Was there a pre-Adamic race on Earth?

The Bible says that God told Adam and Eve to 'replenish the earth.'  Doesn't this imply that He intended them to "refill" something that was once full?

The verse you are referring to is found in the King James Version (KJV) in Genesis 1:28: ''And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…" 

The answer to your question is simply this: The word ''replenish'' translated in 1611 did not mean 'to refill' but rather just 'to fill.'  You must first understand that the King James Version, used by many today was translated in 17th century Elizabethan English.  In fact, even the King James Version used today (and I am not referring to the New KJV) has been simplified from the original 1611 translation.  Therefore, it is important to understand the meaning of this word selected by the 17th century translators.  The Hebrew word is male' and it occurs 306 times in the Old Testament.  The KJV translates it as 'replenish' only seven times, 195 times as 'fill,' 'filled' or 'full' and the other times it has an idiomatic meaning or it becomes 'fulfill.'  The Latin word from which the English word comes from is pleo or repleo. 

Dr. Charles Taylor, who has qualifications in many languages and was coordinator of applied linguistics at the University of Sydney, Australia, explains that in very old Latin the prefix re- did mean 'again' in his column appearing in the Creation Ex Nihilo magazine 18(2)44-45.  However, by 1611 it had lost some of its meaning and "when the KJV was translated, 'replenish' was just a scholarly word for 'fill.'''  He points out that in late Latin the prefix "re- had already lost its basic idea of 'again.'  In many other words it meant 'completely' or 'altogether.'''  For example, "'refresh means to make fresh; 'relax' to make lax; 'release' to make loose or free."

So it is common for a word to develop new meanings and overtones over time and at the time of the KJV translation the word 'replenish' meant to 'fill.'  Taylor comments, "An examination of the Oxford English Dictionary shows that the word was used to mean 'fill' from the 13th to the 17th centuries.  In no case quoted in these five centuries does it unambiguously mean refill." 

Taylor concludes, "So my understanding of the word in the KJV is that 'replenish' then just meant 'fill up', though some hundred years later it began to mean 'refill' when some scholars convinced people that re- should really mean 'again'.  So in 1611 it's quite clear the translators didn't necessarily convey anything about a second filling of the earth in Genesis 1:28."

It is important when reading the KJV to understand that there are many other words that are used that carry different meanings today then they did in 1611.  For example in Matthew 3:12, "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor…"  The word 'fan' here refers to a winnowing fork or "shovel used to throw grain against the wind that it might be broken from straw or chaff."

Those who want to support the idea of a race of people before Adam in order to accommodate the idea of 'millions of years' might point to this verse and this word.  Many who promote the 'gap theory' have used this verse as support for a pre-Adamic people who were destroyed by the so-called 'Lucifer's flood.'  However, a closer look at the etymology of the word 'replenish' shows that, once again, support for these theories is weak and unsubstantiated, not to mention unbiblical.  Existence of man before Adam would mean death before Adam.  Such a belief strikes at the very heart of the gospel message as can be seen in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive."  If the Bible is not correct about death as a result of our sin in Adam then why should we believe it to be correct in our salvation in the second Adam, Jesus Christ? 

2/02/02
Page100

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©Tom Carpenter
Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen