The Primeval Revelation

Chapter 15: The Long Wait From Adam to Christ

I marvel at a great mystery - why God allowed so much time to pass between Adam and Christ. A very long time it must have been because during its passage Adam's family became a global population living in the east, west, north, and south. Populations fanned out into ever new territories in which one original language and culture drifted into a kaleidoscope of a myriad tongues and lifestyles. Disparate groups everywhere gradually began to perceive themselves as unique, as the "in-group," in contrast with outsiders whom they would identify as foreigners, lesser humans, even enemies. This dispersing of one original population into so many tribes and nations making their separate homes upon the face of the earth did not happen in a short span of time.

The Bible relates that world population was once united but the great break-up event occurred on the plains of Shinar which is in Iraq: "Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there" Gen 11:1-2). Because of their common sin of pride "the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth" (Gen 11:9). This centrifugal movement is finally reversed on Pentecost in Jerusalem by the unifying power of the Holy Spirit. "Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language" (Acts 2:5-6). Luke identifies fifteen nationalities among the visitors , all speaking different tongues. Now they were amazed because they noted that the speakers were all Galileans, yet each of them heard the message as spoken in their own language.

There were, of course, many other peoples who were not in Jerusalem at the time. Christ gave the mandate to the Apostles to proclaim the message to all of them, to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19). From the time of Adam the Homo Sapiens population had settled in India, China, Japan - in Asia, Africa, Oceania, Europe and America. Why had Christ not come sooner to proclaim to all the descendants of Adam and Eve the message: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14)?

Global Communications Not Possible in a Hunter-Gatherer Society

One reason comes to mind, namely that if Christ had become incarnate in one hunter-gatherer population, the rest of the human race would never know it, unless Christ would work a miracle of communications on a global scale. Had Christ become Incarnate among the Yamana tribe in Tierra del Fuego, or among Pygmies in the Ituri rain forest, or among Aborigines of Alice Springs in Australia, the great event would have remained a tribal secret, unknown to the rest of the world, barring a miraculous intervention which would be entirely foreign to the rhythm of human development in the hunter-gatherer stage of society.

Christ waited, instead, for mankind to finally invent writing and reading, so that the historical events of His life on earth would be recorded in the Bible. What Matthew, Mark, Luke and John once wrote about Him is now translated into all the major languages of the world and is accessible to a great part of humanity. The story of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost is now part of our human heritage for the duration.

The Pax Romana was a Favorable Window of Time for the Incarnation

Christ inserted His Coming into the favorable window of time which Caesar Augustus secured around the basin of the Mediterranean. The events of Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem soon became common knowledge in the Empire, especially through the proclamation of Peter and Paul and the other Apostles, and the many lay and clerical missionaries. During the 400 years of the Pax Romana the Roman Empire was a Mediterranean Village, sharing trade, language, police protection, communications, and learning. Ships plied freely between Caesarea, Alexandria and Rome the year around except for the winter season. They were laden with cargos of "gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots and slaves, that is, human souls" (Rev. 18:11-13). Merchants traveled on cobbled roads from Rome to Philippi and on past Capernaum where Matthew collected taxes at the toll gate. Scholars exchanged notes from centers of learning in Athens, Rome, Alexandria and Jerusalem. Roman police and soldiers protected Paul on his missionary journeys and during his final showdown with enemies in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome.

During four centuries the Pax Romana held firm, and the Gospel message was heard from Spain to India, from Trier to the upper reaches of the Nile. Once firmly established on this broad footing, the Ecclesia demonstrated its durability through two millennia. All this could not have occurred if Christ had become Incarnate in one of the hunter-gatherer tribes. He providentially chose to come among us during the favorable time of the Pax Romana.

Primitive Schooling for Adam and Eve

Why, we ask now, did God not "prime the pump" of human ingenuity and civic organization to bring about similar Pax Romana closer to the time of Adam and Eve? Surely God could have instructed Adam and Eve in the art of writing down their language. He could have taught talented persons to cultivate fields and herd cattle, even to invent electric lights, telephones, radio and TV communications and space ships. We assume that God also thought of that, but decided against such an intervention. He allowed mankind the freedom to live for a very long time in hunter-gatherer societies before elaborating on their own ingenuity the arts of agriculture, herding, and our modern types of living in a technological age. The Son of God marked time while waiting in the wings of heaven until man had developed a considerable economic and social sophistication by his own native resources instead of being tutored from heaven.

In the first chapter of Genesis the instructions to humans about building up a civilized world are almost rudimentary: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth" (Gen 1:28). That, and nothing more, is the primeval instruction recorded here in Genesis. It tells the original people what to do, but not how to do it. The references which follow later in Genesis about tilling the garden, and about Cain the farmer and Abel the keeper of sheep, are likely anachronisms placed there by a human author who knew the developed context of Israel. He lived in a different culture than the original hunter-gatherer of primeval man.

Some of the myths of hunter-gatherers relate that the Supreme Being once taught them simple skills to cope with their way of life. The Kulin tribes of southeast Australia, for example, relate that the Supreme Being instructed the first people to marry, and to share the tasks of hunting and gathering:

Pund-Jel gave to each man whom he had created a woman. Pund-Jel put into the hands of the men spears. To each man he gave a spear; and Pally-yan gave to each woman and put into her hands a Kan-nan (digging stick). Pally-yan spake to the men and women, and told them to live together. He ordered that the men should use their spears for killing the kangaroo, and he told the women to use the Kan-nan to dig roots (William Thomas in Letters from Victorian Pioneers, p. 84). [Pally-yan is sometimes described as a brother of Pund-Jel, and sometimes as a son. At any rate, he mediates orders of Pund-Jel to the people.]

We ponder in wonder about the patient waiting of God while man slowly, ever so slowly, populated the earth as hunter-gatherers; who for perhaps several hundred thousand years pursued a simple lifestyle of direct dependence upon the bounties of nature for sustenance, until he mastered the art of farming and herding about 10,000 years ago.

Even so, hunter-gatherers traveled far and wide and learned to make a living in new territories and under changed environmental circumstances. From Africa migrants moved into Asia and Europe, and some reached Australia about 60,000 years ago. It is thought that an ancient Ainu stock populated much of Asia before travelers found a way across the Bering Strait into the Americas. From Alaska they may have found a way down valleys between glaciers to Canada and the USA, then south to Amazon, and beyond, even to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. Newer evidence indicates that boat people from Eurasia made their way along the edges of an ice sheet when it covered the northern half of North America and Eurasia, and so reached the eastern coasts of the present United States about 17,000 years ago (see Newsweek April 20, 1999). That would be 7000 years before the great ice sheet that covered much of North America and Europe melted.

The Great Ice Sheet Over Eurasia 10,000 Years Ago

The coming and going of glaciers and of great ice sheets impacted the wanderings and doings of our hunter-gatherer ancestors powerfully. The continental ice sheet that covered North America until it melted 10,000 years was one to two miles thick, rendering human habitation impossible on its surface, as the Greenland and the Antarctica ice sheets do today. In the USA the last intercontinental sheet flowed over Montana and the Dakotas until where the Missouri River defined its melting edge. Further east in Ohio and Indiana its southern edge is defined by a ridge of ancient rock debris and till, with logs buried far beneath the surface. When the ice sheet melted, rivers from this ridge flowed in opposite directions, northward toward the Great Lakes which remained as melt water, and southward into the Ohio River.

If hunter-gatherers lived in western Iowa at the time, they must have seen some spectacular sights as the ice melted in summer, and everything froze again in winter. Bluffs and hills define today a one-time immense riverbed of the mighty Missouri with a channel twenty miles wide at summer flood stage. But in winter the thick deposits of sand and silt of glacial till were dry, exposed now to powerful westerlies. These picked up the fine sand and made high dunes marching eastward from the valley. They now form the famous loess hills and bluffs stretching from Sioux City all the way down past Omaha and into Missouri. Today this is park land and fertile farm soil, with no rocks in it. But the summer floods and the winter sand storms must have been a harsh climate for hunter-gatherers if they lived there before the glaciers receded 10,000 years ago.

When the thick ice sheet finally melted, the earth surface which it had been depressing rebounded upwards, but the Great Lakes remained as melt water. Milder climes now prevailed over immense vacated stretches of land inviting populations to settle there.

From Hunter-Gatherer Lifestyles to Farming and Herding

How our human race finally managed to make the sweeping change from the hunter-gatherer economy to agriculture and herding is an interesting story, told plausibly by Clifford Jolly ("Prehistoric Humans," in the 1998 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia):

While Europe and West Asia were occupied by the Neandertalers, a human population with more "modern" physical characteristics - high foreheads, reduced faces, and jaws with chins - seems to have appeared in tropical Africa and adjoining parts of southwest Asia. The fossil evidence is sparse, but suggests that such people might have been widespread in Africa by 100,000 years ago. Genetic evidence strongly suggests that all people alive today are descended from a few thousand members of a single, local population, and Africa is considered the most likely site of its homeland. This population seems to have expanded, replacing and perhaps to a limited extent absorbing, archaic populations. Modern humans reached Australia about 60,000 years ago, and expanded about 20,000 years later into Europe, where the last Neandertalers probably survived in remote areas until about 25,000 years ago.

With the melting of the icesheets about 10,000 years ago, continues Jolly, the windswept grasslands of previously glaciated areas of North America and Eurasia gave way to coniferous and hardwood forest. The great herds of bison, horses, reindeer and mammoths were gradually replaced by hard-to-hunt animals such as moose and elk, and with that human society began to adapt to the new conditions. "The resulting cultures are called Mesolithic in Africa, Asia, and Europe, and Archaic in North America. New tools included microliths, tiny stone blades that were set in wood or antler handles. New weapons such as the bow and arrow enabled hunters to pursue the solitary game animals of the forest. Ingenious traps, snares, and nets were used to catch the wildfowl and fish that abounded in the lakes left by the retreating glaciers. Settlements became smaller, more dispersed, and less permanent."

The same author describes how field cultivation and animal herding developed gradually: "In Asia, some populations began to concentrate on exploiting wild sheep and goats and a few species of wild grasses that produced edible seeds." Eventually this created a dependency upon sedentary life near their fields and flocks, as hunters became farmers and animals became domesticated. Independently of the new trend in Asia, domestication of animals and cultivation of fields began in Mesoamerica, Southeast Asia, China, and tropical Africa. From these centers farmers moved out to displace hunter-gatherers who moved into less accessible territories. However, the changed lifestyle was not one hundred percent for the better. Settled farmers and herders may have eaten more plentifully, but perhaps had a less varied diet. Diseases were apt to spread rapidly among the more concentrated populations. Poor farming methods, such as slash and burn, soon exhausted the soil, motivating the farmers to move ever further into new fields now occupied by hunter gatherers. "So powerful was this process that within a few thousand years most hunting and gathering peoples had been replaced by cultivators or herders in all continents except Australia" observes Jolly.

The change to farming and herding induced major social changes among our ancestors. Jolly continues:

Along with their tendency to expand, food-producing societies are distinguished from hunter-gatherer societies by the existence of real property. Hunter-gatherers can accumulate few assets beyond skills and a basic kit of weapons and implements. Cultivators, by contrast, can own and spend wealth in the form of produce, land, herds, and the right to call on the labor of friends and kinfolk. Those who succeed, by luck or good judgment, can accumulate wealth and use it to buy the labor of others. Such wealth can be inherited, creating a lineage of hereditary "notables" or chiefs. In this way it is possible for a stratified society to emerge. Unmistakable indications of social stratification appeared within a few thousand years of the beginnings of agriculture. Within centuries, the process had culminated, in a few favored centers, in the appearance of complex urban societies in which specialist artisans and merchants plied their trades, a priestly elite presided over religious ceremonials, and a bureaucratic organization commanded the labor of the landless. And so, with the appearance of civilization, ended more than two million years of human prehistory. (Extensive bibliography follows.)

Nature's Way - God's Way

This impressive bird's eye view of pre-historical man brings us back to the question: Why did the Son of God wait so long before He became man and pitched His tent among us? We may push the question back even further, to ask why God allowed nature so much time to develop our efficient and pleasant ecological habitat on mother earth. It appears that God is pleased to allow nature to move forward at its built-in pace, with minimum interference from heaven. He created all of it, He preserves it ever in His hand, He then supports its imprinted instructions as nature runs through its sequences.

Scientists measure the time lapse between the "Big Bang" and our current Millennium as 14 billion years from their readings of the skies through Hubble and Subaru. That is, the light waves which the telescopes gather today from distant galaxies located at the presently known edge of space started their journey toward us not long after the detonation of the "Big Bang." They sped toward us ever since to finally arrive today - while the Creator held their oscillations in His hand during the entire journey.

We saw above (p. 171) how one scientist described the purported "Big Bang" as the explosion of a single initial "giant primeval atom concentrated in a single point of space" which then flung out its matter into an expanding universe (Jim Brooks, Origins of Life, p. 12). The number of galaxies visible through the great telescopes has not been counted, but is known to be billions, not merely millions. And the number of stars in a galaxy is thought to vary from about 200 billion stars in the larger ones, to only 300 million in the smaller ones with the average about 10 billion stars (Brooks, 48). Such statistics benumb our minds, but the Lord keeps count of them all, for He "fixes the number of the stars; he calls each one by its name" (Psalm 147).

Our own sun is said to be located in an outer part of the whorl of our galaxy, the Milky Way, which has 100 billion other suns. Our solar system is thought to have taken shape some 4.5 billion years old. Natural processes ever so slowly produced the mix of our atmosphere on earth, until some 600 million years ago its oxygen content made life possible for air breathing animals. We get the general impression that God is never in a hurry, that He is happy in eternity to watch natural processes elaborate the powers which He originally placed into them.

If God began to prepare our earthly habitat 14 billion years ago with the "Big Bang" of creation, then a wait of 200,000 years between Adam and Christ no longer appears to be out of proportion when viewed in the perspective of His larger cosmic plans. He created the cosmos for man, and man is for Christ, and Christ is for God. His care for the cosmos is all the more endearing, because it is the stage on which the Son of God became man, and on which Christ leads man back to God. "If the life, death and resurrection of Jesus reminds us of one thing, then it is that God is hopelessly in love with, immersed in, bound up by, and inseparable from, His creation" wrote a man who contracted AIDS and learned thereby to admire the Lord God (The Lotus and the Lamp,April-June 1999, p. 9).

Hunter-Gatherer Life, Close to Nature, Tended to be God-Centered

Monogamous family life fits in quite naturally with the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Genesis chapter two, Matthew chapter nineteen and Mark chapter ten state that God instituted monogamy at the beginning. Anthropologists inform us monogamy was typical among hunter-gatherers. Divorce and unfaithfulness were generally kept at a minimum among those who survived into historic times. That a wholesome keeping of the Ten Commandments has from time immemorial been nature's way of selecting populations for survival of the morally fittest during the passage of the millennia is a safe assumption. Monogamy must have strongly supported ties of affection and endearment between spouses. Life from day to day in the small groups kept people under constant surveillance, and cheating would not easily be done unobserved and unpunished. Men hunted, women gathered, sharing burdens of the household. Small children and growing girls stayed with mother and sisters and aunts as they gathered shells along the seaside and poked for edible roots. Growing boys hunted with their father and brothers, uncles and cousins. Children knew the strength of their father and the tenderness of mother, being with them the greater part of the day.

Life tended to be leisurely, not dictated by the clock. The work of fishing, hunting, and gathering was adventurous and challenging, without the boredom of repetitious manipulations on an assembly line. Mutual association between so many characters on a daily basis tended to penalize misbehavior and to reward conduct helpful to the isolated mini-community because each shared immediately in common fortunes and misfortunes. Life spent day and night in the company of other members of the small group was conducive to development of balanced characters, well honed from many sides, of warm and affectionate ties of trust, of mutual help and affirmation, much as siblings experience in large families today. Perhaps the Lord saw the value of firming up in our race well knit and warm family structures for 200,000 years before He exposed families to the trials of the technological age.

Hunting and gathering tended to nurture awareness of nature's ways and of God's providence among our hunter-gatherer ancestors. It was but a small step for them to look up from nature with eyes of respect, admiration, and gratitude toward the Creator of nature. Collective observance of traditions and rituals kept this awareness ever fresh and educated each new generation to continue to carry on much as their ancestors had done.

We may be inclined to regard the hunter-gatherer lifestyle as poor and deprived in contrast to conveniences we know today. Yet, all things considered, hunter-gatherers were perhaps not less happy than we are with our improved living conditions. They spent their lives far away from the bright lights, under the dome of the stars at night, in forests and prairies with the seasonal changes through the year, in the constant company of loved ones. And where do some of us go for summer vacation, if not exactly back to the mountains and lakes and forests - away from the bright lights and fast pace of modern life?

Another thought comes to mind, namely that the long period of time between Adam's sin and Christ's birth, during which thousands of languages and cultures developed in all parts of the world, has enriched immensely our patrimony of human culture. Thousands of isolated groups developed their own rich and colorful languages, a variety of cultural patterns of interaction, home-spun music and dances, elaborate and vibrant costumes, competitive games, folklore stories and drama - expressions of many-faceted human talents. If human culture had become stultified in a uniform and global pattern from ancient times, we would be so much poorer in culture today. The well-grooved violence and sex and pounding rock music now so dominant in the culture of our global village makes us grateful that it was not always so. Had God intervened early in the history of the human race to make a global culture of village earth prematurely, we would probably miss all those folk dances and music, the colorful costumes of peoples proud of their native inheritance. We would likely be poorer in humanity today if God had taught Adam and Eve advanced technology from the beginning, and if He had grooved them into an unadorned and practical consumer oriented cultural pattern, rather than allowing many thousands of disparate tribes of hunter-gatherers in segregated habitats to shape variegated patterns of lifestyles while living close to God and nature, cheered in heart and mind by a warm family life.


God's thoughts are as high above our simplistic minds as the heavens are above the earth. If we are puzzled because He allowed a considerable amount of time to pass between Adam and Christ, this may be due to our lilliputian scale of thinking in contrast with the magnificent thoughts of the Creator. With Job we confess:

Behold I am of small account;
what shall I answer thee?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but I will proceed no further (40:3-5).

With Paul we marvel:

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has been his counselor?... For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen (Rom 11:33-34;36).

Another 200,000 Years?

A final reflection: if the Homo Sapiens race lived on earth for 200,000 years before the Coming of Christ, might we dare to hope that it will live an equal 200,000 years after the coming of Christ? Perhaps it will be up to humans to influence the Lord's decision: if we do not torch our habitat by nuclear conflagration; if we do not extinguish our population by isolating sex from reproduction; if ten righteous citizens dwell in every city (remember the promise to Abraham: "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it," Genesis 18:32); if we maintain a viable biosphere as the Lord delivered it to us; and if a sprinkling of faithful people encircle the globe as preservative "salt of the earth," who give praise and thanks to the Lord for His goodness by psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles; then may God be pleased to allow mankind to live yet another 200,000 years on the globe. May it be so.

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