Were Adam and Eve Real People? How History Hangs on Their Story

May 11, 2020

by Iain Duguid

The teaching of Scripture on the subject of human origins is foundational to the rest of the Bible. It is also vital to our understanding of who we are as humans in relationship to God and to the rest of creation. This should not be surprising, as every culture in history has had a set of origin stories that answer similar questions. The theory of evolution functions in this role for many modern people — as an explanatory story of origins rather than as a technical account of scientific processes.

Did mankind gradually evolve from various lower life-forms, rising by a purely naturalistic process until finally reaching our present state (as taught by naturalistic evolution)? In that case, the biblical account of the creation of Adam and Eve is, at best, a figurative myth that may describe the human condition, but has no connection with actual events.

Or was the slow onward and upward progress toward humanity steered by God and perhaps decisively directed by him, as he took a pair (or clan) of hominids and endowed them with something special (a “soul”) that made them an entirely new species (as maintained by theistic evolution)? In that case, the Genesis stories may represent historical events, but only in a rather stylized form.

Or do our origins stem from a unique instantaneous act of special creation from the dust of the earth on the part of God (as argued by special creation)? This last view interprets the events of Genesis as an accurate rendition of actual historical events.

The answers to these questions are vital in shaping the rest of our understanding of the meaning and destiny of the cosmos.

Sons and Daughters of Adam

The biblical data consistently understands Adam and Eve to have been real individual human beings from whom all humanity’s descent may be traced. This representation begins as early as Genesis 4, where Adam and Eve have sexual relations and produce children, one of whom kills another. In Genesis 5, there is a lengthy genealogy of Adam’s descendants, whose offspring eventually form all the nations of the world listed in Genesis 10. The contents of these stories are reproduced in similar genealogies in the books of Chronicles and Luke, which trace Adam’s descendants down to those who returned from the exile (1 Chronicles 1–9) and to Jesus Christ (Luke 3:23–38).

Likewise, Jesus treats the account of Adam’s and Eve’s initial union as forming a historical basis for the sanctity of marriage (Matthew 19:5–6), while Paul’s line of argument in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 rests not only on the real existence of Adam and Eve but also on their unique fall into sin. Also several New Testament texts refer to Cain and Abel, the first sons of Adam and Eve, as real historic individuals (Matthew 23:35; Hebrews 11:4; 1 John 3:12; and Jude 11).

Continue reading at Desiring God


Iain Duguid

Dr. Duguid (PhD, Cambridge) is professor of Old Testament at WTS.

Next Post...

In the Word, On the Go: 10/30/2019

October 30, 2019

by Iain Duguid