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Peter Enns: The Evolution of Adam

As someone who believes that Adam was a historical being, Enns’ thesis is a profound challenge. I am not convinced of his argument not because I can’t be persuaded (though I admit it would be very hard), but because Enns didn’t provide sufficient details to support his sweeping claims. I hesitate to make this a significant criticism because I respect his attempt to present the big picture and let others fill in the details. Perhaps, he will do this in a later publication. But let me respond to at least one of his main arguments. I fully recognize that the Bible is God’s words in human language and culture, but I don’t think that recognizing the historical conditionedness of Scripture and the authors gives me permission to side step what the original human author, i.e. Paul, thought. Even if I accepted the notion that Genesis was written/compiled to answer questions of post-exilic Israelites, why does that mean Genesis 1-3 couldn’t be historical too? Can’t a verse perform two acts simultaneously? After all, every passage of the Bible was written by at least two people, the human and the Holy Spirit. In addition, just because the bible is not a scientific document, doesn’t mean it is inaccurate. Enns seems to think that because biblical authors saw the universe as a three-tiered cake, this view presents a scientific problem? I don’t know why because perspectivalism allows us to see the world the same way. Just because a story doesn’t tell us everything we would like to know doesn’t mean the story is wrong.

But I want to end this review on a positive note. I commend Enns for being transparent about the challenges any conversation between evolution and scripture entail and his position regarding our understanding of Adam. Enns argues his case but he is not so arrogant as to suggest he has proven it beyond reasonable doubt. His writing is lucid and enjoyable to read. Enns summarized his thoughts regularly to help readers refocus on the main points. He even ends the book with a nine point summary of his argument. Good writing helped this reader remain engaged. Finally, I think Enns’ comments relating Genesis with Proverbs was insightful and will help theologians connect the wisdom literature with the Pentateuch in their biblical theology.

In sum, Enns has presented a thought provoking book. But additional work needs to be done to show his position is viable.

Reviewed by Stephen M. Vantassel


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Category: Biblical Studies, Spring 2014

About the Author: Stephen M. Vantassel, Ph.D. theology (Trinity Theological Seminary), M.A.T.S. Old Testament (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), B.S. Biblical Studies (Gordon College), is a Tutor of Theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School in Broadstairs, U.K. and Assistant Editor for the Evangelical Review of Theology and Politics. His dissertation was published in expanded form in Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009), explains how biblical teaching on the use of animals provides a rubric for how God wants humanity to use the earth. He lives in Montana with his wife Donna. He regularly posts articles at

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