No Adam, No Christ?

No Adam, No Christ? July 3, 2015

I was asked a question on Facebook, and thought I would share the answer I gave. Here’s the question:

I was hoping for a little clarification on how one might reconcile a non literal first Adam with Paul’s gospel. 

In Paul’s mind Christ is the “second Adam,” having succeeded where the “first Adam” failed. According to Paul, it is precisely because of the failure of the first that the second was required.

Can anyone point me in the right direction to help me resolve these complex theological challenges?

Here is what I wrote in response:

This is a great question. What I would note is that, if Adam in Genesis 2-3 is simply a symbolic depiction of what is typical of humanity in general, then the comparison still works just fine: Jesus succeeded where human beings in general failed, not just where one failed.
The contrast seems to me to be between two ways of being human, and just as being in Christ is not about being descended from Jesus, there is no obvious reason why being descended from Adam is crucial to the comparison.
I would also note that Paul plays fast and loose with the details in Genesis in order to make the contrast he does. If he were a literalist, he would have said “just as through two human beings sin entered the world…” The story as read literally is about a man and a woman who eat what they are not supposed to. Clearly Paul’s aim is not to stick to the details of Genesis as literal fact not to be tampered with, but to say something about Jesus.

See also a couple of older posts of mine on this topic – why Jesus and Paul were not literalists, and Genesis 2 is not literal (the Bible tells me so) – as well as one by Pete Enns.

Origen on Adam

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