Early Humans, Adam, and Inspiration - Creation and Evolution

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Early Humans, Adam, and Inspiration

English > Fields of Research > Genesis Interpretation

P. Rüst (2007), Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 59/3, 182-193; http://www.aneste.ch/files/EarlyHumAd.pdf
The original web publication by the American Scientific Affiliation:

An extended German version of this paper has originally been published on the Website of the Vereinigte Bibelgruppen: P. Rüst (2007),
"Frühe Menschen, Adam, und biblische Inspiration"



Two views of Genesis 1–11 are common. Young-earth creationism claims to take this text literally as inspired by God and interprets it as the history of the first few thousand years of the existence of the universe. Source criticism, on the other hand, takes it as an account of how ancient Hebrews viewed this history, God accommodating to their mythological beliefs derived from contemporary Near Eastern cultures, yet “breaking” these myths by framing them into monotheism. The former view is contradicted by science while the latter produces arbitrary hermeneutics and modifies biblical theology.

But if Adam was not the first human created in the image of God, he can be taken as a real person who lived at a Holocene time in Sumer, but who, called to prepare the way for the Messiah to come, became a type representative of fallen humans living both before and after his time.

These are my father's parents. My grandfather died before I was born, my grandmother when I was 4. We hardly know anything of even rather close ancestors of ours. For a gathering of the wider family some time ago, a family tree going back several hundred years was prepared, but of most of these earlier people, we just know about when they lived. How about our forbears who lived just 500 years (~20 generations) ago? Everyone has 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents,... 2^20 on the 20th level of the genealogical tree, i.e. a million names (ignoring multiple representations due to network structure)!

How about going back to Adam who lived more than 10 times earlier? It's only from Genesis that we know about him, but from the combination of some scientific fields like paleontology, geology, genetics, molecular biology, we know that there were humans living even much earlier. So how about Adam? Did he live much earlier than we thought he did, or does Genesis just use the designation "adam" (meaning "human") as a metaphor for the first humans created in God's image?

- Views of “plenary inspiration” are often misconstrued as proposing some kind of mechanical dictation by God.

- An inspired text … must be understandable by people of all times and cultures. [One] must both accept the full extent of the canonical texts as representing God’s revelatory will and … avoid any contradiction to reality …

- If God’s redemptive history revealed in the Bible focuses on the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, NT quotations of OT texts make it clear that many prophecies have more than one fulfillment, and therefore more than one interpretation may be "correct" with respect to God’s revelatory will.

- Information about Israel’s founding fathers must have been transmitted through Abraham and his descendants, as far as Genesis 12-50 is concerned … At least the backbone, if not all, of [Genesis 1-11] must have been handed down by Abraham.

- An approach which is both theologically and scientifically sound must take natural processes like evolution to be creative tools in God’s hand. … All that happens is done by God, whether or not science can investigate it. In this sense, all "natural" processes are God’s doing.

- A main motivation for equating Adam and Eve with the first humans of Genesis 1 seems to be the belief in "original sin" (understood in the sense of Erbsünde, "inherited sin").

- Apparently each proposal, Adam early and Adam late, solves some problems, but each runs into others. … I shall now propose a fully harmonious interpretation. Three requirements have to be met: (1) Unique focus on God’s redemptive plan …; (2) Plenary inspiration …; (3) Reliable scientific results …

- The first humans were early, and Adam has to be placed late. Adam was not the first human created in God’s image. Genesis 1:26-31 does not refer to the same events as Gen. 2:5-25.

- Sin became possible when humans were created in God’s image and therefore God-conscious, self-conscious, and correspondingly responsible to God. So "sin came into the world through one man," namely the first one of those created in God’s image who sinned, long before Adam.

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