Yesterday I surveyed Peter Enns’ introductory thoughts in The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins. Today I will do the same for C. John Collins’ Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care .
When I introduced Enns’ chapter he began with the premise that the theory of evolution best explains human origins, therefore we ought to reinterpret the story of Adam and Eve. Collins does not deny that this “seems” to be true. He writes,
“Recent advances in biology seem to push us further away from any idea of an original human couple through whom sin and death came into the world. The evolutionary history of mankind shows us that death and struggle have been part of existence on earth from the earliest moments. Most recently, discoveries about features of human DNA seem to require that the human population has always had as least as many as a thousand memebers.” (p. 12).
Yet unlike Enns, Collins isn’t quite as willing to set aside the traditional understanding of Adam and Eve. He opens his book saying,
“Through most of the church’s history Christians, like the Jews from whom they sprang, have believed that the Biblical Adam and Eve were actual persons, from whom all other humans being are descended, and whose disobedience to God brought sin into the human experience.” (p. 11)
That last sentence will play an important part in Collins argument it seems. Thus far I have noted that he does appeal to our human experience on several occasions as a way of pointing us toward the historicity of the Adam-Eve narrative. I will say more about this in future posts.
Collins asks rhetorically, “May we not study the Bible more closely and revise the traditional understanding of Adam and Eve as well, without threat to the faith?” (p. 11) Enns would say, “yes!” Collins writes, “My goal in this study is to show why I believe we should retain a version of the traditional view, in spite of any pressures to abandon it.” (p. 13) Even as many Christians move toward accepting the evolutionary paradigm for human origins Collins reminds his readers, “…that most contemporary Christians around the world still hold to the traditional perspective on Adam and Eve.” (p. 12)
For Collins (1) the theory of evolution should not impact how we understand humans origins and (2) the Bible does not need a radical reinterpretation here. Collins and Enns do agree that the theory of evolution must be addressed and that the Bible retains relevance.
When I examined Enns’ introduction we saw that he was committed to the historical-critical approach followed by theologizing from that hermeneutical paradigm. Collins writes,
“We will look first at the shape of the Biblical story–from creation to fall to redemption and final consumation–and the worldview that rides on that story, and see whether it requires an [Sic] historical Adam and Eve and an [Sic] historical fall. Second, we will examine the main Biblical and Second Temple Jewish texts that deal with the topic, to find out whether they really do support the traditional position. Third, we will consider the Biblical view of human uniqueness and dignity, and relate these to everyday moral and religious experience, asking whether these too are evidence for the traditional position.” (p. 13)
This is a quick departure from Enns. Enns gives each part of Scripture its own unique voice while Collins emphasizes a canonical approach. Enns is willing to rethink how we understand Adam and Eve in light of modern science. Collins says we should stand our ground. Enns will use other works of Jewish literature to show the fluidity of interpretation. Collins will examine the same works to show that the traditional view is accepted by all.
In the next two posts I will (1) continue to let Collins tell us what he thinks is at stake while providing us with his remaining introductory comments and then (2) return to Enns so he can describe how he understands science and Christianity to relate. In the meantime I’d like to hear your thoughts on the different presuppositions of Collins and Enns as well as Collins a posteriori commitment to the traditional understanding of Adam and Eve.