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Response To Richard Averbeck’s Critiques Of “The Lost World Of Adam and Eve”

A while back, in preparing a video collaboration with my friend and fellow YouTuber, Zach Miller, I read some critics of the thesis of “The Lost World Of Genesis One” that I hadn’t read before. I drafted notes ahead of time and it ended up being more than notes! It ended up being an essay! So it seemed good to me to post these on the blog, especially since there’s a possibility I have some readers who may not be familiar with either mine or Zach’s channel. In this article, I’ll be responding to Richard Averbeck, and the article is called “Adam and Eve – A Review Essay”.

First, to start out, let me say that Richard Averbeck’s tone is refreshing. He doesn’t appear to be hostile towards Walton or others who subscribe to his view. In fact, he notes that there are many points of agreement between himself and Walton. Averbeck’s main criticism seems to be against the idea that Genesis 1 is not about material origins, but about functional origins. This is, without a doubt, the most controversial portion of Walton’s position. His view that Genesis 1 is about God inaugurating the universe as His temple is much more widely accepted, being affirmed by Old Testament scholars such as Ben Stanhope, J. Richard Middleton, and Michael Heiser to name a few. Though out of these three, only Stanhope agrees that Genesis 1 is about functional creation only and not material creation (see his book [Mis]Interpreting Genesis). Moreover, readers of this blog will know that my issue with Walton isn’t what he affirms, it’s in what he doesn’t. He seems to disagree (or at least downplay to the point of irrelevance) the idea that Genesis 1 is interacting with other ANE creation myths, taking jabs at their gods and their stories. I would agree that this isn’t the primary thing the author is doing, but he is engaging in polemics when the opportunity allows him to do so.

I too disagree with Walton at points in both The Lost World Of Genesis One and The Lost World Of Adam and Eve, and I am in agreement with some of the criticisms he makes of the latter in this review.

Averback Argues That Ancient Near Easterners Had Interest In Material Creation

Richard Averbeck writes; “My main concern is that he continues to argue that the ancients would have seen this as a matter of roles and functions, but not material creation. As is well-known, rulers were quite occupied with the material construction of temples in the ANE and in the Bible. They expended a great deal of time as well as material and labor resources on building such structures, and we have a large number of texts that attest to this. Yes, the proper ordering of things was essential, but their proper construction was a necessary part of that ordering and very much a part of the textual descriptions of them.”

I think the primary misunderstanding here is how Walton argues his case. I don’t think Walton – or anyone – for that matter, would argue that the ancients weren’t the least bit interested the material composition of an object. Obviously something has to exist in the material sense before it can exist in the function sense. Material ontology logically precedes functional ontology. However, what Walton argues is that for the ancients, something did not EXIST until it had function in an ordered system. If X simply had physical existence but had no function or role, then they would not say that X exists.

So, on a functional ontology, even if your car had a physical frame, a steering wheel, four tires, an engine, etc. but it was totaled in a car accident and could no longer be used for its intended purpose, then if Walton is right about the kind of ontology they shared, the ancient would say “The car no longer exists.”

This can be demonstrated within the biblical text where the biblical authors speak of things being “tohu” – a term which is used in Genesis 1:2 in conjuction with “wa bohu” – and these things no doubt have a material shape, but is nevertheless spoken of as a non-existent. The wilderness in Deuteronomy 32:10 wasn’t shapeless. The idols mentioned in 1 Samuel 12:21 are spoken of as being “Tohu”. They certainly had form and had various shapes, but The Bible says that idols are worthless and can accomplish nothing (i.e non-functional, without purpose). Since tohu always carries the notion of purposelessness or non functionality and never refers to shapelessness, it’s very likely that this is what tohu means in Genesis 1:2 as well.

We can also see that Genesis 1 is not about material origins, but is about functional origins only on the basis of what the Genesis 1 says about what is made on the first 4 days. Let’s take a brief look.

*DAY 1 –

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that it was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.” (Genesis 1:3-5, NIV)

In Genesis 1, God’s first creative act is “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). This cannot be interpreted as an act of material creation if for no other reason than that the ancients did not consider light to be a material sort of thing. They had no knowledge of photons. For them, light did not consist of anything physical. Therefore, the author of Genesis could not have meant that when “God said ‘let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3) that anything physical came into existence.

But, moreover, it is interesting that God does not call the light light nor does He call the darkness darkness. He calls the light “day” and the darkness “night” (verse 5). Why is this? “Light” and “day” are not synonyms, even in Hebrew. Professor John Walton argues that the figure of speech known as “Metonymy” is being employed here. Metonymy is a figure of speech that substitutes the effect for its cause, mentioning the cause instead of the effect. “Light” is substituted for “Day” and “Darkness” is substituted for “Night”. What God is referring to is the period of light and the period of darkness (i.e daytime and nighttime). What this suggests is that what God creates is time. Time is what is created on Day 1! Day and Night! This is further supported by what Genesis says in verse 4, the verse immediately preceding verse 5 “God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness”. If these were material objects scripture was talking about, verse 4 would make no sense as darkness and light cannot be joined together. They can’t co-exist. Since they can’t be together, they cannot be separated. Now, if it’s the period of light and the period of darkness (time) that scripture is talking about, then Genesis 1:4 makes a lot more sense. What God separates is the period of light and darkness, not physical light from physical darkness.

From looking at scripture alone, we can see a good basis for affirming that God created a function on day 1, not anything material.

*DAY 2 –

And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse ‘sky’. And it was evening, and there was morning — the second day.” (Genesis 1:6-8, NIV)

On Day 2, the most important thing scripture is trying to communicate is not whether there is literally a solid dome moderating the amount of cosmic waters that fall down upon the Earth, but that God set up a weather system that would regulate the amount of rain that would fall upon the Earth. This is important. After all, too little rain and we starve because there’s no water to make crops grow. Too much rain and we are overwhelmed. That scripture refers to a “vault” or “firmament” is merely an incidental feature of the Ancient Near Eastern Cosmology. The main point that The Holy Spirit’s inspired author is trying to get across is that God set up a weather system. The functional ontology of the “vault” is explicitly stated by God, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” What’s the function of the vault? To separate water from water.

Now, in my previous essays on Genesis 1, I have pointed out that there is an undesirable trichotomy for anyone who would maintain that material AND functional ontology is present in the text. For those who would disagree with John Walton and I that functions are the only thing present here, there are three options; (1) Assert that God actually made a solid dome, (2) Try to argue that the ancients did not hold to dome cosmology, (3) Concordism.

The first option is clearly undesirable for the obvious reason that anyone even remotely scientifically informed knows that there’s no solid dome sky up there. Yet, if God actually made something physical when he made the sky (what material creation requires), then that’s what you have to say. Option 2 is one opted for by Dr. William Lane Craig. Craig tries to argue that the idea of a solid dome covering a flat earth is just over literalizing metaphorical texts in scripture. Problems with such an idea aside, let’s suppose he’s right. What if, from the ancient near eastern viewpoint, they did not believe the firmament was firm? Then one is left with saying that God didn’t make anything material on day 2, except for possibly the land. But he certainly didn’t “make” the sky. As soon as a planet exists, it has SOME kind of atmosphere. Option 3 is simply to resort to concordism and argue that the sky is material in a sense; there are cumulous clouds up there, and cumulous clouds are made of different kinds of atoms, and there’s lightning in the clouds, and there’s a magnetic field out there in space over our planet shielding us from the sun, and so, technically the sky has some material components to it. The problem is that this is importing modern meteorological knowledge into the text. This is eisegesis, not exegesis.

*DAY 3

“And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the third day.” (Genesis 1:9-13, NIV)

On Day 3, we have God installing the cycle of naturally grown food. When I have argued for the functional perspective of Genesis, people have objected that here on Day 3, we have a clear example of material creation. God decrees that the land would “come forth” and the land would “produce vegetation”. This is obviously a physical process that can be observed in time and space. It’s not merely the assignment of functions, right? Well, I can see why people might think that, but based on the immediate context of day 3 and the cultural context of Genesis as a whole, I propose the following.

God is not creating the very first fruit trees and plants to ever exist in a material sense, whereas our world had no vegetation before. Instead, what we have here is God decreeing that the purpose of the land is to sprout vegetation and the purpose of the vegetation is to provide food.

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation ([I hereby decree that the purpose of the land is to produce vegetation]: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it [i.e I hearby decree that the purpose of seed-bearing plants and trees is to produce food], according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds [i.e the aforementioned land and plants are carrying out the function as God decreed]. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.” – Genesis 1:11-13

It is literally true that God designated the functions of vegetation-producing to the land and food production to the vegetation. There’s nothing esoteric about this reading of the text. Of course, this reading of the third day is really contingent upon the case for function-only creation in the rest of the text, and the ANE mindset itself. Such a reading in isolation from the rest of the Waltonian case would appear ad hoc.

Nevertheless, what God “creates” on days 1, 2, and 3 are the functions of time, weather, and food. These are essential attributes the cosmos must have for humanity to live.

*DAY 4

And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:14-19, NIV)

God is installing functionaries which carry out their own functions delineated in the first 3 days (Time, Weather, Food). The text offers no material nature of the celestial bodies. All it says materially speaking is that they exist in the heavens. This is not problematic if this is an account of functional creation. The function of the heavenly bodies is clearly stated “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so.” (Verse 14, emphasis mine). The purpose of the sun, moon, and stars are to mark time “seasons, days, and years”.

Before I moving on to the rest of Averbeck’s critique, I want the reader to keep in mind that by “function”, I do not mean scientific function, but an anthropologically oriented function. That is to say, function is related to how the created things serve humanity.

If anthropological functional ontology is the purpose of Genesis 1, then the fourfold description of the sun, moon, and stars (signs, seasons, days, years) are pertinent only to humans. The one that seems to be the odd one out is “seasons”. However, we shouldn’t conceive of seasons here in the sense of winter, spring, summer, and fall. Rather, seasons here most likely refers to festival celebrations, and obviously, festival celebrations are something carried out by human beings. This conclusion is drawn from the fact that the Hebrew word in other places in The Bible refers to precisely that. [1]1: “The phrase ʿāśâ nepeš can mean ‘to take people under your care’ (Gen 12:5; cf. Eccles 2:8). For the midwives who defied pharaoh, God provided families (ʿāśâ bāttîm, Ex … Continue reading In other places in The Bible, the Hebrew word translated “seasons” designates the festival celebrations that are associated with the sowing season, the harvesting season and so on.

Remember that I pointed above that the word “asah” which is present in this text is often translated as “Do” “doing”, “prepare”, “ordain”, etc. I would argue that given the functional orientation of this passage as well as Genesis 1 as a whole, this word should properly be translated as “God prepared the two great lights” or “God ordained the two great lights”.

Much later on in his review, Richard Averbeck writes “I cannot accept the ongoing argument in this book that Genesis 1–2 nowhere deal with the material creation. In my view, the text simply does not support it. In fact, it is quite clear that God is telling us that he was directly involved in the creation of humanity. The text does so twice from two different perspectives (Genesis 1:26–28 and 2:7, 22)”

However, it is unclear to me how the verses he referenced definitely prove that material origins is in view unless Averbeck is begging the question in favor of a material understanding.

Averbeck Does Not Think Genesis 2 Follows Genesis 1 Sequentially 

All I’m reading out of him is an expression of disagreement rather than a counter-argument.

Averbeck Argues That The Serpent’s Actions Were Indeed Evil.

In his book, Walton argued that the nachash (serpent) of Genesis 3 was a chaos creature like Leviathan who shows up later in The Bible, and wasn’t inherently evil or even trying to do evil. He was an a-moral troublemaker. Walton does introduce helpful distinctions between order, non-order, and disorder. Order is what God was bringing about in Genesis 1 by Himself, in Genesis 2 through his divine image bearers, and such bringing order out of non-order would have continued beyond the events of Genesis 2, but Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, sinned, and messed everything up. Or to use Walton’s terms, they introduced disorder into the world. Disorder is evil and sinful. It is the purposeful undoing of order in the cosmos.

Here, Averbeck writes “However, I am not convinced that the actions of the serpent in Genesis 3 can be put into the category of non-order rather than disorder, even if it belongs to the non-ordered world as Walton has it. When it speaks contrary to God and leads the man and woman into sin it is part of the disorder and an enemy of God. God’s curse upon the serpent in Genesis 3:14–15 reflects that it is under condemnation and will come to a bad end as a punishment for this act. It is held responsible for it, along with the man and the woman. It is part of the “evil,” and in a sense the progenitor of it, a point that is made in extensions from this passage through the rest of the Bible (see, e.g., Rev 12, which is essentially a midrash on Gen 3 and all that flows from it in biblical theology from Israel to Mary and Jesus and beyond).” 

Here, I would agree with Averbeck. Although, in fairness, I think what Walton is trying to get at is how the original recipients of The Primeval History would have interpreted the serpent. Obviously we know from later parts of The Bible that this being is the evil fallen angel we’ve all come to know and hate as Satan. Satan is definitely an immoral being, not a-moral. He is actively trying to bring disorder into the world in an open rebellion against God. However, such ideas about the serpent evolved over the ages as people reflected on the Old Testament data. So, in the 20/20 hindsight we have, we know the serpent was the devil (Revelation 12 makes that clear enough), but Genesis 3’s original readers/listeners didn’t have that theological development yet. Such development might be rejected on grounds of importing new understanding into the text were it not for the fact that the New Testament is just as inspired as the old. Or as Michael Heiser likes to say; “The New Testament is an inspired commentary on the Old Testament”.

Given that Walton’s project is about showing how Genesis 1-2 was initially interpreted by it’s very first listeners, I’m not sure how fair this criticism is. And I can’t help but think that if you asked Walton directly, he would agree that the nachash – in light of later biblical revelation – was indeed evil, intent on bringing disorder, and was Satan with a capital S, and that all he was doing was showing how Genesis’ original listeners would have understood the nachash to be.

Unfortunately, I disagree even with Walton’s view of the nachash. I don’t think he’s quite in the same league as the mythical Leviathan or Behemoth. I would agree with scholars Michael Heiser and Ben Stanhope that nachash presents us with a “serpentine divine being”. [2]“Although I must restrain myself from unpacking his full argument since it would take us too far afield of our purpose, specialists on ancient Israel’s divine beings, especially Heiser, have … Continue reading In other words, a seraph. This was a divine council settings as Heiser and I have argued elsewhere and encounters with divine beings were normal for Adam and Eve. I don’t even think this being rebelled against God long before Adam and Eve were made (sometime during the creation week). I hold that this is the moment the nachash decided to be the devil. Adam, Eve, and Satan really technically fell at the same time. This was the first in three divine rebeliions (the latter two would occur at Genesis 6 and Genesis 11 respectively). [3]Evan Minton, “Genesis 2 & 3: Adam and Eve as Archetypes, Priests In The Garden Of Eden, and The Fall” – … Continue reading [4]See Heiser’s extended discussion in chapter ten of his book “The Unseen Realm”

Though the original audience still didn’t have a full blown doctrine of Satan, I maintain with Heiser and Stanhope that they at least knew he was a member of God’s divine council.

Averbeck, N.T Wright, and The Hymn Of Adoption At The End Of Romans 8 

There again isn’t much I disagree with here, so I shall skip over this piece of critique.

Averbeck On Adam and Eve Not Being Progenitors Of Every Human 

This portion is one that left me a little confused. He is taking issue with Walton’s view that Adam and Eve aren’t the sole proginitors of every single human being. While I think Acts 17:26 and Genesis 3:20 are really strong verses against his view, Averbeck includes a couple of verses as evidence that leaves me confused; namely the Old Testament genealogies such as Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1, and Luke 3. However, these genealogies only go to show that Adam was a historical individual and that Jesus’ lineage goes back to him. I don’t think it shows that his was the only lineage. It seems to me that Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1, and Luke 3 are entirely consistent with Walton’s contention that Adam was just “the first significant person in their realm of knowledge,” and “[h]is federal headship would easily serve as an appropriate basis for the genealogy to go back to him” (p. 188 of The Lost World Of Adam and Eve).

I can’t help but think I’m either misunderstanding Walton or misunderstanding Averbeck. But someone misunderstood someone in this interaction!

I am in doubt about whether one can construe a theology where Adam and Eve are not the ancestors of us all. However, the only verses that keep me from fully embracing such an understanding are Acts 17:27 and Genesis 3:20 where Paul says God made all the nations from one man and where Eve is said to be “the mother of all living” respectively.

But maybe I don’t need to make Adam and Eve one couple among many in order to be a biblically accurate and scientifically accurate evolutionary creationist. Dr. William Lane Craig has defended a view of the historical Adam being a member of homo heidelbergensus. I have no read Craig’s book on the historical Adam yet. I will be getting to it soon as I wrap up my research on the primeval history in preparation for a book of my own, but Craig seems to think that if you adopt his view, then you avoid the issue of having to say that modern population genetics precludes the idea of all people being descended from one couple. Craig is adamant about all of us tracing our lineages back to Adam. I look forward to seeing how he deals with this issue.

At the end of the day, whether The Bible can be reconciled with evolution or not, I do not aim for reconciling the two, but I aim at understanding what the original author intended. I would like evolution and Genesis 2 to be compatible, but what I really desire above all is just to understand and believe what God’s word is saying.

And I really think the biblical authors were construing universal ancestry of humanity to Adam in the aforementioned Acts and Genesis verse. However, how Averbeck gets that idea from Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles, and Luke 3 baffles me.

Genesis 1 and Functional Origins Again

The rest of his review was underwhelming. There was a big section where the word “make” and the word “created” were presupposed to make “manufacturer materially” rather than to assign a function, and thus ignored and begged the question against the entire word study and examination of ANE creation myths that show to the contrary. More often than not when reading critiques of the Genesis Lost World books, I find that the detractors simply assume their material ontology and impose it onto the text rather than see if the ancients thought of it the way Walton argues they thought of it. They words like “create” and “make” (bara and asa) in Hebrew and go “See? It says he MADE such and such! Obviously this is about material manufacturing!” Well, yes it does…in our modern western thinking. But was that how ANE listeners would have understood those terms in that passage?

It’s interesting that Averbeck brings up God’s making of the sun, moon, and stars on Day 4. Here, I would argue that we definitely have nothing physical being made here. We do if you think like a modern and view the sun as a big burning ball of gas, the moon as a large satellite made of rock, and the stars as being big balls of gas like our sun just farther away. They are if you know light consists of photons. But again, ancient peoples didn’t know any of this.

He also seems to make much over the fact that terms for “image” and “likeness” often had physical connotations. The term translated image often referred to statues and the term translated “likeness” often meant to the similarity of that which the statue was representing. But what does this really prove? The comparison of God’s images in His cosmic temple to that of idols in ANE god temples is merely an analogy. And no one thought humans were incorporeal creatures, even thousands of years ago in the Ancient Near East! I don’t really see how you get from the linguistic studies of the words “tselem” and “d’mut” referring to the image and likeness of an idol of a god or statue of a king to arguing that when Genesis uses these words in Genesis 1:26-27, it proves material creation. Just because the object in question has a material composition doesn’t mean its material origins is what the “making” verbs refer to. This is a fallacy I’ve seen Dr. William Lane Craig fall into when criticizing Walton. See, for example, my article “William Lane Craig Responded To Me! Genesis 1, John Walton, and ANE Creation Texts”

The Making Of Man 

Averbeck writes: “[Walton] argues that forming (יצר) does not need to refer to making something materially, and that dust (עָפָר) would not be the material used to do such a thing anyway. It would be clay (חֹמֶר), not dust. 

The fact of the matter is that עָפָר may refer to a clay-like mixture such as that used to plaster the walls of a house as in Leviticus 14:41, 45, where the same term (עָפָר) is also used. In Leviticus 14:42 the NIV even translates עָפָר as “clay” because it refers to the plaster as it is smeared on the walls of a house, “Then they are to take other stones to replace these and take new clay (עָפָר) and plaster the house.” There are also places where עָפָר (“dust”) and חֹמֶר (“clay”) are used in poetic parallelism for the constitution of people: “Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?” (Job 10:9; cf. also Job 4:19; 27:16; 30:19).”

I double checked this claim in “Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 779.” and Averbeck is absolutely right. Given this, I find it odd that Walton would make this argument.

However, Averbeck here just knocked one of many arguments Walton gave for his view. We have to be careful to avoid thinking that because one argument for a position is shown to be fallacious, that therefore the position itself is fallacious. That would be to commit The Fallacy Fallacy. And given what Averbeck says, I don’t think that argument for the archetypal formation view works.

The argument Walton gave is this; the author of Genesis had material origins in mind, he would have used the word “clay” instead of “dust” because you can mold things out of the former and not the latter. I no longer think this is a good argument. But honestly, I can’t remember ever using this argument myself when defending Walton’s view, and I don’t recall Walton spending too much time on it himself other than a couple of sentences.

To me, what is especially convincing is the verses Walton appeals to;

In Genesis 3:19, God says to Adam and EveDust you are and to dust you will return”. Obviously, this is drawing from the imagery of decomposing bodies, which ancient Israelites would have been aware of as they collected the bones of their dead to put them into ossuaries a year after burial. It is not true only of Adam and Eve that dust they are and to dust they will return, it is true of all of us. What is true of all of us? That we are created mortal.

Psalm 103:14

“For He [God] remembers how we are formed. He remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:14 strongly implies that being formed from dust is not something unique to Adam, but true of all humankind.

In 1 Corinthians 15:47-48, Paul writes “The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.” (emphasis mine).

Ecclesiastes 3:20 also supports the conclusion that when The Bible uses “dust” language of humanity, it is referring to our mortality. Ecclesiastes 3:20 says “All go unto one place. Are all of the dust and all turn to dust again.” (KJV)

Further evidence can be found in Job 10:9: “Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?” Here, Job says to God that He molded him from clay. Obviously, no one thinks that Job was miraculously transformed from a clump of clay into a living human being. Nor does anyone think that Job himself thought that. Moreover, if clay is the same word as “dust” in Genesis 2:5, then this makes the argument from this verse all the more powerful. Ironically, Averbeck just strengthened my confidence that Walton is right here.

This verse and Psalm 103:14 both powerfully show that ancient peoples’ could know full well that they were born through the process of natural procreation, yet say of themselves that God formed them out of earthly material. If Job being formed from clay doesn’t mean Job didn’t have a Mom or Dad, then why should Adam being formed from dust mean that Adam didn’t have a Mom or Dad? Moreover, notice that Job does say “Will you now turn me to dust again?” This implies that Job believed he “was dust” at a prior point in time, since He asks God if he’s going to turn Him to dust “again”. How can anything happen “again” unless it happened a first time? How can Job go back to being dust unless he was formed from dust?

What all this leads to is the conclusion that God created Adam to be mortal, and this trait that Adam has is true of all humanity. Adam, myself, you, and all people are made from dust. The Psalmist explicitly said that we are all formed from dust. Job said he was. Ecclesiastes says that we are all of the dust.

The Making Of Woman 

Averbeck writes

“Later in the chapter the Lord “built” (בּנה) the woman from the “rib” or “side” (צֵלָע) of the man. It is likely that the verb changes here because the material is different, being the kind of material one builds with (v. 22) rather than molds or forms (v. 7). This suggests that “rib” is probably the better translation here since the same term is used for the “beams,” for example, that held up the roof when Solomon built his palace (1 Kgs 7:3). A “beam” or “rib” is something you “build” with. You do not mold or form it. So the LORD God himself shaped and built the first two humans, male and female, respectively.“

Let’s look at Walton’s argument. To quote Walton directly:

“The first question to ask is whether the text suggests that Adam thought of Eve as having been built from his rib. The text gives us the answer: he did not. The first words out of his mouth were: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). More than a rib is involved here because she is not only “bone of his bone” but also “flesh of his flesh.” This leads us to ask then about the meaning of Genesis 2:21, which NIV translates, “He took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.” Adam’s statement leads us to inquire whether the translation “rib” is appropriate for the Hebrew word ṣēlāʿ. The word is used about forty times in the Hebrew Bible but is not an anatomical term in any other passage. Outside of Genesis 2, with the exception of 2 Samuel 16:13 (referring to the other side of the hill), the word is only used architecturally in the tabernacle/temple passages (Ex 25–38; 1 Kings 6–7; Ezek 41). It can refer to planks or beams in these passages, but more often it refers to one side or the other, typically when there are two sides (rings along two sides of the ark; rooms on two sides of the temple, the north or south side; etc.). On the basis of Adam’s statement, combined with these data on usage, we would have to conclude that God took one of Adam’s sides—likely meaning he cut Adam in half and from one side built the woman. When we investigate the Hebrew word and the way that it has been handled throughout history, we discover much supporting evidence for this reading. Beginning with the way that the cognate ṣēlu is used in Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian), we find that the word has a certain ambiguity. Rarely, it refers to a single rib. Most times it refers to the entire side or to the entire rib cage. This is comparable to our English use when we talk about a “side of beef.” [5]Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (pp. 77-78). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

I’m not sure why it is a point against Walton’s argument that tsela can mean tent pegs or beams or other composite parts of a whole (e.g the temple). Walton admits as much, but says that “more often than not”, it refers to the entire side of something. Hebrew words have multiple meanings, and it seems to me that Averbeck is focused on what the word can mean rather than what it actually does, and he doesn’t really interact with Walton’s overall argument for why “side” is a better translation than “rib”.


Although Walton doesn’t knock it out of the park with everything he says, I think most of his overall theses have withstood the scrutiny that Richard Averbeck has thrown at it.

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1 1: “The phrase ʿāśâ nepeš can mean ‘to take people under your care’ (Gen 12:5; cf. Eccles 2:8). For the midwives who defied pharaoh, God provided families (ʿāśâ bāttîm, Ex 1:21). The Israelites are to celebrate the Sabbath from generation to generation (Ex 31:16; cf. Ex 34:22; Num 9:4-14; etc.). Responsibilities are assigned to the Levites (Num 8:26). Priests are appointed (1 Kings 12:31). The phrase ʿāśâ šālôm means ‘to establish order’ (Job 25:2; cf. Is 45:7).” – — Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (p. 31). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
2 “Although I must restrain myself from unpacking his full argument since it would take us too far afield of our purpose, specialists on ancient Israel’s divine beings, especially Heiser, have argued from passages like Genesis 3, Isaiah 14, and Ezekiel 28 that Lucifer should be categorized as a seraph throne guardian. Lucifer’s classification classification as a serpentine seraph would suggests that there are deep and clever literary associations at play with how the Genesis author parallels Eden’s villain with a natural snake. Contrary to those who mock the Bible as infantile for containing a “talking snake,” linguistic and cultural contextual analysis of the image of the serpent demonstrates the profound literary and cultural sophistication of the biblical author for including it. Considering the serpent was originally a member of God’s divine entourage and was an intelligent being possessing speech like the seraphim in Isaiah 6, there was likely nothing abnormal with Eve conversing with it in the story because she had often presumably seen the serpent immortals coming and going on the mountain regularly. But this traitor concealed in his heart a plan for corrupting God’s adored new imagers. At his encouragement, the man and woman broke the divine law, and so, they had to be expelled from the sacred mountain and the loyal members of the assembly. They were cut off from the Tree of Life which was the antidote granting them and their offspring immortality, and they lost the immediate presence of God in the inner sanctum of his temple—Eden.” — Stanhope, Ben. (Mis)interpreting Genesis: How the Creation Museum Misunderstands the Ancient Near Eastern Context of the Bible (pp. 106-107). Scarab Press. Kindle Edition.
3 Evan Minton, “Genesis 2 & 3: Adam and Eve as Archetypes, Priests In The Garden Of Eden, and The Fall” –
4 See Heiser’s extended discussion in chapter ten of his book “The Unseen Realm”
5 Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (pp. 77-78). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ron C. Fay

    The problem with your initial take, I think, is that Genesis starts with 1:1, not 1:3. 1:1-2 make it clear that God makes “stuff,” not functions. He then shapes that “stuff” in 1:3ff. You can argue that it then switches to function, but you cannot argue Genesis 1 does not have God making material. This is what Averbeck teaches (I had him for a class on the Pentateuch).

    1. Evan Minton

      First, I’ve written elsewhere why a dependent clause translation of Genesis 1:1 is superior to the usual independent clause we often find in our English translation. There are at least 3 good reasons to translate Gen 1:1 as “When God began to create the heavens and the earth…” Secondly, even if the independent clause translation were correct, it wouldn’t negate a functional view of the text. Walton himself rejects the idea that it’s an independent clause. He views Genesis 1:1 as a sort of Heading to the rest of the chapter, or like a title. As he puts it, it’s another way of saying “In the beginning, God created the universe” in verse 1, and verses 2 and following basically being “Now let me tell you how he did it.”. Thirdly, there is no “stuff” being made in 1:3. Light wasn’t “stuff” to the ancients. You’re reading modern knowledge of the sun into the text. And he certainly didn’t make anything material on Day 2, unless you want to commit yourself to a solid dome sky. But if the sky is as modern science tells us it is, there isn’t anything up there. As soon as the planet existed, it had a sky. Now, maybe you can say “Well, the stuff in the sky such as cumulous clouds et. al. is material” but then you’re reading modern meteorology into the text. Nevermind that clouds and water molecules aren’t reducible in identity to the sky!

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