Adam and the Genome– Part Twenty Five


More helpful is Thesis 4 (p. 183) which involves the proposition that we do not have original sin understood as original guilt and damnation for the whole race on the basis of Adam’s sin in Paul. Perhaps that is deducing too much from Paul. But it is not a helpful either/or to say “the issue however is not whether the historical Adam is important to soteriology but what kind of Adam Paul has in mind in Romans 5.12-21. Does Paul reveal an Adam who is a real person, who is biologically connected to all humans, a genetic or DNA Adam? Or does Paul have in mind the standard Jewish Adam—that is the literary, genealogical Adam who becomes an adjustable figure [he uses the term wax in some places] who can be used in theology for a variety of presentations and ideas?” This is a false dichotomy.

A discussion of genealogy of ‘begats’ is necessarily a discussion of biology. And whether or not one says there is a transmission of a sin nature from Adam to all us, or that Adam’s sin led to a curse on all us which distorts our relationships and leads to sin and spiritual death, either way the outcome is the same, and it is not just because we have all sinned and lack the glory of God at this point. There is a history to our sinning, and Paul says the rot started at the outset as do various other early Jewish interpreters. Death spread to all, not just because of Adam’s sin, but also because of our own sin, but Paul mentions both in the same breath, in the same argument, as causes. I’m fine with the cited quote from Wright on p. 187: “Paul’s meaning must in any case be both that an entail of sinfulness has spread throughout the human race from its first beginnings and that each individual has contributed their own share to it. Paul offers no further clue as to how the first of these actually works or how the two interrelate.” Fair enough, but it is clear Paul wants to say BOTH from the beginning of the race, and yes we contributed to the problem.

Finally, it is not adequate to follow J. Fitzmyer’s suggestion that in Genesis, Adam is a mere cipher for or symbolic figure for the whole of humanity. Clearly not since we have human mates showing up from somewhere else for Cain and Abel! It is not true that Paul should be charged with historicizing Adam. This is demeaning to Paul, and indeed to the whole Jewish tradition before him that assumes Adam was real person in space and time. So the conclusion on p. 191 is incorrect— the historical Adam doesn’t show up first after Paul was dead.

This involves an overloaded concept of what the term historical must mean. In fact, he shows up in the very beginning chapters of the Bible. We should not be beguiled by the poetic form and the saga like qualities of the Genesis account. This is no myth of origins, it is rather a historical narrative that deconstructs the myths of origins of other ANE accounts.

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