Critical Review: In Quest of the Historical Adam

When the first edition of Who Was Adam? was published in 2005, very few evangelicals and conservative Christians made any real attempt at integrating the scientific and biblical insights about humanity’s origin into a coherent model that treated both sets of data with integrity. Thankfully, today, a growing number of evangelical and conservative Christian scholars have taken on this project, including William Lane Craig with his latest work In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration.

This focus on the question of the historical Adam is much needed because, as Craig points out, the question of human origins is foundational to the Christian faith. Already an influential—and controversial—work, In Quest of the Historical Adam is an impressive, bold, interdisciplinary exploration into the historicity of Adam (and Eve). Craig analyzes key texts in the Old and New Testaments and concludes that Scripture indeed teaches that Adam was a historical person, who, along with Eve, served as humanity’s progenitors. 

Yet, Craig adopts an evolutionary perspective on humanity’s origin. To reconcile a human evolutionary history with the biblical account of humanity’s creation, Craig first makes the case that Genesis 1–11 belongs to a genre called mytho-history—a mythical account of our origins that is not to be understood literally. Still, according to Craig, this portion of Scripture references real historical figures, including Adam. Hence, Genesis 1–11 is a mytho-history.

Craig then turns his attention to the scientific evidence. He seeks to locate Adam in evolutionary history and provisionally concludes that Adam (and Eve) lived between 750,000 and 1,000,000 years ago as a member of the hominin species Homo heidelbergensis

At first glance, Craig’s conclusion is likely to startle many people and create a strong sense of unease in others. And rightfully so. Even though Craig carefully and methodically argues his case, the radical nature of his conclusion raises legitimate biblical and scientific red flags. 

I have detailed some of my most salient concerns about Craig’s ideas in an extensive critical review of In Quest of the Historical Adam, first published in the Christian Research Journal. A more detailed and expansive version of my critical review is now available on our website. Though I don’t agree with Craig and find significant scientific shortcomings with his model, I am glad that a scholar of Craig’s stature has taken on the question of humanity’s origins. 

It is critical to recognize that all models have strengths and limitations. My hope is that amid our differences—and our critiques of one another’s ideas—a collaborative spirit emerges in which we all work together to try to get it right instead of adopting a posture of insisting that we are right—and others are wrong. It is in this spirit that I have engaged Craig’s ideas on human origins.

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