Re: How to interpret Adam (was: Re: Kerkut)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Feb 24 2004 - 08:47:42 EST

jack syme wrote:
> I too thank you for that detailed information.
> I asked for a definition of what is meant by " genuinely human". And
> yes,I suspect this definition of what it means to be "human" is not
> verifiable, it is likely a philosophcal/religious construct. But
> this does not make the concept invalid, it just puts it beyond the
> realm of science. And, this is an important question, it has
> implications for current medical ethical debates such as abortion and
> decisions at the end of life. I remember a few years ago there was
> some debate about whether or not the condition persistent vegetative
> state, could be considered equivalent to being dead, along the lines
> of the concept of brain death. My argument at the time was that this
> involved a concept of "loss of personhood" and was therefore not
> testable, so could not be seen like brain death, which is testable.
> But, this discussion involves what it means to be human, or "created
> in God's image". I am not sure when Peter Ruest said geninely human
> he meant just biologically human, or something else. "Something else"
> would admittedly not be verifiable. But the situation is this as I
> see it. There were bilogical humans all over the world as far back as
> 60 thousand years ago according to this information. But, it is my
> understanding that Adam and Eve, were true historical figures, given
> New Testament accounts referring to them. And, therefore the first
> "genuine humans" whatever that means.
> So, is it possible that Adam and Eve existed further back than is
> commonly accepted? I guess that is possible, the biblical evidence
> seems to contradict this. Is it possible that all homo sapiens were
> wiped out in a worldwide flood, except for Noah and his descendants,
> and that all people now are descendant of Adam and Eve? This would
> seem to fit the biblical evidence, and seems to make the most sense to
> me, but it appears that there is scientific evidence that contradicts
> that as well.
> Honestly, I do not know what the answer is. But, to claim that Adam
> and Eve cannot be historical contradicts pretty clear biblical
> evidence to the contrary, so I do not accept that answer either.

        In this contaxt a _theological_ definition of "genuinely human" is needed.
Scientific & philosophical concepts may contribute to such an understanding but do not
determine it. The basic question is, what does scripture see as being constitutive of
genuine humanity? & the 1st answer to that has to be that genuine humanity is revealed
in Christ. I.e., we do not know what genuine humanity is primarily from the 1st humans,
about whom we know very little - whether we try to get data from paleontology or from
the biblical stories of Adam and Eve.
        Having said that, Gen.1 & 2 certainly give some understanding of when we could
say humanity 1st emerged. It would seem from both creation accounts that the ability to
to receive and respond to God's word is essential, & thus that rationality & linguistic
ability would be required. (But that does not imply that the imago dei is to be
defined purely in terms of reason.) This means that scientific data should be able to
suggest an earliest date that genuine humanity could have emerged.
        Note that this line of reasoning does not require the assumption that the Adam
and Eve of Genesis are to be understood as individual historical figures. They can be
seen as representing the 1st humans, but how large (both in numbers and in space-time)
that group of 1st humans in fact was is another matter.


George L. Murphy
Received on Tue Feb 24 09:41:32 2004

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