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The Pre-Adamite hypothesis or Preadamism is the belief that humans existed before the biblical character Adam. This assumption is contrary to beliefs describing Adam as the first human, as stated in the Bible and the Qur'an. Preadamism is therefore distinct from the conventional Abrahamic belief that Adam was the first human. Advocates of this hypothesis are known as "pre-Adamites", as are the humans believed by them to have existed before Adam. Preadamism has a long history, probably having its origins in early pagan responses to Abrahamic claims regarding the origins of the human race.

History and development of the hypothesis

Early development

The first known debate about human antiquity took place in 170 AD between Theophilus of Antioch and an Egyptian pagan "Apollonius the Egyptian" (probably Apollonius Dyscolus), who argued that the world was 153,075 years old.

The most serious early challenge to biblical Adamism came from the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate who, upon his rejection of Christianity and his conversion to Theurgy, a late form of Neoplatonism, accepted the idea that many pairs of original people had been created, a belief termed Coadamism or multiple-adamism.[citation needed]

St. Augustine’s book The City of God contains two chapters indicating a debate between Christians and pagans over human origins: Book XII, chapter 10 is called "Of the falseness of the history that the world hath continued many thousand years", while that of book XVIII, chapter 40 is "The Egyptians’ abominable lyings, to claim their wisdom the age of 100,000 years". The titles indicate that Augustine saw pagan ideas concerning the history and chronology of the world and the human race as incompatible with the Genesis creation myth. Augustine’s position on this matter was supported by most rabbis and also by the church fathers, who generally dismissed views on the antiquity of the world as myths and fables not requiring any considered refutation.[1]

1000 – 1700

The Kitab al Khazari (c. 1130–1140), a book by Judah ben Samuel Halevi, features a debate between the King of the Khazars and three theologians, a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim, in which the King attempts to find out which is the true religion. The King asks the Jew whether he is concerned that the Indians claim to have buildings and artifacts that are millions of years old. The rabbi dismisses these beliefs as unworthy ideas held by a dissolute and unreliable people with no fixed form of religion, or no book "concerning which multitude of people held the same opinion".

In this same work Halevi attacked a number of ideas that appeared in a book titled Nabatean Agriculture, written or translated by Ibn Wahshiyya in 904. The ideas, attributed to the Sabeans, were that people lived before Adam, that Adam had parents, and that he came from India. Halevi dismissed these notions simply by saying that these people did not know of the revelation contained in Scripture.

The presence of a belief in the existence of men before Adam among the Familists, a religious community in Friesland, was noted by John Rogers in 1578.[2]

In 1591, Giordano Bruno argued that, because no one could imagine that the Jews and the Ethiopians had the same ancestry, God must have either created separate Adams or that Africans were the descendants of pre-Adamic races.[3]

The claims in Nabatean Agriculture mentioned above were also discussed by Maimonides (1135–1204) in his Guide for the Perplexed. Through Maimonides, they became known to the 17th-century French Millenarian Isaac La Peyrère, who, because of his influence on subsequent thinkers and movements, is usually credited with formulating the pre-Adamite theory. In his Prae-Adamitae, published in Latin in 1655, La Peyrère argued that Paul's words in Romans 5:12-14 should be interpreted to mean that "if Adam sinned in a morally meaningful sense there must have been an Adamic law according to which he sinned. If law began with Adam, there must have been a lawless world before Adam, containing people".[4] Thus, according to La Peyrère, there must have been two creations; first the creation of the gentiles and then that of Adam, who was the father of the Hebrews. The existence of pre-Adamites, La Peyrère argued, explained Cain's taking of a wife and the building of a city after Abel's murder in the Genesis account. This account of human origins became the basis for 19th century theories of polygenism and modern racism.[citation needed]

Some[who?] date the origins of this racial theory precisely to 24 April 1684, when François Bernier distinguished four or five races (with no hierarchical distinction between them) in an article titled ("A new division of the Earth, according to the different species or races of men who inhabit it") published in the Journal des sçavans.[5] Because of widespread theological opposition to the pre-Adamite theories of his friend La Peyrère, Bernier published his paper anonymously.[6]

Age of Enlightenment

During the Age of Enlightenment, pre-Adamism was adopted widely as a challenge to the biblical account of human origins, whereas in the 19th century, the idea was welcomed by advocates of white superiority. A number of racist interpretive frameworks involving the early chapters of Genesis arose from pre-Adamism. Some pre-Adamite theorists held the view that Cain left his family for an inferior tribe described variously as "white Mongols" or that Cain took a wife from one of the inferior pre-Adamic peoples.[citation needed] The idea that Cain’s mark was blackness arose in 18th-century Europe and was also popular in 19th-century America.[7]

1800 – present

Racist pre-Adamism

In 19th century Europe, pre-Adamism was attractive to those intent on demonstrating the inferiority of non-Western peoples, while in the United States, they appealed to those attuned to racial theories who found it unattractive to contemplate a common history with non-Whites.

Scientists such as Charles Caldwell, Josiah C. Nott and Samuel G. Morton, rejected the view that non-whites were the descendants of Adam. Morton combined pre-Adamism with cranial measurements. As Michael Barkun explains:

In such an intellectual atmosphere, pre-Adamism appeared in two different but not wholly incompatible forms. Religious writers continued to be attracted to the theory both because it appeared to solve certain exegetical problems (where did Cain's wife come from?) and exalted the spiritual status of Adam's descendants. Those of a scientific bent found it equally attractive but for different reasons, connected with a desire to formulate theories of racial difference that retained a place for Adam while accepting evidence that many cultures were far older than the few thousand years that humanity had existed, according to the biblical chronology. The two varieties differed primarily in the evidence they used, the one relying principally on scriptural texts and the latter on what passed at the time for physical anthropology.[8]

In 1860, Isabella Duncan[9] wrote Pre-Adamite Man, Or, The Story of Our Old Planet and Its Inhabitants, Told by Scripture & Science, a mixture of geology and scriptural interpretation. The book was popular among a number of geologists because it mixed biblical events with science. She suggested that the pre-Adamites are today's angels. Being that they were without sin (for sin did not enter the world until Adam disobeyed God) there was no reason for them not to have been at least raptured into heaven, anticipating what would again occur with the second coming of Christ. Duncan also believed some angels sinned and fell to become demons. Duncan supposed that such an upheaval would leave geological scars on the earth. The concept of ice ages, pioneered by Louis Agassiz, seemed to provide evidence of such events, drawing the line between the pre-Adamic era and the modern one (which she posited as beginning about 6,000 years ago).[10]

Following the American Civil War, Southerners were increasingly receptive to arguments supportive of black inferiority. In 1867, Buckner H. Payne, under the pen name Ariel, wrote a pamphlet titled The Negro: What is His Ethnological Status?, in which he argued that the Negro is a pre-Adamic beast of the field (specifically, a higher order of monkey) which was preserved on Noah's Ark. In 1891, William Campbell, under the pen name "Caucasian", wrote in Anthropology for the People: A Refutation of the Theory of the Adamic Origin of All Races that the nonwhite peoples were not descendants of Adam and therefore "not brothers in any proper sense of the term, but inferior creations" and that polygenism was the "only theory reconcilable with scripture". Following Payne, Campbell viewed the great flood as a consequence of intermarriage between the white (Adamic) and nonwhite (pre-Adamic) peoples "the only union we can think of that is reasonable and sufficient to account for the corruption of the world and the consequent judgement".[11]

Lester A Hoyle wrote a book in 1875 titled The Pre-Adamite, or who tempted Eve?. He claimed in the book that there had been five distinct creations of races, of which only the fifth, the white race, of which Adam was the father, had been made in God’s own image and likeness.[citation needed]

In an unusual blend of contemporary evolutionary thinking and pre-Adamism, the Vanderbilt University theistic evolutionist and geologist Alexander Winchell argued in his 1878 tract titled Adamites and Preadamites for the pre-Adamic origins of the human race on the basis that the Negroes were too racially inferior to have developed from the Biblical Adam. Winchell also believed that the laws of evolution operated according to the will of God.[12]

The Irish lawyer Dominick McCausland, a Biblical literalist and anti-Darwinian polemicist, maintained the theory as a means of upholding the Mosaic timescale. He held that the Chinese were descended from Cain, and that the "Caucasian" race would eventually exterminate all others. He maintained that only the "Caucasian" descendants of Adam were capable of creating civilisation, and tried to explain away the numerous non-"Caucasian" civilisations by attributing them all to a vanished "Caucasian" race, the Hamites.[13]

In 1900, Charles Carroll wrote a book titled The Negro a Beast; or, In the Image of God. Carroll concludes in the book that the White race was made in the image and likeness of God and that Adam gave birth to the White race only, while Negros are pre-Adamite beasts and could not possibly have been made in God's image and likeness because they are beastlike, immoral and ugly.[14] Carroll claimed that the pre-Adamite races, such as blacks, did not have souls. Carroll believed that race mixing was an insult to God and spoiled God's racial plan of creation. According to Carroll, the mixing of races had also led to the errors of atheism and evolution.[15]

The Scottish millennialist George Dickison wrote the book titled The Mosaic Account of Creation, As Unfolded in Genesis, Verified by Science in 1902. The book mixed science with a scientifically enhanced reading of Genesis. It lists geological discoveries which showed that men existed before Adam had been created and that Earth was much older than the 6,000-year-old span of the Adamic race. Dickison welcomed scientific discoveries from fossil evidence and the palaontological record and used them as evidence for Pre-Adamism.[16]

The doctrine known as British Israelism, which developed in England in the 19th century, also sometimes included a pre-Adamic worldview, though this was a minority position. According to this model, the Pre-Adamites were viewed as a race of inferior bestial creatures apart from Adam, who was the first white man and son of God. In this narrative, Satan seduces Eve and the resulting offspring is a hybrid creature named Cain. Later Cain flees to East Turkestan to establish a colony of followers intent on realizing the Devil’s plan for domination of the earth. A further elaboration of this myth involved the identification of the Jews with the Canaanites, the putative descendants of Cain (although the eponymous ancestor of the Canaanites is not Cain but Canaan). It followed that, if the tribes of Judah were supposed to have intermarried with Cain’s descendants, then the Jews were the offspring of Satan as well as sundry nonwhite pre-Adamic races.[17]

In the United States, British Israelism developed into the aggressively anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement, in which the Jews were increasingly seen as outside the domain of humanity.

Non-racist pre-Adamism

Non-racist pre-Adamism can be traced back to Paschal Beverly Randolph, an occultist. Paschal was of Malagasy and Native American ancestry, and a spokesman against slavery. Paschal was a believer in pre-Adamism. He wrote the book titled Pre-Adamite Man: Demonstrating The Existence of the Human Race Upon the Earth 100,000 Thousand Years Ago! under the name of Griffin Lee in 1863. His book was a unique contribution towards pre-Adamism because it wasn't strictly based on biblical grounds. Randolph used a wide range of sources to write his book from many different world traditions, esoterica and ancient religions. In the book, Paschal claims that Adam was not the first man and that pre-Adamite men existed on all continents around the globe 35,000 years to 100,000 years ago. His book is different from many of the other writings by other pre-Adamite authors because, in his book, Randolph claims that the pre-Adamites were civilised men, while other pre-Adamite authors argued that the pre-Adamites were beasts or (not fully human) hominids.[18]

Pre-Adamite theories have also been held by a number of mainstream Christians such as the Congregational evangelist R. A. Torrey (1856–1928), who believed in the Gap Theory and that pre-Adamites had survived into the present day.

Gleason Archer was a believer in pre-Adamism. Gleason writes in his 1985 book titled A Survey of Old Testament Introduction: "To revert to the problem of the Pithecanthropus, the Swanscombe man, the Neanderthal and all the rest (possibly even the Cro-magnon man, who is apparently to be classed as Homo sapiens, but whose remains seem to date back at least to 20,000 B.C.) it seems best to regard these races as all prior to Adam’s time, and not involved in the Adamic covenant. We must leave the question open, in view of the cultural remains, whether these pre-Adamic creatures had souls (or, to use the trichotomic terminology, spirits)."

Gleason goes on to assert that only Adam and his descendants were infused with the breath of God and a spiritual nature corresponding to God himself, and he says that all mankind subsequent to Adam’s time must have been literally descended from him. However, he retains the concept of pre-Adamic races (e. g., Cro-Magnon man), and says: "They may have been exterminated by God for unknown reasons prior to the creation of the original parent of the present human race".[19][20]

More recently, these ideas have been promoted by Kathryn Kuhlman and Derek Prince among Pentecostals, John Stott among Anglicans, and Old Earth creationist Hugh Ross.[21]

Immanuel Velikovsky was a believer in pre-Adamism. He wrote a book titled In the Beginning. In the book, Velikovsky describes catastrophes which had occurred before those described in his first book, Worlds in Collision. In the first section of the book, his chapter titled The Pre-Adamite Age discusses pre-Adamism. He wrote that the "talmudic-rabbinical tradition believed that before Adam was created, the world was more than once inhabited and more than once destroyed". Moreover, he wrote that according to the evidence from many different traditions, Adam and Eve were not a single human pair and there must have been many of them.[22]

See also


  1. Popkin, 1992, p. 27.
  2. Almond, 1999, p. 51.
  3. Graves, 2003, p. 25.
  4. Almond, 1999, p. 53.
  5. The full title of the paper was "Nouvelle Division De La Terre, pour les differente Especes ou Races d'hommes qui l'habitent, envoyée par un fameux voyageur à M. l'Abbé de la **** à peu prés on ces termes", Journal des sçavans, 24 April 1684, pp. 133-140. The title is slightly different in the 1685 reprint in Journal des sçavans pour l'année M.DC.XXXIV, pp. 148-155 - see Boulle, 2003, pp. 11-27.
  6. Flood, 2003, pp. 52-53.
  7. Haynes, 2002, p. 15.
  8. Barkun, 1996, p. 153.
  9. Some editions of the book are attributed to Mrs George John C. Duncan.
  10. Isabella Duncan, Pre-Adamite Man, Or, The Story of Our Old Planet and Its Inhabitants, Told by Scripture & Science, 1860
  11. quoted in Harvey, 2005, p. 43.
  12. Smith, 2003, p. 50.
  13. Dominick M'Causland, The Builders of Babel, 1871; Patrick Maume “Dominick McCausland and Adam’s Ancestors: an Irish Evangelical responds to the Scientific Challenge to Biblical Inerrancy” in Juliana Adelman and Eadaoin Agnew (eds) Science and Technology in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2011)
  14. Charles Carroll The negro a beast"; or, "In the image of God"; the reasoner of the age, the revelator of the century! The Bible as it is! The negro and his relation to the human family! The negro not the son of Ham, 1900
  15. Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600 – 2000, 2006, p. 150
  16. Colin Kidd, The forging of races: race and scripture in the Protestant Atlantic world, 1600 – 2000, 2006, pp. 165–166
  17. Michael Barkun, Religion and the racist right: the origins of the Christian Identity movement, pp. 150–172
  18. Paschal Beverly Randolph, Pre-Adamite man: demonstrating the existence of the human race upon the earth 100,000 thousand years ago!, 1863
  19. Archer, G. Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Revised edition, Moody Press, Chicago, pp. 204–205, 1985
  20. Grigg, Russell. "Pre-Adamic man: were there human beings on Earth before Adam?". Retrieved 10 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Ian Taylor. "Pre-Adamic Man". Creation Moments. Retrieved 10 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "The Pre-Adamite Age". Retrieved 10 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

References and further reading

  • Duncan, Isabella (1860). Pre-Adamite man : or, the story of our old planet & its inhabitants, told by Scripture & science.. London : Saunders, Otley, and Co. (Originally published anonymously, but known subsequently that the author was the wife of George John C. Duncan, the son of Henry Duncan.)
  • Flood, Gavin (2003). The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-21535-2
  • Frederickson, George M. (1987). The Black Image in the White Mind. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6188-6
  • Graves, Joseph L. (2003). The Emperor's New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium. Newark, NJ: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-3302-3
  • Haynes, Stephen R. (2002). Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514279-9
  • Harvey, Paul (2005). Freedom's Coming : Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era. UNC Press. ISBN 0-8078-2901-3
  • Livingstone, David N. (2008). Adam’s ancestors : race, religion, and the politics of human origins. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8813-7.
  • Popkin, Richard Henry (1992). Third Force in Seventeenth-Century Thought. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-09324-9
  • Smith, Christian (2003). The Secular Revolution. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23000-0
  • Swain, Carol M. (2002). The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80886-3
  • Almond, Philip C. (1999). Adam and Eve in Seventeenth-Century Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-66076-9
  • Barkun, Michael (1996). Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement. UNC Press. ISBN 0-8078-4638-4

External links