Peter ENNS. The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2012, 172 pp. $17.99 pb. ISBN: 978-1-58743-315-3.
Reviewed by Leo MADDEN, Ohio Dominican University, Columbus, OH 43219

But in the case of Enns’ book, I read the book in order to trace a method of reasoning in Biblical (and also Dogmatic) Theology that was often unfamiliar to me. For this reviewer, trained and working in Biblical Studies within the Roman Catholic Tradition, this book offered a clear and enjoyable glimpse into the issues that concern Evangelical Christianity regarding the figure of Adam in the light of recent developments in evolutionary theory. Enns locates his study within a broader field of battle within Evangelical Christianity: how to reconcile the data of the Bible with the data of science; and in the present case, how to reconcile the Biblical story of the direct creation of the first human by God with the abundant evidence in paleoanthropology for the gradual development of the species, homo sapiens sapiens?

Time and time again, as I walked with the author through his presentation of evidence and his reasoning process as to how this evidence affects the way that a Christian should consider the Biblical importance of Adam, I met familiar facts and arguments: first the evidence for the literary context of Genesis chapters 1-5, then the evidence for the variety of mythological accounts of the creation of the first humans that arose within other cultures of the Ancient Near East, then the evidence for the larger theological and cultural concerns affecting Israel after the Exile (when the narrative about Adam was likely composed), and finally the evidence for the various portrayals of Adam within Jewish writings in the intertestamental and post-Christian eras.

Yet missing was the occasional appeal to familiar Catholic authorities: references to Catholic Biblical scholars who worked in the field of Ancient Near East studies; reminders about the meaning and importance of the “literal sense” in Catholic Biblical hermeneutics; and then the clincher by way of references to documents of the Magisterium. Reading this book provided a fascinating and illuminating experience of how the issues of Biblical inspiration, literary genre, senses of Scripture, and the relationship between history and theology can be negotiated through a (slightly) different confessional frame of reference.

In his study of the Biblical portrait of Adam, Enns focuses of course on just a few key texts: Genesis chapters 1-5 and Paul’s letter to the Romans. In both cases, Enns emphasizes the essential theological function of the figure of Adam that was brought forward first by post-exilic Israel and then by that towering figure in early Christianity. For post-exilic Israel, Adam represented the need for all humans to learn the primal lesson of humanity: “Fear of LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (New American Bible, Proverbs 1:7). And for Paul, Adam represented the universal plight of humanity, the unavoidable specter of sin and death, for whom the salvific act of Christ’s death and resurrection provides the universal relief and recovery.

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