Did Adam and Eve Exist? (Part I)

[Note: This is a multi-part series, of which this post is the Introduction.]

In this second post in a new series, dealing with the question of the historical Adam and Eve, I want to examine closely the supposed discrepancies between what science teaches and what the Bible says.

Let us start with the givens of cosmology, geology, biology and anthropology:
So much for science. Now let us assemble the unassailable truths taught by our Christian religion:

These are the core facts of Christianity. They are facts for Christians, because as St. Paul said just a few years after Christ's death and resurrection:
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. . . . If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
What difficulties do the facts of science create for the facts of the Bible? First and most important, let us recognize that the Bible is not a book of science. One does not use the Bible to calculate the value of pi (although the calculation in 1 Kings is not as far off as most people summarily conclude). The Bible is first and foremost a book of revelation, not of science as such.

That said, revelation implies a revealing of truth - God's truth, which is eternal, unchanging and unassailable. The difficulties begin when we try to discern the nature of the revelation through the eyes and minds of ancient Hebrews, in words that predate our own language by thousands of years, and so must be understood through the filters of philology and translation.

A prime example of the difficulties in doing so is provided by the opening chapters of Genesis, the very first book of the Bible. Is the creation as there described factual, or allegorical, or somewhere in between?

If the Genesis account of creation is taken as factual, a number of difficulties immediately arise -- for example, how is the Hebrew word yôm, which we translate as "day", to be understood? How could there be a "day" of twenty-four hours even before there was a sun, and why would God create the earth before he created the sun? (Wouldn't the water all freeze, for instance?)

This is not to suggest that these difficulties cannot be surmounted -- there is an entire contingent of "Young-Earth Christians" who have no problem in doing so.

Others take the position that there is no need to read the Bible in the light of modern science, which was unknown to the ancients. For such people, science and religion are two separate and independent worlds ("non-overlapping magisteria", in the words of Stephen Jay Gould), which do not conflict because they contain nothing in common. In that way, each world can have its own beliefs without fear of contradiction by the other.

My own background and nature do not let me use such an escape. For me, Christianity teaches that the Bible is the record of God's revelations. And in the Bible, Psalm 19 tells us:
19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
Stated in another way, there are two books of God's revelations: the Bible, and the book of nature. And they have to be revealing one and the same truth. For the truth, as noted above, is eternal, unchanging and unassailable.

This desire to integrate the two books into a single truth is not what most people refer to as "concordism". It is rather, as Randy Isaac puts it, seeking "to understand the meaning and purpose of nature and science through the eyes of faith on the basis of the revelation of our incarnate, crucified, resurrected Savior."

With all of the above as background, we are now in a position to assess the latest responses by theologians to the scientific data that we have all descended not from a single human couple, but instead from a pool of between 7-10,000 individuals. That will be the task of the next post in this series.

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