From The Dust: Creating Adam In Historical Context -- By: John M. Soden

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 172:685 (Jan 2015)
Article: From The Dust: Creating Adam In Historical Context
Author: John M. Soden

From The Dust:
Creating Adam In Historical Context

John M. Soden

John M. Soden is Professor of Bible and Theology, Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


Genesis 2:7 records the specific creation of Adam from dust, adding details to the initial creation account in Genesis 1. Current debate considers the relation of Genesis 2 to a “historical Adam” and initial material creation, including whether it presents a literal, archetypal, or generally figurative description. This article notices that the rest of the Scripture “remembers” Adam being created “from dust” as a picture of his fragility and transitory nature. It also shows that extrabiblical creation accounts from Mesopotamia and Egypt use similar motifs in similar but clearly figurative ways. These observations do not argue against a historical Adam, but argue for a generally figurative understanding of his creation in Genesis 2.


In discussions about the historical Adam, the nature of the creation story in Genesis 2 raises important questions. When God creates Adam from dust, is the narrative presenting a literal event of God taking dust or clay, forming it (perhaps on a potter’s wheel), and breathing into the formed nostrils the divine breath to give life? Or on the other hand, does the author intend readers to understand something more figurative? Is he talking about the substance or physical makeup of man? Or could he be commenting on mankind’s connection to the creation, their humble, fragile nature, as well as the source of their life or spirit? Are figurative implications appropriate even if he is speaking literally, resulting in a somewhat symbolic (or archetypal?) intent? How do

answers to these questions impact whether the narrative is intended to present a historical event with a historical Adam or not? Or to say it another way, even if the depiction is figurative, does it still intend or allow a historical event that is being pictured figuratively? Of the many issues that must play into an overall understanding of the account in Genesis 2, this study looks specifically at the creation from dust motif in Scripture and corresponding accounts in the ancient world to see what implications they hold for understanding the passage at hand.

Creation Of Man From Dust In Genesis 2:7

After noting that there was no man to cultivate the ground (הָאֲדָמָה,

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