Several Genesis verses contain some issues that have bothered many people. For example, are we supposed to understand the ages of the people chronologically? If so, how did they live so long? Who was Cain afraid of, and where did those people come from? Where did Cain get his wife? Those are some of the difficult Genesis issues people have tried to resolve.
The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation is the product of scientists who believe in God and accept the Bible as His Word. They have advanced academic degrees, and their articles are very scholarly. Recent issues have carried some interesting discussions of difficult Genesis issues, including the account of Adam and Eve. The September issue contains an article by Dr. Roy Clouser. He contends that we have ignored the Jewish understanding of Genesis, causing credibility issues with the biblical account. Clouser maintains that the ages of biblical characters were not intended to be understood as chronological but symbolic of their character or accomplishments. For example, Methuselah living 969 years would indicate higher qualities than Adam’s 600 years.
That is an interesting explanation. I am now 83 years old chronologically, and I cannot fathom living for 600 years. The physical weakness that comes from age seems to be built into humans as it is in the rest of the world. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they had access to the Tree of Life that would allow them to live forever. The traditional explanation that the human fall into sin brought physical death into the world for the first time has credibility issues with most people.
Clouser makes an interesting comparison between Genesis 2:7, where God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and John 20:22, where Jesus breathed on His disciples. Genesis tells us that “God formed man of the dust of the ground,” clearly referring to man’s body. Then the verse says, “and man became a living soul.” Genesis 1:26-27 describes the man and woman as created in the image of God. That, of course, refers to the spiritual image because God is a Spirit and not a limited physical being. When humans sinned, God’s spirit departed from them. However, John 20:22 tells us that Jesus “breathed on them (His disciples) and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
Other difficult Genesis issues include when Cain says, “Everyone who finds me will try to kill me” (Genesis 4:14). Who are those who would try to kill Cain, and where did they come from? Where did Cain get his wife? Cain also builds a city, and that requires large numbers of humans. My response has always been that Adam and Eve had many children in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, all of humanity rebelled against God and were forced out of the Garden and lost a relationship with God. Clouser presents a different interpretation that warrants more study.
The fact is that the biblical account is accurate and deals with salvation through Jesus Christ. However, understanding how we got to where we are is very complex and will always leave some questions for further study. It is our understanding of the difficult Genesis issues that is in question–not the accuracy of the biblical record.
— John N. Clayton © 2021