There’s strong debate nowadays, even among Christians, regarding whether or not Adam and Eve were the first two humans God created.
Theistic evolutionists (those who believe God used evolution to create the world) assert that Genesis 1-11 are largely figurative, including what those chapters say about Adam and Eve.
Instead of believing that God created two humans to give rise to an entire race of people, theistic evolutionists say that humans came from a small population of about 10,000 to 20,000 ape-like creatures.
Biblical Ramifications of a Figurative Adam
Were Adam and Eve figurative? For those who say yes, there are some severe theological consequences to such a view.
First of all, it puts the authority of Scripture into question. While theistic evolutionists claim Genesis 1-11 is poetic or hyperbolic in nature, we don’t believe this is a fair reading of Scripture.
Would hyperbolic or poetic passages list such detailed genealogies or explain events with such precision and depth? In other biblical passages where detailed figurative language is used, the text makes it abundantly clear that it’s not literal (such as prophetic visions, parables, etc.). We see no such indications in Genesis 1-11.
Answers in Genesis biologist Dr. Nathaniel Jeansen says a figurative view of Adam can impact the very gospel itself.
He points to Romans 5, where the apostle Paul makes an important contrast: Just as sin came through one man (that is, Adam), so did salvation come through one Man (that is, Jesus).
If you change the beginning, it has a profound impact on how you can interpret the end. After all, if sin arose from a population instead of one man, then did salvation become available through a population instead of one Man? In other words, are there many paths to salvation?
Genetic Evidence for a Literal Adam
Theistic evolutionists point to what they view as genetic evidence that the human race arose from about 10,000 beings instead of just Adam and Eve. They say there is simply too much genetic diversity for humans to have come from just two people.
For instance, evolutionary creationism asserts that all DNA differences among humans are due to mutations. This is because, in each generation, DNA is copied, albeit not perfectly. The results are increased variances in DNA with each passing generation.
But to assume that mutations are the only reason for DNA diversity is to assume evolution is true. Young earth creationists, on the other hand, would attribute the majority of DNA differences to creation and only a minority to mutations from then on.
What does that mean? Dr. Jeansen and Tompkins explain it this way: God created Adam and Eve with genetic differences from the start. Through recombination and gene conversion, each of their children would have been unique and produced diversity within the human race.
The Mitochondrial Adam and Eve
Even evolutionists agree that all humans alive today can be traced back to one man and one woman. Why? Because of our mitochondrial DNA (also known as mtDNA).
The only difference for evolutionists is that these two mitochondrial ancestors didn’t have to be alive at the same time. And they weren’t the first two people. Instead, they assert that all other human lineages eventually died out except the line of people that came from that one woman (called Mitochondrial Eve). And at another point, all lineages had died out except the line of people that came from that one man (called Mitochondrial Adam).
As Christians, we know the genetic evidence points to one man and one woman because that’s how God produced the human race about 6,000 years ago (or about 4,500 years ago with Noah and his wife).
In fact, if we factor the rate of mtDNA mutation and test how many differences would have occurred from both the evolutionary and creationist starting points, we find some interesting results.
If humans originated around 180,000 years ago as evolutionists predict, then we should see around 2,250 mtDNA differences. If humans can be traced back to one pair around 4,364 years ago (Noah and his wife), then we would see around 30 to 114 mtDNA differences. In actuality, we see 53 to 103 such differences in humans today.