Adam lived about BC 4000 according to genealogies recorded in the Bible. If Adam was the first person on earth, the Bible is then in complete contradiction to science, which has strong evidence that there was human activity on earth long before that time.
This contradiction causes millions of people to believe that they must make a stark choice either for the Bible or for science. Most people today are choosing science and concluding that the Bible is not a trustworthy book of truth.
This issue of Bible credibility is a serious barrier to Christian faith.
The purpose of this study is to see what the Bible says about people before Adam and to learn how to give confident and persuasive answers to questions on this subject.
At periodic intervals over the last 45 years, Gallup Polls have tracked what Americans believe about human origin.
A recent poll shows that more than half of church-going Christians believe that 'God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time WITHIN THE LAST 10,000 YEARS OR SO.'
The reason that polls, news reports, and general literature usually use 10,000 years (rather than Bible's 4,000 years) is to give allowance for possible gaps in the genealogies discussed here in Bible genealogies.
This age conflict between the Bible and science is being communicated widely by church people to the general public.
Consequently, doubters and unbelievers think devout Christians are poorly educated and have blind faith in an ancient book that is just plain wrong. They conclude that if the Bible is wrong about science, archaeology, and history, it is probably wrong about other matters too, and therefore it cannot be trusted as a book of truth.
This is a serious barrier to Christian faith.
The present situation is similar to times past when Christians loyal to tradition quoted Bible verses to 'prove' that the earth is flat ('four corners of the earth' and 'ends of the earth,' Job 37:3 and other verses) and that the earth is setting on foundations ('He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved,' Psalm 104:5 and other verses). Bible interpretation gets greater accuracy as we get more knowledge of God's world.
The Bible, history, and science all tell us that the time around 4000 BC was a time of major change on earth, a pivot point when the whole order of life took a new direction:
✦ CIVILIZATION. Primitive cultures were becoming civilized with farming, ranching, mining, specialization of labor, small-scale manufacturing, and trade about BC 4000.
This was a time of synergy as people began learning and working together in community. Populations were becoming centralized with construction projects and governments extending human control over nature and people.
✦ WRITTEN LANGUAGE. Written language systems began surfacing about BC 4000. This was a huge advance over the drawings and symbols previously carved or painted on cave walls.
This was the start of historical records that document events as they occur and survive millenniums of time. Written language was a way to share and preserve technical knowledge. Communication became more precise and nuanced.
✦ GOD REVEALS HIMSELF TO MAN. After billions of years of preparation, something astounding happens! The Creator of the universe reveals himself to man and initiates a personal relationship!!
The relationship brings a major change to the world – from physical only to physical AND spiritual. Now we have God's command, accountability, sin, punishment, and offer of eternal life for humans.
According to Bible genealogies, Adam lived about 4000 BC. See chart here for time calculations based on the genealogies.
Most people read the first four chapters of Genesis and see only one continuous story, as they have been told. Others read the same four chapters and see two distinct stories.
Most people have been taught that Adam and Eve were the first humans on earth – and created in the Garden of Eden – though few have ever seriously studied the account of God's creation and the account of Adam and Eve directly from the Bible themselves.
Most people just assume from tradition that it is a single continuous story, never realizing that it's probably two stories: Creation (Genesis 1:1 thru 2:3) and Eden (Genesis 2:8 thru 3:24), with a summary transition statement (Genesis 2:4-7) and a very long period of time in-between.
This is the well-known story of God's six days of creation and seventh day of rest.
The creation of humans occurred in Day 6, but the Eden story occurred in Day 7, as explained in the Bible study here on God's creation days.
Genesis 1 says only that God created humans, male and female, but doesn't mention any individuals, choices, or actions.
Genesis 2-4, much later in time, describes named people, their decisions, and their sins.
This is the transition summary between the two stories as clearly stated in the summary preamble: 'This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created' (Genesis 2:4).
It is a brief summary of what happened in Genesis 1, the first story: God created the heavens and the earth ... at first, no life or growth ... mist came up from the ground where water came in contact with earth's hot but cooling crust ... then wondrous explosion of life forms ... ultimately, in the final act of creation, God formed man (Hebrew hā·’ā·ḏām, meaning mankind) as a special living creature in the image of God (not evolved) from the dust of the earth (ordinary stuff, atoms, not divine or immortal).
This summary of the first story may have covered a very long period of time.
To affirm this understanding of the time gap, consider these three passages from Genesis 2:
➤ Verse 7 (transition, summarizing story 1): 'And the Lord God FORMED man [hā·’ā·ḏām, mankind] from the dust of the earth ...'
➤ Verse 8 (in story 2): 'Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man [a human being] he HAD FORMED.'
➤ Verse 19 (in story 2): 'Now the Lord God HAD FORMED out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man [individual named Adam] to see what he would name them ...'
There is a time gap between FORMED and HAD FORMED; otherwise, we would conclude that God created man first and then created animals for him to name – i.e., that God created man before He created animals – which we know is wrong based on Genesis 1.
From the transition summary forward, the whole focus of the Bible changes from God's creation of earth and all its life forms to just a single creature: hā·’ā·ḏām (mankind), God's crowning creation and purpose of it all.
The transition summary sets the stage for the second story.
Beginning with verse 8, God places a particular human (named Adam) in a special place (garden) in the east, in Eden. There God meets Adam personally in the first-ever encounter between God and man. God gives Adam the first simple law (don't eat this particular fruit) and says the penalty for violation is certain death (earth's default condition), i.e., no eternal life.
Then God creates a wife for Adam (not from dust of the earth but from Adam's side, a female spiritual clone), the first recorded divine miracle (apart from the six-day creation of the entire universe). Adam names her Eve and tells her about the law. They are now the first spiritual beings on earth ... life-long married couple (one flesh)... knowing God ... accountable to God ... with opportunity for eternal life (if they choose the Tree of Life).
The second story continues by telling about commission and consequences of the first human sin and ends by introducing Genesis 5, which shows how this first couple started a new spiritual family line that ran to King David, then split to Mary and to Joseph, but rejoined in the birth of Jesus about 4,000 years later. As shown in the genealogy chart, Adam and Eve started the human family tree of the Savior. The whole story leads to Jesus.
The Bible clearly states that Adam was the first sinner but does not compel a conclusion that he was the first person.
By explaining to doubters and unbelievers that many Christians believe that the first four chapters of Genesis are two stories, separated by a long time period, a conflict between the Bible and science is eliminated and some of the Bible's lost credibility is recovered.
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.
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 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 the natural being, but about the spiritual being, which this passage says comes after the natural. Adam was the first spiritual man ... coming after the natural man ... the first to have a personal relationship with God, a command from God, accountability to God, and an offer of eternal life from God.
'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 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 as for everything else, but 'death through sin' (resurrection, judgment, hell and then final death). A moral and spiritual dimension was added.
'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 name) in the original Hebrew text is hā·’ā·ḏām, meanings 'mankind.' The verse says only that God created 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.
Chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are man-made for citation convenience, not part of the original manuscripts. In the original Hebrew language, all text runs together continuously without markings.
When the beginning of Chapter 2 is instead marked at Genesis 2:8, the whole story of Adam and Eve reads differently. Everything before that verse is about God's original creation (Days 1-6), detail and 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 rather from 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.
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 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 with access to eternal life.
'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 the living' (title she already had, given to her before pregnancy with first child).
Eve could not be the literal 'mother of all the living' unless she were also the mother of Adam, but he was alive outside the Garden before she even existed (Genesis 2:8).
Eve's first-born son, Cain, murdered his brother, and 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 mother of those people already grown and dispersed?
Cain moved to a city where he found a wife and became a builder (Genesis 4:16-17). Who was mother of those people?
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 people with access to eternal life. Some translations say 'the mother of all who live' and 'the mother of every living soul,' which are more precise meanings.
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 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 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 t,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 his career from farmer to builder.
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 is still open, the day in which a man named Adam was placed in the Garden. See Bible study here on God's creation 'days.'
We are still in Day 7, continuing until God resumes by creating 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.
'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.
[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 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 is unlikely that the Athenians knew anything about either Adam or Noah or that Paul even mentioned 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 nation 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 man named Adam in the Garden of Eden was the first human who ever lived.
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 – Mesopotamia – evidence of transition from settled villages to urban cities before BC 4000.
An example is Catalhoyak, Turkey. The city was built in stages between BC 5200 and BC 7400. 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 BC 10000 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!
More than a dozen scientific methods are used to determine dates of bones, artifacts and man-made structures uncovered by archaeologists. 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), but apparent age is a flawed argument because God is not deceptive.
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 BC 10000 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 humans existed on earth long before Adam.
By the time Jesus was born – sometime between BC 6 and BC 4 – every major part of every continent on earth was populated, with the 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 fewer than 4000 years ... starting from nothing ... no history or knowledge of the world ... no tools or skills ... brutally hard conditions ...
With the 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 6,000 to 12,000 years ago has been sequenced and analyzed by computer to show migration patterns and times, showing beyond doubt that humans movied throughout the earth prior to BC 4000 (before Adam).
The real issue here is not whether or not there were people on earth before Adam but whether or not the Bible is a credible book of truth.
To say that there were no people on earth before Adam (approximately BC 4000) is an indefensible position in light of modern knowledge, and most people think it is just ignorance or mindless religious indoctrination to hear Christians say it.
To ascribe this to the Bible – when the Bible doesn't say it – hinders our mission and is a barrier to Christian faith for millions of people.
The Bible does not preclude the possibility – or even the probability – that there were people before Adam. Adam was the first sinner but not necessarily the first person.
If, based on what Christians say, doubters and unbelievers think (or know) the Bible is wrong about people before Adam, they conclude that it is probably wrong about other matters, too, and that it cannot be a trusted book of truth.
The data on this chart shows that American Christians are doing the opposite of what Jesus commanded us to do (Matthew 28:19). As share of population, we are losing disciples rather than making disciples.
One reason for this loss is that Christians have added to what the Bible actually says, making claims that educated people know are not factually true – often ludicrous – and thus undermine the Bible's credibility.
Adding to what the Bible actually says creates unnecessary push-back and argument, reduces confidence in the Bible and hinders our mission of making disciples.