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The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins

, 2012
ISBN: 9781441257390



Can Christianity and evolution coexist? Traditional Christian teaching presents Jesus as reversing the effects of the fall of Adam. However, an evolutionary view of beginnings doesn’t allow for a historical Adam, making evolution seem incompatible with what Genesis and the apostle Paul say about him. For Christians who accept evolution and want to take the Bible seriously, this presents a tension that endangers faith.

Peter Enns offers a way forward by explaining how this tension is caused not by the discoveries of science but by false expectations about the biblical texts. Focusing on key biblical passages in the discussion, Enns demonstrates that the author of Genesis and the apostle Paul wrote to ask and answer ancient questions for ancient people; the fact that they both speak of Adam does not determine whether Christians can accept evolution. This thought-provoking book reconciles the teachings of the Bible with the widely held evolutionary view of beginnings and will appeal to anyone interested in the Christianity-evolution debate, including college and seminary students in science and religion courses.

Resource Experts
  • Addresses questions surrounding Scripture’s distinctiveness, diversity, and integrity
  • Presents an argument that allows for science and the Bible to agree on humanities origins
  • Examines the historical Adam in light of Scripture and Science
  • Describes an alternate way of reading Genesis from the traditional approach
  • Part One: Genesis: An Ancient Story of Israelite Self-Definition
    • Genesis and the Challenges of the Nineteenth Century: Science, Biblical Criticism, and Biblical Archaeology
    • When Was Genesis Written?
    • Stories of Origins from Israel’s Neighbors
    • Israel and Primordial Time
  • Part Two: Understanding Paul’s Adam
    • Paul’s Adam and the Old Testament
    • Paul as an Ancient Interpreter of the Old Testament
    • Paul’s Adam

Top Highlights

“Paul’s handling of Adam is hermeneutically no different from what others were doing at the time: appropriating an ancient story to address pressing concerns of the moment.” (Page 102)

“The creation of the Hebrew Bible, in other words, is an exercise in national self-definition in response to the Babylonian exile.” (Page 28)

“we are leaving behind Paul’s understanding of the cause of the universal plight of sin and death” (Page 123)

“There is no claim in the Pentateuch that Moses is its author” (Page 24)

“ literary evidence from the world of the Bible that helps clarify the kind of literature the Bible is” (Page xiii)

The question of the historical Adam is an urgent issue in biblical interpretation and theology today. Recent developments in biology have indicated with impressive evidence that humanity does not go back to a single human couple. Does that mean that the Bible is wrong or that science is wrong? Or perhaps, as Peter Enns argues, we have been misreading the Bible. While not everyone, including myself, agrees with everything that Dr. Enns suggests, his book is an important contribution to the discussion concerning Genesis 1–2 and science.

Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

The Evolution of Adam not only reflects the evolution of evangelical understandings of Adam, but it also contributes to new perspectives on Paul and the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one concerned with the beauty, glory, and truth of the good news in a scientific world will want to miss out on this landmark book!

Amos Yong, J. Rodman Williams Professor of Theology, Regent University School of Divinity

The evolution of humans from other organisms has always presented very serious problems for conservative Christians, and the most serious problems have centered on the historicity of Adam. In this splendid book, Peter Enns confronts these problems with remarkable clarity and courage, offering a solution that is both biblically and scientifically informed.

—Edward B. Davis, professor of the history of science, Messiah College

This is a bold, honest, and direct approach to the questions of origins and the interpretation of the Bible. Pete has battle scars from the journey to his conclusions in The Evolution of Adam, but those battles have made him increasingly sensitive to the plight of the church’s struggle with science and the Bible. Here is a theologically alert, pastorally sound, and exegetically informed book that will lead us onward.

Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

In this honest, insightful, informative, and provocative book, Enns offers readers an innovative way of reconciling their faith with evolutionary theory. In the course of fleshing out his argument, he provides readers with very accessible introductions to the historical-critical approach to Scripture as well as to the cultural and literary backgrounds of the Bible’s creation stories and of Paul’s reflections on Adam. Whether one ends up agreeing with Enns or not, all readers will benefit enormously from reading this book. I heartily recommend The Evolution of Adam!

Greg Boyd, senior pastor, Woodland Hills Church, St. Paul

For far too long, evangelical Christians have dodged the implications of modern biology for our understanding of the Bible and theology. Foremost, we have failed to face the unassailable fact that death, rather than being the historical consequence of Adam’s sin, was a part of the natural cycle that created our human forebears. What shall we do with Genesis and Paul in light of these facts? Enns blazes a trail that engaged Christians can follow.

Kenton L. Sparks, professor of Hebrew Bible, Eastern University

  • Title: The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins
  • Author: Peter Enns
  • Publisher: Brazos
  • Print Publication Date: 2012
  • Logos Release Date: 2013
  • Pages: 192
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Bible. O.T. Genesis › Criticism, interpretation, etc; Bible. O.T. › Criticism, interpretation, etc; Bible. N.T. Epistles of Paul › Theology; Theological anthropology › Biblical teaching
  • ISBNs: 9781441257390, 9781587433153, 144125739X, 158743315X
  • Resource ID: LLS:EVLTNADAM
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-09-29T23:44:51Z

Peter Enns is an American Old Testament scholar and was professor of Old Testament and biblical hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS), Philadelphia until 2008. He has a BA from Messiah College (1982), an MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary (1989), and MA (1993) and PhD (1994) from Harvard University where he also served as a Teaching Fellow from 1990–1994. Enns was the editor of the Westminster Theological Journal from 2000–2005. WTS suspended Enns following the end of the Spring semester, 2008 due to the theological issues raised in his book Inspiration and Incarnation. Enns decided to leave WTS after 14 years and did so on mutually agreeable terms with the WTS administration.


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