If all humans today are descended from Adam and Eve, what about the cavenen who predeeded them?
I know that we are all descendents of Adam and Eve, but what about the cavemen who proceeded them? Aren’t they the earlier forms of humans or are they a different kind of species? (Similar to how gorillas are almost identical to humans genetically) When we look at the genealogy in the Bible, it shows that the first humans were created only a few thousand years ago. However, we have substantial proof that shows the earth is actually millions of years old. Please help; I’m trying to share the gospel with my friends and these questions always come up.
This is an excellent question. The simplest answer I can give is that I do not know. In other words, I was not there and I am not sure precisely how God intends us to understand the relevant passages. Of course, this is not a sufficient answer, so I will try to give you more to chew on.
It comes down to a couple of questions.
1. What does scientific evidence appear to tell us? What can we be fairly sure of and what is somewhat speculative and open to interpretation?
2. What do relevant passages in Genesis, for example, tell us? What is being taught in these passages, and to what extent are we to take them literally or metaphorically?
In giving this answer, I am starting from the assumption, based on a mountain of evidence, that the Bible is inspired by God.
The scientific evidence is quite solid that anatomically modern humans, or creatures quite remarkably similar to modern humans have existed for something like 200,000 years. This date is not exact and what represents a modern human is hotly debated, but for our purposes it gives us something to start from. The ages are based on radiometric dating, index fossils and other information. There may be quite a bit of uncertainty, but one can assume that ages given are at least approximately correct for many if not most of the discoveries.
The scientific evidence that humans and modern apes descend from a common ancestor, based on genetic information, is quite solid. You will find articles about this and the evidence supporting this claim at my web site. Based on evidence such as chromosome #2 and #2a,b in chimpanzees and based on the useless version of the vitamin-C producing gene in humans, biologists have concluded that it is almost unquestionable that there is a common ancestor for humans and the higher apes.
This brings us to the biblical evidence. The Bible describes Adam and Eve as special creations of God. Genesis does not give us a time scale. Although the genealogies in Genesis are helpful, Jewish genealogies are know to skip many generations and to be a useful guide, but we cannot assign precise ages to characters such as Noah and Adam. If we force an absolutely literal interpretation onto the first few chapters of Genesis, the scientific information and the biblical statements cannot be reconciled. An age of the earth of 6-10,000 years just does not work. Let me suggest a couple of possible ways to understand and to reconcile the biblical statements with the scientific data.
1. Adam and Eve were a special creation by God several thousands of years ago. They were created with a soul and a spirit and in the image of God. They were created in a world in which modern, human-like creatures already existed, but soon replaced these evolved creatures.
2. Adam and Eve were a special creation by God (with a spiritual nature, soul, and so forth) much earlier than most of us would assume (for example 200,000 years ago). All modern human fossils are remains of the descendants of these two original humans.
3. The creation of Adam and Eve did indeed occur several thousand years ago, but God took already evolved physically modern humans and imparted to them his nature, a soul, a spirit and consciousness. These people soon dominated the earth and replaced those hominids who were not in the image of God.
Explanation #2 allows for a more literal understanding of Genesis, while explanation #3 forces a more metaphorical understanding of the creation stories. None of these explanations are "scientific" as they involve a supernatural intervention by God. However, none of them contradicts what we know from science. Which is the "correct" explanation? Is there another one? Could the first chapters of Genesis simply be a myth with no truth value at all? Of course, I reject this last option, but you ought to decide what you think for yourself. Remember, that one’s "doctrine" of how humans were created is not an essential Christian teaching. We can have different opinions on this and be in complete harmony with one another, as one’s relationship with God does not depend on one’s understanding of the Genesis account.
I could say a lot more, but hopefully, this answer will get you started.
John Oakes, PhD
I know that we are all descendents of Adam and Eve, but what about the cavemen who proceeded them? Aren’t they the earlier forms of humans or are they a different kind of species? (Similar to how gorillas are almost identical to humans genetically) And we go look at the geneology in the bible, it shows that the first humans were created only a few thousand years ago. However, we have substantial proof that shows the earth is actually millions of years old. Please help; I’m trying to share the gospel with my friends and these questions always come up. Thank you and God bless!