The account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is familiar to many people who have spent time in church. Oftentimes, those in church heard about Adam and Eve as children through story-like presentations and pictures of the first couple talking to the snake and being tempted with the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Despite Adam and Eve’s account in Genesis, an important book in the inspired Word of God, some people view Adam and Eve as fictional or mythological characters that belong in children’s stories. To such persons, the first human couple are merely figurative or non-literal figures within the Genesis mythological narrative.
Viewing Adam and Eve as real people who existed in human history is important, not just because Genesis is an inspired book of the Bible, but also because the existence of the first human couple affects major doctrines.
Without the historicity of Adam and Eve, then the doctrines of the Fall of Man, the sinfulness of man, and salvation is damaged and questioned. If there were no “first” Adam, then Scripture’s discussion of Jesus as the “last Adam” who brought salvation where Adam brought death becomes mute and nonsensical.
The Fall of Man
Genesis specifically describes what theologians call the “fall of man.” Created in perfect goodness and innocence (Genesis 1:31), Adam and Eve were given the choice to obey or disobey God. He gave them all the trees in the garden to eat from but specifically told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17).
On the day they would eat of the fruit of this tree, they would die spiritually and eventually die physically (Genesis 2:17). Despite God’s instructions, Adam and Eve disobeyed and gave in to the lies of the serpent, Satan, who tempted the first couple with the ability to be like God (Genesis 3:1-7).
Because of their disobedience, death would come to all their descendants (Romans 5:12). Since Eve was named the mother of all the living, all people are descendants of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:20). In addition to death, God also cursed the serpent, increased the pain of childbearing, and cursed the ground with thorns to make man’s labor difficult (Genesis 3:14-19).
The rest of creation was also negatively affected by sin since death entered the animal world when an animal was sacrificed to make garments for the first couple (Genesis 3:21). Everything in creation suffers because of the fall of man (Romans 8:20).
The account of Adam and Eve’s sin in Genesis enables people to understand why there is sin, death, and brokenness in the world.
Not only that, but the Fall of Man explains why humankind is separated from God and is unable to be in a close relationship with Him as the first humans were at the beginning (Genesis 3:24). Without understanding sin and its effect on man’s relationship with God, then the gospel message would be harder to comprehend (Romans 3:9-18; 5:12,19).
Adam and Original Sin
In addition to the Fall of Man, original sin cannot be understood apart from the historicity of the first human couple. Paul discusses the origin of sin in the human race when he stated:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned — To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come (Romans 5:12-14).
Every human in history has inherited the sin nature of Adam and mortality because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Sin brings both physical and spiritual death to people, just as it did originally to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:3; Romans 6:23). Furthermore, all humans follow in Adam’s rebellion by sinning against the Lord (Romans 3:23).
Clearly, the Apostle Paul would have believed in Adam and Eve as historical people since he mentions Adam as the person who brought sin and death to humankind. If Adam was not a real person, but a mythological figure, then Paul’s words in Romans 5 would be incoherent.
A fairytale, non-historical figure cannot impact reality, let alone cause death and sin to enter the world and affect every living person in history. Thus, when examining Scripture at face value, the apostle viewed Adam and Eve as historical people who existed.
Salvation and the Last Adam
Not only would the consequences of the Fall of Man and original sin become nonsensical if Adam and Eve were not real people, but also the scriptural teaching of salvation by Christ would be negatively affected. First, the account in Genesis specifically mentions the “seed” of woman who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15, NKJV).
Even in the first book of the Bible, the promise of the coming Savior is mentioned, who will rescue mankind from their sin. However, if Adam and Eve never existed in history and Genesis is merely a myth or fairytale, then the woven theme of God as Savior throughout the Bible becomes broken.
Also, a person’s soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) is impacted when Adam and Eve are denied as historical persons. The Apostle Paul’s argument in Romans 5 about salvation offered to humankind hinges on the validity of Adam and Eve as real people.
He contrasts Adam with Christ, since Adam’s disobedience brought sin to all people, but Christ brought the offer of eternal life to humanity (Romans 5:15-17). As Paul summarizes his argument toward the end of chapter five,
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:18-19).
Adam brought sin and death to mankind, but Jesus brought the gift of salvation.
Scripture also promises that Christ will reverse the consequences of Adam’s disobedience at the future resurrection. Adam had a natural body and returned to the dust of the ground (1 Corinthians 15:47). All people received the same earthly, natural body from Adam, which will die and return to dust (1 Corinthians 15:49).
The Last Adam, Jesus, came from heaven and promises a new body to believers (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Like a seed that is buried and springs into new life, believers in Christ will receive a transformed body at the future resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
As Paul explains, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
Since Paul is contrasting Jesus, who is a real Person, with Adam, then it would seem logical to assume that Adam existed in history as the first man that God created (Genesis 2:7).
An Important Truth of Scripture
Claiming that Adam and Eve are fictional characters damages key, important truths in Scripture. Not only does such a view affect the doctrines of the Fall of Man and original sin, but also salvation and Jesus’ role as the Last Adam.
Mythical characters from a “children’s story” could not have impacted human nature or brought sin to the world, necessitating the need for a Savior, because such characters would not exist and have no impact on reality.
However, the Bible consistently presents Adam and Eve as real people, both in the Old and New Testaments. Major doctrines and the basis of the gospel is at stake if the historicity of Adam and Eve is denied.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.