Week by week, month by month, as various science publications cross my desk, I see article after article on new findings about early man and his origins. The italics are intended to highlight the crux of an emotionally-charged controversy: the use of the word man.
Genesis 1:26-27 introduces 'adham "man,' both male and female, as the grand finale to God's creative work, the one and only creature of whom God says "made in our [my] image." Genesis 2-4 goes on to tell the personal story of this first couple, how they came to be a couple, and of their interactions with God, with one another, with Satan, and with their offspring. In Genesis 5 'adham ("man"), or ha-'adham ("the man"), becomes the proper name for Adam, the patriarch at the head of the genealogy that, if complete, would include you and me.
Does this genealogy, combined with other Biblical genealogies, give us a date for the creation of Adam? Yes, but only a loose one. A problem lies in the usage of the Hebrew words for father, 'ab, and son, ben. 'Ab can also refer to grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather. (It can even refer to a respected elder who is not physically related.) Similarly, ben can mean grandson, great-grandson, etc. Such flexibility helps explain why parallel genealogies (e.g. I Chronicles 3, Matthew 1, and Luke 3) seem at variance with one another. The Biblical scholarship of which I am aware places the date of Adam's creation roughly between 10,000 and 35,000 years ago (the extreme limits being 6000 and 50,000 years ago).
Who or what, then are the beings called (by anthropologists and others) "man" whose remains have been dated at a million or more years? (1-3) My view is that these were large-brained, bi-pedal, tool using "nephesh" (to use the Hebrew word for creatures of the sixth day, but prior to Adam), mammals created by God and endowed with such attributes of mind, will, and emotion as we see in others of the more complex species (e.g. dolphins, whales, chimpanzees, parrots, etc.). I call them hominids.
t is abundantly clear that the Biblical Adam was endowed with a quality, not just intelligence, that set him apart from the hominids and all other life-forms. God communed with him, and he with God, and God gave him the unique capacity and responsibility both to make moral decisions and to worship. In a word, he was a "spiritual" (as well as physical) creature. With his momentous act of disobedience, Adam did not cease to be a spiritual creature, but he did place himself and the entire human race in need of redemption and restoration.
The oldest artifacts of man's spiritual activity--religious relics such as idols, altars, and the like, related to worship--date back only 8,000 to 24,000 years, (4,5) in perfect compatibility with the Biblical date for Adam. Older evidence of "art" and of burial of the dead cannot be used as indicators of the spirit since bower birds, elephants, and other animals have been discovered to decorate their dwellings, lament their dead and bury them with trinkets, and engage in other "soulish" activities.
Not only would the Bible deny that the hominids were 'adham, but it would also deny that Adam physically descended from the hominids. On these points, of course, the Bible clashes with the theories held by many scientists. However, this conflict may soon fade, for the most recent research suggests that the hominids may have gone extinct before (or even as a result of) the appearance of modern man. (6,7) At the very least, "abrupt transition between [hominid] species is widely acknowledged." (8,9) Psalm 104:24-30 seems to suggest that during the days (epochs) of creation, various life-forms went extinct and then were replaced by God with new ones. This cyclical process apparently ended with the close of the sixth day. Today, the seventh day, we see an extinction rate as high as 24 species per day (and it's going higher) and a replacement rate that is virtually zero.
Exactly what took place in hominid history and how it took place remains a mystery. The Bible says nothing explicit about the hominids. The scientific record, even yet, sheds little light. The picture that so far vaguely emerges from the accumulating data does not, and will not, according to my understanding of God's revelation, ultimately contradict the Biblical account of the creature for whom the second Adam, Jesus Christ, gave His life. (10)
- Bower, Bruce. "Retooled Ancestors," in Science News, 133(1988), pp. 344-345.
- Bower, Bruce. "Early Human Skeleton Apes Its Ancestors," in Science News, 131 (1987), p. 340.
- Bower, Bruce. "Family Feud: Enter the 'Black Skull,'" in Science News, 131(1987), pp. 58-59.
- Simon, C., "Stone-Age Sanctuary, Oldest Known Shrine, Discovered in Spain," in Science News, 120(1981), p. 357.
- Bower, Bruce. "When the Human Spirit Soared," in Science News, 130(1986), pp. 378-379.
- Jones, J. S. and Rouhani, S., "Human Evolution: How small was the bottleneck?" in Nature, 319(1986), pp. 449-450.
- Bower, Bruce, "Retooled Ancestors," in Science News, 133(1988), pp. 344-345.
- Bower, Bruce. "Early Human Skeleton Apes Its Ancestors," in Science News, 131(1987), p. 340.
- Lewin, Roger. "Unexpected Anatomy in Homo erectus," in Science, 226(1984), p. 529.
- See I Corinthians 15:21-22.