man who is but dust


It is a common trait for men of the flesh to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Accordingly, men who glory in the vanities of this life rejoice in their exalted status before other men. Like the Pharisees of old, craving the affection and admiration of others (Jno 12:43), they do and say those things that bring them into the popularity of the masses, rather than what is testified to be right and acceptable before the Creator of all flesh. So it is that men raise themselves to great prominence, receiving the honour and admiration of those whom they have sought to please – yet forgetting their humble origins. And humble they are, for no matter what a man’s pedigree may be, whether he be born into a rich or poor family, all men have a common humble origin, from the dust of the ground. Being formed in the first instance, from dust, their latter end is to return to the dust – hence Solomon mused within himself:

“I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth so dieth the other; Yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” (Eccl 3:18-21).

Sober men, who are not intoxicated with the flesh-elevating doctrines of humanism, will consider their own natural state. Not forgetting where they have come from, they look to where they are to return; back to the dust from whence they were formed. And at this level – the material, physical level – men have no natural pre-eminence over beasts. Both are formed from dust, and both will return to dust when the natural course of events are worked out with the cessation of life. This fact is truly a sobering one – though he may ascend to great heights in the estimation of his fellows, and though he may be rewarded greatly in the things of this life, the end of all men is identical to that of mere, brute beasts. “All go unto one place.” There, the rich and the poor meet together in a common destiny; “the small and great are there” (see Job 3:13-20), lying together in an undignified state of decomposition as they moulder into dust.

Those who recognise the reality of the situation may well also ponder their true relationship towards their Maker. He is the Almighty Creator, yet they are mere animated bits of clay, for the most part, unable to look beyond their own limited sphere of existence, to the ultimate outworking of the Creator’s purpose. The fact of man’s lowly material composition ought itself to be the reason of great humility before Yahweh. Hence Abraham, in taking it upon himself to plead for the sparing of Sodom for the sake of a few men of integrity spake: “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five?” (Gen 18:27).


This emphatic teaching of Scripture regarding the formation of man from the dust of the ground is brought into question by the June 2002 issue of The Endeavour Magazine (a periodical posing as a Christadelphian magazine, yet with the stated purpose of providing a forum for the airing of dogmas long rejected by Christadelphians). It dismisses the belief that the early chapters of Genesis mean what they say as being a mere “fundamentalist approach”:

“What has been termed the fundamentalist approach to the Genesis story, stressing above all else a ‘literal’ reading of it, has been the cause of much unnecessary discord within our community, and the sad thing is that it could have been so easily avoided by accepting what the sciences have revealed to us which need not be seen as in any way incompatible with the teaching of the Scriptures, provided that it is recognised that any talk of the beginning is bound to make use of symbolical and metaphoric language” (Page 40)

So it is claimed. However, in actual fact it is not so; Christadelphians have long recognised that the account of Genesis is an actual account the formation of the earth, and man upon it. The cause of unnecessary discord, has been the introduction of new ideas not in harmony with the Bible, such as the one under current consideration. Maintenance of Truth never causes discord amongst the congregation of lovers of Truth; yet the introduction of errant doctrines and practices does.

The article commences by citing examples of how a metaphorical form of speech is used in Scripture, and continues to present the early chapters of Genesis as being metaphorical, rather than literal. Having swept away a child-like (Mat 18:3) acceptance of the Bible as it stands with the above words, the article continues to present it’s alternative teaching, seeking to explain what literal realities the assumed metaphors of Genesis relate to:

“The fact that the earth was well and truly peopled before the Garden of Eden episode took place presents no obstacle when it is understood that the verb used in the original Hebrew of Gen 2:7 is yatsar, translated in the AV as ‘formed’, and is not a term exclusively reserved for Creation, in the sense of creation out of nothing.* (For example it can be used of the creation of Israel (Is 43:21).) In other parts it is rendered variously as ‘called’ (as in the case of Abraham), ‘chosen’ (as in the case of Israel), ‘appointed’, etc.

Now we have ample evidence of prehistoric man hunting and gathering and living a nomad existence in caves and other primitive dwellings for hundreds if not thousands of years before the emergence of the Adamic family and many of their cave drawings depict them hunting animals long since extinct until relatively suddenly these Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) people began to be replaced by Neolithic (New Stone Age) people, who replace the hunting and gathering mode of existence with a settled agricultural and stock-raising form of living, which correlates with the calling of Adam ‘from the dust’ (i.e. from the desert of Mesopotamia) into the well-irrigated ‘Garden of Eden’ ‘to dress it and to keep it’. Suddenly, a ‘help-meet for him’ (metaphor ‘close to his side’) was found, presumably from the same source, i.e. the local population, the same people who Cain feared would all want to kill him because he had murdered his brother Abel” (Page 39,40).

Compare this with the account of Genesis, which is allegedly presenting the same teaching in Metaphor:

“And Yahweh Elohim formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And Yahweh Elohim planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed …” (Gen 2:7,8).

And of the formation of Eve:

“And Yahweh Elohim caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which Yahweh Elohim had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Gen 2:21-23).


The claim with which we are being presented then, is that:

the formation of Adam from the dust of the ground = “the calling of Adam … from the desert of Mesopotamia” from an already existent race of men.

The formation of Eve from the rib of Adam = the calling of Eve, “presumably from the same source”.

Specific Bible ‘evidence’ for there being men dwelling upon the earth before Adam’s time is the meaning of the Hebrew word yatsar, and the fact that Cain was afraid of men slaying him. Let us then, seek to apply the metaphor, to the Genesis account, and assess the evidence before us!

The introduction of Adam into Eden is stated in the Genesis record to be in stages. His formation from dust comes first, after which he is placed in Eden:

“Yahweh Elohim formed man of the dust of the ground … And Yahweh Elohim planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Gen 2:7,8).

Even at a simple level therefore, the metaphor does not fit the literal event, as described. Whereas the formation of Adam from dust is paralleled with his calling from dusty Mesopotamia to Eden, the record presents his formation from dust, and the placing into Eden as distinct events; he is first created, and then placed in the garden. The metaphor does not fit; it would explain the metaphor of Adam coming from Dust (even if very badly; the record presents him as being created out of, not emerging from, dust), but not of his being placed in Eden; to place the two stages as speaking of a single event would be to confuse the metaphor (if it were such). Neither would it explain the metaphor of Adam having the breath of life breathed into his nostrils – this seems to have no counterpart in the suggested literal events described above. Neither would it explain how that if the formation of Eve from the side of Adam is a metaphor of her coming “presumably from the same source” as Adam, why a totally different metaphor is used, suggestive of a derivation within Adam himself (we shall return to this latter aspect later).


Interestingly, the proposition being advanced demands that Eden is a literal place. And that Adam is a literal man. And that his wife is a literal woman. And that Cain literally did kill his brother, and literally did fear that men may slay him. Therefore, whilst the argument is presented to us as being an alternative to literality – with literality being dismissed as being the cause of much division – it is important to recognise that in actual fact it requires certain things to be literal, but others not. It is selective, and apparently arbitrarily so, as to what it regards as being literal, and what is metaphorical, or not-literal. The ‘not literal’ events, it would appear, are events presented in Scripture as events not explicable in human terms i.e. the formation of a man from dust, animating the clay figure with the breath of life, and forming a new human from a living rib of the man so formed; events which require the exercise of faith in the abilities of an all-powerful Creator, as distinct from scientifically provable events*.


The first piece of Scriptural evidence advanced requires that the Hebrew word Yatsar be given a literal significance, and that it speaks of an appointing or calling, concepts which come within the scope of its alleged literal meaning. That again is significant; the literal meaning of the word is utilised as a means of demonstrating its supposed metaphorical sense!

But what of this word? The first point to note is that its stated uses are factually incorrect. As a glance at Englishman’s Hebrew-Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament will show, the word is not used of the calling of Abraham. In fact, the sense of ‘calling’ is not intrinsically within the meaning of this word; it is not used in such a sense in Scripture (where the Spirit uses other words, to denote this, such as arq qara’ the word which is used of Abraham in Isaiah 51:2). Strong gives the word Yatsar the following definition:

“prob. Identical with 3334 (through the squeezing into shape) … to mould into a form; espec as a potter …”.

Indeed, that is most fitting given the context in which this word is used in Genesis; that of Yahweh forming the bodily shape of Adam from the dust of the ground. The word is used in this sense also in the following verses:- Is 29:16; 64:8; Jer 18:2,3,4,6,19:1,11; Lam 4:2; Zech 11:13 (its context, not its etymology, determining whether it be understood in a literal, or symbolic sense). It is also translated “form” or “formed” 26 times, which is again of interest in the context of its use in Genesis. There is no need to question therefore, that in the Genesis account it is correctly rendered formed in the sense of a clay figure being fashioned after the manner of a potter, for that is the very context of the use of this word – which does not intrinsically contain within the scope of its defined meaning the sense of “called”.

The second piece of evidence advanced, is that Cain was fearful that men would slay him. The Scripture record reads thus:

“And Cain said unto Yahweh, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from they face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass that everyone that findeth me shall slay me” (Gen 4:14).

Interestingly, the writer is depending upon a literal construction of this verse to prove his metaphorical application of the earlier chapters in Genesis (which in themselves, are only part-metaphor, being mixed with literality). The Bible itself recounts what other people were around at this time: “the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters” (Gen 5:4). The solution is simple; Cain knew that the family of Adam was growing, and was fearful that one of them would seek to avenge the blood of their brother.

No other evidence is provided from Scripture. Unproven assertions are made, such as: “The fact that the earth was well and truly peopled before the Garden of Eden episode presents no obstacle …”. But what “fact”? Where is the proof it is a “Fact”? None is advanced. Some evidence is hinted at later, such as: “now we have ample evidence of prehistoric man hunting and gathering and living a nomadic existence in caves and other primitive dwellings for hundreds if not thousands of years before the emergence of the Adamic family,” with reference being made to Palaeolithic and Neolithic “people”. But in actual fact, this is a misapplication of evidence. The “ample evidence” referred to here is that advanced by Evolutionists, as a prop for their God-defying theory designed to undermine the authority of Scripture. The only “evidence” presented therefore, are the claims of men who not only deny the literality of Creation, but whose objective is to provide an alternative to the Bible in it’s account of the origins of men. Being that “the world by wisdom knows not God” (1 Cor 1:21), it seems hardly wise to appeal to ‘evidence’ derived by man’s wisdom to interpret the Word of God.*


It is sometimes argued that such matters as these, not being specifically and directly referred to in the BASF are actually non-essential matters of secondary importance. And that being non-essential, such discussion is healthy, and diversity of opinion is encouraged. However, the perilous nature of such reasoning becomes clear, when it is recognized that several doctrines of a fundamental importance depend upon the events of the early chapters of Genesis being an accurate account of what took place.

For instance, the theory before us cannot define a literal counterpart for the formation of Eve, taking her emergence from Adam’s side as being a mere metaphor. It has to “presume” that it speaks of her coming from the dusty regions of Mesopotamia, like Adam allegedly did. However, not only does Scripture give a reason for the difference in origin (in Genesis 2:23-25), it also draws out doctrines to be implemented in human relationships from that difference. For instance, in speaking of the distinct roles of men and women “in ecclesia”, the Apostle states:

“for the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was man created for the woman, but the woman for the man” (1 Cor 11:8,9; see also 1 Tim 2:13).

And again, in speaking of the Bride of Adam being typical of the Bride of Christ, as a member of His Body, we read:

“no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the ecclesia: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph 5:29,30).

“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them members of a harlot? God forbid. What! Know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? For Two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor 6:17).

This example is most interesting, for it does demonstrate that the Genesis record does have an allegorical teaching. Not that the events described there are not literal; but rather in those literal events are to be found principles which themselves represent greater things to come in Christ. To detract from the literality of the events of Creation also undermines the doctrines that are founded upon Genesis being literal.

But more seriously, the notion that Adam is merely a representative of an already existing race of men undermines many doctrinal points taught in the New Testament. Genesis portrays him as the first man created. Similarly, the Apostle Paul describes him as “the first man.” And in this place, the literal things concerning the formation of Adam from dust are again drawn upon to demonstrate principles for the believers:

“There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit (FOOTNOTE:- Notice here, Christ is not “the last man Adam”, but the “last Adam”. That is, whereas Adam was the first man, Christ is not the last man, but is representatively a second Adam) … the first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1Cor 15:45-49).

Clearly, to deny that Adam was “made a living soul” as Gen 2 describes, being an “earthy” man, formed from the dust of the ground, undermines the point being made in this chapter, and destroys the comparison being made with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, if Adam was but one of a whole race of men which existed from times long before him, we would have a major problem in understanding the origin of sin and death – for Scripture depends on him being “the first man” in its explanation of these matters:

“wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned … but not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, how much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one … therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation … for as by one man’s disobedience many were made righteous …” (Rom 5:12-21).

If Adam were merely a representative called out of a race of men existing from centuries before him – was death found within their ranks? Did they ever sin? The Bible places the introduction of sin and death as being accountable to one man, Adam. Yet to postulate a multitude of other men being alive at that time impacts upon Bible teaching concerning both this, and the means of redemption through one man Christ Jesus, which the Bible places in antithesis to Adam. Those other men are not alive now, for the only evidence of their existence are their dead remains, and the Scriptures testify that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). So what happened to them? Why did they die, since not being descended from Adam they were not born under condemnation through him? The difficulty appears to be insurmountable.

We conclude then, that it is better to believe the testimony of the Creator than be led by the wisdom of men, which has been made foolishness by Him. Although the stated purpose of the theory was to attempt to address some of the apparent difficulties between science and the Bible, it needs to be recognise that it raises further difficulties far more serious than those it tries to solve, and has doctrinal consequences so far reaching that it affects and brings into question the very basis of our redemption.

Christopher Maddocks

“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:24-26)