Bereshis seems to imply that Adam was literally the first human being (at least according to the normal translation). Do any commentators (preferably not modern ones) disagree with this?

  • hakirah.org/Vol%205%20Krakowski.pdf
    – Loewian
    Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 15:21
  • I think you mislead in your question. Bereyshit starts with Bereyshit, It says NOTHING about previous worlds, creations or whatever. So after Bereyshit there was only Adam and his descendants. What happened before or outside the Creation Bereyshis talks about - feel free to speculate.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


R Israel Lipschitz, the Tiferet Yisrael, author of a classic commentary on the Mishna, wrote in 1842 in his essay Ohr HaChayim, that there were other men before Adam

The Kabbalah teaches that in ancient times several worlds of living creatures were created and destroyed on Earth. Humans were first created 974 generations before Adam. With Adam, the world was renewed to suit the light of Torah, and mankind became refined enough to receive the Torah (from here)

See also this longer description (taken from this essay on YUTorah, pp. 23ff)

In my humble opinion, those men who lived in prehistoric times, called Pre-Adamites in their [i.e., the scientists’] language, are really the people of a world before Adam of our world. These are the 974 generations mentioned in in Shabbat (88b) and Hagigah (13b) who were created before this world. ... Since their world was corrupt, they were cut off 26 generations before reaching twenty-six generations. ... If we reckon that each generation is seventy years, this means that their world was destroyed after 6,818 years from its creation. These twenty-six generations that were missing in their world were completed from Adam to Moses our Teacher ... in which the world was prepared and refined well in order to receive the Torah.

  • An issue with this ascription is that it leaves the "first tekufah" hanging. Kabbalah relates that there was a previous run of creation, which perhaps included both Divine mission and redemption, but whose creations were not as physical as we are. Now that idea jives very nicely with the idea of prior generations (i.e. they were the first tekufah) but if you say that the prior generations were in our universe, you have to explain why they were created in a physical universe without the capacity to receive the Torah. Commented May 28, 2023 at 5:04
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    It’s worth pointing out that this commentary was censored heavily when it was published and deemed heretical by some like is emphasized in the book by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, z”l, Immortality, Resurrection, and the Age of the Universe on page 8. (Kaplan reprinted the entire commentary in the appendix of the book.) The author of Seder HaDorot HaShalem in the section on Adam HaRishon & the 1st millennium also brings a source referring to the pre-Adamic humans who were present when Adam & Chava were exiled from the Garden. See also: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/133804/7303 Commented May 29, 2023 at 15:52
  • @EthanLeonard Your understanding of what “kabbalah” teaches on this subject is not correct. That isn’t to say that the subject of “spiritual worlds & creatures” isn’t discussed too. But pre-cursors to Adam HaRishon (the species) is discussed in all parts of the Torah. And they were physical. The link I provided above may be helpful. Commented May 29, 2023 at 16:08
  • @YaacovDeane , I read through your careful and scholarly explanation of the topic and learned something. There are a couple of important points that I hope we can agree are theoretical at best. The idea that the seven nations weren't human, even though their descent is clearly described through Shes, or that each day is a thousand years, despite shtaros saying 5783 "since the creation of the world", or that literally anything from Yovelim can dispute an account from other midrashim (like the one describing the origin of the giants as children of shamchazai and azael), just doesn't hold water. Commented May 29, 2023 at 20:38
  • 1
    @EthanLeonard You are entitled to your opinion but it is in disagreement with the teachings of Tannaim, Gaonim, Rishonim and Acharonim, many of whom are cited explicitly in that answer. Similarly, the traditions taught by the Mekubalim hold the same way. FYI, the view from Sefer Yovelim is cited by the Abarbanel, a very prominent and authoritative Rishon. Being “careful with the sources” is a given and always presumed. Commented May 29, 2023 at 21:26

R Uri Sherqi, citing the Zohar (Wayiqra 10A), states that humans existed before Adam. The Zohar there states:

ואִי תֵּימָא, הָא כָּל בְּנֵי עָלְמָא מֵאָדָם נַפְקוּ, (לאו הכי דלא)...

And if you will say that all mankind came from Adam (it is not so)...

  • That's definitely how Rabbi Sherki takes it, but I wonder if the Zohar means something else by בְּהַאי אַרְעָא עִלָּאָה דְּאִקְרֵי תֵּבֵל - it seems (though I am certainly no expert in the Zohar) that it takes Adam to have been the father of all mankind on this earth, but there are other "lower earths" with different progenitors
    – b a
    Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 10:16
  • @ba I don't think the surrounding context is required and that's why I omitted it. The conclusion remains the same: that Adam Harishon did not physically father all of mankind. The commentary thereafter only expounds on the idea.
    – Lee
    Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 11:55
  • @ba That is only addressing the concept of the order of creation. Prior to eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil Adam HaRishon was not clothed in physical, material existence in the fashion that we are today. That is what is meant by ארעא עלאה in this context. Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 14:26
  • @Lee The reason why I added it is because I found it odd that the conclusion relies on words in parentheses that don't make a complete sentence
    – b a
    Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 15:03
  • @YaacovDeane My understanding of the Zohar here is that the land we live in is the ארעה עלאה and that there are literally other layers of other lands that exist below it in parallel, with people who live about 10 years, like the story of Rabbi Nehoray (at the bottom of the page) who fell into the sea and found little people under the sea, and it's those people who aren't descended from Adam... it might not be literal, but that would negate the proof for literal humans not descended from Adam
    – b a
    Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 15:09

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