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Reading Scripture after Genetic Science

Genomic science indicates that humans descend not from an individual pair but from a large population. What does this mean for the basic claim of many Christians: that humans descend from Adam and Eve?

Leading evangelical geneticist Dennis Venema and popular New Testament scholar Scot McKnight combine their expertise to offer informed guidance and answers to questions pertaining to evolution, genomic science, and the historical Adam. Some of the questions they explore include:

  • Is there credible evidence for evolution?
  • Do we descend from a population or are we the offspring of Adam and Eve?
  • Does taking the Bible seriously mean rejecting recent genomic science?
  • How do Genesis’s creation stories reflect their ancient Near Eastern context, and how did Judaism understand the Adam and Eve of Genesis?
  • Doesn’t Paul’s use of Adam in the New Testament prove that Adam was a historical individual?

The authors address up-to-date genomics data with expert commentary from both genetic and theological perspectives, showing that genome research and Scripture are not irreconcilable. Foreword by Tremper Longman III and afterword by Daniel Harrell.

About the authors

Dennis R. Venema (PhD, University of British Columbia) is professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, and Fellow of Biology for the BioLogos Foundation. He writes and speaks regularly about the biological evidence for evolution.

Scot McKnight (PhD, University of Nottingham), a world-renowned scholar, writer, and speaker, is Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. He is the author or editor of more than fifty books, including Kingdom ConspiracyThe Jesus CreedThe King Jesus Gospel, and The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life. He is also a popular blogger (Jesus Creed).


Adam and the Genome is both hugely needed and splendidly written. Anyone who has wrestled with the notion that science is an obstacle to faith will benefit from its clarity and informed insight. I hope it’s widely read inside the church—and out.”—John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and best-selling author


“Few topics generate greater passion among evangelical Christians today than the question of the literal accuracy of the biblical creation story. With the advances in science, we have two accounts of the origin of living beings—one scientific, the other scriptural—and many believe that they are mutually exclusive. This book carefully considers whether that claim is true. The result is the most lucid and thorough discussion of the topic I have ever read. Dennis Venema explains genetic concepts by using everyday illustrations. Scot McKnight discusses the biblical issues and shows us how theologically rich and intellectually satisfying they are. This book will mark a watershed moment in the history of evangelical Christianity. The radical distinction between two seemingly disparate positions ought to disappear forever, these authors show, as each position melds with the other to form one harmonious whole.”—Darrel Falk, professor emeritus of biology, Point Loma Nazarene University


“This is an unlikely book. Who could imagine a geneticist and a New Testament scholar teaming up to write about Adam and Eve? We are fortunate that they did. Venema and McKnight address in a learned yet accessible way issues about which many of us have little understanding. We are indebted to them for giving us information and insights that enable us to think about human origins in ways that are both scientifically informed and grounded in a carefully nuanced interaction with the biblical text and early Jewish traditions. The church is well served by this sort of interdisciplinary collaboration, which assists us in both adapting and adopting Adam (and Eve) as interpreters have through the centuries.”—John H. Walton, Wheaton College


“This is a unique and valuable book: an expert geneticist and a leading New Testament scholar come together to address questions of Adam and Eve. Venema and McKnight guide readers in an in-depth look at the genetic evidence for human evolution and at the views of Adam in the ancient Jewish world. As these two Christian scholars listen to each other, share their personal journeys on origins, and address the questions of evangelicals, their pastoral concern for the church and for students shines through. Not all readers will agree with their conclusions, but the book is essential reading for all who seek an understanding of human origins that respects both Scripture and God’s creation.”—Deborah Haarsma, president of BioLogos

“Anyone who doubts that Christian faith and evolutionary science can have a peaceful and fruitful relationship needs to read this remarkable book, a shining example of a complementary approach to science and religion in which both enhance, enrich, and complete each other. Dennis Venema offers indisputable scientific evidence for the evolution of living organisms, including humans, in a clear, accessible style. Scot McKnight deals with the challenging issue of whether Adam was a historical person. Drawing upon a wide range of creation accounts from the ancient Near East, and in particular ancient Jewish literature, he demonstrates that biblical passages on human origins and Adam must be read within their ancient milieu and context. I highly recommend this book.”—Denis O. Lamoureux, associate professor of science and religion, St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta


“In Adam and the Genome, Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight provide us with a model of the kind of open conversations that need to take place between scientists and scholars of the Bible and theology. Dennis clearly explains complex scientific information in a way that nonscientists will be able to understand, and Scot wrestles with ways we might understand what the Scriptures say about Adam in light of both a high view of Scripture and an openness to scientific discoveries. All who realize that we cannot ignore scientific discoveries as we think about the Christian faith will be grateful for Dennis and Scot’s partnership.”—Roy E. Ciampa, Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship


“The dismal history of Christian opposition to the relatively assured results of scientific discovery, and the impact on intelligent, scientifically savvy young people of what may appear to them to be a failure by Christians to face facts, should make us deeply grateful to faithful Christian scientists and biblical scholars who seek to take both the Bible and the scientific data with full seriousness. Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight provide a fine model of such an endeavor as they confront the compelling evidence for evolution in the human line, involving a group of thousands of early hominins, and its meaning for the biblical treatment of Adam and Eve. One may energetically disagree theologically or question aspects of the neo-Darwinian synthesis while still being informed and stimulated by this ambitious, irenic, and engaging treatment.”—Marguerite Shuster, Harold John Ockenga Professor Emerita of Preaching and Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary


“Venema and McKnight offer a rare sort of work, combining Dennis’s ability to give clear, cogent explanations of the science behind biological evolution with Scot’s winsome biblical, historical, and theological expositions. Even where the reader may disagree with a particular aspect, their work challenges us to examine traditions and assumptions that have grown over time. In doing so, Venema and McKnight help us see that exegesis that fully engages scientific discoveries need not amount to a rejection of the Bible. They offer a viable way forward, inviting a broader audience into the conversation.”—Stanley P. Rosenberg, executive director, Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford/Wycliffe Hall; Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford


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