Peter Enns, a professor of Old Testament and New Testament Studies at Eastern University, has written a book that is getting a lot of press time in the Christian blogosphere. The book, entitled The Evolution of Adam, attempts to reconcile the Genesis record with modern scientific thought, as well as explain the apostle Paul’s use of Adam in explaining Jesus’ work.
Let me begin by saying that I haven’t read Enns’ book, so this post is not a critique of his work. Instead, I want to plant some seed ideas on the subject and perhaps broaden our perspective on the question of how we read the creation stories in Genesis 1-3. Here is a brief video of Enns speaking on the subject, and then I will make some comments.
This might get me in trouble with my fundamentalist brethren, but I am ambivalent on whether the Genesis 1-3 record is historical fact or not. Officially, my position is “It could be.” My limited studies into the literature of ancient peoples leads me to believe that the authors of the Genesis record were focused on their own place in the world system and not on creating a science textbook. They wrote in a very poetic, measured way that seems to be more related with an understanding of the way the world is as opposed to the way that it came to be. In other words, it was not as important to them that Adam be the historical, biological father of all mankind. What was important is that we can all see Adam and Eve’s sin in ourselves.
That being said, I have no real reason to doubt that there wasn’t a historical person. You can’t prove a negative. That’s why my position is “It could be.” I don’t think people who believe Adam is a historical person are ignorant or foolish or unscientific; and I don’t think people like Enns are heretics or apostates.
As always, the truth is in the tension. I avoid eliminating possibilities, even those that make me uncomfortable (and to be frank, dismissing Adam makes me uncomfortable). We find the greatest richness of the Scriptures when we study them in light of multiple possibilities rather than in ironclad dogmatism.
But that’s just me. I am comfortable with the tension of not really being able to be certain. What do you think?