If Adam, the individual, was the first human being created by God, the prototype of all his posterity, he must have had both a father and a mother or he was different from the rest of us. If not, according to the author of Hebrews he must have resembled Melchizedek who had neither (Heb. 7). But this would erode the distinction which is made between the first and the second Adams for the latter in his pre-existence as the eternal Word was God (John 1:1) of whom Melchizedek who had no genealogy was the type.
Any apparent confusion at this point can be unravelled first by recognizing that the incarnate Jesus had both parents, for the eternal God was his Father, as he constantly maintained, and the Virgin Mary his mother, as we are plainly taught in both Matthew and Luke and which we infer from Paul (Gal. 4:4). As a true human being and the second Adam, Jesus also had Adam as his father through his mother who derived from him (Gen. 2:21f.; Luke 3:38). But if Adam was a son and his Father was God, who was his mother? Clearly the answer must be mother earth in whose womb he was created as seed (Gen. 2:7, cf. Ps. 139:15; Eph. 4:9). And it was as such that he was transferred to the Garden of Eden to be conceived and to gestate as a human being (Gen. 2:8,15) as David did in his own mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). However, there has been a historical tendency to think of God as the divine potter making or fashioning Adam out of clay in a single day. Though this is arguably suggested by texts like Genesis 2:7, Job 10:8f., Psalm 119:73, Jeremiah 18:1-6 and 2 Corinthians 4:7, it clearly involves denial of man’s development or evolution, and the fundamentalist idea that when Adam was created he looked as if he was thirty years old must be dismissed out of hand. Thus the imagery prominent in Job 10:11 and Psalm 139:13 of being knitted or woven (ESV) in the depths of the earth is obviously more appropriate (cf. Eph. 4:9).
Woman and Mother Earth
From this, and bearing in mind that procreation is creation recapitulated, it seems fairly obvious that a woman’s womb is mother earth in miniature, a fruitful garden in fact , later to become the Garden of Eden where both Job (ch.3;10:18f.) and Jeremiah (20:14-18) who suffered much wished they had stayed. However, as Nicodemus realized once they were born, there was no going back (John 3:4, cf. Gen. 3:24). This point is underlined by Genesis 3:20 where we are told that Eve became the mother of all living implying that the earth from which she herself as dust derived through Adam was the ultimate mother. Otherwise expressed, Eve epitomized or typified the earth (1 Cor. 11:12) as Adam, the image of God, epitomized or typified God (1 Cor. 11:7). This being so, it was both inevitable and paramount that Jesus, the incarnate Son and second Adam, should be born of woman (Gal. 4:4) who was dust (Ps. 103:14) like Adam himself (Gen. 3:19: 1 Cor. 15:47). (1* Charles Wesley sang: “Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made man”. He would have been nearer the truth if he had said that he was ‘condensed to a seed’ in line with the rest of us who begin as seed, 1 Pet. 1:23, cf. Mark 4:26-29, in our father’s loins, Heb. 7:10, cf. John 1:13!)
It is an interesting fact that the link or correspondence between woman and earth becomes apparent elsewhere in Scripture. For just as the earth was created to be inhabited and fruitful (Gen. 1; Is. 45:18), so woman likewise was created to be fruitful (Gen. 1:27f.; 9:1,7). Thus, unsurprisingly, we are told in Deuteronomy, for example, that just as the ground was meant to be fruitful so was woman (Dt. 7:13; 28:4,11; 30:9). And so at his incarnation Jesus was the fruit of Mary’s womb (Luke 1:42). On the other hand, it is also made apparent that just as uncultivated, uninhabited, even unmarried (Isa. 62:4) land is desolate, so is an unmarried woman as exemplified by the daughter of Jephthah (Jud. 11:34-40) and by the daughter of David, Tamar (1 Sam. 13:20, cf. the temple, Mt. 23:38, and the body, James 2:26). In light of the general teaching of Scripture we might well expect that deliberate failure to be fruitful is condemned by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:3f. (cf. Heb. 13:4).
Populating the Earth
If it is true that God finished his specifically creative work on the sixth day, it is clear that assuming the earth was to continue to be inhabited, seed-bearing plants and animals under the providence of God had to be maintained by procreation and even lead to an increased population necessary to cover the earth. In light of this we might expect that so far as man was concerned, Adam, as the image and glory of God, fertilised or impregnated his wife, who was his glory (1 Cor. 11:7), just as God acting as the Father of Adam (cf. Eph. 3:15; Acts 17:26-28) had initially fertilised mother earth. (2* This in no way implies that woman is inferior to man since both are made in the image of God and called to the same goal of perfection in that image. It is simply a matter of recognizing their different but complementary sexual roles while on earth, cf. 1 Cor. 11:12. In heaven, where God sows and populates mother Jerusalem, Gal. 4:26, John 1:13, Heb. 12:22-24, the difference is obliterated, Luke 20:34-36.) In this way, the creation of mankind was recapitulated by procreation which in accordance with the purpose of God proved prolific and ensured the dispersion of man throughout the earth (Gen. 10f.).
Biblical teaching raises a problem in that it refers to the curse on the ground relating to Adam’s sin as Genesis 3:17-19 indicate. This prompts the question of the nature of that curse. (3* If Adam is regarded simply as one individual man who occupied a limited space, how is it that the entire earth has been deemed to be under a curse as a consequence of his sin? The very idea is undermined by verses like Genesis 13:10, Exodus 16:3; Numbers 16:13 and Isaiah 36:17, not to mention the land flowing with milk and honey itself even though it had been occupied by the sinful Canaanites.) Does it mean that the good earth that God had created was subjected to constitutional change and deemed to be ‘fallen’ on account of Adam’s sin? Though this has apparently been the view handed on to us by our Augustinian tradition which has tended to regard the original creation as ‘perfect’ instead of as merely ‘good’ or useful or functional (4* Walton, pp.187f.), it is far from convincing not least since Scripture later considers the physical creation pejoratively irrespective of sin, for whatever is ‘made by hand’ (cheiropoietos) even by God himself is deemed to be ‘second class’ (Ps. 102:25-27; Isa. 51:6; Mt. 6:19f., etc.). (5* See further my Manufactured Or Not So.) Even at the very start of the Bible we are informed that creation has a beginning and implicitly an end. This end is confirmed later in Genesis 8:22, for example, (cf. Dt. 11:21; Heb. 1:11, etc.). And since all animal flesh and plant life derive from it, it too is subject to corruption or decay, not least the incarnate Jesus who like the rest of us gradually grew older (Luke 2:42, etc.). And the inevitable consequence of this was eventual disappearance (Heb. 8:13, cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-18).
So what is being got at in Genesis 3? The answer is surely to be found in Genesis 1 where we are told that man’s basic call was to subdue and exercise dominion over an obviously transitory, futile (Rom. 8:20) and ‘defectible’ earth. Unfortunately, this is what Adam and his immediate posterity failed to do. They were prevented, first, by their sinful attitude or reluctance (Gen. 5:29) like that of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34, and, second, by their limited capacity as the ‘infants’ of the race. We can appreciate their situation better if we accept the notion of recapitulation and recognize that just as an infant individual in our own day does not work, so neither did the race work effectively at its ‘infant’ beginning. There is a basic difference, however. Adam emerged from Eden, the secondary womb of the race, where he had gestated to physical maturity but with only minimal understanding. Like a modern infant on the verge of childhood he could understand only one commandment, to all intents and purposes the word ‘no’. This is surely why there was no covenant made with Adam in contrast with Israel who after its heathen experience had developed sufficiently to accede to the Mosaic covenant (Ex. 24:3,7). Though a covenant, especially the covenant with Noah, is divinely initiated and disposed, it nonetheless implies at least minimal mutuality. (6* See e.g. Packer, p.11, contra Murray who somewhat overstates his case by unduly accentuating the sovereignty of God, p.13, at this point with respect to Noah. He fails to realise that a covenant is ineffective unless it is made with a person who has recognizable rational intelligence enabling him to respond however minimally. See, for example, his own comment on revelation in Romans 1:19, p.38. So while Noah’s faith and obedience are conspicuous, Gen. 6:22; Heb. 11:7, etc., infants, who know neither good nor evil, cf. Heb. 5:13f., are incapable by nature of positive reaction and so are out of the reckoning. Like animals they are totally subject to the one who forms them, cf. Isa. 45:9f.) The difference between Adam who was given a bare commandment which he broke and Noah whose call to commitment (Gen. 9:1-17) despite his sinfulness, was effective is plain. While a covenant may be sovereignly and unilaterally disposed, its acceptance and fulfilment must be at least in principle bilateral. If it were not so, it is difficult to see why flood was permanently erased and the curse not perpetuated. (7* See further my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?) Whereas at the start he had lived an idyllic animal-like life in Eden (cf. Gen. 2:16), once he had been ejected like a baby emerging from its mother’s womb, he was faced with the harsh world outside Eden which proved anything but a spontaneous benefactor (cf. Job 3; Jer. 20:14-18; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Gal. 1:4). After all, God himself of set purpose had subjected it to futility with something better in mind (Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12). In other words, Adam now had to consciously work for a living and this was not merely difficult but obviously went against the grain as later Cain (Gen. 4:11-14) and Lamech in particular indicated (Gen. 5:29). Nonetheless, the ultimate goal of man was honour and glory (Gen. 1:26; Ps. 8; Rom. 2:7,10; Heb. 2:9).
Of course, once Adam could understand the commandment, he could also appreciate the need to obey (cf. Paul in Romans 7:9f.). During his earlier animal life when like a baby he had lacked conscious intelligence (cf. Rom. 9:11), he was unaware of the existence of death and various other things such as animal copulation (cf. Gen. 2:21-23). However, Genesis 3:16, which emphatically underlines the increase in Eve’s pain on giving birth, points unerringly to the fact that Eve had had children before she became a consciously intelligent and comprehending human being. The difference in perception of pain between a mother and her baby at this point ought to be evident to us all. (8* See further my Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, Correspondences.) It is important to mention here that Adam’s immediate posterity was greater than a superficial reading of the evidence might suggest. This doubtless explains Cain’s fear of others who might kill him (Gen. 4:14f.). (9* Again it must be pointed out on the assumption of recapitulation that Adam and Eve though clearly individuals were also corporate figures who, like the second Adam, epitomised the race. Little wonder that commentators find it difficult to distinguish references to them, Adam in particular, in the early chapters of Genesis. See, e.g. Wenham, pp.32,91,115,126.)
It is doubtless helpful to draw attention here to Noah’s ‘baptism’ referred to in 1 Peter 3:21 at the time of the flood (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5). The apostle apparently sees Noah as being cleansed of his infantile filth just as Jewish flesh was later cleansed by washings (Heb. 9:10) and we ourselves are cleansed by the water of baptismal regeneration when we believe in Christ and become Christians (1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5). This is clearly a significant advance on the experience of Adam who questionably believed the promise (protevangelium) of Genesis 3:15. As far as we know, in his manifest immaturity he, like a baby, fell short of the faith of Abel and Enoch. Certainly the author of Hebrews 11 does not refer to him in his cloud of witnesses. This being so and assuming that a covenant is bilateral at least in principle, the likelihood of his being the conscious beneficiary of a divine covenant is remote indeed. (10* See again my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?) The contrast between the merely disobedient ‘infant’ Adam and the enterprising and obedient ‘child’ Noah is significant. With a covenant to guarantee success, Noah, the first heathen before Abraham, was capable of achieving well beyond any aspirations Adam might have had. In fact, by contrast, he was well and truly launched on the path to perfection along with those who followed in his train under the law of Moses (Heb. 11:23-40). The fact that many even today live almost entirely under the dominion of the flesh (cf. 2 Pet. 2:19; Rom.6:16, contrast 13:14) emphasises the difference between man and animal as both Peter (2:2) and Jude especially intimate.
The wonder of the biblical revelation is its comprehensiveness. Rightly understood, it teaches us not only about the existence of God and about creation, the creation of man in particular, but about the entire development, evolution or perfection (maturation) of man both physical and spiritual. Man is progressively baptised into Noah (1 Pet. 3:21), Moses (1 Cor. 10:2) and finally into Christ (Rom. 6:3, cf. Mt. 28:19). Sadly because of traditional ideas about original perfection, sin, fall and curse, the latter has largely been obscured. But the truth is that man (Adam) was created imperfect (immature) with a view to his final perfection or complete likeness in the image of God (Gen. 2:17; 5:1-3; 6:9; 17:1; Lev. 11:44; 19:2; Mt. 5:48; Heb. 6:1, etc.). While physically he resembled the rest of the animal, even vegetable (Isa. 40:6; 1 Pet. 1:23), creation and was subject to natural death (1 Cor.15:50) and what Walton calls biodegradability (p.188), that is, corruption or decay even apart from sin, spiritually he could aspire to eternal life and corporeal transformation in the presence of God himself. In the event, like all his posterity but One, Adam failed on account of sin. The second Adam, however, who though flesh did not sin (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.) and thereby met the precondition of life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5), achieved that elusive perfection and took his place at his Father’s side as the very embodiment of the complete image of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). And it is in union with him, our elder brother (Rom. 8:29; Heb. 2:10-13) and firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15), that we too take our place (Rev. 3:21). All believers together throughout history will be perfected (Heb. 11:39f.) and all together (Rev. 7:9) will with Christ inherit all things (Rom. 8:17,32).
See further my Cosmic Curse?, Supplement to ‘Cosmic Curse?’, Understanding the Curse, Observations on the Curse, Romans 8:18-25; The Chicken or the Egg, Perfection, The Biblical Doctrine Of Human Evolution.
John Murray, The Covenant of Grace, London, 1954.
The Epistle to the Romans, London, 1967.
J.I.Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, Vol.1, Carlisle, 1998.
John H. Walton, NIVAC, Genesis, Grand Rapids, 2001.
G.J.Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Waco, 1987.