What historical claims does the Bible make about Adam and Eve? And is belief in a historical Adam and Eve compatible with the scientific evidence? In order to avoid the pitfalls of reading contemporary science into the biblical texts, it is best to treat these questions separately. Only after having determined what the Bible actually says about the historical Adam shall we be in a position to judge whether those claims are compatible with what we know of human origins from contemporary science.
The stories of Adam and Eve are largely confined to the second and third chapters of Genesis. They are part of the pre-patriarchal narratives, often called the primaeval history, which make up Genesis 1–11. Old Testament scholars have long remarked on the resemblance of Genesis 1–11 to the religious literature of the ancient Near East. Grand themes such as the creation of the world, the origin of mankind, and the near destruction of humanity in the cataclysmic Flood are present in both the ancient myths and Genesis 1–11. By contrast, beginning in Genesis 12, the text’s focus narrows sharply to Israel. From here on, no such similarity exists between Genesis and the myths of the ancient Near East.