The Generations of Heaven and Earth

Adam, the Ancient World, and Biblical Theology


1. Mainstream science: a copper-age Adam could have been our universal ancestor.

One of the intriguing new discoveries in population genetics is that humanity’s most recent genealogical common ancestor may have lived as recently as 2,000 years ago. Also, surprisingly, anyone living a couple of millennia earlier who has left any descendants is likely to be a universal common ancestor. This means that an Adam in historical times could have been, as the Bible describes, the progenitor of everyone alive today, without denying any of science’s discoveries.

2. Adam was intended as the first bearer of the new, spiritual creation.

If such a historically grounded Adam lived, then the writer of Genesis probably knew there were other humans in the world at the time of Adam, and wrote about him because he was special, not because he was alone. There are many indications in the Bible not only of these other people, but of an  Adam and Eve called, or created, to initiate a new kind of divine intimacy and rule on their behalf. Their seduction by the serpent set in train the whole divine drama to right the wrong and to usher in the new age.

3. Ethnology suggests that man before Adam, created in God’s image, may have worshipped the true God by nature, but remotely. 

A major, but often neglected strand of ethnology suggests that the earliest religion was the worship of a supreme God, so people outside the garden might have been created in God’s image, with a natural sense of a distant God. This thought focuses attention on what was unique about Adam and Eve, clarifying the intentions of the biblical narrative, whilst establishing a truly dignified role for humankind before Adam in the “good creation” of Genesis 1. The old was good… the new will be better.

4. The Bible describes two kinds of temple, corresponding to the old and new creations.

Recent OT scholarship has emphasized the temple-imagery in both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, and as an ongoing theme throughout the Bible. But doubts often center on inconsistencies in this imagery. By drawing a clear contrast between the old and new creations even in Genesis these difficulties are resolved, tracing how two patterns of temple are described through the Bible: the three-part, hierarchical sanctuary of Genesis 1 and the old, physical, creation; and the open sanctuary of the garden of Eden, modeling the new, spiritual, creation.

5. The entire Bible can be seen as the unfolding drama of the new creation.

All these themes come together to inform a biblical theology responding to the work of recent scholars like John Sailhamer, Greg Beale, Seth Postell and Kevin Chen. The whole Bible may now be seen as Messianic in character, Jesus Christ being the resolution to the thwarting of the new creation, by the serpent and sinful Adam, which we read about in Genesis 2—3. Not only is the Bible the grand narrative of truly human history, but because of the “Genealogical Adam” paradigm, it is a narrative that can sit within the real history of the world shared by all mankind through the various sciences.

Five points of consideration

by Jon Garvey

by Jon Garvey

Born in Guildford, England, Jon Garvey studied Medicine at Pembroke College, Cambridge University. Since 2011 his blog, The Hump of the Camel, has explored the theology of creation, attracting an extensive readership across the world, and in January 2019 Cascade published his first book, God’s Good Earth. He lives in southwest England, is married with three adult children and five granddaughters, is a Baptist elder, and plays guitar and saxophone semi-professionally.

Now available from Cascade Books:

The Generations of Heaven and Earth