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.'
Thousands of years could have elapsed between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, and the Bible specifically says that Adam was not created in the Garden of Eden as most traditional Christians believe.
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 issue can no longer 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.
Most traditional Christians have a limited view of earth's history and focus almost entirely on events in the Mediterranean and European regions during the past four thousand years.
It is helpful to step back and look at the long global picture.
From God's perspective, as summarized in the chart below, humans came on the earth a second ago! God just now completed the sixth day of creation and began his pause mode (seventh day) to let humans exercise free will and rule the earth.
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:
✦ How few Jews (Israelites, descendants of Jacob) there ever were in the world, with over-size influence, and
✦ How Jewish percentage of the world's population is shrinking rapidly (now only two-tenths of one percent, but still over-size influence).
Christians frequently make statements like, 'Before Jesus, people had the law,' which greatly exaggerates the proportion of Jews on earth. Actually, most people before Jesus didn't have the 'law;' they had pagan gods. At time of Jesus birth, only about 1% of the world's population was Jewish.
The term 'prehistoric' generally refers to the time between appearance of humans but before invention of writing systems.
This period varies between different regions of the world, but generally it is in the range of 40,000 BC > 4,000 BC. Even 'prehistoric' is part of the last second of the day if all time since the Big Bang were compressed proportionately into a single day (see calculations above).
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 scripture actually says.
This is a comparison between Adam and Jesus on the spiritual 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 last 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 the natural being, but about the spiritual being, which this passage says comes after the natural. Adam was the first spiritual man ... the first to have a personal relationship with God, a command from God and an offer of eternal life from God.
This passage does not say that Adam was the first human on earth, only that he was the first spiritual human on earth, the first person to have a personal encounter with God and the first person to be offered eternal life.
'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 ...' (5:12). This Bible passage is quoted often to 'prove' that Adam is the first man on earth, but that's not what this scripture actually says.
This verse says only that sin entered the world 'through Adam,' the first sinner, 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 Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil], sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law' (5:13).
This passage does not say that Adam was the first human on earth, only that he was the first sinner. Now it's no longer just physical death for mankind, but 'death through sin' (resurrection, judgment, hell and then final death). A moral and spiritual dimension has been added.
Romans 5 is studied in depth in Topic 1.4.3.
'Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living' (3:20). This is the commonly quoted wording, from the New International Version (NIV), but a more accurate translation – used in most Bible translations of this passage – is 'she WAS mother of all living' (title she already had, given to her before pregnancy with first child).
This name was given to Eve by Adam in Genesis 4 after the punishment and spiritual understanding received in Genesis 3. 'Eve' comes from the Hebrew root chaiah which means to be alive. She was the first woman – like he was the first man – to start a new line of people to be offered eternal life. Their sons gave offerings to God (4:3-4), evidence that Adam and Eve gave spiritual training to their offspring.
Eve could not be the literal physical 'mother of all living' unless she were also the mother of Adam, but he was alive outside the Garden before she even existed.
'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them' (1:27). People assume that 'man' was Adam, but the passage does not say it. The original Hebrew word is hā·’ā·ḏām, meaning 'mankind.' The verse says only that God created a human being or human beings.
Thousands of years could have elapsed between the creation of humans in Genesis 1 and the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.
Geneticists say that new species never begin and survive from a single male-female pair but rather from a gene pool within a population. The phrase 'male and female he created THEM' allows for the possibility that God may have initially created many humans at the same time.
Adam was not created in the Garden of Eden but 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 people already existed [outside the Garden] but were not suitable [spiritual], so God created a special spiritual woman for Adam.
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 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.
Adam's first-born 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 better food supply. Over long periods of time, people learned how to process seeds, clear ground and plant crops ... and how to domesticate sheep, goats and pigs for reproduction and slaughter.
If Adam were the first person on earth, then Cain and Abel were the first two humans ever born. It is highly improbable that they could have achieved this level of sophisticated specialized labor so quickly, before their next sibling was born (Genesis 4:25) and before Cain was married (Genesis 4:16-18). It is likely that they learned farming and ranching from he experiences of generations of other people in the area after they were evicted from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 4:13-16).
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 would have had to exist 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 already dangerous people out there.
Cain went to a distant land, married a woman and became a builder in a city. Starting from nothing, it takes thousands of years for humans to develop understanding, language, tools and skills to build cities. Cain, Adam and Eve's first child, joined a civilization already in existence and changed career from farmer to builder.
[Apostle Paul speaking to civic leaders in Athens] '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.'
This statement fits the biblical account of Noah, who lived approximately one thousand years after Adam per genealogy in Genesis 10:1-32.
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. See 1.3.4 for information 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 could have 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.
By the time Jesus was born – sometime 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, these migrations 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 DNA and RNA are powerful new ways to read genetic code of our early ancestors.
The DNA of thousands of skeletons of people who lived 2,000 to 12,000 years ago have been sequenced and analyzed by computer to show migration patterns and times, showing beyond doubt that there were humans moving throughout the earth prior to 4000 BC (before Adam).
Most Christians reason like this: No one has ever asked me about age of the earth, dinosaurs, people before Adam ... or topics like that ... so these issues aren't important or even worth talking about these days. People just need to know that the Bible says they need Jesus as Savior.
The fact that doubters and unbelievers rarely ask Christians about these issues doesn't mean that they don't think about them. And when they think about them, they are repelled by explanations given by Christians which are contrary to the facts of real life.
Sadly, the Bible has lost so much credibility that most people today don't read it or believe what it says, largely because of Christians who have made the Bible say things it really doesn't say.
People who don't believe the Bible often think that Bible believers are either not well informed or simple minded, and they don't want to say things that would cause embarrassment or offense. So they're silent, unless asked.
The best way to learn how people perceive and think is to ask and listen.
As part of the first four topics here on Origin (How did we get here?), this site has videos to help Christians get into the minds of young doubters and unbelievers, the new majority in our country. These are the key people for whom we have responsibility for explaining the Bible (same Bible) and the gospel (same gospel) but in understandable language for the modern world.
Listen to what people say when asked what they think about the Bible. Tap below for Video 3 Street Interviews:
Their responses – as we hear and see from their own words and emotions in this video – express the post-Christian attitude toward the Bible: