materials in regard to the issue at hand. In other words, the full
gamut of viewpoints contradicting the traditional view of a historical Adam are nothing more than speculation in the interest
of seeking a way to harmonize the Bible and the evolutionary
views held by the majorit y of scientists.
When the reader of the Bible accepts extra-Biblical evidence
(whether from ancient Near Eastern documentation or from
modern scientists’ interpretation of circumstantial evidence)
over the Biblical record, that denigrates the Biblical record and
treats it with skepticism rather than as prima facie evidence.
In other words, we err when we assume that any major interpretive problem is due to a lack of accuracy within the text
itself. We should assume that the Scriptures are accurate until
proven otherwise by equally accurate, equally authentic, and
equally ancient evidence.
Does the issue of genre have an impact on the historicity of
the Genesis account regarding the creation of mankind?
Enns rightly reminds his readers that “narrative is not an
automatic indication of historical veracity, either in the Bible
or any other literature, ancient or modern.” In similar fashion,
we might say that poetry provides no automatic conf irmation
of a lack of historical veracity. In Did Adam and Eve Really
Exist, Collins goes so far as to declare that the presence of
anachronism within any account does not prevent the text
from referring to actual events in history.
Nonbiblical examples of narrative prose literature without
historical veracity include works of f iction. Poetry that conveys
accurate historical descriptions of true events include Biblical
poems such as Exodus 15 (the “Song of Moses”) and Judges 5
(the “Song of Deborah”), among others. Without argument,
Psalm 104 contains poetic descriptions of creation events. The
imagery and metaphors of such poetry must be understood for
being just that—no one takes a figurative expression such as
“He walks upon the wings of the wind” (Psalm 104: 3, NASB)
to mean that God has legs and the wind actually has wings.
Properly interpreting such wording requires recognition of the
f igures of speech.
Catalysts for these historical poems arise out of the actual
historical events themselves. Even the ancient myths carry a
seed of historical truth; one or more historical events often
provide the basis for their composition. Myths, however, skew
the original events and revise them according to the fallen
imagination of fallen human beings. Speaking God-given
truth sets the Biblical record apart from the pagan myths.
With all these observations in mind, the issue of genre actually acts as a red herring in this discussion. Whether Genesis
1 is poetry or narrative, the text conveys accurate historical
truth, and an actual historical event comprises the basis for the
record. Of course, some traditionalists would argue that genre
definitions and identif ications tend to be subjective and often
directed by secular motives. However, we need not jettison
legitimate literar y analysis and recognition of different types
of literature in order to reach the conclusion that Adam is a
real, historical f igure — the f irst human being and father of all
The traditional viewpoint regarding the historicity of Adam
chooses to stick primarily to the testimony of the Biblical text.
However, due to the argumentation used by those who adapt
their interpretation of the text to current scientif ic opinion,
we believe it necessary to respond in kind. If the opposition to
the traditional view appeals to science, then the traditionalists must also deal with the issues thus raised—in the realm
of science. We must remember that declarations by scientists
represent their interpretation of the evidence, not the evidence
itself. Science changes, the Scripture does not. But, that is a
matter for another essay or volume.
Walton provides the best words with which to bring this
essay to a close: “We need to defend the teaching of the text,
not a scientif ic reconstruction of the text or statements that are
read bet ween the lines of the text.”
William Barrick (ThD, Grace Theological Seminary) is director of ThD studies at The Master’s Seminary. He formerly taught at Denver Baptist Theological Seminary and worked as a Bible translation consultant with ABWE.
He is a member of Placerita Baptist Church, Santa Clarita, Calif., where he
serves as a lay elder and teaches an adult Bible fellowship class.
This excerpt taken from Four Views on the Historical Adam © 2013
by Matthew Barrett and Ardel B. Caneday. Used by permission of
Whether Genesis 1 is poetry
or narrative, the text conveys
accurate historical truth.
Mechanistic worldview affirms natural or physical laws while
rejecting God’s eyewitness account and special revelation.
Young-earth creationist worldview holds to a personal God who
is superior to the regularities that scientists investigate and who
governs the world in such a manner that he can choose to intervene in natural processes or to contravene the natural order in
his own personal wisdom.
—see Vern Poythress, Inerrancy and Worldview: Answering
Modern Challenges to the Bible