Does the Bible Allow for ‘Adam & Steve?’

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Tallon

A few years ago, I had an online dialogue with Reverend Doctor Johnathan Tallon, who is, according to his website, a New Testament professor at Luther King Center in Manchester in the UK. Dr. Tallon has a Youtube channel and back in 2020 I stumbled on one of his videos called, “Does Genesis rule out Adam and Steve.”    

Dr. Tallon’s Youtube channel is called “Bible and Homosexuality” and he has a website of the same title. He hasn’t updated his Youtube channel recently and I don’t know if he’s still active with it or not.  His work seems to be focused on the LGBT community in England and especially those enrolled in the ministry program at the university. His “About” page on his website lists him as married with children, and he seems like a pretty nice guy.   

Now, before I go any further let me stop and point out that I have no axe but a theological one to grind here. This video is not about homosexuality or the LGBT movement per se. Rather, it’s about a theological issue; it’s a study in hermeneutics, it’s about how we exegete a passage of Scripture. That’s it.  I’m not attacking anyone or any group of people, and I’m certainly not attacking Dr. Tallon. I respect his education and desire to help other people. He and I had a pleasant, online exchange.

What I’m doing is addressing a doctrinal issue that he raised in one of his videos. I say all of this knowing that many will still probably miss the point and think this is about something else. Try to stay focused, people.       

On June 14, 2018, Dr Tallon posted a video on his channel called, “Does Genesis Rule out Adam & Steve.”  It’s only a 5 minute video and fairly easy to follow. Dr Tallon made a few observations and set forth an interesting thesis regarding the creation story and the first marriage between Adam & Eve.  Dr Tallon observes that the Genesis account is just that – an account. He points out that it is a description of what God did, but is not necessarily a prescription for what God expects us to do. In other words, he doesn’t find in Genesis a command for what all marriages are to be, and specifically that all marriages must only be between a man and woman.  Let me explain his position the best that I can.      

Dr Tallon opines that the Genesis record of a man leaving his father and mother and being joined to his wife, and becoming one flesh is a description of what happened in the life of Adam and Eve, but that it is not necessarily a command. In other words, Dr Tallon notes that though this may be true for a lot of people, it does not rule out the possibility of a present Adam and Steve getting married and that union being blessed by God. 

Now, how does he reach that conclusion? Well, he points out that in the Genesis account we have a number of things being said that must descriptive because they simply can’t be prescriptive for all people. For instance, he points out that God told Adam & Eve to be fruitful and multiply yet many couples today simply cannot have children. If this is a command from God that all couples are to reproduce, then why don’t we consider those couples who can’t have children disobedient?  He also points out that not everyone marries. Sometimes a person can’t find a mate and remains unmarried all of their life. Dr Tallon suggests that we don’t necessarily see that person as being disobedient. Or what about the so-called command that a man must leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife? Dr. Tallon notes then that if this is really a prescription – or command – from God, then any young man who lives with his parents after he gets married should be seen as disobedient. 

Dr. Tallon points out that we simply don’t take these Genesis statements as strict commands. He notes that the Genesis account is only the account of two people – Adam & Eve – and does not take into account everyone else. He observes that we don’t apply the so-called commands found in the Genesis record for the people who can’t have children, who don’t get married, or those who may live their parents after being wed. Therefore, he summarizes that since Christians by and large classify what is happening in Genesis as non-binding for at least some portion of the population, then why would we think that the part that tells us that a man – a male – should cleave to his wife – a female- is a command from God? Since we already understand most of the other things as being non-binding for everyone, why not all of it?     

Maybe God didn’t intend for just a man and woman to be married?    Maybe we’ve imported something into the text that just isn’t there? As he puts it, “it makes more sense to see Genesis as being descriptive rather than prescriptive.”     

Well, Dr Tallon raises some good questions, and suggests a number of things that I actually agree with.  For instance, I would agree with him that a person who isn’t able to find a spouse isn’t necessarily rebelling against God. Or, that a man and woman who find themselves unable to have children aren’t necessarily living in sin, or that a couple who chooses to live with his parents after they’ve married isn’t necessarily displeasing God. I would agree with him that there are some things in the Genesis account that do necessarily apply to all people at all times. However, I think he’s made an incorrect conclusion in spite of these observations because it overlooks some important things.   

Now, you can go to his video and read the exchange that I had with Dr Tallon. However, I’m going to just go ahead and explain here in detail my reply.   You can also view my video reply.

I had suggested to Dr. Tallon that his observations of Genesis don’t take into account the fact that in many other places of the Bible we find prescriptive clauses intermingled with descriptive text. In other words, the Bible does in fact mix things that all Christians everywhere are supposed to do with the things that maybe only the early readers were called to do – without calling attention to those differences.

For instance – and these are the examples I provided to Dr Tallon – in 2 Corinthians 13, verses 11 & 12, Paul is signing off from his letter and tells his readers to “be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and greet one another with a holy kiss.” Now, most readers would probably see in this list things that Paul would want for all Christians of all time; to live in peace and be of one mind, but the greeting of one another with a holy kiss most Christians read as being something more descriptive of the early church custom and not necessarily a command for all Christians to do at all times.        

Another example is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy 2, where Paul expresses his desire that “men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Again, most Christians would understand this passage as a mixture of things that Paul would want for all Christians, and those things which may not be applicable for all people at all times.   Paul would want men to pray everywhere without wrath and doubting – but do we really have to lift up our hands to be heard by God?  Of course not, this is just a mixture of prescriptive and non-prescriptive language.      

A final example, and one that I think is very good, is found in 1 Peter 3, verses 3 & 4. Peter admonishes his women readers to not let their adornment be outward only, such as arranging the hair, wearing gold, and of putting on fine clothing. Rather, Peter wants them to adorn themselves with a gentle and quiet spirit. Now, here we have all within the same sentence Peter mixing things that most Christians would agree are binding and non-binding for all women. Most would agree that the focus on a gentle and quite spirit is a good thing for all women to pursue, while not arranging your hair or not wearing fine clothing or gold is something that is not necessarily wrong for all Christian women today.       

So, you see, for Dr. Tallon to assume that just because he discovered some descriptive – or non binding – items in the Genesis account that one must conclude that all the things there are non-binding is to possibly make a huge error. For all of these things to be descriptive, non-binding, he must not only show us that he prefers the text to interpreted that way, but that it MUST be interpreted that way, especially in light of the examples I gave. 

When I asked Dr. Tallon to provide a way that we could know for certain that God was not prescribing marriage in Genesis as between a male and female, he replied that the “onus is on those who think it is prescriptive to prove it.”  In my opinion, this is quite telling. I suspect that if Dr. Tallon could exegetically demonstrate that the passage in question from Genesis was merely descriptive, then he would have done so. The fact that he insists that the responsibility to demonstrate that isn’t descriptive lies with those who take that position suggests rather clearly to me that he isn’t able to prove it. I think this suggests that he’s interpreting the passage based on preference only. While I respect his opinion, I think this subject calls for more than just our feelings.     

But, am I able to demonstrate that the passage in Genesis is prescriptive and not just describing what happened? I believe that I can.   

In Matthew 19 Jesus was asked if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Before answering that question, he quotes from Genesis and says, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”

Now, why would He do that?  He could have just answered their question about divorce without citing that passage.

I believe that the reason why is because in Jesus day – much like today – marriage and divorce were being greatly abused by God’s people and He wanted to provide a working definition for it. In other words, he wanted to in essence start at the beginning of marriage. And so he defined it. 

Now, I would agree with Dr. Tallon that Jesus did not likely have gender issues in mind when he was talking with the Pharisees. Gay marriage wasn’t even in view during that dialogue. However, we still can’t altogether dismiss what he said.  If God isn’t concerned about the gender of people in a marriage, then one must wonder why Jesus didn’t at least hint at it here. Why not provide us with a more broad or liberal understanding of marriage if that were ultimately true?   

Jesus certainly did that in other places.

For example, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus reminded His listeners about the command against adultery, and then he unveiled a deeper, more broad understanding to that law. He told his listeners that a man who looks at a woman to lust for her as already committed adultery with her in his heart.  Actually, Jesus did this numerous times in Matthew chapter 5. Six to be exact.  He said, “you have heard it said” and then he quoted an Old Testament law, and then continued, “but I say to you” and gave a more clearer understanding of that law.

So, we know that he wasn’t afraid of expounding on an Old Testament law and shedding new light on it if necessary.  And, He certainly wasn’t afraid of taking on his community’s traditions when they were wrong. But he didn’t do that in Matthew 19. He didn’t say, ‘you have heard it said that a man shall leave his parents and be united with his wife, but I say to you anyone can leave their parents and be joined with anyone else.’  He cited the Genesis passage – and left it alone.  This, I believe, should give us great confidence in knowing that the definition for marriage as provided in Genesis is reliable for all people of all generations. It’s prescriptive, not descriptive.  Marriage, as defined by Jesus, is between a man and a woman, Adam and Eve, not Adam & Steve as Dr Tallon supposes.    

So, what do you think? Is there a problem with my logic here? Am I misunderstanding the Genesis account?  What about the definition provided by Jesus?  Please leave your comments below.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, follower-of-Jesus blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmakerPodcast host, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us , and has worked as an investigator for over 36 years.



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