Adam and Eve
Published: 3 December 2013 (GMT+10)
Periodically, there are bursts of articles about Adam and Eve. What does the Bible say about them? What was the historical Adam like? Did he even exist? What does genetics indicate about our first parents? Unfortunately, many conclude that Adam and Eve are myths; nothing more than characters in a fictional story. But Jesus and Paul believed they were real people, and they didn’t hesitate to base key doctrines on what Genesis tells us about Adam and Eve.
Creation of Adam and Eve
The Bible is clear that Adam had no human parents—Luke calls him the son of God because of this (Luke 3:38). In the Old Testament, the angels are called ‘sons of God’ for the same reason—they are direct creations of God. On Day 6 after creating the land animals, God created Adam from dust then breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). From the beginning, unlike animals (and angels), human beings were a mixture of physical and spiritual attributes. This made Adam fundamentally different from all the animals that God created, which is why none of them were suitable as companions for Adam. Naming the animals was a great object lesson for Adam to show him that he needed someone like himself, not animals. Up until now in the creation account, every time God saw something, it was good, but for the first time, God sees something that isn’t good—Adam is alone. Creation is incomplete. This doesn’t mean that God didn’t foresee the need for a companion for Adam; it just means that now, when Adam realizes his need, God is going to do something about it.
In the first-ever ‘surgery’, God removed a rib from Adam’s side and from it He created a woman, who Adam named Eve. When Adam saw her for the first time, he recognized that she was not like the animals—she was a person like him. And Genesis affirms that like men, women are fully created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27).
The Bible states that Eve was created to be Adam’s ‘helper’ (Hebrew ‘ezer’). While this is sometimes criticized as promoting the view that women are chattels, this isn’t the force of the word at all. Indeed, the Old Testament uses the same word when it describes God as a ‘helper’ (for instance, Exodus 18:4, Psalm 33:20; 115:9, Hosea 13:9). The idea is that women are equal in spiritual status to men and fulfill a critical role, without which humanity cannot function.
Do men have one fewer rib than women?
Some people say that the creation account can’t be true, because if it were men would have one fewer rib than women. But this is easily refuted—if a father lost his hand in an accident, would his sons all be born with only one hand? It’s notable that the critic is implicitly endorsing a largely discredited theory called Lamarckianism—inheritance of acquired characteristics. This was disproved even long before modern genetics showed us how traits are usually passed on from parents to children.
But interestingly, Adam may not have had to live his whole life with one fewer rib—the rib is one of the few bones that can regenerate, if it is carefully removed and the surrounding membrane is left intact. For more information; see Regenerating ribs.
Does genetics show Adam and Eve were the first parents?
In recent years, evolutionists have used genetics to try to undermine confidence in the Genesis account of Adam and Eve. They claim that humans today are descended from a population of around 10,000 people around 100,000 years ago. However, these estimates are driven by evolutionary models and their inherent assumptions, and so can’t be used to prove the very model it assumes
Moreover, the genetic data can be used to support a straightforward biblical mode, including a single starting couple (Adam and Eve), a restriction in the population (Noah’s Flood) and a single dispersal across the planet (Babel). So one cannot conclude that the genetic evidence invalidates the Bible, when biblical geneticists have an explanation for the same data. See The Non-Mythical Adam and Eve!
The image of God
Adam and Eve were uniquely created in the image of God, unlike the animals and the rest of the physical creation. Many people try to equate the image of God to human abilities like abstract reasoning, or having a conscience, or the possession of an eternal spirit. But the language used seems to indicate that the image of God is a holistic trait, and therefore it’s probably not possible to isolate a group of aspects that are ‘the image of God’ apart from the whole person. The simplest way to put the biblical concept is that Adam and Eve were created to be like God in certain ways, and to represent Him to the rest of creation as His stewards.
This means that they were endowed with the communicable attributes of God—these are the divine attributes that created beings can also have. They were morally perfect, they had free will, they could reason, and so on. In other words, they had the potential to be as much like God as it is possible for physical created beings to be. But there are some attributes unique to God, such as unchangeableness, timelessness, omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. None of these characteristics were given to Adam and Eve even in their unfallen state. They were still subject to their limits as created beings.
The first married couple
Adam and Eve were the first married couple, and since they were the only people to be married before the Fall, they represent God’s perfect intent for marriage—one man and one woman united in marriage for life. This repudiates all sorts of sexual sins, from homosexuality to fornication to polygamy.
That Adam and Eve represent God’s intent for marriage was illustrated when the Pharisees came to Jesus to ask Him about divorce. The Mosaic Law allowed for a man to divorce his wife, so the Pharisees were concerned about the conditions under which one could divorce his wife. One way of thinking was that a man could divorce his wife for anything—even something as frivolous as burning his dinner, while others said that only serious sin like adultery warranted divorce.
But Jesus said that both sides were missing the point, because they were looking at a law that God gave to fallen people to limit evil. Basically, Jesus said that God gave them divorce through Moses because their hearts were hard, but that was never God’s will in the first place. God’s will was reflected in creation when He created Adam and Eve to be married to each other. See But from the beginning of … the institution of marriage?
Paul also points back to the creation of Adam and Eve, and for him, it’s theologically significant that Adam was created first, then Eve, and this affects how the Church should be governed. While this passage is interpreted different ways by various theologians, it’s clear that Paul was referring back to the historical fact of the creation of Adam and Eve. See Does the Bible clearly teach monogamy?
Relationship with God
God created Adam and Eve in His image so that they could enjoy a relationship with Him. They had the capacity to worship Him and commune with Him. They were created completely without sin—they had the ability to conform to God’s standards perfectly. But they also had free will, so they were able to choose to disobey. This is important because any meaningful relationship would have needed the possibility of contrary choice.
What came first—-monotheism or polytheistic idolatry?
Today, many think that mankind started out worshipping many gods based on natural phenomena like the seasons, the sun, fertility cycles, and so on. This doesn’t come from evidence but from a presupposition that everything evolved, including religion. But the Bible teaches that mankind started out worshipping the one true God who created everything, and archaeological and ancient literary evidence actually supports this. See The origin of religion.
Adam and Eve were intelligent—they would have had to have an ‘instant lexicon’ so that they could understand God and each other. Adam was able to give appropriate names to all the animals God brought to him.
The evolutionary view doesn’t expect intelligence from early people, which may be the reason why they’re so surprised that ancient post-Flood civilizations were capable of feats such as the pyramids and Göbekli Tepe. But the Bible teaches that God created humanity intelligent—in only a few generations, Adam and Eve’s descendants figured out metallurgy and how to craft musical instruments.
What did Adam and Eve look like?
Many picture books make Adam and Eve blonde and fair-skinned, but when we consider that they were the ancestors of everyone who ever lived, it’s easy to see that they probably did not look like that. Instead, they had to have a combination of genes that could give rise to all the traits that we see in human beings today (except a few that arose through mutation in localized areas post-Babel)—from very dark Africans to very pale Norwegians, and everything in between. See Could Adam and Eve have given rise to all the ‘races’?
So most likely Adam and Eve had middle-brown skin, hair, and brown eyes. Just like the parents of the ‘two-tone twins’, they would have had the potential to have offspring both darker and lighter than themselves. And the genetic evidence matches what we would expect if we really were descended from two people only several thousand years ago.
The first couple was different from all people who would ever come after them in a couple of ways. First, they were created fully-grown; they were never babies and didn’t have to develop through childhood and adolescence. Because of this, they didn’t have navels—a navel is a scar where the umbilical cord attached while a person was in the womb. Adam and Eve never had umbilical cords, so they would not have had the scar from it.
And while they were in the Garden of Eden, they didn’t have to wear clothes. Genesis tells us that they were naked, but weren’t ashamed. Because there was no sin, there was no need for them to wear clothes. This also tells us that the climate was perfect for them, because they didn’t need clothes to protect them from cold, heat, or bad weather.
A perfect home
Adam and Eve lived in Eden, a garden filled with all sorts of fruit trees. It was their job to take care of the garden—an easy and pleasant task, and one that made sense, since they benefitted by being able to eat the fruit. And they enjoyed fellowship with God Himself. See Was the Garden of Eden a ‘sanctuary’ from a hostile outside world?
While there were many sorts of trees in the Garden, only two are specifically mentioned. The Tree of Life was connected to Adam and Eve’s continued immortality (see Genesis 3:22), but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden. They stood together in the middle of the garden.
Why the forbidden tree?
Why would God place a tree in the Garden of Eden only to forbid Adam to eat from it? There are several different arguments, but the most likely is that God gave a command that didn’t seem to make any immediate sense so that Adam could obey God out of his free will, and thus show his love for God by obedience. The other commands (to reproduce and to take care of the Garden) had obvious reasons behind them, while the tree’s fruit was attractive and seemingly good to eat.
So did God entrap Adam and Eve by placing a tree there? Not really, because He told Adam plainly that they were not to eat of it, and he told them the consequence for it would be death. Adam and Eve had the intellect to be able to understand the command and the consequences for disobedience, and they had the ability to obey, so it was not unjust either for God to forbid them from eating from the tree, or to punish them when they did.
Note that a commandment not to eat is unequivocal; it is not possible under normal circumstances to accidentally eat something. If God said ‘Don’t touch …’ (as per Eve’s later misstating of God’s words), it would be possible to accidentally transgress, but not when the command was ‘Don’t eat’. Eating the fruit would be a willful act of disobedience.
Adam and Eve were the first human sinners
Unfortunately, Adam and Eve weren’t in their perfect home for very long. The conditions for their continued stay there were very minimal, but it wasn’t long before they began to question God’s commands. The Bible teaches that the serpent, who was the craftiest of the creatures in Eden (and later revealed to actually be Satan; see Revelation 20:2), struck up a conversation with Eve one day, asking her if God had really said that they couldn’t eat from any of the trees. What a ridiculous command that would have been! Eve replied to the serpent that God had said that they could eat the fruit from the trees—just not from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She said that God had commanded not to even touch it, which was interestingly nowhere in the original command to Adam; perhaps Adam had told Eve not to even touch it. The serpent contradicted God’s warning, saying that she wouldn’t die—instead, something wonderful would happen—she would become just like God! He implied that God was depriving them of something good by keeping them from eating the fruit. All this seemed to make sense to Eve—the fruit looked good, and even the name of the tree sounded good—after all, isn’t knowledge about good and evil a good thing? So she disobeyed God and ate the fruit.
The text suggests that Adam was standing nearby for all of this, but he didn’t intervene. When Eve offered him some of the fruit, he ate it. Right away they began to experience the consequences—they realized they were naked, and it made them ashamed. They tried to make clothes out of fig leaves to cover themselves. Sin is why human beings wear clothes, and why nakedness is shameful; see for instance Genesis 9:21–23.
When God came to the Garden that day, they didn’t enjoy the fellowship that they had been intended for—instead they were afraid and hid. Sin had separated them from God.
Adam and Eve were the first to receive the Gospel
God pronounced judgments on the serpent, Eve, and Adam. Because of sin, the serpent would crawl on his belly and eat dust, Eve and all women after her would have pain in childbirth, and Adam and all of his descendants would experience painful toil on the earth until death.
But in the middle of these terrible pronouncements, there is a glimmer of hope. God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” He promised that a son (or male descendant) of Eve would claim victory over the serpent. See Eve’s offspring, the serpent, and his offspring—Part 1.
We know that Eve received this promise with faith, because of her pronouncement when she had her first son, Cain. Most English translations say, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” But literally, it reads, “I have gotten a man: Yahweh.” This would have been cryptic to early readers of Genesis, but from our New Testament perspective, we can guess that Eve had a very sophisticated theology! She knew that the one to gain victory over the serpent would be man and God. Of course, her theology was badly misapplied. But she applied her theology correctly when at the birth of her son Seth, she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” The use of “offspring” is the same as in God’s pronouncement in Genesis 3. She understood that Seth’s line would be the one from which the ultimate Offspring would come.