26 Responses

  1. Timothy Dietz

    Who is this joker?

    You give up Christ being the second Adam, and therefore his federal nature in representing the elect, and therefore hope of salvation if you deny Adam. Not to mention other things, but once you give up the gospel, then there is no point in mentioning anything else.

  2. It’s not that bad… afterall, he admits to not really knowing what he’s talking about! Brilliant example of fool advertising his folly. I’d say that’s pretty good.

  3. Matt Holst


    Nick, thanks for posting this. Tremper Longman taught at Westminster Seminary (Philly) for 18 years and now is the “Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies” at Westmont College, California. He’s been spouting this kind of error for years.

    I can’t say I’m suprised at this at all. A number of years ago I read Longman and Dillard’s Introduction to the Old Testament, in which he / they questioned the historicity of the book of Jonah. This was really the thin end of the wedge and here we have the “thick” end of it.

    Interesting that Christ uses Jonah as an example of his own experience – using the lesser occasion of Jonah’s internment, as a picture of his own death, burial and resurrection. If Longman et al find it hard to believe the lesser (Jonah), should they not then question the greater also? They can’t – because they know their faith will unravel before their very eyes. They are so inconsistent!

    How on earth did the church ever cope without the blessings of ANE material? Look where man’s lust for respectability (of the accademic kind)gets him! They are welcome to it.


  4. Matt,

    I have to agree that if my choice is Jesus or Tremper Longman, I’m going to take my stand with Jesus. It also sounds like Longman is promoting a theory of theistic evolution, doesn’t it? If you deny the historical reliability of Genesis 1, in regard to Adam, then how do you affirm the historical reliability of any part of Scripture. As John Murray noted in his article “The Self-Attestation of Scripture,” either you affirm all of it inerrant or none of it as inerrant. The same holds true here. Either you affirm what the Scriptures teach about the historical person of Adam, or you deny it in all other places (Romans 5).

  5. Roland Mathews

    Wow… I don’t know. It wasn’t ‘that’ bad was it? I mean, I am sure that was a polo shirt he was wearing, and in a very nice shade of yellow. That counts for something… doesn’t it??!

    On a more serious note, I was both shocked and saddened by this video clip. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. Nick Brennan

    This is really sad. I’m not sure what’s worse – trying to defend that Adam wasn’t historical or, as it seems to me Longman is saying, saying this is something we can’t be dogmatic about. It’s the second that worries me more as it’s so attractive to many today to say “well yes I may sympathise with the idea that Adam is historical, I like to think that way, but … then we musn’t be dogmatic”. On some things it simply lacks compassion not to be dogmatic. Is it any wonder what has happened at WTS/P in the wake of this direction in biblical studies. I think what saddens me most is not that a Christian teacher would have these questions, or even make mistakes on them but that rather than interacting with those around him who might have the sense to tell him honestly he’s gone too far he puts that teaching out there on the web for all to be mislead by.

  7. Nick,

    As with Matt, I’m really not surprised. Nothing that Longman has written has ever given the reader the sense that he has much confidence in the historical reliability of Scripture. Notice also his dismissal of those who disagree. They read Genesis 1 in a “literalistic” fashion (obviously bad and stupid). Also the Hebrew ‘adam means humankind (and since I know Hebrew and you don’t, who’s right?) Of course the latter comment conveniently passes over the fact that a number of occurrence of ‘adam clearly refer to a distinct individual, not to the race, as all of the standard lexica will attest.

    For more on this, check out the blog post that will shortly appear at gptsrabbi.

    Benjamin Shaw

  8. Dr. Shaw,

    Thanks for the comment. I also thought it was interesting that Longman says that a literalistic reading is modern while the view he espouses is Hebraic. I am not sure he could defend that from any Hebrew document. Maybe Philo, or some unbelieving Jew from the days of Christ would teach an allegorical approach to the creation account, but it seems to me that almost everyone in the history of the Christian church (with the exception of Augustine and his immediate creation theory) held to a historical reading. It is also interesting to note that the reason why Longman wants to espouse a different view of the Genesis 1 account is the presence of “modern scientific discoveries.” There is something backwards about his logic. On the one hand, he says we need to read the text in an a-historical manner on account of modern science, while on the other, he blames those he says read it in a literalistic manner on account of modern science. I guess Longman knows better than all the theologians of the Reformed and Protestant churches until the mid-19th Century.

  9. Paul W

    Did you notice the hosts of this video? The Wilberforce Fellowship, yes that Wilberforce, the one who believed that all men were men created in he image of God from one Adam and therefore worked to get rid of slavery. Kind of ironic/hypocritical/frightening isn’t it?

  10. In order to come to a conclusion about something we have to lean one way or another. We might start out by leaning toward an actual historical Adam and be persuaded either by further study or a better understanding of known facts and end up swinging to the side of Genesis 1 talking about lots of people who have learned to walk upright and have figured out how to use can-openers. Dr. Longman here has taken in all of the facts available to him and found the credibility on the side of scientific ‘truth’. Never mind that the end result is death before sin, or man being formed from monkeyfied tadpoles instead of the dust of the ground. Never mind that the image of God is no longer unique to humans. Perhaps some other species will end up eating the fruit and creating a second Fall, (my money is on cats). Apparently Scripture alone isn’t enough for the modern theologian. What did Calvin or Luther know anyway? They didn’t know about Cro Magnon man or Lucy, they haven’t even seen the Gieco commercials. So how could they know how to properly interpret the Bible? Just because I Corinthians talks about Adam being created a living soul we should in no way believe that Paul actually meant that this is talking about one specific individual, no what Paul meant to say was that Adam was the product of millions of years of death until finally God declared him a living soul. (Must be in the Really New International Version the RNIV). Does Achems razor mean nothing anymore? There is nothing within Scripture that indicates that Adam was figurative, which is why most theologians have understood him to be so. To deviate from this interpretation is to place other sources of criteria in a place of superiority over Scripture and if that is your functioning hermeneutic then the Bible can be interpreted in a thousand different ways.

  11. Nick,

    You ask, “If you deny the historical reliability of Genesis 1, in regard to Adam, then how do you affirm the historical reliability of any part of Scripture.”

    Whilst I don’t wish to get drawn into a lengthy discussion on this I would like to offer some pointers.

    1. Gen. 1:1-2:3 is in form critical terms distinct from Gen. 2:4-3 and neither are historical narrative in a strict sense, the former stemming from a festal liturgy of temple inauguration at New Year whilst the latter is an aetiological saga.

    2. The “events” described in Gen. 2-3 is not written by eye-witnesses and therefore is categorically different from the vast majority of the NT ergo we are able, on literary grounds, to differentiate between the historicity of Gen. 1-3 and the resurrection affirming the latter and not the former, without the Gospel collapsing.

    I understand you may disagree but such is life…

  12. Matt Holst


    Length discussion … here we go!

    Point 1: how do you know Gen 1-2:13 stems from a festal liturgy of temple inauguration etc, while gen 2:4-3 from an aetiological saga?
    Because without you telling me this, I would never got it from the text.

    Point 2: I don’t see your argument here: because Gen 1-3 was not eye-witnessed, it can not be historical? This is a non sequitur. Surely a man who can use the word “aetological” correctly can spot a bad argument? 😉

    Interested in your thoughts



  13. Matt,

    If I may reverse the order of your questions: I was not trying to imply that because Gen 1-3 was not eye-witnessed it cannot be historical; the emphasis was on the different types of literature and cultural backgrounds we have within the biblical text which means we cannot simply argue that if x is not historical then y must also not be historical, i.e. I was trying to show the non sequitur in the assumptions underlying Nick’s question (a valid one but one that is easily responded to). I trust that makes sense.

    With regard to the original seting in life of Gen. 1:1-2:3 I am hoping that John Walton will provide a systematic set of references in his forthcoming book. In the meantime I would suggest a read of Sigmund Mowinckel here (pp. 143ff.).

    In terms of aetiological saga; I don’t really see the problem, it is a story (saga) which is explaining (aetiological) the origin of sin. That it is not strict history is seen from its ANE parallels and literary form & content.

  14. Matt Holst


    So the ANE parallels are the hermeutical grid through which you have derived your understnading of Gen 1-3? (Not so much analogia Scriptura, but analogia ANE?)

    Again, if I’ve understood you there is another logical fallacy: because ANE parallels (literary form and content) are largely mythical (have I got that right?) then Gen 1-3 should also be interpreted non-historically. This is the fallacy of composition: what is true of ANE material as a body must be true of every component of it (I actually reject the Bible as ANE material because of its Divine authorship, which inspite of its undeniable human authorship, sets it apart from ANE material). But taking your position as granted, you have not argued cohesively here: your statement “That it is not history is seen from its ANE parallels …” is simply not logical.

    Second, you speak of the form of Gen 1-3 demonstrating it should not be taken historically. Are you familiar with the use of the vav consecutive in Hebrew historical narrative and its significance and frequency in Gen 1-3?

    So going back to Nick’s intial question: the only way you can hold to the gospel (and I trust you do from what you have said) is by being inconsistent: you want historicity when it suits you – it simply doesn’t suit you in Genesis. Let me ask: what would happen if we discovered (perhaps we have – I’m no expert here!) ANE material prophecying a “messiah-type” figure, who died on a tree, but somehow miraculously rose from the dead? Mythical stuff of the pagans, no doubt. But here is the question for you: would YOU, Richard, interpret the death and resurrection of our Lord non-historically? (I’m not being bolshy here – I’m really trying to understand where YOU draw the line and perhaps as importantly, why?).

    Thanks for your helpful replies thus far.

  15. Richard,

    I really do understand where you are coming from. Historiography and mythography seem to add to our understanding of Scripture, if we approach the Bible in a form or historical-critical approach. But if we approach the Bible canonically (as we should since it is God’s Word) then we cannot draw the same conclusions you have drawn. I would only ask you one question. When God told Israel to destroy all of their ANE neighbors, have nothing to do with the worship or gods, how can you conclude that He then incorporated, borrowed, or adapted literary content from their historiographical materials–that certainly would include cultic practices and references to their false gods that is embeded in ANE literature.

  16. Matt: Please find statements made by yourself in italics followed by my response (albeit brief).

    I actually reject the Bible as ANE material because of its Divine authorship

    This is, I think, where our approaches differ in that I very much see the relevant parts of the OT as ANE because of its humanity and my recognition that God’s speech is accomodated and mediated through his covenant community (cf. Douglas Kelly’s Systematic Theology). Following Bavinck I confess that “The revelation of God is not abstractly supernatural but has entered into the human fabric, into persons and states of beings, into forms and usages, into history and life. It does not fly high about us but descends into our situation…”. Ultimately we cannot deny its cultural embeddedness because of its divine authorship.

    Once we enter into the ANE mind and see Gen. 1-3 in this light I doubt we would affirm the historicity of it.

    Are you familiar with the use of the vav consecutive in Hebrew historical narrative and its significance and frequency in Gen 1-3?

    I am familiar with the waw-consecutive however there are a number of assumptions behind this question. Let me try to explain thus: you are living in 4500 A. D. and studing Western literature of the twenty-first century. You note that “And” is not present in rap whilst it is present in a textbook of the history of England and you conclude that Rap is not historical narrative whilst the textbook is. A logical deduction. Then you discover this ancient book written by Michael Crichton and you make out the title “Jurassic Park”. ‘Wow!’ you think to yourself, the use of “And” is frequent therefore this MUST be historical narrative….I trust you see my point 🙂

    the only way you can hold to the gospel…is by being inconsistent

    I am sad that you think this in that I’ve obviously failed in my endeavour to show that owing to the differences in literary genre between OT documents and NT documents one can be quite consistent in holding to the historicity of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead whilst at the same time denying the historicity of Adam.

  17. Nick: Your question presupposes an univocal reading of the biblical narrative which is an approach I do not share, far better the analogical approach advocated by Michael Horton. I do however share your desire to read the canonical text canonically yet I would not accept there is a mutual exclusivity between the historical-critical approach and canonical approach rather the latter builds itself upon the former.

    Because God spoke to a people who lived and breathed the culture of the ANE it is reasonable that God’s word to them in a way that was not alien to that time and place, i.e. God accomodated his word to his people be speaking to them through an ANE literary genre etc. Do check out this.

    Just think of Ps. 29 and its origin in Baalism.

  18. Matt Holst


    I want to thank you for your conciliatory tone in this converstaion, inspite of our significant differences. As I have read other blogs on this subject, it quickly descends into name calling etc.

    I notice that you dodged four of my quesions – you do not deal at all with my comments regarding your method (fallacy of composition – I was even stepping over to your ground to accomodate). Then more importantly the issue of Christ. You weren’t prepared to answer my second point concerning the historicty of Christ in light of possible ANE material pointing to a messiah-type figure. That is where the inconsistency lies – historicity when it pleases. Addtionally your argument concerining the vav consecutive ignores a largely accepted rule in Hebrew. I also asked in my first post how you arrive at your conclusions using only Scripture – if it is inspired (which you’ve not passed comment on yet, so I will presume you believe in inspiration – and I’m sure you know what I mean by inspiration – NOT the Enns variety) then it is sufficient for its own interpretation. It needs nothing else. How then do you arrive at your conclusions by Scripture alone?

    By the way – citing Doug Kelly and Bavinck as grounds for your ANE presuppositions, while ingenious given your audience ;), was nonetheless, disingenuous. Neither hold to your position on the use of ANE. They preserve the Divine purity of the Word of God (as does the Reformed tradition historically) while confessing its mediation through man. Inspiration of the Holy Spirit actually means something – God does not communicate through error or through the means of pagan worship rites. For God to do such a thing, given His character, is inconcievable. You say it is “reasonable” that God accomodated his Word to the pagan culture – I say it is utterly unreasonable that He would do such. You forget the prototypical relationship was with Adam in the Garden, from their both righteous (God instigated) and unrighteous (pagan) realtionships take their pattern. From there man rebelled against God.

    But you would have us believe that a Holy and undefiled God, a God jealous for his own glory, a God who rages against the nations of the earth who have rebelled (Gen 11 for example)and plot against Him (Ps 2), and a God who tells his people upon entering the promised land to wipe the nations off the face of the earth and have nothing to do with them, borrows their worship rites? Not reasonable. UNreasonable.

    I think we have reached an impass. You place Scripture on a level, not much,if at all higher than the treaties of the pagans. Scripture, for you has descended to their level. Not so for me. The Supreme Author or Architect of Scripture, does not muddy His hands with pagan myths and ritual. You will say, no doubt, that I deny Scripture’s cultural embededness – mia cupla. That’s fine – I’m happy to live with that tag, though I hold to a much deeper sense of cultural relevance than you. Because Scripture is sufficient, it is self explanatory throughout the history of man – not just the last 150 years or so since these pagan treaties came to light. I think of highly of Scripture – that it is categorically different to ANY othe book ever written, because God is its ultimate author. I am thankful that He is.

    Ultimatley we don’t have the same authority. You think we need extra biblical material to substantiate and interpret the claims of Scripture. I think not. We have a crumbling foundation upon which to conduct this converstaion, and I don’t think this conversation has any real distance in it. I don’t mean to be dismissive, I think we need to realize there is an unbridgable chasm between us on this issue.

    Once again, I thank you again, for your cordial responses, Richard.

    May God bless you.


  19. This conversation has been fascinating and I was wondering if Richard could answer a couple of questions for me. You have said;

    “In terms of aetiological saga; I don’t really see the problem, it is a story (saga) which is explaining (aetiological) the origin of sin.”

    Those who hold to the historicity of Gen 1-3 would say that God created Adam perfect and that Adam sinned and judgment and death entered into the world. If this is not historically accurate how did these things, (death, judgment) come about?
    Those who hold to the historicity of Gen 1-3 believe that at Creation God placed His image in man. If man evolved from lower forms does that mean that all animals have the image of God?


  20. Matt: I will get back to you asap.

    Rob: You ask, “If this is not historically accurate how did these things, (death, judgment) come about?” Whilst I do want to draw a distintion between the historicity of the story as presented I would want to say I think it describes an event, in that it is saying that the reason for a disordered world is the failure of humankind to keep the law of God. So there is certainly an historical fall behind the text yet the text itself does not give an historically factual account of what went on, I think it was Barth who said that Gen 1-3 decribes history through the literary form of saga. That is to say, whilst I may not affirm a literal Adam I do affirm man is fallen, under a curse and needs to be redeemed.

    You also ask, “Those who hold to the historicity of Gen 1-3 believe that at Creation God placed His image in man. If man evolved from lower forms does that mean that all animals have the image of God?” Not at all, there is still a clear distinction between man (who has the image) and the rest of the animal world (which does not).

    Interestingly this was published today.

  21. Matt,

    It was not my intention to dodge four of your questions rather to try and take a broader approach for as you seem to be aware we are starting from rather different points and so there is a great deal to settle before this issue of Adam’s historicity is settled.
    It is not that I am not prepared to answer your second point concerning the historicity of Christ in light of possible ANE material pointing to a messiah-type figure rather there is, to my knowledge, no evidence for such a view and we would then be dealing with “What ifs” which is fine for some but I prefer to deal with “What is”.

    Further, there is no attempt to get historicity when it pleases, the nature of the different literary genres within the biblical text itself necessitates we treat different texts differently and let them speak upon their own terms. Hence there is, quite literally, a World of difference between the ancient near eastern cosmogony in Gen. 1 and the historiographic method of the Hellenistic period which laid the precursor for the Gospels. The very nature of the literature we are dealing with demand differing approaches to historicity.

    My point regarding the waw-consecutive is not ignoring an accepted rule in Biblical Hebrew. I think it poses a greater onus upon yourself to demonstrate that narrative equates to historical reality, even the more “historical books” are not straightforward history so there are many assumptions under girding your question. That’s fine, but they need to be teased out and tested. I have seen your argument of the waw to be used to “prove” six-day creation even when Gordon Wenham points out that “Gen 1 is not normal Hebrew prose either; its syntax is distinctively different from narrative prose.” Whilst I agree that the waw-consecutive means the creation saga is not poetry but is rather narrative we should recognize that narrative does not by necessity demand historicity, lots of non-historical things are told using narrative.

    I am coming to my conclusions using Scripture because I am looking at what Scripture is rather than what we assume it to be. I don’t agree with you that we should arrive at conclusions by Scripture alone.
    My citing Doug Kelly and Bavinck did not claim that either held/hold to my position on the use of ANE. My point was to show that their acceptation of scripture’s mediation through man shapes what it is.
    To say that God does not communicate through error is an assertion, nothing more. Calvin himself recognized that God’s word is accommodated to our humanness, hence he suggests that we don’t look to Gen. 1 for science.

    To say that I “think we need extra biblical material to substantiate and interpret the claims of Scripture” is to claim too much, far better “we need extra biblical material to aid our understanding of Scripture”. I wonder which side we would have been on back in the day of Galileo? Personally I have no problem believing the Earth revolves around the Sun even when Psalm 104:5 says, “the LORD set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” 😉

  22. Jon Orcutt

    I saw this video by Longman just a few days ago. Not surprised, very grieved. Longman taught at WTS for nearly 20 years. I hope this “genre” of unorthodox thinking is not widespread among PCA & OPC pastors and elders who attended WTS. I am deeply concerned and grieved over the large number of Reformed theologians, academes and elders (both Presbyterian and Baptist) who reject the historical factuality of Gen. 1-11 and embrace, instead, the tentative and fluctuating findings of modern science, archaelogoy and anthropology. It’s grandly refreshing to see that amongst the usually passive and toothless “young, restless and reformed,” there are some orthodox bulldogs who still believe that Gen. 1-11 is truly historical and who have not given up the fight. This one is not about doctrines, tangential and inconsequential. It’s about the sufficiency, clarity and SUPREMACY of Scripture and the core truths of the gospel. Try as one might, Gen. 1-11 cannot be divorced from John 3:16. The battle is spiritual in nature and eternal in its consequences. My great concern for Dr. Longman (and other Reformed and Evangelical scholars who believe and teach as he does) is for his soul. He has earnestly and sincerely given his whole life for the advancement of Christ’s glorious Church. How sad.

    An Old Dog
    PS: Check out the new book: Coming to Grips with Genesis
    (ed. by Mortensen and Ury)

  23. Jon Orcutt

    I saw this video several weeks ago. It did not surprise me. I have been following this issue for 30 years in Reformed circles. We Reformed Presbyterians have largely dropped the ball on this issue and taken the low road of compromise. In Reformed Evangelical circles,at the college and seminary level, you will be hard-pressed to find a YEC professor who is bold in his convictions and “out-of-the-closet” in his classroom lectures. Reformed academia is largely the domain of Old-Earth creationism. Tremper Longman has simply worked out a few of the logical conlusioins of his position and was caught on video discussing them. I think most OEC seminary and college professors haven’t really thought out their position. If they have, we aren’t hearing or reading about it. (To their credit, Poythress and Collins have written recently and extensively on the issue.) Otherwise, they would see the theological quagmire into which they have been thrust.
    Take a look at the signers of the Chicago Statements on Inerrancy and Hermeneutics, CBMW members, The Gospel Coalition, ACE, ETS, etc. (but note especially the Reformed element). I think we would all be stunned, or not, at the vast number in these groups who hold positions similar to Longman’s.

    Dr. Longman taught at Westminster for nearly twenty years. How pervasive has been the impact of this teaching on the current crop of pastors in Reformed denominations? I shudder to think of it. I fear it is pervasive, and very widely so at that. Pray, brothers. Pray.

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