#AskACatholic – What Happened Before Adam & Eve?
NOTE: This column is hosted by and was originally written by Mountain Catholic’s author specifically for Spokane Faith & Values. It has graciously been given permission for reposting at MtnCatholic.com.
Q. What do Catholics believe happened/existed prior to Adam and Eve?
A. Loosely speaking, what happened prior to Adam and Eve is recounted in the creation story of Genesis, namely, that the universe began to exist out of nothing at a finite point in the past, and that God has created and designed all things, including humanity.
The church infallibly defined at the First Vatican Council in 1870, and thus binds its members to believe, “that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God” (On God the Creator of All Things, Canon 5).
On this point, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads:
“The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC 390).
What the church has yet to define infallibly, however, is when the universe was created. So, technically, Catholics can be “Creationists” and believe the universe was created 6,000 years ago in six 24-hour days, or believe the universe was created 13 billion years ago at the Big Bang, just as long as they ascribe to the belief that God created the universe out of nothing and willed all creation into existence one way or the other.
The reason for this — the church not infallibly defining when the world was created — is due to the church’s practice of taking tremendous caution before defining something absolutely to be true. Case in point, it took until 1854 for the church to define as dogma (an irrevocable adherence of faith to a truth contained in divine Revelation [CCC 88]) that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin.
With regard to human creation, the Church believes and teaches that Adam and Eve are historical figures, meaning they actually existed as our first parents. Adam and Eve would have bore the first human souls, created “immediately by God,” as Pope Pius XII declared in his encyclical Humani Generis in 1950.
Necessarily, no living thing bore a human soul prior to Adam and Eve, even creatures resembling humans prior to Adam and Eve, we might go so far to suggest. And yet, there did exist a period of time between their creation and the creation of the universe from nothing. Though extensive research has been completed on the origins of the universe (Fun Fact: the Big Bang Theory was proposed by a Belgian priest) and what has happened until human creation, the exact definition of the specifics, so far as the Church is concerned, is still up for discussion.