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Bible: Man looking at city where people lived before Adam

Were there people before Adam?

INSIGHT 3
What the Bible says

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.

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.

See Bible study here on I Corinthians 15.

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 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.

See Bible study here on Romans 5.

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 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 original 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), 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.

Genesis 2: No suitable helper found

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.

Genesis 3: Adam and Eve naked

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 4: Eve 'mother of all the living'

'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 spiritual people with access to eternal life. Some versions of the Bible say 'the mother of all who live' and 'the mother of every living soul,' which are more precise translations.

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

Genesis 1-2: Childbearing

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.

Genesis 4: Farmer, rancher and builder

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).

Genesis 4: Cain's wife and city

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.

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 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.

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 law from God and was the first sinner.

Acts 17:25-26: Every nation 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 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 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.

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