In Part I I discussed some important theological, biblical, and ethical reasons for holding that man was physically, specially created, male and female, by God, as held by traditional interpretations of Genesis 1-2. There I defined what I called the "ensoulment view" of human evolution and the origin of the image of God in man. In this section I will relate John H. Walton's views in The Lost World of Adam and Eve to the considerations already given. Then I will lay out some more biblical evidence for the traditional view of the historical Adam and Eve. In Part III I will show how Walton responds to most of this biblical evidence (he does not actually respond to Jesus' words about marriage), and I will evaluate his arguments that the Bible does not teach the de novo creation of Adam and Eve.
Walton treats the ensoulment view as completely theologically orthodox and faithful to Scripture
John H. Walton's view on pure ensoulment (as I defined the term in Part I) has apparently changed between The Lost World of Genesis One (TLWOG1) and The Lost World of Adam and Eve (TLWOA&E). In the former, he said,
Whatever evolutionary processes led to the development of animal life, primates, and even prehuman hominids, my theological convictions lead me to posit substantive discontinuity between that process and the creation of the historical Adam and Eve. Rather than cause-and-effect continuity, there is material and spiritual discontinuity, though it remains difficult to articulate how God accomplished this. p. 139 (emphasis added)
This is the only endorsement that I have found anywhere in the two books of God's bringing about material discontinuity anywhere (after an initial moment of creation ex nihilo) in the creation of the world or the creatures, and I was much surprised to see it. Given that TLWOA&E was being touted already far and wide as removing all possibility of conflict between the "consensus of science" concerning human evolution and biblical theology, I wondered if Walton would continue to maintain a theological commitment to this material discontinuity in the second book. In fact, he does not.
Chapter 21 in TLWOA&E is entitled, "Humans could be viewed as distinct creatures and a special creation of God even if there was material continuity." So much for a theological requirement of material discontinuity. In TLWOA&E Walton states repeatedly that the imago dei is immaterial rather than material. Here (besides the title of Chapter 21) are multiple citations:
[T]he image of God is a gift of God, not neurologically or materially defined. (p. 42)
It is evident in all of these that the image of God is also an element of function (not material) that pertains to all people... (p. 89).
"Human distinctiveness is spiritual" section header, (p. 192)
The image of God provides yet another piece of evidence from the biblical text concerning the spiritual discontinuity that is characteristic of humans in contradistinction to other creatures. The four categories for understanding the image of God presented above [function, identity, substitution, relationship] are not mutually exclusive... (p. 196 emphasis added)
I believe that the image of God is something that is a direct, spiritually defined gift of God to humans. For those who believe that humans are biologically a product of change over time through common descent, the image of God would be given by God to humans at a particular time in that history. It would not be detectable in the fossil record or in the genome. (p. 194 emphasis added)
In his interview on TLWOA&E he says that the image of God is "not something that you inherit" (around minute 1:52)
These quotations constitute a fairly clear endorsement of the position that an ensoulment view would be compatible with a full affirmation of the image of God in man, since the image of God in man is strictly immaterial and indetectable by scientific means.
Walton does not say whether he personally believes in biological evolution of man, though he does say that the scientific evidence for biological continuity of man with non-human ancestors is "compelling and would be readily accepted" were it not for some people's beliefs about the teaching of the Bible (p. 182). As mentioned in the previous post, if the scientific evidence is "compelling," and if there is no theological reason to hold out for special material creation of man, it's difficult to see why he would not adopt a theistic evolution (cum ensoulment) view himself, but he is not fully clear on this.
It should be noted that when Walton says things like "[T]he analysis of the relationship of Genesis 1 and 2 has raised the possibility that the Adam and Eve account in Genesis 2 could have come after an en masse creation of humanity in Genesis 1 (chap. 7), though Adam and Eve should be considered as having been included in that group" (p. 183), the phrase "en masse creation of humanity" does not appear to mean material special creation. "Creation" (of man) is apparently compatible in Walton's view with the creation only of an immaterial imago dei. This would fit extremely well with what I have discussed and demonstrated at length--namely, that the creation week in Genesis 1 is not thought by Walton to be a description, even a vague description, of God's material creation or material shaping and altering of the world. Rather, it refers strictly to "functional creation"--invisible decrees that take place after the world is already materially in place and working. If the image of God is entirely spiritual and not scientifically detectable, and if the week of Genesis 1 is all supposed to be about God's doing invisible things, then the conferring of the image of God in Genesis 1 on day six of the week should be regarded as immaterial as well, even when referred to as "creation."
Walton does not address any of the metaphysical or ethical problems that arise from a sharp division between man's material nature, which could have evolved in its entirety, and a purely spiritual imago dei.
Walton holds that man was mortal before the fall
At first when I read Walton's interview with Christianity Today on Adam and Eve, I was very baffled. (The interview at CT is now behind a paywall but was not behind a paywall when I first accessed it. If someone wants an exact quote to support what I say when I refer to it, feel free to ask.) What did he mean by saying in that interview both that man was mortal before the fall and also that the tree of life was a remedy or antidote to death? He also says that the tree of life was an antidote to death for man, who was naturally mortal, in the interview on TLWOA&E (1:33).
He describes this theory that the tree of life was an antidote to human death in the earlier book as follows (TLWOG1, p. 100).
All of this indicates clearly that death did exist in the pre-Fall world--even though humans were not subject to it. But there is more. Human resistance to death was not the result of immortal bodies. The text indicates that we are formed from the dust of the earth, a statement of our mortality....No, the reason we were not subject to death was because an antidote had been provided to our natural mortality through the mechanism of the tree of life in the garden. When God specified the punishment for disobedience, he said that when they ate, they would be doomed to death...That punishment was carried out by banishing them from the garden and blocking access to the tree of life...Without access to the tree of life, humans were doomed to the natural mortality of their bodies and were therefore doomed to die. And so it was that death came through sin. (TLWOG1 pp. 100-101)
What does "humans were not subject to it" (death) mean there?
A conundrum arises from the contingency of this "antidote." Walton takes the Garden of Eden to have been a literal place here on earth. Both in the interview on TLWOA&E (minute 57 and 1:01) and in TLWOA&E itself (p. 126) Walton speculates on where, precisely, the Garden might have been physically located.
The theory that man was naturally mortal but was in some sense not subject to death prior to the fall because of the tree of life as an antidote is thus apparently intended to have some sort of literal, physical content, though we learn in TLWA&E that Walton is entirely open to the idea that it wasn't actually a tree. (pp. 124-125) Anyway, on the view Walton is advocating, this "something" of life was apparently actually located in the Garden of Eden and was an antidote to man's natural mortality. Man was denied access to it as a result of the fall, dooming all men to die. So anyone who couldn't get access to it, presumably, would die--of illness, accident, or age--since man was naturally mortal. This raises the question of whether there was anyone who lacked that necessary access.
I was even more baffled when, in TLWOA&E, I discovered that Walton states explicitly that man was subject to animal predation prior to the fall (pp. 53, 159-160)! Now, even if the time period after man existed in the image of God and before the fall is fairly short, if man is subject to animal predation, how could the existence of a "remedy" located in a specific garden guarantee that no human death would take place before the fall, so that man would be "not subject to" death prior to the fall? This is all the more confusing given that Walton states in multiple places that there could have been other humans besides Adam before the fall (see the above reference to en masse creation)--so many that there would be no conflict with the statements of some scientists about a minimal "bottleneck" of thousands in human evolutionary history. (TLWA&E pp. 64, 183, 181-189). In the interview on TLWOA&E (1:04 and following) Walton disclaims as entirely beyond his competence the question of whether man might have evolved in Africa and later migrated to the Middle East, where the garden was located and where the fall took place. In other words, he at least treats this as a possibility and compatible with his theories.
With all those people running around, being mortal and subject to animal predation (even aside from illness, accident, etc.), how could we be at all sure that there was no actual human death before the fall? If a man is completely devoured by a saber-toothed tiger, the question of his access to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden becomes a moot point! And if man perhaps originally came into existence in the image of God in Africa, naturally mortal, and the remedy for death was located in the Middle East...well, obviously there would have been some human death before reaching the "remedy." If one tries to maintain that there were many men before the fall, that man was naturally mortal, that man needed the tree of life as an antidote to death, but that in fact no human death took place before the fall, this seems empirically implausible and dependent on many contingent factors. (No one was actually killed by wild animals, no one was too far away to get to the tree of life in time, and so forth.) So was this actually Walton's view? I was puzzled.
I believe that I have found the explanation of this conundrum: I now have concluded that Walton is not saying that no human death took place before the fall. He is saying only that not all humans were doomed to die before the fall. In particular, Adam and Eve were not individually doomed to die before the fall, because they were assigned as "priests" in the Garden of Eden (TLWOA&E, chapter 12) and hence would have had full access to the "tree" (or whatever it was) that granted life and was located in the Garden. The clearest statement of this is on p. 159:
If we consider the model in which there were humans either preceding Adam and Eve or contemporary with Adam and Eve, we need to contemplate their vulnerability to suffering and death. If death and suffering can be feasibly inherent in a non-ordered world and be retained in a partially ordered world, then any pre-fall human population would be subject to them...In this scenario we would expect to find predation, animal death, human death, and violent behavior....In response to people who inquire as to why God would create such a world where there is predation, suffering and death, and how that could be called "good," I would say we have to understand how all the pieces fit together. "Good" pertained to the order that was being formed in the midst of non-order. The non-order, then, was not good, though not evil either, but the plan for continued ordering involved a process by which all non-order would eventually be resolved. (pp. 159-160) (bold is my emphasis)
Here Walton says explicitly that in the situation he describes prior to the fall we would expect actually to find human death.
Another confirming statement is on p. 74: "Paul is saying only that all of us are subject to death because of sin: sin cost us the solution to mortality, and so we are trapped in our mortality." (emphasis mine)
In the interview with CT, Walton affirms, in response to a question, that the only humans who had access to the tree of life were Adam and Eve.
On p. 154 he implies that the earliest human beings, before the fall, were killing each other:
After all, anthropological evidence for violence in the earliest populations deemed human would indicate that there never was a time when sinful (= at least personal evil) behavior was not present.
This leads into Walton's strained notion that these earliest populations were not "held accountable" for acts that would otherwise be regarded as sins, which I will explore more in the discussion of sex. In any event, the picture here seems to be one in which at least some people in the image of God actually were dying and being killed before the fall.
We can therefore fit all the pieces together by concluding that Walton does not think that there had to be zero human death before the fall but only that there was to some degree a remedy for death available before the fall. This may have been available only to Adam and Eve. Walton's assertions can be made consistent if we take it that, on the view he is promoting as orthodox, there would have been some human death before the fall. In fact, I cannot see any other way to make his statements consistent.
I have already given arguments against this in Part I. It is an extremely strained interpretation of Paul's theology of the connection between human death and sin to say that only some humans were spared from death prior to the fall and that Paul means only that after the fall all humans were doomed to die. It is also incompatible with the natural sense of the horror and wrongness of human death. It is also incompatible with the idea that God's original plan for man was that man be embodied (death being the contrary-to-design separation of the body from the spirit).
The Scriptural evidence that Adam and Eve were literally the first humans, which I will explore more below and in Part III, is relevant here as well. If they were the first and only humans before the fall and did not die before the fall, then de facto there was no human death before the fall. The view that human death is part of the original creation as made and intended by God is impossible to support on textual evidence, and in fact the biblical text argues strongly against it.
Walton's views do not support a robust notion of God's natural design plan for human sex
It is surprising that Walton has relatively little to say in the two books I have reviewed or in the interviews on them about marriage and God's original intent for it. When I got my copy of TLWOA&E I looked immediately for his discussion of Jesus' words, quoted in Part I, concerning God's setting up marriage with one man and one woman "in the beginning." At first I could find nothing. The index of Scripture passages does not show any reference to these verses. Then, as I was carefully reading any footnotes that seemed like they might be useful, I found what appears to be the only reference to Jesus' words in either book.
In the main text leading up to this footnote, Walton says,
We can now see that Genesis 2:24 makes more of a statement than we had envisioned. Becoming one flesh is not just a reference to the sexual act. The sexual act may be the one that rejoins them, but it is the rejoining that is the focus. When Man and Woman become one flesh, they are returning to their original state. (p. 81)
The footnote that follows this is rather surprising, considering the text it follows:
This also makes much better sense of Matthew 19:5-6//Mark 10:7-8....Ontology is more central to this discussion than sex is. Genesis 2:24 may therefore have less to say about the institution of marriage and the nature of marriage than has been commonly thought. (p. 220 note 16 My emphasis.)
Having just lyrically declared that man and woman's becoming one flesh "returns them to their original state," Walton proceeds to insinuate that Genesis 2:24 ("For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh") has "less to say about the institution of marriage and the nature of marriage than has been commonly thought." This is quite astonishing, especially since he alludes in the footnote to the verses in which Jesus explicitly applies this very verse in Genesis to the question of divorce and the nature of marriage!
Walton holds that the "forming" account of Adam in Genesis 2 is an "archetypal" account of Adam's forming which is compatible with Adam's being born from a woman (p. 76). He further holds that the forming account of Eve refers to a dream-vision that Adam had in which God made a revelation about Eve to Adam. It does not actually tell us that God materially made the male first and then the woman physically from the male (pp. 79-80). I will have more to say about Walton's views and arguments about these forming accounts in Part III. On Walton's view, Eve could have evolved physically; the text makes "no claim about material origins" (p. 80).
It is therefore quite difficult to say what Walton means by "returning to their original state" in marriage, since he does not believe that woman physically came from man. Is this "original state" supposed to mean Adam and Eve's well-suitedness in the garden as partners, or what? Nor can the "original state" mean the original male-female pairing, since Walton holds that Adam and Eve might have been part of an "en masse creation" which would have included other male-female pairings.
One might think that some clue to this would come from what Walton thinks God revealed to Adam about Eve in the vision, but that is little help. When asked directly in the interview what God revealed to Adam about Eve in the vision, Walton replies that God revealed that she was his ally in "keeping sacred space." (Around minute 38) He also says (p. 109-110) "God then shows Adam in a vision that woman [in contrast to animals] is his ontological equal, and when he awakes she is brought to him and he recognizes that fact." Around minute 41 in the interview Walton also emphasizes the notion of male-female equality as an important message of Adam's vision. (This from the author who makes so much of the vital importance of entering into the "ancient near eastern mindset" is really a bit much!)
But of course Eve could be Adam's ally and ontological equal without being female. When asked about this very point in the interview, Walton says (around minute 39) that of course Adam "wouldn't view another man" as "the other half of himself." This is a charmingly naive bit of "heterosexism," but Walton must surely know that there are men nowadays who do claim to view another man as the "other half of themselves"! Walton states that "gender identity is under discussion" in Genesis 2 and that mankind is "ontologically gendered" (pp. 80-81), which is good as far as it goes, but in fact his rejection of any physical meaning for the forming accounts in Genesis 2 and his emphasis upon gender equality makes it difficult to see how, on his view, gender complementarity is being taught in Genesis 2. Certainly he never addresses the question of why man's existence as heterosexual should be regarded as any more God's special intention than man's sickness if both came about through God's invisible work in the processes of evolution. And he never addresses the arguments that I outlined in Part I from Jesus' words about marriage and the beginning. In fact, at around minute 40 in the interview he says that Genesis 2 is not establishing marriage as a "sociological institution"!
But there is more: Walton holds that human beings prior to the fall and prior to Adam's installation as a "priest" in the "sacred space" of the Garden of Eden (that is his interpretation of Adam's being placed in the Garden to keep it) were in a childlike state of non-accountability. In that state, he believes, they likely did commit acts that would now count as sins but were not held accountable for them. He says this in the quotation about violence from p. 154, given above, and also on p. 155:
When a law is identified or when the desires or nature of God are made known, those who receive such information become accountable. By accountable, I mean that they can now be considered guilty of violation and are therefore subject to punishment....This reasoning suggests that even though any human population possibly preceding or coexisting with Adam and Eve may well have been engaged in activity that would be considered sin, they were not being held accountable for it: where there was no law or revelation, there was no sin....In this scenario, the sin of Adam and Eve would be understood as bringing sin to the entire human race by bringing accountability.
The implications of this theory about accountability for the matter of sex are rather disturbing. If we apply Walton's analysis of human violence and his ideas about accountability to human sex (and nothing he says prevents such an application), this would mean that man prior to the fall could have been and plausibly was engaging in promiscuous sexual relations, at a minimum, if not perversions, but that these didn't count as sins for which man was accountable because man was in a state of non-accountable innocence. This would mean, further, that human sex does not have the intrinsic, natural, and embodied significance asserted by natural law reasoning.
If, on Walton's view, God revealed to Adam that he desires monogamy rather than promiscuity or polygamy and that he intends the human male-female bond to be permanent, Walton does not say this. In fact, as we have seen, he says that Genesis 2 has less to do with marriage than previously thought! But even if he has such a revelation tacitly in mind, it would still mean that heterosexual monogamy was not inherently part of the natural and truly original state of man prior to such a revelation. We could rather picture a sort of pre-revelation world in which childlike humans, possibly including Adam and Eve themselves, prior to their being singled out to have priestly functions and given more revelation from God, are having sex with whomever they please but in which this does not really have deep significance, because no law has been given. Walton even refers to Adam and Eve as the "first significant humans," (p. 114, his emphasis) though he affirms that others would have been in the image of God.
To say that any such view of human sexuality would be less than robust, less than biblical, and incompatible with a clear notion of the physically embodied nature of God's design plan for mankind is putting it mildly. Yet it appears to be impossible to rule out given Walton's arguments about pre-fall man. Contrast this picture of early, non-accountable man both with Jesus' words about God's intention for human marriage "in the beginning" and also with the Apostle Paul's statements in Romans 1 that all men do have the natural law of God "written on the heart."
Some more of the biblical evidence that Adam and Eve were the first human beings
There is a plethora of biblical evidence for the traditional view that not only did Adam and Eve exist, they were the first and only progenitors of the human race. I have already discussed Jesus' words concerning marriage and the beginning, which Walton does not attempt to respond to as an argument for the traditional view. In Part III I will discuss Walton's arguments, including his attempts to respond to most of these scriptural arguments for the traditional view of Adam and Eve. In one case (where a long discussion is not required) I will deal in this post with Walton's response to the Bible verse.
Genesis 1:26-27 says that God made man, male and female, in the image of God. Genesis 5 begins "This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and beget a son in his own likeness..." Genesis 5 is here repeating Genesis 1:27 in direct connection with the individual, Adam, whom it seems to be treating as the first human being.
Walton himself acknowledges that "Adam" here in verse 1 and verse 3 refers to one historical individual, Adam (p. 61). However, he takes Genesis 1:27, repeated here in Genesis 5:2, to refer to what could have been a much larger group of individuals, probably including Adam (p. 183). Adam, on Walton's view, might very well not be the first man from whom all others are descended, and he is very concerned to argue that not taking Adam to be the first man from whom, with Eve, all other humans are descended is compatible with a faithful interpretation of the Bible. But this would require a very strained interpretation of Genesis 5:1-3, requiring the text to switch back and forth between clearly talking about one man to talking about a group (not just Adam and Eve) to talking about one man again in the genealogy. Needless to say, the "them" in verse two refers quite evidently to "male and female." Two people is sufficient for the plural; a group of thousands is not remotely implied or required! And the genealogy then moves on to describe Adam's descendants (from Seth onward) as if Adam and his wife are the only first progenitors. There is no hint in the text here of any other initial progenitors of the human race other than Adam and Eve.
I Chronicles 1 begins its genealogy with Adam. Again, there is no hint of any large group of progenitors of the human race.
More tellingly still, Luke 3:38, completing the "backwards" genealogy of Jesus (probably through Mary, with Joseph being the son-in-law of Heli in vs. 23), finishes, "Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God." This explicit statement that Adam was the son of God seems like a direct affirmation that Adam a) did not come into being by some elaborate physical process and even more b) was the first man.
I Timothy 2:13, already quoted in Part I, expressly and unequivocally states that the man was formed first. If Adam and Eve were both the products of a long process of human evolution, and if there were other humans alive at the time, there is no reason to believe that Adam was formed first. Eve could have been naturally conceived, for example, before Adam was. Paul is clearly taking it that Adam was the first man and that Eve was the first woman, and he is clearly getting this from a reading of Genesis 2 that takes it to refer to the physical, de novo creation of Adam and Eve. He is also using this point to support theological conclusions about the role of women in the church.
In Genesis 3:20, we are told, "Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." The prima facie meaning of this is that Eve is the first woman and original mother of all human beings thereafter. Walton (pp. 187-188) attempts to interpret this in a purely metaphorical sense, instancing Genesis 4:21, which says that Jubal was the "father of all" who use the harp and organ. But for a metaphoric interpretation to make sense, there must be a something indicated by the context or by common sense that it can be a metaphor for. The statement about Jubal is quite easily understood as a metaphor for Jubal's being a kind of ur-musician, an intellectual and artistic forebear. There is no similarly obvious metaphoric meaning which the reference to Eve as the "mother of all living" could have. Walton's elaborate notion that Adam and Eve were the first ones given priestly functions, that they were given access to the "sacred space" of the garden, and all the rest of it, is entirely his own construct, not stated in the text. And it would in any event make a very unlikely meaning for the phrase "the mother of all living." Eve on Walton's view may very well not have been the first woman but was one of the first two people to be accountable for sin, and she blew it, thereby bringing exclusion from the tree of life! After that, assuming a much larger original group of humans, she and Adam just went and lived with all the other human beings, their children interbred with them, and that was that. It seems implausible that anyone would refer to her (completely failed) role as the first "significant" woman by calling her "the mother of all living." So what could the "mother of all living" be a metaphor for? Walton's attempt to deflect the effect of "mother of all living" to a generically metaphoric meaning is a strained and unclear interpretation.
These are not the only positive biblical arguments, but space forces me to stop for now. The forming accounts in Genesis 2 will be dealt with in Part III when I discuss some of Walton's positive arguments for his positions.
Disclaimer: A review copy of The Lost World of Adam and Eve was provided by Intervarsity Academic. A positive review was not required.