The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being Gen. 2:7.
Some years ago I was about to close my teenage Sunday school class on Genesis with a prayer when one student said, “Is there time for one quick question? “Yes,” I replied. “Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?” After recovering my composure I said, “Unfortunately that will take a little too long to answer. We’ll have to discuss it next week.” I was hoping that by next week I’d either know the answer or the student would have forgotten the question!
Later, on reflection, I realized how much we assume about Adam and Eve without really having proof. I have heard it said that Adam and Eve were created as adults. However, the Bible never explicitly says this and it is best not to make idle guesses. Since we are the direct inheritors of our first parents’ genetic makeup it is very unlikely that they looked any different than we do. For what it is worth, generally renaissance artist’s depictions of Adam and Eve have them anatomically identical to you and me (not that this proves anything, but it at least tells us how others treated the issue).
Bible narrative compared with others
Bible critics have attacked the concept of Adam being formed by God from the dust of the ground as just another ancient myth and legend. Furthermore, the very suggestion that the entire human race descended from just two individuals was considered impossible. In rejecting the Bible story of mankind’s creation they seek to undercut any possible attribution to a supernatural power. The bottom line is that the scriptures say that man was created in the image of the Elohim1 and the exact physical mechanism of how it was done is not explicitly revealed. But this much we do know; the Bible story of the making of man and the fact that the human race alive today is descended from one man and one woman is entirely scientifically sound.
To get a better picture of the validity of the Genesis story, let us compare the narrative in the opening pages of the Bible with the tales of creation derived from other ancient cultures.
Almost every ancient culture had a story connected with the origin of its ancestors. I will describe a few that have caught my attention and ask the reader to keep in mind a comparison of these tales with the simple declaration in Genesis 2:7: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Sample creation myths
The ancient Babylonians believed that their god, Marduk, in the form of the water god Tiamat, conquered the void that was the universe by using her broken flesh to shape the world.2 The Hopi Indians believed in the Spider god Tawa, in cooperation with other divinities, brought humans beings into the world.3
Prehistoric Scandinavian people had a particularly colorful account of how life was created; they believed that before there was earth, heaven or seas there was only formless void. To the north of the void existed a realm of cold barren ice and to the south of the void a region of flaming fire. Somehow these interacted and from the drops of melted ice came life in the form of a hoarfrost giant being and a cow!4 The Vikings believed that their god Odin and his brothers created a man named Askr and a woman called Embla from the branches of an ash tree and an elm tree, respectively.
All these ancient stories (and many others, some even more fanciful) have an almost innocent charm about them, but no one would mistake them for anything but myth and legend, nor would we pretend that there could be any scientific basis for their scenarios. Let’s go back and have a look at the Genesis story and see how it compares.
Man from earth’s minerals
The Genesis story says that Adam was made from the dust of the ground and the breath of God energized his life. The Hebrew word that is translated here as “dust” literally means that Adam’s body was fashioned from the ordinary inorganic materials that make up this planet.5
At one time it was said that the human body was composed of a few dollars’ worth of minerals with the dominant substance being water. Inflation may have raised the value of the chemicals a bit, but nonetheless the Bible claim is precisely correct.
We are constituted of the same exact chemical elements that can be found in the minerals of the earth. This point is reinforced when we are told that the penalty for sin was death and that sentence returns us back to dust. Who can deny this?
What made the difference in this assembly of chemicals taken from the earth was that life was given to it by the energizing power of God, which is styled as “breath” in our Bibles. Job says: The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life (Job 33:4). There are many other parallel passages in the scripture confirming this notion (see for example Job12:20, Job 27:3 and Acts17:25).
In spite of all the advances made in science in the past century, we still haven’t a clue how to put life in an inanimate object nor can we resurrect life in a dead person. There appears to be a limit to how many times the human body cell structures can be renewed, but eventually all will age and die. Modern medical science can postpone but cannot undo the death sentence pronounced in Genesis 3:19 and all will eventually return to dust. Now what about Eve?
Creation of Eve
The account of Eve’s creation reads: And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof (Gen. 2:21).
First of all, God put Adam in a deep sleep before He operated. Doesn’t this sound sensible? Isn’t this exactly what a physician would do today before operating? Adam was given, as it were, anesthesia and God removed something from his side. The Hebrew word here translated as “rib” could simply mean “side.”
Whatever God removed from Adam had the genetic makeup of a human being. By modifying that makeup and slightly changing the chromosome arrangement, God created a woman. Skeptics scoff at this story, but at the same time have to admit that biological science can in this day and age manipulate the gene structure of living beings. So why couldn’t God do it?
Amazing story of the chromosomes
The DNA in the cells of males has an X and a Y chromosome and this XY pair determines their gender. Females, on the other hand, have a pair of identical X chromosomes, which makes all the difference. To make Eve, the Lord God simply needed to extract from Adam’s DNA an X-chromosome and combine it with another newly created X one. A few other minor adjustments in the chromosomes also were in order and the result was that truly man and woman shared the same flesh.
The Genesis story is obviously male oriented and probably politically incorrect by today’s standards, but who are we to tell God how to do things!
Interestingly enough, the structure of sexual differentiation in chromosomes, XY for males and XX for females, means that sons inherit intact their fathers Y chromosome, and this never divides and combines with the female gene. From the first man Adam to the very last male baby born while I am writing this sentence, the Y chromosome has passed down unchanged by anything that could have been inherited from the mother’s side.
This, of course, is virtually untrue for any other human characteristic, which is shared according to Mendel’s laws (which we will get to in a moment). By studying the rate of mutations in several current living generations of males (e.g. great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and son) one could in principle trace our origin back to Adam.6 7 For females, scientists have carried an analogous study using mitochondrial DNA, which remains intact throughout the female line, being passed from mother to daughter from generation to generation of our species. Such investigations have indeed come to the conclusion that the entire human species, regardless of race, are descended from one man and one woman.
Extrapolating back to the exact time when the first parents existed is somewhat harder than merely finding that the entire human race came from one couple. The reason is that extrapolating mutation rates backwards depends on what assumptions you make. If you use the gradualist approach of classical Darwinism you get a very long time indeed and estimated periods vary from 188,000 to approximately 50,000 BCE. If you assume rapid changes could have caused spurts in mutation rate, as would be reasonable from the view that we talked about previously when we discussed the “punctuated equilibrium” model of evolution, then the period in which Adam and Eve existed could easily have been within the last 10,000 years or less.8
Mendel’s discovery points to one man, one woman
There is more classical evidence in genetics that helps confirm the belief that the entire human race today has descended from a unique single parentage. In the middle of the 19th century, a monk named Gregor Mendel made a startling discovery that inherited traits came in discrete units rather than the ending of traits from the mated pair.9
He made detailed observations on the breeding of pea plants, noting in each successive generation how certain characteristics, such as the color of the peas or the color of the flowers on the plants, changed with hybridization.10 When plants with green and yellow pods were bred, the colors of the resulting plants were often found to be in the ratio of 3 yellow to 1 green. With our knowledge of genetics the explanation today seems trivially simple, but of course at the time the results and interpretation were revolutionary. The pea plant contains genes for both green “G”, and yellow “Y” pods, but one of these genes, the yellow, is dominant and the green is recessive. Hence if two pea plants are mated with one having the genes G1 and Y1 and the second plant G2 and Y2; then Table 1 shows what will be the possible gene combinations that can occur from this mating.
Table 1 shows that as long as a Y gene is present the pods will be yellow since that is the dominat one. Where the offspring pciked up G genes from both parents, the result will be plants with peas that are green. This pattern of inherited traits is seen over and over again in the world around us; it is one of the reasons there are so many brunettes in the world, brown is the dominant gene for hair color (the other reason is hair dye!). What about human blood types?
One blood for all peoples
There are four possible blood types that exist in all humans regardless of race. They are A, B, AB and O. These four types can also be explained in terms of Mendelian genetics whereby each parent has a dominant and recessive gene that controls the ultimate blood type found in their offspring. The situation is only slightly more complex than for the color of peas. Human blood types are also controlled by the genetic code. The three kinds of genes that control blood type in homo sapiens can be identified as IA, IB and i, with IA and IB being co-dominant and i recessive. Thus, if Adam had co-dominant IA and recessive i1 genes and Eve had IB and i2 respectively, then the possible blood types of their offspring are given in Table 2.
There are no other possibilities for this first generation, but of course later generations could have Type A and Type B blood by combining the codominates, i.e., IAIA and IBIB, respectively. These four blood types are that all mankind are the result of one human pair. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul tells the Athenians: And (God) hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth (Acts17:26). As recently as the middle of the 20th century this was not accepted by medical science. Blood that was collected for transfusions was segregated by race.
There is a poignant sidelight to this false belief that blood from different races somehow was not compatible. Dr. Charles Drew, an Afro-American physician discovered that plasma (the liquid portion of blood without the red cells) could be stored indefinitely as there were no red cells to break down, and the absence of red cells also meant that cross-typing of blood was irrelevant. This invention has saved many lives over the years.
Dr. Drew was rewarded for his discoveries and eventually, at the beginning of World War II, was made director of the American Red Cross and placed in charge of blood collection for the armed forces. However it wasn’t long before he returned to academia resigning his position with the Red Cross in protest over a decision by the armed forces to segregate the collected blood on the basis of race. In one of the ironies of history, Dr. Drew died from injuries received in an automobile accident on April 1, 1950, in North Carolinahaving failed to receive transfusions in the hospital that he was taken to because they had no “negro” blood available!
John C. Bilello, Ann Arbor, Michigan
1 Elohim; Strong’s number 430; elohiym, el-o-heem´; plural of 433; gods in the ordinary sense, but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative:—angels, exceeding, God (gods)(-dess, -ly), (very) great, judges, mighty.
4 “dust” = Strong’s number 608 (aphar, aw-fawr´) dust (as powdered or gray); hence, clay, earth, mud:—ashes, dust, earth, ground, mortar, powder, rubbish.
5 Underhill, P. A., Jin, L., Oefner, P. J., and Cavalli-Sforza, L. L. “Y Chromosome Variation and Human Evolution” In: Y. Katsumata et al., (eds.), Advances in Research on DNA Polymorphisms, Proceedings of ISFH Hakone Symposium on DNA Polymorphisms, Toyoshoten, Tokyo, Japan, (1996), pages 24-32.
6 Underhill, P. A., Shen, P., Lin, A. A., Jin, L., Passarino, G., Yang, W. H., Kauffman, E., BonnÎ-Tamir, B., Bertranpetit, J., Francalacci, P., Ibrahim, M., Jenkins, T., Kidd, J. R., Mehdi, S. Q., Seielstad, M. T., Wells, R. S., Piazza, A., Davis, R. W., Feldman, M. W., Cavalli-Sforza, L. L., and Oefner, P. J. “Y chromosome sequence variation and the history of human populations,” Nature Genetics, (2000), 26, pages 358-361.
7And many other publications by Cavalli-Sforza and co-workers atStanfordUniversity.
8 Some scientists have questioned the accuracy of genetic information for exactly dating back in history claiming that errors of as much as 300% can occur even for dates within the last 1000 years. See: Robert Kunzig, The History of Men, Discover, 25, no. 12, (2004), pages 32-39.
9Darwin believed in the idea of inherited blended traits. Mendel’s work was found inDarwin’s library after his death, but it is not known if he had ever read the paper, which was in German.
10 Gregor Mendel, Lectures given February 8 andMarch 8, 1865, to the Naturforschedenden Vereins (the Natural History Society) of Brünn (nowBrno, in theCzech Republic). Later published in German and eventually available in English translation: “Experiments in Plant Hybridization,” Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain, (1901), translated by C. T. Druery.