“Adam and Eve never existed!” It was my first week of class in a Christian university. The professor was an old man with a heavy accent, denoting his Belgian origin. During his first class, he stated a belief that I had already heard rumors of but never witnessed personally: “The first three chapters of the book of Genesis are a myth! It never happened that way.”
The statement itself didn’t surprise me, since I knew that many believe that way. What left me astonished was seeing a theology professor defending that position. How could he believe that? If what was written in Genesis 1 to 3 never happened, how would that impact our faith? How would it relate to our beliefs?
It all comes down to the ultimate question: “What is the relationship between the first three chapters and the rest of the Bible?”
In every story, the beginning is essential. It is the beginning, the introduction of a story, that provides the foundation for everything that will follow. When we watch a movie or hear a story but miss the beginning, we end up confused as to the identity of the characters and the logic behind the events of the story. It may even get to the point where the end of the story becomes incomprehensible. To satisfy our curiosity, we end up having to go back to the beginning and start all over. Some movies even start the story at the end, only revealing its beginning at the last minute. This is a strategy to keep viewers hooked until the end of the movie. The suspense only dissipates when finally the beginning is revealed.
The same is true with the Bible. If its introduction – Genesis 1 to 3 – isn’t true, if what we read there never happened, much of what comes later will lose its significance. Therefore, it is important to know the message of Genesis 1 to 3. This introduction serves as the foundation for the rest of the Bible. Let us understand the crucial truths that Genesis is trying to tell us.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The first thing we discover when we read this text is that God exists. The Bible begins with “In the beginning God…” Although the book of Genesis offers no evidence for the existence of God, He is presented as if already known. God is presented as the basis of existence itself. Everything exists solely because of Him. Thus, God’s existence is the foundation for all of the biblical worldview.
There are other creation narratives produced by ancient civilizations that present various gods in the creation process. The Bible, however, is clear when it affirms that the whole universe was created by the power of only one God. Many are the theologians who have noticed that Genesis seeks to show not only that God exists, but that there is no God other than Him. By affirming that there is only one Creator, the book of Genesis makes “a polemical repudiation” of the polytheistic worldview.
At the beginning of the last century, Edwin Hubble, studying the starry sky from his observatory in Mt. Wilson, California, discovered that everything was drifting away from our solar system. He noticed that the universe was actually expanding. This wasn’t a static universe, as he had previously thought, but a growing one.
This led Hubble to the astonishing conclusion: If we could rewind time and observe the universe, we would be able to see it gradually shrinking. This would happen until some moment in the finite past when the universe would be compressed into a small dense singularity from which everything originated. This theory is popularly known as the “Big Bang Theory”: the great explosion that gave birth to the universe. Although we may not agree with everything in this theory, there is a conclusion that we, as Adventists, must support: the universe had a beginning.
Although Hubble’s theory wasn’t able to explain how the universe came into being or what triggered the beginning, Genesis does provide us with the answer. It affirms that the beginning of everything was caused by divine initiative. This is one of the best arguments for the existence of God: the fact that we exist. The argument goes like this: Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The universe had a beginning. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Without Genesis, we don’t have the means to know this cause. The only thing we could conclude is that this cause is an immaterial one (since matter can’t create matter) and must exist beyond space and time (since both belong to the created order). Genesis provides to us the missing information: It is a Being! A Being so powerful that He is able to create space, matter, and time by His word. Everything we know came into being by His word.
The repetition of the expression “and God said” in the Genesis account emphasizes this point. Absolutely everything has its origin in God. Therefore, creation is presented as distinct from its Creator.
Creation isn’t supernatural or divine. It shouldn’t be worshiped, but offers us reasons to worship the Creator, who is distinct from all of creation. The sun and moon, which have been divinized by several cultures throughout history, didn’t even receive a name in the creation account. They are simply mentioned as the “greater light” and the “lesser light” (Gen. 1:16). Light was created before these two celestial bodies, indicating that light and heat are not exclusively dependent on them.
Besides revealing that God exists and that He is the Creator, Genesis offers us another valuable piece of information. God is a rational Being. He is rational because He chose to create.
A question many have asked is: “Why is there something, rather than nothing?” We raise this question when confronted with the fact that the universe had a beginning and that before it nothing existed. If nothing existed before, then nothing should exist now. Thus, the fact that we do exist indicates that something (or Someone!) chose to create the universe. Genesis informs us that this “Someone” is God. He is rational and has the ability to decide.
Because He is rational, everything He does carries rationality. This is clearly demonstrated through the laws of nature. They can be identified, analyzed, studied, and understood. It is because the universe is comprehensible and predictable that we are able to study it scientifically. After all, why study chemistry if every time two elements are mixed in the lab, different reactions come out of it? Scientific discoveries would be impossible!
However, the universe is logical, mathematical, and precise. And that, by itself, has left many scientists baffled. The universe is composed of many forces that, if altered ever so slightly, would change reality as we know it. Although scientists can’t explain why the universe behaves this way, Genesis can. Our universe is comprehensible because it was created by a rational God.
Genesis 1:26 informs us that the human race was created according to the “image” and “likeness” of God. Our goal here is not to define what this image and likeness mean, but to show that these expressions associate us with a superior origin (God) rather than an inferior one (animal). It is through Genesis that we understand that our purpose in life is to increasingly resemble the superior model, follow a superior morality, and trust in a superior plan.
Although evolutionists insist on finding similarities between humans and primates, Genesis declares that, when Adam observed the animal kingdom, he didn’t find any creatures that resembled him (Gen 2:20), not even among the primates (despite the similarities). Expressions like “image” and “likeness,” found in the Bible, “emphasize the nearness and relationship” between humans and their Creator. Our origin is found in a superior “Father,” not in a common animal ancestor.
Genesis 3:16-24 shows us that, with time, there was no evolution into a superior state. Quite to the contrary, there was degeneration.
In Genesis 2:18 we find that God created human beings to live in community. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” He said. Human beings not only should live in community, but should also unite in marriage with a person of the opposite sex. Before Eve, no creature was suitable for Adam. By suitable, we mean someone compatible, who corresponded to him and completed him in his needs. God’s purpose in creating the female counterpart was so that both would complete each other, forming a perfect unit.
The fact that God blessed “male and female,” commanding them to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:27, 28) provides us a platform to argue against society’s belief that homosexuality is a valid sexual option and against the Catholic Church’s teaching that celibacy is the ideal state. The most logical argument against these two views is that, as revealed in Genesis, we were not created to live that way.
Genesis also informs us about God’s command to man not to remain inactive, but to rule over creation and take care of it. Genesis 1:26, 28 orders human beings to subdue the earth and rule over it. Through this divine command, we understand that human beings are allowed to use creation to meet their needs. From this text, science obtains the biblical permission to study and discover nature’s secrets and meet humanity’s needs.
However, this text has been misinterpreted by many. We don’t find here the permission to mistreat and exploit nature to the point of exhausting its resources. As bearers of the image of God, human beings should reflect His character in the treatment and care of creation. The resources created by God should be used wisely. Selfishness, tyranny, violence, and abuse of power should not be found among those who have been sent to reflect God’s character. This means using all of nature’s resources for good use: using them wisely and cautiously, with the intent of promoting the well-being of all.
It is interesting to note that, independent of where human beings may live, they have the ability to discern between that which we can and cannot do. Anywhere in the world, in any culture, there are things that are allowed and others that are not. This is called morality.
Morality is what defines the way a human being should or shouldn’t behave. It is true that, from one culture to another, details may change, but all agree that there are things that we ought to do and things that we ought not to do: moral and immoral actions.
Genesis informs us that the basis for morality is found in God. Genesis describes God speaking to Adam and Eve, instructing them on what they should and shouldn’t do (especially in reference to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). The fact that He is our Creator indicates that He is also the objective foundation of all morality – the one who determines what is allowed or not.
Atheists argue that morality is not founded on the will of God, but on a “social agreement.” By this they mean: human beings are the ones who, as a community, decide what is good and what is bad.
For an atheist the prohibition to steal someone else’s property doesn’t originate in God, but with human beings. Since people don’t like to lose what is theirs, atheists explain, humans have this “unconscious agreement.” People agree that taking stuff from others without their permission isn’t a good thing, and therefore stealing becomes forbidden.
Notice that this can work both ways. If everyone thought that it is correct to steal stuff from others, suddenly theft would become legalized. This type of morality is very flexible and relative to places, times, and people.
Genesis provides us with an objective basis for all morality. By using the expression “objective,” I mean to say that the definition of what is right and wrong can be clearly found in God. He is the one who defines what is acceptable or not. Therefore, even though there might be nobody around me to dictate what I should or shouldn’t do, stealing is still wrong because God declared it so.
As I have just mentioned, God is the source of all morality. He is the one who determines what is correct, just, and good. Therefore, disobedience to His will is considered breaking His standards. That is exactly what sin is. It is an attitude of rebellion against divine will.
Genesis helps us understand why we exist with so many flaws and problems. Without Genesis 1 to 3, we would have great difficulty trying to understand why there is death, suffering, and pain. Derek Kidner in his commentary on the book of Genesis affirms that the whole of the New Testament and the doctrine of salvation are based in the historicity of this account. In other words, if Adam and Eve’s fall never happened, as described by Genesis, the argument that we need to be saved is completely lost.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15). This text presents not only the curse upon serpents in general, but God’s sentence against the serpent, the enemy of God and humanity. Through the descendant of Eve, the serpent would receive its ultimate reward: death.
This text is the foundation for our understanding of the struggle between God and Satan. The first chapters of Genesis help us understand the reason for the Old Testament sacrifices, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, and the unfolding of the salvation plan. Genesis 2:17 makes it clear that the result of sin is death, and only through the death of the guilty one would divine justice be satisfied.
Genesis tells us about the enemy’s verdict and promises that the serpent (Satan) will one day meet its end. Sin will be conquered through the descendant of Eve, creating, thus, the first messianic hopes. This text is commonly referred to in theology as the “protoevangelium.” It is the beginning of the good news.
Genesis: The Key to Understanding Reality
We conclude, therefore, that the creation account found in the first three chapters of the book of Genesis is crucial for the understanding of the rest of the biblical record and of reality. If the creation account was removed from the Bible, our understanding of God and reality would be injured, turning the plan of salvation meaningless.
Unfortunately, there are those who read the text and use it to defend the idea that Genesis’ main goal was to present theological concepts, but no concrete truths. That is why many believe that Genesis is only a myth, offering profound lessons about God, human nature, and our relationship with the Creator. They believe that Genesis is only trying to explain life through metaphors – creation being one of them.
The truth is that Genesis offers us important data about God, creation, humankind, morality, sin, and salvation. But we must remember that all of this is relevant only if it is true. In other words, Genesis 1-3 is only valid if what was written there actually describes a real and historic event. To say that God is the basis of all morality would make sense only if, in fact, God gave to humanity a declaration of His will. To say that God created us to be married to someone of the opposite sex (and not some other way) becomes normative only if, in fact, He created beings of opposite sexes. If revelation is to have authority, it must be true and real – not based on metaphors, but on facts.
 Bible quotations are from the New International Version.
 Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1 – 15 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), p. 9.
 Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), p. 79-81.
 Francis Beckwith, William L. Craig, and J. P. Moreland, To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2004), p. 62.
 Gerhard Hasel, “The Polemic Nature of the Genesis Cosmology,” Evangelical Quarterly 46 (1974), p. 88, 89.
 John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1986).
 Hans Walter Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1975), p. 161.
 Heber Carlos Campos, O Habitat Humano: Estudos em Antropologia Bíblica (São Paulo: Hagnos, 2011), p. 117-122.
 Caetano Carlos Consolo, O Meio Ambiente Numa Perspectiva Bíblica (São Paulo: Scortecci, 2008), p. 13-19.
 C. John Collins, Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary and Theological Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing Company, 2006), p. 69.
 Derek Kidner, Genesis (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), p. 66.
 John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), vol. 2, p. 56.