The Antiquity of the Human Race | Gleason L. Archer

The Antiquity of the Human Race

The Antiquity of the Human Race | Gleason L. Archer

Having presented the evidence for understanding the six creative days of Genesis 1 as distinct stages in the unfolding work of creation, we now proceed to the question of the antiquity of Adam and the commencement of the human race. This matter has been discussed at some length in my Survey of Old Testament Introduction (pp. 195–199). The great age assigned by paleanthropologists to the skeletons of various anthropoid species is a matter of considerable dispute. L.S.B. Leakey used potassium-argon analysis to arrive at the estimate of 1,750,000 years for the age of what he identified as the “Zinjanthropus” of Tanganykia (“Exploring 1,750,000 Years into Man’s Past,” National Geographic [October 1961]). Other specimens from the Olduvai Gorge area have been assigned even greater age than this.

The Neanderthal cave man is thought to have lived from 100,000 to 50,000 years ago, and he seems to have mastered such skills as the fashioning of stone arrowheads and axe-heads. The Neanderthal man also seems to have used fire for his cooking in the preparation of food. He may even have had some involvement in art as well, though the remarkable cave paintings in the caves of Altamira and elsewhere may well have been the product of the later race of Cro-Magnons.

At this point something should be said about some startling new geological discoveries that render the long date estimates of conventional geological science nearly impossible to hold any longer. An extensive analysis of the evidence supplied by an exposed stratum on the bed of the Paluxy River, at Glen Rose, Texas, has been published by Cecil Dougherty of Temple, Texas, under the title Valley of the Giants (Minneapolis: Bible-Science Association, n.d.), which is now going into its sixth edition. In the Bible-Science Newsletter for April 1979 (p. 4), there is a report by Fred Beierle of Lyons, Kansas, concerning a 1978 field trip to this remarkable site. It exhibits on the very same stratum a good set of three-toed dinosaur tracks and then further upstream the characteristic tracks of Tyrannosaurus Rex and also of Brontosaurus. The low level of water during the summer drought made it especially easy to uncover and view areas where clear footprints of some early human species actually cross the tracks of those dinosaurs!

Furthermore, in an adjacent level on the same Cretaceous layer as these tracks, there was a long black streak that proved to be a fallen tree branch that had been reduced to charcoal by fire and was subsequently engulfed in the limey surface. It was about two inches in diameter and seven feet in length and was located about two hundred meters downstream from the human and dinosaur tracks. A section of this branch was removed and sent to R. Berger, a geophysicist at UCLA, for carbon-14 analysis. He later sent back his finding: the branch was 12,800 years old, plus or minus 200 years. If this verdict is confirmed by other laboratories, it seems to indicate that the whole science of geochronology as practiced by traditional geologists is due for a complete overhaul. Here we have a late Mesozoic stratum containing evidence of early hominids contemporaneous with the most highly developed of the dinosaurs and dateable by the tree branch as being no more than 13,000 years ago!

An editorial on p. 2 of this same issue of Bible-Science Newsletter furnishes an important clue as to the source of such gross error in the conventional geochronological methods of time computation. The careful analysis of fissionable minerals (such as the breakdown of uranium to lead or of argon 40 to argon 36) has operated on the simplistic assumption that all such deposits were originally composed of pure parent elements. Then after the magma cooled off, the parent element supposedly began to break down with the gradual loss of electrons and became the daughter element with a lower atomic count. But samples taken from the core of fairly recent volcanoes, one thousand years old or less, have specimens evidencing ages of many millions or even billions of years—judging by the proportion of daughter elements to the parent elements in the same sample. This inevitably yields the result that even in the initial stage of deposition, such fissionable formations already contained a high proportion of daughter elements. Therefore, they are almost valueless, or completely misleading, for the dating of the levels in which they are found. It will be interesting to see how conventional geology theorists will cope with this discovery. It cannot remain permanently ignored or suppressed from the public, no matter how defensive the long-date theorists may feel about the matter.

But however untrustworthy the dating methods may be that have led to such high estimates of the antiquity of these anthropoids, the fact remains that they can hardly be dated later than the creation of the Adam and Eve referred to in Genesis 1–3. However the statistics of Genesis 5 may be handled, they can hardly end up with a date for Adam much before 10,000 B.C. If these figures in Genesis are at all to be trusted, even granting the occurrence of occasional gaps in the genealogical chain, we are compelled to regard all these early anthropoids as pre-Adamic. In other words, all these species, from the Cro-Magnon back to the Zinjanthropus, must have been advanced apes or anthropoids possessed of considerable intelligence and resourcefulness—but who completely died off before Adam and Eve were created.

If we examine the biblical record carefully, we must recognize that when God created Adam and Eve in His own image (Gen. 1:27), He breathed something of His own Spirit into them (Gen. 2:7) in a way that He had not done to any previous order of creation. Did that divine image consist of some material form, some special kind of skeleton or anatomic structure? Certainly not, for God is spirit, not flesh (John 4:24). Therefore what made Adam of central importance was his inward makeup of soul (nep̱eš) and spirit (rûaḥ), as well as his physical frame and bodily nature, with its animal passions and drives. From that first true human being, as a responsible moral agent, as a spirit-possessing person standing in covenant relationship with God, all the rest of the human race is descended (Rom. 5:12–21).

There may have been advanced and intelligent hominids who lived and died before Adam, but they were not created in the image of God. This is the line of distinction to which God’s word commits us, and it is here that we must reject any interpretation of paleanthropological data that supposes that a skeletal resemblance establishes that pre-Adamic anthropoids were true human beings in the biblical sense of the term. Though these early cave dwellers may have developed certain skills in their pursuit of nourishment and engaged in war with one another—as other animals do—nevertheless there is no archaeological evidence of a true human soul as having animated their bodies.

Recent studies of the chimpanzee and the gorilla unquestionably show that subhuman species of ape are capable of tool making (“Chimpanzees use more objects as tools and for more purposes than any creatures except ourselves” [Jane Goodall, “Life and Death at Gombe,” National Geographic (May 1979): 598]), holding hands, patting one another, embracing and kissing. They are also capable of heartless cruelty to one another, even to cannibalism of their own young. Gorillas can even talk in sign language with humans and tell lies to them, and they have actually learned how to use a camera (Francine Patterson, “Conversation With a Gorilla,” National Geographic [October 1978]: 458–59). Therefore, evidences of similar intelligence in prehistoric “man” are no decisive proof of humanity in the Adamic sense, nor of moral and spiritual capacity. Hence no strain is put on biblical credibility by these non-Adamic, pre-Adamic races, whatever their antiquity.




[1]Archer, G. L. (1982). New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Originally published: Encyclopedia of Bible difficulties. 1982. Zondervan’s Understand the Bible Reference Series (63). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.