Genesis 1 speaks of the making of man in such generic terms that all we can really tell from it is that God made mankind in his image, and as male and female. We’re not told any more detail about man than that. Many have viewed Genesis 2 as a more detailed description of day six, but this is not the case, and the text itself doesn’t support this. Here’s why:
As we saw in the chapter ‘Reading Genesis 1’, there is a problem with the consistency and sequence of events, because Genesis 1:12 tells us that the earth ‘brought forth’ plants and trees on the third day, and they were “good”. Yet Genesis 2:5 says that they hadn’t grown because it had not yet rained, and man had not yet worked the ground.
There is another sequence problem between the two records. In Genesis 1, the animals are created first, and then mankind. In Genesis 2:7, 18-19 we see that God created man, and then the animals.
A third sequence issue concerns Eve. In Genesis 1:27 “God created man… …male and female he created them.” Yet in Genesis 2v18-20, God creates the animals first to be helpers, finds they’re not suitable, then creates the woman. This really does seem to be a curious oversight for an all-knowing deity. (This point offers us a strong clue that there is more to the Genesis 2 account than we see on the surface, but as I have already pointed out, this was not intended to be exposition of Genesis and I have to draw the line somewhere if I am to stay on point!). These sequence issues give strong indications that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are not the same account, and refer to two completely different events.
This is strengthened by the opening verse of Genesis 2 that speaks of God completing creation, and resting from the work he had done, and there’s nothing in Genesis 2 suggesting we should step back into Genesis 1. Actually, we find the opposite, because Genesis 2:4 starts with “These are the generations of…”. This Hebrew expression is used eleven times in Genesis, and in each of the other instances it commences a new history, a new chapter with the focus changing to new characters. It is reasonable to apply a consistent understanding here and see Genesis 2:4 onwards as a different event.
So, if Genesis 2 is a separate account…
It’s time to play Devil’s Advocate. In Section Two we looked at the Biblical clues that there were other people on earth with Adam and Eve. So, we not only have Biblical clues, but also the archaeological and genetic evidence to support this assertion. This means that at the time of this account in Genesis 2, there were other people elsewhere on the earth.
Is there anything in this chapter (Genesis 2) that refutes that proposition? The answer is no, because it is possible that the entire sequence of events in Genesis 2 could have occurred in complete isolation from the rest of the world.
So then, noting that this account occurs the Garden of Eden, we see that separation theme occur again, in that God has prepared a sanctuary or a sacred space for his people. Functionally, it’s ready for use, but there is no man to work the ground (2:5). So, God forms a man and brings him into the garden for this purpose, and likewise “builds” Eve. (That’s the Hebrew word!)
Let’s keep playing the Devil’s Advocate game, but this time let’s turn it the other way around. Despite the veracity of the evidence describing the world outside of Eden, there is no reason why, if God so chose, he couldn’t have created Adam as a new creature – a special creation – completely separate from the world outside.
However, to be perfectly candid there is no test we can conduct to prove that God did, or didn’t. It really is something that we must take on faith. As mentioned earlier, on occasion God does operate outside the realms of natural law to establish certain milestones – the most notable being the resurrection of Christ. If God was able to resurrect Christ, then creating Adam from dust is not outside the realm of possibilities.
As with Genesis 1, this is perhaps one of those times where, in our haste to understand the text from a twenty-first century perspective (how did it happen?), we’ve lost sight of the spiritual lessons (why did it happen?)
Outside of Eden there was a world that God had created. We have a good idea what went on in that world because of the archaeological finds we have been able to piece together, and inside Eden, it wasn’t too different. Just as working the ground to produce food and crops was a primary activity outside of Eden, so God was looking for a man to work the ground in the Eden.
God may have prepared a sanctuary or separated garden, but man was still required to work the ground. Man was made for the garden, not the other way around (Genesis 2:15). After Adam’s fall in Genesis 3:23 he was sent out of Eden to work the ground from which he came. (Notice in Geneses 3:17-19 God didn’t curse Adam, but rather the ground that Adam would cultivate.)
Although Adam was dust, he was formed into God’s image, a representative of God. Perhaps, metaphorically Adam was sent back to “work the ground” and represent God to the world outside of Eden. This is a fitting thought in the context of the point made in the introduction to Section Two about Genesis 4:26, describing how “people began to worship the Lord”. Adam accepted his punishment and continued a life of service bringing other people to worship God.
First man, or the first ever human?
There is little doubt that Adam was a real person. God had to interact with someone to teach man of him, and with whom to make a covenant. Adam’s literality is supported by the number of times he is referred to by Old and New Testament writers, and Jesus himself (e.g. Matthew 19:4–6).1 Not to mention his appearing at the root of genealogies such as 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3. But, in 1 Corinthians 15:45 Paul calls him “the first man”. How do we reconcile this with the evidence we looked at in Section Two?
Firstly, as noted several times already, our community traditionally has not had an issue with pre-Adamic creations. For example:
“There are indeed hints, casually dropped in the scriptures, which would seem to indicate that our planet was inhabited by a race of beings anterior to the formation of man…”2
“The Bible leaves room for a pre-Adamic race, but that need not disturb our faith in the Mosaic record of Creation which Christ endorsed.”3
“What happened to any pre-Adamic race, we cannot know; that there may have been such beings has never been denied; what we cannot admit is that they could have had any part in the Gospel of salvation as preached to the race of Adam.”4
Note that these authors did not supporting an evolutionary view of creation. Therefore, to reject the assertion that Paul is calling Adam “the first ever human” is not unique to those who endorse an evolutionary creation.
So what is the answer? Fortunately, this is an easy one, and the answer doesn’t require any special reading, or any in depth knowledge of socio-historical context; it simply requires us to read the text and kept the same context throughout, from verses 45 to 49. In the context of this passage, the first man being referred to is Adam – and that is clear from the text. Who is “the last Adam”? These verses are making a contrast between two men; a first one, and a second one. That doesn’t imply “first man ever”, it just means “first of these two that we are comparing”.
Paul quotes Genesis 2:7 and adds the words “first” and “Adam” to set up the typological contrast with Christ that follows. The same comparison is implied in Philippians 2:6–11. There the self-arrogating attitude of Adam as the image of God is contrasted with the self-humiliating attitude of Christ, the true image of God.
We find these comparisons in other verses as well. In Romans 5:12–21 the condemnation brought upon humanity by Adam’s disobedience is contrasted with the salvation offered to humanity through Christ’s obedience.
From the very beginning of the church, Christians saw similarities between Christ’s role and that of Adam. Both had the function of displaying the image of God, and both were significant for all humanity. The Gospel writer Luke stressed the universal significance of Christ by tracing his ancestry back to Adam (Luke 3:38).5
It’s worth recalling a 1965 article published in The Christadelphian magazine discussing ideas around pre-Adamic and ‘non-Adamic’ people concurrent with Adam. In the article, Alfred Norris noted:
“We might not be satisfied with the wisdom of such speculations, but nothing essential is lost by them, for we preserve the uniqueness of Adam, the reality of the Fall, and our own present Adamic nature. And in the limited nature of our knowledge, even from Scripture, of what the condition of the world outside Eden may have been at that time, we find sufficient latitude for a proper calmness in the face of possibilities which do not injure our deposit of faith”.6
Much of the evidence presented in Section Two had not been discovered in 1965, but at least Alfred Norris had the presence of mind to note that it still preserves the essential matters, and does not “injure our deposit of faith”.
The same can be said of what we have considered above. The entire account that we read of in Genesis 2 and 3 remains separate and untouched by the outside world. Therefore, human evolution doesn’t impact the reality of Adam, the fall, or our own nature.
1 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 27
2 CC Walker, Remarks in Response to T Griffiths (The Christadelphian, 1907) 44:219
3 CC Walker, An Ancient Skeleton Very Like a Modern One (The Christadelphian, 1912) 49:182
4 L Sargent, The Origin of Man (The Christadelphian, 1965) 102:346
5 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 28
6 Alfred Norris, Where Science and Religion Meet – The Creation and Fall of Man (The Christadelphian, 1965) 102:149