RE: Kline article in PSCF (D. Kidner on Adam)

Terry M. Gray (
Tue, 2 Apr 1996 23:13:29 -0400

I am posting here a lengthy quote from Derek Kidner's 1967 Tyndale
Commentary on Genesis published by IVP. It is from pages 26-31. I think
that it is relevant to some our recent discussion about Genesis. It is
amazing to me how open Kidner was to the evolutionary and anthropological
scientific data. Of course, this is before the days when every evangelical
had to worry about YEC litmus tests.

I am not quite ready to go as far as Kidner does. He seems willing to give
up the idea of "descending from him by ordinary generation" as taught in
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 16. However, it'an interesting proposal
and there are lots of gems here on how to relate the Bible to science (and
vice versa) and what parts of early Genesis must be viewed as history and
why. I've stripped out the footnotes; if you want them you will have to go
to the library and pick up the book. Thanks to David Livingstone for
pointing this passage out to me.




In the main, two outlines of man's infancy confront the modern
Christian. The book of Genesis portrays, in a few strokes of the pen, a
creature fashioned from earthly matter, God breathed and God-like, whose
spiritual history runs from innocence to disobedience and on into a moral
decline which the beginnings of civilization can do nothing to arrest.

The second picture, that of palaeontology, a mosaic of many
fragments, depicts a species fashioned over perhaps a million years or more
into the present human form, showing the outward characteristics of modern
man upwards of twenty thousand years ago, not only in his bodily structure
but in his practice of making tools, using fire, burying his dead, and, not
least, creating works of art comparable with those of any period. Even at
this remote time the apparent forerunners of our chief racial groups seem
to be distinguishable, and the species had already spread widely over the
world, displacing another type of hominid, 'Neanderthal Man', whose own
relics, rough as they are, indicate that tools, fire and burial had been in
use for long ages before this. On the other hand, the first known signs of
pastoral and agricultural life and, later, of metal working (e.g. by
hammering copper or meteoric iron; cf. on 4:19-24) are much more recent,
appearing in the Near East, on present evidence, somewhere between the
eighth and fifth millennia BC at earliest.

How the two pictures, biblical and scientific, are related to each
other is not immediately clear, and one should allow for the provisional
nature both of scientific estimates (without making this a refuge from all
unwelcome ideas) and of traditional interpretations of Scripture. One must
also recognize the different aims and styles of the two approaches: one
probing the observable world, the other revealing chiefly the unobservable,
the relation of God and man. The style of reporting will be drily factual
for the former, but the latter may need the whole range of literary genres
to do it justice, and it is therefore important not to prejudge the method
and intention of these chapters.

Other scriptures, however, offer certain fixed points to the
interpreter. For example, the human race is of a single stock ('from one',
Acts 17:26); again, the offence of one man made sinners of the many, and
subjected them to death (Rom. 5:12-19): and this man was as distinct an
individual as were Moses and Jesus Christ (Rom. 5: 14) . Others too are
counted as individuals in the New Testament: e.g., Cain, Abel, Enoch, Noah.
These guidelines exclude the idea of myth (which dramatizes the natural
order, to 'explain and maintain' it), and assure us that we are reading of
actual, pivotal events.

It could be that the events are presented here in simplified
pictorial form (cf. the opening comments on chapter 3), or are landmarks
punctuating an immense tract of time. Even so there are difficulties. If
Genesis is abbreviating a long history, the sheer vastness of the ages it
spans, on this view, is not so sharp a problem as the fact that almost the
whole of this immensity lies, for the palaeontologist, between the first
man and the first farmer - that is, in terms of Genesis, between Adam and
Cain, or even between Adam inside and outside Eden. Yet the birth of Seth,
or of his ancestor, sets an upper limit of a mere 130 years to this (4:25;
5:3) . Even if the figures in Genesis 5 are non-literal, the proportions
raise the same difficulty. Some other approach therefore seems necessary.

To the present author various converging lines point to an Adam
much nearer our own times than the early tool-makers and artists, let alone
their remote forbears. On the face of it, the ways of life described in
Genesis 4 are those of the neolithic and first metal-working cultures
alluded to above, i.e., of perhaps eight or ten thousand years ago, less or
more. The memory of names and genealogical details also suggests a fairly
compact period between Adam and Noah rather than a span of tens or hundreds
of millennia, an almost unimaginable stretch of time to chronicle. Yet this
seems to widen the gap still further between Genesis and current

The answer may lie in our definition of man.

Man in Scripture is much more than homo faber, the maker of tools:
he is constituted man by God's image and breath, nothing less. It follows
that Scripture and science may well differ in the boundaries they would
draw round early humanity: the intelligent beings of a remote past, whose
bodily and cultural remains give them the clear status of 'modern man' to
the anthropologist, may yet have been decisively below the plane of life
which was established in the creation of Adam. If, as the text of Genesis
would by no means disallow, God initially shaped man by a process of
evolution, it would follow that a considerable stock of near-humans
preceded the first true man, and it would be arbitrary to picture these as
mindless brutes. Nothing requires that the creature into which God breathed
human life should not have been of a species prepared in every way for
humanity, with already a long history of practical intelligence, artistic
sensibility and the capacity for awe and reflection.

On this view, Adam, the first true man, will have had as
contemporaries many creatures of comparable intelligence, widely
distributed over the world. One might conjecture that these were destined
to die out, like the Neanderthalers (if indeed these did), or to perish in
the Flood, leaving Adam's lineal descendants, through Noah, in sole
possession. Against this, however, there must be borne in mind the apparent
continuity between the main races of the present and those of the distant
past, already mentioned, which seems to suggest either a stupendous
antiquity for Adam (unless the whole accepted dating of prehistory is
radically mistaken, as some have tried to show - e.g., Whitcomb and Morris,
op. cit.) or the continued existence of 'pre-Adamites' alongside 'Adamites'