Traditional Christians have been taught for centuries that Adam was the first human that God created, the first person on earth.
There are genealogy lists in the Bible – particularly Genesis 10, Matthew 1 and Luke 3 – that make it possible to calculate the approximate number of years elapsed between Adam and Jesus and thus determine that Adam's life began about 4000 BC. Many historians and Bible scholars have done exhaustive research on the genealogies and nearly all come to essentially this same calculation.
God initially created a world in which there was no pain, sorrow or death. It was paradise. Everything we regard as bad is the result of Adam's sin of eating forbidden fruit.
There is now incontrovertible evidence from archaeology and scientific testing that humans have been on earth for tens of thousands of years, long before Adam.
Christians who believe there was no human activity on earth prior to 4000 BC are simply ignorant of the facts, or denying the facts, of modern archaeology, science and historical research.
There has always been pain, sorrow and death on earth. That's just the way it is and always has been. Most of the earth's history has been very violent; actually, the world has become better rather than worse.
Genesis 1:27 says, 'God created man [generic] in his own image, male and female he created them.'
In the next chapter, Genesis 2:8 says, 'Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man [individual] he had formed.'
It is clear that Adam was not created in the Garden of Eden, as most traditional Christians seem to believe.
We don't know if there was a time gap between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and, if so, for how long. If there were no time gap, the first human was probably Adam. If there were a time gap, the first human was probably someone else.
The Bible does not compel an interpretation that makes Adam the first human. Adam was the first sinner (see 1.4) but not necessarily the first person.
Many traditional Christians – and their leaders and institutions – are threatened by discussion about people who lived before Adam because it could disrupt some long-held church doctrines:
• Age of earth and six-day creation
• Perfect world, and no death, before Adam's sin
• Original sin (every human born guilty because of Adam's sin)
However, the question cannot be ignored in light of all that archaeology has uncovered in the past fifty years. The evidence is now overwhelming that there was human activity on earth long before 4000 BC.
Doubters will not respect Christians and the Christians' Bible unless Christians are intellectually honest.
Most traditional Christians have a very limited view of earth's history and focus almost entirely on events in the Mediterranean/European region during the past three thousand years.
It's helpful to step back and look at the long global picture as God sees it.
From God's perspective, as summarized in the chart below, God just put humans on earth a second ago! He just now completed the sixth day of creation and began the pause mode (seventh day) to let humans rule the earth and exercise free will.
There have been other major pivot points – as each day (age) of creation and the birth/life/resurrection of Jesus. The Bible says there will be more pivot points in the future – Jesus' return/judgment and a new heaven and new earth.
These changes are all part of a massive unfolding divine plan outlined in the Bible. Only part of it has actually happened so far.
THE TABLE ABOVE gives perspective for the number of people alive at time of Adam and at various times ever since. Experts who study populations from ancient to modern estimate that more than 100 billion people have already lived on earth.
Two facts stand out:
Church tradition teaches that Adam was the first human being, but that is not what the Bible actually says.
The Bible is clear in saying that Adam was the first sinner on earth but is not clear about whether or not he was the first person on earth.
Here are the pertinent Bible verses:
In the original Hebrew, the word 'a-dam' (translated 'Adam') is not a person's name; it is a noun used 552 times in the Bible to mean a human male; it simply means 'man.' In I Corinthians 15:46 above, the man in the garden AND Jesus are BOTH called 'Adam;' the word means generic human male, not a single specific male (see Hebrew>English). In context, that verse is talking about sin, not about existence. If it were talking about the first and the last Adam (man) in existence, Jesus would not be identified as 'last' because billions of men have come into existence after him.
The Bible doesn't give dates, but we know that a 'day in Genesis 1 is a very long period of time (see 1.1). It is possible – and likely – that a long period of time elapsed between Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:8. It could have been thousands of years before God took a 'man' from the general population and 'put' that man (Genesis 2:8) in the Garden of Eden in order to initiate a personal relationship with humans.
The Bible says that Adam was the first sinner, but since the Bible does not say specifically say whether or not Adam was the first human being, we can try to fill in the blanks with some additional information.
Following are six reasons for believing that Adam was not the first person on earth:
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 had seen women before – and knew she could be a mother. Without prior knowledge, it is unlikely that he could make that distinction in the first day of his life. It is likely that he brought that knowledge from the outside with him when he was placed in the Garden of Eden.
Also, 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, on the first day of her life. It would be meaningless for God to say that he will 'increase' the pains of childbearing if no woman on earth had ever given birth.
Adam's first-born son, Cain, was a farmer. His second-born child, Abel, was a rancher:
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 better food supply. Over long periods of time, they learned how to process seeds, clear ground and plant crops ... and to domesticate sheep, goats and pigs for reproduction and slaughter. This was the result of man's accumulated work and knowledge in patiently nudging genetic changes in agriculture and husbandry over hundreds or thousands of years.
If Adam was the first person on earth, then Cain and Abel were the first two persons ever born. They didn't have any easy vocational advantages over other people, because they had been driven out of the Garden of Eden and were forced to farm and ranch on 'cursed' ground like everyone else.
It is highly unlikely that the first two people ever born – without any agricultural and ranching knowledge, experience or science – could have achieved this level of sophisticated specialized labor so early in a single lifetime, before Adam and Eve had their third child (Genesis 4:25) and before Cain was married (Genesis 4:16-18). It is likely that they learned farming and ranching from other people in the area (Genesis 4:13-16).
Adam and Eve's first son, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel, and then this happened:
At that point in time, when life was raw and perilous, other people would have had to exist because it would be impossible to survive as a lone 'restless wanderer on earth' without any 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 already dangerous people out there.
Cain went to a distant land, married a woman and became a builder in the city. Starting from nothing, it takes thousands of years for humans to develop understanding, language, tools and skills to build cities. Cain joined a civilization already in existence and changed careers from farmer to builder. If Cain were the first person ever born, none of this would make any sense. The Bible story makes sense only if other people existed when Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden.
Population experts estimate that the world's population in 4000 BC was about 7,000,000, as shown in the chart above.
Archaeologists are now unearthing many cities that existed at that time. Today we can see many of the amazing settlements that thrived in the general area of the Garden of Eden, evidence of transition from settled villages to urban cities before 4000 BC.
An example is Catalhoyak, Turkey. The city was built in stages between 7400 BC and 5200 BC. The stratigraphy of 18 settlement layers (over a 2,000 year span) shows its development, reshaping and expansion. The city is so huge and tightly packed – covering 37 acres – that only 5% has been excavated so far (160 buildings) after 60 years of digging. The estimated population was 3,000 - 8,000 people.
Similarly, the biblical city of Jericho, Palestine, was founded approximately 10000 BC and had already been in existence for about 6,000 years before Adam. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 20 successive settlements on that site. Bodies of the dead have been found buried under the floors of homes and in the remains of abandoned buildings. Put into perspective, Adam's life was the mid-point between the founding of Jericho and today!
There are more than a dozen scientific methods used for determining dates of bones, artifacts and man-made structures being uncovered by archaeologists. The most common methods are stratigraphy, topology, radiocarbon, dendrochronology and thermoluminescence.
See 1.3.4 for more about modern scientific dating methods. Cross-validation can now be done on the same object with various testing methods.
Some people say that scientific dating is irrelevant because God created the universe with 'apparent age' (everything just looks old). See 1.2.3 for why this is a flawed argument.
Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of fossils that look similar to modern humans, most called hominids, some dating back several millions of years ago. (For perspective, dinosaurs vanished from the earth about 63 million years ago).
All human remains dated to the holocene period (approximately 10000 BC to present) are classified by scientists as homo sapiens (modern humans). The fossil evidence keeps growing and scientific testing methods keep improving, and now there is overwhelming evidence that there were human beings on earth long before Adam (who lived about 4000 BC).
By the time Jesus was born (between 6 BC and 4 BC) every major part of every continent on earth was populated, with population totaling about 250 million people. If Adam were the first human, that means that all the original world-wide human migrations would have had to occur within a span of less than 4000 years ... starting from nothing ... no history or knowledge of the world ... no tools or skills ... brutally hard conditions ...
With reluctance to move unless forced by climate or enemies, and facing almost unimaginable perils and adjustments, including sailing the oceans and crossing frozen land bridges, this would have taken much longer than a few thousand years.
Scientists once had to reconstruct humanity's distant past only from ancient settlements, bones and artifacts but now there's also a powerful new way by reading the actual genetic code of our ancient ancestors.
Writing since about 4,000. But now can go back.
The DNA of thousands of skeletons of people who lived 2,000 to 12,000 years ago are being sequenced and analyzed by computer to show migration patterns and times.
From DNA sequencing of the human genome, it is certain beyond doubt that there were humans before 4000 BC (before Adam).
There is ample evidence that the cycle of life-and-death was functioning in the world long before 4000 BC, the time the Bible says sin first entered the world 'through Adam.' (Note: 'through Adam,' not 'because of Adam.' See 1.4.3 for study of Romans 5).
There has been death on earth ever since the Big Bang. Rather than a paradise, it appears that the earth was – and to a large degree still is – a very dangerous and violent place. Man's role is to make it more orderly and hospitable.
The strongest evidence of long ages of prehistoric death comes from deposits of oil, coal and limestone.
OIL. Crude oil is created over millions of years from tiny plants and animals in sea water, called plankton, trapped and buried under many layers of sand and mud. After about 150 million years of heat and pressure, plankton turn into oil and gas in pores of underground rock, like water in a sponge. The rocks fold and form a dome that catches oil and creates a good drilling site.
COAL. Coal is created from giant plants and ferns that lived hundreds of millions of years ago in swamp forests. They died and formed layers at the bottom of the swamps. The dead plant material was subjected to high temperatures and pressures that transformed it into peat and then into coal.
LIMESTONE. Ocean-dwelling organisms such oysters, clams, mussels, and coral have shells that are broken down by waves and settle on the ocean floor where they are compacted over millions of years, creating limestone. As tectonic plates shift, sea bottom is often thrust up as dry land, and limestone is quarried to make Portland cement and many other products.
Stars are born when large gas clouds collapse from gravity. They form hot cores that gather increasingly more gas and dust until nuclear fusion develops deep in their interiors.
The more massive the star, the faster it burns its fuel supply and the shorter its life. The most massive stars burn out and explode after only a few million years. Stars the size of our sun burn out in about 10 billion years. Smaller stars burn out slower.
We can now observe the death of stars – supernovas to black holes – with telescopes catching light emanating from them millions of years ago, long before Adam's sin.
'God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.' – Genesis 1:28
If the earth were perfect before Adam sinned, God would not need a class of creatures (made in God's image) to subdue and rule over it.
'Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.' – Genesis 4:10-17
If the Garden of Eden were a paradise before Adam sinned, God would not have needed someone to 'work it' and 'take care' of it – it would have been perfect. Apparently there was overcrowding and death on earth even before he sinned.
If would make no sense for God to warn Adam (before he sinned) that the penalty for disobedience is death if no death on earth had never yet occurred. That concept would have been totally incomprehensible to Adam unless he had already seen death.
Some people interpret the Bible to say that God intended the world to be perfect – all beauty, no pain, no sorrow, no death – but Adam's sin fouled God's wonderful plan and brought death into the world and condemned people to eternal hell.
That interpretation of death – thought to be a bad and unintended tragedy – seems completely out of context with other things we know about God and creation.
If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then no man's action is unforeseen or able to disrupt the divine plan.
Genesis 1 tells us that at the end of each day of creation, God said it was 'good.' As the final statement, God looked at all that was happening – including death in every life form he created – and said it was 'very good.'
All evidence points to an earth that has always been subject to death. God intentionally designed it this way to prevent suffocation from overcrowding and to make way for new and better life.
Life on earth is temporary by intentional design, not by unforeseen events or miscalculation.
After creating animals, God said it was 'good,'
After creating humans, God said it was 'very good,'
Animals and humans have been dying since creation,
Death is not a mistake, problem or punishment caused by sin,
DEATH IS A NORMAL PART OF GOD'S DESIGN PLAN.
If a Bible 'day' is a long period of time [see 1.2],
If the life-and-death cycle was operative on earth before Adam,
If sin entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12),
SIN IS NOT THE CAUSE OF DEATH.
God's first recorded words spoken to humans were, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it' (Genesis 1:28, prior to Adam and Eve).
Without death, multiplication would eventually suffocate life because of overcrowding. Death is necessary to facilitate new life.
Not only do individual creatures die, but entire species die. Scientists say that 99% of all species that ever existed are now extinct.
Death clears the way for new life. God's plan of slow topographical, climatological and demographical changes – and the adaptation and improvement of life forms to those changes – results in death clearing the way for continual upgrades that come only through re-birth.
Throughout this site, the interpretation of 'death' is its plain and ordinary meaning: End of existence, no more consciousness.
Death is an intregral part of the cycle of life. Death is not a design flaw. Death is the result of normal aging as God intended, not the result of sin.
This site shows how the Bible teaches that, after death of the body, there will be physical resurrection, judgment and hell, then eventual final death in hell (end of existence).
The Bible says there is only one exception to final death. See 3.6 for the one exception – eternal life – offered to us today. This is the core of the Christian gospel (the good news) ... eternal life through personal faith in Jesus Christ.