End of Year

Adam: Scriptural Truth versus Human Myth

The Bible teaches us that Adam was a real person. We have plenty of articles on that subject. Just so that there is no misunderstanding on this point, it is an essential part of the teaching of this ministry that Adam was a real person, who committed a real sin by eating a real fruit, imputing real sin to all his descendants (i.e., the entire human race), and our only hope of salvation from that sin is through the sacrifice of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ.

Adam lay y bounden, from Sloan Manuscript, Wikimedia Commons

Adam lay y bounden, from Sloane Manuscript, 15th Century, Wikimedia Commons.

But this article is not on that subject. Many people today claim to have rejected the “myth” of Adam. The purpose of this article is to examine what exactly these people have rejected. I would suggest that many such people have not rejected the biblical account, because they have not read the biblical account. Instead, they have rejected a “mythology” of Adam — a sort-of popular Adam, who has developed, particularly in European mythology, over centuries. This mythological Adam has significant differences from the true Adam of the Bible. The mythological Adam is probably well summed up in the words of a medieval English Christmas carol, which is often sung after the first Bible reading in Anglican carol services — “Adam lay i-bowndyn.” The carol seems to have four stanzas, the first two of which are:

Adam lay i-bowndyn,
bowndyn in a bond,
Fowre thowsand wynter
thowt he not to long

And al was for an appil,
an appil that he tok.
As clerkes fyndyn wretyn
in here book.

The first line immediately takes us into unbiblical territory. It is part of the myth that, in Old Testament times, all dead souls would be bound in a place of torment. Now the exact location of where Old Testament saints went is open to interpretation. There are some who think they would have gone to heaven, as they were saved by belief in a future Messiah. There are others who believe that they would have been kept in a part of Sheol, the place of the dead, which was not a place of torment. However, there is no evidence from the Bible that Old Testament saints would be bound once they died. Whether or not Adam actually repented and trusted God is another matter. But this carol is presenting him as a man of faith. A man of faith would not be someone bound on death.

The first stanza does, however, get the approximate date of creation right. This shows that medieval people were very capable of adding up the numbers of years in Scripture from creation to Christ, and showing it to be about 4,000 years.

The second stanza also contains half-truth and half-myth. There is nothing stated in Genesis about the nature of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was almost certainly not an apple, as today’s commercial apples have been selectively bred for millennia. Moreover, the sin was not the action of eating an apple. It was the act of disobedience to God. God gave a command — not to eat of that particular fruit. There was nothing magical or poisonous about the fruit. Adam began the process of death, because he disobeyed God.

Although it can be noted that the carol refers to the “clerkes book” – that is, the Bible – the idea of assigning this book only to clerics reminds us that in medieval times, ordinary people did not have access to the Bible, and were picking up their doctrines “second-hand”. Is it not a shame that today, in a society that has very easy access to the Bible, still so many people have not actually read it for themselves?

Ne hadde the appil take ben,
the appil taken ben,
Ne hadde never our lady
a ben hevene quen.

The third stanza introduces the Catholic doctrine that Mary is the Queen of Heaven, and that she would not have been so without the apple being eaten! We reject the Catholic and blasphemous doctrine that suggests Mary is the Queen of Heaven — a pagan title. Nevertheless, Genesis 3:15 gives us a clear prophecy concerning the virgin birth. The seed of the woman can only be referring to Mary conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit, even though she had never known a man.

Blyssid be the tyme
that appil take was!
Therefore we mown syngyn
Deo gracias!

In the last stanza, we are encouraged to give thanks that Adam had sinned. This seems an odd response to the situation. We cannot praise God for the origination of sin. However, we can praise and thank God for sending His Son to be our Savior and to free us from the bondage of sin.

The myth of Adam has a strange man in a garden. This man becomes bound in chains when he dies and yet we are to praise God for these things. This is in contrast to the truth about Adam, as related in Scripture. Although the myth contains some elements of the creation account, it is not sufficient. It is this mythological Adam that so many are rejecting today, so we need to be extra-vigilant for those around us who are unaware of the biblical account and how it differs from the myth.

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