The Evolution of Adam

Brazos, 2012

2012 Book of the Year Award, Foreword Magazine

An accesible study of the hermeneutical issues involved in reading Genesis and Paul on Adam in view of evolution. The Adam story in Genesis is part of Israel’s literature of national and religious self-definition, not the origin of humanity. Paul’s use of the Adam story, like Paul’s other uses of the Old Testament, is marked by creativity and the prior conviction that Jesus is God’s unexpected solution to a universal plight.

Can Christianity and evolution coexist? Traditional Christian teaching presents Jesus as reversing the effects of the fall of Adam. However, an evolutionary view of beginnings doesn’t allow for a historical Adam, making evolution seem incompatible with what Genesis and the apostle Paul say about him. For Christians who accept evolution and want to take the Bible seriously, this presents a tension that endangers faith.

Peter Enns offers a way forward by explaining how this tension is caused not by the discoveries of science but by false expectations about the biblical texts. Focusing on key biblical passages in the discussion, Enns demonstrates that the author of Genesis and the apostle Paul wrote to ask and answer ancient questions for ancient people; the fact that they both speak of Adam does not determine whether Christians can accept evolution. This thought-provoking book reconciles the teachings of the Bible with the widely held evolutionary view of beginnings and will appeal to anyone interested in the Christianity-evolution debate, including college and seminary students in science and religion courses.


“This is a bold, honest, and direct approach to the questions of origins and the interpretation of the Bible. Pete has battle scars from the journey to his conclusions in The Evolution of Adam, but those battles have made him increasingly sensitive to the plight of the church’s struggle with science and the Bible. Here is a theologically alert, pastorally sound, and exegetically informed book that will lead us onward.” ~ Scot McKnight, North Park University

“The question of the historical Adam is an urgent issue in biblical interpretation and theology today. Recent developments in biology have indicated with impressive evidence that humanity does not go back to a single human couple. Does that mean that the Bible is wrong or that science is wrong? Or perhaps, as Peter Enns argues, we have been misreading the Bible. While not everyone, including myself, agrees with everything that Enns suggests, his book is an important contribution to the discussion concerning Genesis 1-2 and science.” ~ Tremper Longman III, Westmont College

“The Evolution of Adam not only reflects the evolution of evangelical understandings of Adam, but it also contributes to new perspectives on Paul and the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one concerned with the beauty, glory, and truth of the good news in a scientific world will want to miss out on this landmark book!” ~ Amos Yong, Regent University School of Divinity

“The Evolution of Adam provides a sure-footed and engaging look at what the Bible says–and does not say–about the first man. Peter Enns, one of America’s most important Old Testament scholars, provides a masterful and accessible survey of the relevant biblical scholarship from the past couple of centuries. Enns combines a deep appreciation of the Christian tradition with a courageous willingness to go where most evangelicals fear to tread. I highly recommend this book.” ~ Karl Giberson, author of Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution

The Evolution of Adam resonates with me and I am only through the introduction. I have struggled (am struggling) with reconciling the overwhelming evidences of science and evolution with being a follower of God. I did not grow up in a church but was converted as a senior in high-school. I embraced the conservative evangelical wing (Churches of Christ) of Christianity wholeheartedly and attended a university that seemed to foster the same beliefs as the local church I attended. I was taught that the earth was young (apparent age theory was huge in that university), man and dinosaurs existed (they alluded to Leviathan and Behemoth as examples…sigh) and that all evolution was incompatible with Scripture.

Fast forward a few years (and a few master’s degrees later) and I am struggling with much of evangelical Christianity adheres to and I desperately want to follow God and seek a relationship with him and invite others to do the same but the evolution issue is a tough one. The current church I serve would fire me if they really knew what I believed on issues like inerrancy, evolution, etc. All of this to say that I am grateful for you book, its tone, its outlook and its hope. ~ Rob

I’ve just finished reading your Evolution of Adam. This note is mainly an expression of gratitude for your work and this book in particular. I found it to be very articulate, commonsensical, and wonderfully sensitive/humble. . . . Thank you for (what I’m guessing are the) blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into this work, in addition to its rich intelligence and passion. ~ Andrew

I am in the last chapter of your book, The Evolution of Adam. . . . Thank you so much for the work you are doing. I know that it has cost you greatly. But let us continue to seek the Truth, both in scientific knowledge, interpretation of scripture, and in sharing our faith with others. ~ Alan

I’ve recently completed and literaly ‘colored’ through “The Evolution of Adam” and been released from years of confusion and things I dare not speak of… to lows of despair when I consider translating this awareness to my fellow brothers and sisters as a pastor, bible teacher and biblical counselor. . . . I am now better equipped to help my children 10, 11, 14 navigate the scriptures in faith with this balanced understanding. THANK YOU! ~ David