Eve’s DNA

by Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,

I heard that it has been determined that all mankind is descended from one human mother. Is this the Eve of the Bible and does this prove that the Bible is correct about Eve being the first woman and mother.

Sincerely, Susan

Dear Susan,

According to mitochondrial DNA studies the woman you refer to did exist centuries ago and, in fact, every human being alive today traces their ancestry directly back to her. We might say that she is the great, great, great … and so on, (n+1) grand mother for every Homo Sapiens Sapiens. She is named “Mitochondrial Eve” by many in the scientific community.

I first read about her soon after the genetic studies were published in the 1980s. I was so excited that here was scientific evidence which would once again prove the validity of the Bible and especially that all mankind descended from one woman named Eve—whose husband was Adam. The results of this particular study did not address this issue. I was hoping for clear-cut answers from the scientific community.

(By the way, if the Bible and science ever agree completely on an issue that might not be good. Science is constantly making new discoveries and changing all the time. The Bible is timeless.)

Nevertheless, Mitochondrial Eve is more intriguing than I first thought. I am not championing her cause; and certainly I am not refuting the Bible with what I am about to share. I want to explain in simple terms the scientific findings and then draw a few possible implications. You can make up your own mind about Mitochondrial Eve and the Eve who was created out of dust and rib in Genesis two.

Mitochondrion is the energy, power source of human cells. It is transmitted to future generations completely intact. When an egg from the mother and sperm from a father fuse, the only mitochondria that become part of the newly formed cells are from the egg. In other words, Mitochondrial DNA is inherited solely through the maternal line. Since DNA in is inherited through the mothers line, it eventually leads back to a single ancestral female.

Because of its basically unchanging nature, Mitochondrial DNA functions as a long-term genetic clock. Scientists teach that Mitochondrial Eve is dated backward from present-day human kind to one particular woman who lived approximately 150,000 years ago.

This does not mean that she was the only woman alive at that time. Systematic analysis places the human population of her people group at about 10,000 individuals. The point is that many of Eve’s contemporaries were producing children and descendant generations besides Eve. However, all of their progeny died out some where along the line. Only Eve’s descendants survived until the present day. Therefore, all alive today trace their ancestry to Mitochondrial Eve.

Now, let me make a few observations. First, some Christians will out and out declare these scientific findings to be false. They reason that they must be false because they consider them a threat to Biblical truth and to Faith. These folks will endeavor to invalidate the scientific evidence as irrelevant or false because it is at odds with their perspective of the Bibles’ teachings in Genesis three.

Other Christians will be thankful for the information so as to be able to more intelligently discuss these issues with their non Christian friends.
Some Christians will have their faith shaken by these and other scientific findings which they see as possibly invalidating the Word of God. My thought here is to encourage these Christians to remember that our faith never rests on scientific findings. Paul clarified in 1 Corinthians 15 that our faith rests on the resurrection of Christ and never on how we try to reconcile the Scriptures with science or with anything else for that matter. Our faith settles in on the fact that Jesus was not in the tomb on Easter morning.

Some will struggle with trying to reconcile 150,000 B.C. with the indeterminate and imprecise length of years in the early chapters of Genesis.
Some will struggle with the issue of identifying the real “first” Adam and Eve if Mitochondrial Eve is 150,000 years old. Some settle this by postulating that Adam and Eve were the first homo sapiens sapiens to develop God consciousness.
Some have suggested the existence of many human kind at the time when Adam and Eve were specially created by God and inserted into the ongoing life of the time. By the way, Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 clearly believed and taught that there was a real man named, “Adam”.

Some will flat-out enjoy the intellectual stimulation from pondering the truths as well as the intricacies of science. In the third century A.D. St. Augustine saw no contradictions between the two. He enjoyed studying both. In fact, most of the scientists who began the scientific revolution were pastors! Francis Bacon wrote that God was the author of two books. One was the Word of God and the other was the Word of Nature. God intended for mankind to search out and enjoy the intricacies of both.

(By the way, both genetic, anthropological, and new dating tools indicate that Neanderthals and modern humans co existed for 60,000 years before the Neanderthals all died out. Many have wondered about interbreeding between the two races. The relatively-large distance between the mitochondrial DNA sequencing of Neanderthals and humans today precludes interbreeding between Neanderthals and anatomically-modern humans.)

Well, Susan, I hope this gives you some “food to chew on” as you consider the complexities in answering your question. I simply have presented the observations of the scientific community.

Don’t allow any of these difficult issues to alter or shake your faith. I remember the story of a preacher who was good friends an atheist. His friend delighted in making fun and trying to tear down the preacher’s faith. One day at lunch the atheist asked the preacher. “Do you believe everything in the Bible?”
“Yes,” replied the preacher.
Well, aren’t there things in the Bible you puzzle over or can’t figure out?” asked his friend.
“Certainly, I have all sorts of questions I can’t answer.”
“Well, how do you handle them?”
I guess I handle them the same way I handle this fish I’m eating for lunch. I eat the good meat and push the old bones to the side of the plate for any old fool to choke on.”

Remember, Susan, Mark Twain said, “It is not what I don’t understand about the Bible that bothers me; it is what I do understand!”
Susan, thanks for asking the question. Ask me another one soon.

Love, Roger

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