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Genesis 5:2 (DRB):

He created them male and female; and blessed them: and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.

How does the plural pronoun refer to singular noun (called their name Adam )? What does this mean?

  • Each individually is called (hu)man, which is what adam means. – Lucian Jun 13 at 22:28
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There is a subtlety in the use of the Hebrew word, אָדָם (Adam) which can mean either "mankind" generally or the first man, Adam. The first two verses of Gen 5 read (NASB)

This is the book of the generations of Adam (אָדָ֑ם). In the day that God created man (אָדָ֔ם), He made him in His own likeness. Male and female He created them, and He blessed them. And in the day they were created, He called them "man (אָדָ֔ם)" [or "mankind"].

Note the slight differences in the pointing of אָדָם vs אָדָ֔ם ; both are noun masculine singular, but the first is a proper name (for Adam) while the second means "mankind" generally.

Thus, Gen 5:2 is correct that the two people were both members of the race of creatures known as mankind (singular).

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In Gen. 2:19, it is written, “...whatever Adam called the living creature, this was its name.” Did Adam name each individual creature? No, rather, he named each “kind” or species of living creature, whether it be the “cow,” “goat,” “eagle,” etc.

Likewise, in Gen. 5:2, when it is written that God “called their name אָדָם,” it is not referring to a personal name, but rather, the name that identifies the “kind” (מִין) or species that God had just created. The name of that species was אָדָם, or “human.”

Regarding Gen. 1:26–27 and Gen. 5:2, Shedd writes,1

In Gen. 1:26, 27, the man and the woman together are denominated “man.” In these two verses, as in the remainder of the first chapter, the Hebrew אָדָם is not a proper name. It does not denote the masculine individual Adam alone, but the two individuals, Adam and Eve, together. Adam, here, is the name of the human pair, or species. It is not until the second chapter of Genesis, that the word is used as a proper name... Compare Gen. 5:2, where the same usage occurs.

Footnotes

        1 Shedd, p. 19

Of course, the first male of the human species was also named אָדָם (Adam), but this is not the type of naming that occurs in Gen. 5:2.


Reference

Shedd, William Greenough Thayer. Dogmatic Theology. Vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888.

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