strives for peace. That is the fruit of the Gospel, and may it be ever more evident in us as Bible-believers.


  3. Derek,

    Glad to see you're up in arms about this one. I would be, too - but you understand why that's not possible...



  4. Tony,

    Good to hear from you. Keep focused on those Hebrews posts, and I'll do enough protesting and defense of inerrancy for both of us.

    I'm really enjoying my continued reading of "Christianity and Liberalism" by Machen - if you couldn't already tell. It's the perfect book for our times, written about 75 years too soon. Or maybe it just wasn't listened to, and therefore has a message that remains continually relevant.

    What concerns me most right now, though, is not Tremper Longman's departure from belief in the truth of Genesis, or the emergent church's weird theology, or similar issues (significant as those things are). What should be of far greater concern to each of us are the ways in which we functionally disbelieve the Gospel in our daily lives - through besetting sin, through independent action, through prayerlessness, through stubbornness, through pride, through unapplied principles that are known but not practiced, etc. These things are every bit as odious to God as a confused scholar's expression of doubt. I'm trying to remind myself of this more often because it's simply too easy to get the focus on what the other guy is doing wrong.

    Kyrie Eleison! We all need sovereign grace, for different (specific) reasons and yet for the same (general) reason. What the one man Adam started, we all foolishly carry on today . . . but thanks be to God for His blessed and wondrous Son, Christ Jesus our Lord! His sacrifice is sufficient to cover Adam's sin, and the intellectual's unbelief, and all my foolishness, too.


  5. The call to trust Scripture "more than our own thoughts" is undeniable and challenging. The fact of a literal Adam is also essential to Christianity.

    I have just stumbled upon your site today and am happy to have found such well written, biblically sound material to digest. This is a beautiful thing!

    I've just jumped into the blogosphere myself in recent weeks, launching

    It is always encouraging to connect with like-minded Christians. It is instances such as this that I am very grateful to Al Gore for inventing the Internet.

    Soli Deo gloria!


  6. Scott,

    Thanks for dropping by, and thanks for the kind words.

    That's quite a provocative website you've got there, thanks for the link. It's good to make your acquaintance.

    I generally avoid commenting on political issues on this blog, because it's not within the mission and purpose, but I'm as fired up as you are over what is taking place in our nation. These are very sad times. I've been tempted to launch another blog called THEOpolitic, but I don't have time for it.

    I look forward to the further development of your site and wish you much success.

    Grace & peace,

  7. Derek, there's a pretty thought-provoking and at times fairly nuanced discussion of Longman's video taking place at both Triablogue and Parableman.

    I think you might enjoy interacting with some of the commenters on those blogs as well as here. The discussion at Parableman took an interesting turn in the direction of theories of the atonement.


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