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Who were Adam and Eve? Were they real people or just mythological/symbolic people? And why are they essential to Christian teaching? Below we will look at why the entire Christian belief system would unravel if Adam and Eve had not existed, but we will start with whether they were real people or not…
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Gen. 1:27, NIV
Those of you who have taken the Feed Yourself course know that different books of the Bible are written in different styles. If the story of Adam and Eve was found in a poetic or prophetic book, there might be some legitimate doubt as to whether they were real people - although no person in any book of Scripture is ever mythological. Some Biblical books use terms like “the trees clap their hands” or “the moon turned to blood” to picture things for us, but people are always real except in clearly defined parables.
Genesis is presented as a historical book. It is clearly intended to be taken as literal history. To reject the idea that Adam and Eve were real people is essentially to call God a liar.
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ Matt. 19:4, NIV
Jesus Himself believed Adam and Eve to be real people and based His teaching on divorce on their marriage. If Jesus was wrong - and they were not literal people - then Jesus made a mistake. If He made a mistake, He is not perfect. If He is not perfect, He cannot be our Saviour.
Some may wonder, other than the fact that Jesus believed them to be real people, does it matter? Real or mythological - does it really change what we believe? Are there not more important things to focus on?
For an excellent reason, Genesis is the most attacked book in the Bible. Even if Christians do not, the enemies of Christianity know that if they can destroy Genesis, they can destroy Christianity. Genesis is the foundation. Take out the foundation, and the structure collapses.
Have you ever wondered why the Bible never talks about the salvation of angels? It is simple. God created each angel mature. At one point in time, each angel had the choice of following God or rebelling. Once that choice was made, they were locked into it forever. There is no salvation for rebellious angels [now called demons]. They are what they are eternally.
With humanity, God chose a different approach. We were not all created at once, so there could be no one point in time when we all decided to follow God or rebel against Him. With humanity, God chooses to work on the principle of representation.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— Rom. 5:12, NIV.
God created Adam and Eve perfect and mature. Like the angels, they had no inward desire to rebel and were perfectly capable of making either decision. Adam, specifically, was made the representative of the human race. Whatever decision he made, he made on behalf of the entire human race. As we know, he chose to rebel, leading us into sin - which is essentially disobedience to God.
Death is the punishment for rebellion - whether human or angelic. We should note that death does not mean non-existence. Death is separation from God, from Life itself and ultimately an eternal existence in the excruciating flames of Hell cut off from all pleasure, hope and happiness.
If Adam and Eve were not real people, then we have no explanation for why there is sin, pain and death in the world. Only a real person could make a real decision with real consequences!
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Cor. 15:22, NIV.
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Rom. 5:17-19, NIV
Of course, here we see the genius of God. Because Adam could represent humanity into sin and death, Someone else could represent humanity out of sin and death and into redemption and salvation. We look at this in Jesus Is Saviour.
But it all rests on Adam and Eve being real, genuine, historical people. If they were not, then Jesus, as a real, historical Person, could not bring us salvation. It is all tied together. If one is not true, then neither is the other.
The non-Christian may scoff and doubt the historical reality of our first parents, but the Christian cannot afford to do so. His faith rests on the Truth of Scripture from beginning to end. We cannot dismiss Genesis and its stories as unimportant or unreal. On them rests the reason for the rest of Scripture. If they are not real, then neither is our salvation.
We look at this in detail in our Love Covenants course.
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