The Historical Adam with William Lane Craig
Inside This Episode
Maybe God host Eric Huffman sits down for a second time with one of the world’s greatest living Christian apologists, author and philosopher William Lane Craig, to tackle the controversial subject of Adam. Was Adam a real person? And if so, who was he and when did he live?
For Dr. Craig’s first Maybe God interview, click here.
More work by Dr. Craig: www.reasonablefaith.org
Announcer: On today's episode of Maybe God, host Eric Huffman sits down once again with the world's greatest living Christian apologist, author, and philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig. Today they're tackling the controversial subject of Adam. Was Adam a real person? And if so, who was he? And when did he live?
You can also watch and share this interview on our YouTube channel. And please don't forget to rate us on Apple or wherever you listen to Maybe God.
Eric Huffman: It is a real treat today to welcome back to Maybe God one of my personal heroes, Dr. William Lane Craig. I was so honored to have Dr. Craig, on the podcast last fall. If you haven't listened to that episode about the reasons for God, and particularly the reasons to believe in Jesus and in His resurrection, I highly encourage you to check that out.
And today we get to dig even deeper into a subject that in recent years has been at the forefront of Dr. Craig's ministry, as we talk about his awesome new-ish book that came out last year called In Quest of the Historical Adam. This is going to be a fascinating conversation. Dr. William Lane Craig, thank you for joining us.
William Lane Craig: Thank you, Eric. Good to be with you today.
Eric Huffman: Really is an honor. I have to kind of pinch myself and catch my breath because I have watched you online and listened to your work for so many years, as I told you last fall. You've touched me in so many ways and led me in ways that were unbeknownst to you. I just want you to know I'm probably one of a million others. I'm just so grateful for your work.
William Lane Craig: well, thank you. It's a joy that we're involved in it.
Eric Huffman: It is. It's a great privilege. Tell me why over the last several years you decided to zero in on the topic of historical Adam. Why was this important to you?
William Lane Craig: My wife has been encouraging me for a number of years to write a systematic philosophical theology, drawing together my life's work into one vast survey of Christian doctrine from a philosophical perspective. And it seemed to me that this was a noble and worthwhile undertaking. But I realized that if I were to undertake such a project, there were certain areas of systematic theology that I needed to bone up on if I was to undertake this successfully.
One of those areas was the atonement. The other area was theological anthropology, particularly, what do you do with the figures of Adam and Eve? Were these actual historical persons from whom the entire human race is descended? And if so, when did they live? Is this scientifically credible? Are our biblical commitments capable of being defended in light of what modern paleoanthropology tells us about human origins? So it was a kind of preparatory study for this larger work in systematic philosophical theology.
Eric Huffman: Wow. Okay. And how many years did you spend on this singular topic of a historical Adam?
William Lane Craig: Well, actually relatively few compared to past projects. For example, I spent 11 years working on the subject of God and time, trying to understand divine eternity. I spent 13 years full-time working on divine aseity, trying to understand God's relationship to so-called abstract objects, like mathematical entities like numbers and sets.
But for the Historical Adam, because this was simply a preparatory study for this larger work, I spent about two years or so intensely studying the question of the historical Adam. And the book came out of that study.
Eric Huffman: So of all the questions to take up, why this one? What's at stake here?
William Lane Craig: Well, because I was conflicted about it, Eric, quite honestly. I knew that there were real scientific problems with defending the existence of a founding human pair that lived only a few thousand years ago. We have cave paintings in France from prehistoric peoples that date back tens of thousands of years. And there is no denying, I think, the humanity of these artists who produce these exquisitely beautiful cave paintings.
So it's just scientifically impossible to think that humanity originated only a few thousand years ago from this founding couple. Moreover, this [face?] is real problems with population genetics. The population profile, the earth today of the human population exhibits a degree of genetic divergence that could not have stemmed from a single human pair who lived only a few thousand years ago. It would have to be much further back.
So I was already aware that there were significant challenges that I didn't know how to resolve, how to handle. And I just chose to sweep the issue under the rug for decades, saying to myself, Well, the Christian faith doesn't stand or fall on the historicity of Adam and Eve. If there are good arguments for the existence of God and ample evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, then that is enough to say that Christianity is true, whatever you do with the historical Adam.
So I felt this was a kind of side issue, not a central issue to the Christian faith, and therefore could be safely ignored. And that was what I did for many, many years, decades. But then, when I was faced with the challenge of writing this systematic philosophical theology, when I had to address the questions of theological anthropology, I realized that I had to take this question off the backburner and to face it squarely and honestly.
And for me, that was an agonizing process. I genuinely struggled with this issue to try to understand how we should look at the these figures, Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 and 3. Are they just symbolic? Are they simply every man so to speak? Or are they real historical persons? And if so, were they the universal progenitors of mankind? How do you deal with this? So I just couldn't ignore these issues any longer. I had to face them squarely.
Eric Huffman: And as you went through this period of study and writing related to Adam and Eve as historical figures, did you change your view that they were at sort of a side issue, that it's not critical to the Christian worldview?
William Lane Craig: I did not. I do think that it isn't a central Christian truth in the way that the incarnation and the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus are central truths. So if someone denies that Adam and Eve were historical persons, I wouldn't even think to say that they are unsaved or unregenerate, not real Christians. In other words, it's not a heresy. It doesn't separate you from salvation, even if it's wrong, if it's erroneous.
And so I don't think it's a cardinal doctrine. But I do think, as I explained in the first chapter of the book, that this isn't just a sideshow. If you deny the historicity of Adam and Eve, this is going to send reverberations through your theological perspective, particularly with regard to biblical inspiration.
If the Bible teaches that there was a historical Adam and Eve, the headwaters of the human race, and you think that's false, then you've got to revise your doctrine of inspiration, such that God could inspire falsehoods, which seems incredible. That would be a really major revision to your doctrine of inspiration.
Even worse, if possible, what do you do with the fact that Jesus of Nazareth, I think, indisputably believed in a historical Adam and Eve? He refers to them, He talks about. And if Jesus was God, if He was divine, then He was omniscient.
Eric Huffman: He must have been.
William Lane Craig: And by definition, an omniscient being cannot hold false beliefs.
Eric Huffman: Sure.
William Lane Craig: So what implications would Jesus holding false beliefs have for the deity of Christ? Well, that would be huge. So in the introduction, I do attempt to look at some worst-case scenarios, if there was no historical Adam and Eve, then how might we understand the deity and defend the deity of Christ and the inspiration of scripture in light of this? So I don't think it's impossible, but I would rather not have to make those kinds of radical revisions if they're avoidable.
Eric Huffman: Right. So if there's no historical Adam and Eve, it's not as bad as if Jesus's body were somehow discovered in a tomb somewhere. But it's bad. It's not good for the current understanding of the Christian worldview, we would have to revise a lot of what we believe absent of historical Adam and Eve.
William Lane Craig: Yes.
Eric Huffman: Now, this is interesting question in regards to a doctrine that I assumed, before reading your book, was pretty universally held among Christians, the doctrine of original sin. And you bring this up in the book and in interviews I've watched of yours. And without a historical Adam, there can really be no doctrine of original sin. Could you just walk us through that? And then I have a follow-up question for you about your own view. But let's talk about generalities first.
William Lane Craig: Very good. I think that it's very important that Christian laymen who are listening to this podcast understand what is meant by the classical doctrine of original sin. It doesn't just mean that way back in the past somewhere there was a first sin-
Eric Huffman: Correct, yeah.
William Lane Craig: ...and the sinning has been going on ever since. Of course, Genesis is committed to an original sin in that sense, but that's not the classic doctrine of original sin that is taught in the Roman Catholic Church and in certain Protestant churches.
That doctrine is twofold. First, it is that Adam's guilt is imputed to every one of his descendants, so that even if I never committed a sin in my entire life, I am nevertheless guilty and condemned before God because of what Adam did.
Eric Huffman: Right. That's the doctrine.
William Lane Craig: His sin is imputed to me.
Eric Huffman: Right.
William Lane Craig: The second facet is that as a result of Adam's sin, human nature was somehow corrupted so that all of his descendants inherit this corrupted nature and propensity to sin. Now, while both of those are part of Roman Catholic doctrine, they are not universally held in the Christian church.
For example, the Eastern Orthodox Churches deny that first doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin. They do believe in the corruption of human nature, as a result of Adam's sin, but they do not believe that Adam's guilt is imputed to us. And certain Protestant denominations also denied that. And some of them would even deny the second aspect, that as a result of Adam's sin, we inherit a corrupted nature from Adam.
Now one of the things that I think became fairly clear to me as a result of my study is that Genesis 3, where the fall is described and God places these various curses upon Adam and Eve and the serpent, none of these curses involves either the imputation of Adam's guilt to his descendants nor the corruption of human nature. It's just not there in Genesis 3.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
William Lane Craig: So if you were to find this doctrine, it's got to be someplace elsewhere in Scripture than in the story of the fall. Well, you turn to Romans 5, where Paul talks about Adam's sin and the consequences that ensue from it. And I think what you find is, well, that Romans 5 also does not teach the imputation of Adam's guilt to all of his descendants nor does it even teach that there is a corrupted human nature inherited from Adam. It's not there in Romans 5.
Instead, what Romans 5 seems to teach is that through Adam's sin, he opened the floodgates of sin to the human race so that sin entered in the human race and every person since Adam and Eve have sinned and therefore accrue to themselves the condemnation and spiritual death that is the consequence of sin. So Paul is able to say in Romans 5:12, therefore, his death came into the world through one man and death through sin. Death spread to all men because all men sinned.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, not just because Adam sinned.
William Lane Craig: Exactly. So he was simply the floodgate of through which sin came into the world. So I do not think that the classic doctrine of original sin is a good reason for holding to the historical Adam and Eve. I'm not sure that the doctrine of original sin and that twofold sense I described is even biblically obligatory for us. And therefore I don't think that's a persuasive reason for saying you've got to affirm a historical Adam and Eve.
Eric Huffman: But you are suggesting that if someone does hold to that classical view, that the historical Adam is absolutely essential to that view. Well, you're also suggesting that maybe we should rethink that classical doctrine.
Although I think your definition and your interpretation of Romans 5 is closer to how most people would describe what they think original sin is. I mean, just a layman on the street or average churchgoer would probably describe original sin, if asked about, the same way you just did in terms of being Adam being a floodgate that opened the rest of us up to sin.
But the first cause is what's important here. Whatever you do with that, whether you develop the extrapolated original sin doctrine, or do what you just did, the first cause remains critical.
William Lane Craig: Yes. And for that reason, I do think that the doctrine of the fall does require a historical Adam. Without a historical Adam, the entrance of sin and spiritual death into the human race is without a cause, it would be inexplicable.
One of the reasons I think that Paul's teaching in Romans 5 does commit us to the historicity of Adam and Eve is because Paul attributes to Adam's fall real-world consequences outside the story of the fall. A purely fictional character like Sherlock Holmes cannot have real-world causal effects outside the world of the fiction. And yet, it's precisely such real-world effects that Paul attributes to Adam's sin. So I do think that Paul's teaching commits us biblically to historical Adam and Eve.
Eric Huffman: And that's sort of the first of two halves in terms of how I looked at your book is the first half, really dealing with the biblical implications, and does biblical worldview necessitate a historical Adam. And then you talk about more in-depth science regarding Adam later.
Let's talk about the Bible and whether it necessitates a view of historical Adam. You've already kind of gotten into that with Paul. As you dug into Scripture, I don't know what you expected to find about the historical Adam and the necessity of him. And Eve. I don't want to leave Eve out. But did anything surprise you in what you found scripturally?
William Lane Craig: Oh, quite a bit. I could talk about those at some length. But I think for our listeners, purposes, what is important fundamentally for everyone to understand is that the Bible includes a great variety of different kinds of literature in it. And that different sorts of literature are to be interpreted in different ways.
So example, in the Psalms, we have poetry, Hebrew poetry. And Hebrew poetry isn't intended to be interpreted literally. When the psalmist says, "Let the trees of the wood clap their hands before the Lord," He's not teaching [inaudible 00:18:39].
Eric Huffman: Sure.
William Lane Craig: He doesn't think trees have hands. Or take the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is a type of literature called apocalyptic literature. And I think as everyone who has read the book of Revelation knows it is just filled with symbolism. Beasts and multi-headed monsters and a red dragon in the sky that's going to sweep away a third of the stars with it's tail. These are clearly symbols of nation-states and alliances, politically, military alliances. These aren't meant to be taken in a literal way in Jewish apocalyptic.
Another type of literature in the Bible would be biography. In the Gospels, we have ancient biographies of the person of Jesus of Nazareth. And biographies are intended to have a serious historical interest, even though they differ from modern biographies in certain crucial respects.
So there's a variety of literature in the Bible that is to be interpreted in different ways according to the type of literature dates. And this then raises the critical question, what kind of literature is Genesis 1 to 11? The so-called primeval history of the pre-Abrahamic world prior to the call of Abraham-
Eric Huffman: Which is Genesis 12. Abram enters the scene in Genesis 12.
William Lane Craig: Exactly.
Eric Huffman: Just for our listeners' sake, to kind of get their bearings, one through 11 is different somehow?
William Lane Craig: Yes. Every Old Testament commentator recognizes that the book of Genesis falls into three large sections, the primeval history of chapters 1 through 11, the story of Abraham and the patriarchs. And then finally, the story of Joseph and his brothers. Those are the three big sections of Genesis.
And they're different kinds of literature. So the question we face is, how are we to interpret this primeval history in Genesis 1 through 11? What kind of literature is this?
Eric Huffman: Is primeval history a genre or do you need to brand it otherwise?
William Lane Craig: I think that we need to say more. To describe it as a primeval history is to say that it has an historical interest to it. But it's more than that, I believe. Many Old Testament commentators have compared Genesis 1 to 11 to Ancient Near Eastern myths, which treat the grand themes of creation, the origin of humanity, the great flood that swept over the earth. And these same grand themes characterize the primeval history of Genesis 1 to 11.
And this raises then inevitably the question, could this literature be a kind of Hebrew mythology? Comparable to say Egyptian mythology or Mesopotamian mythology, it would be very, very different from these pagan myths in that it involves what I call a desacralization of nature.
No longer in Genesis 1 are the entities of the natural world, like the sun and the moon in the stars, thought to be deities, nor is the natural world, the wind and the animals and the plants, inhabited by deities and driven by gods and goddesses. Rather, in Genesis 1, these are desacralized. They're just things that God has made. God is the transcendent Creator who has created this natural world, and these are just things that He has made—natural things.
Very, very often, Eric, the desacralization of the mythological world of antiquity is attributed to the pre-Socratic philosophers of Greece, who began to look at the world scientifically. But in fact, I think the pride of place belongs to the author of Genesis chapter 1, who hundreds of years before these pre-Socratic philosophers offered us a desacralized view of nature, that makes nature amenable to rational exploration and discovery by human reason.
So I think what we have in Genesis 1 through 11 is a kind of mythos history. It is interested in history, real events, real people as is evident from the genealogies that structure the primeval narratives into a primeval history. But at the same time, these narratives exhibit the family resemblances or the earmarks of mythology, including I think, the very important earmark of trying to give what's called an etiological account of the values and realities that are pressures and form the milieu of the author in his society.
And this is what you find in Genesis 1 to 11 is over and over again you find these etiological motifs, where reality is present to the pentateuchal author and his readers are grounded in the primordial past. The most important of these is Sabbath observance, which is just definitive for Jewish society and religion. This is grounded in God's resting on the seventh day after the work of creation was complete.
So I think a family resemblances show that we are dealing here with a sort of Hebrew mythology, but that is not devoid of historical interest, one the marries history with the figurative and often metaphorical language of myth.
Eric Huffman: So you are suggesting that we should look at Genesis 1 through 11 in particular not as strict literal history or as sort of wishy-washy folktale fable.
William Lane Craig: Right.
Eric Huffman: But we see a genre here where the author pulls from both history and mythology. Are there other examples of this particular genre in the Bible?
William Lane Craig: Oh, I'm not sure that this is anywhere else in the Bible, because I don't find outside Genesis 1 to 11 this attempt to ground present realities in the deep primordial past, which is really central to the idea of myth.
Now, you do have mythological motifs in the Psalms, where it will refer to mythological beasts like behemoth and Leviathan, which are extracted from Ancient Near Eastern myths, these mythological creatures. But I wouldn't say that the Psalms themselves belong to the genre of myth. It's just that they pick up on these mythological creatures of antiquity, and say, even these are under the sovereign direction of Yahweh, of the God of Israel. These are not independent of Him.
Eric Huffman: Before we get to the heart of the matter, which is Adam, the historical figure of Adam, what would you say to someone who says—and I'm sure you've heard this critique—that you're suggesting Genesis 1 through 11 isn't true?
William Lane Craig: Oh, it's very, very important that folks listening to us not interpret what I'm talking about in terms of popular cultures idea of what a myth is. Like the myth of the noble savage or the myth of the self-made man. That's not what we're talking about. "Myth" here doesn't mean falsehood.
Rather, I'm using the word 'myth' in the way that scholars have folklore used the word myth to describe a traditional sacred narrative that attempts to ground realities and values present to the author of his society in events in the deep, primordial past. And that is perfectly consistent with the myths being true. So we mustn't equate myth with falsehood in the way that popular culture does.
In the book, I list what I take to be at least 10 central theological truths that are taught by the primeval history that all of us as Bible-believing Christians are committed to.
Eric Huffman: That's an important point. You're not breaking new ground by simply identifying Genesis 1 through 11 as what you're calling mythical history. This is pretty standard Old Testament study, right? It's a popular belief even among guys like Parker who's a staunch literalist. Is that fair to say? Inerrantist maybe?
William Lane Craig: Yeah, that would be better. Not Literalist.
Eric Huffman: Inerrantist?
William Lane Craig: Yeah. Eric, you're absolutely right. One of the things that surprised me was that although many Old Testament commentators don't use the expression mytho-history, which derives from the great assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen, who coined this term to describe this genre.
Nevertheless, these Old Testament commentators use other word to express exactly the same thing. So for example, J. I Packer talks about dramatic history. He thinks that these are real events, but they have been dramatized in a way that doesn't require us to interpret them literally.
John Collins, the Old Testament commentator, talks about worldview history in the same way. Gordon Wenham talks about proto-history for Genesis 1 to 11. John Walton, for example, prefers the term imagistic history. He doesn't want to use the word mytho-history because he says myth is too explosive a term in contemporary culture. "So I don't want to use that. I'll use the word imagistic-history." So he makes up this literary genre that doesn't exist anywhere else.
At least, I am preserving continuity with the terminology and categories of classical folklore studies. And I think therefore, it's better than these other coined terms for expressing in fact, what a classicist or folklorist would call mytho-history.
Eric Huffman: But for folks that may not have had the time to dig into that particular field of study, or, you know, the average layman needs to have some explanation exactly what you mean with mytho-history. Anytime there's any insinuation that any part of the Bible is myth, you're going to face some backlash.
William Lane Craig: Oh, yes. And I felt very uncomfortable about it myself. I mean, I debated should I call it proto-history or something of this sort. And I thought, No, that that is just not being straight up with laypeople. It is better as a Christian scholar to be honest and forthright with our people, but to define one's terms clearly so that one knows what one is talking about.
Eric Huffman: Right. Right. So in terms of Adam, let's get right to it, what are you saying then about who Adam was and when Adam was? And how did you get there with this quest?
William Lane Craig: It seems to me that one of the central truths taught by the primeval history, one among those 10 that I mentioned is that the entire human race is descended from a primordial founding pair. There actually was an original human couple from whom the entire human race is descended.
Eric Huffman: Biblically speaking right now?
William Lane Craig: Biblically speaking. That's right. Now the question is, is that Biblical commitment compatible with what modern science tells us about human origins? Or is the Christian left with an irreconcilable conflict between these biblical commitments and what modern scientific studies of human origins tell us?
In the second half of the book, I explored the field of paleoanthropology, which is the study of human origins. This part of the book was especially stunning and surprising to me. As a result of my study, I became convinced that Neanderthals are fully human persons, they are our cousins, they are members of the human family.
And that therefore Adam and Eve, to be the universal progenitors of mankind had to be chronologically prior, not just a homo sapiens, but also to Neanderthals as well. And that would place Adam and Eve somewhere around 750,000 years ago.
The stem ancestor for Neanderthals and Homo sapiens is typically identified as Homo heidelbergensis or Heidelberg man. This was a prehistoric man who had a brain capacity comparable to that of modern human beings who exhibited cognitive behaviors that modern human beings do, and who was anatomically similar to modern human beings. So I think it's very plausible that Adam and Eve belong to this species called Homo heidelbergensis.
Eric Huffman: So fascinating. Did you expect to come to that conclusion about Neanderthals and...?
William Lane Craig: No, this was quite shocking to me.
Eric Huffman: Did you have an opinion about Neanderthals before you...?
William Lane Craig: I was aware vaguely that Neanderthals had buried their dead, that they didn't just leave their dead to decay, or throw the bodies outside the cave to get rid of the stench, but that they carefully buried their dead. There are even some remains that suggest, however in conclusively, that they have may have buried their dead on beds of flower petals.
Eric Huffman: Oh, wow.
William Lane Craig: And that displays to me a sensitivity that is distinctly human. And therefore I thought, These don't look like beasts to me.
Eric Huffman: Which is kind of the ongoing assumption that Neanderthals are not like us, that they are more animalistic and made in the image of God, which is what you're suggesting.
William Lane Craig: And what I discovered, Eric, as a result of my studies, is that the archaeological remains from Neanderthal culture show that these people not only had a brain capacity that was even larger than homo sapiens but that they exhibited cognitive behavior that included, I think, human language, foresight, symbolic thought. The archaeological remains associated with Neanderthal, I think, leave no doubt that these were fully human persons.
Eric Huffman: Wow. And those are some of the human qualities that you look for, as far as criteria, to define humanity. You mentioned some of them before: forethought, critical thinking, or reasoning skills.
William Lane Craig: Yes.
Eric Huffman: What are some of those?
William Lane Craig: Symbolic thought, the ability to grasp abstract concepts, that would be especially important. And then technological advancement. When you look at some of the tools that they were able to make, this is nothing like a chimpanzee sharpening a twig with his teeth that dig in a termite mound. They constructed tools that were exquisitely carved, that involved hafting of stone points on to wooden spears and other implements. They were craftsmen, not just beasts.
Eric Huffman: That seems to be one of the things—but I think maybe this is tops the list—that really sets your work and your hypothesis apart from what else is out there, both in Christian work around this and scientific. I mean, it seems to me a lot of the loudest voices in the Christian world tend to be some of the young Earth voices or others that might want to place Adam after Neanderthals, if they acknowledged Neanderthals at all. I mean, I've heard a lot of people just want to dismiss that as-
William Lane Craig: Yeah, that's true. Well, I think those folks are unfortunately just ignorant of the fossil remains. But what I've actually found is that young Earth creationists are very open and sometimes affirming of the humanity of Neanderthals. They just think that they lived contemporaneously with homo sapiens a few thousand years ago, right? So it's the dating that they object to, but not the identification of Neanderthals as fully human person.
Eric Huffman: I've heard you say, at least once, that if young Earth creationism were somehow proven to be true, it would be sort of a nightmare scenario. Can you explain why?
William Lane Craig: Yes, it's not that if it were proven to be true. It would be if young Earth creationism were proven to be the correct interpretation of Genesis 1 to 11. Because then you would have an irreconcilable conflict between biblical teaching and the deliverances of modern science, history, and linguistics.
When you read what the young Earth creationist has to believe in order to reconcile the appearances of age with a young Earth 10,000 years old, they're living in a different universe than most of us are. It's just impossible.
Eric Huffman: And for someone who's spent your life working to help people see the bridges that exist between faith and science, that would be unfortunate.
William Lane Craig: Yeah, it would be catastrophic frankly. That's right. So I have to be careful about that. Because you see, that gives me an inherent bias to say, Well, the young Earthers that can't be right in his hermeneutical claim that this is the correct interpretation of Genesis 1 to 11. Because I don't want that to be the correct interpretation because it would bring the Bible into irreconcilable conflict with modern science and would force the sorts of revisions in the doctrine of inspiration and Christology that I described.
So I had to really be as objective as I could in saying, look, I think that the young Earth interpretation is hermeneutically viable. I think it's much more credible than a lot of these other interpretations like functional creation from John Walton or Henri Blocher's literary framework view or Hugh Ross's Day-Age view. I think that all of those are concocted attempts to interpret the Bible in such a way as to make it reconcilable-
Eric Huffman: To make it fit.
William Lane Craig: ...[inaudible 00:40:14] of modern science.
Eric Huffman: Right. Yeah.
William Lane Craig: So I find the young Earthers' hermeneutical claim to be much more credible than a lot of these concocted interpretations. But my challenge to the young Earthers is then you give me then a better explanation of these family resemblances to myth that Genesis 1 to 11 exhibit than what the mytho-historical genre does.
There are around eight of these family resemblances to myth. Multiple instances of each one is exhibited by Genesis 1 to 11. And I've never seen any literalist give a better explanation of those family resemblances to myth than the mytho-historical interpretation.
Eric Huffman: It seem to me they're just not interested in that question, though, because the spiritual inspiration of scripture would seem, in their view, to override the possibility of myth. Like the Holy Spirit would not inspire myth.
William Lane Craig: Yes. See, that's why then I will take them to the book of Revelation, or to the Psalms, or other literary genres in Scripture that are clearly not meant to be taken in a literalistic fashion. So if we're willing to allow that God can inspire an apocalyptic book like the book of Revelation that is filled with symbol and imagery, then why can't we allow Him to inspire a Hebrew historical myth in Genesis 1 to 11?
Eric Huffman: To me, the strongest evidence for what you're trying to say isn't necessarily Revelation, though. It's Jesus and His parables.
William Lane Craig: Very good.
Eric Huffman: We have the character of God on display in Jesus. And what does He come and do? He doesn't come and report history or historical events literally. He tells stories that convey meaning, that are based in real-life events as they happen, like fathers and sons and seeds and birds and things and bread. But He does so to convey much deeper and truer meaning.
William Lane Craig: That's a wonderful illustration of the point. There you have a sort of literary genre within a genre. You have within the Gospels Jesus exploiting this genre of parable to tell stories that are not historical themselves, but which teach a clear, moral, or theological lesson. So the idea that you can't use a non-literal story to convey a central theological or moral truth is just patently wrong as the example of Jesus illustrates.
Eric Huffman: That would be Antichrist to say that, right? It would be absolutely counter to the nature of God as we see Him in Christ. So you zero in on the historical Adams as being a figure living around 750,000 years ago up to a million years ago I've heard you say elsewhere.
William Lane Craig: It's hard to give a tight window when this happened, but somewhere in that area.
Eric Huffman: You're right. Heidelberg man-
William Lane Craig: Yeah.
Eric Huffman: Do we know where Heidelberg man lived in the world?
William Lane Craig: Well, this is again, very interesting. Heidelberg man was a very cosmopolitan species. Remains have been found in China and the Far East, in Africa, in the Middle East, and in Europe, Western Europe. And so he could have originated in any of those places and then migrated to the other regions, where that species evolved in Africa into Homo sapiens and in Europe and Asia into Neanderthal man and Denisovans.
Heidelberg man could have originated in the Middle East. It's not at all implausible that he originated in the Persian Gulf Oasis, where perhaps the Garden of Eden was supposed to be.
Eric Huffman: What else do we know about him and his, you know, generations?
William Lane Craig: Well, we know his anatomy. There's a picture of him on the cover of the book, an artist's recreations. My wife looked and then she says, "He was pretty handsome dude, I think"
We know that he's associated with tool use. One of my favorite archaeological signatures of his cognitive ability are the so-called Schöningen spears. These are eight wooden sculpted Spears found in the vicinity of Schöningen Germany in an open pit coal mine. And these spears were excavated by archeologists. And then they made modern wooden replicas of these spears. And they tested them out with German Olympic athletes.
And without ever having trained with these prehistoric spears, these German Olympians, the Javelin throwers found that these prehistoric Spears were comparable to modern Olympic javelins in terms of the distance thrown, the accuracy, and the depth of penetration of the target.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
William Lane Craig: So these were not made by beasts. These were carefully sculpted spears that are on a par with modern Olympic javelins. And these are associated with Homo heidelbergensis, the coal layers from which they were extracted, Schöningen, dates to between 300,000 and 400,000 years ago.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
William Lane Craig: So these archaeological signatures, as they're called, are being pushed back further and further and further into the past. In fact, I just read a few weeks ago, that Schöningen, where there were no human remains found, but they found the spears, they have now found remains of the butchering of bear carcasses by these people that indicates that they took off their hides carefully so that they could be used as clothing. So these primitive people didn't run around buck naked in the ice age. They clothed themselves with bear fur. They clothing out of it-
Eric Huffman: Were they building cities or villages?
William Lane Craig: No, they probably inhabited caves, I imagine, to get out of the climate. But they were fire users. They had fire and use that to stay warm, and then made themselves clothing. And-
Eric Huffman: I'm sorry, go ahead.
William Lane Craig: ...and made these fantastically precise weapons that they could use and hunting.
Eric Huffman: It's really interesting. And by how many years did they predate Neanderthals?
William Lane Craig: You mean homo heidelbergensis?
Eric Huffman: Uh-huh.
William Lane Craig: Well, I think that the divergence between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens took place somewhere around 500,000 years ago or so. And so Homo heidelbergensis would be prior to that.
Eric Huffman: Right. Sure. By a few millennia.
William Lane Craig: Hundred thousand years.
Eric Huffman: Yeah. Amazing. Amazing. As we understand the anthropology of history 750,000 years ago, does science have a problem with your hypothesis about heidelbergen?
William Lane Craig: No, actually. The book has been reviewed very positively by some scientists, including Science Magazine. So I've been pleased so far that I'm not... The only correction... Here's one correction that has been issued.
I was on a panel discussion that included a paleoanthropologist from the University of California, Berkeley, who's an expert in this area. And she said that the calculation that an original founding human pair would be invisible if they existed prior to 500,000 years ago...
You remember I said that the divergence in the contemporary genetic profile of human beings couldn't have originated just 10,000 years ago. But if you go back 500,000 years ago, before that, there's no ruling out an original founding human pair. But she pointed out that calculation is based only on Homo sapiens. If you take into account the genome of Neanderthals as well, then that would push the date further back.
And I asked my information biologist friend, Josh Swamidass, how much further back would it push Adam and Eve if you take into account Neanderthal genome as well as homo sapiens. And he says, it's really hard to say because the Neanderthal genome is so degraded. These fossils don't lend themselves well to dating when the genome would have to have originated. But he said, I would imagine it'd be another, say 250,000 years and most. Well, that would put it back to 750,000 years ago. And I said, Wow, so much the better. That's exactly what my model allows for.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
William Lane Craig: Apart from that, that is the only scientific correction on the data in the book that I've received.
Eric Huffman: Right. And it's almost like the ones I've read, the scientific reviews I've read of your book, have been reluctant to praise you in a way because, you know, it's not their field, theology, and Christian apologetics. Those who look into your work might be slow to welcome you as a peer in this regard. But once they read your work and see how thorough it is, they seem to be coming around to at least validating it as worthwhile from a scientific perspective.
I mean, it is an incredible effort. I mean, obviously, one of the issues for Christians, many Christians, is going to be that of evolution, and how evolution in your hypothesis plays into this. I should point this out. You're not trying to prove anything. You're not trying to prove the existence of Adams in any particular way.
William Lane Craig: No.
Eric Huffman: You're positing a hypothesis and suggesting its plausibility. And that is enough. Like that is more than enough to celebrate and talk about.
William Lane Craig: Yes! My argument is that our biblical commitments to a founding human pair are not incompatible. With the data of modern science and paleoanthropology. I'm not claiming to prove Adam and Eve, but simply to say that it's consistent with the scientific evidence.
Eric Huffman: And in the same way, you're not necessarily putting your neck out for evolution, whatever that means. I don't even know what evolution means, because it means many different things.
William Lane Craig: That's right. The book is not about how Adam and Eve originated but when. When did they live? Is it consistent to say that there was a founding human pair at some time in the prehistoric past? But how they came to be is a matter of indifference for me in this book. Whether they came to be by evolution from lower primates or they were de novo creations by God out of the dust of the earth, it just isn't germane to the theme of the book.
Eric Huffman: Sure. But it is refreshing. I would think it would be very refreshing and relieving to someone who wants to hold on to a scientific evolutionary idea of the grand narrative of evolution and speciation and entertain the Bible as a guide for their lives and Jesus as their Lord and Savior and all of that. The idea that those two things can be held in tension together.
William Lane Craig: Yes, I think that's right, Eric. I do not think that the Bible commits the Christian to de novo creation of Adam and Eve. Indeed, I have always thought that the story of Gods creating this humanoid statue out of dirt and blowing into its nose the breath of life, and then creating a woman out of his rib is metaphorical and figurative language, and could well be indicative of the fact that God used pre-existing substances in order to bring about the first man and the first woman. It seems to me that these narratives are very figurative in the kind of language they employ.
Eric Huffman: So how would you imagine... Let's say that's given evolution, as we understand or think we do today, 750,000 years ago, how did you Adam appear in that scenario?
William Lane Craig: Well, if we take the evolutionary perspective, I think that from a theological point of view, in order to be fully human, God has to impart to some hominid form a rational soul. Because it is in virtue of a rational soul that we are persons, and therefore in the image of God.
So I could well imagine that there would be some pre-human hominid that's anatomically close to human beings. And God could cause a kind of biological macro mutation that would make that hominid capable of receiving a rational soul miraculously from God. So I could well imagine both biological and spiritual renovation of such a creature to elevate it to the level of full humanity.
Eric Huffman: Is that your running hypothesis now? Is that what you think happened, to boil it down?
William Lane Craig: I don't have a sort of running hypothesis. As I say, I'm open to the evidence. I think that we can follow the evidence where it leads. I must say that the evidence for the common ancestry of human beings and chimpanzees is very strong. And the evidence here would be primarily DNA evidence.
Not only is the chimpanzee genome and the human genome very, very similar to each other, but what is especially persuasive is that there are broken genes, mutated genes in chimpanzees that are exactly in the same place in the human genome. And it looks like these have been derived from a common ancestor in which this mutation occurred. And so his descendants have inherited this broken gene.
Eric Huffman: Right.
William Lane Craig: So while we might imagine, say, two automobiles that are independently built on the same design plan, it would seem really implausible that they would both be built with the same broken door handle, if you see what I mean. It would seem more plausible that you have here a common origin. So the evidence of these ancestral mutations, I think, is pretty good evidence for common ancestry.
Eric Huffman: Well, I think it's definitely something that is worth talking about. And we should talk about it in our churches. Because if we don't have an opportunity for people in our churches to talk about these things openly, and to, you know, wrestle back and forth with different possibilities, then the only place people will be talking about these sorts of things are in secular settings, where the deck is going to be stacked against anyone who brings the Bible to that conversation.
William Lane Craig: I think you're so wise in saying that. This is a conversation that needs to take place in the church and not just in the high school or university classroom.
Eric Huffman: Right. And it can be hard. It can be really hard to open up this can of worms because you'll be immediately branded this, that, or the other. As you've probably learned over the years, there are people even in the church, imagine that, who are quick to attack and paint you with a broad brush based on the use of a word like "myth" or metho-history.
William Lane Craig: And I want to emphasize or re-emphasize that, for me, the watershed and decisive difference between a human being and a chimpanzee is not anatomical, it's not their physical body. The key difference is the rational soul.
Eric Huffman: Sure.
William Lane Craig: We are created uniquely in the image of God, and have a rational soul that is capable of self-consciousness, intentionality, freedom of the will, and so forth. And that is not something that is derived from biological evolution.
Eric Huffman: Right. And what I find refreshing about what you've just said is, whether or not I agree with it, I don't know enough to say I agree with everything you're saying, but it is not out of line with scripture. As you're saying, it's not something that gets you out of the Christian camp from a worldview perspective.
I mean, you still suggest in your telling of this narrative, this possible narrative that at some point in time, God chose two special whatever they were, hominids or something, and ordain them for a purpose and equip them with humanity and made them in His image
William Lane Craig: Yeah, it's still a form of special creation, isn't it?
Eric Huffman: It's not de novo.
William Lane Craig: It imagines or envisions a miraculous act of God to bring this about.
Eric Huffman: Right. It is a marriage of the mythical history as you understand it from Genesis 1 and 2, with what we know about how things and how we have come to be.
William Lane Craig: Yes.
Eric Huffman: But I'm sure you've taken flack for it from within Christian circles. Can you just talk a little bit about... I'm a pastor at heart, I'm a soft-hearted person and criticism hurts. I'm sure you have taken some from within the church. What do you do when fellow Christians come out guns blazing, so to speak?
William Lane Craig: I anticipated that there would be a lot of blowback to this. But what I did not anticipate, Eric, is it people would denounce the book without reading it. Most of the denunciations of the book have come from people who have never read the book as is evident from the way in which they mischaracterized the actual positions taken in the book. And so that kind of criticism, frankly, I just don't take seriously. It's just based on ignorance and therefore isn't important to me.
Eric Huffman: The ignorance and feel probably. Because it's just easier to say, Hey, here's the Bible, take it or leave it at face value. It's way easier to do that. Because you have a tribe at that point to dismiss everyone who's not firmly in your tribe, as an outsider or a wolf in sheep's clothing, or an imposter, whatever they call people that raise questions and, you know, bring science into the mix and make the conversation more interesting, it's scary for people who just want to say no, simple as this, take it at face value, or leave it in. It's all basically one genre.
William Lane Craig: Yes.
Eric Huffman: What you're proposing is a real opening of the mind, within the church that could, it could lead us to such better conversations. And it could lead us to better evangelism. Because what are some of the main reasons people don't even consider Christianity anymore? Because they have to check their brain at the door, they feel like on the way in. They can't ask the kinds of questions you're wrestling with in this book.
So if we're serious about the Bible and we're serious about reaching people with the gospel, we better be having these conversations as hard as it is. The challenge for pastors is you're going to inevitably just lose supporters. They'll go find a church that's giving it to them, you know, in a simpler way because they want you know, them and their kids to just have that sort of security blanket of the Bible is one monolithic book as opposed to a diverse document of nine or ten different literary genres.
William Lane Craig: I admire your courage greatly, Eric. I think it's wonderful.
Eric Huffman: I'm not saying I'm there yet. We've got a lot of work to do. But my heart does bleed for pastors and churches that are trying to do this work and facing resistance from within in a way. To question things is not to denounce things. To question things biblically, for example, is not to question its authority. It's to look for better, deeper, higher answers. I know what sets your heart on fire and has for years, and it does mine as well. To say it again, your work is so so helpful to pastors and churches.
William Lane Craig: That is really gratifying for me to hear. That is thrilling.
Eric Huffman: Well, I mean it. And it's helpful on two fronts, you know, because you're so faithful to Scripture, it's helpful with hardcore Christians to say, Look, this is what Dr. Craig's saying. But it's also helpful to people that are just not sure yet about Christianity, to know that there are high high-level academics working in these fields honestly to wrestle with some of the questions they, you know, are kept up by at night as they try to answer. So I really am appreciative.
William Lane Craig: Thank you.
Eric Huffman: Dr. Craig, it's always an honor to talk to you.
William Lane Craig: Thank you, Eric. I'm glad we had this time together today.
Eric Huffman: Thanks for joining us.
Announcer: This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. Our editor is Justin Mayer and our technical directors are Mark Calver and Donald Kilgore. Maybe God's social media team is Justin Keller and Kat Brough.
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