There may be a biblical hint of such a situation in the surprising
impression of an already populous earth given by the words and deeds of
Cain in 4:14,17. Even Augustine had to devote a chapter to answering those
who 'find this a difficulty', and although the traditional answer is valid
enough (see commentary on 4:13,14, below), the persistence of this old
objection could be a sign that our presuppositions have been inadequate.
Again, it may be significant that, with one possible exception, the unity
of mankind 'in Adam' and our common status as sinners through his offence
are expressed in Scripture in terms not of heredity but simply of
solidarity. We nowhere find applied to us any argument from physical
descent such as that of Hebrews 7:9,10 (where Levi shares in Abraham's act
through being 'still in the loins of his ancestor') . Rather, Adam's sin is
shown to have implicated all men because he was the federal head of
humanity, somewhat as in Christ's death 'one died for all, therefore all
died' (2 Cor. 5:14). Paternity plays no part in making Adam 'the figure of
him that was to come' (Rom. 5:14).
Three final comments may be made. First, the exploratory suggestion
above is only tentative, as it must be, and it is a personal view. It
invites correction and a better synthesis; meanwhile it may serve as a
reminder that when the revealed and the observed seem hard to combine, it
is because we know too little, not too much - as our Lord impressed on the
Sadducees about their conundrum on the resurrection. What is quite clear
from these chapters in the light of other scriptures is their doctrine that
mankind is a unity, created in God's image, and fallen in Adam by the one
act of disobedience; and these things are as strongly asserted on this
understanding of God's word as on any other.
Secondly, it may be thought that this whole discussion allows
science too much control over exegesis. This would be a serious charge. But
to try to correlate the data of Scripture and nature is not to dishonour
biblical authority, but to honour God as Creator and to grapple with our
proper task of interpreting His ways of speaking. In Scripture He leaves us
to find out for ourselves such details as whether 'the wings of the wind'
and 'the windows of heaven' are literal or metaphorical, and in what sense
'the world cannot be moved' (Ps. 96:10) or the sun daily 'runs its course'
(Ps. 19:5,6). Some of these questions are answered as soon as they are
asked; others only by the general advance of knowledge; most of them are
doctrinally neutral. We are asserting our own infallibility, not that of
Scripture, when we refuse to collate our factual answers with those of
Thirdly, however, the interests and methods of Scripture and
science differ so widely that they are best studied, in any detail, apart.
Their accounts of the world are as distinct (and each as legitimate) as an
artist's portrait and an anatomist's diagram, of which no composite picture
will be satisfactory, for their common ground is only in the total reality
to which they both attend. It cannot be said too strongly that Scripture is
the perfect vehicle for God's revelation, which is what concerns us here;
and its bold selectiveness, like that of a great painting, is its power. To
read it with one eye on any other account is to blur its image and miss its
wisdom. To have God's own presentation of human beginning as they most
deeply concern us, we need look no further than these chapters and their
New Testament interpretation.
Terry M. Gray, Ph.D. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Calvin College 3201 Burton SE Grand Rapids, MI 40546
Office: (616) 957-7187 FAX: (616) 957-6501
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.calvin.edu/~grayt