Last summer, I wrote a review of Dr. Collins’ book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? in which I addressed my concerns over what Dr. Collins’ calls his “mere Adam-and-Eve-ism” approach to the question of the historical Adam. Dr. Collins’ basic premise is that there is a core of beliefs that must be maintained in regards to Adam: Adam must be an actual, historical person; Adam must be the progenitor of all mankind; and there must have been an actual fall. Dr. Collins does not believe that the specifics of how God created Adam are important. Therefore, if one wants to believe that Adam and Eve were hominids, or even a group of hominids, whose bodies were the product of evolution, that can still fit within Dr. Collins’ formula.
When I published my review last summer, Dr. Collins took issue with it writing that I just didn’t understand his point at all. Interestingly, Dr. Richard Belcher, an Old Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, has written a review of Dr. Collins’ book over at Reformation 21 that shares my concerns. Here is an excerpt from that review:
The way Collins defines the traditional view is problematic because he omits from the discussion the very text that is at the heart of the debate. He explicitly says that how God created Adam in Genesis 2 is outside the purview of his analysis and that the origin of the material for Adam’s body is not going to be addressed (p. 13). In other words, he bypasses an exegesis of Genesis 2:7, the main text that should be at the center of this discussion. By narrowly defining the traditional view he opens the discussion to other scenarios of how God could have set apart Adam and Eve. The traditional view, however, should include not just the historicity of Adam and Eve and the immediate special creation of Adam and Eve, but also the traditional understanding of Genesis 2:7, which is that God took soil from the ground and made Adam from it.
The basis for Collins approach is rooted in the way he thinks the Bible should be read. He wants to approach the Bible from a literary point of view that stresses rhetorical and figurative language. He defines history as signifying that the author wants the audience to believe that the events that were recorded really happened. However, he so stresses the figurative aspect of the literary approach that he actually says that the Bible should be understood as non-literal, pictorial, and symbolic (pp. 17, 20, 31). He even says that what we are left with in Genesis 1-11 is an historical core (p. 35). This allows him to move away from clear statements in the Bible concerning the formation of Adam in Genesis 2 and to entertain other scenarios. In fact, there are several places where he warns against a literal reading of the Bible (pp. 58, 85, 92, 124). Thus, we cannot be sure of the exact details of the process by which Adam’s body was formed, or whether the two trees in the garden were actual trees, or whether the Evil One’s mouthpiece was a talking snake (p. 66)
The payoff to Collins’ approach comes when he analyzes different scenarios of how Adam and Eve may have been set apart as the first couple. Although Collins is critical of many of the scenarios he presents, he also allows the possibility that views that favor population size approaches based on evidence from human DNA are acceptable. In other words, instead of thinking of Adam and Eve as the first couple, some want to think of groups of human beings, or even groups of hominids, that existed from which God chose two individuals to set apart as Adam and Eve. Collins notes that in order to maintain good sense, such a view should envision these humans as a single tribe with Adam being the chieftain of the tribe (p. 121). He is quoted in a recent Christianity Today article on “The Search for the Historical Adam” in the following way: “‘If genetics eventually forces reconsideration,’ Collins remarks, ‘he could perhaps reconceive of Adam and Eve as ‘the king and queen of a larger population’ and thereby preserve Genesis’ historicity.’” (1)
Although Collins is trying to maintain sound thinking, the acceptance of groups of humans from which Adam comes has implications for the place of Adam in relationship to the human race. It is hard to know how to conceive of these other human beings who existed with Adam. Genesis 2:7 says that when God breathed into Adam the breath of life “the man became a living creature.” But were there other living creatures already in existence? If so, then what God does with the first man does not seem all that special. The implication of Genesis 2:7 is that this act of God sets apart the first man. Paul agrees when he states, “The first man became a living being” (1 Cor. 15:45). If there are other groups of humans around then how can Adam be the first man? Genesis 2:18-20 states that no helper of Adam’s kind was found, which led to the creation of Eve. Scripture presents Adam as the first man from whom all other human beings descend.
You can read the rest of the review here. It’s worth the read.