8 New Testament Passages That Support a Historical Adam and Eve
1. Luke 3:38
In one of the two New Testament genealogies of Jesus, Luke identifies Jesus as “the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli” (Luke 3:23). Luke proceeds to trace Jesus’s descent back to “Adam, the son of God”:
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph. . . . the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, . . . the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:23–38)
Setting aside the exegetical questions attending this passage, and the challenges of harmonizing this genealogy with that of Matthew, we may draw a few observations about the way in which Luke presents Adam in this genealogy.1
First, Adam appears among dozens of figures whom the biblical writers regard as fully historical (“Jacob . . . Isaac . . . Abraham . . . Noah . . . Seth . . . Adam . . . God”). There is no basis for exempting Adam from this grouping as a nonhistorical or semihistorical figure.2
Second, Adam is placed at the head of a linear genealogical sequence. Each of the human beings in Luke 3:23c–38a traces his descent from Adam. Part of Luke’s objective in presenting this genealogy is to show that Jesus, who traces his descent from Adam, is thereby qualified to be the Redeemer of all kinds of people.3 Back of this message is Luke’s conviction that all human beings trace their descent from Adam.4
Third, Adam, as a historical person and genealogical progenitor, is the first man. Luke recognizes no progenitor of Adam and thereby exempts him from the normal sequence of biological parentage that follows Adam. The reason for this unique circumstance is that Adam is descended from no man. Adam is, rather, “the son of God,” a reference to his special creation in Genesis 1–2. All human beings trace their descent from Adam, while Adam traces his descent from no human.
2. Acts 17:26
A second reference to Adam in Luke’s writings appears in his account of Paul’s address to the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:26):
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.
Although Paul does not mention Adam by name, he testifies to the universal descent of humanity from a single man, whom Paul knew to be “Adam” (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:20–22, 44–49).5 David Peterson rightly concludes that the phrase “on all the face of the earth” “echoes the teaching of Genesis 1:28–29,” thereby identifying the “one man” as Adam.6 Furthermore, the conclusion of Paul’s speech centers upon the “man” whom God raised and who will judge “the world” at the end of the age (Acts 17:31). The one man, Adam, is a natural and expected counterpoint to the one man, Christ Jesus.7 As from a man the world has been populated, so by a man the world will be judged. The “one” of Acts 17:26, then, must refer to Adam, the ancestor of every human being.
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3. Romans 5:12–21
This significant passage begins by saying,
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned . . . (Rom. 5:12)
Paul then continues with an extended discussion of the parallels between Adam and Christ. How does Paul’s argument inform our understanding of Adam? First, Paul identifies Adam in verse 14 as “a type [Greek typos] of the one who was to come,” that is, Jesus. Adam, then, is a “type” of Jesus. At the very least, the word “type” denotes correspondence. As a representative man whose action is imputed to those whom he represents, Adam corresponds to Jesus as his “prefiguration.”8 But this prefigurative correspondence is fundamentally historical in nature.9 As Versteeg aptly summarizes the denotation of this word, “a type always stands at a particular moment in the history of redemption and points away to another (later) moment in the same history.”10 That is to say, “type” denotes a fundamentally historical relationship.
Paul’s application of this term to the correspondence between Adam and Christ confirms the essentially historical relationship between these two men. Adam and Christ are historical men who occupy the same plane of history. This historical plane, furthermore, finds its meaning and integration in the “redemptive plan of God.”11 The relationship that Paul expresses between Adam and Christ therefore carries necessary implications for our understanding of Adam’s person. Adam is a historical person, no less a historical person than Jesus Christ. One is not free to maintain, then, that Adam is a mythical or semihistorical figure while Jesus Christ is a fully historical figure. Affirming the historicity of Jesus Christ requires affirming the historicity of Adam. It bears reiterating that this Adam, for Paul, is the Adam of whom Genesis 1–3 speaks in detail, the first human being, whom God specially created and from whom the entirety of the human race is biologically descended.
4. 1 Corinthians 11:8–9
For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
Although Paul does not mention Adam and Eve by name in 1 Corinthians 11:8–9, these verses summarize the biblical account of the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 1–2.19 Specifically, Paul recounts the special creation of Eve from Adam (1 Cor. 11:8; cf. Gen. 2:21–23).
This passage sheds light on Paul’s understanding of Adam and Eve in at least two respects. First, Paul regards Adam and Eve to have been historical persons, and the account of Genesis 1–2 to be a historical account. Second, Paul understands, with Genesis, Eve to have been specially created by God from Adam. Paul’s words exclude any scenario in which Eve may be said to have descended from a previously existing human being or humanoid.
5. 1 Corinthians 15:20–22, 44–49
This long discussion about the resurrection includes significant parallels and differences between Adam and Christ, such as this:
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:21–22)
In verse 22, Paul sets in antithetical parallel “Adam” and “Christ”: “for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Adam is the “man” of the previous verse—“for as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21). The two men are similar in that they are representative persons. Death comes to “all” those who are “in Adam”; resurrection life comes to “all” those who are “in Christ.”12
We may draw two important implications from Paul’s statements in these verses. First, the parallel that Paul establishes between Adam and Christ not only requires that each be a representative figure, but also that each be a representative man (1 Cor. 15:21). To question or to compromise the humanity of the one is necessarily to question or to compromise the humanity of the other. Second, Paul’s claims about Adam and Christ in these verses lie not on the periphery but at the heart of his gospel. The resurrection is among the matters “of first importance” that Paul delineates in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4. Since Paul explicates the resurrection of the man Christ in terms of the death that the man Adam has brought to the human race, Paul inseparably yokes the historicity of each man to the resurrection of Christ. The historicity of Adam, then, is not a disposable element of Paul’s teaching concerning the resurrection of Christ.
Affirming the historicity of Jesus Christ requires affirming the historicity of Adam.
6. 2 Corinthians 11:3
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
This extended analogy in 2 Corinthians 11 assumes readers’ awareness of the account in Genesis 3. There are verbal echoes of Genesis 3 in 2 Corinthians 11:3, namely “deceived” and “cunning.”13 Moreover, Paul regards this account to be a thoroughly historical account. Satan is a historical personage who poses no less a threat to the Corinthians than he did to Eve.14 Furthermore, Eve is no less a historical person than the Corinthians are historical people—Paul’s warning, in fact, requires the full historicity of Eve.
7. 1 Timothy 2:11–14
For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Tim. 2:13-14)
Paul speaks explicitly about Adam and Eve in 1 Timothy 2:11–14. In the larger context (1 Tim. 2:1–15), Paul is giving the church instructions about public worship. In the course of these instructions, Paul makes statements that treat very specific details of Genesis 2–3 as historical fact, not as parts of a myth or a parable or an allegorical or figurative story.
Paul, then, is treating the account of Genesis 1–3 as fully historical narrative. He regards Adam and Eve as specially created by God. He regards Eve’s deception as a historical event with implications for the way in which, after the fall, her descendants are to relate to one another.15 Paul’s argument in 1 Timothy 2:13–14 requires Adam and Eve to have been the first man and woman and, as such, to be the parents of every human being.
8. Jude 14
In the midst of a warning (Jude 3–16) about false teachers who are threatening the churches of which Jude’s readers are a part, Jude reminds his audience that these false teachers were the concern of earlier prophecy. Specifically,
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones . . .” (Jude 14)
Jude here identifies “Enoch” as descended from Adam, in the seventh generation from Adam. He treats Enoch as a historical personage, who utters the prophesies documented in Jude 14–15. The fact that Enoch is identified as “the seventh from Adam” not only confirms Enoch’s historicity but also assumes Adam’s historicity.
- For a recent and brief survey of the interpretative issues attending the genealogies in Matthew and Luke, see James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Luke, Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC) (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), 123–24; and D. R. Bauer, “Genealogy,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 299–302. A venerable and satisfying harmonization understands Matthew’s genealogy to document Jesus’s legal line of descent and Luke’s genealogy to document Jesus’s biological line of descent.
- “The name of Adam is on a line with all other names. Given the character of the genealogies and the accuracy with which they are attended, it is inconceivable that Luke would have thought about Adam other than as a historical person” (J. P. Versteeg, Adam in the New Testament: Mere Teaching Model or First Historical Man?, trans. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., 2nd ed. [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2012], 33).
- Darrell L. Bock, Luke 1:1–9:50, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT) (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 359–60; Edwards, Gospel according to Luke, 124. The Greek word translated “as was supposed” likely is intended to exempt Jesus from biological descent from Joseph (Robert W. Yarbrough, “Adam in the New Testament,” in Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin: Theological, Biblical, and Scientific Perspectives, ed. Hans Madueme and Michael Reeves [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2014], 40); Edwards, Gospel according to Luke, 122. As Bock notes, “the genealogical line is Joseph’s, despite the virgin birth. It is merely a legal line” (Luke 1:1–9:50, 352).
- In view of this conviction, which Luke states at the outset of his Gospel, we may concur with Yarbrough’s assessment that “Adam is a dominant if unspoken presence in the redemptive narrations of the Gospels and Acts” (“Adam in the New Testament,” 41).
- F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 382; C. K. Barrett, The Acts of the Apostles, International Critical Commentaries (ICC), vol. 2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), 842; David Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, PNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 497.
- Peterson, Acts of the Apostles, 497. In Genesis 1:28–29, God gives Adam and Eve dominion “over every living thing that moves on the earth” and every plant yielding seed “on the face of all the earth.”
- So, rightly, E. Jerome Van Kuiken, “John Walton’s Lost Worlds and God’s Loosed Word: Implications for Inerrancy, Canon, and Creation,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 58, no. 4 (2015): 687. Van Kuiken has also suggestively proposed that “one man” (Acts 17:26) may echo Deuteronomy 4:32 (ibid.).
- Versteeg, Adam in the New Testament, 10.
- Ibid, citing H. N. Ridderbos, Aan de Romeinen (Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1959), 116, “in a previously established redemptive-historical correlation” (in een tevoren vastgestelde heilshistorische correlatie); and L. Goppelt, Typos: The Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 130, “Adam is not only an illustrative figure. [Paul] views Adam through Christ as a type in redemptive history, as a prophetic personality placed in Scripture by God.”
- Ibid., 11.
- Ibid., 13.
- That these respective outcomes belong to those and only those who are “in” each respective person suffices to eliminate universalism as a legitimate reading of this verse. Paul is not saying that every human being will be saved, that is, receive resurrection life in Christ. He is saying that all those who are united with Christ will receive the resurrection life that he has won on their behalf (Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, rev. ed., NICNT [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014], 832).
- See Genesis 3:13; 3:1 (“crafty”) (ibid., 740, 741–42).
- Understanding Satan to be the “cause of any enticement toward disloyalty among the Corinthians” (so, rightly, ibid., 741).
- As Philip Towner has observed, Paul, in addressing women in Ephesus who were “influenced to think that they were free from the constraints and limitations brought on by the fall, reminds [them] of their role in the fall and of the present unfinished nature of Christian existence” (“1–2 Timothy and Titus,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007], 897, as cited in Yarbrough, “Adam in the New Testament,” 50). In this respect, as Towner also notes, Paul’s argument in 1 Timothy 2 is of a piece with his broader argument in this letter that Christians live within the callings, norms, and boundaries established by God for all humanity at creation (ibid.).
Guy Prentiss Waters is a contributing author to A Biblical Case against Theistic Evolution edited by Wayne Grudem.
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