In Genesis there is the genealogy of Adam to Noah, then the account of the flood. After that is the genealogy of Noah to Abraham. The accounts of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob's sons then follow. After that is an unspecific number of persons to Moses.

Theistic Evolution, I would think, must reject the creation account as literal, therefore, the created Adam was not a real person. I would also think that Theistic Evolutionists reject the Flood as factual, at least in its scope being global, but the point is that I would bet there are many who say that Noah was not a real person, either. After that I have not heard much discussion from Theistic Evolutionists.

So, moving down the genealogy in Genesis, when is there majority consensus among Theistic Evolutionists that the persons become real and are no longer figurative? Seeing as how the Theistic Evolution movement is not really unified perhaps this question is too broad, but Catholicism has a stance that is very close to it so I would accept answers from that perspective, if there are any.

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    I don't really know why you ask about "theistic evolution", which is purely about human origins. It seems like you are searching for a shorthand for "people who do not believe in a historical Adam" (which some theistic evolutionists do and some don't).
    – James T
    Apr 5, 2013 at 1:31
  • @JamesT Yes, I know that some do and some don't. It seems the large majority don't. I am looking for 'majority consensus'.
    – user3961
    Apr 5, 2013 at 6:58
  • This would be a better question if "theistic evolution" were replaced with modern critical scholarship or an equivalent phrase. You're really asking about more than evolution. Apr 6, 2013 at 4:36
  • @BruceAlderman I disagree. Other criticisms may not have this issue at all. Theistic Evolution (Christian flavor, obviously) inherently has the issue of deciding when the stories in the Bible stop being myth and start being fact. You are right. The question is not at all about Evolution. It is about the majority consensus among Christian Theistic Evolutionists on the stories in Genesis and Exodus.
    – user3961
    Apr 6, 2013 at 4:42
  • FYI, 6 generations pass from Abraham to Moses and the line is recorded. I have researched this subject intensely. Jesus is the 64th generation of man from Adam (or 63rd using Septuagint in place of Masoretic) traced by Joseph's ancestry.
    – khaverim
    Apr 30, 2014 at 10:09

2 Answers 2


Traditionally, many liberal theologians (e.g. Walter Bruggeman) have separated Genesis into two parts - Genesis 1 - 11 and Genesis 12 - 50. The dividing point begins with Abraham, and the tone of Genesis does change significantly at that point.

In the first 11 chapters, Adam through Noah and Babel represent nearly 2000 years of human history. A broad sweep of characters, tied by chronology of "kings" that closely corresponds with Sumerian and Babylonian myth, places Genesis in a worldwide perspective. Beginning with Abraham, however, the narrative slows down dramatically and focuses on just one guy - Abraham, and three generations of his descendants.

It is thus, for this reason that liberal scholars, having divided the book in two, tend to mythologize the first - the table of nations included - but lend more credence to the geneologies beginning with Abraham. The link summarizes Unger's conclusion that Abraham fits well with what we "know" of the Middle Bronze Age

Interestingly, Matthew's genealogy of Jesus also begins not with Adam, but with Abraham. While Matthew may have simply been trying to show Jesus' Jewish identity, it is also possible that he believed Abraham was simply far enough.

Due to the widespread popularity of Abraham (Muslims, Christians, and Jews all claim lineage), most scholars do not doubt that there was "an Abraham," although there is nothing extra-biblical to pinpoint him to a specific date.

Moses, likewise, is such a revered figure that very few scholars doubt there was "a Moses" but again, pinning him down to an exact date is still an inexact science. Primarily scholars tend to settle on one of two dates - either 1440BC (more closely matching the traditional genealogy) or 1290BC, which tends to be preferred by secular historians. Between Moses and the Kingdom of Israel, however, genealogies would still be expected to be more problematic, as there was no one 'leading authority' at the time. (In any event, neither Aaron nor Moses was in Jesus' line, so for Christians, the point would be a little bit moot.)

The earliest recorded person attested to by name in extra-bibilical authority, however, is David - roughly 1000BC. Beginning with the Tel Dan Stele, mentioning his name, theistic evolutionists become sufficiently convinced to pronounce dates with something approaching "certainty" - although even David's historicity was questioned until the end of the 20th Century.

  • So the majority consensus is Abraham was real? The others maybe or maybe not, but there is no majority consensus?
    – user3961
    Apr 5, 2013 at 18:48
  • To refute the idea that the first 11 chapters are "sweeping" over 2000 years of history is oversimplifying the stories of the Creation, Adam and Eve and the Fall, Cain and Able, then Noah with the Ark and his sons. Saying it is "sweeping" implies that it lacks quality details that the stories of Abraham have when that is simply not the case.
    – user3961
    Apr 5, 2013 at 18:51
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    @fredsbend (a) I tend to accept Gen 1 - 11 as real :) (b) By 'sweeping' I mean that 2000 years are encapsulated by Chapters 1 - 11, and less than 100 by 12 - 50. One is necessarily placing less detail in between events by picking from such a large amount of history. (Nephilim, anyone? Enoch - what did he do? etc...) Apr 5, 2013 at 19:05
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    But yes, majority consensus would be far more kind to a literal Abraham than a literal Adam, Cain, Enoch, Noah, or Nimrod. Apr 5, 2013 at 19:07
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    I've understood old Abe to be the "breaking point" of history-to-myth for the TE's as well. My problem, however, is that...Abraham must have had a father. And in fact there is a bit more than just Terah's name to boot. Well then he must of had a father...and well hey, so must have that guy...And oh. Gosh. As another note -- I visited an archaeological dig known as "Abraham's gate" in Israel where it is believed Abraham passed through the Canaanite city on his way to rescue Lot (and coming back). If true it would be the oldest Biblical account verification.
    – khaverim
    Apr 30, 2014 at 10:11

Even if Theistic Evolution does require rejection of the creation account as literal, this does not require either that the Flood be fictional (many ancient civilizations record a great flood event), nor that Adam be fictitious.

Whether one is a literal-creationist or a Theistic Evolutionist, there must be a legitimate First Man in the genealogy. If legitimate does not mean "literally the first human ever", then it can certainly mean "the first ancestor of record" or perhaps even "God's first person of interest".

Semantics aside, neither geological nor other scientific or historical evidence are sufficient to discredit Adam's status as a literal Ancestor in the Genesis genealogy.

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    Ok. So you are saying that there is no reason not to think that Adam in the genealogy was real, however, in the creation account, Adam can't be literally the same to Theistic Evolution because that Adam was molded from dirt and made to live. That Adam must be figurative, right? Maybe the question is better as "When does the Genesis story stop being figurative and start being literal?"
    – user3961
    Apr 5, 2013 at 6:15
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    "From the dust" does not have to mean scooping dirt out of a mud puddle. Cosmology holds that the majority of matter on the Earth was in the form of a cloud of dust LONG before there was a solid sphere. So, within the bounds of Theistic Evolution and commonly accepted science, we are very literally made from the same dust that makes up the ground. Trying to find a well-defined boundary between the figurative and literal, can be compared to asking, "Where do I stop being water and start being the other 30%?" Apr 5, 2013 at 12:30
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    This really doesn't answer the question. It seems, instead, to be questioning the premise of the question. It's not clear that it's even written from a Theistic Evolution perspective. It seems to be arguing that Adam was the first, literal, human being. But the premise of the question is that Theistic Evolutionists do not see Adam as the first literal person. Dec 26, 2015 at 21:59
  • @LeeWoofenden It does answer the question. It is saying the first genealogy that they accept is...Adam. The more conservative TEs I know would agree with this and say that evolution got man to the point of Adam physically whereupon God stepped in spiritually. To say it crudely, there was an Adam, but he had an ape for a father. Not to say I agree, but that's how a conservative TE gets around the issues of messing with Adam scripturally.
    – Joshua
    Dec 28, 2015 at 13:10
  • @JoshuaBigbee Though it could be made into a real answer to the question in the way that you suggest, as it stands it does not even say that any actual group of TEs believes this. It only provides some speculation about what people can or should believe whether or not they are TEs. And it concludes with a general defense of Adam as a literal ancestor, which was not what the question asked. So as currently written, it really doesn't answer the question. Dec 28, 2015 at 13:23

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