Category Archives: Adam
The argument of Romans 5:12 – 21 involves a synkrisis, or comparison between the two ‘types’ or figures, Adam and Christ. In Adam, we have a story of a world gone horribly wrong. As the one who was made to rule over creation is now subject to it, he forfeits his wonderful privileges of intimate fellowship with God. He suffers a severe loss of fortunes, loses divine favor, is exiled from paradise, and even his own being becomes disfigured and corrupted. The one created for immortality experiences the painful horror of death, and so do all of his offspring, as they share his guilt and new-found disposition towards evil. It is not blessings but sins that are multiplied to future generations, as humanity forgets and then forsakes God altogether and so recapitulate the story of Adam’s disobedience in their own persons. Death begets death. Sin dehumanized humanity, so that, despite possessing the divine image, they are little more than complex beasts, fighting and devouring one another.
But in Christ we have a story of a world put right, as Christ is faithful where Adam was faithless, and is obedient where Adam was disobedient. Through his act of righteous obedience, Jesus overturns the transgression of Adam and so is able to deliver and transform the fallen progeny of Adam. Christ creates in himself a new humanity, which, through the renewing power of the Spirit, is able to undo the effects of the fall and become the new Adamic race.
A while back I noted that a couple of prominent Old Testament scholars have called into question whether or not Adam was a real person. Christianity Today has documented the controversy quite well here. In that post I raised the issue of whether rejecting the historicity of Adam allows the Bible to determine the beliefs of the church. This is still a concern of mine. But here I’d like to raise 2 more concerns.
My first objection is more “big picture”: They type of hermeneutic (i.e. the way the Bible is being interpreted) employed by these theologians and Biblical commentators, appears to violate everything we otherwise hold dear about the grammatical-historical method of interpretation. Would Moses, David, and Paul have believed that Adam was a historical figure? Yes, of course…and even Peter Enns, Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies at the Biologos Institute, has recognized this in relation to the apostle Paul (the relevant section begins at 0:29 here). The question of Adam’s historicity is raised only when a foreign standard of truth is imposed upon the Bible. In this case “scientific consensus” is that standard.
My second concern is more specific. Once we call Genesis 1-3 non-historical where do we draw the line? What criterion renders Gen. 2-3 allegory that wouldn’t also rule out Genesis 4? The narrative style doesn’t change…
In his influential work, The Unfolding Mystery, Edmund Clowney clearly presents the relationship between Adam’s task in the Garden of Eden and Christ’s redemptive work:
The command to Adam and Eve was to rule over the earth. Adam’s rule is now exercised by Christ. As so often in the work of salvation, the fulfillment far outstrips the expectations that are aroused by the promise. Christ exercises a dominion far greater than that given to Adam. He is the Lord, not only of this planet, but of the cosmos…Jesus also accomplishes the command to Adam that he fill the earth. Paul uses the term filling as well as dominion to describe the present Lordship of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:20-23; 4:10). Jesus does not simply come to rescue man from the depths of his loss. He comes to accomplish for us the calling of our humanity. His is the perfect and final dominion of man over the cosmos. Christ, the second Adam, can say, “Here I am, and the children God has given me” (Heb. 2:13; Is. 8:17f). A great multitude that no man can number are gathered from every tribe and people in the name of Jesus. He who fill all things with his power assembles the fullness of Israel and the fullness of the nations in the day of his glory (Rom. 11:12, 25, Rev. 7:9). His accomplishment of Adam’s calling does not make our service vain. To the contrary only because he has fulfilled man’s calling can all work be made in meaningful, for our fellowship is with him. His victory is our hope. In humility, not arrogance, we receive from the victorious Lord a renewed calling to do his will to this world.
For more see:
In recent online videos, prominent Old Testament scholars Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns commented on the whether the Adam of Gen. 1-4 was a historical figure. Below are Longman’s thoughts:
One thing that’s saddening is that Longman claims that a reading of the creation narratives of Genesis which concludes that Adam was a real historical figure are based on a “highly literalistic” reading of the text. While he doesn’t explicitly deny the historicity of Adam, it’s pretty fair to say that he doesn’t subscribe to a view based on a reading of the Bible that’s “highly literalistic.” This is unfortunate indeed because Longman is a conservative OT scholar who, as far as I am aware, affirms the inerrancy of the Bible. Of course, someone might ask why I believe that this is unfortunate. Well, first the belief that Adam was a historical figure is the majority view of Christians throughout the ages. This leads me to my second point: Both Christ and Paul affirmed that Adam was a real person and not merely a symbolic character. James Anderson, Assistant Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, argues this point very well on his blog. For most Christians, this is a slam dunk argument. If Christ and Paul believed something we should believe no less. But, according to Peter Enns, his is not necessarily the case. Here is Enns’s view on the matter of Paul and Adam:
A little background on Enns is helpful. Back in 2005 he wrote a book titled Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament which sparks a great deal of controversy. This controversy eventually led to his dismissal from his teaching post at Westminster Theological Seminary. Enns is a clear writer and more or less straightforward in his views. According to Dr. Enns, evangelicals have not critically engaged the world of the Old Testament because they have failed to accept many recent discoveries about the Ancient near East. When, according to Enns, we do come to grips with how ANE writers thought, communicated, and recorded history we should realize that we’ve imposed a fairly recent, modernist grid on the text, asking questions it was never intended to answer with criteria that the ancient writers didn’t accept. His goal was, and is, noble. When we come across what seem to be contradictions or “tensions ” in the Bible we shouldn’t lose all faith that it is divinely inspired. Rather we should acknowledge that we are 1) probably imposing a modern (and not ancient) standard of truth-telling, and 2) this is all part of the rich “diversity” that God intended for His Word in human words. So the problem is with us, not the Bible. This last point (“the problem is with us, not the Bible”) was taught by Augustine when he said, “It is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood.” But while Augustine makes clear that we ought not to say the Bible gives untrue information, Enns claims that is does (but it doesn’t effect the overall message of Scripture which is salvation in Christ).
In the clip above Enns states that he fully expects to have Paul believe that Adam was a real historical figure (which is clear that Enns does not). Paul was, after all, a first century Jewish man and held the common views on this issue as his contemporaries. This is another plank in Enns view of Scripture: the “fact” that biblical authors affirm things (such as ANE mythological history and cosmology) that we now know aren’t true doesn’t compromise the fact that they were inspired by God to record those very words. This causes a huge theological problem: we are being encouraged to deny something that Christ Himself and his appointed spokesperson, Paul, affirmed.
Enns’ approach here also has significant methodological problems. Let’s assume for a moment that Enns and Longman are mistaken on the issue of Adam (and I think Anderson has done a fine job of showing the problems with their view. He also wrote a follow-up.), how would we demonstrate the error? Well, we appeal to the to the intention of Paul. Paul intended to teach that there is a link between the act of disobedience of one man (Adam) and the one act of obedience from another (Jesus). But, according to Enns, Paul’s intention doesn’t settle the matter because he was thoroughly embedded in, and clearly reflected, the erroneous fees of his day. So, the genealogies of Genesis don’t settle the issue, and even authorial intent doesn’t solve it. Thus Enns view is unfalsifiable, making correction seemingly impossible. If I’m mistaken I want to know how, because for either lack of creativity or exegetical know-how I can’t see it.
The difficult bit about all of this is that Enns and Longman are self-identified evangelicals who confess the inspiration of the Bible. Anderson clarifies:
I’m certainly not arguing, “If you throw out Adam you might as well throw out everything else!” or anything along those lines. It’s not a slippery-slope argument at all. Rather, my argument is that denying the historicity of Adam seems to commit you to at least some of the following: (i) very unnatural readings of several biblical passages; (ii) the conclusion that some biblical authors (and perhaps Jesus too) make claims that aren’t true or arguments that aren’t cogent; (iii) a hermeneutic that would undermine the clarity and authority of Scripture; (iv) a hermeneutic that would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to defend many other important biblical doctrines or ethical norms to which evangelicals are committed.
Fellow Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke and Enns engaged in a congenial exchange last year in the Westminster Theological Journal. The first round of exchanges were posted online.
Revisiting Inspiration & Incarnation by Bruce Waltke (PDF)
Response to Bruce Waltke by Peter Enns (PDF)
Here are some resources for further study: The first is Enns’s book, and the second is John Wenham’s book Christ and the Bible, which clearly lays out Christ’s own view of Scripture (which isn’t addressed by Enns, as far as I am aware).
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
In summary, we have examined the role that the creation narrative of Genesis 1 and 2 play in properly understanding the Fall. Humanity is the apex of God’s creation and assigned the role of vice-regent over creation. Likewise, we have seen that it was God’s sovereign design to establish a hierarchy of responsibility amongst male and female, with Adam as the chief steward responsible for maintaining God’s garden sanctuary. Only as the sexes properly function according to the wise plan of their Creator can both male and female exercise dominion over creation. With these pieces in place, the Fall narrative is shown to be a reversal of the established lines of authority and a repudiation of humanity’s vice-regency.
In Genesis chapter 3 we are shown how this sinful inversion ushered in all that is now wrong with the world. In the Fall, the relationship of man with his Creator was changed. He now became a “child of wrath” and an “enemy of God” (cf. Eph. 2). Furthermore, man’s estrangement from God results in an all-encompassing alienation both with one another and with the self. If man is now at war with God because of the radical selfishness and desire for autonomy that defines his fallen nature, he cannot be at peace, for every created thing points to and reflects its Divine Maker. This is the human condition.
David R. Torres
Now we’ll take a closer look at the structure of the passages we’ll examine:
Outline of Genesis 1-3
Gen. 1: 1-26- God creates out of the void
Gen. 1:26- man as image and likeness =Kingship!
Gen. 2:4-15: God creates man and places him in the garden
2:18: Eve created as helper to Adam, Adam has primacy by creation order
2:19: Adam exercises dominion over animals by naming them
2:23-25: Unity among the sexes
Gen. 3:1: Introduction of the serpent
3:2-10: The temptation
3:11-24: Punishments for all those involved (hope for restoration is alluded to)
Scholars are divided on what genre the creation account in Genesis belongs to. Is it a literal narrative or is it allegory? Is it historical or merely symbolic? Some take it as myth; others say it is true myth (C. S. Lewis). It can potentially inhibit our comprehension of the text if we attempt to force it into the Procrustean bed of just one discrete genre.
Genesis 3 has features of several literary genres, the most obvious being historical narrative and poetry. The notion that it is historical narrative is based upon the witness to the historicity of Adam from the Gospel of Luke (Lk. 3:38), and the Apostle Paul (Romans 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; 1Tim. 2:13-14). According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus is shown to have quoted Genesis 2:24 (cf. Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8). In these passages Jesus appeals to the original created design for marriage, an institution grounded in real space-time history. In doing this, Jesus merely shares the common first century Jewish belief that the creation account, including the existence of our first parents, was a factual and historical reality and not an allegorical tale.
In 1:26, the Hebrew words tseleh (image), and dmuth (likeness) are used to convey that man was made in God’s image and likeness. Tseleh is used 17 times in the Old Testament; 5 times in Genesis (1:26, twice in 27; 5:3; 9:6). Outside of Genesis tseleh is usually used to denote a physical representation, e.g., idols (Num 33:52), models of tumors (1 Sam 6:5), or pictures of men (Ezek 16:17). The origin of this word is uncertain. This means that its meaning may have been indistinct. There is no such ambiguity of meaning with dmuth. It is a noun that is clearly related to the verb meaning “to be like, resemble”. There are various theories of whether these words have discrete meanings, or are interchangeable. In the absence of contextual evidence of distinct meanings, and in light of the apparently functionally equivalent way these terms are used in Gen. 5:3, “likeness” seems to contextually nuance “image”.
Genesis does not explicitly state that the serpent is being used or embodied by the devil. Christians who believe in the unity of scripture (i.e. both Testaments form one theological and literary whole) do not have a problem with this. In the Septuagint the Hebrew word that is translated serpent is rendered by the Greek word ophis. In the New Testament book of Revelation, ophis is used to identify the serpent as Satan (cf. Rev. 12:9, 20:2). It is widely accepted in Christian theology that the devil either took the form of a serpent or embodied an actual specimen to mislead Eve.
The snake is described as cunning, or shrewd in the KJV. This Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament to denote both vice and virtue. In this context, it is clearly referring to the serpent’s ability in using clever reasoning with intent to deceive. In Hebrew narrative, it is not common to state the character traits of a participant in the story. When it is done, it is to solicit careful attention on the part of the reader (or listener). The narrator may be warning us as to whether the serpent is speaking the truth, and thus directing us not to accept the words of the serpent as uncritically as Eve.
The serpent deceptively leads Eve toward rejection of God’s Word as the final authority. Instead of complete trust in her Creator’s pronouncement, she is coaxed into weighing the serpent’s pronouncements against what God has said. The serpent’s lack of a covenantal relationship with God is displayed by his practice of using God (Elohim) as the designation for the Creator in lieu of addressing him as the Lord God (Yahweh). The switch of words is crucial, in describing God simply as God instead of as the Lord God, which is characteristic of the rest of Gen 2-3, there is a suggestion of the serpent’s distance from God. God is just the remote creator. Not Yahweh, Israel’s covenant partner. (Word Biblical Commentary, Genesis. Volume 1, p. 73) By deciding whose directions she should follow, Eve posits herself as the ultimate arbiter of what is right and good. This is at first shown by her appropriation of the serpent’s practice of using God instead of the Lord God (Yahweh). She had decided that God was no longer her Lord.
This repudiation of God’s divine right over the whole creation is demonstrated by how she responds to the serpent’s deceptive inquiry in 3:1, “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Eve includes an added ban on touching the tree not mentioned in the original prohibition in 2:17. This modification may insinuate that God is oppressive. His Lordship is rejected, and now his generosity is questioned. This narrative clearly illustrates the self-centeredness that characterizes sin.
There is a certain ambiguity found in the 3:6. It is not transparently clear whether Adam was present during the dialogue between the serpent and Eve. It is commonly assumed that Adam was not present during the interchange between the snake and the woman. No less an exegete than John Calvin held this view. Other scholars hold that Adam was indeed with Eve during the whole dialogue.
If Adam was there, then he failed in his kingly duty to have dominion over the serpent and leadership in his relationship with Eve. This culminates in his refusal to reject the offer based on God’s authoritative prohibition. If he was not there, this shows that the serpent, being crafty, did not go about his task through the ordained lines of authority. Instead of addressing the man, he deceived the woman, turning the divinely-mandated authority structure on its head.
In either case, the serpent displays utter disdain for God’s hierarchical design. By directing his words to Eve, as opposed to Adam, it certainly seems as if serpent was working towards a precise reversal of the created order. The creation was good, thus the rejection of God’s order is tantamount to a repudiation of his Lordship. The serpent calculatingly led God’s royal image bearers in their rebellion by directing them to replace faith in God’s Word with faith in creaturely autonomy. In the heart of man, the summum bonum (i.e. highest good) was exchanged. Man now lived for his glory alone. Later in verses 14-19, we are shown God’s punishment for their transgression, as well as a promise of hope to come.
The theological implications of this passage are vast. Man, by his sinful self-interest ushered corruption into the created order. Christian theology cannot be understood apart from the Fall. Suffering and evil originate here. Intuitively man knows that all is not well with the world. Genesis 3 affirms this universal notion, and explains its origin. The divinely decreed hierarchical structure had been inverted, and the effects linger.
In answering for their transgression, Adam directly blames Eve and indirectly implicates God; Eve likewise blames the serpent for her disobedience (Gen. 3:12-13). The Lord first punishes the serpent. God does not question it as he does Adam and Eve. The serpent is demoted to the position of a writhing creature that is from thereafter conceived of as a symbol of deception. The second part of the serpent’s penalty is quite interesting.
Gen 3:15: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The first punishment clearly refers to the animal; the second is believed to include the actual source of the manipulation, Satan. Most conservative scholarship has understood this as an allusion to the eventual defeat of Satan accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After pronouncing the serpent’s punishment, God, then states the penalties meted out for man’s transgression.
In starting with Eve, God is following the anti-creational inversion in the Fall. In Gen. 1:28, God blesses man with the decree to be fruitful and multiply. In the curse, women will only be able to conceive in pain. Interestingly, the next aspect of the curse regards the women vis-a-vis the man. Just as in the second punishment of the serpent related to the woman, the second part of her penalty is in direct relation to man. The curse seems to have had a dysfunctional effect on the woman’s desire for her husband as well as on her subordination to him. Some commentators locate in this verse the origin of the oppressive treatment of women that has characterized most patriarchal societies.
Adam’s punishment is covered in three verses, 3:17-19. Each verse unfolds the curses that await Adam. First, in v. 17 God explains why Adam is now cursed. Rather than heed the word of God concerning judgment, he listened to the word of his wife (turning the lines of creaturely authority on their head). Second (v. 18), the creation over which Adam has been given dominion over is still his responsibility, but now it will reject his rule. Third, both life and work will be marked by pain and difficulty, followed ultimately by death. In effect, the curse of v. 19 is “life will be hard, and then you die.” Man was to rule over the world as vice regent, but just as he rejected God’s authority, the earth now yields to him only through much work and hardship. Death and corruption then entered the whole of creation resulting from man’s rebellion.
Next we’ll summarize and conclude…
–David R. Torres
By David R. Torres
This series sets out to examine the narrative of the Fall of mankind into sin in Genesis 3. This text is chosen because it is essential in understanding not only the rest of Genesis, but the entire Old Testament as well. To bring out the fuller meaning of the narrative several questions will be addressed. These questions are first, what is the order that God had established for his creation? Second, what does this order inform us about the Fall and it’s implications? And last, what is the effect of this on our theology?
By close examination, we’ll see that more is going on than merely Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God’s injunction regarding the forbidden fruit. We’ll shed light on the Fall narrative found in Gen. 3 against the backdrop of chapters 1 and 2. When viewed in its proper context, Gen. 3 depicts the Fall as a reversal of the created order and a rejection of humanity’s vice regency.
THE CREATION NARRATIVE AS PROPER BACKDROP
In the first two chapters of Genesis, humanity is created in the imago Dei, the image of God. But, we must carefully note that the term “in” is ambiguous. It can lead to the assumption that the image is something that is found in man. In fact, the Hebrew phrase tselem (“in the image”) could be translated “created as the image [of God].” Adam is created as a finite reflection of his Maker. As God is the creator and rules over all things, so man is created as His image and given dominion over the entire earth. Both Gen. 1:26 and 2:19 illustrate the divinely mandated pre-eminence of man over creation. Regarding the image of God as reflected in Man’s ascendancy over the rest of creation, Charles Lee Feinberg states:
Many have seen the meaning of the image in man’s dominion over nature with the corollary concepts of endowment with reason and upright stature. They point out that Genesis 1:26 unmistakably affirms man’s dominion in the immediate context where image is found. Thus it is reasoned, the image consists in man’s lordship over lower creation about him, which is meant by God to be subject to man. It is more correct to declare that the image is the basis or foundation for the dominion. (“The Image of God,” Bibliotheca Sacra 129. 1972. Pg 239)
The call to rule the over the world in subjection to God’s authority is what I have referred to as humanity’s vice regency. We see that both man and women shared this duty:
Gen 2:18: And the LORD God said It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.
Gen 2:24: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
In Gen. 1:26-27, God decrees both the creation and function of man before he brings him into being. Similarly, the creation of women is preceded by a decree that includes the reason and purpose of her creation. The creation of women as a helper for man contextually seems to indicate a functional subordination in her relationship with man. There is an order or hierarchy of responsibility established in the first two chapters. God is Lord over all that he has created; the male has a primacy of responsibility over the female, the women having been created after and from the male; human beings (both male and female) have authority over all other living things that inhabit the earth.
As we’ll soon see, the first six verses in the third chapter of Genesis depict the fall of man as the inversion of this order…