A Response to “No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel”
A recent Christianity Today editorial, “No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel,” revisits the conceptual framework that ties the basic tenet of Christianity, the meaning of the death of Christ on the cross, to the sin of Adam. The editorial begins by explaining the biblical roots behind science, while acknowledging that science also has grown from pagan and occult roots.
The editorial then traces the history of the relationship between Christianity and science, explaining how sometimes Christian thinking must be adjusted (the stories of Galileo and Copernicus), and sometimes Christian thinking must adopt specific parts of scientific research while rejecting others (How B.B. Warfield learned from Darwin while being cautious of adopting Darwinian theories).
After this short history, the author brings us to another tension: “The Search for the Historical Adam.” Apparently, in a recent study, genetic research has proven that the human race must have descended from an original population of around 10,000. The editorial then recognizes the idea, held by many Christians, that everything that is wrong with the world is based on the idea of the “Fall” of Adam and Eve, which then results in the need for redemption through Christ; No Adam and Eve, no “Original Sin.” Paul’s writings in Romans and 1 Corinthians are brought into play here, in that he created an “Adam Christology,” wherein “a fallen humanity, headed by Adam, and a new, redeemed humanity with Christ as its head” both exist.
The author of the editorial tries to solve the issue by suggesting that Adam and Eve are simply the historical heads of their people group, calling into the corporate nature of Hebrew thought, citing John Collins’ “Did Adam and Eve Really Exist.”
This is only a suggestion, however, and the author calls for patience and to resist a “fundamentalist reaction against science,” while at the same time calling for interdisciplinary engagement.
This call for patience and a resistance to a fundamentalist reaction is well warranted, and I agree with it. I also think that the author of this editorial was fair and balanced.
My question is this: Why does the historicity of the first few chapters of Genesis determine the validity of the Gospel? In my opinion, I would say that this is a huge and inappropriate jump. I think that it ignores the socio-historical context, genre, and authorial intent of the Genesis narrative.
The fact that the book of Genesis was written by multiple authors after (most likely) being transmitted orally for a great length of time and finally redacted together in a pre-science time period is ignored by those who argue for a historical Adam and Eve. In order to argue for a historical Adam and Eve, one must ignore the evidence behind the composition of Genesis. If, however, one is willing to ignore the evidence of science, then they certainly would be willing to disregard the evidence put forth by source criticism.
To say that Adam and Eve are historical mean that one must assign the modern genre of a history to the ancient text of Genesis. This denies the idea that it could be historical fiction, myth, or something else. I am not prepared to determine a single genre for the stories in the primeval history, as I feel that they certainly comprise more than one. I feel that simply viewing this as a modern history misses the point of the narrative.
Did the author of Genesis intend to write a history? The more conservative view has this story being passed down orally for generations, but not likely earlier than the late Bronze Age, and being redacted during the exile or shortly thereafter. The more liberal views understand this story being written during the Hellenistic period. The story teaches us about the time period in which it was written/redacted and not of the actual first people in existence. The author/redactor likely intended a meaning for this text that lies outside of the bounds of history: namely, in the realm of theology.
To ignore these attributes of the text is to disrespect the text. While trying to hold a fundamentalist view of the text, one actually does a great disservice to the text. One does not need science to prove that Adam and Eve were not historical, but instead only the bible itself.