Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Apr 08 2008 - 14:53:19 EDT

Bernie, I've wrestled with this question as well. There is no straight,
crisp answer.

Loren and Deb Haarsma's book "Origins" offers several possibilities, as does
Denis Alexander's presentation from last year's ASA annual meeting:
This seminary by the Academy of Christian Thought offers some further
ideas: There are
numerous PSCF articles on the ASA website about this as well.

To me, the "slippery slope of historicity" isn't the biggest problem. We
can recognize that the Bible contains many different genres, each of which
have to be read on their own merits. We don't worry, for example, about
whether the prodigal son was a historical person. Of course, the New
Testament assumes Adam was a real person, so that does complicate things.
But the bigger questions, for me, relate to anthropology and original sin.

That said, I'd take issue with this statement of yours: *"Therefore, we
know from science there was no first man named Adam, as there is no such
thing as a "first" man." *IMHO, "science" can neither prove nor disprove
whether there was a "first man named Adam." The question here is what we
mean by "first man." Biologically there was no such "first man," but
theologically scripture reveals to us (IMHO) that there was such a "first
man." An interdisciplinary approach between science and theology therefore
suggests that what it meant to be the "first man" is something other than
merely biological. We can speculate forever about exactly what that
entailed, and what implications it carried for other human beings who might
have been contemporaries of the "first man," but it's unlikely we'll ever be
able to resolve those questions.

On Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 12:36 PM, Dehler, Bernie <>

> Hi all-
> I still have a question. For those who think that Adam was not a real
> person in history, how do you answer the critic that says this idea
> undermines the whole Bible, since likewise if Adam didn't exist then
> other characters maybe didn't exist either (Noah, Jonah, Abraham, &
> Moses). If the Bible is undermined, then the faith is on shaky ground,
> since it is difficult to know what is true and what isn't.
> I've asked before, but don't think I've gotten any straight, crisp,
> answers. Can someone point me to some references or sources for the
> answer? Is this a straight-forward question that is being routinely
> ignored or shunted or re-directed?
> I'm not looking for answers as to why Adam must have been real, but
> looking for answers to the criticism of those who say he was not a real
> person.
> Here's what I think the answer is-- tell me if it looks reasonable:
> The Bible must be studied with what we know of nature. If a Biblical
> story conflicts with natural science, then we must pick the clearer over
> the foggier; and if science is clearer, we must accept that. Example,
> those who read the Bible with ancient science thought the sun revolved
> around the earth. Now we know the earth revolves around the sun, so
> science is therefore used to interpret Scripture. Likewise, we know
> that evolution works on groups of people, and there was no "first,
> unique" man... man evolved like all other life-forms, over vast amounts
> of times within populations. Therefore, we know from science there was
> no first man named Adam, as there is no such thing as a "first" man.
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David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Tue Apr 8 14:55:00 2008

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