RE: [asa] Was Adam a real person?

From: Dick Fischer <>
Date: Wed Apr 09 2008 - 15:50:12 EDT

I think there are a number of interlinking bits of information that bear
on Adam as an historical personality. Not enough to prove it but we are
talking about a timeframe that is over 6,000 years ago. Even
handwriting doesn't go back that far. How could this information have
survived? If we can attach some semblance of reliability to Scripture
we can see that Noah had three sons who lived for 100 years before the
flood. They would have known their grandparent Lamech and great
grandparent Methusaleh personally. There is plenty of opportunity for
them to know all the details from their immediate forebears, and who is
to say they didn't? On what basis could we say that didn't happen, that
it was all made up?
The first city named in Genesis was Enoch named for Adam's grandson.
The Sumerians called the city unug. Who did the Sumerians think the
city was named for? The Sumerian king list names unug as a city rebuilt
after the flood by king Mes-kiag-gasher. Was there no Mes-kiag-gasher
either? Are the Sumerians part of this biblical conspiracy you all have
cooked up? Even the name Enoch has significance. The en- prefix
signifies king or lord in Akkadian and Sumerian. Then there are
Akkadians in Mesopotamian graveyards named "Adamu." Who do you think
they were named for?
Now take a look at the genealogies in Luke that start with Christ and
end at Adam. Let's just say Christ was real and actually lived, and
let's suppose that Adam was fictitious. At one point in a continuous
line of descendants does a flesh and blood son have a non-existent
father? This is a metaphysical impossibility! Forget that it's
Scripture, and God-breathed and all that. We on this list have no
problem understanding that if we go back far enough our ancestors swung
from trees. No problem - that's science. But to suggest that Jesus
Christ had fictitious ancestry is okay? How is your ancestry more
genuine than God's?
I'd think long and hard before deciding what I was willing to believe,
notwithstanding what I was ready to profess,
Dick Fischer. author, lecturer
Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham
-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Dehler, Bernie
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 2:18 PM
Subject: RE: [asa] Was Adam a real person?
Bethany said:
"The "kernel of historical truth" need be little more than "God created,
every human sins, and God has since been working towards redemption".
If nothing else, the character of God that is portrayed is certainly
historical truth!"
Hi Bethany- I think you are on to something, but then you run-up against
what may be an evangelical idol- the notion of "the inerrancy" of
Scripture. My understanding that this "inerrancy" strong stand, that is
pervasive in Evangelical Christianity, is relatively new. Once you say
that Adam was not a real person, the inerrancy issue is the next giant
to fight. If that giant can be slayed, then you win. If not, you have
a contradiction with the Bible as inerrant and errors in the Bible
(since the Bible strongly indicates that Adam was a real man).
I am preparing myself to proclaim that Adam (and the creation story) was
a myth, but useful for theological truths (and inspired as such), and
that the Bible is not without error. (It only takes one error to prove
the Bible is not "without error," and I don't think that is hard to do.)
In this way, the doctrine of Adam (and related "origin of sin," etc.)
and the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy go hand-in-hand I think.

From: Bethany Sollereder []
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 10:48 AM
To: David Opderbeck
Cc: Chris Barden;; Dehler, Bernie;
Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?

I'm not sure if the Hercules analogy was the best possible. Perhaps a
reference to popular hagiography would have been better... perhaps like
St. Boniface and Thor's Oak. Powerful legend (that after the first axe
stroke, a wind blew the tree down to reveal its rotted inner core) is
built around a kernel of historical truth.
In Adam's case, it behooves us to consider the mythologies of the
nations surrounding post-Exodus Israel and how dialogue with those
cultures shaped how they saw the world and themselves. The incredible
similarities in terms of motifs like seas of chaos, magical trees,
serpents, gardens, exile, floods and so on cause the dissimilarities in
regards to the nature and character of God and humans to stand out in
stark contrast. The "kernel of historical truth" need be little more
than "God created, every human sins, and God has since been working
towards redemption". If nothing else, the character of God that is
portrayed is certainly historical truth!

I agree that "this is one of those questions that requires careful
treading" but I don't think that after long, deliberate, and careful
study we should hesitate to draw conclusions that we can hold
confidently, even if also provisionally.

Bethany Sollereder
On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 10:19 AM, David Opderbeck <>
Bethany, I think your overall direction is right, but I'm not totally
comfortable with the analogy to contemporary reference to mythic
figures. The writers of scripture certainly had more in mind when
referring to OT characters than what a modern writer means by something
like "herculean." And we have these tricky issues of authority to deal
with -- in what way, and over what, is scripture authoritative? How do
we get from the writer's mindset and intentions to the authoritative
message to the Church today? And with Adam, our hermeneutical issues
are also bound up with important theological ones, such as human free
will and the Fall. For me, this is one of those questions that requires
careful treading and provisional conclusions at best.
On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 12:12 PM, Bethany Sollereder
<> wrote:

I feel that we should be careful about too hastily ascribing historicity
to biblical characters simply because other biblical authors refer to
them. For one thing, they had to use the stories that carried currency
in their culture. People would have been familiar with who Enoch was
(meant to be) and what he stood for. That would have been enough to use
him as a powerful symbol. I might talk about 'herculean efforts', but
that doesn't mean I think Hercules was a historical figure. Same thing
with Adam. They used him as a type, and even perhaps believed that he
was a true historical figure, but that doesn't mean that we must also
ascribe historicity to him.

Even if Paul and the other biblical writers did not think of Adam as a
'real' person, what other story could they have used? If they are
talking about one man dealing with the sin of the world, and in your
tradition you have the story of one man who brought sin into the world,
you'd be a fool not to use that sort of imagery. We all use the stories
and myths and real histories that give shape to our world view. We can
hardly expect the biblical authors to do otherwise.

Bethany Sollereder
On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 8:07 AM, Chris Barden <>

I don't disagree with anything you say here, indeed I think I said
some of it. Perhaps I was unclear.

The notion of truth as history vs coherence with the traditions is
probably too complicated for any straight yes/no answer to your
questions. The Ethiopian coptics were clearly persuaded to say "yes"
to your question as to whether the Watchers tradition was historical,
as they decided to put 1 Enoch in their canon. But the majority were
not persuaded. If the criteria was for everything to be unambiguously
historically true, then Jude should be left out for alluding to
apocryphal materials (not just Enoch, but also probably the Testament
of Moses, a document we have only in part and in double translation).
Indeed, some in the early church did so argue, but the majority view
was that Jude was to be kept as it was apostolic, edifying, and
contained no heresy.

My guess? The authors of Hebrews and Jude probably believed Enoch was
a historical figure. Peter may well have viewed Enoch as a "type of
Christ" just as Adam was to Paul, though whoever wrote 2 Peter excised
the quotations when relying on Jude. Does that mean Enoch must
definitely be a historical figure? I'm inclined to think that the
teaching of Hebrews would be blunted if he were not, but on the other
examples I'm open to the notion that appealing to the tradition of
Enoch is enough to make the writers' respective points.


> We have to ask, then -- did the writers of Jude and 2 Peter consider 1
> to be true? Would the writer of Hebrews have considered texts such as
> Enoch to be true? If so, do the allusions to and quotes from
> books such as 1 Enoch in the canonical scriptures suggest that these
> non-canoncal books are valid sources of "history?" Are we as
> obligated to accept the whole of the "Watcher" tradition? Or is there
> least some sense in which the writers of scripture are seen here to be
> drawing on the "history" of their day?
> At the end of the day, I'm with you in affirming an essential
historicity to
> "Adam." But, even the NT references to OT personages clearly aren't a
> simple matter once the literary and cultural context of the NT
documents is
> brought out.
> On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 7:26 AM, Chris Barden <>
> > It certainly does seem in the NT as though Adam is treated at least
> > "given" through revelation and a rich tradition of Judaism. We do
> > have any easy way of unpacking the position of the NT writers on
> > point; was Adam's importance really tied to his historicity, or was
> > the tradition of Adam proving a certain theological or homiletical
> > point that held first precedence? Take Enoch as an example (Bernie,
> > agree the list can be somewhat desultory but I feel confident this
> > not a rabbit trail!).
> >
> > Enoch was "the seventh after Adam", according to Jude 14, and he
> > not experience death ... for God had taken him away" according to
> > Hebrews 11:5. Moreover, Jesus is descended from Enoch according to
> > Luke 3:37. All of this coheres with Genesis 5:18-24, so all writers
> > are in agreement on the specifics of the tradition. Fine, so if we
> > could stop there we could explain it as merely referring to that
> > tradition. But Enoch's mysterious translation into heaven was the
> > subject of much discussion in Jewish circles in antiquity. Further,
> > extrabiblical traditions arose, perhaps as late as the 1st century
> > that had Enoch's trip to heaven tied in with a mission he was given.
> >
> > This mission, according to 1,2,3 Enoch, involved Enoch proclaiming a
> > message of doom, a la Jonah, to the fallen angels who had children
> > the "daughters of women" in Genesis 6. And it is the background of
> > this mission that makes sense of Peter's peculiar preaching at 1 Pet
> > 3:18-22. 1 Enoch 1:9 is even _quoted_ in Jude 14-15 as a true
> > prophecy of "Enoch, the seventh after Adam" though Enoch most
> > did not write 1 Enoch. The Ethiopic Coptics still have 1 Enoch in
> > their Bibles! All this means that we have to take seriously the
> > notion that the weird stories about the Nephilim, arguably weirder
> > than the Garden of Eden, were at the very least considered edifying
> > the point of (almost) rising to canonical status in the early
> >
> > I find it hard to believe that all of the early Christians were so
> > steeped in Jewish traditions that they credulously accepted the
> > historicity of all of it; in fact, I believe wholesale acceptance of
> > these speculations were perhaps behind Paul's letter to the
> > Colossians. But certainly some of them did, and it wasn't a fringe
> > view at all, judging from the diversity of writers in the NT who
> > to this material. If Adam wasn't a real person, how could Enoch be
> > the seventh after him? This line of thought is why I accept the
> > historicity of someone named Adam, and I think Dick's explanation is
> > probably the best out there.
> >
> > Granted, this explanation does not satisfy some, and might even be
> > faith-shaking. But consider: for at least 20 years, the earliest
> > Christians did not have the NT, and may not have had all of the OT.
> > Their focus was on Jesus and his teaching, and they did just fine.
> > Maybe (and I know this isn't the forum to expect too much approval
> > this idea) our nattering about the loose ends and how they fit
> > sometimes get in the way of edifying our fellow believers.
> >
> > Chris
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 11:41 PM, <> wrote:
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Not only does the NT refer to Adam as a real person, but in my
> the
> > > OT also does. by naming his offspring, ages lived, etc.
> > > First of all, one of things that can be discouraging on the ASA
> is
> > > that so many discussions rapidly go off into rabbit trails. This
> > > originally a great question Bernie raised, but almost all the
posts so
> far
> > > have been discussing Abraham and Jonah instead of what Bernie had
> > > about. David's point in bringing up Abraham and Jonah was not to
> question
> > > their historicity -- so there is no purpose in arguing about their
> > > historicity -- but just to point out that the Bible itself should
> taken
> > > as a valid testimony at some point, and that this applies as well
to the
> > > question of Adam as to any other person that anybody has ever
> in
> > > the Bible. In doing so, David's post was making an outstanding
> and
> > > it was well written and thoughtful and highly interesting. The
> of
> > > just how much Abraham can or cannot be questioned was never
important to
> > > David's point! I was very disappointed when the replies to David
> > > immediately chased the rabbit (to no value!) instead of continuing
> > > address Bernie's real question. I think there needs to be a
little more
> > > restraint in not chasing the rabbits so that we can maintain a
> meaningful
> > > conversation here. Or maybe the "subject" line should be changed
> whenever a
> > > rabbit is chased.
> > >
> > > Bernie, one way I've been thinking about the historic treatment
> Adam in
> > > the OT is with the idea that the Adam, father of Seth, in Genesis
> was
> > > the earliest person listed in the Hebrew geneologies and therefore
> (or
> > > prior authors) took the opportunity to reflect him backwards as a
> literary
> > > device to "become" the first human ancestor in their creation
> > > (BTW, I don't use the word "mythology" in a negative way.) Thus,
> in
> > > Genesis 4ff may have been a historic individual as the geneologies
> > > subsequent accounts imply, and yet Adam in the garden may have
been a
> > > theological symbol. I think it's pretty obvious there is a genre
> > > between the garden account and the geneologies/historical sections
> > > follow. Therefore the treatment of "Adam" may have likewise been
> different
> > > in the two sections. We needn't assume that because the name
> a
> > > literal individual in one genre therefore it refers only to a
> > > individual in all genres.
> > >
> > > As an example, Ephraim is treated as a literal individual in
> but
> > > his name symbolically represents an entire people group later in
> Bible.
> > > The Hebrews were accustomed to using an individual name to
represent an
> > > entire group. IMO, it is not too difficult to believe they did
> similar
> > > thing _backwards_ to refer to the origin of man by using a _later_
> literal
> > > individual Adam, who just happened to be the first in their
geneology as
> > > well as possessor of a name that was highly symbolic of mankind.
> > >
> > > This doesn't address the issues with Adam being treated as a
> > > person in the NT, but then I think we can question if we really
> that he
> > > was being treated as a historical person in the NT. Just because
> > > thought Adam was literal while we were reading Paul doesn't give
us the
> > > right to impose our assumptions onto Paul. Paul may have been
> > > sophisticated about the myth genre than we have been. After all,
> lived
> > > in a Greek culture that was seeped in theology taught through
myth, with
> > > strong contacts to the identical Egyptian, Babylonian, and Roman
uses of
> the
> > > genre. How could we be smarter than him in recognizing that genre
> > > knowing what's normative for it?
> > >
> > > Regarding your model for resolving this conflict: Personally I
> wouldn't
> > > pick the "clearer scence" over the "foggier Scripture" in
> what
> > > Genesis 1 was supposed to be telling us. To do so is equivalent
> saying
> > > the Bible is just plain wrong and therefore we will reject it
> > > necessary and keep the better science in its place. Instead, I'd
> to
> > > use conflicts with science to clue me in to where we may have
> misunderstood
> > > Scripture and then take a closer look at its internal evidence to
see if
> > > indeed we have. IMO, when we look at Genesis 1 in the light of
> we
> > > can break out of our prior hyper-literalism and recognize that by
> it
> > > actually isn't of a genre that we would normally have taken as
> > > history.
> > >
> > > Phil
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > ________________________________
> > > Get the MapQuest Toolbar, Maps, Traffic, Directions & More!
> >
> --
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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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 Wed Apr 9 15:53:25 2008

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