We know Adam and Eve as the first humans that were created by God. There are lots of questions around the first human family including the issue of procreation, the location of their original home (Eden), etc. But an even more intriguing question is the original language that Adam and Eve spoke in the garden. So what language did they speak?
We know from scripture that at one point, there was only one language on the face of the earth. Genesis chapter 11 states: “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.” However, the Bible doesn’t specify which language this is. There are two possibilities – either it was Hebrew or it was a special Adamic language that vanished after the tower of Babel.
What Happened at the Tower of Babel?
As we have pointed out, the Bible records that man originally spoke one language. However, the Tower of Babel was the melting pot in which different languages emerged. After the flood, the descendants of Noah started straying away from God and they eventually decided to create a tower that was tall enough to reach heaven. Their motivation was to challenge God’s supremacy by making themselves equal to him. This angered God and he decided to punish them. God then said,
“Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” (Genesis 11:5-8).
Noah’s descendants were probably still speaking the same language that Adam spoke. We know this because the Bible states that man had one language. However, after God confused their language, different languages emerged.
From the Genesis account of creation, we know that God gave Adam the privilege of naming the animals. Some scholars believe that the language he used while naming these animals was a special language that was lost at the tower of Babel. This language is loosely referred to as the Adamic language. It is also believed to be the divine language God used to communicate with Adam in the garden.
In fact, after Eve succumbed to the serpent’s temptation and ate from the Tree of Knowledge, God spoke in length to Adam, Eve, and the serpent (Genesis 3:9-19). This points to a divine language that enabled all creatures to understand what God was saying.
This school of thought is further supported by the fact that Adam had no other reference point. He had no earthly parents or relatives who could have taught him the language to speak. In short, the Adamic language stems from the belief that the first language was a divine language used by God and that an adaption of it was necessary to meet the limitations of humans. This adaptation is what Adam used to speak.
However, some scholars maintain that God did not create or use the Adamic language. They argue that Adam developed this language independently and used the same to name the animals. Either way, there is no denying that only one language existed before the collapse of the Tower of Babel.
Traditional Jewish scholars believe that Adam spoke Hebrew because the name he gave Eve in Hebrew is Chavvah, which translates to mother of all living. The name “Adam” is also of Hebrew origin and it translates to “son of red earth.”
Kabbalah teachings emphasize the spiritual significance of the Hebrew language. Hebrew is considered a holy language and it is therefore very likely that it was the original language used by Adam and Eve. This is corroborated by the many spiritual symbolisms and significance that exist in the Hebrew language. Bible scholars agree that a lot of meaning has been lost in translation and referencing the Hebrew transitions is often the best way to get an accurate interpretation of Old Testament scripture.
Some Kabbalistic traditions suggest that Hebrew letters and words carry divine qualities. These traditions also attribute a special connection between the Hebrew linguistic elements (letters and words) and the creation of the universe. For instance, every letter in the Hebrew language corresponds to a certain number and each number has a divine symbolism. It is therefore not too far-fetched to say Hebrew was the original language that was spoken in Eden by the first human family.
The idea of Hebrew as a divine or original language is also rooted in interpretations of the Old Testament and the belief that Hebrew was used in sacred events, such as the giving of the Ten Commandments. Some experts have also suggested that Hebrew is not only the oldest but also the seed language upon which others build. However, this is debatable since there is some evidence of other older languages that have since gone extinct.
Ancient Semitic language of Geʽez
Even though the prevailing thought is that Adam and Eve either spoke Hebrew or a special adamic language, there is another school of thought popularized by the orthodox church that is worth looking into. Ethiopian and Eritrean traditions believe that the ancient Semitic language of Geʽez is Adam and Eve’s first and original language. Ge’ez’s structure of seven characters and phonetics is believed to have symbolic significance.
Seven is regarded as a divine or spiritual number in various religious traditions. It holds symbolic importance in the Bible and represents completeness or divine order. It also points to the creation story. Thus, the unique structure of the Ge’ez script, with its seven characters and phonetics, is likened to a divine being.
To sum it up, the name of the language that Adam and Eve used to communicate is not mentioned in the Bible. But a universal/ one language is mentioned that points to how Adam and Eve communicated. After the fall of the Babel Tower, human beings were condemned to speak a multitude of languages to suffer the pain of mutual incomprehension.
Scholars have come up with several theories on what the original language could have been, including pointing to the Adamic and Hebrew languages. All the different interpretations conclude that although Adam’s language was lost through evolutionary linguistics. In other words, we may never know Adam’s original language for sure.