(In November 1956 I attended some lectures on Genesis by Professor Alan Richardson of Nottingham University. At the time he was regarded as the dean of British biblical theologians. The only thing I remember is his claim that the word Adam means both mankind the race or community and man the individual. It is a point that I occasionally come across in the writings of others, but its relevance to our understanding of the Bible seems to be largely lost. It is, however, germane to what follows.)
Prior to implementing his eternal plan of salvation (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8) God created the world to be inhabited by man (8:22; 9:1; Isa. 45:12,18) who, though earth-derived flesh (Gen. 6:17) was, in contrast with the animals, also made in the divine image (Gen. 1:26-31).
As Creator, God was thus the Father of man (Dt. 32:6; Acts 17:28, cf. Luke 3:38) while the earth, the womb in which Adam, the seed of mankind, was formed, was his mother (Ps. 139:15, cf. Gen. 2:7). Since the divine intention was to create the race and adopt a numberless multitude as his children (Eph. 1:5), his plan involved both time (history) and procreation (cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:1), which recapitulated creation.
God did not exactly repeat the original creation of man, i.e. go back to the very beginning, every time he brought a new human into being; instead he used a system of reproduction, procreation or recapitulation (cf. Gen. 5:1-3). How otherwise could Jesus, who was born of woman in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4), take on flesh and become the second Adam?
Regarding the second Adam we need to note that in contrast to the first, the eternal Word had neither father nor mother (cf. Heb. 7:3). As incarnate, however, he had the same Father as the first (Luke 3:38). For all that, as the man of heaven he was not fashioned as Adam was literally in the earth and then placed in a garden (Gen. 2:8.15), rather he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and sown in the womb of Mary, who, since she derived from the first Adam, was like him fleshly and hence earthly (cf. Ps. 139:13,15).
When we consider that Adam was sown like seed in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15) and Jesus, the man of heaven (1 Cor. 15:47-49), was implanted in Mary’s womb, we are led to conclude that Adam represented the earthly and perishable seed of mankind after the flesh (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23). His implantation in Eden points to the fact that it was the original womb in which mankind was nurtured, and the womb that we know as those that are born of woman and in which we are ‘created’ is Eden in miniature or Eden recapitulated (cf. Job 3:1-19; 10:18f.; 31:15; Jer. 20:14-20; Rom. 9:11). Thus we conclude that a woman who has no husband is desolate (cf. Jud. 11:38; 2 Sam. 13:20) because she is unsown (Isa. 51:1, cf. 62:4f.; Ezek. 36:9).
In the birth of Jesus, the creative process was repeated, for just as the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters in Genesis 1:2, so he overshadowed Mary at the incarnation (Luke 1:35).
Whereas Adam is presented to us as physically adult but rationally and morally infantile since he knew neither good nor evil and had not received the commandment (a rudimentary form of the law), his posterity, including Jesus (Luke 3:38; Heb. 2:17), are presented to us as babies who are also ignorant of good and evil and initially lacking the law (Dt. 1:39; Isa. 7:15f.; Rom. 9:11, etc.). This being so, they have to be taught (Dt. 4:9; 6:7, etc.).
And whereas a self-conscious Adam, having broken the commandment which promised life, was prematurely ejected from the womb of Eden to die without obvious further development, his posterity who survive the womb (and some don’t or die stillborn, cf. Eccles. 6:3) undergo further physical and moral development. This is true with respect to both the individual and the race.
This points up an element of difference between Adam and his posterity. In the latter’s case, there is a sense in which Eden or the experience of the womb is extended into infancy (Dt. 1:39; Num. 14:3,29-33, etc., cf. Job 3:11ff.; 10:18f.; Jer. 20:14ff.). And whereas Adam received the commandment in Eden (Gen. 2:17), his children receive it from their parents at a later stage of their existence (cf. Rom. 7:9f.), that is, at the onset of rationality, which occurs outside the womb (cf. Isa. 28:9; Heb. 5:12f.). Perhaps this is symbolised in Israel by circumcision on the eighth day, but if this is so it needs emphasising that in their case this occurs prior to mental awareness and accountability. However, it also points to the fact that man as a creature of God is throughout his conscious life under the law of God in some sense (Rom. 3:20; 7:1,9f.).
It is strongly stressed in Genesis 3:22-24 that once Adam had left Eden, the womb of the race, he could not return. His link (cf. the umbilical cord) with the tree of life had been permanently severed. Jesus implicitly confirms that when he tells Nicodemus, astonished at the idea of a man re-entering his mother’s womb, that that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. In other words, as Scripture in general emphasises, the idea of not returning points to forward movement, to progression not regression. This is why going back, for example, from Judaism to heathenism (e.g. Egypt) or from Christianity to Judaism (see espec. Galatians) is so strongly reprobated in Scripture. In general terms, we, like Paul, are to put away childish things as we mature (1 Cor. 13:11; 14:20). Having begun as slaves, we then become servants (if we are Jews) and end up as sons or children of God (Gal. 4:1-7). (This does not deny permanent slavery to Christ. See on this M.Harris, Slave of Christ.) Since we were created in the image of God, we are intended to take on his likeness (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). Again, to use yet another biblical image reminiscent of the exodus, as pilgrims we press forward to the goal of the heavenly city (Phil. 3:12-15,20; Heb. 11:8-16; 13:14; 1 Pet. 2:11). Following in the steps of Jesus himself we eventually undergo our exodus from this world like Jesus (Luke 9:31,51) and enter the presence of God (Heb. 10:19f.; 1 Pet. 3:18).
Perfection or maturity is the goal of individual and community alike. Man must come of age. His great exemplar or paradigm was of course Jesus who alone achieved the perfection God required (cf. Mt. 5:48; 19:21; 3:15). Thus it is to his image that we must be conformed (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). Eventually redeemed mankind will attain to the fullness of the stature of Christ (Eph. 4:13) and thus prove a fitting bride.
Outside Eden, which like the womb was a source of total supply, Adam has to fend for himself and earn his living by the sweat of his brow. Once babies are weaned they have to begin to work their own passage depending on their mothers less and less and from whom they are increasingly alienated not least by self-will. The world outside Eden has to be tilled, tamed and coaxed into fertility in accordance with the cultural mandate of Genesis 1. Apart from this, it is (or becomes) a desolate wilderness. Cf. an uninhabited land (e.g. Isa. 6:11, etc.). Sinful inactivity leads to famine and poverty (Prov. 24:30ff.; 28:19: Isa. 1:19, cf. 2 Thes. 3:10). In contrast, as the Psalmist indicates, man’s proper function is to exercise dominion over all created things in order to be crowned with glory and honour (8:5f.). Only Jesus accomplished this (John 16:33; 17:4f.; Heb. 2:9; Rev. 5:5,12f.).
The Bible has little to say about Adam. As we have seen, though he is presented to us as made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-28), he is nonetheless earthly and hence mortal since creation, having had a beginning is bound to have an end (Gen. 8:22, cf. Heb. 7:3). While he is promised life if he keeps the commandment (Gen. 2:17, cf. Lev. 18:5; Ps. 8:5f.; Rom. 2:7, etc.), his fleshly proclivity to sin (Gen. 3:1-7, cf. Rom. 7:14,18, etc.) reveals his inherent weakness even apart from sin (cf. 2 Cor. 13:4). Despite references like Psalm 8:5, Ezekiel 28:11-17 and Daniel 12:3 for example, which have been deemed to support the notion of Adam’s native glory, in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 Paul portrays him in pejorative fashion as the man of dust who stands in vivid contrast with the man of heaven. This corresponds with the flesh/spirit (or Spirit) dichotomy which is a pervasive theme in the NT (see e.g. John 6:63, etc.).
On the moral level all we know is that first Eve then Adam, led astray by the devil, cave into their fleshly desire and break the commandment. In other words, the only moral quality we know that Adam possessed was his sin and unrighteousness. If it is replied that he was created ‘good’ (kalos, Gen. 1:31) it is sufficient to reply that this can only mean that like Eve’s ‘apple’ and creation as such (Gen. 3:6, cf. 2:9; 1 Tim. 4:3f., etc.) he was ideally suited to his intended purpose (cf. Eccles. 3:11 NRSV). God never intended that flesh should boast in his presence (1 Cor. 1:29; Gal. 2:16; 3:22, etc.). Needless to say, as his offspring who are also created in the womb (Job 31:15), we too are created ‘good’ and blessed (Gen. 1:28,31, cf. Mark 10:16) but like Adam and under his (parental) influence we all go astray (Ps. 53:3; Isa. 53:6; 1 Pet. 2:25), come short of the glory of God and earn the wages of death (Rom. 3:23; 5:12, cf. 7:9f.).
Adam in History
Historically, however, Adam has been seen in a much more favourable, even idyllic, light.
First, a good deal of Jewish literature depicts him as glorious prior to his “fall” (1 Enoch 32:3-6; Apoc. Mos. 20:1). Indeed, it presents him as possessing the glory of the righteous in the age to come (Sir. 49, 4 Ezra 8:51; 1 Enoch 39:9; 50:1; 58:2; 69:11,13; 85:3; 2 Bar. 15:8; 54:15,21; 2 Enoch 30:10f.; Lev.R. 30:2) (1*). In light of this, it is perhaps not so surprising that some of the Church Fathers, Augustine in particular, idealised him, as the following passage from The City of God, xiv.26 indicates:
“In Paradise, then, man … lived in the enjoyment of God, and was good by God’s goodness; he lived without any want, and had it within his power so to live eternally. He had food that he might not hunger, drink that he might not thirst, the tree of life that old age might not waste him. There was in his body no corruption, nor seed of corruption, which could produce in him any unpleasant sensation. He feared no inward disease, no outward accident. Soundest health blessed his body, absolute tranquillity his soul. As in Paradise there was no excessive heat or cold, so its inhabitants were exempt from the vicissitudes of fear and desire. No sadness of any kind was there, nor any foolish joy; true gladness ceaselessly flowed from the presence of God, who was loved ‘out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned’. The honest love of husband and wife made a sure harmony between them. Body and spirit worked harmoniously together, and the commandment was kept without labour. No languor made their leisure wearisome; no sleepiness interrupted their desire to labour.”
Hick (p.71 n.5) quotes F.R.Tennant (2*) to the effect that in the rabbinical literature there are passages expressing the belief that “the first man was endowed with extraordinary stature (he is frequently said to have filled the world), with physical beauty, with surpassing wisdom, with a brilliancy that eclipsed that of the sun, with a heavenly light which enabled him to see the whole world, with immortality, and with a ministration of angels”.
It goes without saying that this picture runs directly counter to the biblical presentation. For all that, we can sympathise somewhat with Augustine even if we note with regret that he paid too little attention to what the Bible actually teaches on the subject of Adam. In the event, however, the Bishop of Hippo led Western theology badly astray. As Hick tells us (pp. 70f.), he taught that prior to their fall Adam and Eve were immortal (CG, xiv.1,10; xii. 21), did not grow old (xiv.26), had complete control over their bodily passions (xiv.26), were endowed with infallible moral insight (FW. 111,xviii.52), lived in the enjoyment of God and were ‘good by His goodness’ (‘ex quo bono erat bonus’ – CG, xiv.26). Furthermore, their love for Him was unclouded and tranquil (‘imperturbatus’ – CG, xiv.10); and they had no desire for the forbidden fruit.
If all this is true, we might well conclude that the primal pair were ‘angelic’ rather than human (3*).
While much more needs to be said, I will content myself here by saying that all this reflects massive misunderstanding. As I have averred elsewhere, Augustine put the cart before the horse, implicitly denied biblical, especially anthropological, teleology and turned theology on its head. In the Bible, Adam emanates from the ground, but as one who is made in the image of God he is intended to aspire to heaven (Gen. 2:17; Ps. 8:5f.; Rom. 2:7,10). Instead of recognising with Irenaeus that Adam was morally and spiritually but a child whose duty it was to attain to righteousness by keeping the law and then to pursue perfection or maturity (Dt. 6:25; Mt. 19:21, cf. Rom. 2:7; Phil. 3:12-14; Heb. 6:1; 7:11), Augustine conceived of him as possessing holiness and righteousness by creation (or, as according to RC theology, a kind of donum superadditum). And it was from this condition that he mysteriously fell! Needless to say, this is a far cry from the biblical picture, which presents even the second Adam as a baby knowing neither good nor evil (Isa. 7:15f.) and under an obligation to keep the whole law with a view to attaining to righteousness (Dt. 6:25; Rom. 2:13; 1 John 3:7) and gaining life in accordance with the promise of God (Lev. 18:5, etc.). And in contrast with the first, the second Adam this did it in magnificent ashion (Rom. 8:3).
1* I owe these references to Hafemann, p.210 n.8.
2* The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin, Cambridge, 1903, pp.149f.
3* See P.Brown, pp.500f.
P. Brown, Augustine of Hippo, London, 2000.
S.J.Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, NIV Application C., Grand Rapids, 2000.
John Hick, Evil and the God of Love, Fontana Library, London, 1968.
We are made in the image of God, that is, in his generic (spiritual) image but not in his moral image. That has to be attained and be confirmed by law keeping or obedience (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.). As human beings created in the divine image, we have the capacity to become like him morally by keeping the law (cf. Dt. 6:25; 1 John 3:7, etc.).
We are also made in the image of Adam (cf. Gen. 5:1-3), and have the capacity to become like him in his sin. Just as we are not made in the moral image of God, so we cannot be made in the moral image of Adam. We become like him (repetition or imitation, pace Art. 9 of the C of E) as we react to law by being disobedient. Needless to say, we who are flesh have all sinned (Rom. 3:9-12,23; 5:12, etc.) with the sole exception of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:22, etc.).
If we are obedient (John 5:30; 6:38; 8:29, etc.), we become righteous, but only Jesus succeeded in this (Mt. 3:17, etc.). Even he, like Adam before him, began his incarnate life knowing neither good nor evil (Isa. 7:15f., cf. Dt. 1:39; Luke 2:52). And it was not until he had finished his work and achieved perfection that he, as man, was declared the Holy and Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14, cf. 1 John 2:1).
(Until we receive the law or commandment we can be neither righteous nor unrighteous (Rom. 2:13; 4:15; 7:8, etc.). Until then we are like Adam and Eve knowing neither good nor evil, Dt. 1:39; 1 K. 3:7,9; Isa. 7:15f.; Heb. 5:12-14.)
Sin is transgression of the law (Jas. 2:9-11; 1 John 3:4; 5:17, etc.) and until the commandment dawns on our developing minds, we cannot break it. And since breaking it involves work, we cannot earn wages in death (Rom. 6:23). To sin we must do something (see e.g. Luke 23, and Romans 2 where the words prasso, ergazomai and poieo occur). Again, since Paul refers frequently to the works of the law, he clearly repudiates the notion of the imputation of the Adam’s sin. Imputation functions only when faith is operative as in the case of Christ who voluntarily undertook to bear the sins of his people on the one hand and of believers who receive his righteousness by faith on the other. Where there is no law, as in the case of babies, there is no transgression (or violation). In light of this we must conclude that the imputation of Adam’s sin is a fundamental fallacy. Indeed, if it is true, then God is evil like those who impute sin to those who have not committed it (cf. e.g. 1 Sam. 22:15; 1 K. 21; Luke 23).