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Neandertal-Human Hybrids:

Old earth apologetics gone real bad

by

Published: 19 July 2016 (GMT+10)
wikipedia.org neandertal-man
Reconstruction of the head of the Shanidar 1 fossil, a Neanderthal male.

Recently on Twitter, I had a back and forth with a Reasons to Believe apologist. Our exchange began after I tweeted the following comment in response to another apologetic tweet, “Let’s talk about Hugh Ross & his pre-Adamic man theory. You apologetic folks ignore its problems.”

The next day, the Reasons to Believe apologist tweeted to me the following response, “Brother at RTB we do not believe in PreAdamic humans. Adam was the 1st human & specially created.”

Now in fairness, he is absolutely correct. I had mis-tweeted, as it were. Technically, Ross, and RTB apologists, argue that there were soulless hominids that pre-dated the creation of Adam. Those hominids were a lot like modern man, but they lacked the image of God that Adam and all his descendants have. They were animals, much like a higher functioning version of the great apes.

None the less, I responded by asking him the following question, “Are Neanderthals human beings, then?”

A little bit of background is in order to explain my question.


Neandertals and the Bible

More and more every year, researchers are inadvertently proving what biblical, young earth creationists have always maintained: that Neandertals are an extinct group of people that lived shortly after Noah’s flood and the Tower of Babel incident and eventually died out. In fact, the very day my RTB Twitter protagonist and I were sparring back and forth about Neandertals, researchers reported uncovering some underground structures in France probably built by Neandertals. That discovery demonstrates that they were much more than highfunctioning great apes. An evolutionary report states:

Archaeological evidence now suggests they were capable of symbolic thought, had a basic knowledge of chemistry, medicine and cooking, and perhaps some capacity for speech.1

However, while RTB rightly rejects the evolutionary interpretation of the so-called ‘science,’ they still persist in their commitment to the conclusions of the data, insisting that Neandertals were non-human animals. That commitment to the non-human aspect of Neandertals has led them to advance a rather strange, a-theological, and unbiblical apologetic that touches the doctrine of Adam’s sin.

Along with discovering Neandertal artifacts, researchers have also identified that Neandertals interbred with modern humans.2 Neandertal DNA is identifiable in all modern people groups living today outside of Africa.3 Evolutionary propagandists claim it shows that Neandertals interbred with another group of humans who had more recently left Africa. Creationists have always said it merely proves Neandertals were humans all along, descended from Adam and Eve.

Neandertals vs old-earth compromisers

The fact that Neandertals interbred with modern humans (according to the secular evolutionary view) is a major problem for the RTB ‘biblical model’ that has been developed by Hugh Ross and Fuz Rana to explain hominid fossils and other early man-like creatures. As far back as 2004, when DNA research was just beginning with Neandertals and there was no specific proof yet of the so-called Neandertal-modern human interbreeding, Fuz Rana wrote this for the RTB blog:

Despite compelling evidence, a minority of paleoanthropologists still believe (as do some Christians) that Neandertals made a genetic contribution to modern humans through interbreeding. If Neandertals interbred with modern humans, then by definition, they must be human.(Emphasis added).4

A person would think that once it was discovered that Neandertals and modern humans interbred, RTB would modify, or even better, entirely retool, their model and apologetic talking points. I mean, RTB apologists insist that they want to acknowledge the clear evidence of ‘the 67th book of the Bible’, right? Nope. They dug in.

I recall vividly back in 2010 a Stand to Reason podcast5 on which Fuz Rana discussed with Greg Koukl the biblical worldview (well, the RTB ‘biblical’ worldview) of how Christians can explain the genetic interbreeding evidence. He appealed to bestiality, and explained that the abomination of Leviticus 18 regarding bestiality may possibly have had in mind the previous interbreeding of humankind with Neandertals.

I was stunned. Seriously? I couldn’t believe what was coming out of my earbuds. As of last year, their stance has remained pretty much the same. If you go to RTB’s website and search for “Neandertals,” the top link to pop up is a 30 minute podcast Rana did explaining the RTB position on them.6 Again, he pushed the interbreeding/bestiality angle.

My twitter opponent responded to my question with the same line of argumentation, “The RTB model says no. A creature yes but not human, not made in God’s image.” He tweeted again stating, “We believe they were animals and not ancestral to humans.” He further explained in a later tweet that Neandertals are similar enough to humans that they could reproduce together, but that the mating itself would be considered sinful.

Major problems with old-earth compromise

Here is where I have a serious problem with the RTB apologetic for Neandertals. That view has major theological ramifications against the imputation of Adam’s sin, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and what it means to be a person created in God’s image. Allow me to outline four thoughts regarding the problems with their Neandertal apologetic:

First, the Genesis account clearly states that when God created the sea creatures, birds, and land animals, He did so “after their kinds,” Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, and 25. In other words, God created abundant and diverse creatures to fill the earth, and it is implied that when they reproduce, they do so “after their kind.” Meaning, animals can only reproduce with other similar animals “after their kind.”

The general point that Genesis records is that like animals reproduce with like animals, say for instance, a female horse plus male donkey equals mule. The fact that they interbreed at all (despite the offspring normally being sterile) shows that they are part of the same kind. When two separate species (like wolf and coyote, or cattle and buffalo) are able to produce continually fertile offspring, the evidence that they are the same original kind is even more definitive.7 God has set a genetic boundary, as it were, upon the creatures He made. So sharks for example, will not reproduce with dolphins, or wolves with badgers, or human beings with chimps, or any high functioning great ape. It doesn’t matter if there is similar DNA, we are not the same biological ‘kind’ as a chimp or orangutan.

Contrary to my twitter opponent, if Neandertals are similar enough so that they and humans can mate and produce children, who can go on to produce more children, and so on, they are of the same kind, meaning, human beings, descended from Adam and bearing the image of God. Note, as cited above, that Rana himself back in 2004 when he originally wrote on the idea of Neandertal interbreeding with human beings, acknowledged as much when he stated that if proof of interbreeding were to come forth, then Neandertals “must be human”. His words.

Second, given RTB’s adoption of secular time tables for Neandertals living on the earth for roughly 5,000 years with modern man some 40,000 years ago, why would it be sinful for human beings at that time to mate with them? Seriously. The prohibition against bestiality is given to Israel as they entered the land of Canaan. That is only 3,000 years ago, long past when Neandertals coexisted with modern humans according to old earth timescales. God specifically condemned Canaanite false worship practices, the participation of bestiality being one of those practices. Would bestiality with Neandertals even enter their minds when Moses gave that prohibition?

Third, if the RTB model is true, and at some point in the past modern human beings bred with Neandertals, a profound theological difficulty emerges. Human beings, according to Scripture, inherit Adam’s sin and guilt from his disobedience in the garden. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:18 goes on to state, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

All of Adam’s progeny has his sin imputed to them, and by “all” I mean the entire human race, consisting of every human being who has ever lived. Where exactly does that leave the first generation Neandertal/human hybrid offspring? Is that human-Neandertal baby identified with Adam’s sin? As that old Puritan grammar book, the New England Primer, states:

In ADAM’S Fall
We sinned all.

Is that offspring part of the fallen human race in need of redemption? Or is it excused because it is half man, half animal?

That would also raise the question as to when the offspring actually began to be identified with Adam’s sin. Meaning, when the half-man, half-Neandertal mates with another human, will that Neandertal-man offspring with the quarter-Neandertal blood now be considered guilty of Adam’s sin? Or does the “Neandertal” have to be bred out sufficiently before the person is an actual person and has Adam’s sin imputed to him?

And fourth, the most serious theological consequence with RTB’s view of Neandertal-human hybrids is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, again see Romans 5:17–19, as well as 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ could impute to His people His righteousness because He is our kinsman-redeemer, a concept initially pictured for us in the book of Ruth, then prophesied in Isaiah 59:20, and expanded upon in the New Testament in Galatians 4:4, Philippians 2:7–10, and Hebrews 4:14–18. He is a kinsman in that when he took on humanity, He is now considered our ‘next of kin.’ He has the judicial authority both as a human man and a perfect law keeper to be our substitute in our place before God.

The problem is that no Neandertal-human hybrid could ever have Christ’s righteousness, because it would be an animal and not human. In short, given RTB’s view of Neandertals, if they reproduced with human beings descended from Adam, the offspring could not be saved. Of course, that is assuming they are considered “in Adam” to begin with.

Conclusion

The reason I am even addressing the subject is that Reasons to Believe and their old earth apologetic is oftentimes the default, go-to resource for creation/evolution issues among the neo-apologetic ministries and blogger groups I encounter on the internet and social media. Many of them link and promote the OEC position of RTB because they have been told they are the reasonable ones when defending Genesis and the creation narrative. They don’t put unnecessary stumbling blocks before unbelievers like telling them they have to believe God created the world miraculously in 6 earth-rotation days as Genesis teaches.

Yet in their efforts to appear reasonable before the world, as noble as they may be, a central, core doctrine of the Christian faith is profoundly and adversely affected. Now RTB claims that is not the case at all, and in point of fact, would probably say I am blowing their views of Neandertal-human hybrids way out of proportion. But given what the Bible clearly states about the imputation of Adam, the work of Christ, and that God has so ordered His creation so that animal kinds cannot reproduce with other animal kinds, the RTB Neandertal hybrid apologetic is not just a strange view, but comes perilously close to being, if not already, describable as heretical.

Related Articles

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. Barras, C., Neanderthals built mystery underground circles 175,000 years ago, 25 May 2016, newscientist.com. Return to text.
  2. Gibbons, A., Close encounters of the prehistoric kind, Science 328:680–684, 2010. Return to text.
  3. Carter, R.W., Neandertal genome like ours: (There may be Neandertals at your next family reunion!), creation.com/neandergenes, 1 June 2010. Return to text.
  4. Rana, F., Did Neanderthals and humans interbreed?, reasons.org, 1 April 2004. Return to text.
  5. Fuz Rana—Implications of Neanderthal DNA in human DNA, Stand to Reason, str.org, 16 May 2010. Return to text.
  6. Did Neanderthals Interbreed with Humans in Europe? reasons.org, accessed 13 June 2016. Return to text.
  7. Batten, D., Ligers and wholphins? What next? Crazy mixed-up animals … what do they tell us? They seem to defy man-made classification systems—but what about the created ‘kinds’ in Genesis? Creation 22(3):28–33, 2000; creation.com/ligers. Return to text.

Ken E. wrote: “I just wanted to drop a note to express my gratitude for the kind of information you supply at the CMI web-site. I love science and find it thrilling to see how it may be used to glorify God and build faith in Him.” Glorify God in His creation. Support this site

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Readers’ comments
Corey B., Australia, 23 July 2016

re Stanley L, I remember reading, or being taught in church, I'm not exactly sure, but Angels cannot interbreed with humans. Angels are made for a specific purpose and reproduction is certainly not one of those. This is one reason why we are made in the image of god, we can reproduce, and the angels can't. Most likely one of the reasons why Satan hates us so much. (Apart from the fact that God loves us of course)

Jonathan Sarfati responds

They certainly were not meant to, but see The return of the Nephilim? and The Genesis Account, ch. 16.

Philip S., United Kingdom, 22 July 2016

According to research by Oxford University, in southern Spain, bones by themselves do not reveal DNA, but in two very cold mountainous locations, collagen was preserved, and revealed DNA, showing with radiocarbon dating, there was intermingling of humans and Neanderthals for a period of about 4,000 years until Neanderthals died out more than 28,000 years ago. Some modern humans have not more than 5% Neanderthal DNA in them. You will not need a DNA test to get into the kingdom of heaven!

Jonathan Sarfati responds

Bone tissue is a composite material comprising mineral and organic material: hydroxyapatite and collagen. See for example Bone building: perfect protein. Of course, we don't believe the 28,000 years, while Ross does, which is a problem to reconcile with the biblical date of Adam.

Anil G., Australia, 22 July 2016

I read a stunning book by an orthodontist who argued that if a human was to live to a very long age, like Noah and his immediate descendants, even just chewing for that long will increase bone growth at the brow due to stress patterns and make them very heavy browed.

Others report further [link deleted per feedback rules]

Whereas everybody else merely examined the Neanderthal skulls as they were at a point in time, Cuozzo looked at the skulls (using X-rays) as changing continuously from the moment of birth right on through to death. He had come to some radical conclusions: Neanderthals were ancient people who had developed their unique morphological characteristics (appearance) because they lived to an age of several hundred years.

There are very few Neanderthal remains found, aren't there? Consistent again with this interpretation.

Jonathan Sarfati responds

We have known about this idea for a long time. We have Dr Cuozzo's bio on our site, and have pubslished some of his material. But CMI agrees with Dr Peter Line who wrote in his paper Explaining robust humans, J. Creation 27(3)64–71, 2013:

As distinct from Cuozzo, I believe that the key features of the Neandertal morphology arose (influenced to varying degrees by environmental factors) during the developmental process, and not during the aging process. If it was due to the aging process, every Neandertal fossil discovered must, by default, have lived hundreds of years, which is unlikely; especially when some of the bony characteristics that distinguish these robust humans from moderns are already present in Neandertal specimens that are obviously still a long way from attaining adulthood, however long that may have taken.

However, if the characteristic Neandertal features were chiefly the result of development processes (genetically linked to greater longevity factors), then some of the Neandertal fossils could be of individuals with the potential to live hundreds of years, and as such built robustly, but who died at a relatively young age. Such a proposal would also account for the presence of these features in Neandertal children.

It should also be pointed out that in Cuozzo’s view, specimens attributed to H. erectus are regarded as apes. This is at odds with my position that they were fully human. Note that robust humans did not necessarily live longer, as in the case of Neandertals; many of them appear to have died early, often from injury, but not usually from causes associated with old age. According to paleoanthropologist and Neandertal expert Chris Stringer, “the Neanderthals suffered many bodily injuries”, and dying at the age of about forty was “a very respectable age for a Neanderthal”.

Stanley L., United States, 20 July 2016

I think my comment got a little misunderstood. First off I don't believe the so-called ‘hominids’ were human and capable of interbreeding with man, unless, of course, a few of them were pre-flood humans of a disastrous breeding scheme on the part of fallen angels and men. I won’t go into details but a society so utterly turned away from God with the kind of sophistication of technology some of the evidence around the globe seems to indicate they had wouldn’t have thought twice about fiddling around with the very DNA of humans for their own twisted purposes. That would certainly fit what the Bible tells us about the state of their minds at the time. We’re seeing men headed that way right now.

I am curious, though, about the basis on which you state the age of the strata you say the Neanderthal fossils were found in, that they are post flood? Mind you, I simply want to know how you reach that conclusion. I am of the view that mankind has the 6,000 year history attributed to it in the Bible and that the deluge was global. So I’m not really interest in disproving your theory so much as understanding its basis. Any questions asked will be for that purpose and no more.

Jonathan Sarfati responds

For the first part, I have previously advised against overstating antediluvian technology, because the civilization lacked the world view necessary for science—see Computers on the Ark?

As for the second part, many of the Neandertal skeletons were clearly buried by humans, not formed in the Flood. Others are found in caves, which would not have survived the Flood, and neither would their elaborate paintings on cave walls. Rather, caves were the result of the Flood. Also, they were from the Ice Age, which was an aftermath of the Flood, as explained in What about the Ice Age? from the Creation Answers Book.

Stanley L., United States, 20 July 2016

My thoughts about the Neandertals and the other recently found group is that they may well have been pre-flood humans and that we inherited their genes perhaps through Japheth’s wife since they seem to appear in populations which can be traced back to him. I have other thoughts about them which I’ll leave unsaid because of the limit on words. However, while I do accept the possibility of pre-human ‘hominids’ with many humanlike traits, I do firmly believe that Adam was a direct creation and the first human created in the image of God.

Jonathan Sarfati responds

They can’t be pre-Flood humans because we find their fossils only in post-Flood rocks. And the main point is that if any ‘hominids’ could interbreed with undoubted humans, than these hominids must by definition be part of the human kind. This in turn means that they are Adam's descendants.

Fraser M., Canada, 20 July 2016

Way to go CMI. So glad I am signed up to receive your articles.

I enjoy your many writers who have the abilities to look clearly and precisely into God's Word and trust it to mean exactly what it says. God would have had it written differently if it were to mean something else. Anything other than taking the Word of God at face value and believing it is wrong thinking. Satan uses the same old tactic to fool and make fools of even intelligent people if they start doubting God's Word and trying to add , subtract or alter it in any way. God knows what he is doing and we have to quit trying to reason other wise. We just allow ourselves to get full of pride with our own contrary thoughts or ones inspired by Satan's influence.

Who do we think we are ? Seriously, how absolutely foolish of us to think that God doesn't mean what he says or isn't capable of carrying out what He says.

What arrogance on our part to try to prove wrong the Creator of the Whole Spiritual Realm and the Physical Universe. To say there was long time , or something different or a twist on Creation Week that would allow for some thing more than He has said. Have we no healthy fear of God. Go ahead and walk up to your employer and call him a liar and spit in his face or a Prime Minister , President or King of an earthly country and see what response you get. Would you dare. Would not people call you a fool for doing it and yet this is the same foolishness that we are trying to do to "God All Mighty". Thank Him that He is long suffering and if we have the sense and wisdom that we may humbly repent for such out right blasphemy.

God please open our eyes and hearts so that we may repent of such foolishness and receive Your Grace and Forgiveness before it is too late.

Rob H., United States, 19 July 2016

Great article! It exposes most of the obvious theological weaknesses of the Old Earth Creation theory as it relates to the supposed existence of pre-Adamite Neanderthals. The one that immediately strikes me, though, is since death did not enter into the creation until sin, and sin through Adam, how do those that accept that view deal with the death of Neanderthals prior to the Fall? A Christian that believes the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, in this case as you noted, Romans 5:12, cannot logically overlook this reality. They would have to believe that there was death in the “very good” creation prior to Adam’s sin, which is a direct contradiction to the Scripture.

Fred Butler responds

As I understand RTB position, they don’t believe animal death is the same as human death. Adam’s death simply has the idea of separation from God. In fact, animal death is a necessary and good part to God’s creation in helping God’s creation thrive. Seeing that they believe Neanderthals are soulless hominids, they were in fact animals, and there is thus no problem with them dying before Adam’s sin.

phil S., United Kingdom, 19 July 2016

You said that Neandertals lived after the flood. Was that through Shem, Ham, or Japheth, or another son of Noah? They could not have existed otherwise as all life on earth died in the flood, except the human and animals in the Ark, or were they in the ark with Noah? They could not have existed otherwise as God had completed His creation on day 6.

Jonathan Sarfati responds

The point is that the Neandertals were human, and lived during the Ice Age, and away from Mesopotamia. So they must have been descendants of Noah, through at least one of his three sons, who dispersed after the Babel division of languages. There were no other sons of Noah who existed after the Flood. As I explain in my Genesis 1–11 commentary, The Genesis Account:

Before the events narrated [in Genesis 9:18–19], God had made a covenant with Noah, his sons, and all their descendants. Here, these three sons are named, the first time since they boarded the Ark (Genesis 7:13). The mention of their names in Genesis 9:18 is not superfluous. Rather, it demonstrates that all humanity is descended from these three sons, and only them. It rules out any other sons that Noah might have borne after the Flood.

Now consider what would happen to those groups isolated from any knowledge of building houses or smelting metal for tools. They may well find that the easiest house to live in is one that already exists in the ground—a cave. And the hardest obtainable material for tools would be stone. But just because they lost knowledge, it doesn’t follow that they were any less intelligent.

Robert D., United Kingdom, 19 July 2016

Perhaps an invitation to RTB to respond on this page would be a good idea? I can’t help but feel that would only clarify the need to “stay firm on our foundation.” The moment you leave the clear teaching of Scripture, you don't half end up in some odd places. …

Jonathan Sarfati responds

RTB never consults informed biblical (‘young-earth’) creationists before publishing their mendacious hit-pieces, e.g. accusing us of believing in super-fast evolution. See Trilobites on the Ark? Hugh Ross’s latest bungles on the created kinds, as well as this response to one Kenneth Keathley knocking down that straw man, Yet another old-earther accuses a creationist of believing in evolution.

But a while back, we published an exchange between RTB’s Dr Rana and CMI’s Dr Wieland, ‘Factual errors and distortions’ about early humans? (2003) But as you can see from the above article, Rana and RTB have failed to heed the admonition, “When you’re stuck in a hole, stop digging deeper.” ;)

gabriel S., South Africa, 19 July 2016

Dear Fred,

First off, thank you for the article and thank you for the use of Scripture to cement your argument. Truly, without the backing of our thoughts with His Word, they are but vanity [Psalm 94:11].

Indeed, the last word of your article is the summation of any non-biblical conjecture, heretical.

Be it about the age of the cosmos or the hypothesis of 'Neanderthalers' [note: thal, from German Thal, valley. Homo neanderthalensis—even Wikipedia has it wrong].

It is true of man in Sin and thus only ‘natural’ that he would fit the pattern God ordained:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. [Romans 1:21–23]

I presume the natural man would like to fit the ‘Neanderthals’ into the latter group in his endeavour to make sense of Creation apart from Christ Jesus—truly an impossible task!

Jonathan Sarfati responds

In Refuting Compromise, I explain:

Neandertal Man

This is the most famous ‘ape man’. The name comes from Germany’s Neander Valley (Tal is the German for valley) where the first specimen was discovered in 1856. The valley was named after the 17th-century minister Joachim Neumann, who used to walk in it, but after his pseudonym, Neander, the Greek translation of his name, which means ‘new man’. When it was first discovered, the old German spelling Thal was in use, although pronounced ‘Tal’, but in 1904, German spelling was modernized to become more phonetic, so ‘Neanderthal’ became ‘Neandertal’. This is why the official scientific name must still be Homo sapiens neanderthalensis (if regarded as a subspecies—simply meaning a particular group—of Homo sapiens, as I do), or Homo neanderthalensis (if regarded as a different species), because the spelling at the time of the naming must be retained.

But even today, some experts use ‘Neanderthal’ and others use ‘Neandertal’, and even the pronunciation in English is divided between those who pronounce it with an English th and those who use the t pronunciation.

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