I just finished watching Capturing Christianity’s debate featuring Michael Jones (Inspiring Philosophy) and Dr. Marcus Ross. In this debate, entitled “Is Evolution Compatible with Genesis?”, these two jostled over issues surrounding Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth interpretations of Biblical scripture, and which best accounts for the grammatical, theological and scientific data on the subject. I enjoyed this debate very much and highly recommend it, regardless of your position.
As I listened to the debate, an issue kept coming up that has been at the center of my work recently.
The “What About Pre-Adam humans?” Problem
Here’s the basic question:
If there were humans made in God’s Image before Adam and Eve, must they pay for their sins?
The question was framed several times in different ways. Here are a few:
- The Problem of Sin Before Adam, 39:24 – 41:13 – Dr. Ross presents examples of murder in Kenya around 8,000 BC and Sima de los Huesos from 430,000 BC, as well the cannibalism of children 980 kya (thousand years ago) in Gran Dolina, Spain.
- In Dr. Ross’ opening statement, he demonstrates that there were atrocities committed by humans and hominids in the fossil record long before Adam and Eve if the old earth view is true. According to the YEC view, all of this sinful behavior happened after the fall of Adam, and that Noah’s Flood is what accounts for the fossil record.
- Dr. Ross’ challenges that if Theistic Evolution is true, then Romans 5 declares all sin before Adam and Eve is “Very Good” as described in Genesis 1. He sees this a serious challenge to any old earth model.
- Are Humans Held Accountable For Sin Before Adam? 1:05:29 – 1:08:23 – During their dialogue, Dr. Ross asks Michael to clarify his overall view of history as regards to human origins and also presses him on what he views God’s relationship to Adam and His relationship with the other humans before Adam. Then Dr. Ross asks Michael if the people before Adam and Eve were morally innocent.
- Michael presents his view that Adam and Eve were the first humans with whom God enters into covenant. Adam and Eve were to be priests representing mankind in God’s presence.
- Then Michael asserts that if the people born before Adam and Eve never break covenant, they are morally innocent because “sin is not charged to their accounts” (Romans 5:13). So even though sin is around, those people are not held accountable by God because there was no impetus to hold humanity accountable.
- Will Sinful People Living Before Adam Going To Hell? 1:36:28 – 1:38:30 – The questioner asks about the Neolithic humans alive during the time of Adam (on Michael Jones’ view), Adam’s federal headship of that population, and whether that population is doomed to oblivion because of their sin.
- Michael says that there’s no way we can know about the fate of each person, and that we should trust God in those instances to make the right choice; Michael states that the Bible clearly teaches that God is revealed to all people through their conscience and the majesty of creation, so that no one is without excuse.
- Dr. Ross holds the view that only humans physically descended from Adam would be eligible for God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. Therefore, he contends that if there were people before Adam, they would not be saved. He even says, “…this puts us in a horrible, horrible theological situation.”
- Adam as Federal Head of Humanity, 1:40:21 – 1:41:25 – The questioner asks what Michael’s view is of Adam and Eve’s relationship to any pre-Adamic people.
- Michael says that Adam was the priest of humanity that failed (my thoughts exactly!), Jesus was the priest of humanity that succeeded!
- Dr. Ross pushes back on this tangentially, stating that Dr. Josh Swamidass’ modeling for all of humanity to be descended from Adam and Eve genealogically is being pushed back upon strongly by recent scholarship (2016).
- Dr. Ross’ response does not really address the idea of Adam as the head priest of humanity, as Adam’s office of priest doesn’t depend on genealogy. This is the same as the priesthood of Melchizedek, who has no genealogy and instead is ordained by God directly (Hebrews 7:3).
Q: Were pre-Adamic people held accountable for their sins?
A: It depends on their faith and relationship with the Creator.
There are two thoughts that must be reconciled here, which is why Michael Jones’ answer about “not knowing” and trusting God is a good one. On the one hand, if there is sin but no law, then there is no accountability. On the other hand, the law is written on our hearts (conscience). Therefore, once a person consciously commits sin, he/she would be accountable. This is why babies who commit sinful acts unknowingly are considered innocent. However, the ancient humans who murdered that man in Kenya in 8000 BC (presumably before Adam) would probably be held accountable by God. However, just like King David (also a murderer), if they had hesed for Yahweh, if they were “saved” in our modern Christian speak, then that ancient murderer would be forgiven of their sins.
The big question that Young Earth Creationists might ask, then, is HOW?? How is it that a pre-Adamic person, made in the Image of God and who commits sin, eligible for salvation?
Q: If there were humans made in God’s Image before Adam and Eve, must they pay for their sins?
A: Not necessarily.
Salvation comes through “believing loyalty” to our Creator, as Michael Heiser says. This standard of salvation indicates the Old and New Testament saints were saved through the same mechanism: the Hebrew word hesed, usually translated “lovingkindness.” If this salvation criterion is true and spans both pre-Jesus and post-Jesus, then it is possible to extend this logically to pre-Adam as well. This means that if pre-Adamic people believed in their Creator and were loyal to Him, their sins would be covered by Jesus just like everyone else in history.
Q: Would Sinful People Living Before Adam go to Hell?
A: What do you mean by “hell”?
This is a HUGE topic which I plan on delving into in the future. My response here is quite cursory; however, I highly encourage you to peruse Hell, Hades, and the Afterlife, which features extensive study on the subjects by Douglas Barry and Dirk Warren.
Unfortunately in mainstream Western Christianity today, there is a lot of confusion regarding how the afterlife “works.” This is due to the practice of many English translations of the Bible using “hell” or “the grave” in the place of the Hebrew word “Sheol” and the Greek word “Hades” to denote the location of souls in the afterlife.
There are other terms in the Bible that that get equated with “hell” as well, including Gehenna, Tartaras, the Abyss, and the lake of fire found in Revelation and in other Second Temple Jewish Literature.
Suffice it to say that, before Jesus Christ was resurrected, everyone, the righteous and unrighteous, went to “Sheol” (or the intermediate state) after death, awaiting rescue, resurrection and judgment. So, yes, it stands to reason that pre-Adamite people would experience Sheol.
According to Revelation 20, people who are not resurrected with Christ in the “first resurrection” (those who believe in and served Christ in life) will be resurrected and brought before the Great White Throne Judgment. At that time, each of those people will be “judged according to what he had done” (Rev. 20:13). The ones whose names are “not found written in the book of life” (v. 15) will be cast into the lake of fire (what people think of as “hell”).
There is a lively debate within Christianity on what situations warrant a spot in the “book of life” but many scholars agree that this refers to those who are innocent (babies, young children, mentally disabled, etc.) and therefore are not held to account for any sin that they might have inadvertently committed.
It is my supposition that pre-Adamic humans would fit into this category of “innocent,” especially if hominids like homo Heidelbergensis or even earlier were imbued with the image of God. However, if they were imbued with a conscience and the ability to discern God’s existence from creation, it is possible they’d be held responsible for their sins just like people post-Adam.
Q: What is Adam and Eve’s relationship to pre-Adamic humans?
A: Adam and Eve were humanity’s high priest-rulers, representing them in sacred space.
I plan on writing more about this soon, but there is a lot of evidence that Adam served as humanity’s high priest-king (I do touch on this in Part 5 of my Human Origin series).
“Although Adam had no need of redemption prior to the Fall, he rendered priestly service to God. Redeemed sinners are restored images of God, and hence priests. Adam himself, as the imago Dei, is the archetype for the priest (Kline). His charges to subdue the earth to sabbath consecration to the Lord (Gen 1:28) and to defend God’s holy paradise … from uncleanness (Gen 2:15; cf. Gen 3:24) are priestly functions.”The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, Under “Priest“, pg. 663
While I disagree that Adam is in view in Genesis 1, this is a nice summary of Adam being “the archetype for the priest.”
If there were humans before and during Adam’s arrival in God’s garden, he would simply be their new priest, performing his duties on their behalf in sacred space away from the eyes and even knowledge of the majority of the human race.
This separation of priest and represented populace has precedent in the Bible: the Levites worked within the tabernacle while the Israelites only ever saw the altar; Abram’s only experience with priests (as far as we know) who were idolators in Chaldea, long before he met Melchizedek, a priest of the One True God; Jesus took on the sin of all humanity, a huge percentage of which never knew His name or even heard of Him… yet He died for them just the same.
Now, why the need for humanity to have a priest?
As priest-king, Adam would represent mankind as the “Federal Head” of the human race. His failure at this representational office would doom mankind to having no one to represent them in sacred space to God, and therefore have to interact with God individually. This would be detrimental, seeing as how all men sin which is punishable by death. Therefore, a sinless man needed to fill Adam’s shoes to represent mankind corporately before God… namely, God Himself… Jesus.