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The pre-Adamite hypothesis or pre-adamism is the theological belief that humans (or intelligent yet non-human creatures) existed before the biblical character Adam. Pre-adamism is therefore distinct from the conventional Abrahamic belief that Adam was the first human. Advocates of this hypothesis are known as "pre-Adamites", along with the humans who they believe existed before Adam.

Early development[edit]

St. Augustine's The City of God contains two chapters indicating a debate between Christians and pagans over human origins: Book XII, chapter 10 is titled "Of the falseness of the history that the world hath continued many thousand years" and the title 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 both the history of the world and the chronology of the human race as incompatible with the Genesis creation narrative. Augustine’s position on this matter was supported by most rabbis and by the church fathers, who generally dismissed views on the antiquity of the world as myths and fables not requiring any considered refutation.[1]

900 – 1700[edit]

In early Islam, a common belief held that mankind is actually the successor of other intelligent creatures such as Jinn and Hinn. Medieval Muslim traditions often referred to the Jinn as pre-Adamites,[2] depicted as human-like in various ways. Although the notion of Jinn as pre-adamites was generally accepted, the idea that before the known Adam there lived other humans was a controversial one. From the mid-ninth century onwards the idea appeared that God created several Adams each of whom presides over an era lasting around 50,000 years. Although this concept was regarded as heretical by most Muslims, it was widely accepted by Ismailis and Sufis.[3]

A book titled Nabatean Agriculture, written or translated by Ibn Wahshiyya in 904, collated texts about the activities and beliefs of Arabic groups such as the Nabataeans, in defence of Babylonian culture against Islam. The book discussed the ideas that people lived before Adam, that he had parents, and that he came from India.[4][5]

The Jewish poet Yehuda Halevi wrote his Kitab al Khazari between 1130 and 1140, featuring a discussion where the King of the Khazars questioned three theologians (a Jewish rabbi, a Christian, and a Muslim) which was the true religion, and raised the challenge that people in India said they had buildings and antiquities which were millions of years old. The rabbi responded that his faith was unshaken, as the Indians lacked "a fixed form of religion, or a book concerning which a multitude of people held the same opinion, and in which no historical discrepancy could be found." The rabbi dismissed Indians as dissolute, unreliable people, whose claims could be ignored. Later in the book, Halevi rejected the Nabatean claims as these people did not know of the revelation in Scripture, and he dismissed Greek theories of an eternal world. In his conclusion, Halevi maintained that Adam was the first human in this world but left open other possibilities: "If, after all, a believer in the Law finds himself compelled to admit an eternal matter and the existence of many worlds prior to this one, this would not impair his belief that this world was created at a certain epoch, and that Adam and Noah were the first human beings."[6]

The claims in Nabatean Agriculture were also disputed by Maimonides (1135–1204) in The Guide for the Perplexed. He attributed the concepts to the Sabians and said they were just legends and mythology which deviated from monotheism though drawing on Jewish sources, but in refuting the speculations, he circulated an outline of the ideas among other scholars:[7] "They deem Adam to have been an individual born of male and female like any other human individuals, but they glorify him and say that he was a prophet, the envoy of the moon, who called people to worship the moon. and there are compilations of his on how to cultivate the soil." He noted the claim that Adam came from India, and went on to Babylon.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

The 17th-century French millenarian Isaac La Peyrère, 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."[11] Thus, according to La Peyrère, there must have been two creations; first the creation of the Gentiles and then the creation 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 Book of Genesis.[citation needed]

Some[who?] date the origins of the 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.[12] Because of widespread theological opposition to the pre-Adamite theories of his friend La Peyrère, Bernier published his paper anonymously.[13]

Age of Enlightenment[edit]

During the Age of Enlightenment, pre-Adamism was adopted widely as a challenge to the biblical account of human origins.[citation needed] 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]

In Sufism[edit]

Various Sufis, especially Sultan Bahu, a famous 17th-century mystic of the Qadiriyya, a Sufi order, advocated this theory. In one of his writings, he wrote, "Once God said to the Prophet "O Muhammad I created an Adam before I created your father Adam, whom I gave a life of thousand years. Then I created fifteen thousand Adams all of whom I gave a life of ten thousand years. After that I created your Adam."[14]

According to that statement, the pre-Adamic era lasted for 150,001,000 years.

1800 – present[edit]

Racist pre-Adamism[edit]

In 19th-century Europe, pre-Adamism was attractive to those intent on demonstrating the inferiority of non-Western peoples, and in the United States, it 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.[15]

In 1860, Isabella Duncan[16] 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. Since 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 Jesus Christ. Duncan also believed that some angels had sinned and fallen from Heaven, which caused them 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 began about 6,000 years ago.[17]

Following the American Civil War, Southerners were increasingly receptive to arguments that supported their belief in black inferiority. In 1867, Buckner H. Payne, under the pen name Ariel, wrote a pamphlet, The Negro: What is His Ethnological Status? 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 non-white 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."[18]

Lester A Hoyle wrote a book in 1875, The Pre-Adamite, or who tempted Eve? He claimed that there had been five distinct creations of races, and 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, 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.[19]

The Irish lawyer Dominick McCausland, a Biblical literalist and anti-Darwinian polemicist, maintained the theory to uphold 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 he tried to explain away the numerous non-"Caucasian" civilisations by attributing them all to a vanished "Caucasian" race, the Hamites.[20]

In 1900, Charles Carroll wrote The Negro a Beast; or, In the Image of God. He concludes in the book that the white race was made in the image and likeness of God and that Adam gave birth to only the white race, and Negros are pre-Adamite beasts, who could not possibly have been made in God's image and likeness because they are beastlike, immoral and ugly.[21] 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.[22]

The Scottish millennialist George Dickison wrote 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 and lists geological discoveries that showed that men existed before Adam had been created and that Earth was much older than the 6000-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.[23]

Allan Kardec, the founder of Spiritualism, taught polygenism and that the earth was populated "from time immemorial" and that the Adamic race has "pushed all other races forward".[24][25]

The doctrine known as British Israelism, which developed in England in the 19th century, also sometimes included a pre-Adamic worldview but that was a minority position. The model viewed pre-Adamites as a race of inferior bestial creatures apart from Adam, who was the first white man and consequently the first son of God. In the narrative, Satan seduces Eve, and the resulting offspring is a hybrid creature, 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, but 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, the Jews were both the offspring of Satan and the descendants of sundry nonwhite pre-Adamic races.[26]

In the United States, British Israelism developed into the aggressively anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement in which the Jews were "mongrelized" serpent seed.

Non-racist pre-Adamism[edit]

Non-racist pre-Adamism can be traced back to Paschal Beverly Randolph, an occultist. Paschal was of Malagasy and Native American ancestry and was a spokesman against slavery. Paschal believed in Pre-Adamism and wrote Pre-Adamite Man: Demonstrating The Existence of the Human Race Upon the Earth 100,000 Thousand Years Ago! under the name Griffin Lee in 1863. The book was a unique contribution towards pre-Adamism because it was not based on only 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 to 100,000 years ago. His book is different from many of the other writings by other pre-Adamite authors because Randolph claimed that the pre-Adamites were civilised men, but other pre-Adamite authors argued that the pre-Adamites were beasts or (not fully human) hominids.[27]

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. He wrote in his 1985 book, 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 went 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 said that all mankind subsequent to Adam’s time must have been literally descended from him. However, he retains the concept of pre-Adamic races (such as the 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".[28][29]

More recently, such ideas have been promoted by Kathryn Kuhlman and Derek Prince among Pentecostals, John Stott among Anglicans, and Old Earth creationist Hugh Ross.[30]

Immanuel Velikovsky was a believer in pre-Adamism. He wrote In the Beginning. In the book, Velikovsky describes catastrophes that had occurred before those described in his first book, Worlds in Collision. In the first section, his chapter 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.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Popkin, 1992, p. 27.
  2. ^ Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 978-0-815-65070-6 page 39
  3. ^ Patricia Crone Islam, the Ancient Near East and Varieties of Godlessness: Collected Studies in Three Volumes, Band 3 BRILL 2016 ISBN 978-9-004-31931-8 page 230-231
  4. ^ Livingstone 2011, p. 7.
  5. ^ Popkin 1987, p. 28.
  6. ^ Popkin 1987, pp. 27–28.
  7. ^ Livingstone 2011, pp. 7–8.
  8. ^ Popkin 1987, pp. 29–30.
  9. ^ Almond, 1999, p. 51.
  10. ^ Graves, 2003, p. 25.
  11. ^ Almond, 1999, p. 53.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Flood, 2003, pp. 52-53.
  14. ^ Ain ul Faqr by Sultan Bahu, p. 285
  15. ^ Barkun, 1996, p. 153.
  16. ^ Some editions of the book are attributed to Mrs George John C. Duncan.
  17. ^ Isabella Duncan, Pre-Adamite Man, Or, The Story of Our Old Planet and Its Inhabitants, Told by Scripture & Science, 1860
  18. ^ quoted in Harvey, 2005, p. 43.
  19. ^ Smith, 2003, p. 50.
  20. ^ 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)
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600 – 2000, 2006, p. 150
  23. ^ Colin Kidd, The forging of races: race and scripture in the Protestant Atlantic world, 1600 – 2000, 2006, pp. 165–166
  24. ^
  25. ^ Genesis
  26. ^ Michael Barkun, Religion and the racist right: the origins of the Christian Identity movement, pp. 150–172
  27. ^ Paschal Beverly Randolph, Pre-Adamite man: demonstrating the existence of the human race upon the earth 100,000 thousand years ago!, 1863
  28. ^ Archer, G. Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Revised edition, Moody Press, Chicago, pp. 204–205, 1985
  29. ^ Grigg, Russell. "Pre-Adamic man: were there human beings on Earth before Adam?". Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  30. ^ Ian Taylor. "Pre-Adamic Man". Creation Moments. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  31. ^ "The Pre-Adamite Age". Retrieved 10 February 2013.


  • 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.
  • Livingstone, David N. (1 March 2011). Adam's Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins. JHU Press. ISBN 978-1-4214-0143-0.
  • Popkin, Richard Henry (1987). Isaac La Peyrère (1596-1676): His Life, Work, and Influence. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-08157-7.
  • 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[edit]