There is a debate amongst Christians on whether Adam and Eve were the first two human beings. This debate goes across liberal Christians lines and enters into the conservative Christian camp aswell. I’ll try to highlight the arguments presented for the notion that Adam was the first human being.
This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. 3 And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters. 5 So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.
1 Chronicles 1:1-7
1 Adam, Seth, Enosh, 2 Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, 3 Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, 4 Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
5 The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 6 The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Diphath, and Togarmah. 7 The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshishah, Kittim, and Rodanim.
37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
An issue that arises with appeals to Biblical genealogies is that a fair amount of evidence is usually provided that they are open. That the authors select specific individuals for specific reasons. That doesn’t mean we can arbitrarily posit that a pre-adamite race of men existed. It very well may be the case that Adam is highlighted first in the genealogy because he is the first man. It is also very difficult to see where on an evolutionary view of history the Biblical account meshes together.
Some think that the book of Genesis is a book that starts off with the origins of the world. If that is the correct understanding for the first 11 chapters of the book then it seems fitting that the first humans are mentioned.
This argument is only persuasive as far as the person accepts that Genesis has elements of a historical narrative.
3. Image of God
Another issue that this is tied up with is the image of God. A biblical theme is that we are created with God image and God’s image is passed from Adam to his progeny.
1 Cor. 11:6-12
6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
We also looked at Gen. 5:1-5 and noticed that the image of God is passed from Adam to his wife and then to his progeny. The very idea that women possess the image of God is based on the fact that Eve received it from Adam. This argument tied in with the genealogy argument is much stronger. If humans existed prior to Adam, then it is difficult to see the biblical warrant is that those individuals were moral beings. Take capital punishment:
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.
The very reason someone is to be put to death is that they bear God’s image. They have moral standing because they possess the Divine image. That is what Adam passes to his progeny. How do these individuals outside the line of Adam possess the image of God? The person that rejects Adam’s priority as the first human being needs to make an ad hoc move by positing another unspoken about creation events where God passed his image to other humans. This also makes the Pauline appeal to Adam and Eve as unnecessary. If God just created various humans(or if they gradually evolved) with the image of God apart from Adam and Eve, then why is the fact that Adam passed his image to Eve and his children significant?
A biblical theme is the theme of restoration. The Bible teaches that God will reverse the effects of the fall and return us to a state like the Eden. The notion behind such a doctrine seems to be that God’s original creation was good and thus God is returning us to something like that state(Phil. 3:20-21, Rom. 8:28-30, 2 Cor. 3:18). The theme in 1 Cor. 15 is that Christ did what we could not(including Adam). Christ is the last Adam in the sense that he did what the first couldn’t do.
“Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.”
I take this verse to be also referring to man’s initial creation. I’m not alone on that notion. As one commentator states:
The word Only that begins the verse heightens the importance of the concluding discovery. This is because it is the principle that lies behind the previous points he has made. Why is woman more bitter than death (v. 26)? Why could he not find a woman and only a single man out of a thousand (v. 28)? The answer in the present verse is that, though God made the human race upright, they have all gone astray. The verse is an obvious reflection on the first few chapters of Genesis,142 though the vocabulary is different. For instance, as God completed his acts of creation, including the creation of humanity, he pronounced the results “very good”; there were no problems with the work of his hands. This, I would argue, relates to Qohelet’s statement that humanity was created “upright,” and the connection with the creation lends strong support to the usual understanding that upright here is a moral and not an intellectual characteristic.143 However, while God created humanity without moral blemish, men and women sought out many devices (bigsu hissebonot rabbim). We hear in this phrase verbal echoes that remind us of Genesis 6:5: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” The italicized word is related to the word translated devices here in Ecclesiastes in that both are words formed from the verbal root hsb (“to think, to calculate”). The form of the word in Ecclesiastes does present some difficulties, however. It is a plural form of the word that appears twice in this context (vv. 25 and 27), but not with the same meaning that those contexts demand, “sum of things.” Here there is an obvious contrast with upright, which determines the morally negative tone of the word. This is confirmed by the versions (see Septuagint logismous pollous “many arguments,” and Vulgate infinitis quaestionibus “infinite questionings”). Otherwise, it appears that these contexts (further including 2 Chron. 26:15) have in common only the verbal root “to think, calculate.”
Tremper Longman. The Book of Ecclesiastes (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) (Kindle Locations 3825-3840). Kindle Edition.
If the pre-adamite race of humans suffered death and committed sins, then it is hard to see how they are created initially upright. In an evolutionary timeline, humans would be murdering and raping each other prior to Adam in the garden. The theme of restoration seems to presuppose that Adam was originally good and was the original man.
Another example of this Archetype nature that Adam and Eve have is in reference to marriage. Paul’s case in Romans 1 makes allusions to it as being God’s original creation and design(contra the homosexual Christian movement). Jesus grounds his notion of proper sexual relations in the Genesis account:
6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.9 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
10 In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. 11 So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.
3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said,‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Jesus grounds his understanding of marriage in Adam and Eve. But it is hardly realistic to think humans prior to Adam and Eve was fine to be sexually immoral. The point is that marriage is grounded in God’s design plan that started with Adam and Eve.
5. Original Sin
This takes us back to Genesis for a moment. When Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from Eden they were not allowed to return. Why was this the case? We have no reason to speculate about the question because the text(Gen. 3) gives an answer:
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Adam and Eve are sent out of the garden to suffer the consequences they brought on themselves and their descendants. Another reason the text emphasizes the fact that Adam was created from the dust of the earth and so that is where he will return(vs. 17-19). This is again teaching that physical death of mankind is a ramification of the fall. This now takes us to the most important text regarding Original Sin. Romans 5:12-19:
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
1 Cor. 15:20-23
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
I agree with Pauline scholar Dr. Thomas Schreiner on the teaching of Rom. 5:12-19:
The interpretation of 5: 12 plunges us into a thicket of difficulties, but the first part of the verse is clear, setting the stage for all that follows. Paul asserts that sin entered the world through one man (cf. 1 Cor. 15: 21– 22), and he clearly refers to Adam’s sin in the garden (Gen. 3: 6). The word κόσμον (kosmon, world) focuses on humanity here instead of the natural world (Schnabel 2015: 553). Death (θάνατος, thanatos) is not perceived as a natural result of living in the world. Instead, it became a reality “through sin” (διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας, dia tēs hamartias). Adam died when he sinned, for upon sinning, he was immediately separated from God. Adam’s hiding from God and his expulsion from the garden signal his spiritual separation from God. Some scholars have restricted death here to physical death (Sanday and Headlam 1902: 132– 33; Murray 1959: 181– 82; Ziesler 1989: 145), but such a limitation should be rejected, for the context clarifies that death is both spiritual and physical (cf. Beker 1980:1959: 181– 82; Ziesler 1989: 145), but such a limitation should be rejected, for the context clarifies that death is both spiritual and physical (cf. Beker 1980: 224; Lohse 2003: 174). 5 The death introduced by Adam is conjoined with “condemnation” (vv. 16, 18), and it is also contrasted with “eternal life” (v. 21). Thus it can hardly be restricted to physical death. 6 Physical death and spiritual death can’t ultimately be separated, since the former is the culmination and outworking of the latter.
Schreiner, Thomas R.. Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (pp. 526-527). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,
In ancient times people didn’t think they had a common origin. They often would associate groups as descending from other deities. Humans shared no common source of origins. Paul polemically challenges that notion by referring back to Genesis:
Contrary to the Athenians’ boast that they had originated from the soil of their Attic homeland and therefore were not like other men, Paul affirms the oneness of all people in their creation by one God and their descent from a common ancestor. And contrary to the primitive “deism” that permeated the philosophies of the day, he proclaimed that this God has determined specific times (prostetagmenous kairous) for humanity and “the exact places where they should live” (tas horothesias tēs katoikias, lit., “the boundaries of their habitation”), so that men and women “would seek him … and find him” (v. 27).
Longenecker, Richard N.. Acts (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary) (Kindle Locations 10387-10391). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
The reference to Adam is intended to show that all people have their roots in the Creator God. Indeed, humanity is to seek God. Johnson (1992: 315–16) notes a similar argument in Philo, Spec. Laws 1.6–7 §§32–40, especially 1.7 §36: “Nothing is better than to seek the true God.” This affirmation would be hard for the Athenians, who prided themselves in being a superior people, calling others barbarians.
Bock, Darrell L.. Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 12429-12432). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.