According to Augustinian tradition God originally made both creation and creature perfect. By contrast, all the Bible says is that he created them “good”, that is, useful or suited to his purpose (Gen. 1). Since the creation of both the world (Ps. 102:25) and of man (Ps. 119:73; Isa. 45:11f.) was performed “by hand” (1* Gk cheiropoietos, an OT expression that denotes inherent defectiveness. See further my Manufactured Or Not So.), it could not have been perfect. Indeed, if it had been, the so-called “Fall” of man followed by a curse on all creation would have been impossible. Or, if this is disallowed and logic is followed to its inexorable conclusion, God who alone is perfect would himself have been susceptible to a “Fall”! (Note that in Heb. 7:28 Jesus is perfected forever and is therefore perfect like his Father, Mt. 5:48!)
On the assumption that the Augustinian view, riddled with contradictions as it is, is denied, we learn from the Bible that creation is intrinsically inferior to its Creator as a work of art is to its artist or a house is to its builder (Heb. 3:3, cf. Acts 7:48-50). In fact, all material (created) things being visible are impermanent (2 Cor. 4:18, cf. Rom. 1:20) and will eventually be destroyed (Heb. 12:27, cf. 1 Cor. 3:12-15; Col. 2;22). It follows from this that since man as flesh is created from the earth, he too is by nature impermanent (cf. Gen. 6:3; 1 Cor. 15:42-50). Initially, he is animated dust like the rest of the animal creation (Gen. 2:7, cf. Ps. 78:39; 103:14) and to this extent resembles seed. As such after creation by God in (mother) earth (cf. Ps. 139:15; Eph. 4:9; Heb. 10:5) he is then placed in the Garden of Eden, the earthly paradise or the womb of the race, to be nurtured (cf. Gen. 2:8,15). There like a baby gestating he develops and is given a commandment by his Creator to test him or prove his worth (cf. e.g. Dt. 8:2,16). But since as flesh he is subject to temptation (James 1:14f.), he and Eve both give way seduced by the devil and the deceitfulness of fleshly lusts (Gen. 3:6, cf. Eph. 4:22; Heb. 3:13). Thus they forfeit the promise of eternal life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5). In this way they establish a pattern of sin which all their posterity who are made in their image and under their influence subsequently follow (Rom. 5:12, cf. 3:23; 8:10). Contrary to Article 9 of the Church of England (2* See my Imitation), the child who imitates or repeats his father’s sin is the father of the man (cf. Eph. 2:3). (3* Traditional exegesis of this verse which clearly places actual sin or will before nature, cf. John 8:34, cf. Jer. 13:23; Hos. 5:4, has been perverted in the interests of the Augustinian worldview.) To put the issue otherwise, as the word ‘Adam’, which means both the individual (the one) and mankind (the many), implies, the individual recapitulates the history of the race or community both physically (by necessity) and spiritually (by imitation).
Is this conclusion borne out by the rest of Scripture? Those who accept the Augustinian dogma of original sin and the imputation of Adam’s sin would hotly deny it. However, the idea that we are born sinful as those who are born “in Adam” (4* Cf. Augustine’s “in quo” or “in whom”, a mistranslation of Romans 5:12.) is clearly contrary to the teaching of the Bible as passages like Exodus 32:33, Deuteronomy 24:16, Jeremiah 31:29f. and Ezekiel 18, for example, plainly indicate. In any case, if we are born sinners, then Jesus also was born a sinner. (Traditional attempts to evade this conclusion must be pronounced a failure.) So, I conclude that the notion of recapitulation outlined above and implied in Genesis 1 and 2 is the true view. To make sure, we must follow the story as portrayed in the Bible.
According to Genesis 5:1-3, Adam and Eve produce children who have the potential to become the image and likeness of God as they themselves had (Gen. 1:26f.). This was implied in Genesis 1 when plants and animals, including man, were created and intended to reproduce according to kind (Heb. 7:23, cf. v.16). From this we infer, first, that we all begin at the beginning, that is, recapitulate the experience of our forebears and, second, that we are naturally mortal. (5* See further my Death Before Genesis 3, A Double Helping.) Like Adam and Eve themselves who at the start did not know the law and were hence ignorant of good and evil, their children follow the same pattern and begin life in innocence (cf. Dt. 1:39; Isa. 7:15f., etc.). However, once as those in the process of formation in the image of God they come to know the commandment (for a child one commandment is enough), they like their parents break it and sin. The truth of this is borne out by the fact that while the Bible points to infantile ignorance of law which undergirds innocence (Rom. 4:15; 7:8, cf. John 9:41; 15:22,24), it insists that we all sin in our youth, that is, as children when the law in some form impresses itself on our developing minds (Gen. 8:21; Ps. 25:7; Prov. 20:11; Jer. 3:24f.). This is confirmed indisputably by the apostle Paul who describes his own experience which is common to all. Though he is traditionally supposed to teach original sin, in fact he claims that he himself was born “alive” (not dead in sin) but earned death when he broke the parental commandment (Prov. 1:8; 4:1-9; 6:20-23) that had dawned on his childlike mind just as it had long before on that of the similarly maturing Adam (Rom. 7:9f.). And so it is with all of us, says Paul. While as infants we are innocent (cf. Rom. 9:11), as children we all break the commandment and earn the wages of death (Rom. 6:23). Since we all transgress and earn the wages of death (Rom. 5:12; 6:23), we all equally need salvation or rescue (cf. Rom. 3:9,12,19f.).
According to Type
Since we are told that Adam was a type of the second Adam (Rom. 5:14), we are under an obligation to follow the course of the latter, the antitype, on whom we have been given more detailed basic information. Study of him enables us to gain understanding about the progress of man in general since (a) he certainly began in innocence (Isa. 7:15f.) and had to be perfect(ed) (Heb. 2:10; 5:9) and (b) was like us at every point except in the commission of actual sin (Heb. 2:17; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22).
As those who are the children of Adam like Jesus (Luke 3:38) we all begin “in Adam” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:22) (6* It is surely illegitimate to transfer the phrase “in Adam” as the sin-obsessed Augustine did to Romans 5:12. That we all die in Adam apart from sin is basic to Paul’s understanding of the human body as reflected in 1 Corinthians 15 in general. Flesh and blood are intrinsically mortal and corruptible and cannot by nature inherit the kingdom of God.) as (mortal) flesh in the ground (Gen. 2:7; Ps. 78:39; 103:14; 139:15f.; Eph. 4:9, cf. Heb. 2:17). Then, after the initial creation of Adam, procreation takes over. Thus we begin in the loins of our fathers (Heb. 7:10; 1 Cor. 11:12) and from their sides we are transferred like Adam to the Garden of Eden to be nurtured in the wombs our mothers (cf. Ps. 139:13; Luke 1:31). On his divine side Jesus of course stemmed from the bosom of his heavenly Father (John 1:14, cf. v.18). While God is in the general sense the Father of spirits (Num. 16:22; Heb. 12:9), in Jesus’ case in the form of the Holy Spirit he overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35, cf. Gen. 1:2) and incarnated himself in her womb (cf. Gal. 4:4). It was through his mother that Adam was the human father of Jesus (Luke 3:38). We can be sure that Joseph was not his father or Jesus could never have achieved the salvation of his fellows as (the Son of) God (cf. Isa. 45: 22f.; Phil. 2:10f.).
So after the normal nine months’ period of gestation Mary’s pregnancy reached full term and Jesus was born knowing neither the law nor good and evil (Isa. 7:15f., cf. Dt. 1:39; Rom. 9:11). In this as the second Adam Jesus resembled the first Adam but in contrast with him who was apparently nurtured in the Garden of Eden to physical maturity before his “birth” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:46), Jesus was physically a baby who still had to grow to both physical and spiritual adulthood after his birth. The traditional fundamentalist idea prompted by the literal interpretation of the days in Genesis leads well-intentioned but clearly misguided writers to suggest that Adam was created with the appearance of a thirty-year-old. Apart from the implicit deception involved at this point, a man who does not develop is not a man at all, least of all the fleshly prototype of all other men including Jesus! In any case, if he was a type of the second Adam (Rom. 5:14), Adam must have been every bit as subject to development as the second one was. If not, they were not racially related, not of the same species! Of course, the implication of this is that mankind began as an animal before like a baby he eventually developed mental and moral consciousness (cf. 1 Cor. 15:46). And if this is true, then the history of mankind is recapitulated in miniature by every baby that is born or he/she would not be human. Even more to the point, Jesus would not, indeed could not have been the second Adam who atoned for the sin of the world (1 John 2:2).
In sum, I contend that science far from erring at this point is in fact supported by the Bible itself!
Jesus and Recapitulation
It would seem to follow from this that like his forebears whose early experience he recapitulated Jesus, as an infant, lived without a personal covenant guarantee. (7* The covenant with Noah guaranteed life to sentient but unselfconscious flesh only in the general sense.) As with them, it was only as he developed into childhood and became capable of understanding the commandment that promised life that he developed moral awareness. At this point faith and obedience leading to life in contrast with Adam’s disobedience which had led to death became real possibilities (cf. Rom. 6:16). Thus while he recapitulated his ancestors’ particular heathen experience in Egypt (Mt. 2:15), he also underwent the general experience of all minors as a slave under trustees (Gal. 4:1f.). Again, as a true Jew he was liberated from slavery under Noah to guardianship under the law of Moses at the age of thirteen and became a son of the commandment (cf. Luke 2:40-52). So, according to Paul he was first born of woman a true human being, then tested under the law as his ancestors had been (Dt. 8:2,16, etc.) until he had earned the pleasure of his Father who endowed him with his Spirit at his baptism (cf. Gal. 4:1-7). Alternatively expressed, he had, in contrast with Adam and all others who followed in his footsteps, exercised faith and obedience and gained life in accordance with the promise (Gen. 2:17: Lev. 18:5, etc.).
Man in General
The human experience of Jesus outlined above is also that of the rest of us. The only way in which we differ from him lies in the fact that we all sin but he did not (Heb. 2:17; 1 Pet. 2:22). (8* Of course, to the extent that as a Jew who lived out his adolescence under the law of Moses in contradistinction to the Gentiles he differed. But since all who achieve maturity undergo primary, secondary and tertiary experiences of a kind, the difference is not great, cf. Gal. 3:25, KJV.) We are all born of woman and having outgrown infancy, we all live as children like Gentiles under the covenant with Noah. As adolescents we experience instruction under law of a kind and having undergone our apprenticeship we graduate to maturity. Of course, while many fail to reach intellectual adulthood for various reasons including chronological and/or historical ones, many more come short of spiritual adulthood in Christ. This may or may not be as a result of deliberate sin. Scripture describes the maturation process in terms of perfection especially but by no means exclusively in Hebrews (cf. Phil. 3:12-14, etc.).
Prior to Genesis 2:16f. Adam like an animal or a baby clearly lacked (understanding of) the moral law and was thus innocent. However, since he was destined to attain to the image and likeness of God, when it (the commandment) came, it promised (eternal) life on condition of obedience. In the event he failed to meet this condition. Unsurprisingly, all his posterity, who were also in their turn promised life if they obeyed (Lev. 18:5, cf. Rom. 7:9f.), failed likewise (Rom. 3:23; 5:12, etc.). Jesus alone despite his being truly human and hence mortal kept the whole law and gained that life (received the Spirit, Gal. 3:2), which included personal immunity to death, at his baptism. It was his regeneration precisely that put him in a position (cf. Acts 10:38; Eph. 2:10) to lay down his life freely for his sheep, that is, those who believed in him.
This, however, was not the end. Regeneration or spiritual rebirth paved the way for sanctification and ultimate glorification. As Paul indicates faith leads to justification, justification to sanctification and sanctification to eternal life. That this means final glorification there can be no doubt (Rom. 8:30). So just as Jesus finished the work that his Father gave him to do (John 17:4; 19:30) and was glorified, we follow suit (Heb. 2:10). When our pilgrimage or course like that of Jesus (Luke 13:32), of John the Baptist (Acts 13:25), of Paul (Acts 20:24; Phil 3:14; 2 Tim. 4:7) and of Peter (2 Pet. 1:14f.) is finished, then we too in accordance with God’s purpose will enter heaven itself (John 3:3; 1 Cor. 15:50) where we shall see the glory of Jesus (John 17:24) and be with him forever (John 12:26; 1 Thes. 4:17) in his eternal kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11).
When our glorification has been finally achieved and all things are subjected under Jesus (Col. 1:20; Eph. 1:10), then the restoration will be complete (Acts 3:21) and God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). In accordance with the original plan of salvation, we shall have travelled from ground to glory to become the children of God.
If what is written above is a reasonable sketch of biblical teaching, it is apparent that much of our inherited theology is seriously astray. If Jesus himself as man despite his dubious pedigree (Mt. 1:1-5) began his earthly career in moral innocence (Isa. 7:15f.) and was challenged to attain to righteousness and life by keeping the law (cf. Acts 3:14, etc.), how much more Adam (Gen. 2:17). If Jesus had to be perfected both physically and spiritually as man, so Adam and the rest of us who are created in his image. If Jesus progressed from ground (Eph. 4:9) to glory (Eph. 4:10), that is, began at the beginning like Adam but in contrast with him attained his (pre)destined end, how much more the rest of us who trust in him. In other words, the idea that Adam was created righteous, even perfect, yet fell and brought a curse on the entire creation thus necessitating its redemption is Augustinian nonsense. In the twenty-first century it is high time that we abandoned such absurd ideas and ceased to nullify Scripture by our tradition (Mark 7:7f.,13).
The suggestion that unlike Adam himself who not knowing the law was created innocent, all his children inherited his sin at birth is grotesquely false. At birth since we do not know the law we can be nothing other than innocent like Jesus (cf. Rom. 4:15; 7:8; 9:11). And to read into Psalm 51:5 (9* Properly understood, this verse could apply to Jesus every bit as much as to David.) what the Jews and the Orthodox realize is not there is criminal exegesis clearly dancing to the tune that Augustine composed. Well did Jesus warn us against nullifying Scripture by means of tradition (Mark 7:7,13).