RE: [asa] Was Adam a real person? (more advanced thought-forms)

From: Dehler, Bernie <>
Date: Wed Apr 09 2008 - 19:49:21 EDT

To your comment below, Phil:

To me it seems clear what the original author meant- that God formed man
from dirt and named him Adam. I think that part is easy, the difficult
part is determining if that is literally true or not-true in the sense
of whether the event happened as explained and could have been
video-taped if they had a camcorder. There is only one reason for
taking it as myth: because it can be disproved by science. There is no
hermeneutic at all possible to indicate it (Gen. ch. 2: creation of
first man named Adam) as a myth, I think.


Phil also said:

"No. I believe the Adam of Genesis 4 was a real person who lived in the
neolithic period. He had a son named Seth and lived a certain number of
years and then died.

But Abraham's anscestors borrowed his name from the geneological record
in order to invent a mythological figure "Adam" to be the first human in
their creation account. They borrowed the name of that particular
individual because he happened to be the first name in the geneology and
because the name "Adam" can be understood to refer to mankind.

So Adam wasn't a "real" individual if you are thinking of him as being
the first human living in a garden and progenitor of all mankind; but he
was completely real if you are thinking of the first name in the Sethite
geneology, a person who is treated as a historical figure in Genesis 4
and subsequent chapters.


I say that it is the same Adam (in Gen. 2 and Gen. 4), according to the
author who wrote it. Therefore, either he is real or myth-can't be one
in one chapter and another in a different chapter.



From: []
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 4:16 PM
To: Dehler, Bernie;
Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person? (more advanced thought-forms)



        However, I think our western way of thinking is superior,
separating fact from fantasy and being clear about whether something is
literal or figurative.

But to understand a piece of communication, you have to start out by
asking what the author meant. You have to start with the author's way
of thinking. If you skip that step, then you won't find out what was
originally intended.


-----Original Message-----
From: Dehler, Bernie <>
To: ASA <>
Sent: Wed, 9 Apr 2008 5:27 pm
Subject: RE: [asa] Was Adam a real person? (more advanced thought-forms)

I'm sure the Rabbi's have their debates, but also their disciples. I
have talked to some Rabbi's- some believe in a literal Adam, some not.


You may have a good point about the Hebrews not caring about factuality-
but instead caring for the "morale of the story." However, I think our
western way of thinking is superior, separating fact from fantasy and
being clear about whether something is literal or figurative. As
Dawkins might say, I think the "western meme" for thinking is more
evolved (a higher thought-form).



From: <>
[ <>
] On Behalf Of Jim Armstrong
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 2:07 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?


Yeh, just so! Even today, the rabbinical tradition exists (at least in
my limited experience) of telling stories that may at times be ..well...
even fanciful, yet attributed to some esteemed figure of the past (often
a rabbi, if in the relatively near past). The expectation seems to be
that you will relate to the point the teller is making, and not dwell on
or get sidetracked by the factuality of the story as related (a
propensity of our western-biased way of thinking). The attributions
seem to be part of the contexting for the nature of the story, rather
than a fact that may be later vetted to lend authority to the story.

These same teachers do not seem to be concerned about winning any
argument by conclusively establishing any particular disputable fact.
Rather their tradition of arguing the various positions is more a
vehicle for teaching and learning, keeping those arguments alive and
using the various perspectives to illuminate the several sides of the
matter under discussion.

Interestingly, that seems to serve reasonably well as a description of
nature and consequence of the discourse on this ASA resource. But I also
notice that the tensions between differing ideas - and the discussions
that proceed therefrom - bring a wealth of new honest-to-goodness facts
into play, enriching us all in that department! :-)

Regards - JimA [Friend of ASA] <> wrote:


        For one thing, they had to use the stories that carried currency
in their culture.

An example would be if we quote Hamlet. Since Hamlet is an important
figure in literature, we can speak of him as if he is a real person but
without really implying that he is. When the NT quotes Enoch, it may be
quoting him as a literary figure. Likewise with Adam.

the issue is whether we think the people were sufficiently sophisticated
to quote a literary figure without confuisng him with a real person. It
comes down to what Lewis called "chronological snobbery." I think the
people in the past were actually much more attuned to literary devices
than we are, since they grew up with oral storytelling as opposed to the
great literary institution known as television.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bethany Sollereder <>
To: Chris Barden <>
Cc: David Opderbeck <> <>
; <> ;
<> ;
Sent: Wed, 9 Apr 2008 12:12 pm
Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?


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 <
<> > wrote:


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 <
<> > wrote:
> > 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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Received on Wed Apr 9 20:27:47 2008

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