(Original: Are there any traditional Jewish sources that state that the story of Adam Harishon is a metaphor and/or that there were other intelligent human beings already on the earth prior to Adam’s creation/birth?)


I have two different but related questions:

  1. Are there any traditional Jewish sources (by that I mean any writings by a Torah observant Jew from antiquity to present day) that that say that the story of Adam and Chava is a metaphor?

  2. A related, but different question: are there any traditional Jewish sources that say that intelligent humans lived on earth prior to Adam’s creation?

In case you’re curious as to my MO, I’m an Orthodox, Yeshiva educated Jew. I have my own opinion on the matter, which isn’t really relevant. I’ve been curious as to the literature on this for a while.

  • 1
    Your question contains several aspects which are exclusive of each other. Traditional sources say what is found in the text of the written Torah must be understood and accepted according to their plain meaning. That means for you that the story of Adam HaRishon is not a metaphor. But what that plain meaning is actually saying is related to the 2nd part of your question (were there other individuals already on earth). Who they were & how they differed from Adam HaRishon is a very large subject. You should probably try to limit your question to a single detail. Dec 16, 2020 at 19:58
  • Answer=no there aren't
    – Shlomy
    Dec 16, 2020 at 20:47
  • judaism.stackexchange.com/q/31408/13438
    – Alex
    Dec 16, 2020 at 21:39
  • @YaacovDeane "Traditional sources say what is found in the text of the written Torah must be understood and accepted according to their plain meaning." I find this difficult to believe.
    – The GRAPKE
    Dec 17, 2020 at 3:00
  • Related, possibly duplicate: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/77190/…
    – Alex
    Dec 18, 2020 at 4:16

1 Answer 1


The story of Adam can be accepted as a metaphor & as an actual person. Do you mean "just a metaphor"?

As far as life before Adam, Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok compiled the list below of seforim that include info about those that lived before Adam:

  • Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan quotes the Tiferet Israel in "Immortality, Resurrection & the Age of the Universe" on this topic.

  • The Yalkhut Reuveni, Sefer HaTemunah, Sefer HaKana, Ma’arekhet Elokut, Shatul Mayim on Sefer HaIkarim, Sefer Livnat HaSapir of Rabbi David ben Yehuda HaHasid (Sefardi), Sefer Shoshan Sodot. And the Tikunei Zohar makes reference to it in Tikun 36.

  • Among the famous Sages who reference it include the RaMBaN, Rabbeynu Bahya, Rabbi Yitzhak D’Min Acco, Recanati on the Torah, Tziyuni on the Torah, the Radbaz, Rabbi David Zimra (the Kabbalistic teacher of the Ari’zal)

He does point out though that R' Chaim Vitale believed that the people before Adam never actually physically manifested, but that they stayed in a spiritual state. However, the Arizal was silent on the matter.

  • Hi Just Me. Very nice collection of sources. Regarding your last paragraph, since it refers to Rabbi Chaim Vital who transmitted the teachings of the Ari z"l (kabbalistic teachings) it is worth mentioning a general teaching from the Ari z"l and the kabbalists who preceded him. There is nothing manifest in the physical, material world that doesn't have its source in the spiritual. We know today through numerous archeological examples that these physical creatures existed in this world. If Rabbi Vital truly held the view stated, it is more a testimony to his unawareness of the physical reality. Dec 21, 2020 at 20:11
  • Thanks for clearing that up about the teaching among the kabbalist...yes, there is a lot of evidence (& even evidence of cover-ups) of these physical creatures having existed & still existing in this world. For instance, Graham Hancock is a great source on the topic of evidence for humans having existed 100,000 years ago & how cover ups in the scientific community began over this subject. And Islamic & Native American teachings are a great source of the abilities & background of some of these creatures. However, he wanted "traditional Jewish sources", so I stuck with that.
    – Just Me
    Dec 22, 2020 at 22:19
  • But there is a very important point to note and reflect upon. The Torah of Moshe is also required to be understood according to its plain meaning. That means that Adam HaRishon was created 5781 years ago. And if this is true, it requires understanding (or trying to understand) what exactly was created at that time and how did it differ from those beings who preceded this creation? And that is more in keeping with the idea that Adam (the name given this 1st human) is similar (דומה לעליון) to G-d above like is understood according to the plain text of the Torah. Dec 23, 2020 at 0:34

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