Re: [asa] No Adam?

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sat May 02 2009 - 21:08:52 EDT

Perhaps this ("first" man), as with other concepts such as the fall,
resist our Dedekindian cuts except in theological storytelling (truth
telling). I.e. None of us knew how to read the day we were born, and
yet we all definitely know how to read today. But it would be
impossible and useless for us to identify the day and hour that this
"switch" happened and we became literate. (This example comes from
William Charlton: "Being Reasonable about Religion" --which I need to
finish reviewing.) Perhaps his idea can be extended to the "first man"
and also "the fall". They may follow an incremental development that
firmly resists an historical localizing of an event, but yet can be
explicated in a localized way for the purpose of parable and
truth-telling. As others have already mentioned we westerners are just
hung up over the concept of story-telling as truth. I know Dick Fischer
is fond of asking rhetorically where in the lineages the "cut" to
mythical can be made. Perhaps there is no cut, but a "fading" into
non-historicity. (Not a continuous fade, mind you, as if a single
detail could be in between truth and falsehood, but a fade in which less
and less of the details given are historical, but other smatterings and
details remain historical, such as that the person existed.)

Gradual creation can be described in relatively instantaneous terms to
accommodate to the understandings of the day; gradual human identity
and fall could follow a parallel course, taking the story form of being
an "event" for the same purpose of revealing truth. It's all so nice
and easy when you excuse yourself from the details!

--Merv wrote:
> Gregory,
> I don't know if there was a "first man" and I suspect it's not an
> important concept. We evolved as a group (there was no bottleneck n=2
> at any time since homo erectus or earlier, probably not since our
> ancestors were bacteria) and it's probably an arbitrary choice where
> to draw the line and say, "now this one is human but his father and
> mother were not." What would be the point of that? It would depend
> entirely on what definition we decided to use.
> Whereas asking "who was the first created human" is probably not
> meaningful, it is potentially more meaningful to ask "who was the
> first fallen human?" That can be answered (in principle) without
> appealing to arbitrary definitions. Fallen-ness entails becoming
> culpable before God for rebellious choices against Him, and that is
> probably a black-or-white issue, creatures being either culpable or
> not culpable as a real ontological fact.
> Therefore, if I were tempted to try to find a particular individual in
> evolutionary history so that I might label him "Adam", I'd look for
> the first one who was culpable before God for his rebellious choices,
> not the first one that I could say, "now you, you fine specimen that
> you are, are a /human./" But I'm not tempted to attempt even that,
> because what good would it do? The author of Genesis probably didn't
> have any p articular face in mind when he wrote the story.
> Phil
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Gregory Arago <>
> To:;
> Sent: Sat, 2 May 2009 3:55 am
> Subject: Re: [asa] No Adam?
> Hi Phil,
> Your position is a bit confusing to me, as is the title of the thread.
> If we take 'Adam' to mean 'man' then there was, inescapably, a 'first
> man.' It may be simply an exercise in distinguishing 'almost-man' from
> 'man.' Nevertheless, categorically speaking, in other words, paying
> attention to when the language 'man' was first chosen to signify 'that
> particular creature there and then,' it holds that there simply must
> have been a 'first man'. Aristotle's logic tells us this -
> (paraphrase) 'there must have been a first.'
> Of course, if you believe in poly-genesis, in contrast to
> mono-genesis, then this adds to the confusion, the former an idea
> which it does seem that a few people on the ASA list accept.
> Thus, the allusion to Hamlet is fair only if one agrees that there was
> 'no Hamlet' before a certain text about him was printed. In other
> words, and this is important, Hamlet did *not* gradually appear from
> precursors. Hamlet was created or designed or built or composed or
> made out of the imagination of Shakespeare, 'one fine day,' or in
> other words, as a 'leap into time.' Before the text was published,
> there was no Hamlet.
> Yet, this situation does not hold the same for 'Adam,' the 'first man'
> (call him the first 'homo-sapiens sapiens', according to anthropology,
> if you prefer). Are you suggesting that when the first text/story of
> Adam was printed (here we mean scribed or written) that 'that text'
> was the birth of 'Adam' as a mythical figure, but not as a symbol of
> the 'real first man,' which must also have existed. If so, I'm
> curious Phil, do you think that 'first man' and 'first woman' had
> names. If so, what were they?
> Gregory
> --- On *Sat, 5/2/09, <>
> /< <>>/* wrote:
> From: <> <
> <>>
> Subject: Re: [asa] No Adam?
> To: <>,
> <>
> Received: Saturday, May 2, 2009, 8:49 AM
> I think the fall was real and happened somewhere along the course
> of human evolution. (My personal take is that the Fall was simply
> mankind becoming moral agents while not yet spiritually ready, and
> hence we were unable to overcome our biologically inherited
> selfishness and being no longer innocent it "killed" us.) Given
> that the Fall was real and occurred in evolutionary history, I
> think it's quite acceptable for Jesus and the apostles to speak of
> an Adam as the symbol representing mankind, because they had real
> things to say about humanity's Fall and it was most easily
> communicated through the genre of myth. Jesus referring to "Adam"
> is referring to the character in the story, much as if I said,
> "well, remember what Hamlet said...'" I would not be asserting
> that Hamlet was a real individual, only that something spoken by
> the Hamlet-character was real truth worth repeating.
> Even if I was unaware that Hamlet was not a real individual (as
> perhaps the apostles did not know that "Adam" was not a real
> individual), it would not be wrong for me (or them) to speak that
> way, because it is not my intention to make assertions about
> "Hamlet" (or "Adam"), but it is my intention to assert some of the
> truths that his story presents.
> Phil
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Received on Sat May 2 21:09:19 2009

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