Neanderthals and the Bible

Neanderthals and the Bible
Wax figure of Neanderthal man in Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

In 1856, workers in Neander Valley near Dusseldorf, Germany, discovered a cave containing human bones that were different from modern humans. Scientists gave those bones the name Neanderthal, which means “Valley of the New Man.” We have written about this before (such as HERE, HERE, and HERE), but how can we reconcile Neanderthals and the Bible?

Since that first discovery, anthropologists have found Neanderthal remains throughout Europe and elsewhere. Neanderthals had large brains, thick bones, and muscle attachments, indicating high strength. The age of these specimens is much greater than any written human communication. They lived a nomadic lifestyle and dwelled in caves and natural shelters. They did not have cities or build sophisticated structures, but recent studies show intelligent behavior, including mastering fire for cooking, controlling animals, and providing warmth.

Genetic studies show that modern humans had Neanderthal ancestors. Some writers claim that Neanderthals were humans physically but had no soul and, thus, no spiritual awareness. That raises the question of how Neanderthals connect with Adam in Genesis 1 and 2. Those who promote theistic evolution say that ape-like hominoids evolved. Then, when these individuals reached a certain level, God infused them with a soul and called them “Adam,” Hebrew for “of the ground.” Some claim that Cain encountered Neanderthals in the area that Cain was banished to in Genesis 4:14 and following.

The point is that rather than deny that Neanderthals existed, we need to realize that there are many possible ways to reconcile Neanderthals and the Bible account of Adam and Eve. As scientists make more discoveries, the picture may become more evident. Meanwhile, we know the biblical account is valid and not at odds with findings about human history.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: The Naked Neanderthal by Ludovic Slimak and