Thursday, October 22, 2009

Adam and Eve as Meta-Historical Ancestors

Alice C. Linsley

This essay should be read along with this essay: Are Adam and Eve Real?

In this short entry we explore the nature of the biblical figures Adam, Eve and their relationship. I believe that Adam and Eve are archetypal ancestors, or meta-historical figures, who represent the first created couple. In this sense they represent something true and real, but the Biblical details that pertain to them should not be taken as history.

Archetypes in the ancient world were regarded as real in the Platonic sense. Plato, who studied for 13 years in Egypt, likely borrowed the concept of Forms or Archetypes from the ancient Egyptians.

Whether taken as historical or meta-historical, Adam and Eve represent the first created humans in the Bible. Since the oldest human fossils are about 3.4 million years old, we would have to place Adam and Eve back at least that far, if they are historical. If they are meta-historical it would be futile to attach a time period to them. Either interpretation leads to the conclusion that these were the ancestors of the Genesis Kings and the Mighty Men of Old.

Archbishop James Ussher believed Adam and Eve were historical and he attempted to calculate the age of the Earth using the generations listed in Genesis. Ussher failed to recognize that these lists are not generational. They are regnal, that is to say, they can't be used to count generations because they are king lists and some kings ruled simultaneously, others ruled for short periods, and still others ruled for longer than a generation (40 years).

Most of the rulers had two wives so there were two first born sons. Ussher didn't take this into consideration, which is another reason his chronology cannot be used to determine the age of the Earth. The children of the first wife (a half-sister) were born when the royal heir was a young man. The children of the second wife (a patrilineal cousin or niece) were born after than heir had ascended to the throne. Typically, there was a span of about 30 years between the two marriages.

In fact, the first verifiably historical persons in Genesis are the kings listed in the Genesis 4 and 5 king lists. Analysis of the Gen. 4 and 5 kinship reveals that the founder of the lines descending from Cain and Seth is not Adam, but Enoch.

Sorting the historical from the legendary and the mythological

Sometimes it isn't easy to sort the historical from legend or from myth. King Menes probably lived, but he is veiled in legend and myth to the degree that some believe that he was not historical.
In the ancient world people didn't make sharp distinctions between mythological and historical. For example, the ancient Egyptians began their official history with a king named "Meni" or Menes. Menes was credited with founding the First dynasty of Egypt, around 3100 BC. He may have been an historical figure or he may be a mythical founder similar to Romulus and Remus for ancient Rome. We don't know, but that doesn't lessen the significance of his story or minimize the reality of founders of whole civilizations.

The name Meni or Meri has associations with Noah. Mount Meri is likely the mountain where Noah's ark landed, probably in the area of modern Kenya or Tanzania.

Whether historical or archetypal ancestor, Adam and Eve are the founders of the human race in biblical parlance. They are the first Father and first Mother, the first Husband-Wife relationship. It is self-evident that the human race propagates through biological reproduction and this involves a father and a mother. Clearly, at some point in the past there was at least one original set of parents, but their names are not known as they lived many millions of years ago.

The Afro-Asiatics from whom we receive the Bible called the first parents Adam and Eve. These names intend to explain the function of the Father and the Mother. Adam is of the earth/dust yet he lives by the breath of God. He is the one from whom Eve receives her material substance since she is made from his body. Eve is the “mother of all the living” which indicates her function as the birth-giver. The meaning of these names is not prototypal, but archetypal. An archetype has symbolic value. It represents all the others in a group or class, in this case all humanity.

It is genius to use an archetype to represent humanity when there is no knowledge of the prototype of humanity. And the archetype stitches biblical theology together, for without the First Adam (humans in the condition of sin) we would not be able to understand the Second Adam (humans as they are in Christ).

The relationship of Adam and Eve serves as the archetype for the relationship of Christ and His Church, for just as Eve received life through Adam’s body, so the Church receives life through Christ’s Body. The symbolism is so rich! The kinship pattern of Abraham's Horite people speaks of many mysteries revealed in Jesus Christ.

The relationship of Adam and Eve gains further dimension when they are explored in light of the Patriarchal narratives. To receive his own kingdom, Abraham had to leave his father’s house. Likewise, Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his Father and his mother and cleave to his wife…”, so Christ left His Father’s house to become one with His Bride.

Before Isaac could receive the kingdom from his father, he had to marry. Likewise, Christ will marry His bride before He receives the eternal Kingdom from His Father. As Abraham and the rulers of his people had two wives, it is likely that Isaac married a sister-wife as well as Rebekah, his patrilineal cousin. This was the pattern of the Horite ruler-priests. This is why Abraham went to great pains to see that Isaac married his second wife before he died. Here is a wonderful mystery: before the Father delivers the Kingdom to the Son, the Son must marry his Bride, the Church. Christ has said that until that great day He shall not drink of the fruit of the vine.

Related reading: Adam Was a Red ManThe Genesis King Lists; The African Cultural Context of Genesis 1-11The Genesis Creation Stories; The First Historical Persons in Genesis; Adam and Eve: The Blood and the Birther


Georgia said...


I was also thinking about Archetypes, Symbols, Icons or Patterns in Genesis this week, but in relation to Cain and Abel who might serve the Archetypes of true and false worship.

Abel - the Archetype of obedience, of true worship, acknowledging his sin by following God's set pattern (3:21) of covering the nakedness of sin with substitutionary animal blood sacrifice. Abel would be able to accept God's grace and forgiveness. The fruit of true worship is life, joy, peace...communion with God.

Cain - the Archetype of disobedience, false worship of false gods, idolatry, pride, rebellion against God, who refused to own his sinfulness and guilt before Holy God and rejected the necessity of the blood sacrifice, believing he can work out his own righteousness. The fruit of false worship is shame, envy, covetousness, anger, hatred, murder, separation from God.

Alice C. Linsley said...

St John Chrysostom wrote a good deal on Cain and Abel. Much is available to read online. He sees Cain as a type of the Jews who murdered Jesus, a brother Jew, outside the settlement. And Jesus' Blood speaks through all eternity. Unlike Abel, Jesus rose from the dead becasue the grave could not hold the Lord of Life.

Georgia said...

I have equated Cain and his religion with the Caananites and all other religions and spirits that influence people and that oppose Christ, His Gospel and true mission of the Church, deny His divinity, and so on.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Many people come to this conclusion because the Bible tends to pit one brother against another, one people against another to clarify distinctions. One the distinctions are clarified we can explore where the conclusion fails. In Cain's case, his descendents the Kenites were helpful to King David. Not something you would expect if you set poor Cain and his descendents in concrete.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Sorry, Georgia. I was interrupted by someone at the door.

Cain's descendents intermarried with Seth descendents. This makes it problematic to label Cain and his descendents as the unrighteous and Seth and his descendents as the righteous.

Cain's descendents are the Kenites who were known for their work with metal.(Remember Tubal-Cain, the metalworker of Gen. 4?) The Kenites are praised in I Samuel 15:6 for having "acted with faithful love towards all the Israelites when they were coming up from Egypt."

Georgia said...

A book by Arthur Pink (1886-1952) The AntiChrist, names Cain, Nimrod, Goliath and others as types of the anti-Christ in this chapter:

Georgia said...

I only heard about the book I linked yesterday. I found it online and scanned the chapter on types. All of these characters opposed God's plan and His anointed leader. When Peter protested Christ's death, Jesus called him 'satan.'

The spirit that opposes and/or counterfeits Christ and the true Gospel and Biblical Faith is rising globally and within the church as well.

Alice C. Linsley said...

"The spirit that opposes and/or counterfeits Christ and the true Gospel and Biblical Faith is rising globally and within the church as well."

That is very true, but some don't have eyes to see it. It is a time to seek God's mercy while we still can.

Melanie Stephan said...

The story about Adam and Eve is a prophesy about the future and not the past. I start the interpretation with the Tree in the Book of Genesis 2:17
Gen 2 : 17 But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”

Trees don’t grow knowledge. So I know this is a metaphor. Knowledge comes from Books. Books are made from the pulp of trees. So the Tree is a Book. A Tree is a metaphor for a Book. This book has knowledge of good and bad. The Book is the Bible, because this is the book I am reading from and the Bible contains the knowledge of good and bad. You can’t eat from a book and gain knowledge, but you can digest a book. As in Readers Digest. You are taking the words in, like food. When God uses the word eat it is a metaphor for 'taking in'.
What is the fruit on the tree that we must not eat? Or, What is the fruit in the New Testament?
We know that a Cross is also a Tree and Jesus was nailed to a tree. The fruit from the Bible in the New Testament is Jesus.
' The Tree bears Jesus'
The Tree of Knowledge is a Book, and the fruit on the tree is Jesus. This is what God is saying.
Gen 2 : 17 But as for the (Book) of the knowledge of good and bad you must not (take in Jesus) from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”

Alice C. Linsley said...

An interesting and lovely interpretation. God told the prophet Ezekiel, "Eat the Scroll" and Ezekiel's response was, "...I ate it and it was sweet as honey" (Ez. 3:1).

River Ohl said...

You have a very interesting analysis there. I'm researching Adam's symbolism/archetype and this is of great value. I'd be interested in sharing some ideas with you as I'm writing a screenplay using Adam as symbolism/archetype for the protagonist. All the best.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I've always thought that the Genesis creation stories would make a great screenplay.

I'd love to hear your ideas!

You'd probably find this interesting:

Anonymous said...

My reading of Genesis from an Archetypal (Jungian) perspective is this: Genesis is an allegory of the awakening of human consciousness. Adam is the "Yang" or "active" energy in all of us, as evidenced by the typical act of categorizing and "naming" that he does. Eve is the "Yin" energy, not just passive, but also the source of inspiration that calls the Hero of the soul to it's quest. Snakes have a long history of representing awakening (the Kundelini), healing and connection with Earth, or manifest, energy. The eating of the tree of knowledge represents the awakening of the conscious mind, which casts us out of the protective enmeshment with our mothers (mainly) and into the real world. God is primarily angry because the initial self-awareness gained from tasting knowledge leads to embarrassment and shame, a rejection of the divine form created from, and in the image of, God. This self-awareness casts us out of the bubble of enmeshment with the archetypal parents and forces us to take up the spiritual quest for enlightenment that is essentially the task of finding the divine within the Self, so that we can eventually circle back to the garden with full awareness, evolved spiritually, and ready for the next stage of growth. Trpnstn1

Alice C. Linsley said...


Your take on Genesis is interesting but quite foreign to Abraham's Kushitic ancestors.

Anonymous said...

Adam had four sons, ABEL, CAIN, SETH and HENOK. Henok may be the first son. And his daughter married Cain or Seth....
It is like Noah had four sons- Shem, ham, Japheth and his YOUNGEST son Cannan.- Elder Horus had four sons.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Why limit Adam and Eve to only four sons? And we must wonder: "How many daughters?"

Where do you find this information in the Bible?

Henock or Hanock is Enock, a royal title. If Adam and Eve are the archetypal ancestors of the Habiru, it would make sense that they had a first born son named Enock/Hanock. The name means one who ascends [to the throne]. I personally believe that there is merit to their theory, especially in light of what Eve says when she gives birth to Kain. Essentially she says that she had gotten a king (Qanitti). However, there is a problem with this theory. The Bible poses Adam and Eve as the first parents of all humans, not just the Habiru. It is possible that this comes from a much later time; possibly from the time of the Deuteronomist Historian.