July 2011


The folks over at Christian Focus Booknotes are hosting a great book giveaway. This months book giveaway is for 3 books by Carl Trueman. The books are as follows:

  1. Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
  2. Minority Report: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism
  3. The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on History and Contemporary Evangelicalism

You can enter to win here.

Of all of the books that have come out in response to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins it seems that Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell is getting the most attention.

Here is Josh Loveless from Relevant Magazine interviewing Chan on why he wrote this book and how he felt about it:

In 2013 Arcane/Cosmic Picture Fill’s will be releasing a new movie called Jerusalem. The best thing is it is in IMAX 3D! You can go to the web site here to enter your area to ensure it gets a showing near you.

Since the publications of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species the reliability of the  Bible has been under vicious attack namely in the area of origins. Questions began to develop under the assumption that Darwin’s theory of evolution was correct. Is there really a God? How can we trust the Bible if it’s account of the origin of everything is false? Since we know, according to Darwinian evolutionary theory, everything evolved from nothing and man was not the first thing that evolved, then how can we trust the Bibles account of mankind’s origins?

This last question strikes at the heart of C. John Collins new book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care. The historicity of Adam and Eve as the first humans that God created and thus the first parents of every person who ever lived to date and beyond is the issue Collins addresses.

The fundamental issue Collins seeks to address in this regards is how literal did Moses (and God for that matter) intend for future readers to interpret his words concerning the origin of mankind? As simple as it may seem at first, the use of the word ‘literal’ is often misunderstood. When used in context of interpreting the early chapters of Genesis, it can become down right confusing. Confusing, because with every interpretation one reads of the early chapters of Genesis, you will find that everyone believes their interpretation is the literal one. Everyone believes they interpret it as literally as it was intended to be.

What Has the Church Always Believed?

Traditionally, the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 that dominated the church for the first 1800 years was that the words were to be taken at face value. That is, God literally exists, He spoke everything into existence in the period of seven days not years (or millions for that matter), God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from rib of Adam, they were the first people created and are the original parents of everyone who ever lived and will live, Eden was a real garden like the one in your backyard, a talking snake (Satan) tempted Eve into sinning and when Adam ate the real fruit (an apple of course) mankind died spiritually, and as part of the curse God made snakes to craw on the ground. Of course there are more details but you get the idea. Until Darwin came along, this was the traditional, orthodox and conservative view of Genesis 1-3 and origins.

But all that has changed now. Collins, who has a doctorate in Hebrew linguistics, believes the church should still interpret Genesis 1-3 literally (there’s that word again) – or at least some form of literal interpretation. Collins writes,

My goal in this study is to show why we should retain a version of the traditional view…..I intend to argue that the traditional position on Adam and Eve, or some variation of it, does the best job of accounting not only for the Biblical materials but also for our everyday experience as human beings (p. 13).

You will notice that Collins proposes a ‘version’ of the traditional view but not necessarily the traditional view as I described above. In the spirit of C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity, Collins affectionately names his version “mere historical Adam-and-Eve-ism (p. 13).” Collins believes that the traditional view has been misused causing some to dismiss it out of hand (p. 15). Readers should know that Collins is only addressing the historicity of Adam & Eve in Genesis and nothing else.

So what is Collin’s version of the traditional view?

So What is History Anyways?

In chapter two, The Shape of the Biblical Story, Collins delves into the discussion of Hebrew literary techniques and how understanding them can help us better interpret Scripture, namely Genesis 1-3. Of particular interest is Collins discussion on what the term ‘history” means. While at the front the use of the word history seems pretty straight forward. To many history is the accounting of how things happened in the past whether it be a history book giving a detailed account of a battle fought in WWI or a husband telling his wife about his day at work or a weekend long work trip. Both are history because they happened in the past but both may not be told in the same fashion. Collins sees history,

Less as a literary genre, and more as a way of referring to events. That is, if we say that something is (or is not) historical, we are not so much describing the kind of literature it is, as we are the way it talks about (or does not talk about) real events (p. 35).

What Collins is trying to point out is that in the telling of history, not everyone is going to tell it the same way. You can be literalistic, metaphorical or both. The issue is determining which of the three methods did the author use and if they used both which parts are literalistic and which are metaphorical. Collins proposes that because the author of Genesis 1-3 could be (and he believes he does) using both literal and metaphorical language that we must extract from it the “historical core (p. 35).” Part of what drives this is how Collins interprets and makes use of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) comparative material. He concludes,

If, as seems likely to me, the Mesopotamian origin and flood stories provide the context against which Genesis 1-11 are to be set, they also provide us with clues on how to read this kind of literature (p. 35).

Without going into a long discussion, ANE texts of comparative Biblical accounts are strikingly different than the Biblical accounts though they have similar features. Here is where Collins would say they have a common “historical core.” That is, though they have differences, they are still trying to write an historical account of some sort of the same event(s). Collins is not saying that Genesis is not trying to give us an account of origins. However, he is trying to be honest and fair with how the author (Moses) is recording those events and what literary devices he might be using. He wants us to interpret it as literally as it was intended to be.

What Says the Rest of Scripture?

So if Genesis 1-3 is not to be interpreted literalistically (not taking into account any literary devices when interpreting it) then how do the other authors of Scripture interpret it? When they refer to Adam and Eve and creation how literally do they interpret the recording of these events? In this section of the book I expected to see more continuity from the other authors of Scripture but Collins does not really summarize how the other OT authors viewed Genesis 1-3. On the other hand, he gives much more certainty on how the NT writers thought of Adam and Eve. Essentially, Collins believes the NT writers and Jesus thought of Adam and Even as real historical people who really sinned and whose sin affected the rest of mankind. Of Paul’s argument in Romans Collins observes, “The more clearly we perceive Paul’s narratival argument of Romans the more we will see the reality of Adam as the ancestor of all people being tied up with his argument (p. 88).”

Though the NT writers and Jesus believed in the historicity of Adam and Eve, Collins doesn’t believe they interpreted the recording of their existence in Genesis 1-3 literalistically as some do. For Collins it is enough that they existed as the fountainhead of mankind, really sinned and that their sin had lasting consequences on all of mankind.

Where Does Science Fit In?

As mentioned earlier, since the dawn of Darwin, parts of the church have read Genesis’ account of origins differently due to scientific discoveries and claims. Collins addresses this area through the use concordism. Concordism is the attempt to harmonize what the Bible says about origins with the claims of scientific theories (p. 105). Essentially, Collins argues that Genesis is not trying to answer the same kinds of detailed and scientific questions modern man is. Again, Collins presses for an historical core that needs to be held onto.

Since there are many theories (and certainly more to come) concerning the origins of mankind how are we to evaluate them in light of the nonnegotiable’s we hold from Scripture when it comes to mankind’s origins? Collins suggests four criteria in order to help us stay within the bounds of sound thinking:

  1. We should see that the origin of the origin of the human race goes beyond a merely natural process. This follows from how hard is it to get a human being, or, more theologically, hoe distinctive is the image of God.
  2. We should see Adam & Eve as the headwaters of the human race.
  3. The “fall”, in whatever form it took, was both historical (it happened) and moral (it involved disobeying God), and occurred at the beginning of the human race.
  4. If someone should decide that there were, in fact, more human beings that just Adam & Eve at the beginning of mankind, then, in order to maintain good sense, he should envisions these humans as a single tribe (p. 121).

Where Do We Go From Here?

To be honest I had a hard time separating Collins views from those of others he discusses and critiques. I had to read and re-read several portions of the book and I am still not totally sure I understand where Collins is exactly on some issues. I think there was too much was covered that was not adequately explained which might be the reason for some of my confusion. Collins did make it clear in the beginning of the book that he would not explain everything and wrote with the assumption of some prior knowledge. As such this book is not the place to start for a beginner. For sure Collins does end by saying, “Adam & Eve at the headwaters of the human family, and their fall, are not only what Jesus believed but also an irremovable part of that whole story (p. 135).”

I would also encourage readers who want to grasp a better idea of what Collins thinks to read his other book Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary.

Overall, Did Adam & Eve Really Exist? is not for the beginner to the origins debate concerning Adam & Eve. There are many good insights Collins has but not as many conclusions as I anticipated. This is a short (almost too short) introduction to the current issues surrounding the historicity of Adam & Eve.

If you would like to read an interview by John Starke with Collins about his book you can go to The Gospel Coalition web site here.

Zack Nielsen is giving away two books from Crossway. You can enter to win here. Here are the books:

  1. King Solomon: The Temptations of Sex, Money & Power by Philip Graham Ryken
  2. Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving & Living God’s Word by Stephen J. Nichols

Right now I am listening to the audio version of The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation by Thom and Jess Rainer. This month ChristianAudio.com is giving this book away for free so I suggest you go on over and get it.

This book is great thus far. There are a lot of statistics and personal stories from younger adults in my generation. The Millennials are those born between the years of 1980-2000. So if you are that age group or you have kids in that age group or you work with my age group then get this free audio book today. Not only have I been learning about my generation but I have also learned a lot about my parents generation and why they so some of the things they do. Very insightful!

It is free through the month of July. You can also pick up a hard copy or Kindle version from Amazon.

I really look forward to reading Erasing Hell: What God said about Eternity, and the things we made up by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle.

Monergism Books has this on sale for $7.49!

Here is a video interview with the authors that is worth the time to watch:

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