Talking to Pastors about Adam and Evolution: Models (2)

Talking to Pastors about Adam and Evolution: Models (2) November 6, 2011

Today I want to list (not discuss) some of the factors that have to be accounted for in building a compelling “model” of Adam in the Bible. If you want more details, you can either invite me to your house for a VERY expensive evening or you can wait for my book to come out.

The slide below reproduces the slide in my last post but in chart form. The three contexts we looked at are down the left column with some (by no means all) of the specific factors in the next two columns.

Remember, that for the pastor’s seminar where I gave this talk, my focus was not to judge between these issues (although I certainly expressed my opinions), but to lay out the types of things that I feel need to be considered.

Near Literary context of Genesis.

  • A perennial issue is the presence of other human beings outside of the Garden (Cain’s wife and the people whom he fears will retaliate for his act of murder).
  • The relationship between Genesis 1 and 2 (how does the creation of Adam relate to the creation of humanity in chapter 1?).
  • The universal feel of the Adam story (Eve as mother of all living).
  • The fact that only death is spoken of as an explicit consequence of Adam’s disobedience, not sin. (Commonly it is asserted that sinfulness as consequence is implied, which raises the question of why  something so fundamental to the story of the fall is not mentioned.)

Near literary context of Paul.

  • Romans 5:12 seems to say that death is the result of the sin of each individual, not the disobedience of Adam, which does not easily square with the rest of Paul’s argument in chapter 5.
  • Paul seems clear in thinking of Adam as a real person whose disobedience led to universal death and sinfulness.

OT canonical context.

  • The absence of any overt reference to Adam in the Old Testament after Genesis 5, save 1 Chronciles 1:1, seems significant.
  • The parallels between Adam and Israel’s national history seem to be more than coincidental (both are exiled from a lush land for disobedience to law).
  • Eve’s choice and Adam’s compliance to seek wisdom (knowledge of good and evil) apart from fearing the Lord (obeying his command) parallels the choice between wisdom and foolishness given in Proverbs.
  • Eden is a well-known foreshadowing of Israel’s sanctuaries, which suggests that Adam is more an Israelite (priestly?) figure than the first human.
  • Adam is certainly present typologically in the OT (e.g., Noah, Abraham, Moses are “new Adams”), but not in the way that Paul presents Adam, especially in Romans.

NT canonical context.

  • Although Adam is mentioned elsewhere (the genealogy in Luke 3, 1 Timothy 2, and Jude 14), Paul alone speaks of Adam as the cause of sin and death.

Cultural context of Genesis.

  • When Genesis was written is an extremely relavant factor discerning why it was written, i.e., what we are to expect Genesis to deliver when we read it.
  • Ancient Near Eastern origins stories were ubiquitous in the ancient world, and the similarities and differences with Genesis must be accounted for.
  • The question of Adam cannot be addressed in isolation from Genesis 1-11 as a whole and its ancient Near Eastern parallels.

Cultural context of Paul.

  • Many Jewish writers near the time of Paul talked about Adam, but none of them considered Adam to be the cause of universal sinfulness, which suggests Paul’s reading is not obvious. Also, the diversity of “Adams” in Second Temple Judaism reflects the interpretive “flexible” of the Adam story.
  • In keeping with his Jewish context, Paul’s use of the Old Testament in general is marked by a creative approach, centered on Christ, that is not bound to the meaning of the texts in their Old Testament contexts.
  • Paul’s unique take on Adam seems to be driven by his mission to put Jews and Gentiles on equal footing before God. Appealing to Adam as he does helps Paul make the case of universal culpability before God. (As it is commonly put in the NT scholarly literature, Paul is arguing from solution to plight.)

Like I said, these are merely a partial list of factors that I feel need to be accounted for in any discussion of Adam. Although have my opinion, I am not implying that all these factors necessarily push you in one direction or another. And if you think there are other pressing matters, by all means comment on them below.

The main point in all of this is that Adam in the Bible is a long, intricate, and ongoing discussion. Slogans and bumpersticker arguments don’t help.

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  • RJS

    How expensive?

    This list, which includes only some of the factors in play, is why it seems to me rather pointless to claim that we shouldn’t interpret scripture, we should just read it and accept it. This is also why I think that evolution is only one of the challenges to a “traditional” understanding of Adam. Even if we rule out evolution (and I don’t, I think the evidence for evolution is overwhelming) that doesn’t really solve any of the problems you list.

    • peteenns

      Ah, RJS, as usual, you catch my meaning completely. Even without evolution, the question of Adam is complex. So, when people compare “the biblical Adam” to evolution and find evolution wanting buy comparison, my first inclination is to take them on this very real hermeneutical adventure. To address evolution effectively, people need to be reintroduced to Scripture itself. The old paradigms don’t always work for everything, and the pressure exerted by evolution is an entry way to bring some of these shortcomings to light.

  • Don Johnson

    Isa_51:3 For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
    Eze_28:13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.
    Eze_31:9 I made it beautiful in the mass of its branches, and all the trees of Eden envied it, that were in the garden of God.
    Eze_36:35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’
    Joe_2:3 Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.

    Because of the Hebrew method of remez/hint that acts like a hypertext link, I do not think that seaching for only “Adam” means you have all refs to the story of Adam. Other refs are possible, for example “the man” (as in the most unique man) or garden of Eden, and of course also “the woman” and Eve, etc.

    • peteenns

      Don, I definitely agree with you here. What I stress in this particular conversation over Adam, however, os that these references (and others) do not establish the historicity of Adam (as, say C, John Collins argues in his recent book on Adam and Eve). Interesting, too, is Gen 13:10, where the plain of Jordan is like the Garden of Yahweh, which is like Egypt (!).

  • Norman


    As one who is quite familiar with 2nd Temple and DSS literature it seems a bit of oversight for you to infer that Adam wasn’t flushed out because of its lacking in the current OT canon. You have already mentioned earlier that Jubilees describes Adam as priestly and as I examine other pieces from that era it seems that Paul very likely drew heavily from those contemporary writings that apparently did not have the inhibition then that they carry today. I can easily see how he developed his theology from exilic and second temple literature concerning Adam.

    Jubilees especially make the point that Adam’s death was tied to spiritual separation from God which comports well with Paul’s application in his writings. One who examines Jubilees and Hebrew numerology appreciates that Adam not obtaining 1000 years was a Hebrew methodology denoting a failure to obtain eternal life. It simply appears to be a Hebrew construct to illustrate the Adam life under law devoid of what he lost in the Garden. John in Revelation when speaking of those who live and reign with Christ a full 1000 years is very likely also pulling concepts of fulfilled eternal life found in these ancient writings. We avoid them at our loss for understanding the context of the day.

    “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 will die.” For this reason he did not complete the years of this day; for he died during it.”

    May I also ask why you would judge Paul’s influence by a later times canon that he would likely have derided its limitations. Paul was not a product of the early church fathers and reformers so why pursue him under their restricted canon instead of what he likely would have utilized in the first century? It seems to me you dabble in that arena but yet keep an orthodox distance concerning the canon. Is it really necessary and essential as a biblical scholar to hold oneself to later orthodoxy that did not apply in the first century when performing a full examination of this subject?

    The Jewish Pharisaical canon of AD90 discarded the heavily messianic pieces like Enoch and Jubilees that were likely part of the back bone of Paul’s theology, just as the DSS scrolls indicate from their snapshot in time. I would venture that Paul and the Apostles would have more in common with first century messianic Judaism that we find in those pieces than the constrained OT canon setup by the Pharisaical Jews who likely wanted nothing to do with a messianic culture after their acute desolation at the hands of the Romans in AD70. It really seems questionable to place limits upon an examination of Pauline and NT theology due to our traditions that have become crystalized well after the events in question. It especially seems onerous to take our cues concerning the canon from those particular Jews whom Christ and the apostles denounced as not getting it.

    It’s like we have to tie one arm behind our back unnecessarily in our examination of ancient literature that influenced Paul. Especially since it appears these pieces were considered as scripture and were alluded to and quoted extensively by the NT writers.

    Could you elaborate more on why and how you use those ancient writings and what your reasoning may be for employing or not employing them?


    • peteenns

      What you are saying here certainly has a place in the conversation table over how Paul understood Adam. Just how much Paul drew from these others writings–intentionally or unintentionally (I think the latter is more likely) is hard to say, but let’s agree (as we do) that Paul’s thinking was heavily influenced by his own Jewish training, which included much more than the Hebrew Scriptures.

      Jubilees, which is the only 2T text I know of that makes Adam a priest, is an interesting case. More copies of this book were found among the Dead Sea scrolls than many biblical books. It is a sectarian polemic in many respects, with preoccupation with calendrical concerns, for example, that I am not so certain played an overt role in Paul’s thinking. I certainly wouldn’t want to hang “Adam as Israelite” in Paul’s thinking on Jubilees. I think that is a stretch. Plus, there is really so little in Romans to go on for that interpretation that the connection becomes less obvious.

      I am trying very much not to allow later (Augustinian) theology to affect my understanding of Paul. Do you think I am doing that? I certainly agree that Paul’s “canon” from which he interacted theologically was much broader than the hHebrew Bible–he shows as much a gain and again. The question of Paul’s Adam vis-a-vis these sources is more complicated–especially since what he says in Romans 5 (Adam’s act leads to condemnation to all) is something I have found nowhere else.

      • Norman


        One of the interesting aspects of Jubilees is the insight we gather about Adam in the Garden as it starts to become clear that the imagery is somewhat similar to what we find in other poetic and highly metaphorical Jewish writings. If one reads carefully Jubilees chapter 3 it starts to become understandable that Adam was not the only human representative in the Garden. I know this is going to really come across as exotic to literal reading believers but the animals in Genesis 2 and especially in Jubilees 3 metaphorically represent pagan humanity at large (this is why Adam could not find a suitable helper in the Garden). We can verify this throughout the OT, especially in Ezekiel where the animal metaphor is often clearly representing gentile peoples. Adam (Israel) and the animals (gentiles) were both driven from Garden life in Jubilees 3 and Adam as a priest was directed to offer sacrifices for himself (Israel) and the animals (gentiles) covering their shame. This directive to offer sacrifices for the animals parallels the directive to Israel at the feast of booths to offer up sacrifices for themselves but also for the Gentile Nations as well. It’s clear to me that this extraction by Jubilees concerning Adam is mimicking Israel in parallel and again reinforces the story as one illustrating proto Israel.

        Jubilees being 2nd century BC Jewish literature picks up as Ezekiel does about 2 or 3 centuries earlier similar concepts of Israel and the Nations residing in the Garden of Eden. Enoch is another contemporary writing with Jubilees that also illustrates much more extensively and conclusively how the Jews were using animal metaphor to drive their narratives. The dream vision of Enoch also called the “prophecy of the animals” is blunt in its illustrations of the nation’s being represented by various animal types. If we add this information to the proverbial jigsaw puzzle then deciphering Jewish concepts surrounding Adam start to fall into place. 🙂

        Therefore if we accept this realization about the inclusion of gentile humanity incorporated into the Garden story then it makes sense for Paul to say that Adam’s “sin” regarding the commandment brought “death” or separation from God for both Adam/Israel and “all men” because they (the nations) were dependent upon Adam as a Priest to God on their behalf. This should help clarify that Adam was a picture of Israel from the beginning of their conception and I’m fairly confident that I’m not alone with others in recognizing that Israel was to be a priestly people to the world at large. That is exactly the theme we find in Jubilees chapter 3 if we don’t get sidetracked by the symbolic methodology. Genesis 2 & 3 is likely just a stripped down retelling of a theme that was continued for hundreds of years and Jubilees expands upon it ever so slightly but with enough nuance to shed more light on lost Jewish concepts.

        Pete, I recognize that you attempt to remain aloof from outside influences affecting your scholarship but it’s very difficult for any of us to always be aware of our tendency to remain “orthodox” to our historic grounding. I happen to come from a different theological background (American Restoration movement) than you do and we are a little more skeptical toward leaning too much on church fathers and creeds. So it may just be my own acquired ingrained imagination that makes me think you don’t always cut the cord when it’s needed. 😉 However I think you do a better job in balancing it than just about anyone else I observe.

        We in the American Restoration movement have historically had an inclination of by passing the historic church fathers when examining the environment of the first century. My personal feeling is that it’s good to study them but if one is going to concentrate on the early church of the first century that some acquired orthodoxy often gets in the way to an extent. I say that because I believe that by Augustine’s time we had Greek philosophical ideas subtlety supplanting Hebrew ones and that really blurs the picture of studying our biblical origins if we filter it through a growing hybrid Greek worldview.

        Thanks so much for your reply


        • peteenns

          Norm, to all this I say a genuine “maybe.” And that is a genuine maybe–not a blow off maybe. Some of the dots you are connecting are somewhat far apart. My academic spidy-sense forces the following question: What scholars have connected these dots in this way? If none or few have, what is it that would make them so reticent?

          American Restorationist movement: suddenly, the whole picture is becoming clear 🙂

          • Norman


            Thanks for the encouragement. 😉

            Yes you are correct that I have presented an overall understanding that is not totally recognized by modern scholarship or the historical church by and large either. You should be familiar with that circumstance as well; right. 😉 However what I present and understand can be typically applied in bits and pieces from an assortment of various scholars ideas. I simply take ideas and approaches that I consider to be consistent biblical theology from a diversity of writers along with early first century, second Temple, OT and NT literature and attempt to piece the narrative together in a consistent fashion. It’s akin to your patching the puzzle together notion. I would expect that is what others are attempting to do as well in this current age of deeper investigations of the Genesis narrative.

            If the bible is consistent theology then patterns should reinforce themselves throughout all of these pieces of literature up to the dissolution of Judaism in the late first century. My premise is that it is consistent and all of this literature is heavily weighted toward the messianic narrative in various approaches including and especially Genesis. I am not ashamed to gather insights from a wide diversity of biblical scholars and when I believe they leave the consistent narrative then I generally pay less attention to those variant concepts. However I’m not trying to refurbish historical and modern church ideas but I’m trying to establish the first century baseline as a starting point for evaluative purposes.

            I like G. K. Beale’s book on the Temple although I find him a little parochial, I have learned a lot from James Jordan about biblical symbolism although I find some of his reformed views unacceptable and I think he completely undermines his overall hermeneutic when he gets to Genesis 1 as he is a staunch YEC and essentially sells out to remain in that fold. I obviously appreciate some of Denis Lamoureux OT applications but I consider him lacking in NT and Pauline theology. I find tremendous insight from N. T. Wright as he can coherently describe a consistent biblical overarching theology better than most IMO, although I find his Post Millennial paradisiac earth an inconsistent reversal of his usual good hermeneutics. He sees no literal paradise in Genesis but he does see one in Revelation. I find Umberto Cassuto useful in examining Genesis technically but I also am not against the modern concepts of dating and analyzing the OT. In other words I try to educate myself as much as possible, trying to experience an assorted discernment concerning the theme of scriptures. I think that is probably what most serious students of the scriptures attempt whether they are amateurs like me or professionals like you.

            I study the second temple and first century literature like Enoch, Jubilees, Psalm of Solomon and Barnabas to mention a few extensively. I do so to determine again if they meet the construct of a consistent messianic theology which I have determined is the reliable biblical factor. I personally like Tom Holland’s new Romans Commentary although as with every scholar that I study I reserve the right to disagree with some of his conclusions. I study extensively Pauline theology because I consider that his interpretive understandings should match up with OT messianic themes and I find that they do. In fact this is likely one area that I tend to disagree more with some modern scholars because I believe Paul is much more consistent than many often realize. There seems to be a passing fad in biblical scholarship at this moment that Paul is inconsistent and just plain wrong on many fronts which I disagree with. I believe the error is in the conclusions that are wrongly drawn because many have developed presuppositions concerning Paul because they don’t really grasp his Hebraic mind and purpose as well as they should. If one thinks that Paul is talking about physical death in Romans 5 then obviously Paul is wrong headed and one needs to be careful with him. However if one has missed Paul’s overarching “spiritual death” concepts scattered throughout the rest of his writings it starts to be questionable that Paul is even speaking of Physical Death at all in Romans 5. I am not alone in these thoughts concerning Paul as I didn’t invent them, in fact I find Daniel Harlow echoing some of my thinking in his ASA article “After Adam: Reading Genesis in an Age of evolutionary Science” concerning Paul’s concepts of spiritual death. I realize that you may disagree with Harlow on this point but I am firmly convinced that the biblical narrative resolutely reinforces this understanding. I think we are simply carrying a literal reading much deeper than just Genesis on into NT understandings. Paul obviously takes Genesis symbolically in many locations and I consider it a mistake to say he reads Genesis literally. It takes a while to discard this mindset in reading Paul but once one realizes that he is consistent with the OT and Hebrew symbolism then we can trust him more. It is all in how we frame him IMO.

            I think Paul Seely, Denis and others have done a wonderful job in helping others see Genesis literature in a different light and illuminating the ANE concepts but I think they sometimes carry the construct too far. Hebrew theology is found in that culture but it does not preclude that the writers were married theologically to these aspects of the ANE science in presenting their unique literature. I know it’s easy to carry that concept forward and use it to explain some issues but it is limited in its usefulness IMO when dealing with Hebrew theology.

            Well I just wanted to clarify a little background on how I work so you can understand where I may be coming from. I’m really not concerned with being in line with all or many scholars because I think we are in a dynamic time in history when the opportunity to study is much more open to larger amounts of people. The democratization of information concerning the Bible is exploding and we are likely to see many new concepts become recognized because the numbers of people and resources are magnified greatly due to our current technological age. Not only this but the evolution debate is causing us to focus like never before on the subjects of Genesis and Paul’s take. In fact much of the last 2000 years have been devoid of the amount of resources available to even an amateur like me. This will continue to drive new revelations IMHO.

            Thanks for the opportunity to discuss.


        • Stephen


          I’ve enjoyed reading your comments. If I may ask, you seem to think that Paul has some pure “Hebrew (worldview)” versus a “hybrid Greek worldview.” What does this mean?

          • Norman


            In some scholarly circles there is a belief that Paul was pushing a theology that was Greek influenced; this is contrasted to the position that Paul was teaching from a purely Hebrew framework. There are different reasons for thinking Paul was somewhat Hellenized but generally IMO it comes from not grasping the Hebrew concepts that he was pushing. Paul appears to some people to invent new ideas that never appeared before the NT; yet I would suggest that he is shedding light on typology and veiled messages concerning the messianic coming that often eludes us even today. If you don’t grasp it from the OT then the concern is that Paul inserted it from external ideas, yet Paul states in Acts that he teaches nothing but the law and the prophets, however people don’t always take Paul at his word. 😉

            Now Greek influence did certainly enter into the church but it took a century or two after Paul before the Hellenization of the church started gaining inroads. We are still under some of that influence today, probably much more in the western than the Eastern Church. If you want a representative view of a Jewish segment of the early church I would suggest studying the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls as they are pretty close to some of the Jewish letters such as James; however Paul’s concepts are found there as well. Paul wrote to both Jews and Gentiles and sometimes it’s very difficult to discern whom he is focusing upon, but my opinion is that most of the Gentiles were those who knew the Hebrew OT background very well.

            The Gentiles were not bringing their Greek worldview into the early church at this point but it was just the opposite, they were being indoctrinated with Hebrew concepts so that they could more readily understand its background (sometimes the Jewish Christians went overboard demanding circumcision and such of the gentiles). (Knowing the OT background is something that would greatly help the modern church grasp the true context as well.) This is why Pete’s work is so important because in my eyes he is pushing for moderns to learn the OT context so they can more accurately understand its underlying themes and principles and he is to be highly commended and appreciated for this. However there are those who are fighting him tooth and nail, take a look at some of the comments here and over at Jesus Creed just this week.

            I would like to suggest that there is an epistle called Barnabas that I believe was written contemporary with Paul’s time although others disagree. It is what one would call a light commentary in which the author attempts to explain the symbolism and principles that they need to discern Christ as the messiah. I think it is a hugely undervalued piece of literature in helping describe what was going on during the times of the apostles teaching. It gives great insight into the dynamics of the times but the modern church doesn’t typically like probing deeper theology and doesn’t generally invest in these issues unless there is a polished preacher giving them a 20 minute rundown Sunday morning. Oh well I digress. 😉

            Thanks for the comment and question


  • Thomas Renz

    “Eden is a well-known foreshadowing of Israel’s sanctuaries, which suggests that Adam is more an Israelite (priestly?) figure than the first human.”

    I’m not convinced that the second half of the sentence follows from the first, even if one accepts that the allusions specifically point to Israel’s sanctuaries. Within the biblical story-line, is it not more plausible to suggest that humanity’s priestly vocation becomes focused on Israel just as Israel’s priestly vocation is for a while concentrated in the Levitical priesthood?

    It is true that the remainder of the OT very much focuses on the people of God but do not the ANE parallels to Genesis 1-11 underline that the call of Abraham and Israel are to be seen in relation to God’s purposes for the world? The Adam-Israel typology is important for precisely this reason but if this gets “resolved” by making it all about Israel rather than humanity, something’s gone wrong in my view.

    • peteenns

      Thomas, what you say here is worth thinking about, to be sure–and we are both working with the gaps of Genesis. For what it’s worth, I see Genesis 1 as the story of human origins and Adam as the narrowing of the focus on Israel who is called to be a “kingdom of priests” (to borrow Exodus language). I’m not so sure that sich a priestly roel was envisioned for all humanity, although that is not a hill to die on.

    • Micah


      Here is a thought.

      Paul taught nothing but the “law and prophets” (Acts 26:22ff). Essentially it can be summed up that Paul taught nothing but the hope of Israel. That hope was resurrection, standing again, restoration, etc. or whatever you want to call it.

      In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul takes the need for resurrection all the way back to Genesis 2 before the fall. Note how he cites Gen. 2:7 in 1 Corinthians 15:42-49.

      If Paul is taking the need for resurrection all the way back to Adam, before the fall and he preached nothing but the hope of Israel, then the case can be made that Paul considered Adam as the Covenantal head of Israel and not all humanity.

      IMO, one of the hang up’s in this origins debate is that most are not willing to follow through and question all of the other areas of theology that is affected. Eschatology, immortality of the soul, what it means to bear the image of God, what the nature of resurrection is, and how the Bible defines the New Heavens and Earth, just to name a few.

      We want to force everyone into “Adam” instead of understanding that “Adam” was the first “covenantal man.”

      Reformation is sorely needed, no matter what or who’s sacred cows are killed and eaten.

  • Another area which I think should be considered here is the history of interpretation of the relevant texts. In particular I would suggest looking at Augustine’s probable misinterpretation of Romans (which I wrote about in 2007), and how this has perhaps led to a distorted view of original sin which lays undue stress on its dependence on physical descent from Adam. I suspect that some of the reason why many evangelicals insist on a literal Adam is that they would see any move away from this as compromising this inherited original sin. But in fact, just as being justified in Christ does not depend on physical descent, being a sinner in Adam need not depend on physical descent.

    • peteenns

      Great point, Peter. You are referring to Rom 5:12, I assume, which Augustine read against–hep me here–the Old Latin–which has an error in it and that allowed him to connect the death of all to Adam’s sin? In my book–in no great detail–I talk about this a bit and suggest an Orthodox reading of the Adam story, which, in my view, is far much closer to Genesis that Augustine’s, which has certainly influenced the western church. Thanks for your input here.

  • Stephen


    Thanks for your answer to my question.

    If you do not mind me asking, why is it so important to you that “Paul was teaching from a purely Hebrew framework” somehow unadulterated by “Greek” views? What’s at stake here?

    Keep in mind that people who know not only the landscape of Jewish sources but also the broader Greco-Roman world and situated Paul accordingly aren’t trying to read 4th-5th century CE neo-Platonist Patristic theology back into Paul. They/we are, however, trying to come to grips with a Paul who both works within Judean apocalyptic kinds of discourse and positions and who has Middle-Platonist ideas about the soul, passions, moral-psychology (e.g., “anthropology”), Holy Spirit (e.g., pneuma), and various other “Greek” positions about the physics of the cosmos, people, Christ, and so on.

    To tackle this from another direction, why do you assume a mutual exclusivity between things Jewish and things Greek in this way? Why cannot someone hold Judean apocalyptic ideas about the God of Israel’s people, Messiah, eschatology and stages of it, and work from Judean sacred writings…and at the same time hold Middle-Platonist (for example) ideas of precisely what the pneuma is, how Christ followers are connected to Christ, the soul, how moral progress is made, and so on?

    • Norman


      The reason that “I” consider it important to grasp that Paul was teaching purely OT concepts is because the converse would be that he was synthesizing theology on the fly from contemporary concepts otherwise. This has ramifications for the purity of the messianic redeemed narrative that had long been established throughout Genesis and other much older pieces. These concepts were at least 400-600 years older than the Middle-Platonist thinking of Paul’s time. In fact Genesis and the OT illuminate the idea and concepts of eternal life and the soul well before M-P came along; so the question is who indeed influenced who?

      Here are a couple of representative verses that illustrate the older Hebrew thinking concerning the immortality of the soul. In fact the context of the lamented futility of Ecclesiastes 3 vividly illustrates that the Hebrew theological mind was already well concerned about their loss of immortality contrasted to the beast which is just a Hebrew euphuism for pagan mankind if we follow its usage in Ezekiel, Daniel, Revelation ect.

      Gen 3:22 And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and LIVE FOREVER,
      Ecc 3:19-21 For that which happens to the sons of men (adam) also happens to beasts, even one thing happens to them. As this one dies, so that one dies; yea, they all have one breath; so that a man (adam) has no advantage over a beast; for all is vanity. (20) All go to one place; all are of the dust, and all return to dust again. (21) Who knows THE SPIRIT OF MAN (adam) that goes upward, and THE SPIRIT OF THE BEAST that goes downward?

      Ezekiel’s famous symbolic chapter 37 picks up on Ecc’s lament concerning the spirit and projects that there will be a time when the spirit will indeed come upon the chosen of Jehovah and breathe life through the Spirit. So the idea of eternal life of the soul has been well established for hundreds of years throughout OT projections.

      Eze 37:5 Thus said the Lord Jehovah to these bones: Lo, I am bringing into you A SPIRIT, and YE HAVE LIVED, … 8 And I beheld, and lo, on them are sinews, and flesh hath come up, and cover them doth skin over above–AND SPIRIT THERE IS NONE IN THEM. (9) And He saith unto me: `Prophesy unto the Spirit, prophesy, son of man, and thou hast said unto the Spirit: Thus said the Lord Jehovah: From the four winds come in, O Spirit, and BREATHE ON THESE SLAIN, AND THEY DO LIVE.’

      Paul obviously incorporated these OT ideas into his writings as we can see vividly how he illustrates that Gentile humanity outside Judaism had no hope for their soul.

      Eph 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, HAVING NO HOPE AND WITHOUT GOD in the world.

      Now the question does need to be addressed concerning the outside influence of other ANE thinking upon the Hebrew narrative. It becomes quite obvious that Genesis is replete with the outside mythological influence of many ANE epics and myths. However the Hebrew appears to turn these stories on their ear and appropriate them in a polemic approach by incorporating them into their narrative historical outline. In doing so they demonstrate in my opinion a retelling of the ANE ideas that ties all humanity together but from a completely different perspective than those outside Judaism would appreciate.

      If we move into Second Temple literature and take a look at the Enoch literature it becomes quiet apparent that again the Hebrews have appropriated foreign myths and thinking in developing the narrative around the Hadean realm which is definitely a Greek influence. The Hebrews in their older writings used Sheol and the Pit as simple constructs for the place of the dead but after Alexander and Greek influence they again borrowed from their neighbors and reapplied some constructs to meet their own purpose. If one can get past the imagery it becomes apparent that the narrative themes are still essentially the same but the vivid picture has been enhance with contemporary concepts. I believe that when Paul states the idea of “under the earth” he is referencing the covenant judgment dilemma upon apostate Judaism and pagan man illustrated in Enoch’s other worldly compartments; but which foundationally begin with Sheol and the Pit in the Hebrew older literature.

      Php 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and UNDER THE EARTH,
      Eph 4:8-10 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (9) (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that HE HAD ALSO DESCENDED INTO THE LOWER REGIONS, THE EARTH? (10) He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

      I’m not sure we can categorically state that Paul actually believed in a physical place under the earth as much as he is simply referencing well known theological story lines that illustrated the plight of the soul. In my opinion Sheol, the Pit and Hades are similar Hebrew story line adaptations that illustrate the dilemma of the human condition regarding the soul. I don’t think Paul necessarily thought those were any more literal places than he considered the Garden to be a real place. Paul IMO was much more attuned to these symbols as narrative constructs and would not necessarily fall into the idea that all of this was literal. I think we moderns possibly overstate the implications of the ancient Jews using metaphors describing concepts and draw wrong literal conclusions based upon our distant viewpoint. It is a challenge to say the least in sorting a lot of this stuff out but it’s also very interesting if one gets into it. 😉

      Concerning Philosophy; indeed it appears Paul was quite familiar with the Greek philosophy of his times and was adamant about its corrupting influence from his point of view.

      Col 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

      I could continue on concerning the coming of the Spirit through Christ which I believe firmly established the completion of the Image of God upon faithful man (adams). Romans 8 clearly identifies that the spirit which I believe is what Ezk 37 projects is an attribute of walking in faith through Jesus Christ. It’s a simple idea but it seems to be the consistent idea of the Spirit given to man illustrated in John’s gospel, John’s epistles and by Paul.

      Col 1:15 He (Christ) IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD, the firstborn of all creation.
      Col 3:10 and (the faithful) have PUT ON THE NEW SELF, which is being renewed in knowledge AFTER THE IMAGE OF ITS CREATOR.
      2Co 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS, THERE IS FREEDOM. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, ARE BEING TRANSFORMED INTO THE SAME IMAGE from one degree of glory to another. For this comes FROM THE LORD WHO IS THE SPIRIT.

      Thanks for the good questions


      • Stephen


        Though you answer my question in your first paragraph, it demonstrates a decided theological constraining for your treatment of sources. You need Paul to be “teaching purely OT concepts” as opposed to “synthesizing theology on the fly from contemporary concepts.” In that paragraph you illustrate several classic theological and normative concerns: the authenticity and legitimacy of the ancient, “pure,” Old Testament versus the inferiority of the contemporary, mixed, and “pagan.” While these ideas often do reflect the ideologies of both ancient sources and modern theologians, when it comes to doing history they hinder accurate analysis of sources, people, their contexts, and so on.

        I get the impression, though perhaps my impression is wrong, that for you it goes without saying that Paul must be “Hebrew” in the way you mean and that to imagine otherwise ruins matters. If I may, what would count as evidence for you that your ideas about Paul’s mutually-exclusive “Hebrew-ness” are inaccurate? What would it take?

        Related to this, your argument here seems to be that because you can find biblical precedent for thinking about the afterlife, soul, and the like, therefore that exhaustively explains the “source” of Paul’s thought on those matters without Greco-Roman philosophical remainder? Why do you think this is the case? You realize that numerous other Hellenistic and Roman period Judean authors drew upon the kinds of biblical passages you reference (often the same ones) when discussing the afterlife, soul, Israel, cosmos, etc., — and do so while articulating these matters in terms of Middle-Platonist (for example) positions on these matters as well. It would be news to them that being truly “Hebrew” means jettisoning their ways of thinking about the cosmos, soul, etc.

        • Norman


          Good sales pitch!

          But where’s the beef 😉

          • peteenns

            Norm, there is a lot of beef in Stephen’s post. Maybe you”re too used to milk? 😉

  • Norman


    That may well be and I gathered that little point from Stephen’s tone. However if this is my old buddy Stephen D. then we have been going around on some of these related issues for several years and I’m familiar with his thinking . I know where we might agree and where we disagree as well.

    What I need to see from Stephen is not just an assertion of Paul’s Greek influence that drove his theology but some concrete evidence that counters the Hebrew influence having the stronger impact. I’ve never seen Stephen demonstrate the case conclusively so I naturally have some doubts. 🙂

    Yes, I could be in need of meat instead of milk, and that is what I’m asking Stephen to produce. So far all I’ve seen are unsubstantiated contentions that I’m missing the boat so I’m naturally a little skeptical that Stephen has individually solved this Pauline debate issue that good scholars continue to disagree upon.

    So Pete I disagree that Stephens post was full of beef; maybe a little bologna would be more fitting. 😉 Sorry but I couldn’t resist


    • peteenns

      Norm, it is commonplace in NT scholarship that both Jewish/Hellenistic and Greco-Roman influences can be found in Paul. (In my own work I focus on the former, but I have never denied the latter.) That is not a baseless assertion and I don’t think Stephen is claiming to have solved a problem no one else has.