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Bible: Man looking at city where people lived before Adam
PURPOSE: Helping Christians engage in intelligent conversations with doubters and unbelievers

Were there people before Adam?

What the Bible actually says

Genesis 1: God created mankind

'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them' (Genesis 1:27). People assume that 'man' was a person named Adam, but the passage doesn't say it. The word (not a name) in the original Hebrew text is hā·’ā·ḏām, meanings 'mankind.' The verse says only that God created human beings.

There could have been a long period of time between the creation of humans in Genesis 1 and the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.

Chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are man-made for citation convenience, not part of the original manuscripts. In the old Hebrew language, all text runs together continuously without markings.

If the beginning of Chapter 2 were instead marked at Genesis 2:8, the whole story of Adam and Eve reads much differently. Everything before that verse is about God's original creation (Days 1-6), with detail followed by a summary. Everything after that verse (present Day 7) is about how God first revealed Himself personally to mankind and gave the first simple law.

Geneticists say that new species never begin and survive from a single male-female pair but require a gene pool within a population. The phrase 'male and female he created THEM' allows for the possibility that God initially may have created many humans simultaneously.

Genesis 2: No suitable helper was found for Adam

The Bible says Adam was not created in the Garden of Eden but was placed there from the outside. 'The Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it' (2:8).

Adam began the work as God directed. 'But for Adam no suitable helper was found' (2:20).

The phrase 'no suitable helper was found' implies that women already existed (outside the Garden, from where Adam came) but were not suitable (spiritual), so God created a special spiritual woman for Adam, to start a new line of people to have access to eternal life.

Genesis 3: Adam and Eve were not clothed

Adam said, 'I heard you [God] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid' (Genesis 3:10). Humans are the only creatures in God's creation that are not always naked. Only people wear clothing.

Adam could know about clothing only if he had observed it himself before God placed him in the Garden or if Satan told him that people are usually clothed. Either way, the implication is that other people were clothed before God made the first garments for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21).

Genesis 1-2: Apparently Eve was not first to bear children

When God presented Eve to Adam (Genesis 2:23), Adam said, 'she shall be called woman (female, mother).' Adam was able to recognize a female at first sight – apparently he had seen women before – and he knew immediately that she could be a mother.

As punishment for Eve's sin, God said: 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children' (Genesis 3:16). God said this to Eve before she had children. It would be meaningless for God to say that he will 'increase' the pains of childbearing if there had never been any childbearing anywhere on earth.

Genesis 4: Eve is 'mother of all the living'

'Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living' (3:20). This translation is from the New International Version (NIV), but a more accurate translation – used in most Bible translations of this passage – is that 'she WAS mother of all the living' (a title she already had, given to her before her first pregnancy).

Eve could not be the literal 'mother of ALL the living' in the physical sense unless she were also the mother of Adam, but he was alive outside the Garden before she even existed (Genesis 2:8).

God apparently created her for the express purpose of starting a new line of humans accountable to God.

Eve's first-born son, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel. When God told him that his punishment was banishment from the area, Cain protested: 'I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me' (Genesis 4:14). Who was the mother of those people who had already grown and dispersed?

Cain moved to a city where he found a wife (Genesis 4:16-17). Who were the mothers of those people who had already established a distant city?

Some say that, because of long life at that time and perhaps no biological consequences for procreating with siblings, Cain had intercourse with a sister, who left him and started a line of people who developed a distant civilization, and then much later he went there and married a grandchild or some offspring of his grandchildren.

That's unlikely because in the Bible chronology, Cain killed his only brother and then left before Eve became pregnant with her next son ... because the Bible makes no mention of sisters ... and because it takes more than a partial generation to develop a civilization starting from nothing, to develop the language, tools, engineering, structures, and specialized knowledge required to build and govern a city.

The name Eve was given to her by Adam in Genesis 4 after the punishment and spiritual understanding received in Genesis 3. In ancient Hebrew, Eve is derived from the root word  נפש חיה (Chaiah), which means to be alive. Perhaps the name signifies that she was the first woman – like Adam was the first man – to start a new line of SPIRITUAL PEOPLE with accountability to God and access to eternal life.

Some versions of the Bible say 'the mother of all who live' [eternal life?] and 'the mother of every living soul' [eternal life?], which are more precise translations.

See the section on this site titled, What about Eve?

Genesis 4: Specialized labor had already developed

Adam's firstborn son, Cain, was a farmer. His second-born child, Abel, was a rancher:

'Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, while Cain was a tiller of the soil. So in the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruit of the soil as an offering to the LORD, while Abel brought the best portions of the firstborn of his flock.' – Genesis 4:3-4

History and archeology reveal a common picture of ancient peoples throughout the world. At first, they were hunter-gatherers, moving from place to place, always searching for a better food supply. Over long periods of time, some people became farmers by learning how to process seeds, clear ground, and raise crops ... and others became ranchers by learning the long process of domesticating sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle for reproduction and slaughter.

If Adam were the first person on earth, then Cain and Abel would have been the first two humans ever born. It's highly improbable that they could have achieved this high level of specialized labor so quickly before their next sibling was born (Genesis 4:25) and before Cain was married (Genesis 4:16-18).

It's likely that they learned farming, ranching, and city-building from the experiences of generations of other people in the area after being evicted from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 4:13-16).

Genesis 4: Cain went to a distant city to marry a wife

Adam and Eve's first son, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel, and then this happened:

[Lord God speaking] 'Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground ... You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.'

'Cain said to the Lord, 'My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on earth and whoever finds me will kill me.'

'But the Lord said to him, 'Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.' Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

'Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.' – Genesis 4:10-17

At that point in time, when life was raw and perilous, other people must have existed because it would be impossible to survive as a lone 'restless wanderer on earth' without human assistance of any kind.

Cain was worried that 'whoever finds me will kill me.' Cain was Adam and Eve's first son, but he knew there were dangerous people in the distance.

Cain went to a distant land, married a woman, and became a builder in a city.

Starting from nothing, it takes hundreds or thousands of years for humans to develop the understanding, language, tools, and skills to build cities.

Cain, Adam and Eve's first child, joined a civilization already in existence and changed his career from farmer to builder. That's too much for the first person ever born.

Genesis 2:8: Adam lived in our Day 7

The Bible says that God created the universe in six 'days' (or periods).

Mankind (Hebrew ’ā·ḏām) was created in Day 6: 'male and female he created them' (Genesis 1:27). But the account of the Garden of Eden (starting Genesis 2:8) is in Day 7, which is God's day of 'resting' (pausing) in new physical creations, the day that has not yet ended, the day in which a man named Adam was placed in the Garden.

We are still in Day 7, continuing until God resumes creation with a new heaven and a new earth. There could have been countless numbers of people early in Day 7 before God revealed himself to Adam.

See the Bible study here on God's creation 'days.'

Genesis 5:2: God called them 'man'

'Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden: and there he put the man he had formed' (Genesis 2:8).

Many people contend that this verse proves that Adam was the first person on earth.

However, they overlook this explanatory verse in Genesis 5:2: 'When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female; at the time they were created, he blessed them and called them 'man' (Hebrew ’ā·ḏām, meaning mankind).

So, according to the Bible, 'man' can mean either all mankind or a single male individual, depending upon the context.

'Then God said, Let us make man (Hebrew hā·’ā·ḏām) in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule ...' (Genesis 1:26). The word ’ā·ḏām or derivatives is used 552 times in the Bible and it usually means generic mankind.

Therefore, 'the man' (individual) in the Eden account is not necessarily identical with 'man' (generic) in the creation account.

It appears that the original creation statement (Genesis 1:26-27) and the summary creation statement (Genesis 2:7) refer to mankind, and the Eden story (Genesis 2:8) refers to a particular individual living long after creation was completed.

Romans 5:13: 'anyone's account' before Adam

'To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone's account where there is no law' (Roman 5:13).

Here we first need to ask, what law? The law given to Adam (don't eat forbidden fruit)? Or the law given to Moses (Ten Commandments)? It obviously means the law given to Adam because sin WAS charged against Adam BEFORE the Ten Commandments were given.

This verse says that there was sin – people doing bad things – in the world even before the law was given to Adam, but since there was no divine law for them, nothing was charged to 'anyone's account.'

This strongly implies that there were people before Adam, but Adam was the first person to receive any law from God and was the first sinner.

Acts 17:25-26: Every nation made from 'one man'

[Apostle Paul speaking about God to civic leaders in Athens] '... because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live' (Acts 17:25-26, NIV version).

The Bible does NOT say, 'From Adam God made every nation of men.' Adam is not even mentioned in the four Gospels or the book of Acts.

Furthermore, the original Greek text does NOT say 'From one man he made every nation;' it says literally that 'he made then of one every nation.' The 'one' (Greek henos) is not specifically identified. That's why many translations, including King James, say from 'one blood.'

It's unlikely that the Athenians knew anything about either Adam or Noah or that Paul ever mentioned either one of them.

Paul was speaking to Greek polytheists and commenting on the city's altar 'to an unknown god.' He was simply saying that this unknown god can now be known and that every people group on earth can trace its existence back to the marvelous creation of the human race ('one blood') by the one God he is proclaiming.

This is NOT the same as saying that a particular man named Adam in the Garden of Eden was the first human who ever lived.

Romans 5: 'Death through sin'

'Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned ...' (Romans 5:12). This Bible passage is often quoted to 'prove' that Adam is the first man on earth, but that's not what this passage actually says.

This verse says only that sin entered the world 'through Adam,' the first sinner, and not because Adam sinned but 'because all sinned.'

Thousands of years could have elapsed between God's creation of humans in Genesis 1 and Adam's sin in Genesis 2.

Romans 5 implies that there were people before Adam: '... before the law was given [do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil], sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law' (Romans 5:13).

This passage does not say that Adam was the first human on earth, only that he was the first sinner. From Adam forward, it's no longer just physical death for humans like for everything else, but for humans it is now 'death through sin' (meaning: resurrection, judgment, hell and then final death). A moral and spiritual dimension was added to human life, and henceforth every person must go through the process of dealing with sin.

See the Bible study here on Romans 5.

I Corinthians 15: 'First man Adam'

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam [Jesus], a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual' (15:44-46). This is the Bible passage people use most often to 'prove' that there were no people before Adam, but that's not what this passage actually says.

The Apostle Paul says specifically that this is a comparison between Adam and Jesus at the 'spiritual' level, not at the 'natural' level.

This juxtaposition states simply that Adam was first and Jesus was last. For what? We know this is not speaking about physical life because people lived after Jesus; i.e., Jesus obviously was not the last man to live physically. So just as there are people who lived AFTER Jesus, likewise, there may have been people who lived BEFORE Adam.

The context and words – 'there is also a spiritual body – make it clear that this is not about natural life, but about spiritual life. Adam was the first spiritual man ... coming after the natural man ... the first to have a personal relationship with God, a law from God, accountability to God, and an offer of eternal life from God.

See the Bible study here on I Corinthians 15.

NOWHERE in the Bible does it say directly that Adam was the first person on earth (see Insight #2).

NOWHERE in the Bible does it say that Jesus even mentioned Adam's name (as would be expected if Adam were the first person on earth).

THE ABOVE VERSES in the Bible say indirectly that there were people before Adam or, at least, the Bible does NOT preclude the possibility of people before Adam.

What we have learned recently from DNA

To great international fanfare, the Human Genome Project was essentially completed in 2000, though it still left 8% of our DNA unexplored. But by 2021, the entire human genome had been sequenced, and today we have a readout of all three billion letters (biologic language) across 23 human chromosomes.

Our new world of identifying, tracing and manipulating DNA has given us enormous new understanding of life on planet earth, never before known to Bible interpreters.

One thing we have learned from DNA is that the human race could not be sustained by offspring from a single (original) male-female pair. Humanity could be sustained only from a population gene pool of dozens or hundreds of people.

Of course, God could suspend His laws of genetics for any particular time or purpose. However, the Bible does not say whether He did, or did not, suspend His laws to start the first human family or families.

Let's stretch our thinking

This is all the Bible tells us:

'So God created man (Hebrew ’ā·ḏām) in his own image; in the image of God he created him [mankind]; male and female he created them [how many?]' (Genesis1:27).

'Man' (Hebrew ’ā·ḏām) means mankind, not the name of an individual person; 'them' could mean any number, not limited to two.

This verse is broad enough to allow for the possibility that, at the end of Day 6, God could have created a population of people all at the same time. Certainly, God could have created 100 people as easily as two people.

We know that God wanted to populate the earth rapidly, because in the next verse He said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it' (Genesis 1:28). We also know from human ages reported throughout the book of Genesis that God increased early human life span to accelerate population growth. Another way that God could have accelerated growth would be by creating more than two people at the start.

It's only tradition that limits our thinking to a single (original) male-female pair. The Bible doesn't constrain us to that view.

The fact is that we don't know if God started the human race from only two people or from a group of people.

The caution is that we should not make the Bible say more or less than it actually says.


Thinkers Bible Studies / Topic 1.3


Were there people before Adam?

for an informed answer
Insight 1: Bible credibility

Why it matters

The real issue here is whether or not the Bible is a credible book of truth. People conclude that if the Bible is wrong about our origin, it's probably wrong about our destiny too. This is a big barrier to faith.
Insight 2: yō·wm is Hebrew word for Bible creation day

Read Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 as two stories

Adam (’ā·ḏām) in Genesis 1 means 'human.' Adam (hā·’ā·ḏām) in Genesis 2 is a person's name. There may have been a very long period of time between the stories.
Insight 3: What God created in each 'day'

What the Bible actually says

Most people just believe what tradition teaches and have never carefully read Genesis chapters 1-4 for themselves. See for yourself all the verses in the Bible which refer to people before Adam.

What Americans believe about human origin

For 38 years, Gallup Polls have been tracking peoples' beliefs about the beginning of human life on earth. See the poll findings. Most regular church attenders believe that 'God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.'

The time of Adam

Bible genealogies show that Adam lived about 6,000 (maybe 10,000) years ago. See what life was like at that time. Archaeology and DNA show that humans have been on earth for 40,000 years or more.

Here's where we combine five Insights to get an informed biblical answer: Were there people before Adam?

The insights here are like pieces of a puzzle. Put the pieces together and see the big picture! Now you'll be prepared to engage intelligently with anyone on the subject of people before Adam.
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