Blogging through “The Lost World of Adam and Eve”, by John Walton
• Post #3: Propositions 7-11
Here are the next propositions John Walton makes regarding Adam and Eve and the account of Genesis 2-3:
- The second creation account can be viewed as a sequel to the creation account in Genesis 1 (not a recapitulation of the sixth day).
- “Forming from dust” and “building from rib” are archetypical claims and not claims of material origins.
- Forming of humans in ANE literature is archetypical, so it would not be unusual for Israelites to think that way.
- The New Testament is more interested in Adam and Eve as archetypes than as biological progrenitors.
- Though Adam and Eve are archetypal, they are nonetheless real people who lived in a real past.
With these propositions, John Walton attempts to solidify the main argument of his book:
Genesis (and the rest of the Bible) treats Adam primarily as an archetype, nevertheless he was a real historical person.
Proposition 7: This point has been self-evident to me ever since I came to understand the structure of Genesis. Genesis is organized according to ten statements introduced by a phrase using the the word toledot: “These are the generations of…” Essentially, these statements introduce a new section that builds upon the previous one, telling “what came forth” from the main character of the previous section. Genesis begins with the ordering of the “heavens and the earth.” Genesis 2:4ff tells “what became of” the heavens and the earth. Creationists see Genesis 2 as a recapitulation of the sixth day in Genesis 1, but Walton points out why that cannot be so. One implication of this is that Genesis 1 describes the creation of humankind while Genesis 2 describes another, later election by God of a particular couple of human beings. Adam in chapter 1 does not equal adam in chapter 2, and the particular adam in chapter 2ff was not necessarily the first human being.
Proposition 8: This is a key section of the book. Walton attempts to show that Genesis 2 is not necessarily an account of the “de novo” creation of the first human beings. Rather than portraying a unique, individual event, the “creation” of Adam and Eve is an archetypical representation of the nature of human beings. He gives evidence from throughout the Bible that all human beings are viewed as being formed from “dust” (mortal). Furthermore, he makes the case that the account of Eve being created from Adam’s “side” represents a vision Adam saw rather than an actual “surgical” procedure, and that the subsequent context shows the woman’s archetypical role as the ontological complement to the male.
Previously in this chapter, we found reason to conclude that “formed from dust” was archetypal rather than a description pertaining to Adam alone. We have also seen reason to believe that “rib” should be understood as “side.” Furthermore, we have suggested that Adam has seen Eve’s formation in a vision but that the vision conveys an ontological truth with Eve serving as an archetype. In both cases, the archetypal interpretation offers the reader significant theology about the identity of mankind and womankind. As such, it does not, however, make definitive claims about the material origins of either Adam or Eve. If Genesis 2 makes no claims about material human origins, one would find no other statement in the Bible to offer details beyond the fact that we are all God’s creatures. (p. 81)
Proposition 9: I won’t spend a lot of time on this section, but Walton reviews pertinent Ancient Near Eastern accounts of human origins and finds that they universally focus on the role and function of humans in the cosmos, rather than trying to merely explain where humans came from (their biological existence). He does this to provide a cultural context for how the Israelites might likewise have thought.
Proposition 10: In this section, John Walton leaves Genesis and takes a look at how the New Testament presents Adam. There are five passages in the NT that name Adam and Eve:
- Romans 5
- 1Corinthians 15:21-22
- 1Corinthians 15:45-49
- 2Corinthians 11 (Eve)
- 1Timothy 2
He finds that these passages pay little attention to the question of human origins (were Adam and Eve the first created humans) and focus more on the subject of the fall. Adam is viewed as an archetype representing mortal humanity and as the one through whom all sinned. At this point, Walton is not concerned to elucidate all the details, merely to show that an archetypal interpretation is consistent with the NT perspective.
Proposition 11: John Walton is convinced, in the end, that Adam and Eve were real individuals who lived in real space-time history, and that, even though the Bible portrays them as archetypes who represent certain spiritual truths, their historicity is unquestionable.
When we identify Adam and Eve as historical figures, we mean that they are real people involved in real events in a real past. They are not inherently mythological or legendary, though their roles may contribute to them being treated that way in some of the reception history. Likewise they are not fictional. At the same time, there may be some elements in their profile that are not intended to convey historical elements. I have already noted (chap. 6) that their name are not their historical names. Likewise, if the forming accounts are archetypal, those are presenting truths about the identity of Adam and Eve rather than historical events. Despite these qualifications and caveats, I believe the textual information leads to the conclusion that Adam and Eve should be considered real people in a real past for several important reasons. (p. 101)
The two primary reasons Walton finds for believing in a historical Adam are:
- The genealogies: “By putting Adam in ancestor lists, the authors of Scripture are treating him as a historical person.” (p. 102)
- The fall: “…we observe that the punctiliar nature of the redemptive act is compared to the punctiliar nature of the fall, which therefore requires a historical even played out by historical people.” (p. 103)
Though Walton sees them as historical, he does not think we are required to view Adam and Eve as the first human beings or the universal ancestors of all human beings. “In other words, the question of the historical Adam has more to do with sin’s origins than with material human origins” (p. 103).