Adam and Anthropology

Adam, Anthropology and the Genesis Record: taking genesis seriously in the light of contemporary science.

Allan John Day, January 2000




Allan John Day is Emeritus Professor (Physiology) University of Melbourne, Australia, a Senior Academic Fellow, Ridley College, Melbourne and a Fellow of ISCAST (Institue for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology.


Much of the perceived conflict between science and Christian belief is not due to any intrinsic disagreement between these two approaches.

Much of the perceived conflict between science and Christian belief is not due to any intrinsic disagreement between these two approaches to truth, but rather to the conflict of emerging science with entrenched interpretations of Scripture. The history of the science/faith interface attests to this fact from the time of Galileo and before. It is important therefore, in interpreting Gen. 1-3, to take into account the findings of contemporary science. This approach should be made, not as an attempt to conform science to the bible or the bible to science, but rather as one in which science serves along with history, culture and language as one of many inputs into the interpretative exercise. The important message of Genesis and of the role of Scripture as the Word of God is not compromised by such an approach, but rather enhanced and its relevance in the contemporary scene emphasised.

In this paper an attempt is made to assess the findings of modern anthropology in relation to the interpretation of the Genesis account of Adam and the Fall. It is maintained, that neither a strictly literal interpretation, nor one which identifies an individual historic Adam with the Biblical Adam, is consistent with the findings of cultural and physical anthropology. On the other hand, it is proposed that an interpretation suggesting a generic (representative humanity) Adam and a gradual emergence of both humanity made in the 'image of God' and of the Fall is consistent with a proper interpretation of Gen. 1-3. It is maintained that the essential message of Gen. 1-3 with its theology of humanity created in the image of God and embracing the development of a sinful human nature needing redemption is not compromised by this reading.

Key words

Adam, Fall, Anthropology, Genesis, Biblican Interpretation.

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