Creation of Adam

Finding Adam: A Layman’s Interpretation of Genesis

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
Genesis 3:9

Preface

When I read the Book of Genesis for the first time many years ago, I did it out of scientific curiosity. I was an atheist who believed all religions were superstitions, but I was very curious why many otherwise highly intelligent human beings believed in the existence of God. So I tried to examine faith on the scientific principle of reproducibility: if I can repeat what a normal Christian does that leads him to his belief, and produce the same result, I would consider the belief valid. As an experiment, I not only read the Bible, but also prayed to the Unknown God. (I reasoned that I had nothing to lose. In hindsight, I can only agree with C.S.Lewis, “A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”)

Because I first read it without any knowledge of existing doctrines in the Church, I tend to interpret the Bible solely based on personal judgment. Consequently, my exegesis lacks the depth, rigor and richness of classical Christian theology, but I hope to avoid preconceived notions that may be indefensible. I welcome anyone who is willing to point out my mistakes in interpretation or any logical errors in thinking.

What’s In a Day?

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
Genesis 1:3-5

The days in Genesis 1 are created by the word of God. They consist of darkness and light, either co-existing or alternating. The duration and advance of a day are defined not by any physical entity, but by divine command. God speaks, and there is a new day. It may be misleading to say that the Lord created the world in (for lack of a better word) six days, as if He were bound by time, when the days and time itself are His creation.

A day as such is not necessarily the 24-hour period of the earth’s rotation relative to the sun. For in the beginning “the earth was without form, and void”. There was no circular motion. The “two great lights”, commonly understood as the Sun and the Moon, didn’t appear until the fourth day. Without rotation, a day can be indefinitely extended. For instance, a day is literally a year long at the North and South Poles, with six months of darkness followed by six months of light.

God commanded the observance of the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day”(Ex. 20:11). He also commanded the observance of the Sabbath Year, and seven Sabbaths of years, and the year that follows the forty-nine years, the Jubilee (Ex. 23, Lev. 25). This pattern of expression suggests that what is significant is not the length of each day, but the consummation of days, and the relation of the seventh day to the previous six as a whole.

It is worth noting that Day is also equated with Light in Genesis 1. For six days, there are both darkness and light (evening and morning), but on the seventh day, there is no darkness or night. This suggests that the seventh day signifies a reality different from the preceding six.

The Primacy of Man

Many have cited the apparent contradictions in the accounts of Creation in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 to argue that they should not be taken literally. I think the two accounts can be harmonized without any loss of their literal and metaphorical meaning.

Firstly, Genesis 1 follows the order of time, Genesis 2 the order of priority. This is why days are clearly enumerated in the former, but not in the latter. In order of time, man is created at the end, as the culmination of Creation; in order of priority, man comes first, and everything else follows, as they are created for the sake of man.

Secondly, Genesis 1 depicts the Creation on a grand cosmic scale, “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm”; Genesis 2 depicts the Creator’s relation to His Creation on an intimate personal level. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Thirdly, according to Aristotle, spontaneity and chance are causes of effects which might otherwise result from intelligence and nature. Since what is per se is prior to what is incidental, intelligence and nature are prior to spontaneity and chance. The observable difference between them is that the former invariably or normally produce the same end effect. Viewed from this angle, Genesis 1 is an enactment of the divinely ordained principles of nature in a time series, and Genesis 2 reveals the timeless counsel and intelligence of God. Both accounts of creation are given to show emphatically that Man became a living being by the determined purpose of God, not by chance.

Creation of Adam

The Personhood of Adam

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Psalm 139:14-15

Some evolutionists argue that Adam cannot be a real person because there was never a time in the history of the Earth when only one person existed. If the origin of species is the result of random mutation and natural selection, it is highly probable that many individuals of a new species have emerged from such a process in the same time period.

From a theistic perspective, however, I believe what causes Adam to come into being is not natural selection, but divine election. What makes Adam first and unique is not his physical or genetic makeup, but his spiritual relation to his Creator. Adam is made of dust, but he also bears the Image of God. It doesn’t matter whether or not there existed many humanoids, what matters is whom God chooses to bear His Image and have fellowship with Him.

One prominent theme throughout the Bible is “Immanuel”, which is translated, “God with us”. God desires to enter into a covenantal relationship with man and dwell among man. For this reason, among many others, I believe Adam is a real person, not a symbolic representation of mankind, although he is also that in an important sense. For only a real person can enter into a relationship, and only a real person can break the covenant of trust, as Adam did in the Garden of Eden.

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17 thoughts on “Finding Adam: A Layman’s Interpretation of Genesis

  1. I’ve just now had the time to read your post. Great thoughts and explanations, Nemo! I’m always curious about atheists who have become Christians and how they arrived at Christianity. In fact, your synopsis was so interesting, I think that you should cover the whole Bible. That should keep you busy for awhile! 😉

    1. Many atheist-turned Christians were influenced by C.S.Lewis, although I’m not one of them. 🙂

      The subject of creation vs. evolution does cover the whole Bible, at least the whole Christian doctrine, as I understand it, but I’m afraid I’m far from doing it justice.

  2. This is interesting. There is a lot I still don’t understand though. I love your point about the sun and moon not appearing until the fourth day. So do you think days began to be marked literally after the fourth day? And how do dinosaurs fit in with all of this? We are assured that dinosaurs lived so long ago, did they live before the animals named by Adam in the garden? Or I wonder if there is a dating difference between dinosaurs that flew and land dinosaurs?

      1. I read that post. Did you mention in there when you think literal days began? I mean if the first three “days” cover billions of years and the sun and moon appear on the fourth day, does “time” sort of speed up at that point? I suppose no one knows, but I suppose it’s human to wonder. 🙂

        Also, how do dinosaurs fit with all of this?

      2. None of the 7 Days in Genesis 1 are 24-hr days. In the fourth Day when the Sun came into being, 24-hr days also began, but they were not marked in Genesis 1. The 24-hr days became significant only after man had been driven out of Eden, that is, when the days of his life became numbered, literally. Dinosaurs probably came into being anywhere between 5th and 6th Day.

    1. Hey Nemo, I forgot to ask when I was inquiring about dinosaurs: If they existed between the fifth and sixth days, then this would mean that death was present before the fall, wouldn’t it?

      1. Your question is related to the problem of evil and the doctrine of original sin. Many Christians reject the theory of evolution because they believe it contradicts the doctrine. This issue is very difficult to deal with, and causing divisions among Christians. It is the main reason why I started this series of posts on creation and evolution. As I said earlier, Christianity has a unique answer to the problem, but I can’t articulate it yet.

      2. I’m sorry for asking again. I’m just so all over the place with all of this. The main reason I am asking is because my sons, like all little boys, love dinosaurs. Especially my oldest (almost 7). He also loves to ask questions and nothing gets by him. I haven’t studied all of this before and trying to figure out how to talk to him about all of this is driving me crazy. I’ll just go with “I don’t know”. And I will anxiously await the post where you figure it all out and explain it to us. 🙂

  3. Also, and I know there is no real answer to this, but I don’t think I will ever be able to read the account of Genesis 1 without immediately hopping to the problem of evil. I will always wonder how, if God created all of this by the word of His mouth, and His word is Truth, there was ever even a potential for evil….

      1. Yes. I suppose by the time we get to Cain, Evil and free will (whatever that is) were already present. My specific qualm is, I don’t understand how there was even potential for evil in God’s spoken Word at creation.

  4. I understand, Nemo. I wasn’t really asking again, just responding to your post. 🙂
    Also, thank you for spelling out the days for me. I can be dense sometimes.

  5. His questions are all mixed up. He has questions about why dinosaurs lived so many millions of years ago. Whether or not Adam and Eve saw dinosaurs. Why they died. Stuff like that. He doesn’t really understand the implications behind his questions, but they are certainly giving me pause. I never cared about dinosaurs, but it is obvious now I should have! 🙂

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