Is the Adam of Genesis Not Paul’s Adam? (RJS)

Is the Adam of Genesis Not Paul’s Adam? (RJS) February 21, 2012

Part Two (Ch 5-7) of the new book by Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, turns to Paul’s Adam in the context of Paul’s theology, Paul’s Christology, and Paul’s view of scripture.  Chapter 5 introduces the topics, Chapter 6 looks at Paul as an ancient interpreter of the Old Testament, and Chapter 7 looks at Paul’s Adam. One of Enns’s key conclusions is that Paul’s Adam is not the Adam of Genesis or the Old Testament.

There are a number perspectives that make sense out of the story of Genesis 2-4 in the context of the Old Testament. Enns elaborates on three in particular in this book.

(1) The story of Adam and Eve is an ancient story of origins, using the conventional wisdom of the day to make theological statements about Israel and about Israel’s God.

(2) The story of Adam is telling the story of the proto-Israelite rather than the proto-human. After all, those who compiled and edited the text we call the Old Testament in the exilic and post-exilic periods were concerned with answering questions about Israel and Israel’s relationship with Israel’s God. Any questions concerning human origins were secondary.

(3) In Chapter 5 Enns brings up a third perspective that complements the first two. The text of Genesis 2-4 is, he suggests, an example of Old Testament wisdom literature. This approach to Genesis has roots in the second century beginning with the writings of Irenaeus of Lyon and is still common in Eastern Orthodox thinking. When Genesis 2-4 is read side by side with Proverbs several different elements help make this connection. Elements of shrewdness and cunning play a key role, the serpent is more cunning than any other creature and outwits Eve. Eve lacks wisdom and attempts to fend off the serpent on her own before being deceived by the serpent’s half-truths.

Adam and Eve give in to their childish impulses, listen to the cunning serpent rather than to their Father and choose the path of foolishness which leads to death, rather than the path of wisdom, which leads to life. Adam and Eve’s disobedience is a failure to fear God.

Following the path of wisdom yields life. The Adam story depicts this as maintaining access to the tree of life. Likewise in Proverbs wisdom leads to life, and wisdom is referred to as “a tree of life to those who lay hold of her” (3:18; cf. 11:30). This is why Adam and Eve, when they take their own path toward wisdom and eat the forbidden fruit, are barred from eating of the tree of life. (p. 90)

Does the possibility that Genesis 3 is wisdom literature make sense?

Is the Adam of Genesis Paul’s Adam?

These three perspectives on Genesis 2-4 are not mutually exclusive – in particular the view of Adam as proto-Israel and Genesis 3 as Wisdom Literature are complementary ways to see the text at work. Nor need these three exhaust the depth of meaning in the text. It is also important to note that none of these approaches diminish the text, disregard the text, or consider it an errant part of scripture. All of them consider the text as inspired Scripture conveying the meaning that God and the original authors and editors intended.

But Paul’s Adam? Missing from this survey however, is the view of Adam we have derived from Paul in Romans 5. According to Enns “The role that Paul assigns to Adam in this vital passage is largely unique to Paul in the ancient world, and it moves well beyond what Genesis and the Old Testament have to say.”  (p. 81)

Enns make this statement claiming a distinction between Paul’s Adam and the Adam of Genesis and the Old Testament because Adam is not a key part of any Old Testament narrative save Genesis 2-3.  Adam’s role in 4-5 is as a father, his role in Chronicles is as the beginning of Israel’s genealogy, but nowhere is there even passing focus on him or on his sin beyond this. Some point to Hosea 6:7  as a counter example.

As at Adam, they have broken the covenant; they were unfaithful to me there (NIV).

Adam in this verse could refer to a place as the word clearly does in Joshua 3:16, it could refer to humans (‘adam = man), or it could refer to the Adam of Genesis 3. Collins discusses Hosea 6:7 in his book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? and Enns gives his own view in this chapter. But this is the only possible specific allusion to Adam and his sin outside of Genesis. The general context of the Old Testament makes a translation as “man” or a specific place more likely. But even if the ESV has the better translation “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.” the text still says absolutely nothing about Adam’s transgression as a cause for the transgressions of those who came after. He is but one example in a list. And this is consistent with the conclusion Enns draws.

The Old Testament portrays humanity in general and Israel in particular as out of harmony with God, but the root cause of this condition is nowhere laid at Adam’s feet. (p. 84)

Adam and Eve suffer consequences for their disobedience – and the consequences certainly effect future generations. But the effect of Adam’s sin on Adam’s children is not of a fundamentally different kind than the effect of other sins on subsequent generations, as one example the effect of Israel’s turn from God on those who experienced exile and return from exile.

Among all of these consequences, however, we do not read that hereafter all humans will be born into a state of sinfulness from which all efforts to eradicate oneself are in vain. Leaving Paul to the side for the time being, this is not what Genesis says, which is the only point I am interested in here. (p. 85)

The Old Testament contains story after story where God enters into relationship with people and by and large people fail. But there is no indication that this is because of an ontological change resulting from Adam’s sin. God’s warning to Cain assumes that he can act rightly, Noah was “a righteous man, blameless in his generation”, “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away”, Moses calls Israel to follow God with every assumption that they can do so. The prophets call for repentance and a return to God’s ways. “[T]he recurring focus in the Old Testament is on Israel’s choice whether or not to obey God’s law.” (p. 87)

Paul reads Genesis in the light of what he knows of Christ. Paul isn’t focused on Genesis or on Adam. Rather Paul is unabashedly Christ-centered in his focus.

Paul’s view of the depth of universal, inescapable human alienation from God is completely true, but is also beyond what is articulated in the Old Testament in general or Genesis specifically.

To admit as much is not to cast aspersions on Scripture. Rather, allowing Paul’s distinctive voice to surface will help us come to terms with the impact that Christ’s death and resurrection has on how Israel’s theology is to be understood in fresh ways. (p. 87-88)

Paul isn’t wrong, and again there is not error creeping into scripture, nor a failure in the process of inspiration.

At this point it might seem logical for some to conclude that Paul was “wrong,” but the matter is far too rich and interesting to jump to this conclusion – and Paul is far too skilled a thinker. “Right” and “wrong” are false choices. Paul’s subtle and creative theological appropriation of the Adam story deserves its own patient and respectful hearing. (p. 92)

In the post last Thursday I looked at the way Matthew used Hosea 11:1 to make sense out of the story of Jesus. Matthew correctly saw story of the Old Testament from beginning to end wrapped up in the story of God culminating in Jesus. Matthew saw Jesus as representative of Israel and as the Son of God. In a similar way, Enns suggests, Paul sees everything including the story of Adam through the lens of what he now knew about Jesus. His interpretative approach was consistent with the conventions of his day, but not with the conventions of our day – he was not doing straight exegesis. Paul’s Adam is not the Adam of Genesis – and the gospel does not depend on finding Paul’s Adam in Genesis.

The approach taken by Enns here will no doubt stretch the thinking of many. To make his point more clearly Enns moves on in the next chapter to take a careful look at the way Paul used the Hebrew Scriptures in his writing and in his arguments. We’ll look at this in the next post.

For now though, what do you think?

Does the gospel depend on finding Paul’s Adam in Genesis?

What is the focus of Paul in Romans 5?

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  • DanS

    There is too much here to even begin to respond to – it would take a book.

    Enns presumes to psychoanalyze Paul and inform us of what Paul “really” meant, using some elaborate system of contextual clues and historical scholarship to make the text say almost the opposite of what it says.

    My reaction is the same as C.S. Lewis reaction to Bultman. “These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards way in broad daylight.”

    Enns is not Bultmann, but the error is similar. The “true meaning” of the text is so far removed from the text itself, only discoverable through amazing new revelations about ancient cultures that apparently eluded the entire church for 2000 years only recently to be discovered by “scholars”. So when we read in Genesis that Adam is told death would come if he disobeyed and the rest of Genesis includes account after account of patriarchs whose epitaph concludes with “and he died” we are to agree with Enns that the Old Testament contains no implication of original sin or death through sin? I think Augustine and Luther would be a bit surprised at that, as would countless others. And when Paul explicitly links Adam to sin and death as a parallel to Christ we are to believe that Paul meant something more “rich and interesting?”

    Just how does one respond to this short of writing page after page after page and wasting hours and hours to defend what ought not need defending?

    I think Lewis words can be borrowed here as well: “…the Biblical critics, whatever reconstructions they devise, can never be crudely proved wrong. St. Mark is dead. When they meet St. Peter, there will be more pressing matters to discuss.”

  • This discussion is great – I really appreciate it. I wonder, though, what kind of trouble we borrow if we leave it at two, independently operating narratives of Adam. Should we look for how they might interact or complement each other? I’m certainly not afraid of dialectic or tension, but it’s often so easy to use Paul to move to a supersessionist reading, so I’d like to look into more cooperative possiblities.

  • John Inglis

    Re Dan S’s observation on criticism.

    That may be true, but it can equally be said to be true of the traditional western reading of the text. Even more so for the latter as it assumed its own truth and naturalness without adequate attempt to ground itself in the cultural and anthropological contexts of the times when Scriptures were written.

  • “Right” and “wrong” are false choices.

    That does not preach.

  • Dan S, are you engaging Enns’ text itself or are you presuming that he “psychoanalyzes” Paul and he’s just another Bultmann because you read what C.S. Lewis said about Bultmann? I tend to be skeptical when I see the word “psychoanalysis” being thrown around because it’s the first go-to critique for many people when debunking someone else’s Biblical interpretation. Share an example of this psychoanalysis if you would.

    I don’t think there’s any question that we read Genesis the way we do because of Paul’s influence and Augustine’s later doctrinal response to it. Nothing outside Paul’s writings talks about Genesis 2-4 representing a “fall” that ontologically changed the nature of humanity forever. That doesn’t mean that we get to chuck Paul out of the canon, but it is legitimate to name the fact that our inherited interpretation of Genesis is Pauline and Augustinian. The Eastern Orthodox have never adopted Augustine’s systematic formulation of Paul’s midrash in Romans.

  • scotmcknight


    If you are a Protestant you’ve undercut your whole argument against Enns, which (at least in part, if not more) is that the church simply couldn’t be wrong this long … while a Protestant makes exactly that argument about justification, etc. If it can be wrong for 1500 years, can it be wrong for 2000?

    Quit complaining and take Enns on in his own terms: Do you think Paul’s Adam story is the same, different, very different, nuanced, whatever, in comparison with Genesis? That’s the issue at hand.

  • Phil

    Was there anyone in the early Church who denied that Adam was the first Human? Real Question… enlighten me?

  • Scot,

    Is this really worthy of comparing to the Protestant understanding of justification? In other words, is Enns saying that accepting his interpretation of Adam and Genesis is the only way forward for orthodox Christianity? Is he anticapting a split at the same level as what Luther and the Reformers initiated?

    If not, I think DanS makes a very legitimate argument.

  • scotmcknight

    Joey, no you are right: Enns is not saying anything like that. Nor was I. He’s not saying this view will revolutionize history. But DanS makes the claim the church couldn’t have been this wrong this long. That’s all I wanted to push against. No Protestant can make that argument without some nuance because all Protestants want to say the message of justification by faith alone got buried in history and needed to be rediscovered. This is in part a purely historical argument. That’s what Pete Enns is doing.

    In fact, because “Adam” is not at the same level as justification (some might want to dispute that) then it would be even easier to get buried.

    What Enns is observing is worth serious consideration: is Paul’s Adam a different narrative about Adam than we find prior to his time? Or, Does the OT teach the necessity of salvation because of the Adamic condition? (Where in the OT do we find that Adamic narrative?)

  • Joe Canner

    DanS #1: “So when we read in Genesis that Adam is told death would come if he disobeyed and the rest of Genesis includes account after account of patriarchs whose epitaph concludes with “and he died” we are to agree with Enns that the Old Testament contains no implication of original sin or death through sin?”

    This is a brilliant example of the “correlation equals causation” fallacy. There is no prima faciae reason to believe that Adam’s sin *caused* the death of subsequent patriarchs. It’s not even clear that Adam’s sin caused his own physical death. Adam was told that “when you eat from it you will certainly die” but he didn’t die until much later. It’s also not clear that he would have lived forever if he hadn’t sinned, seeing as how he was kicked out of the garden so that he wouldn’t “reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

    So, can we have this discussion without having to rehash original sin? It’s plenty enough self-evident that there is sin in the world and in our own hearts without having to concoct a theological argument for it.

  • Scot,

    Thanks for clarifying. I agree “nuance” is required when using the argument that the church couldn’t have been wrong for this long, as a Protestant. I am trying myself to discover and apply that nuance, and am not sure if I have been successful. Still, the precedent of church history is still very valuable, and as it relates to justification, I have been encouraged studying the church fathers and seeing that this truth didn’t get “buried” altogether; many celebrated it in the first centuries, fewer through the years, only to be fully recovered in the mainstream through the Reformation. But its not like Luther invented justification, so there is the teaching in church history from the beginning.

    I acknowlegde that Enns does not compare himself to Luther as it relates to his contributions on this topic. But whereas Luther used both Scripture and the precedent of church history (church fathers at some scale), I do wonder, alongside his interpretation of Scripture, what Enns looks to for church history precedent for his views. He should have some, I would think. I realize I have not read much of his work so I apologize for my ignorance here.

  • AHH

    Phil @7,
    I don’t know the answer to your question, but I don’t think it is relevant to this particular post.

    The question here is not whether early interpreters saw Adam as the first human, but instead whether the OT portrays him as key to the story, the source of human sin, as the modern church has inherited from Augustine (and maybe from Paul). Once we see that Adam (whether first human or not) is not central to the OT story and that making him the source of a “Fall” is foreign to the OT and not widely held by Jewish interpreters at the time of Paul, then we can consider what Paul was doing by reinterpreting the Adam story in that way.

  • CGC

    HI Everyone,
    I think Enn’s has some profound insights like understanding Genesis within the context of Israel, not “reading into” Paul an Augustinian intepretation of original sin, and reading all of scripture from a Christological viewpoint. I think this all has serious merit and is worthy of our further attention.

    Unfortunately when Enn says things like Paul is speaking of a different Adam from Genesis nor is there a historical Adam at all, I think he will end up losing more folks than not and therefore what good insights he has will then be dismissed at the end sadly enough. I hope I am wrong but that is my take on it.

  • CGC

    Hi Morgan,
    I wonder if there are any Eastern Orthodox on this list to reply to your comment about them? My understanding of EO is not that they disbelieve Paul’s midrash as you put it but they disbelieve Augustine’s midrash over Pauline theology!

    Grace and peace – Chris

  • RJS

    CGC (#13),

    It is a good point – we should be careful to avoid unnecessary rhetoric that prevents people from actually listening to an argument. My headline makes a bit more of this than Enns does in his book, although not much. I think we need to be able to discuss the issue at the core here.

    AHH (#12),

    Thanks, that is exactly the question. And we need to consider what Paul was doing – because this is where his Christological insight and his “inspiration” really comes to the fore. This Christological focus is, I think, the key message in Paul.

  • CGC

    PS – Sorry about that, as I re-read your words, we’re probably saying the same thing about Augustine.

  • Stephen W

    It had never occurred to me before that the idea of original sin came from Paul rather than from the old testament. Hopefully I’l be getting hold of Enns’ book soon – from this and previous posts, it sounds like it should be very interesting.

  • I think perhaps Paul in the Genesis account what DanS sees — that Adam, though intended to enjoy life, brought death upon himself by his disobedience, and that everyone after him also experienced death. Though correlation does not necessarily prove causation, I expect Paul (and probably many other Jews, saw the correlation. And he certainly cause the causation. If he were merely a Jew giving us his own ideas, I would think we could take or leave his ideas.

    But if he was writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as I believe he was, then what he writes about Adam and the causation of death in the world and the correlation of death coming subsequently on all, then I take that as the truth. And the correlation DanS notes, though not conclusive, shows that there is some basis to look in that direction.

    So, I don’t think Paul is presenting something that is very different from the Genesis accounts. It looks to me more like he is connecting the dots for us, and that by the Holy Spirit.

  • RJS

    Jeff (#18),

    To a large extent I agree with you – Paul is connecting the dots to make a point about Jesus and his role as savior and Messiah; he is also inspired in what he says. I am sure we still disagree about where this takes us though.

  • Joe Canner

    Jeff #18: You are right: the lack of evidence for causation does not rule out causation, given the correlation and given what Paul says.

    However, I would question what difference it makes. Paul was not writing to prove propositions about Genesis, he is simply taking it as a given that all humanity has sinned from beginning, with the beginning represented by Adam. His argument is not weakened in the least by the lack of a literal Adam.

  • Jon G

    I look at Adam, not as the cause of our sinfulness, but the example of it…and when I say sinfulness, I mean self-centeredness. I believe sin is putting ourselves in God’s place. And when we are at the center of our lives, we tend to do all sorts of destructive things to ourselves and those around us.

    For me, Original Sin is that we are all born with a focus on ourselves. Sanctification is the process by which we allow God to take up His rightful place in that center and we move aside.

    Therefore, as I see it, Adam was the way the author(s) of Genesis depicted our self-centeredness and all the problems that come from it.

  • Joe Canner, my point is that what Paul writes about Adam is not very different from what Genesis tells us about Adam. It certainly is not in contradiction to the what Genesis says. But he is saying something more than just that all humanity has sinned from the beginning. He says that sin came into the world through Adam (Romans 5:12), that death entered the world through sin, “and thus death spread to all men because all have sinned.” He is not just saying that it happened, that sin and death came into the world and spread to all men; he tells us how it happened. This explanation matches the correlation in Genesis that DanS described earlier. Inasmuch as Paul tells us how and not merely that, I think his argument would indeed be weakened by lack of a literal Adam. If his point was merely that sin happens and everyone is affect by it, he would not need to even mention Adam, because his argument we be merely existential.

  • Norman

    I believe Pete overstates his position in relation to the lack of Adamic theology found within the OT. There are a couple of problems here because the Hebrew literature embraces two words for man or mankind in the OT. Adam’s usage as applied to man typically flows in context with the idea of a covenant relationship regarding the people of God. Another word that is also used and sometimes in the same sentence is the word “eesh” which is also translated as man or mankind. Eesh often times connotes general mankind outside of the covenant people and let me supply an example.

    Gen 2: 23 The MAN (Adam) said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of MAN (eesh).” That is why a MAN (eesh) leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

    This prophecy according to Paul was about Christ and the church and “the man” Adam represents the covenant man whom Christ fulfilled. However Eve was taken out of “eesh” or general mankind at large and also “eesh” (general mankind) leaves the world to be joined together into one with Christ/God the “son of Adam”.

    Eph 5: for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” THIS IS A PROFOUND MYSTERY—but I am talking about CHRIST AND THE CHURCH.

    We also need to keep in mind the term “SON OF MAN” found extensively in Ezekiel which more accurately reflects “son of adam” and is a term applied by Christ to Himself reflects His continuity with Israel all the way back to Adam as the first covenant man. There would be a huge difference theologically if the term “son of eesh” reflecting general mankind had been appropriated by Ezekiel.

    Also one needs to keep in mind that Paul was a product of second Temple Judaism which did not limit itself to just the OT canon that we have limited ourselves to. There are extensive writings concerning Adam amounting to commentary upon which Paul was familiar with such as the Book of Jubilees written about 150BC that presents Adam extensively as the forerunner of Israel. It also projects that Adam’s failure to live to the eternal 1000 years of a lifespan was due to his failure in the Garden. There is much material that Paul would have interfaced with which would have assisted him in his applications of Adam in Romans and 1 Corinthians. The Jews simply do not limit themselves the way we do because of our acquired theologies over the years. It’s highly problematic that they would have embraced our limited idea of the OT canon.

    Jubilees 4:29 … Adam died, … And he lacked seventy years of one thousand years; for ONE THOUSAND YEARS ARE AS ONE DAY in the testimony of the heavens and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge: ‘On the day that ye eat thereof ye shall die.’ FOR THIS REASON HE DID NOT COMPLETE THE YEARS OF THIS DAY; FOR HE DIED DURING IT.

    Also I might mention that it was generally an Israelite from the covenant lineage of Adam that would have the term “he died and slept with his fathers”. If you notice that Cain’s lineage was not allowed that designation since he had been cast out as already dead to God because of his murder of Abel. However Seth and onward with the covenant line were always highlighted that they died and as they became more corrupt their life spans decreased indicating their further growing distance from God and Garden life. These are theological implications and not biological ones.

    However I also agree with much that Pete presents.

  • D. Foster

    Romans 5 is tricky in translating. I’m not any kind of expert in Greek, but this is how Romans 5:12 appears to translate to me: “As through one sin of man it [sin] entered the world, and death through sin, *and thus death spread to all men by their all sinned*…”

    The parts between the asterisks is my translation of “kai outos eis pantas anthropous ho thanatos dielthen eph io panten hemarton.” The statement about sin “spread[ing] to all men” is not about a passive ontological state in which Mankind finds itself born because of Adam’s mistake: it is a statement about Mankind’s universal *participation* in Adam’s sin. Paul is not making a statement about being what we call “born in sin,” but our partaking in sin, by which we receive our due “wages” (6:22).

    That makes more sense of the parallel between the Old Man (Adam) and the New Man (Jesus). The Life of Jesus in 5:16, which Paul describes as “abounding” to all men, is not about how Mankind passively finds itself in a new ontological state of salvation because of what Jesus did. The Life of Jesus has to be received and participated in. Likewise, I think Paul’s point is that Adam’s sin spread to all men by all men receiving and partaking in it.

    Just a thought.


  • D. Foster

    Correction to my translation: “and thus death spread to all men by their all HAVING sinned…”


  • scotmcknight


    This comment was by Stephen, and I had to add this because he couldn’t get it to appear … and now I fear it is a bit late:

    Your comment offers a classic example of polemical rhetoric. You level numerous marginalizing charges against Enns (especially invoking “Bultman” [sic] and “psychoanalysis” of the Biblical text; both things that more theologically interested evangelicals will recognize as very bad), fail really to engage with the substance of his arguments, (ironically) make some of the same moves of which you accuse Enns, and justify your non-engagement with the claim that a comment doesn’t provide adequate space to engage.
    One example, and particularly entertaining, you accuse Enns of just “reading between the lines” and ignoring the “text itself.” Your following defense of reading traditional Protestant doctrines of Sin (imputation and corruption of people in their specific theological forms) into Genesis is how a genealogy a couple chapters after Gen 2-3 talks about people dying. Talk about “reading in between the lines.” You don’t think numerous other assumptions must be in place for that argument to hold, in particular the assumption that Genesis 2-3 just must be talking about your theology? No doubt Enns’ work is illegitimate “reading in between the lines” while your positions derive from sound and sophisticated exegesis?
    One more thing, when you lob a polemical grenade like this that tries to marginalize someone (e.g., Enns) through associations that are also supposed to demonstrate your intellectual mastery of relevant material and Enns’ place in the practice of scholarship (e.g., so people listen to you), you may want to learn the correct spelling of key figures you invoke: BultmanN.

  • Tom

    CGC @14
    I am not EO but , you might want to check out Beginnings by Peter Bouteneff. He is a professor at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary. I am reading it now and it is very informative.

    Stephen W @17
    It could be that “original sin”, at least the idea of it I was taught, came not from the OT or Paul but from Augustine.

  • Joe Canner

    Jeff #22, I do not question (although others with better Greek skills than I might) that Paul may have understood, based on Genesis and lacking any other reason not to, that Adam introduced sin into the world, and perhaps even caused subsequent generations to sin.

    What I question is that it is essential to the argument. Paul is making an almost poetic parallel between Adam, the *one* who started it all, and Jesus, the *one* who fixed it all. While the argument loses some of its poetic effect if Adam is not *one* but *many*, it does not at all detract from the argument that Jesus is the solution.

    In fact, I think you would be on shaky ground to propose that Jesus’ unique ability to be the solution somehow depends on there being a single Adam. Hebrews, for example, makes the case repeatedly that Jesus’ death was uniquely sufficient without referring at all to Adam.

  • Dan Arnold


    You are right that the last phrase, beginning with ἐφʼ ᾧ eph’ hO is notoriously tricky to translate. It truly is ambiguous which makes it interesting that most protestant translations translate it similarly. It could mean because (NRSV, NASB, NLT, ESV); it could mean with the result that. It could also be demonstratative (inasmuch NAB). Part of the problem is what the pronoun hO refers to. Is it Adam (in whom)? is it sin (in which)? Or it could be understood more literally (in that KNT – NT Wright). I actually think that your first post was a bit better since the verb for sinned is aorist, not perfect.

    If I’m looking for a more formal equivalent, I’d end up going with something like this:

    Therefore [through this], just as through one man, sin came into the world – and through sin, death – so also sin pierced into all humanity in as much as [as demonstrated by] everyone sinned.

  • RJS


    I’ve read (and posted) on Bouteneff’s book. It is very informative – and gives a perspective on these questions that we don’t usually get. He doesn’t argue anything about Adam in particular (literal, not literal) if I remember right – but does discuss how the Adam story was used in the OT, in the NT, in 2nd Temple Jewish literature, and by the early church fathers prior to Augustine.

  • Joe Canner,

    Paul contrasts two very real conditions: the one that is in Adam and the one that is in Jesus the Messiah. He does not merely speak generically that all have sinned. The condition of sin and death in the world had a beginning, and Paul locates that beginning in Adam. Likewise, the condition that exists for in Jesus the Messiah (justification and life) also had a beginning. Paul locates that in the “righteous act” and obedience of Jesus the Messiah. The fact that Paul makes a very elequent parallel only strengthens the case that the entrance of sin and death through Adam was historical, just as the “righteous act” of Jesus the Messiah was historical. The death and resurrection of Jesus was not a mythical or non-historical truth — it was grounded firmly in time and space.

  • DanS

    Since I have a day job, I’ve been out of this all day. Scot suggested:

    “If you are a Protestant you’ve undercut your whole argument against Enns, which (at least in part, if not more) is that the church simply couldn’t be wrong this long … while a Protestant makes exactly that argument about justification, etc. If it can be wrong for 1500 years, can it be wrong for 2000?”

    Not all protestants are of the “no creed but Christ” variety and I believe the Reformers found Justification in both Scripture and the fathers (Augustine, Athanasius, Chrisostom, etc.) While not placing too much weight on Tradition, even in my “biblicist” college hermeneutics classes I was taught to look to church history for insight into biblical interpretation.

    At any rate, few historic Protestants would deny the essence of the Nicene Creed – they do NOT make the argument that the whole church was wrong since the first century and since Paul, as Enns seems to say regarding Adam. The question is, who among interpreters across 2000 years of church history, saw Adam as a less than historical? And who prior to the 20th century would think Paul was merely “appropriating” an ancient story to teach a theological truth when he stated “through one man sin entered…and death through sin … in Adam all die”?

    Scot continues: “Quit complaining (Really?) and take Enns on in his own terms: Do you think Paul’s Adam story is the same, different, very different, nuanced, whatever, in comparison with Genesis? That’s the issue at hand.

    Obviously I think Paul’s Adam story is the same as the Genesis story. Romans 5 makes no sense at all without that connection. “…For if the many died by the trespass of the ONE MAN, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the ONE MAN, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of ONE MAN’S SIN: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the ONE MAN, death reigned through that ONE MAN, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Forgive the CAPS, just no way to do italics.)

    As I’ve repeated in comments at least twice, Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians deals with MY resurrection, and the whole argument “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” fails if either half of the equation are just a “story” without a basis in reality. That’s why Lewis’ jibe about “reading between the lines” while not seeing the text itself is spot on.

    I cannot read the Old Testament without seeing the connection between sin and death. It is there in the deaths of the patriarchs, it is thick in the tabernacle and the Levitical sacrifices, the Psalms and the prophets. It is there in Hebrews in the New Testament, and Paul’s case in Romans and Corinthians only makes the connection to Adam more explicit.

    I wish I could engage in a nice conversation about this issue, but I cannot. “Whence came evil? What is the origin of sin and death?” are not side issues. The answer to those questions from the perspective of theistic evolution is radically different from what most Christians for 2000 years have believed, and I hesitate to say the TE even provides an answer at all. The end result is that for me, without a compelling answer to that question, Christianity becomes no more compelling than any other philosophy built on a moralistic “story”.

    I’m not whining or complaining, I’m making the very serious point that Enns’ argument, if I accepted it, would compel me to agnosticism as a matter of intellectual honesty, and I think I speak for a great many people in saying so. I am animated because I am simply grieving over the reality that erstwhile evangelicals are repeating the same trajectory that has decimated the mainline. I fear it is too late to do anything about it.

  • RJS


    I don’t think this is the same trajectory that decimated the mainline. It most certainly does not turn Christianity into a moralistic story – in fact at its very root it is an acknowledgment that God is in his heaven and that God interacts with his people.

    AHH at #12 hit the key point here.

    The question here is not whether early interpreters saw Adam as the first human, but instead whether the OT portrays him as key to the story, the source of human sin, as the modern church has inherited from Augustine (and maybe from Paul). Once we see that Adam (whether first human or not) is not central to the OT story and that making him the source of a “Fall” is foreign to the OT and not widely held by Jewish interpreters at the time of Paul, then we can consider what Paul was doing by reinterpreting the Adam story in that way.

    There is no attempt to remove the pervasive and complete reality of human sin from consideration.

    There is no attempt to suggest that we can build the kingdom of God through our efforts on earth.

    There is no attempt to remove the Holy Righteousness of God from the picture.

    There is no attempt to debunk miracles, the supernatural, or the reality of the God’s concrete action in the world.

    From whence came evil is a big question – but your view of the fall doesn’t really answer it. The serpent was in the Garden. Evil already had a foothold. So from whence did come evil? Not from the sin of Adam. Not even if we take literal historical interpretation of the garden story, a 6000 year old earth, and vegetarian tigers.

  • Luke Allison

    “From whence came evil is a big question – but your view of the fall doesn’t really answer it. The serpent was in the Garden. Evil already had a foothold. So from whence did come evil? Not from the sin of Adam. Not even if we take literal historical interpretation of the garden story, a 6000 year old earth, and vegetarian tigers.”

    Key to this particular line of thought: If evil was a result of the “Fall”, what is Adam tasked to “guard” the garden from in Genesis 2:15? There is far more going on in that creation story (and before it) then we have any ability to comprehend, methinks.

    But of course, DanS represents a lot of people. This is terrifying stuff.

  • Tom

    RJS, I just mentioned Bouteneff because he is EO ,don’t want to get off topic. By the way if lions will eat straw in the future why can’t we have vegetarian tigers. 🙂

    I would not want to see DanS or anyone else compelled to agnosticism. It seems the point of Enn’s book is to prevent just that. It was written for those who can no longer accept an historical Adam, to show them they do not have to give up the faith.


  • RJS



    I think that the future, new heavens and new earth, will be different in some fundamental way … maybe it has something to do with Paul’s struggles over “spiritual bodies” but this is all “through a glass darkly” stuff. So in the future – vegetarian tigers, yes if eating is part of the mix 8) .

    Pete’s book and my discussion of this topic are driven by the fact that we don’t want ourselves or anyone one else compelled to agnosticism. I certainly don’t have all the answers, and I don’t agree with everything Pete argues – but there are many useful things to consider here.

  • Norman

    I think there is a tendency for scholars today to believe that Genesis was written from some kind of literal ANE framework that became re-interpreted by later Jews such as Paul. I would posit that part of the problem is that Genesis was never intended to be anything close to a literal rendition in the first place and that Paul, John and other second temple Jews were interpreting it as the symbolic genre it was created to illustrate. If we pay attention to John’s Revelation we see that the Genesis motif’s are picked back up in a classical Jewish second temple approach. We can use the example of Rev 12 in noticing that the Woman with child who represents Eve as the mother and Christ and the infant church as the child being pursued by the ancient Satan.

    Rev 12:5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, … 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world …11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb …17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring,

    If John a contemporary of Paul can understand Genesis from a purely symbolic approach and with all of the second temple literature abounding that was available to Paul then we are really stretching things to infer that Paul was writing literally in Romans 5:12 about sin and death as we want to imagine. It is unmistakable that Paul treats “death” as symbolic of a broken relationship with God

    Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins … 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—

    We can call Paul and John’s approach to scripture a form of interpretive “midrash” if we like but the bottom line is that we accept that interpretation as being the correct one about the coming of messiah. Paul’s “midrash” is the one we believe has the stamp of the Holy Spirit as it interprets the OT in lieu of the messianic promises.

    However so many people fail to read Romans 5:12 in the full context of the overall section of Romans 5-8 which is critical. Paul is dealing with two different layers of “sin” in this section and one is natural human sin that all humans are encumbered with and the second one was in regards to a specific sin regarding trying to utilize a commandment or Law from God by human effort to effect our righteousness. We all know that as the conflict between works and grace. That is the foundational problem of the “sin” that Paul is addressing. In fact if we look closely Paul is laying out Adam ‘s background in the Garden scene in which before the “commandment” came there was natural sin going on but it was not counted against Adam until the “law” came and he broke it. Romans 7 picks this same theme of Paul’s back up to draw the conclusion that in God’s Garden life you simply can’t have a weak human approach to righteousness via the Law but one needs a heavenly spiritual approach called life through the Spirit of Christ as concluded in Romans 8.

    Rom 5:13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.

    Rom 7:9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.

    Rom 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

    In other words Christ restores the faithful person to a Garden walk with God via the Spirit by doing away with the specific “sin” that is entangled with Law keeping. Again “sin” is still in the world of the believer but sin is not counted when one is back in the Garden through Christ.
    Not being aware of the contextual argument that Paul is making regarding “sin” creates a mindset that becomes overly difficult to grasp Paul’s definition of sin. Paul sees sin as the natural predisposition of humanity but he is dealing with a specific “sin” that corrupted Adam and Israel in their approach to God via the Law. This not only was a problem for Adam/Israel but this presented a problem for anyone Jew or Gentile that approached God in that manner. ALL SINNED because the way of the Spirit had not arrived and man through his own approaches to God was under this curse until Christ set all free. All sinned because the Garden was not open for business until Christ allowed us to not have our natural sins counted against us.

    I recommend that one read Romans 5-8 in one setting with this concept in view and IMO Paul won’t be as out of step with Genesis as some have made him out to be.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    To RJS, vegetarian tigers, now that made me laugh today (thanks 🙂 And by the way, sometimes in conversatoins like these we need to relax more and a laugh more . . . .

    On a more serious note about vegetarian tigers, other related issues to that, what about the teeth of tigers. Were they not created for tearing and chewing meat? And what about no death before the fall? Really? I’m not sure anyone is suggesting the kind of creation science as Ken Ham does but when people come up with these kinds of interpretations of scriptures, it seems they raise more questions and problems than answers to Genesis.

    To Norman and all,
    I can’t help but feel we fall into the old literal/symbolic trap on issues like Genesis? Is an either/or the best way to approach the issues much less how Genesis presents reality itself? Whether Paul used allegory or Midrash is besides the point. How does history and theology meet is the deeper question but it seems like these discussions just digress into the kind of conversations that happened between fundamentalists and modernists. It’s all literal? Really? It’s all symbolic? Really? Is it possible it’s both is some way? Is it possible that the fourfold Jewish hermenutics that closely parellels Catholic’s four-fold use of scripture should have both a literal to figurative, a historical to spiritual meaning of the text? With all the talk about the history of the church, and what most Christians have always believed, I’m just asking?

  • Luke Allison


    I just had a conversation with a conservative evangelical friend about this, and I feel he represented a large group of folks in his attitude:
    1. Still a huge alarm system built around the very word “evolution” (this is someone who is educated and intelligent)
    2. A continuous back-pedaling away from the idea that modern science has effectively ‘proven’ anything. In his mind, “Science” is foolish guessing game propagated by godless baby-killers seeking to create a new Tower of Babel. Again: this person is educated and intelligent. You can’t make this stuff up.
    3. Rather than taking the stance of: “I’m not an evolutionary biologist, so I’ll defer to them on matters of , well, evolutionary biology”, he chooses to say: “They’re not conservative evangelicals, so who knows what kind of crazy things they can come up with?” (My rocket scientist brother forever changed my world back in my early twenties when he looked at a ‘creation science’ book I was reading and asked me if I would listen to a bricklayer teaching about film theory)
    4. I sense every once in a while that this person would like to believe in evolution, but there’s a tremendous fear (of hell? of God? of social exclusion?) that pulls the curtains closed again.
    5. His attitude toward me, while congenial for the most part, wavers between “agree to disagree” and “I’m not sure we should be hanging out”

    All of this to say: What in the world are we going to do?

  • RJS


    There is an alarm system attached to evolution, and a misunderstanding about what science does or does not prove. The change here will be slow and I don’t think it will really come until long after my time. But I’ll continue to try to chip away at some of it.

  • AHH

    Luke @39,

    Part of what will help relates to your point #3, the distrust of science that does not come from “conservative evangelicals”. When results of science are communicated not from atheists but from scientists who are their fellow conservative evangelicals (Francis Collins, Dennis Venema, Alister McGrath, Darrel Falk, RJS, etc.) that at least disarms this a little bit. The cultural training to view evolutionary science as an atheist conspiracy is powerful, but it slowly chips away at that fallacy to have devout Christians in science also saying “evolution (common descent) has clearly happened and the church shouldn’t be in denial”.

    And I think you are right that there is a lot of fear tied up in this issue; like you I can’t quite put my finger on what the fear is at its core. I guess when the church trains people to be in “us versus them” mode, and evolution is associated with “them” in the culture wars (reinforced by things like the bumper-sticker “fish wars”), considering that God might have used evolution as a tool in creating feels like consorting with the enemy.

  • AHH

    Luke @39,

    One more thought on ways to make progress. As you articulated in your post, there is great fear around the concept of “evolution”, and that is certainly one problem.

    But an equally large problem is the fear that science (including evolution) undermines the Bible. That is the aspect that Pete Enns’ book is trying to address. In my opinion, for the church to get healthier on that front will require weaning it away from the shallow Biblicism that dominates Evangelicalism, away from the idea that our whole faith depends on having a magically perfect book by Enlightenment standards, toward a more nuanced view that affirms the authority and inspiration of Scripture while rejecting the common Docetic approach that ignores the humanity of the authors. Interaction of faith with science is only one of the ways in which such Biblicism harms the church.

  • Norman


    I don’t have a problem at all with allegory and the historical meeting. In the example I presented earlier you noticed that Rev 12 used the symbolic to represent true historical events in history. Eve is projected as the mother of all the living and John in Revelation picks up on her as the woman who brings forth a child and the rest of her offspring. It’s pretty evident that they took the historical past, present and future as the reality of real people and events. It just so happens they are described in the symbolical terms. It’s the same with their interpretation of Genesis as it’s obvious they understood Genesis from a historical picture and it makes sense to realize that Israel believed their covenant beginnings started somewhere back in history and the Adam character represents that reality. Now I doubt if they know who it was or even how far back the Adam character existed but that wasn’t the detail they were interested in. What we have to be careful with is applying the symbolic details in such a manner that we get off track to their overriding point of theological implications. That was their drop dead bottom line point.

    It reminds me of the mythological story of the beginnings of Rome where Romulus and Remus suckle the she wolf for sustenance. Now we all know that is a fabricated story but it does reflect that there indeed was a historical beginning to Rome at one time and that particular ANE story served their purpose in more ways than one. The Hebrew account of Adam and Eve likewise serve the Jewish purpose in many theological appropriate ways and in a much more sophisticated manner.

  • Can someone please answer DanS’s question in #32? I asked the same, worded differently, in #11:

    “The question is, who among interpreters across 2000 years of church history, saw Adam as less than historical? And who prior to the 20th century would think Paul was merely “appropriating” an ancient story to teach a theological truth when he stated “through one man sin entered…and death through sin … in Adam all die”?

    There might be a really good answer to this (I hope so!). I just want to hear thoughts on it besides a version of “its not relevant”. It might not be relevant. But humor me that it is.


  • Norman


    Maybe answers have been given but you don’t like them based upon some preconceived ideas that not everyone agrees with you on.

    I’ve laid out a first century theological position that fits the context of the time but perhaps doesn’t mesh with later variations of different Christian views over the last 2000 years. Christians have been all over the map on some of these points and trying to hold people’s views to those rising up over the centuries who had less information and details available to them than modern biblical scholarship provides is a problematic approach.

    We are able to bring much more to the discussion with substantially more freedom than has occurred over the historical past. Your premise is flawed and severely limited IMO.

    People used to get burned at the stake for questioning the leadership whether Catholic or Protestant. Then later as increased freedom arose people were shunned and excommunicated when they could no longer be killed outright if they weren’t in the inner circle. Kind of what happened to Christ and the early church don’t you think.

    Then various Church organizations coalesced around groups that intimidated or banned people and it’s still happening today. Just look at what John Piper and other militant reformed people are trying to do as we speak.

    Fortunately we have entered a time of great unprecedented freedom and that is why we are seeing breakthroughs happening. Similar to what happened with the printing press period but even greater by larger magnitudes. People won’t tolerate foolish thinking carrying the day and so serious minded faithful people are pressing on hoping to shed more light on subjects that have been repressed and hidden in the past by those in Power. The great equalizer of knowledge is having it’s say in ways never imagined before and I expect that to really be a challenging paradigm for large segments of Christianity as they have some of their extraneous beliefs examined in greater detail and by more knowledgeable people that has ever occurred in history since the church was established.

    It’s an exciting time to be alive and to see the beginning of how cultures move forward relegating the old substandard ways to the dust bin of history.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Well, I thought somebody did give a few church fathers who took the Adam and Eve story more figuratively to those who took it more literally? Of course, that begs the question on those who allegorized Genesis, does that mean they did not believe any of it literally or was that the conventional means for apologetics of their day?

    In regards to Norman’s comments, are you saying that the first century meaning of the NT texts was those writers who referred to Adam and Eve simply understood them not as historical people in their literary context and from the second century on, the later church got it wrong?

  • Norman,

    You ranted a little, but didn’t answer my question. Although you did offer a version of “it’s not relevant”, which is what I was trying not to get.

    You don’t think a precedent from orthodox church history is relevant for this issue. That’s ok, maybe it’s not. (Do others agree?) Just say that. I think it is and was merely asking for enlightenment on who, if anyone, Enns and others draw from in the early church who had these positions. Just humor me. Give me some names. Or are you saying there are none that were not “substandard”? You’re going to have to unpack that a little more for me to take it seriously. These are comments on a blog calling historical theology over the centuries “substandard”. I’m not convinced.

    These “exciting times” are never going to come to be as you say if you can’t gain common ground with those who just are concerned that this all is a new, different doctrine (1 Timothy 1) that is outside orthodoxy. These people exist, whether you like it or not. And they are Christians. They (we) are trying their (our) best to learn and gain common ground so that we all together can be a part of the exciting times, as free from division as possible. I personally think your approach is not moving us forward.

    I worry that what you think as exciting times is just a few people with a few books and comments on blogs that don’t represent any kind of “consensus” (at least yet). Prove me wrong! I am guessing I am wrong. But many here have said they don’t take AiG and organizations like that seriously from a scientific standpoint (I’m not saying I do either) because it does not represent scientific consensus – using the same principle, why would I take Enns and others seriously without some kind of theological consensus? Or at least someone (anyone!) from early historical orthodox Christianity that holds similar views.

    And by the way, I understand disagreements with John Piper. I really do. Some are fair. But you’ve jumped the shark if you consider him “militant reformed”. Have you ever met the man?

    We’re all in this together.

  • Norman


    I like a good rant every once in a while to illustrate that the high road of exasperation doesn’t just exist on one side. 😉

    I’ve answered your question in previous postings but you ignore them because they don’t fit your stereotype of what religious discussions should look like. I think I made it quite clear that over the last 2000 years that there is little religious consensus and trying to pull that power card just doesn’t cut it IMO. I’m not that interested in what variant conclusions that different church groups or so called fathers have expressed when it gets down to the bottom line. The standard was set in the first century by the infant church and its environment of second Temple Judaism. To ignore this period of fermenting and the Holy Spirit’s authorization of that time period and foster a western Hellenized version of interpretation is not good exegesis when it gets right down to it. You may disagree but it’s likely built upon appropriated western ideas of the church and not from an investigation of the purity of the churches origins. My position is that the best relevant historical evidence is being ignored by and large, especially by the less informed. I simply don’t bow to the pilgrimage toward fallible men whom have some good ideas occasionally but are sure not Holy Spirit inspired as was the first century church. If you want to declare someone as Holy Spirit infallible post the first century then start naming them and making your case for it to be so. Was it the Catholic, Eastern or Protestant church leaders?

    It takes time for ancient and medieval thinking to recede as it took the Catholic Church 500 years to admit they were wrong concerning Copernicus and Galileo. In fact I still know flat earthers, geocentric adherents and have even ran across someone who thinks there is an underworld still in existence in the middle of the Earth. We will always have the literalist emotionally driven

    Joey if we wanted consensus then we would all follow the Left behind crowd and the Pentecostals or perhaps we should all revert back to the Mother Catholic church. The truth doesn’t always find its way to the surface in the most obvious ways. It takes the test of time and even then there will be hangers on to the old ways who have vested emotional interest.

    Essentially Joey since theological positions doesn’t seem to interest you I’m responding in kind with yours and DanS’s approach. A little rant deserves another.;-)

  • Norman


    By the way concerning John Piper. I really enjoyed hearing him at the American Association of Christian Counselors a couple of years ago.

    My statement regarding militant Reformed simply means that he is aggressively seeking to control the movement in the directions that he prefers. That’s certainly not a novel idea but it was the context of my statement regarding how Christians over the millennial times have attempted to control thinking, dialogue and biblical studies if they don’t meet one’s own preference. Some people like control some think it’s a double edged sword. I tend to lean toward openness and Grace as much as possible. Even those whom I think are wrong on some issues.

    How does that old saying go? I hate the bad theology but love the person. 😉

  • Norman,

    For one thing, you obviously don’t know anything about me if you think theological positions don’t interest me. That’s alright though; commenting on blogs is not very conducive to getting to know someone.

    I can’t let you off the hook yet. Whatever answer you may have hidden in earlier responses is very convoluted and hard to discern for me and I gather that I’m not going to get anything more specific. It sounds like you are saying that there has not really been consensus in the church, so my question of whether there is any on Adam is flawed. What? Of course there is consensus on things of Christian faith. As Christians, is there not something different about us? What is it? Do we not have a truth that leads to life? What is that truth? Are we still figuring it out, and we need authority to go away so we can get to it without fear of excommunication? I don’t know what church you go to, but from my vantage point you misrepresent Biblical authority and acceptance of doubt and differences in the context of a church body.

    Some of the things you say are just flat out not applicable. Some examples you use offer nothing of value to the discussion at hand. The Earth is round, Left Behind is fiction, and there is no underworld. I’m not talking about any of those things. I’m trying to figure out the history of the thought that Adam is not historical. You’re forcing me to accept that it has no history, it is a new idea that has not yet withstood, as you say, the “test of time”. I even will agree that it is a thought that warrant consideration. But as I consider it, I am wondering if anyone over the years has considered it also.

    There is truth that the church (in whatever form, Catholic, Protestant, Eastern orthodox, whatever) has considered vital, and on which there has been consensus over the years, beginning with the Apostles. You’re not going to convince very many people that the examples of bad thinking prove that consensus has never, and can never, happen in Christianity. Even things that the Reformers offered, which as Scot verified earlier, is a different scale than what Enns is trying to do, at least had and has consensus, whether you agree with it or not.

    I’m not talking about “Holy Spirit infallible” individuals who gave their opinion at one time. I’m talking about individuals who, with the Holy Spirit inside them, in the context of a body of believers, confirmed orthodoxy, even in the face of error, and history honored their contributions in a firmer foundation of truth to stand on as we follow Jesus in a complex world.

    It’s amazing to me to be on the other side of this conversation. If I were to throw out a scientific argument to refute macroevolution, many would dismiss it because it doesn’t represent “consensus” (which is fair, by the way). But when a new, modern interpretation of the historicity of Adam is offered, and I simply ask out of curiosity, where did this come from – from someone’s individual brain, or do other discerning Christian people throughout the history of the church confirm it – you don’t even acknowledge that consensus is possible, let alone relevant. Think about what would happen if the kind of consensus I am talking about did not exist in the church (or in science??!!). What in the world would be left? If anyone else is still around on this thread, am I off base? I’m just asking for a clear breakdown of how the thought that Paul’s Adam is different than Genesis’s Adam has progressed over the years. Something clear, not comparing my approach to those who believe there is an underworld. I would be ok if you just tell me to read Enns’ book. I mentioned to Scot earlier that I easily could be ignorant and just need to do that. But the responses since then have more so considered my question unfair and irrelevant than they have offered either an answer or a place to look for one.

    You can’t use the error of a flat earth or an underworld to convince me that consensus on truth is irrelevant or impossible or nonexistent. Sorry. You may think I am ignoring your explanations, but you also are ignoring historical theology. And all this because I just wanted a simple answer to who before modern scholarship considered Adam not historical. I’m really less concerned with whether you think there should be theological consensus in the church. I am confident that the “consensus” I seek and that I follow is important, and will always be, regardless of what you think. I’m not here to argue that. I just wondered who all through the years has believed Adam wasn’t real.

    How do you define “orthodox”? Or, how do you interpret phrases in the Bible such as “sound words”, “sound doctrine”, “faith once for all entrusted”, “good doctrine you have followed”, etc.? I’m not here to argue with what you put in these categories (if anything). I’m just wondering how you define the category. How do you read these verses intelligibly and also contend that “the truth doesn’t always find its way to the surface”? How do you interpret Paul’s charges to Timothy?

    Thanks for the clarification on Piper. I bet if you had a conversation with him, “controlling” would be the last thing you would come away thinking about him. But I don’t know.

  • Norman


    If You go back and read some of my earlier post you will see that I have a sleight disagreement with Enns on the historicity of Adam. I believe that the Genesis narative is symbolic and was intended to be understood typologically from the Hebrew perspective. I presented scripture that illustrated that Paul viewed Genesis in that Hebrew manner. However I also believe that Adam represented a historical begining of the ancient church/Israel and so I’m in the historical Adam ranks in that regaard. I just don’t think it is a literal historical narrative as most people believe it is. I discern that from years of studying that exact issue from the ancient literature. I can’t reproduce all of that into simple postings and do it any justice.

    However I like your tone and I especially appreciate you Joey even if I’m trying to get you to look at things from a little different perspective. We all know what the essential teaching is and that is Christ,His crucifiction and ressurection and our walk with God through His Grace. Something most of us can come to consensus upon.

    Good talking to you again.



  • Luke Allison


    What I’ll do is point to church fathers who don’t hold a similar view point to YEC or Super-Literal interpreters:

    Irenaeus (saw creation as something immature that needed time to develop into maturity…so different than the average evangelical’s view),

    Augustine (at least saw the God created the world with “the capacity to develop”, and saw the 1st two chapters of Genesis as being written to accomodate a primitive understanding)

    Aquinas (at least saw creation as having been created “potentially”, not instantaneously)

    In “Wesley’s notes on the Bible”, John Wesley wrote this little paragraph: “The inspired penman in this history [Genesis] … [wrote] for the Jews first and, calculating his narratives for the infant state of the church, describes things by their outward sensible appearances, and leaves us, by further discoveries of the divine light, to be led into the understanding of the mysteries couched under them.”

    There are more, but here’s my point: Theological and allegorical speculation (creativity as well) are not foreign to Christian thought on this issue. The current “inerrant” view of Scripture frowns heavily upon any kind of creative speculation. And yet the average “inerrantist” (I use the word to specifically describe a specific kind of thought) holds a position that is potentially very different from many of the early interpreters of Scripture.

    All that to say: interpretation is interpretation.

  • CGC

    Thanks Norman and Luke for those responses (excellent). I was thinking the other day about this whole issue of science and religion and I would also add the earliest Christians did not have to wrestle with the science question and issues as much as we do today since science itself has become not only a worldview, but even a competing paradigm against Christianity. I wonder if it’s jsut me or that others wonder if we are not reading too much science out of the Bible. Everything from science is proved in the Bible to various aspects of science inform and now interpret our understandinf of it.

  • Norman,

    Thanks for the response. I had seen that your original response was slight disagreement with Enns, and I appreciate the reminder on that, as I didn’t mean to overlook it in my questioning. I also appreciate your overall thoughts and our interaction. This is a great forum, isn’t it?


    Thanks for the info. This is exactly what I was looking for, although I’m anxious to research more detail on what some of these people believed, and wrote, in the context of the larger church body at that time, on historical intrepetations of Genesis and how that applies to Adam specifically. I realize that they may not have clearly specified their exact beliefs on these things, as if consensus on Adam, for example, was crucially important for the church at that time (or ever). But I was just interested in confirming that “theological and allegorical speculation was not foreign to Christian thought on this issue”, as you said. And you did that, and I appreciate it. You might guess that I disagree with you a bit on biblical inerrancy, and so I would not by nature agree that a view of inerrancy is different to how the early church interpreted Scripture. But, I don’t really know much about how “inerrancy”, as we define it (which is probably different!), relates to early interpretations of Scripture. So I don’t want to speak very surely right now. Thanks again for your comment!

  • CGC

    Hi Joey,

    Two Eastern Orthodox books that deal with early Christian interpretations of the creation accounts are:


    2. Seraphim Rose GENESIS, CREATION, AND EARLY MAN (St Herman Press, 2000).

    I am still trying to get a hold of Fr. Rose’s book. In relation to some of these issues, I am reminded of something G. K. Chesterton once said: “The trouble arises from man trying to look at these stories from the outside, as if they were scientific objects.”

  • Robert Gorman

    Sin entered through Eve, but Adam was to whom God gave death to. So yes. They are the same.