Funny, isn’t it, how people pick and choose what to take literally about the Bible’s account of creation and the early days of humankind? Take Al Mohler’s recent comments in opposition to theistic evolution.
“If we’re not all literally the descendants of Adam and Eve, then there’s no explanation of how Adam’s sin was imputed to us,” Mohler said.
This, of course, is the “seminal transmission” theory of original sin, which assumes, I suppose, that sin is something that gets imbedded in one’s DNA. (Would that the Human Genome Project could identify the “sin gene,” so we could rid ourselves of that curse!)
The belief we are all descended from Adam and Eve is the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding, and it would seem to be supported by other Scripture.
But if Mohler and other fundamentalists are going to insist on a literal understanding of Genesis, then, taking the account literally, we are NOT all descendents of Adam and Eve.
What do I mean?
After Cain kills Abel, and God pronounces a curse on Cain, Cain expresses fear that in his wandering the earth, “Whoever finds me will kill me” (Gen. 4:14).
A literal reading of the story to this point would suggest that Cain is one of only three humans in existence, the other two being his mom and dad!
The Lord would hardly need to “put a mark” on Cain as a way to say “hands off this one” unless there were a host of people already populating the earth.
And, of course, Gen. 4:17 shocks the literal reader in claiming that “Cain lay with his wife.” Where did his wife come from? There has been no mention of the birth of a daughter to anyone. Surely his wife is not his mother, the only female known to be in existence!
The only way to reconcile this literally, then, is to insist that after Adam and Eve, God created other creatures “from the dust” (that is by God’s own hand, not by human procreation), and that’s where the folks that threaten Cain’s life, as well as his wife, come from.
Thus all those folks and their descendants, presumably to this day, would NOT be descendents of Adam and Eve.
If Mohler is going to insist on a literal understanding of Genesis, he needs to reassess where the logical, literal reading leads.
Personally, I find these kinds of knotty problems further reason to reject a literal understanding of Genesis’ account of the origins of humanity. “Adam” is the Hebrew word for “man” or “humankind.”
In fact, Genesis 5 literally says: “[God] created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘Adam.'”
This would seem to support the idea that the “Adam” of the story of the Fall is representative of all humanity, and not a literal, male, historical figure.
Steve McGlamery is associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Hawkinsville, Ga.