The Ascending Adam

(In 1956 at about the time of the Suez crisis I heard three public lectures on the early chapters of Genesis by Professor Alan Richardson of Nottingham University. He stressed the fact that the word ‘Adam’ meant both mankind the race and man the individual. Despite certain differences there is clearly a correspondence between the two (cf. Isa. 45:9f.), especially since the individual epitomises the race, in fact, (mutatis mutandis) largely recapitulates it. Here, I take this for granted.)

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion … over all the earth … be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:26-28).

“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor …” (Ps. 8:5).

“ … Jesus, crowned … because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9). ESV

Adam (mankind) created by God in the earth (Gen. 1:24; 2:7; 3:19,23; Ps. 139:15f.) as seed (cf. Heb. 7:10) like the rest of the animals (Gen. 2:19).

Made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26) and hence a son of God (Luke 3:38; Acts 17:28f., cf. Gen. 6:2).

Transferred to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15, cf. Ps. 139:13f.), the archetypal womb, to gestate to physical maturity before gaining infantile perception and rational self-consciousness.

Eve created out of Adam (Gen. 2:21f., cf. Heb. 7:10) in the same image (Gen. 1:27).

While Adam as the image of God typified God (1 Cor. 11:7), Eve, the glory of man, typified the earth and became the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20, cf. Ps. 139:13f.).

Since where there is no law, there is no transgression (Rom. 4:15), it was not until he acquired knowledge in his physical maturity that Adam was tested (cf. Ex. 15:25; Dt. 8:2,16, etc.) by the commandment (Gen. 2:16f.), found wanting (Gen. 3:6) and along with Eve was constituted a sinner (cf. John 8:34; James 2:10).

Adam was cast out of the idyllic Garden/womb and separated from the tree of life (cf. Gen. 2:9; 3:22; Rev. 22:14) with no way of returning (Gen. 3:24, cf. John 3:4). (1* See my No Going Back )

Outside of the Garden/womb, life in a world purposely subjected by God to futility (Rom. 8:20) was full of hardship (Gen. 3:19). Whereas in the Garden/womb Adam was amply, freely and almost effortlessly supplied with the necessities of life like the animals (cf. Gen. 2:16), outside he had to fend for himself and consciously work for a living. Now that he was armed with knowledge, he became aware of creation’s natural intractability and harsh inhospitality. In other words, with their eyes opened (Gen. 3:7) both Adam and Eve like children became increasingly conscious of both good and evil on both the natural and moral levels (Gen. 3:22).

As the image of his Creator Adam became a procreator (Isa. 45:9f.) and fathered, first, Cain and Abel, then later Seth in his own image (Gen. 5:3) and the likeness of God (cf. Gen. 5:1). And so the race proliferated (Gen. 5). Just as Adam was created knowing neither good nor evil, so were all his procreated offspring (Dt. 1:39). Alternatively expressed, children begin at the beginning like their parents in innocence and recapitulate their experience. So, while necessarily inheriting their parents’ physical nature as flesh, they do not inherit their moral nature, though they are usually powerfully influenced by it (cf. Rom. 5:12-21). (2* Apart from the many other considerations, the historical attempt to derive the imputation of Adam’s sin from Genesis 5:1-3 and Romans 5:12-21 founders on the glaring fact that Jesus, though born of a sinful woman like all children, was not a sinner himself. He did not break the commandment/law, 1 Pet. 2:22. See further my various pieces on original sin.)

Sin became rampant in early man (Gen. 6) who was deceived and led astray like Eve by the desires of the flesh (Gen. 3:6, cf. Heb. 3:13). Apart from Jesus, all men and women alike fail the test when flesh collides with commandment/law (Num. 15:39, cf. Rom. 7:14; Eph. 4:17-19; James 1:12-15). As a consequence, all fail to avoid the death which is the wages of sin (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). (Though man like all flesh is mortal by nature, Num. 16:29; Rom. 6:12, the law promised life if it was kept, cf. Lev. 18:5; Rom. 7:10.)
Despite the sin and the death of all including Adam and his tribe (Gen. 5:5), God manifested his grace to Noah who found favour with him (Gen. 6:8). As righteous by faith (Gen. 6:9) and hence obedient, Noah and his family survived the flood.

The Covenant with Noah (Dispensational)

By this stage in the evolutionary ascent of the race, Noah had gained sufficient understanding to embrace the covenant which was reminiscent of God’s non-covenantal dealings with Adam (Gen. 9:1-17). From Noah’s three sons sprang the people who were to spread throughout the whole earth (Gen. 9:18f.; 10:32) gradually increasing their dominion. As even righteous Job discovered, however, life in a creation subject to death and decay, trial and tribulation was arduous (Job 7:1f.; 14:1f., cf. 5:6f.).

The Abrahamic Covenant (Promissory)

Just as Adam had sought to forge his own independent career in defiance of his Creator at the beginning of the human odyssey, so did his posterity at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). It was a case of like father, like son (cf. 2 K. 17:41b; Acts 7:51) and mother like daughter (cf. Ezek. 16:44). So, after foiling mankind’s aspirations to personal autonomy, God’s first step was to display his grace by calling Abraham, sinner and heathen though he was, to be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). So though the covenant with Noah remained permanently in operation, far-reaching promises now became a feature of man’s future despite continuing sin.

The Mosaic Covenant (Dispensational)

Sin was in fact a major problem and it was highlighted, after a period of childhood slavery (cf. Gal. 4:1f.) in Egypt (Hos. 11:1, cf. Mt. 2:15), when Moses promulgated a covenant of law which all the people freely accepted (Ex. 19:8; 24:3,7). But though the law was intended to serve as a guardian against sin (Gal. 3:23f.), it proved impossible for the fleshly offspring of dusty Adam (Gen. 2:7; 3:19; 1 Cor. 15:47a), who became sons of the commandment when they reached adolescence, to keep (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 5:12-14). Yet despite widespread transgression, faith remained in evidence (cf. Heb. 11).

The Davidic Covenant (Promissory)

Though sin abounded, the grace of God continued to manifest itself through faith in the promises made to Abraham (2 K. 13:23). Indeed, this grace was enhanced by the covenant with David (2 Chr. 21:7) which promised a future Messiah who would establish an eternal kingdom and reign forever (2 Sam. 7; Ps. 89).

On account of sin, however, another prophet like Moses (Dt. 18:18) and a new covenant capable of dealing with sin were promised (Jer. 31:31-34). In the event, they were long delayed, and difficult times ensued not least the exile and the Babylonian captivity. But after various vicissitudes, John the Baptist eventually heralded the Messiah.

The Christian Covenant (Dispensational)

Following numerous years of tumultuous living for both the race and the individual, Jesus, born of woman, appeared as the (natural) Son of God, though he was not recognised as such (John 1:10f.). He uniquely proved capable of keeping the law (Lev. 18:5; John 8:46, etc.), thereby meeting the precondition of salvation. He was thus baptised by the Holy Spirit whom he received as a permanent possession (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27). In this way he transcended the law, and, as born again, was now qualified to sacrifice his fleshly life to redeem his fellows (Col. 1:22) and to take it again (John 10:17f.) in accordance with his Father’s will. The covenant he established by shedding his blood (Luke 22:20) underwrote the salvation and eternal life of all who accepted him as their representative and substitute. Bought at a price (1 Pet. 1:18f.), they are assured that they will be forever where he is (John 14:3,19; 12:26; 17:24).

Though still a sinner (1 John 1:8) and still doomed to physical death on account of sin (Rom. 8:10), the faithful Christian can live a largely victorious life led by the Spirit while still in the flesh (cf. Eph. 2:10). Though aware of judgement to come, he/she knows that he will not be condemned (Rom. 8:1). Since he is righteous by faith and sanctified by the blood of Jesus, man, despite sin (1 John 1:8-10), ascends to heaven in the footsteps of his sinless Saviour (John 17:24). In him he is perfected forever (cf. Mt. 19:21).


So the seed that is sown at the beginning matures in the course of history to perfection and once ripe produces its intended harvest (Mt. 13:36-43; Rev. 14:14-20). This is alternatively the complete vine (John 15:5f.), all Israel or the tree of man (Rom. 11:26, cf. Gal. 6:16), the full-grown man (Eph. 2:15; 4:13) or the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:9-11, cf. Mt. 22:1-14; Heb. 11).


On the assumption that the above outline is essentially correct, the traditional Augustinian ideas of the original perfection, holiness and righteousness of Adam followed (inexplicably) by his sin and Fall are clearly false. And when this so-called catastrophe is presumed to have led to a cosmic curse necessitating the final redemption of the physical creation, we are obviously in the realm of fantasy (contrast Heb. 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:5-13; Luke 17:22-37). The plain fact is that the Augustinian worldview that still dominates the church in the 21st century is massively mistaken and unsurprisingly the butt of ridicule by many, especially modern scientists.

The truth is that man’s original call in a world purposely subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20; 2 Cor. 4:16-5:5; Gal. 1:4) was to gain the complete image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26) and so to inherit the kingdom of God/heaven. ‘In Adam’ (1 Cor. 15:22a), that is, in the flesh, he failed; ‘in Christ’ (1 Cor. 15: 22b-23), he gloriously succeeded (1 Cor. 15:51-53,57). In fact, the best Adam (mankind) can do is to enter the earthly holy of holies in the representative figure of the OT high priest one day a year. He cannot get any further. In fact, he must re-emerge to repeat his performance the next year when again he will fall short. How different from the all-conquering Christian high priest who enters once for all into heaven itself (Heb. 9:11,12,24) where he is permanently positioned to intercede for his people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25) and bring them to glory (John 17:22; Heb. 2:10; 5:9; Rom. 8:30).


See further my

The Ascent of Man


Topsy-turvy Theology

Augustine: Asset or Liability

The Ascending Jesus

The Perfection of Paul the Apostle

The Human Condition

The Human Pilgrimage from Ground to Glory, etc.