Did Adam And Eve Really Exist? (In Review)

Derek Ouellette —  May 23, 2011

Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?
John Collins

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.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://hiddenirony.wordpress.com James Palmer

    Sounds like an interesting book! This idea (a literal Adam and Eve combined with a nonliteral interpretation of the first bit of the creation story) has always been of interest to me. I’ve had Amazon send a sample to my Kindle and I’ll check it out. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Jon Sellers

    Thanks, Derek for this quick review. These are three books I would like to dig into. This whole issue of how to read Gen. 1 has been a problem for some time.
    Do you know how these vews relate to Kline’s framework hypothesis? Do these authors interact with that view at all?

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Ya Jon, I think all three books interact with the “framework hypothesis” to some extent. I don’t have Blocher or Walton’s book readily accessible (in storage :( ), but Blocher advocates it as does Gordon Wenham. While Collins does not directly interact with Kline, he favours Wenham who holds to that hypothesis.

    • http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A10ULJVWJGVUYD/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview Paul Bruggink

      Henri Blocher supports what he refers to as the literary interpretation (p. 49+ of “In the Beginning”), which is the framework hypothesis, and he does make a number of references to Kline.

      John H. Walton discusses the framework hypothesis briefly on pp. 111-112 of “The Lost World of Genesis One,” and finishes up by suggesting that “For those who have in the past adopted the framework hypothesis, the theory proposed in this book does not require them to discard that interpretation, but only to accept the functional perspective alongside it. This does not require replacement, but would add value.” Collins advocates the analogical day position (p. 124).

      My copy of “Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?” should be arriving from Amazon any day now, so I don’t know what C. John Collins says in his new book, but in his “Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary,” he mentions Kline and the “literary framework scheme of interpretation” on pp. 73-74, but he believes that “the framework view does not suit the data.” Collins advocates the “analogical day position: namely, the days are God’s workdays, their length is neither specified nor important, and not everything in the account needs to be taken as historically sequential.”

  • brad.dickey

    I’m such a heretic.

    I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s literal or not. It’s of no consequence. There is a message there concerning my relationship with God, that was the purpose of writing it.

    We don’t need to know, HOW, WHY, etc…

    We just have to find the path the race is run on, and then run it. Knowledge of Christ comes through works, more than study. Eph 4:11-17.

    Until we apply the Bible sincerely in our daily lives, over and over until it becomes natural, it’s foolish to think we’ll get the right conclusion from the message by ration and reason alone.

    On point, why do we fret this topic as a Church. (Not applying it to this forum, as it’s only discussing what is already established.

    • http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A10ULJVWJGVUYD/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview Paul Bruggink


      You are absolutely right. The Bible teaches us about our relationship to God and how to live out that relationship.

      Unfortunately, many people take SOME portions of the Bible too literally and end up equating Christianity with Young Earth Creationism and claiming to all the world that the Bible is incompatible with the Big Bang and biological evolution. Ken Ham, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler and the Institute for Creation Research come quickly to mind.

      That is why theologians like John Walton, Henri Blocher, C. John Collins and others write books on this topic, to try to convince the world that there are alternative ways to interpret Genesis 1-11 and that having to choose between the Bible and science is a false dilemma.

      If this issue isn’t a stumbling block for you, that’s terrific.

  • brad dickey

    My church in So. Cal. had Henry Miller II as an elder. Brilliant man, but convinced of young earth, as the son of the founder of ICR. It doesn’t matter a lick regarding when it was done, how it was done for salvific purposes. So I don’t sweat the petty stuff, (nor pet the sweatty stuff.)

    On the one hand, the matters of faith, as in the two men eating meat, are to not be leveraged against our brothers as per the parable.

    But on the other hand when they present something to the community as sound, and it isn’t as Peter corrected Paul, we need speak up.

    In my apologetic days, I spent more time arguing against those in the Church than the Atheists, Agnostics, and what I call Pathostheists. Not only were the latter better educated on my faith, but more willing to discuss rationally. It was really depressing. :(

  • http://www.scripteddestiny.org Gary Hunter

    I truly find it sad that any part of Genesis is questioned as to the reality of it; especially from Christians. All of creation depicted in Genesis makes logical sense and much of it can be proven by science. Science does not always agree within itself; the Bible does. In addition, science will never be able to disprove Genesis unless it twists the scripture around. I think I’ll continue to believe the book that never contradicts itself.