I’ve been thinking for years about Adam and Eve in the light of evolution. This is my effort to put together what we know from Science and the Church into one reasonable story. I would love feedback, concerns, corrections and criticism, because I know I don’t have all the information from either perspective.
Homo sapiens evolved from primates and earlier homo species 50,000-300,000 years ago in Africa.
There has likely been interbreeding at some point with Neanderthal species.
Evidence suggests that all humans currently alive descend from a single female human ancestor, “mitochondrial Eve.”
From the Church:
God created the universe. Species may evolve from species, life from life, but ultimately, the whole thing started with God.
While the body may have evolved naturally from primates, the first soul was a direct creation of God, as is every human soul.
There were only two first human persons infused directly with a soul. All humans descend from them.
Original sin was an actual sin committed deliberately by the first humans and inherited by every subsequent human.
Man’s use of freedom was subject to the laws of nature and moral norms, in trust of God. Man let this trust die and disobeyed. This was the first sin. (CCC 396-398)
(See humani generis and this message from John Paul)
Theology of the Body
The creation stories are discussed as myths and Adam and Eve as dramatic characters. (TOB 3.1, 4.2)
At the time of the first people, there were no other beings with consciousness, free will or a soul. (TOB 5)
When the human body had evolved through many states and the hand dexterity, body agility, and complex brain function were advanced enough to the point that God wanted for authentic human life, God chose one male and one female human to become the first two people on Earth, one man and one woman. They received souls. At their conception? As adults? Their parents did not have souls. They were two self-conscious, thinking, communicating, decision-making, loving, praying people surrounded by physically advanced animals without those abilities. They found each other, loved each other, and formed the first marriage. We don’t know what their real names were, but we can call them Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve had all of the “original” blessings we have discussed and have yet to discuss in the Theology of the Body series. Original happiness, innocence, solitude, unity, nakedness. They went to work cultivating the land – the first ones on the planet to do so. They saw themselves and each other honestly and purely, and loved each other sincerely and selflessly. They saw the world, and themselves, as a gift to them from God. They had a moral conscience but did not have the tendency to sin.
Adam and Eve knew God intimately, and he gave them directions for their life. He warned them that they had choices, and if they made the wrong choices, the consequence would be death. What if they hadn’t? Would they have been immortal on Earth? That seems odd to think about. We know that the whole fate of Earth is tied to the choices and the fate of humanity – it is fallen with us, and will be redeemed with us. Maybe the fallen nature of the universe from the beginning was retroactively imposed because Adam and Eve did sin, like Mary’s salvation in the Immaculate Conception. Clearly, this is wild speculation and we have no idea what things would be like or would have been like if Adam and Eve had not sinned, because they did sin. They acquired “knowledge of good and evil”, and they continued to sin. They lived in the shadow of their own death, and the promise of the redemption.
What was the first sin? It was an abuse of freedom, crossing a boundary out of mistrust for God. Was it some kind of hurt or disrespect for one another? For the creation entrusted to them? Was it a sexual sin? A sin of pride, like the one we traditionally ascribe to Satan? God hasn’t told us, there is no record, and we can’t know.
Consider the significance John Paul gives to the body – the first man and woman are able to know through their own bodies that they are different from mere animals, that they have a purpose, an intelligence, choice of actions. But weren’t the bodies of their parents and grandparents essentially the same as theirs? Maybe you could say that those bodies signified readiness for the same things, but lacked the reality, the animation of God, and they weren’t able to understand the significance of their own bodies.
And then they had children, and passed on original sin to them. Think of the guilt they would feel giving that to their babies as their inheritance! Imagine telling your son what he was supposed to be like, and what your life was like before you sinned, what you did, and how it’s affected him and all of his children for all generations to come. But, thanks be to God, they also passed on to their children love of God and the hope of a future resurrection.
What do you think of all these things? I would love comments!
Accompanies: Original Solitude: Am I an Animal?