Correcting Traditional Distortions Of Scripture

I have argued elsewhere that our understanding of Scripture has been seriously distorted by tradition, a situation that has obtained for over 1500 years (1* See e.g. my Augustine: Asset or Liability?, Worldview, The Biblical Worldview). While the Reformation put certain matters like the Lord’s Supper right, much, like baptism, remains to be done. So far as we in the 21st century are concerned, the main problem has been and remains the framework, worldview or big picture against, within and by which the Bible is interpreted. Clearly, if we try to match the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle with a false picture of the finished product, we are bound to end up in difficulty and distortion. Texts that do not fit into a preconceived picture are forced into it. Eisegesis as opposed to exegesis thus becomes the order of the day. To overcome this problem it is of vital importance in the 21st century when the church is under attack by atheists, certain scientists and the devotees of false religions to begin at the beginning and to work our way through the Bible to the end to see exactly what it teaches.

Church Tradition

When we look at the history of dogma, it is not at all difficult once it is pointed out to recognize that our present tradition had a very dubious, even false beginning. Augustine by whom the church has been so profoundly influenced since the fifth century seemed to think that creation was originally perfect rather than merely ‘good’, that is, useful and like a tool serving a purpose (cf. Ps. 119:91), but was cursed when Adam sinned. This seems to be inherently contradictory. There are at least two points here: first, perfection seems to be the goal of mankind not his beginning (see Phil. 3:12-14; Hebrews 6:1, etc.); second, if perfection can be lost who is to guarantee that our perfect God and Saviour will not fall into sin like the first Adam. The truth that Genesis 1 teaches us is that the material creation that God brought into being first had a beginning (1:1) and was therefore headed inexorably for an eventual end (cf. Gen. 8:22; Mt. 24:35; 28:20). In other words, as even the very first verse of Scripture indicates, creation is temporal and transient by nature. If it is physically visible (Rom. 1:20), it is according to the apostle Paul also temporary (2 Cor. 4:18, cf. Rom. 8:20,24f. on which see further below) and is subject to ultimate removal or destruction (Heb. 12:27). Otherwise expressed, it is inherently obsolescent (Heb. 1:11) and will eventually pass away (Mt. 24:35). Yet, again, creation is said to be “made by hand” (cheiropoietos) (Ps. 102:25f.) like the visible hand-written old covenant (cheirographos, Col. 2:14) that relates to it and will eventually disappear (Heb. 8:13). The term ‘made by hand’ is always depreciatory or pejorative in meaning and in strong contrast with what is “not made by hand” (acheiropoietos) which features in the new covenant. In light of this, though to my knowledge it is universally denied, it is not at all surprising that Paul teaches in Romans 8:18-25 that creation was purposely subjected by God to futility and corruption (decay) at the start precisely because he had something better in mind at the end. For the creatures that he first created flesh from the corruptible earth itself, corruption was therefore inevitable and quite unrelated to sin even if it could be exacerbated by it. But as the God of spirits (Num. 16:22), God also created human beings in his own image with the ultimate intention as the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9) of adopting them as his sons and daughters in Christ (John 1:12f.; Eph. 1:4f.). In order to become such, they had to be perfected like their pioneer before them and along with him be glorified in God’s presence (Heb. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:18, etc.) in his own (eternal) house (John 14:2f.; 17:24; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 22:1-5).


In support of this, we read in Genesis that mankind along with all (other) flesh (Gen. 6:17) is created out of the earth and is hence portrayed in Scripture as earth(l)y (1 Cor. 15:40), Col. 3:5), dust (Ps. 103:14; 1 Cor. 15:47-49), clay (Job 4:19; 2 Cor. 4:7) and grass (Isa. 40:6-8; 1 Pet. 1:23f.). Initially, as flesh, Adam and Eve like the rest of the animal creation (cf. Gen. 6:17) know neither the law (commandment) nor good and evil (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:5,22). (2* On the equation of all flesh including man see, for example, Chris Wright, pp.26ff.)


After a period of development (evolution?), however, in accordance with the divine purpose reflected in his making his creatures including man seed-bearers, they gain an element of understanding and like young children receive just one commandment to test their commitment to God (cf. Gen.22:1; Ex. 15:25; 16:4; Dt. 8:2,16; Ps. 7:9; Jer. 11:20; 17:10; 20:12, etc.). As we all know they fail to keep this commandment and hence become sinners (cf. John 8:34). All their offspring follow suit, and thus in the words of the author of Genesis the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth but noticeably not from his infancy (Gen. 8:21; Jer. 3:24f.; 22:21; 32:30, cf. Ezra 9:7). Whereas all men remain innocent (cf. Dt. 1:39; 1 K. 3:7,9; Isa. 7:15f.; Heb. 5:12-14) until they gain understanding of the law (Rom. 4:15; 7:8), once it dawns on their minds they all like Adam and Eve break it and become sinners by nature (John 8:34; Eph. 2:1-3; Tit. 3:3). In other words, since all are created in his image (Gen. 5:1-3) all, like Paul himself (Rom. 7:9f.), follow the pattern of behaviour established by their first parents. Though Augustinian tradition says that they sin ‘in Adam’ (Rom. 5:12), the Bible plainly indicates that they repeat the sin of first Eve then Adam. The situation is made all the more certain because all descendants sin under the influence of parents (cf. Ex. 20:5f.; 34:7, etc.) of whom Adam and Eve are only the first (Rom. 5:12-21). (3* Pace Art. 9 of the C of E. If we deny imitation, or rather repetition, serious questions need to be answered. For example, how did Jesus manage to avoid the imputation or transmission of Adam’s sin? How does God himself avoid the blame for imputing sin to the innocent contrary to his own code of conduct, 1 Sam. 22:15; 1 K. 21; Luke 23, etc.? Why is it that Isaiah implies that Jesus was born innocent like Adam and Eve, Isa. 7:15f.? Why does Peter say that in contrast with the rest of us he committed no sin, 1 Pet. 2:22? Why does the author of Hebrews say that as a son of Adam, Luke 3:38, he was like the rest of us apart from sin, Heb. 2:17? Why do the Jews and the Orthodox to this day deny original sin? How does Jesus differ from Paul who says that he was born ‘alive’, Rom. 7:9? Clearly Paul like the Jews in general did not believe in original sin as propounded by Augustine.) In other words, we are all including Jesus conceived and born in sin (Ps. 51:5) but like him since we know neither the law nor good and evil (Isa. 7:15f.) we are personally innocent (cf. Ezek. 18). Like the children of the sinful parents who died in the wilderness and failed to enter the Promised Land, we remain untarnished by sin (Dt. 1:39) until we personally react as they did to the law or commandment when it eventually dawns on our minds (Jer. 32:18f.).

Flesh Again

Returning to man’s natural constitution as flesh, however, it is imperative to underscore the fact that it is subject to decay even apart from sin. To demonstrate the truth of this we must first appeal to the fact that since it is the product of a corruptible earth, it also has a beginning and an end. This is true of all flesh (Gen. 6:17), of man and sinless animal alike, as the Bible makes plain (Ps. 49:12,20; Eccl. 3:18-21). Citing the OT the author of Hebrews states that creation in contrast with its Creator is subject to aging and will eventually disappear (Heb. 1:11f.; 8:13). Even the sinless Jesus as incarnate grew older (Luke 2:42; 3:23; John 8:57, etc.) and eventually disappeared (Acts 1:9). Furthermore, Adam is threatened with death before he sins, but by the same token he is promised (eternal) life if he keeps the commandment (Gen. 2:16f.). On the other hand, all that lacks spiritual understanding (cf. Rom. 7:14), that is, all animal (including man according to the flesh) and vegetable life necessarily requires reproduction to counter the effect of universal natural death (cf. Luke 20:34-36). (4* See further my Death and Corruption, Two ‘Natural’ Necessities. It is worth adding here that eunuchs, Isa.56, and barren/unmarried women, Isa. 54:1, who by faith transcend the law don’t have the same problem!)

Dispensing with Tradition

If all this is true then it is vital for us to subject to intense scrutiny traditional ideas apparently extraneous to Scripture like original perfection, holiness, righteousness, fall, cosmic curse and final restoration. Against a background of intentional, teleological and even beneficent (5* I use this latter word for the simple reason that corruption opens up the way for the realization of the invisible hope of our salvation, Rom. 8:20,24f., which is surely the eternal weight of glory that lies ahead, Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17.) subjection of creation to futility and corruption, we can begin to recognize the divinely planned pilgrimage or perfecting process from earth to heaven or from ground to final glory (Rom. 8:30), a pilgrimage which was pioneered by Jesus himself (John 3:13, etc.) For he was the perfected man par excellence as the letter to the Hebrews in particular makes abundantly clear (e.g. Heb. 7:26,28). But more on this below.

No Covenant With Creation

If we assume the truth of the perfecting as opposed to the traditional degenerating process, before we sketch in more detail the path to perfection (maturity, completion, James 1:4) and its end the crown of life (James 1:12), it is vital to see in further support of the picture of intentional cosmic physical corruption painted above that there is conspicuously no covenant with creation. If the word covenant implies agreement even of the most minimal kind, it is obvious that there can be no creation covenant, though many, especially the devotees of original sin, have posited one. Why? Because the creation, in contrast with its creature man who possesses the image of God, lacks rationality. As both animate and inanimate it lacks understanding and is in no position to agree about anything (cf. Ps. 32:9; James 3:3f., etc.). Thus since a unilateral covenant is a contradiction in terms, creation simply does as it is commanded to do. This is the pattern we find throughout Scripture. (On Adam, see below.) It is especially evident in Genesis 1 (cf. Ps. 33:9-11), in the life of Jesus (e.g. Mark 4:39) and in Revelation 4:11. (6* See further my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?)

The Covenant With Noah

By the time we come to Noah, however, in the providence of God man has clearly undergone some development and gained in understanding (cf. Heb. 5:14). Whereas Adam, though physically mature, was spiritually speaking but an infant who was at best only capable of responding either negatively or positively to a single simple commandment, Noah had sufficient understanding to participate if only minimally in a covenant which, since it forms the foundation of man’s ultimate salvation, embraces the whole creation. This inference is supported by the threat of a universal curse on the (phenomenal) earth under Adam and his immediate descendants but which is by the grace of God rescinded after the flood under Noah (Gen. 8:21). The flood, of course, is clearly a curse imposed as a response to the sin of Adam’s descendants. In Adam’s own case (cf. Cain, Gen 4:12) transgression brought only a limited curse as all infraction of the law does (Heb. 2:2). Wherever men fail to fulfil their moral obligations like tilling the earth, exercising dominion and keeping the covenant (law), they suffer the consequences as passages like Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28 and Proverbs 24:30-34 in particular make clear. By the same token, whenever they do their duty, they are blessed (Dt. 11:13-17; Isa. 1:19f., cf. Ps. 65:9-13; 85:10-12). The idea that the entire earth, even universe, was cursed when Adam sinned is clearly nonsense based on traditional Augustinian misunderstanding of Genesis 1-2 and Romans 8:18-25 and failure to appreciate the import of Hebrews 1:10-12, for example.


To clarify the picture it is helpful to miniaturize mankind (Adam), as Scripture itself often does with representative figures, that is, to the one man (Adam). If Adam (cf. Gen. 1:26 and 2:5), like Israel (Ex. 4:22; 13:8; Dt. 26:5; Jer. 12:7; Hos. 11:1) and even Jesus (John 15, cf. Isa. 5:1-7), is both one and many, he is mutatis mutandis first an embryo in the womb (Eden), then an infant who when he sins is thrust (born) into the harsh world outside the womb. Here as both spiritually immature and sinner, he proves reluctant (cf. Gen. 5:29) and in the event unable to cope with his environment. He fails to tend it as he had earlier failed to tend the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:17-19, cf. 5:29) in accordance with his calling (Gen. 2:8,15) and hence fails to produce the fruit, both moral and material, expected of him. He thus suffers the consequences of his inadequately tended environment, for his failure to exercise proper dominion over his naturally hostile, intractable and uncompromising surroundings (which according to Paul were divinely subjected to corruption and futility) leads to inevitable pain and even death (Job 3:1-26; 5:6f.; 7:1; 14:1; Ps. 90:9f.; Jer. 3:24f.; 20:14-18). (7* References like Job 5:6; Ps. 85:11 and Isa. 45:8 suggest that there is an intimate connection between morality and the earth.) Indeed the situation is so bad that all is threatened with destruction. It is only the grace of God, manifested to faithful Noah, that keeps creation and hence the plan of salvation in being. With Noah there is a real sense in which a new beginning is made reminiscent of the original beginning made with Adam (Gen. 9:1,7, cf. 1:28). It reminds us on the individual level of a child who is cleansed of his infantile filth (1 Pet. 3:21) and able to begin to do things for himself.

Assuming the truth of all this we are led to infer that every individual man is Adam (mankind) in miniature. As such he recapitulates the history of mankind, the race, or, to express the point in more scientific terms, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. We all as individuals begin where Adam began, that is as dust (Ps. 103:14, cf. Gen. 2:7; 3:19; 1 Cor. 15:46-49). Next, in our infantile innocence we know neither good nor evil (Dt. 1:39). Paul clearly implies that he personally began his life in this way as he explains in Romans 7:9f. But more importantly, Jesus as the second Adam certainly did (cf. Isa. 7:15f.). Had he not done so, he could hardly have been truly man on the one hand and made atonement for the sins of the whole world on the other (1 John 2:2). What he had not assumed he could not heal (Gregory Nazianzus, cf. Heb. 2). At the beginning of his mental/moral life man as made in the image of God is confronted with two basic problems: he is called, first, to rule over a hostile creation (Gen. 1:26-28) subjected by divine decree to futility and ever ready to become a desolation (Prov. 24:30-34; Isa. 6:11; Zech. 7:14, etc.) even descend into chaos (cf. Jer. 4:23-28); second, to keep the law (Gen. 2:16f.), that is, to master a natural personal tendency to sin (Gen. 4:7, cf. Heb. 5:7f.). Since the two problems are related and interconnected, defeat in the latter leads inevitably to defeat in the former. Failure to exercise necessary dominion over his environment which is man’s vocation has unpleasant repercussions as Adam and his descendants were to become aware (cf. Gen. 3:17-19; Dt. 28:15-68, etc.). In other words, man has to overcome both the world and the desires of his own flesh (James 1:14f.) which are part of the world. Yet a third problem is constituted by the devil whose aim is to tempt and deceive him largely through his natural desires (cf. James 1:14f.). Whereas all from Eve through to Jesus fail to conquer in these areas, Jesus, as the one sent by his Father in the likeness of sinful flesh to deal with sin, alone succeeded (John 16:33; Rom. 2:7,10; 8:3; Heb. 2:9). In contrast with Paul, for example, who was fully aware of his own inability to overcome in the (natural) war (Gal. 5:17, cf. James 4:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:11) with his flesh (Rom. 7:14-23), he was uniquely made perfect (Heb. 7:28) despite his normal human weakness (2 Cor. 13:4).


However, as we have seen, God clearly did not mean to leave the matter there. Faced with the failure of Adam and his immediate descendants, out of sheer grace he made a covenant with Noah. Instead of destroying man along with the earth in accordance with his original threat, he guaranteed their continuation and fruitfulness until his plan of salvation was complete (Gen. 8:22). Needless to say, we are reminded that the same sort of divine covenantal undergirding obtains later in the history of God’s people as the plan of salvation unfolds (Jer. 31:5-37; 33:19-22 and note Luke 17:26-30).

The Covenants With Abraham

The inadequacy of the covenant with Noah soon becomes plain. Though it guarantees the continued fertility of the earth (Acts 14:17; 17:27), it does little to stem the tide of sins committed by man despite the witness of nature (Rom. 1:18-2:16, etc.). Clearly more needs to be done, and that God had more in mind becomes clear when he promises Abraham that he will become the father of nations and a blessing to all the families of the earth. Indeed, his promises to Abraham are not merely confirmed in covenant (Gen. 15,17) but they are doubly guaranteed by an oath (Gen. 22:15-18; Heb. 6:17).

The Mosaic Covenant

Against this background and the ensuing slavery of his people in Egypt, God eventually rescues them with a powerful arm. But his purpose is not merely their political freedom in their own land but their spiritual maturation. Whereas Adam had been called to keep but one commandment, now at the dawn of a new era, this race redeemed from the fiery furnace was put under a much more far-reaching law at the heart of which were the ten words or commandments. According to Paul, the law was added because of transgressions. While it pointed up sin, made it explicit and served as a disciplinarian, it also guarded all who were under it until Jesus came (Gal. 3:19-29).

Here two things become clear. First, if Israel needed a disciplinarian, he (they) was still immature, still in his minority and needing to grow up or to be perfected. Second, the promises which were still standing and required fulfillment (cf. Rom. 15:8-13). The former was achieved through the latter. In Christ, man was no longer imprisoned under the law and sin (Rom. 3:19f.; 11:32; Gal. 3:22) but made free (Gal. 5:1; John 8:32; Acts 15:10f.). But we are running ahead of ourselves.

The Davidic Covenant

Throughout the duration of the dispensation of law, the promises made to Abraham remained in place (Gal. 3:17) but they were supplemented or enhanced by those made to David as the elect nation gained in maturity. The rest of the OT, punctuated by the exile, is characterized by the hope of a Messiah to rescue the people from their enemies. Indeed the people were the prisoners of hope (Zech. 9:12) and so long as they reject their Messiah, they remain so to this day. By the same token, however, they remain as Paul intimated the prisoners of and under the guardianship of the law which inevitably meant sin (Gal. 3:19-25). From this unenviable situation they could not escape since no one could keep the law, least of all David. All awaited the Messiah in the shape of great David’s greater Son who alone could keep the law and meet the condition of (eternal) life or regeneration (Lev. 18:5) and inaugurate the new covenant by his death. (If Jesus was not the regenerate Son, he was in no position to lay down his life to save his fellows, Mt. 17:25f., cf. Eph. 2:10.)

The Messiah

After many a long year and domination under foreign powers like the Greeks and Romans even in their own land (cf. Neh. 9:36f.), the Messiah eventually arrived but was not recognized as such. According to John his identity was hidden from the world at large and not least from his own people (John 1:10f.). This situation can be attributed to man’s natural obtuseness or blindness but it also arose from the fact that a false, preconceived picture of him was entertained by the people. This, as I suggested in my first paragraph, is a constant problem throughout history. Tradition which is usually learnt by rote exercises powerful sway over all who are aware of it and is difficult even for the most well-intentioned of us to overcome. The truth is, however, that Jesus was not a blood-stained warrior like his forebear David, but the would-be conqueror (Rev. 5:5) and the propitiation of the world’s sin (1 John 2:2). In the words of the author of Hebrews he came to do God’s will (Heb. 10:7), to keep the law and to please his Father by fulfilling all righteousness (Mt. 3:15; John 4:34; 8:29) and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Jesus gave his flesh (Col. 1:22), his earthly life (his psyche, John 10:17f., not his eternal pneuma) for his people. It was precisely our flesh or our natural life that was forfeit when we sinned. It was so in Adam’s case: it is so in ours. Jesus could give his fleshly life for us because, as the only one to keep the law, he already had eternal life. That is why we who are Christians who also have eternal life in contrast with all others have something to offer (Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:10, cf. Mt. 17:24-26). We are (to be) prepared for good works (2 Tim. 2:21; 3:17; Tit. 3:1; Tit. 2:14) doing the will of God from the heart (Eph. 6:6) ever ready to put to death what is earthly in us so that we may share Christ’s glory (Col. 3:1-5). In this we follow Jesus himself who was led by the Spirit before us. If this is true, the presently popular idea that Jesus redeemed his and our flesh at his resurrection and hence the creation from which it stemmed is a profound error. In any case, as sinners we eventually lose our flesh (Rom. 8:10) but our bodies require redemption (Rom. 8:23) involving change whether we figure among the saints at the end of the age or not (1 Cor. 15:50-53). And since the flesh is naturally subject to corruption, so is the material creation from which it emanated.

The Glorified Messiah

Of course, because he gave his fleshly life for us freely, voluntarily and vicariously and not as the result of personal sin, Jesus temporarily and necessarily regained that life at his resurrection (Acts 2:23f.) as he said he would (John 2:19f.f.; 10:17f., cf. Luke 24:39). (8* Note also how he is presented as regaining the glory that he freely, Rom. 3:24; 2 Cor. 8:9, purposefully, John 10:17f., and vicariously, Mark 10:45, gave up at his incarnation, John 17:5,24.) Only at his ascension was he transformed and glorified (John 20:17; 1 Cor. 15:50-53). We who put our trust in him follow in his wake to glory but by a somewhat different route, that is, by the one that David as a sinner had to take. He succumbed to death and corruption (Acts 2:29; 13:36) and so do we (cf. Rom. 8:10f.). On the other hand, if we are among the saints at the end who neither die nor experience resurrection, we shall, like Jesus, who after his resurrection lived as though he had never died and been raised from the dead, enter heaven as he did after undergoing ascension transformation. So whether we live or die, we shall all be saved, since Jesus serves as our model or paradigm in both cases (1 Cor. 15:45-57).

The Truth As It Is in Jesus

So it is then that Christology is the key to understanding Scripture. If Jesus as the last Adam mutatis mutandis recapitulated the race the picture of man perfected is as follows:

From ground to Glory

Our physical origin is in the ground (Gen. 2:7; Ps. 139:15; Eph. 4:9). This being so, we must always remember that God created man as a seed bearer capable of replicating himself in reproduction. Thus the first Adam attained to maturity physically, but obviously not spiritually, intellectually, culturally. While it is true that only Adam as created goes right back to the very beginning, all his offspring including Jesus (Luke 3:38) stem from him and as such are dust (Ps. 103:14; 1 Cor. 15:45-49).

As descendants of Adam we are sown as perishable seed (1 Pet. 1:23) in the womb (cf. Eden) where gestation takes place (Ps. 139:13). After this, we are born into the harsh, futile and corruptible environment of this present world (age) where we are called to exercise dominion and keep the law as we develop.

Birth is followed by weaning with the minimal understanding during infancy but we are blessed along with all creation under the covenant with Noah. With the covenant made with Abraham comes the promise of worldwide blessing and this is not at all undermined by the instruction of the law given through Moses (Gal. 3:17f.). The career of David leads to the extension of the promise which eventually materializes in the arrival of the Messiah. It is he who uniquely keeps the law and inherits eternal life (Lev. 18:5) as man (the last Adam. And it is he who fulfils all righteousness and dies for his people. The wonder is, however, that he rises from the dead and thereby proves he has conquered. And it is as conqueror that he ascends transformed into heaven and takes his seat at his Father’s side. In him mankind is saved.

There are certain differences between the rest of us men and Jesus the man, however. First, Jesus does not sin (Heb. 2:17; 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22). Thus he is able to meet the condition of life first made to Adam (Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5). As the sinless man who gains eternal life (Lev. 18:5) signified at his baptism, he is in a position (qualified) to expiate our sins and propitiate, or make satisfaction to, the Father on our behalf, for he, God, must not only be righteous but seen to be so (Rom. 3:26; 2 Cor. 5:21). Second, Jesus undergoes death and resurrection solely on our behalf. In other words, neither death nor resurrection are necessary features of his earthly life but rather from his personal point of view they constitute an aberration, deviation or digression from normality undertaken purely out of love for his fellows. Third, because he recovers by resurrection the fleshly life (Luke 24:39) he has laid down (John 10:17f.), it remains for him to be changed at his ascension (John 20:17). Most of us, recapitulate the experience of David. As sinners we like him experience corruption and are not raised and transformed until the general resurrection. Jesus, however, pioneers the way of those who are still alive at the end of the age. Since they do not die and undergo resurrection, they nonetheless need to be transformed and glorified as he was (1 Cor. 15:47-57; Phil. 3:21).

Covenant Life

All this is in essence spelt out by Paul in Galatians 4:1-7. The picture he paints is less descriptive but more pointedly theological and covenantal. He indicates that Jesus was born of woman and through her of Adam (Luke 3:38) and so was a true human being like the rest of us. By this he implies that he first progressed from the dust like Adam (cf. Eph. 4:9) then passed through the merely fleshly or animal stage of his life. Then, as he developed he became a child of nature as a Gentile (heathen) descendant of Noah. This of course involved his spending time as a slave in Egypt (Gal. 4:1-3; Mt. 2:15). Next, following in the steps of his Jewish forebears, on his return from Egyptian bondage he became a son of the commandment and so like them was in bondage under the law of Moses (cf. Gal. 3:23-25). However, since he was the one who alone kept the law and gained eternal life, he introduced the regenerate life into this world (cf. 2 Tim. 1:10). But whereas under the law he recapitulated the experience of his ancestors, after his baptism by the Spirit he himself as a new creature became the pioneer of the Christian life (2 Cor. 5:17).

Jesus as the second Adam began as God in perfection but when he became incarnate he humbled himself and took on the form of a servant (Phil. 2:6f.). In other words, as incarnate he began where Adam began, that is, in the ground (cf. Eph. 4:9). Far from being perfect (complete or fully mature) his challenge was to be perfected and thereby to become perfect (cf. Mt. 5:48; Eph. 4:10). In other words, since he was to all intents and purposes created in the image of God like every other human being he had to take on the likeness of God in order to take on his complete image (Heb. 1:3) and regain his original glory (John 17:5,24).

If this is true, the idea pervading church tradition that Adam was originally perfect in holiness and righteousness is absurd. If Jesus, the second Adam, was not righteous at his conception and birth, then neither was the first. If Jesus had to gain righteousness by keeping the law in order to meet the condition of life, then so had Adam. But whereas Adam failed Jesus succeeded.


I conclude then that original perfection, righteousness and holiness followed by sin and universal curse requiring the restoration/redemption of creation is superstitious nonsense. The Bible makes it clear beyond reasonable question that the material creation was subjected to corruption by divine decree from the start (Rom. 8:20). As the footstool of God, it was never intended to last forever but to be replaced by heaven, the home of righteousness where God has his throne. Since it had a beginning which implies an end, it was by nature transient. Thank God for from our point of view, this present ‘evil’ age (Gal. 1:4) was always intended to be followed by the age to come, the infinitely better eternal world which we enter through Christ (cf. Luke 20:34-36; John 14:2f.,19; Rom. 8:18-25; 2 Cor. 4:16-18*; Eph. 1:20f.; Heb. 9:11f.,24; 12:22-24, etc.).

* 2 Corinthians 5:1, which apparently refers to the body of flesh rather than to the earth, should perhaps be added here. It is, however, arguably ambiguous like various other biblical words such as Adam, world (John 1:10), house (2 Sam. 7), creation (Rom. 8:19-21), etc. Whatever the case, the destruction of the one, that is, the flesh, implies the destruction of the earth from which it stems.



C.J.H.Wright, Knowing the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament, Oxford, 2006.