Why does Paul in Acts 17 say God made all men of one?

From one blood he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live” Acts 17:26 KJV

The inclusion of the word blood in the KJV is incorrect and it is excluded by the RSV and NET.  Brethren who don’t accept evolution have reached the same conclusion (Bro Humphreys “The rendering in the R.S.V. is even more to the point, “…and he made from one every nation of men to live on the face of the earth…”[1])

Does the passage conclusively prove all humans are descended from Adam?  Adam is absent from the record (and unfamiliar in all likelihood to Paul’s immediate audience).  What is the actual point of Paul’s words?  The rest of the verse is talking about the unity of the human race and them all being subject to one God who determines their geographical boundaries.  Paul isn’t talking about origins specifically but rather commonality before God – a God, he will go on to show, is not an absent or uninterested one

Paul is just as likely saying that God made all humans alike.  This would have contrasted with the traditional Greek thought of being unique versus the barbarians (ie non Greeks!).

I have seen various exposition by Bro Jonathan Burke which posits Paul was referencing more Greek sources than those he specifically acknowledged.  Some will object to the thrust of Bro J Burke’s analysis as Paul sometimes acknowledges when he does this (eg Tit1:12).  However sometimes Paul doesn’t highlight his quotations eg 1Cor15:33 “evil communication corrupts good manners” which are the original words of the poet Menander – Thais 218[2].  The analysis is of interest but is disputed by others on the basis of closer comparison to contemporary Jewish thought or broader allusion to Scripture.  For an extensive consideration of this issue I suggest William Russell Horst’s paper[3] which is readily available.

Regardless of where Paul may have been alluding, I believe the passage doesn’t support an assertion of common descent from Adam.

[1] Humphreys, ‘Adam’, The Christadelphian (95.1129.316), 1958

[2] NET Bible Notes 1Cor15v33 note 22

[3] Horst, William Russell, “Paul, the Athenians, and the Breath of Life: Acts 17:22-31” (2011). Theses and Dissertations. Paper 3. (see http://digitalcommons.spu.edu/etd)

1 thought on “Why does Paul in Acts 17 say God made all men of one?

  1. Pingback: The figure of Eve – Jeshua-ists

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