The philosopher and theologian ventures a new hypothesis on Genesis, human origins, and the historical Adam.
As head of the ministry Reasonable Faith and a prolific writer on topics of philosophy and theology, William Lane Craig has spent decades staking out sophisticated positions on the toughest questions of Christian faith. But for a long time, his beliefs on one controversial topic—the place of Adam and Eve in biblical and biological history—have remained unsettled. Craig considers this matter at length in his latest book, In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration. Science and religion scholar Melissa Cain Travis spoke with Craig about his views on Genesis, human origins, and the historical Adam.
You describe Genesis 1–11 as “mytho-history,” arguing that an ancient-Near-Eastern audience would not have understood this text as a literal historical narrative. How do you define mytho-history, and how does it function in divine revelation?
I’m not using the word myth in the popular sense of a falsehood, but rather in the folklorist’s sense of a traditional, sacred narrative explaining how the world and humanity came to be in their present form. History is a narrative concerning real people and events, and so a mytho-history would be a sort of fusion of the two: a narrative concerning real people and events told in the language of myth in order to ground a culture’s identity and institutions in events of the primordial past.
One reason you support the mytho-history classification is the presence of what you call “fantastic elements” in the text. What are these, and how do they differ from supernatural elements?
I define “fantastic elements” as those which, if taken literally, are so extraordinary as to be palpably false. Myths are typically …