Was Adam really a historical person, and can we trust the biblical story of human origins? Or is the story of Eden simply a metaphor, leaving scientists the job to correctly reconstruct the truth of how humanity began? Although the church currently faces these pressing questions—exacerbated as they are by scientific and philosophical developments of our age—we must not think that they are completely new. In The Quest for the Historical Adam, William VanDoodewaard recovers and assesses the teaching of those who have gone before us, providing a historical survey of Genesis commentary on human origins from the patristic era to the present. Reacquainting the reader with a long line of theologians, exegetes, and thinkers, VanDoodewaard traces the roots, development, and, at times, disappearance of hermeneutical approaches and exegetical insights relevant to discussions on human origins. This survey not only informs us of how we came to this point in the conversation but also equips us to recognize the significance of the various alternatives on human origins.
It also includes a foreword written by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Table of Contents:
Epilogue: Literal Genesis and Science?
William VanDoodewaard is professor of church History at puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and serves as a minister at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“The biblical truth claims of the historicity of Adam and the reality of the fall are neither incidental nor insignificant to the Christian faith. They are matters of gospel importance. But in our time the validity of the church’s doctrine of the special creation of Adam and Eve, body and soul, as our first parents, based on Genesis 1–2, and the corresponding affirmation of the historical reality of the fall, based on Genesis 3, have come under serious cross-examination. There are voices (some of whom self-identify as evangelical) calling on the church to abandon and to revise its historic teaching. Many reveal an unfamiliarity with the history of the church’s exegesis on these issues and its assessment of their hermeneutical and theological significance. William VanDoodewaard’s book, The Quest for the Historical Adam, then, arrives not a moment too soon. He provides us with a careful, clear, important, orthodox assessment of the question as well as a tremendously helpful survey of the history of interpretation (including current views). This will prove to be an enormously valuable resource to pastors and teachers wanting to get up to speed on the historical theology behind this discussion and to gain a quick grasp of the present theological lay of the land. Those arguing for a revisionist interpretation must now deal with the material VanDoodewaard has amassed and articulated.” — Ligon Duncan (PhD, University of Edinburgh), chancellor and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary
“I read it with great appreciation: it fills a gap in resources, it is very masterfully done, and within the frame of the current debate it points so clearly in what to my mind is the right direction. I shall certainly recommend it as widely as I can.” – J.I. Packer, Board of Governors Professor of Theology, Regent College
“Dr. Bill VanDoodewaard has gifted the church with a work that began as a labor of love but has grown into a significant major study in which he marries the disciplines of a church historian and the concerns of a Christian theologian. The issues on which he touches reach down to the very foundations of the Christian worldview, to creation itself. Those who share the author’s understanding of the early chapters of Genesis will deeply appreciate his detailed analysis and synthesis of how they have been interpreted throughout the Christian centuries. And those who differ, whether in fine details or in major ways, ought, in integrity, to familiarize themselves with the copious material that Dr. VanDoodewaard here presents. This is a valuable and significant contribution to a much-debated subject and from a perspective that has too often been overlooked.” — Sinclair B. Ferguson (PhD, University of Aberdeen), professor of systematic theology, Redeemer Theological Seminary, Dallas
"While scholarship may be turning away increasingly from the literal approach to the creation narrative of Genesis 1-3 and related texts, Dr. VanDoodewaard sets out in a fair and balanced manner the implications that such alternative hermeneutical approaches have for - not just our understanding of creation and the origins of Adam, but even basics such as our understanding of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, and of Christ and his salvific work. This is a very informative and helpful overview of a fundamental aspect of the Christian faith.” — Brian Wintle (Ph.D., University of Manchester), Academic Coordinator, Centre for Advanced Theological Studies, SHIATS University, Allahabad, India; Visiting Professor of New Testament, South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies, Bangalore, India
“VanDoodewaard shows us real history is as good as epic—seemingly inexorable trends, alarming tolerance, and an ominous slide; compelling, illuminating, and more than a bit unnerving. Only with historical treatises like VanDoodewaard’s can we see clearly from where we came, how far we have slid, and yet how simple the answer is.” — Kurt P. Wise (PhD, Harvard University), Professor of Biology, Truett-McConnell College
“A very necessary book. In Brazil, where the influence of liberal theology and Darwinian evolution has eroded the confidence of many evangelicals in the historicity and reliability of the Genesis account of the creation and fall of Adam and Eve, such a work must be translated, published, and widely discussed, especially in theological schools of historical denominations. Dr. VanDoodewaard has given us a major contribution to the understanding and defense of the biblical narrative about the first Adam, and therefore has also strengthened our faith in the second Adam." — Augustus Lopes Nicodemus (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary), Chancellor Emeritus, Mackenzie University, Sao Paulo, and Professor of New Testament, Andrew Jumper Post-Graduate School of Theology, Sao Paulo, Brazil
“It does not overstate to say that the gospel of Jesus Christ loses its biblical meaning and efficacy apart from Adam and Eve as the first human beings from whom all others descend. The author’s thorough and instructive survey of the long history of interpretation down to the present, particularly of the opening chapters of Genesis, shows unmistakably how questionable hermeneutical commitments and unsound exegesis lead to denial or uncertainty regarding the Bible’s clear teaching on common descent and, in conclusion, points out the disastrous consequences that follow for sound doctrine and the life of the church. One need not agree at every point with his own literal Genesis interpretation to appreciate the compelling value of his contribution. This is an important book and, given differences and confused thinking about the historicity of Adam increasingly among those claiming to be evangelical, particularly timely. It deserves careful reading and reflection by anyone interested in this crucial issue.” — Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (ThD, Westminster Theological Seminary), Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
"I have found that often when I am wrestling with someone who holds on to a major doctrinal aberration, there is almost invariably a failure of sound hermeneutics in dealing with the first three chapters of Genesis. Equally true is the fact that a good understanding of these foundational chapters in Genesis is like the proverbial stitch in time that saves nine. Dr. VanDoodewaard’s herculean effort to get us back to a sure footing in this matter through this doctrinal and historical survey may prove to be that life-saving stitch. It is a scholarly work of the highest standard. Be assured you will be abundantly rewarded in reading it." — Conrad Mbewe (PhD, University of Pretoria), Pastor, Kabwata Baptist Church; Chancellor, African Christian University, Lusaka, Zambia