How does the Bible explain cavemen?

In preparation for our two part radio series on Creation and Evolution, I am using March to answer some common questions about creationism. Be sure to tune in to the broadcast at noon on March 22, 2015 to hear part one in which our pastor’s round table tackles the topic of evolution.

Some of the most common objections to Biblical Creationism (the belief that God created everything out of nothing in six days less than ten thousand years ago) come from mistaken ideas about extinct animals and paleolithic people. Because evolution asserts that hominids progressively increased in vertical mobility and intellectual capacity, cavemen are often seen as a knuckle drugging, monosyllabic phenomena unexplainable by the Bible. What does the Bible say about cavemen? Can the Bible explain cavemen?

The Bible does not specifically mention cavemen (though it does talk about several men who lived in caves at some time in their lives). Cavemen as we think of them were not described until the modern model of evolution advanced the speculations of a connected chain of increasingly intelligent hominids.

Though the Bible is silent about cavemen in particular, it does describe an event which would have forced a large portion of the human population to live in very primitive conditions. This event would have driven many people away from their cities to settle difficult regions of the world. In Genesis 11 the Bible tells of a time a couple hundred years after the flood when mankind joined together in rebellion against God. God punished man’s rebellion by causing every family group to speak a language different and then by scattering the families across the world.

These people groups traveled through inhospitable regions and then settled areas still recovering from the devastation of the flood. The sudden loss of connection with the rest of humanity would have resulted in many vital skills and technology being lost to each family. Modern examples may help guide our thinking here. Were the farmers who planted Kansas and Nebraska intellectually inferior because they lived in sod huts? Were the Indians who roamed America less intelligent because they lived in tents of animal hide and only had bow and arrow weapons? We have somehow equated technological advancement with great intellect. We assume because a people were living in caves and wearing furs (though their clothing choices is a bit of an assumption as well) they must have been dumber than we are. These people were not stupid, but rather pioneers in a post-apocalyptic world.

The cavemen were not biological inferiors who had to eventually give way to more evolved homo sapiens. The reality is “cavemen” are genetically human. Typically we consider Neanderthals (or Neandertals if you’re committed to keeping up with the popular spelling) and Cro-Magnon are consider cavemen. Both groups are readily identifiable as humans. They fall well within the normal variations for a people group, and both could live in our world today without attracting any particular attention. They were men and women created by God in His image who survived in a difficult world still reeling in the aftermath of Noah’s flood.