Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
STR 4:2 (Winter 2013) p. 223
Peter Enns. The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2012. Xx + 172 pp. Paperback, ISBN 978-1-58743-315-3. $17.99 Paperback.
The historicity of Adam is the latest faith-science battleground. New studies in genetics have asserted that the human genome’s complexity cannot allow for a single male ancestor, which contradicts theological assertions that original sin only can be understood correctly by the historicity of a literal first father.
Enns wishes to avoid what he views as false dichotomies. As he notes, “People have left their faith behind when confronted with such a false choice. If the faith of such readers is to be sustained, they must not cling to the mistaken approaches of the past but find the courage to adjust their expectations to what Genesis is prepared to deliver” (56). Enns therefore employs an orthodoxy defined not by the biblical text but by its interpretations in the historical creeds (x-xi).
For Enns, this means re-evaluating not the text of Genesis so much as its ancient Near Eastern literary context. He affirms Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis, placing the composition of the Torah as late and editorial. By reading Genesis’s opening as the product of a newly nationalistic Israel, the creation story becomes merely one more competing story.
This view encounters substantial theological problems, particularly those rooted in Paul’s linkage between Adam and Christ in Rom. 5. Enns notes the paucity of Old Testament references to Adam and at least implies that Paul’s views of original sin are alien to the remainder of Scripture because of his faulty handling of prior texts. While Enns affirms sin’s universality (xi), he is ill-at-ease with Pauline original sin (and its theological heirs).
Evangelicals likely will view Enns’ arguments as rigged from their outset. First, he constantly asserts the logical fallacy of the appeal to authority (argumentum ad verecundiam). Statements such as “biblical scholars commonly accept” (38) and “there is really little question among scholars of Scripture” (47) tend to be overblown when applied to contentious issues such as the dating of Genesis and authorial intent.
Second, he deflates inspiration to what he terms “a faulty theological assumption …: The Bible is inspired by God and therefore simply can’t reflect the sort of nonsense we see in the ancient world. God is the God of truth and wouldn’t perpetuate lies, but correct them” (42). This places the opening of Genesis into the category of pure myth, though it somehow retains its moral force as “God’s Word” (56). Indeed, E...
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