YHWH is Creator and Redeemer, But is Adam Israel? (RJS)

Part One (Ch 1-4) of the new book by Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, discusses Genesis as an ancient story of Israel’s self-definition. Chapter 4, Israel and Primordial Time, sums up the discussion of Genesis and the Old Testament and moves on to consider specifically the story of Adam in Genesis 2-4. Enns argues that the OT is a story of Yahweh, the God of Israel, as creator and redeemer and that the story of Adam serves as a foundation for this story of Israel. In this post we will look at both of these arguments.

Yaweh is Creator and Redeemer. The creation narratives in the Old Testament are not merely stories of origins. Rather they are theological statements that declare that Israel’s God is supreme, victorious over all. The Old Testament is filled with allusions to various ANE myths and stories. This was, after all, the cultural context of both the authors and the original audience. The allusions are especially prominent in the Psalms. The Lord God tamed the waters into submission, subdued and ordered the chaos, cut the Red Sea to pieces, crushed the heads of Leviathan, laid the foundations of the earth. This same God led his people out of Egypt and established David’s line “forever … through all generations.”

Speaking into the context of Israel in exile and post-exile the scriptures attest to the power and ultimate victory of God.

Israel’s God is (1) the one responsible for the created order and (2) still acting in the here and now to save his people. Yahweh, in other words, is creator and redeemer, and creation and redemption are not two separate acts; the latter is an instantiation of the former. That Yahweh was Israel’s creator and redeemer is what made him stand out among the crowd of less worthy gods, why their God alone was truly worthy of worship. (p. 65)

The theological message of the Old Testament speaks to the power and majesty of God and to his work as Israel’s redeemer. This sets the foundation for our understanding of the work of Jesus as God’s Messiah. Enns suggests that to read all of the cultural allusions at work in the Old Testament as literal will unavoidably misunderstand the theology at work. Our modern cultural context is very different.

Do you think that Yahweh as creator an redeemer is a good summary of the message of the Old Testament?

Is it reasonable to suppose that the original authors used ancient ideas about origins to convey ideas about Yahweh as creator and redeemer?

The case Enns makes for the theological message of the Old Testament is powerful, God is creator and redeemer. As one who is by nature a student and a synthesizer, who likes to look for and understand the big picture, I found the book full of important new insights and understanding. The Old Testament as a whole makes sense in ways I never saw before.

Enns also draws connections between various elements of the Old Testament – Genesis 1, the construction of the Tabernacle, the construction of the Temple, the importance of a cycle of work and rest, the pattern of seven. The created world is God’s temple. The creation story in Genesis 1 is part of Israel’s story of self-definition and the Sabbath is Israel’s privilege to share in God’s rest after victory over chaos.

Adam in Genesis. The specific argument Enns advances for the role of Adam within the theological message of the Old Testament is, I think, somewhat less convincing. This makes it interesting and worth some serious discussion centering around both Adam in Genesis and Adam as understood by Paul.

Enns first suggests that some of the elements of the story of Adam are about the origins of Israel rather than about the universal origin of humanity. This is a line of thought that has its origins in pre-Christian literature in Second Temple Judaism. The parallels are outlined in the table below (Table 4.1 p. 66)

This is summarized:

Adam in primordial times plays out Israel’s national life. He is proto-Israel – a preview of coming attractions. This does not mean, however, that a historical Adam was a template for Israel’s national life. Rather Israel’s drama – its struggles over the land and failure to follow God’s law – is placed into primordial time. In doing so, Israel claims that it has been God’s special people all along, from the very beginning. But this is no mere triumphalism. Israel is also asserting that (1) its sorry pattern of disobedience and eventual exile has marked their existence since the very beginning; (2) despite this pattern, their creator and savior has always been with them – and remains with them. This message of God’s faithfulness would have been especially poignant in the wake of the exile, which is likely the time when the stories were brought into their final form (as we saw earlier). (p. 66-67)

Enns continues on to describe some of the ways that this idea of Adam as proto-Israel can be reconciled with various features of the text.

Physical death becomes Adam’s end when he disobeys and is exiled from God’s garden containing the tree of life. Life, human life, is a divine gift from God – I’ve posted on my thoughts about this before, particularly in the post last August: Immortality is a Divine Gift.

Because Adam in the story is the original Israelite not the original human the presence of other peoples is not a problem. Cain found his wife from another nation.

Enns also discusses the world plays and use of the word ‘adam as, perhaps, and indication that Adam is “the one human with whom he has a unique relationship, the progenitor of God’s chosen people, Israel.”

Noah continues the line of Adam within God’s chosen people – again with disobedience, obedience, and God as creator and redeemer. The flood need not be universal in the context of the story. The parallels with Gilgamesh and Atrahasis suggest that the story has been restructured as Israel’s story.

The Story is Christ-Centered. I could stop at this point and open the topic for discussion – but to be fair to the force of the argument of the book it is important to point out that the story Enns puts forth is first and foremost Christ-centered. The last section of Chapter 4, The Gospel and Primordial Time, comes back to this focus.

“Jesus is the final and unsurpassed intersection of primordial time in history.” The Gospel of John is a telling of the gospel with a theological focus that brings all of these elements together. In the beginning was the word … and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is the temple (John 2:19). The fantastic hymn in Colossians 1:15-20 repeats the same theme. All things were created through and for Jesus.

[T]he New Testament transform’s Israel’s own traditions to address the climactic turn of events in the gospel. How Israel articulates the intersection of primordial time and history is no longer adequate. Israel’s self-definition is not abandoned, but it is transformed to account for the climactic act of God. In the resurrection of the Son of God, the people see more deeply what the Israelites have expressed in their own way. Some of their articulations remain as vibrant as ever, while others are exposed as mere shadows, awaiting the clearer word that is in Jesus (Heb 1:1-4; 8:5-6) (p. 75)

In Part Two of the book Enns moves on to look at Paul’s understanding of Adam, of Christ as the second man born not of dust but from heaven, and the role this plays or should play in our understanding of the gospel. For now, however, we can stop and consider the story of Adam as told in Genesis.

What do you think about the idea that Adam is the proto-Israelite rather than the proto-human?

Do you think it works with the text? What are the theological implications?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

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  • Stephen W

    Not read Enns’ book yet, but in I’ve heard the argument that Adam represents the Proto-Israelite rather than the Proto-Human before. Not sure about it though, as in context of the story as a whole Adam is seen as the father of all the surrounding peoples, not just the Israelites. The Hebraic peoples have their genesis in Abraham, with the Israelites specifically coming from Jacob. I understand that the point is that, in terms of scripture, Adam could be seen to represent a primordial version of Israel as a nation, but I can’t see how his story can be narrowed down to this, as in him (and also in Abraham) there is an emphasis on a shared history with Israel’s neighbours. The point being that Adam doesn’t seem to be just a proto-Israelite, he seems to be a proto-everyman. If that makes any sense.

  • Jon H

    Recently I heard NT Wright assert that 2nd temple Jews reading Genesis 1-4 would naturally make the connection to their own experience of election and exile. This makes some sense in light of a late/post exile final collation of Genesis and in some way makes the theological / political point of conviction that somehow our community represents humanity, and lays the groundwork for the idea that the resolution of the story of Israel is into the resolution of the story of redemption for all humanity / creation. So even if Adam is the story of Israel, by telling it with a universal scope, it includes, I think, some sense of calling to be what humanity is called to be – “in the image of God.” It it strange that this sense of calling took root and took on an air of superiority while the humbling identification with the disobedience of humanity as their shared story did not do its work. This dynamic is still at play today 🙂

    I will think some more (especially when I get the book) about what this reading says about being responsible AND taking responsibility.

  • Justin B.

    In regard to the connections between Adam and Israel, I’ve wondered if it’s possible that the author of Genesis deliberately made them as if to say that, like Israel, humanity itself was once a chosen people that has been cast into exile for its sins.

  • Tim

    Just finished Enns’ book.

    I think I would second some other comments I’ve seen on this thread and the last. I’m not completely sold on Adam being “proto-Israel.” But more general than that, I think Enns over-all approach is worthy of serious consideration.

    For instance, the idea that ancient Israelites would have understood the Adam story to have cautioned against pursuing wisdom outside of obedience/fidelity to God is compelling in some ways. And the same could be said for the idea that the ancient Israelites would have understood Adam and Eve’s “fall” as more of a loss of innocence and forfeiture of a covenantal grace, than say a transformation of a pristine soul into one that is corrupt and sinful – to be then passed down to all generations.

    But this is to say more that themes important and relevant to the ancient Israelite audience were addressed in the Adam story, which I think is a more modest claim on surer footing than to then make the leap and literally say that Adam was in some way symbolic or representative of Israel as a “proto-Israel.” I think that last bit is too far a stretch for me, though certainly it could be entertained as one possibility among many in a more speculative sense.

    Anyway, those are my two cents.

  • Josh T.

    Two things I would have a problem with regarding the proto-Israel concept of Adam… first, Acts 17:26 seems to indicate Paul’s understanding of a first human (I assume Adam) as the source of all nations. Secondly, if Adam is merely proto-Israel, separate from the other nations, doesn’t that kill some of the idea of Israel being a representative of humanity? As in Adam (humanity) is represented by Israel who is represented by Christ. (This nested set of representative relationships seems N.T. Wright-ian to me).

    But I don’t have a problem with Adam being a proto-Israel if he is still also proto-humanity in general; otherwise, I think too much gets left out of the story.

  • Hi RJS,

    Q1. “Do you think that Yahweh as creator and redeemer is a good summary of the message of the Old Testament?”

    A. Definitely yes.

    Q2. “Is it reasonable to suppose that the original authors used ancient ideas about origins to convey ideas about Yahweh as creator and redeemer?”

    A2. I’ll put it this way. It is reasonable to suppose that the original authors used competing mythological imagery to convey ideas about Yahweh as creator and redeemer.

    Q3.”What do you think about the idea that Adam is the proto-Israelite rather than the proto-human?”

    A3. The former is a poor interpretation because the Yahwist in Genesis 2-3 presents Yahweh as the creator of all humans.

    Q4. “Do you think it works with the text? What are the theological implications?”

    A4. See A3.

  • Personally, I find Adam as proto-Israel compelling in the sense that it makes the entire narrative of redemptive history easier to understand. At the same time, I wouldn’t remove the idea of Adam being the first human at the expense of him being the first Israelite. Isn’t it possible that it could be both? I mean, Adam represents mankind as well as Israel. The second and last Adam also represents Israel and mankind..wouldn’t you agree?

  • Richard Jones

    Do parallels exist in the story of Adam and the history of Israel? Absolutely and not by accident. And both in stark contrast to Jesus as Paul describes in Romans 5:12ff. No new ground here.

    But that by no means is the same as saying that the story of Adam is a post-exilic myth recounting in poetic form the history of the nation of Israel.

    Which gets to the “why” of making such a claim. Pure and simple it is to accomdate Enns’ belief that evolution is true and the Bible must be stretched/moulded/tortured — by any means necessary —to facilitate that belief.

  • AHH

    I agree with Samuel #7 that we don’t need to make it an either/or with regard to how Adam functions in the story in Genesis.
    It does seem like the story presents Adam as the primordial figure for all humanity, not just Israel. But the story also seems to parallel the story of Israel as God’s representative, exiled due to disobedience. If we recognize that this is a story crafted for the self-definition for Israel and not an attempt at literal history, I see no reason why the inspired author could not have been incorporating both of those aspects.

  • I appreciate hearing that Adam could have been both proto-human and proto-Israelite, while I clearly see that Adam was proto-human. However, I thought that the Yahwist was preexilic while the compilation of the Torah was postexilic. I guess I need to review the literature to see if there is a good case for a postexilic Yahwist before I consider it Adam was both proto-human and proto-Israelite.

  • Sorry for the typo in comment 10, I meant:
    “I guess I need to review the literature to see if there is a good case for a postexilic Yahwist before I consider [if] Adam was both proto-human and proto-Israelite.”

  • After a little more thought, I concede that even if the Yahwist was preexilic and strictly intended a proto-human Adam, then the postexilic compiler could have used the proto-human Adam as a prefiguration of Israel.

  • dopderbeck

    These are some excellent points and Pete does a good job of summarizing in an accessible way some of the ways in which contemporary Biblical scholarship understands the functions of these texts. I would push back a bit, however, in two related ways:

    (1) there is an underlying hermeneutical assumption in play: the text of the OT, and of the Bible in general, can be read simply for its “original meaning,” which can be ascertained through historical-critical methods.

    I think this assumption needs to be carefully examined. It reflects, I think, some tension between “Biblical Studies” and “Theology” that may be impossible to resolve. I’m of a way of thinking that favors “theological interpretation,” which means that interpretation must always be diachronic as well as synchronic. Thus, the redaction, reception and understanding of the text during, say, the post-Exhilic period is important, but not entirely controlling.

    (2) In light of (1), to say that the text is “about” Yahweh’s creation and redemption of Israel is, IMHO, overly reductionistic. From the perspective of Christian interpretation, the text is really “about” Christ. Pete does sort of get there when he talks about a “Christotelic” heremeneutic, but I think theological interpretation goes further. Primarily, the text is “about” Christ. And so, a reading that privileges the post-Exhilic Israelite perspective won’t really “get” what the text is saying.

  • dopderbeck

    My comment was too long and this is a somewhat different point, so I broke it up: following from what I said above, I don’t really like the “Adam is Israel” reading. From the perspective of Christian theological interpretation, I think it’s most accurate to say that “Adam” cannot be understood apart from Christ. Christ is the true type — the true seal (“typos”) of what “human” means. “Adam” is the broken type — the cracked Ikon. Whatever function the texts played in post-Exhilic Israel, this is the function they play for us in the Church. This actually accomplishes one of Pete’s goals I think much better than the “Adam is Israel” approach: it demonstrates that “Adam” is not some kind of “scientific” figure but rather is a universal type.

    I’d also say that I don’t like “Adam is Israel” from the perspective of political theology. In the past, that line of thought has been used to support racism and colonialism — to dehumanize cultural and racial groups not thought to be in the “Adam / Israel / New Israel (European Church)” line (see David Livingstone’s book “Adam’s Ancestors”). But a proper Christian theological reading is that every human being, regardless of race, class, etc., is “in Adam” and by extension should be seen in light of the new Adam, Christ.

  • Tim


    I’d be interested if you could elaborate on this:

    “it demonstrates that “Adam” is not some kind of “scientific” figure but rather is a universal type.”

  • dopderbeck

    Tim (#15): I blogged about this recently on the BioLogos blog: (http://biologos.org/blog/behold-the-man)

    In short: a “type” or Greek “typos” is like a stamp or seal. The wax bears the imprint of the seal. Christ is the true type of humanity — the fulfillment of all it means to be human is Christ, and for us it is to bear the imprint of Christ. Adam is the failed type of humanity — the failure to become everything it is supposed to mean to be human, and in fact a turning away from it. And each of us bears the imprint of that failure — we follow after type, after Adam, unless and until we participate in the true type of Christ, and thereby become a “new creation.” This is Paul’s logic: not that Adam proves Christ, but rather that Christ discloses the failure of Adam. None of this becomes clear, and the failure of Adam can’t even fully be known, apart from first understanding the victory of Christ.

    And so, clearly, none of this is circumscribed by genes or the modern biological sciences. You can’t find “Adam” in bones, rocks or genes. Likewise we aren’t “in Christ” because we genetically descend from Christ. The ontological connection is at the level of type — the level of universals. Likewise, our ontological connection with Adam, I would argue, primarily about the level of universals, and not the level of particulars. It isn’t really about saying this man is genetically descended from that man; it is rather that we all participate in the universal nature “human.”

    Personally, I think that the particular man Adam, whoever and wherever he might have been, in God’s mysterious economy, was the first to instantiate that universal nature and in his sin to distort it. But again — this is about a universal type, not about the details of modern scientific investigations. It’s a metaphysical concept. And correspondingly, the particular man Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, in God’s mysterious economy became man just at the right time and place so that the true type of humanity could be restored and completed.

    Because this is all about metaphysics, it will find modern scientific empirical investigations interesting, but neither controlling nor threatening. The task of theology / philosophical theology with regard to the scientific data of human evolution, IMHO, should be neither one of wholesale revision nor one of confrontation, but rather one of fruitful conversation with clarity about the differences between metaphysical-theological levels of reality and scientific-empirical ones.

    Incidentally, we haven’t gotten there yet in this conversation, but I am pretty convinced that, whatever Paul’s background beliefs about what we today call “biology” might have been, his scriptural arguments are essentially about metaphysics — Paul, I believe, was a deeply metaphysical thinker, and his theology of “participation” — participation in Adam, participation in Christ, all of creation’s final participation in God’s eschatological life (1 Cor. 15) — is where any discussion about “Paul’s Adam” should center.

  • D. Foster

    I like what Enns has said so far except for the Adam as Proto-Israel idea. Let me throw out a few thoughts.

    1) In a fantastic book called “On the Reliability of the Old Testament” (praised by John Walton, author of “Lost World of Genesis One”), renown Egyptologist and biblical scholar Kenneth Kitchen makes the argument that the structure of Genesis follows a pattern that is typical of early 2nd Mil. B.C. literature.

    The pattern is: Creation, Generations, Crisis/Flood, Generations, then “Modern Times.” Comparative examples from this period are the Sumerian King List, the Atrahasis Epic, and the Eridu Genesis.

    Kitchen argues that comparative analysis shows that Genesis is more than likely a product a of the 2nd Millenium B.C. If this is the case, then the idea of a retrojected Adam-as-Israel is an anachronism.

    2) I find it more likely that the Jews during the Babylonian Exile developed the already-existing motif of Edenic restoration that exists in the Torah. The Exodus Tabernacle is purposefully construed as a mini-Eden. Exodus climaxes with the *creation* of the Tabernacle, upon which God’s glory cloud *rests* at the end, which I believe purposefully harkens back to the original Creation account. Check out John Walton’s “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament” for more development of this idea.

    3) As a tangent, I’ve often wondered if the original climax of Genesis was Israel’s prosperity under Joseph in Egypt, an event that the pre-Exodus author/redactor may have seen as the original fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that “in [his] seed all the nations of the earth/land will be blessed.” Just a thought.


  • Tim


    Thank you for your thoughtful exposition.

    It seems where you’re going with this is drawing on a theological message from Paul, one that takes the Adam from the story the ancient Israelites would have been familiar with and imbuing him with new significanc to address a Christ-centered message. This would, in effect, then be asserting another layer/level of meaning for the text, one that you feel would be valid given an insipired theological message of Paul. I think you would likely acknowledge that we would have no expectation that the original author ever intended, or that the original ancient audience ever understood, Adam’s significane in the way Paul would later be asserting. But rather this “new” meaning would rest on top of the “old” meaning of the mythic story.

    Based on this reasoning, I would like to ask the question if a literal Adam is necessary to Paul’s new use of the Adam story. It seems to me that, as the ancient Israelites co-opted ancient near eastern mythic elements/motifs/idoms of their day to convey a theologically instructive story, then why would our expectation for Paul be any different? If the ancient Israelite’s Adam was not required (or even expected) to be literal, then why Paul’s Adam?

    It seems that your argument would be equally well served by an Adam as a symbolic representation of humanity’s inadequate and unrealized state requiring saving grace, as it would be served by a literal Adam.

    And given the genre of the Genesis 2-3 text, and considering just how strongly it draws from clearly mythic elements/motifs/idioms, a literal Adam at it’s core would be unexpected and unlikely, and I would argue unecessary.

    What are your thoughts?

  • D. Foster

    I should clarify: Walton’s book details the “Tabernacle/Temple as Eden” motif, not that Exodus climaxes with this idea.


  • dopderbeck

    Tim (#18) – I’m really trying to find a middle way. I see two prominent views at least among evangelicals: (1) Gen. 1-4 must be pretty much “literal” and it must in some way correspond to modern history and biology; or (2) Gen. 1-4 must be entirely allegorical.

    For me, (1) is not an option because it’s just not empirically true. But (2) seems very problematic to me theologically. I am sympathetic to the argument that the Church has consistently understood Genesis and Paul to be making comments on some kind of reality-in-time concerning the creation and corruption of human nature. This doesn’t mean we need to say exactly the same thing as what has been said in the past, but I do think (from my perspective as a theologian-in-training) that we have to try to respect and extend the tradition and not just throw it over. (And I’m not going to say people can’t think otherwise — this is just how I think about it).

    So I look for an excluded middle.

    I think the excluded middle is metaphysics. Our modern arguments about this assume that what defines us as “human” is our genes and biology. But neither the authors / redactors of the OT, nor Paul, nor the Church Fathers thought this way. Each in their own way (I would say one building on the other), understood that what makes us “human” includes but transcends the physical (they had no concept of course of “genes” or “biology” as we know it). This is one reason none of them were radical individualists, as we are by default in the West today. And as I’ve noted, I think Paul was a deeply, deeply metaphysical thinker: he employs the theme of “participation” over and over again throughout his letters, and not in a reductive “biological” way at all.

    So, IMHO, the best and most synthetic way forward is to return to the kind of metaphysical thinking the Church historically has done about things like anthropology (and about scripture!). We don’t need, IMHO, either to retreat into a fundamentalist bunker or to retreat from the Tradition. We simply need to think more deeply and carefully and theologically and even I think “Biblically” about what we mean when we say something like “human” or “first human.”

  • Tim


    Thank you for your response. I’d say I wouldn’t disagree with your metaphysical approach in principle. Like yourself, I see humanity as more than “mere” biology/genetics. But the issue for me is one of warrant. What warrant do we have for expecting a literal Adam?

    Once you recognize how imbued with ANE mythic elements the Adam story is (as well as much else in Genesis 1-11), a calibration of genre seems pretty straightforward to me. Tradition notwithstanding.

    And once the genre is calibrated to, not necessarily allegory, but certainly ancient mythic storytelling (for primarily theologically/morally instructive purpose), then I would find it difficult to argue how we ought expect any more of a historical basis to the Adam story than any other primordial mythic stories in the region (also told for deeper purpose than just an account of “origins”).

    I understand arguing for a “middle way”, but why would tradition define for you where one end of that middle way should fall? Why is the traditional understanding only suitable for an adjustment, rather than something closer to a paradigm shift?

  • Tom R

    RJS you ask the question:” Is it reasonable to suppose that the original authors used ancient ideas about origins to convey ideas about Yahweh as creator and redeemer?” I would say not only is it reasonable but being ancient people what other than ancient ideas could they use.
    I have read the book and found it to be very good but I agree with you that the Adam/Israel comparison. In fact ” somewhat less convincing “, is a wonderful understatement for me. I’am glad that most of the commenters are less than convinced as well. I hope and trust that this comparison will not become a distraction from the rest of the book.

  • dopderbeck

    Tim (#21) you asked: What warrant do we have for expecting a literal Adam?

    I respond: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience — IMHO.

    Scripture — yes, you can “calibrate” the genre of Gen. 1-11, but you also have to deal with the NT and Paul. I don’t think that is “calibrated” as readily. I’m also not so sure that “calibration” is a great term or that there’s really any such process as “genre calibration”, which sounds far too “scientific” for texts such as those of the Bible. We gather insights from the texts’ redaction history, genre, etc., and then I think we come back with a “second naivetee” to read all the texts as primarily a treasury of Christ. And even in the OT, there are many representative figures who are not only metaphorical: e.g., Abraham, Moses, and David. (Yes, I’m aware of the historical-critical problems surrounding the “historicity” of those figures as well.)

    Tradition — the Tradition consistently links the human predicament to human protology and specifically to the primal disobedience of “Adam.”

    Reason — if to be “human” is more than biology, and if part of the “more” is relationship with God, then it’s reasonable to postulate a “first human.”

    Experience — the solidarity of humanity in both the glory of our inherent capacities and in the deprivations of evil is a universal experience across times and cultures. And underlying this is an inherent sense that we share both a common source / history and a common destiny.

    None of these are knock-out arguments, and maybe I’m wrong, but in my judgment, taken together, there are compelling, and so this is the kind of framework I personally work from.

    And I’d ask: what not? Once we get past a “literalist / fundamentalist” paradigm, I think the primary reason not to think along the lines I’m suggesting is either / and: (1) a lack of understanding of or patience for metaphysical arguments; and/or (2) a scientistic hostility towards metaphysical arguments. Certainly the Richard Dawkins’ of the world fall into both of these categories.

    I think that evangelical / protestant Christians trying to grapple with this problem today unwittingly also have fallen into this trap. It’s a shame, IMHO. We’re setting up dualities that don’t need to be so extreme, and we’re kind of impoverishing our discourse in the process. But I’m absolutely convinced that even to begin to try to do “theology” requires metaphysics — and so anyone who wants to offer a theological account of human origins has to roll up his or her pant legs and wade in.

  • dopderbeck

    I should qualify something I said in #23: a term like “a literal Adam” is not the way I would speak about all this because it implies some kind of Biblicist literalism, which is not my view. So I am offering “warrants” for the view that the Biblical narrative of “Adam” points to “a first human person” but not in some kind of literalistic fashion.

  • Tim


    It’s been a busy day, but I think there’s a lot in your last response that is worth discussing. I’ll see if I can reply tonight.

  • Q1 Do you think that Yahweh as creator an redeemer is a good summary of the message of the Old Testament?

    Yes that would be the message of the NT as well.

    Q2 “Is it reasonable to suppose that the original authors used ancient ideas about origins to convey ideas about Yahweh as creator and redeemer?”

    Yes. Mirroring the literary form of the time period would be expected. Deuteronomy mirrors a suzrein/vassel treaty from that time, and not all the proverbs were “original” with Solomon. So Genesis using the form of ANE myth is reasonable.

    However using a literary genre like ANE myth to communicate does not mean that the information is ahistorical.

    The issue is what information is Genesis conveying? If it is the theological information that Yahweh was Israel’s creator and redeemer and is worthy of worship then the next question is why? If Yahweh is worthy of worship it is because He actually is our Creator. And if this is just a myth without any grounding in historical events how do we know that Yahweh is Creator?

    As far as how Israel would have understood Genesis, we are left with the the fact that by the first century Paul took Adam as historical and as a star pupil under the best schools of the time in Jewish Scriptures one can certainly propose that was a common view during his time. Any clues in the text regarding ANE myth were apparently missed by them.

    Q3 What do you think about the idea that Adam is the proto-Israelite rather than the proto-human?

    I have not read the book (but have read Enns argument for this on BioLogos). I generally agree with RJS and Stephen W, this seems to unlikely and to be a forced reading on the text. The pattern of command, disobedience, consequence is a natural reality that should be expected in all people as sinners faced with a Holy God who created them.

  • Susan N.

    “As one who is by nature a student and a synthesizer, who likes to look for and understand the big picture, I found the book full of important new insights and understanding. The Old Testament as a whole makes sense in ways I never saw before.” <– I'm groovin' on that aspect of Enns' book, too, RJS. 🙂

    That said, taken on its own, for me the OT reads as the epic story of Israel's failure to live up to their own theology! Indeed, their utter inability to do so. Time and time again, they (individually and collectively) were their own worst enemies (and of the neighboring nations.)

    The main take-away of the entire Bible-as-Word-of-God is in the climax and resolution of the conflict in the Story: "Jesus…come in real time to undo the curse of primordial time."

    In my meditations on The Exodus, the symbolism in God as the stronger party to the contractual covenant walking between the cut up, sacrificial "parts" to establish His guarantee of unbreakable bond has been profoundly meaningful, especially in light of Jesus and the Gospel Story.

    Looking forward to Part Two, 'Understanding Paul's Adam.' Thanks for undertaking this discussion series, RJS. It has been helpful to me.

  • Catching up on this post, now. Thank you, rjs, for the summary of Enns’ take on the OT and its development – Adam & Israel. I was definitely reminded of Gowan’s, Theology of the Prophetic Books: The Death and Resurrection of Israel: http://www.amazon.com/Theology-Prophetic-Books-Resurrection-Israel/dp/0664256899 Enns’ book sounds very similar to what I recall of Gowan’s; in my memory, it virtually resonates as a prequel! 🙂 Gowan was a turning point in my understanding of the prophets, history & theological view of the OT. Do you know if Pete Enns referenced Gowan, at all?