Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?
4.5 Stars (out of 5)
I learned from Henri Blocher’s book In The Beginning to read the opening chapters of Genesis in a literary, rather than a literal, way. I learned from John Walton’s book The Lost World of Genesis One that those same chapters have nothing to say about how God created the universe, how old the universe is or how science fits in. In short, the bible does not address the age of the earth nor does it tell us how God created it. (Read how I came to this conclusion.)
You would think then that the next logical step for me to take is the rejection of the actual historical existence of Adam and Eve. While open to that possibility, that has been a step I’ve not been able to take when the rest of the scriptures are invited to chime in on the subject.
In Old Testament scholar John Collins new book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?, all of my concerns are brought to the surface and articulated better than I could, with others added for good measure. This book is reminiscent of Walton’s book both in its readability, style and size. Collins quotes John Walton, Henri Blocher and N.T. Wright favorably throughout strongly suggesting that it is permissible – in fact, preferable – to read Genesis as Blocher and Walton have suggested and yet still maintain a historical Adam and Eve. And because one of Collins arguments is to took at the story of Adam and Eve in light of the “big picture” or “meta-narrative” of the biblical testimony, N.T. Wright fits in just nicely.
This book is anything but assuming. In fact it critically engages the rising dominant and opposing views (of, for example, Francis Collins, Peter Enns, Denis Lamoureux and others), assesses them and explains why he believes a belief of a historical Adam and Eve model works better with the evidence. Collins has a good finger on the primary issues at hand, explains why “Concordism” – the process of trying to reconcile Genesis 1-11 with science – must be rejected, and understands how ANE texts fit it, but he also insists that recognizing Genesis 1-11 as a literary piece does not automatically rule out any possibility of literal features.
What’s At Stake:
John Collins lists many issues at stake in this discussion, but three take dominance for me: 1) the meta-narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration falls into jeopardy. 2) A crucial element of the atonement is lost. 3) Sooner or later we are faced with what stance we will take toward biblical authority (since Jesus and Paul among other biblical writers believed that Adam and Eve were real historical figures).
My view of Genesis 1-11 can be found through the combined reading of In The Beginning (Blocher), The Lost World of Genesis One (Walton) and Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? (Collins). I think the best way to be faithful to the complete biblical testimony is found in the combined work of these three books.