Historical Genesis

From Adam To Abraham

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Reader Reviews

These are reviews submitted by readers of Historical Genesis.

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Kyle A. Dillon (Augusta, GA)
Sunday, August 17, 2008

A novel theory that deserves more attention

In this book, Fischer attempts to place the first 11 chapters of Genesis within the historical context of ancient Mesopotamia in such a way as to preserve the doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy while at the same time taking seriously all of the relevant scientific evidence. He does so by making some pretty radical claims--ones which may bother those more committed to the historic confessions of Christianity.

Perhaps the most novel claim of the book is that Adam, although a real historical figure, was not the father of the entire human race. Rather, he was only the first Semite (or, more properly, "Adamite"), the first human to have a covenant relationship with God, and the first federal representative of humanity, whose fall and subsequent guilt have been imputed to the rest of us. Fischer believes that this view of Adam is necessary, given both the biblical evidence that places Adam in a Neolithic context (about 6,000 years ago), and the scientific evidence that traces the origins of modern humans back 50,000 years. I was surprised to learn that the Bible never explicitly affirms that all humans have descended from Adam and Eve, and in fact it may even implicitly deny such a claim (e.g., who was Cain afraid would kill him after he murdered Abel?). But where the Bible is ambiguous, later Christian confessions (especially the Westminster Confession) leave no room for doubt. Even if Fischer's theory is compatible with Scripture, it is clearly incompatible with later Christian teaching. This might not be a problem if you don't believe that creeds and confessions must be infallible.

The book does have its weak points. Firstly, Fischer should have taken more time to explain how the pre-Adamite theory affects the doctrine of original sin. If humans existed before and alongside Adam, how did Adam's fall affect them? The traditional Augustinian interpretation has been that pre-Fall Adam was "posse peccare posse non peccare" (able to sin and not sin) and post-Fall Adam was "non posse non peccare" (unable not to sin), with the rest of humanity (excepting Jesus) inheriting the latter condition from birth. Is such a radical distortion of the human will possible if the pre-Adamite hypothesis is true? My fear is that this theory will lead down a slippery slope to Pelagianism.

The second weak point is Fischer's treatment of the story of the Tower of Babel. He rightly recognizes the difficulty of reading this story as an explanation of the origins of all human languages. There is apparent evidence that multiple languages were spoken throughout the world long before Babel, and perhaps at least two languages (Sumerian and Akkadian) were spoken in the region of Babel itself. However, his own explanation seems equally unconvincing. He tries to argue that the Babel story isn't about language at all, but merely the people's unity with regards to the topic of conversation (tower-building). That seems like too much of a stretch for me, but I will let other readers make up their own minds.

All in all, I thought this was an outstanding book, and it deserves more attention. And even if his theories go against the grain of traditional Christian thinking, Fischer should be commended for his honest attempt to reconcile special revelation (scriptural witness) with general revelation (scientific evidence).
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