by RJS, Pathos, 4/28/17.
(Adam and Eve must be historical figures, because Jesus believed they were.) This is a very common argument … it is worth our while to look very carefully at the logic behind this statement, the evidence from the Gospels, and at how it stands up.
1. Jesus is the Center. This statement focuses on Jesus who is the center of our faith. Here I agree completely. We need a hermeneutic that reads scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ and through his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future hope. We believe in the bible because we believe in God, not vice versa. Yes, it is something of a spiral not cleanly separated. We know God and of his mission largely through revelation in scripture, but not solely through scripture. The emphasis of primacy is important though. God (and Jesus) first and foremost.
2. Jesus alludes to Adam and Eve only indirectly. In the major reference found in the gospels Jesus takes Genesis 1:27 (So God created mankind … male and female he created them) and the institution of marriage in Genesis 2:24 (That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh) and then describes divorce as a concession to the hardness of the “your hearts”.
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mt 19:4-6)
Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mk 10:6-9)
One need not believe in a historical Adam and Eve to believe that God ordained marriage between a man and a woman, or that this was part of his plan for creation from the beginning. One also need not believe in a historical Adam and Eve to use Genesis to teach about marriage.
Dr. C. John (Jack) Collins has written a book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care that makes an argument for the historicity of Adam and Eve in some real sense. When he considers the evidence in the gospels (pp. 76-78) Collins also points out that the major allusion to Adam and Eve is really a statement about marriage. He takes this one step further, though, and suggests that the fact that the law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 allows divorce is because something changed after the beginning when God instituted marriage. This leads him to Genesis 3: “The obvious candidate for making that change – indeed the only one – is the sin of Adam and Eve, with its consequences for all human beings.” (p. 77) Thus, it appears that Collins’s main reason for thinking that Mt 19 and Mk 10 point to the historicity of Adam and Eve is because he reads in this passage a reference to the Fall.
The other possible references to Adam and Eve in the gospels are slim indeed. Collins notes that Jesus makes a passing reference to Abel (Mt 23:35 and Lk 11:51) – but “since this is just in passing we need not make much of it.” There is also, perhaps, a passing reference to the serpent and Genesis 3 in John 8:44: “You belong to your father, the devil, … He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.” Collins thinks that the phrase “murderer from the beginning” is an allusion to the serpent in Genesis 3.
This is the extent of the evidence we have concerning Adam and Eve from recorded words of Jesus. (The genealogy in Luke 3 goes back to Adam, but this is not part of Jesus’s teaching.)