According to the Bible man (Adam) began existence in the ground. There in the womb of the earth he was created as perishable seed (1 Pet. 1:23; Ps. 139:15) and then transferred to a second womb, the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15), to be nurtured to physical adulthood (cf. Job 10:11; 139:13). This process clearly establishes the pattern of procreation, which recapitulates creation, according to which Adam, the individual, who is the image and glory of God (1 Cor. 11:7), fertilizes his wife by sowing his seed in her womb in order to reproduce.
The Bliss of Paradise
Adam and Eve and their Offspring
The Garden of Eden or the womb of mankind (1* See my What Was The Garden Of Eden?) is seen in the Bible as a place of unsullied bliss where all needs are supplied without conscious effort. Adam and Eve, the progenitors of the race enjoy an idyllic life there like animals who do not know (the) law and hence neither good nor evil. They live in the presence of God (cf. Gen. 3:8; Job 31:15) their Father (Luke 3:38) who in the course of their developing consciousness eventually tests them with his commandment (Gen. 2:16f., cf. Ex. 16:4; Dt. 8:2,16, etc.). When it finally registers on their minds, they disobey it (cf. Rom. 3:20) and come to know good and evil like God himself (Gen. 3:22). This clearly indicates that they have ceased to be mere flesh like the rest of the animals that do not know good and evil. Rather they have begun to take on the image and likeness of God and, having at last arrived at the rational and moral consciousness manifested by their sin which does not exist apart from (the) law (Rom. 4:15), they are ejected from the Garden which has served as their womb. Once in what is now essentially a new environment, they become conscious of pain, toil and hardship.
(Note the progression from nakedness, animal ignorance to reception of the commandment (law), to disobedience and sin, to knowledge of good and evil, pain and eventual maturity on which see below. Infants follow the same pattern, Job 1:21; Eccl. 5:15; Dt. 1:39; 1 K. 3:7,9; Isa. 7:15f.; Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:1f.)
According to traditional theology, pain is the consequence of sin and the connection causal. This is plainly more than disputable. The worldview of Augustine that has dominated the church since his day posited the original perfection of both creation and man. Since creation is not eternal, its initial perfection is impossible. The same must be said of mankind. But, even more to the point, since it is by reaction to commandment or law that man’s moral nature is established (John 8:34; Rom. 2:13; 1 John 3:7, etc.), Adam’s ignorance of the law, rules his original righteousness and holiness out of court. This being the case, the very idea that creation was marred by Adam’s original sin and that curse and pain were its consequence is rendered impossible. Furthermore, it can hardly escape notice that in Genesis 3:16 Eve’s pain is emphatically said to increase. This is a logical impossibility if she has had no pain at all prior to her sin since nothing multiplied to the nth degree is still nothing. I conclude from this that, like Adam who is both individual and community, Eve also, though an individual, epitomizes women in general. In other words, in her initial animal or merely fleshly nature (cf. 1 Cor. 15:46) she has had children before but has scarcely been aware of the fact. (2* See further my Creation and / or Evolution.) The truth is surely that like infants both Adam and Eve gradually acquire the self and moral consciousness proved by their reception of the commandment and at the same time become conscious of pain. Otherwise expressed, sin, which implies knowledge (of the commandment), and hence (moral) consciousness, is co-incidental not causal. Knowledge and pain are inherently linked but not causally related. This view of the matter would seem to be supported by our first parents’ becoming aware of the difficulty of the terrain outside the Garden of Eden over which they were to exercise dominion (Gen. 3:16-19). The Garden was clearly a special place conducive to the gestation of the race as Genesis 13:10, Isaiah 51:3 and Ezekiel 36:35 would seem to imply. So, having broken the commandment and lost their innocence, they are expelled from the Garden never to return (Gen. 3:22-24). Following the same pattern of behaviour, infants who also like Adam and Eve initially know neither (the) law nor good and evil (Dt. 1:39, cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22) eventually disobey the commandments of their parents (Prov. 1:8; 4:1-3:12; 6:20) and begin to experience pain, difficulty and alienation as sinners.
In clarification of my contention, I argue that consciousness of pain comes when self-consciousness and moral awareness come. While animals and babies that know neither the law nor good and evil doubtless feel pain and react to it as sentient creatures, they do not know it. Our personal experience as infants would seem to prove this. How many Jewish boys, in contrast with adults in Genesis 34:25 and Joshua 5:2-10), are aware of their circumcision on the eighth day? In light of this, the assumption that nature being red in tooth and claw is cruel and that God is chargeable on that account is based on a fundamentally false premise.(*See my Nature Red in Tooth and Claw). So when some regard the torture of infants as plumbing the very depths of cruelty and inhumanity, they are in fact guilty of anthropomorphism. As Paul long ago implied in 1 Corinthians 15:46, man is first an animal (flesh) before he is spirit. The fact is that the crucifixion of a fully conscious mature human being at the age of 33 is a far crueller act, even if it may appear to be less depraved and offensive in the minds of some. It might conveniently be added at this point that though the pain of giving birth is frequently highlighted in Scripture (e.g. John 16:21), nothing suggests that babies undergo a similar experience in the process of birth (cf. Luke 21:23). The reason would seem to be obvious.
The Difference between Adam and Eve and their Offspring
Of course, there is a basic difference between our first parents and their offspring, for Adam and Eve achieve physical maturity and basic moral consciousness while still in the Garden, that is, the womb of the race, but their offspring, who are born babies and lack their physical maturity, do not attain to consciousness until they are outside their mothers’ wombs (cf. Rom. 9:11), but still in physical infancy not maturity. If this is true, just as Adam and Eve once outside the Garden of Eden could not return there (Gen. 3:22-24), so babies cannot return to their mothers’ wombs (John 3:4, cf. Job 3; Jer. 20:14-18). (3* See my No Going Back.) In other words, human development, perfection or maturation is fundamental since it is God-ordained. (4* See my Perfection.) It is nowhere more clearly evident than in the life of Jesus whose maturation attains to undisputed perfection both physical (Luke 2:40-52; 3:23; John 8:57) and spiritual (Heb. 7:28, etc.). Birth, that is, expulsion from the womb necessarily involves entry into a harsh and difficult world where dominion is achieved by cultivation of the land and the law kept. But whereas Adam and Eve consciously enter the world as sinners, babies do so in innocence (Dt. 1:39; Isa. 7:15f., etc.) only receiving the commandment and gaining moral enlightenment or knowledge of good and evil at a later stage as they leave infancy for childhood (Dt. 1:39; Isa. 7:15f., etc.). It is at this point that they break their parents’ commandment and recapitulate the experience of their original progenitors. (See further below.)
If Adam was a type (Rom. 5:14), Jesus the antitype has all the more to teach us. As a true son of the first Adam through his mother (Luke 3:38) he was physically created in the earth (Heb. 10:5; Eph. 4:9). Again like Adam he was nurtured (gestated) in paradise, that is, his mother’s womb which was the Garden of Eden in miniature. He was thus truly born of woman (Gen. 3:20; Gal. 4:4) and at birth the fruit of the womb (Dt. 28:11; 30:9). In the womb (cf. Isa. 7:15f. etc.) he clearly recapitulated Adam’s experience (could he as the second Adam do anything less?) but whereas Adam, the race or tribe, took what was doubtless ages to develop, Jesus, once he had been ‘sown’ in Mary’s womb like Job and Jeremiah before him underwent gestation in nine months. In other words, he illustrated the principle that on the level of the flesh ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. He was a true member of the human race, a son of Adam, in fact (Luke 3:38).
Jesus Infant and Child
Again like Adam Jesus as a baby knew neither the commandment apart from which there is no sin (Rom. 4:15), nor good and evil (Isa. 7:15f., cf. 8:4). When, however, in contrast with the first Adam, he became aware of his parents’ commandment, he did not transgress it. At what was presumably about the end of his weaning when like Noah he could recognize rainbows and be cleansed from his infantile filth (cf. 1 Pet. 3:21), Jesus began his childhood in heathen Egypt (Mt. 2:15) and thus recapitulated as a son of Abraham the history of his forebears who sojourned for over 400 years as a slave (Gal. 4:1f.) in that fiery furnace.
Again like his forebears he escaped to the Promised Land (cf. Mt. 2:19f.) to undergo his bar mitzvah and become a fully fledged son of the commandment. Thus, from the age of about 13 he lived in accordance with the will of God under the law of Moses (Luke 2:52) which he had to keep to perfection in order to gain the life it promised (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5). In other words, on the assumption that he kept the law, his life under it was clearly intended to be temporary and provisional (cf. 2 Cor. 3), a stage on his road to spiritual maturity and perfection. This of course had been true of his forebears but none of them had been able to meet the challenge of law-keeping (1 K. 8:46; Ps. 130:3; 143:2; Eccl. 7:20). As a consequence they had remained its prisoners (cf. Gal. 3:23-25). For them this entailed bondage to both the flesh and to sin. Jesus, however, kept the law (cf. Rom. 8:3) until the time set by his Father when he obtained release (cf. Gal. 4:1f.), confirmed his native sonship and received the Spirit (eternal life) at his baptism (Mt. 3:13-17, etc.). From that time on he pioneered the regenerate life of the sons of God and, apart from laying down his life on behalf of all believers (cf. Heb. 9:15) to gain their eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12), finally ascended transformed into heaven and took his seat at his Father’s side as man perfected in the image and likeness of God.
Before leaving Jesus it is vital to point out that despite his innocence, he had to contend with a futile creation just as sinners like Adam (Gen. 3:15-19), Job (5:7; 7:1; 14:1) and Solomon (Eccles.) had done. Both Job (3:1, cf. 10:18) and Jeremiah (20:14-20) suffered (unaccountably from their point of view) so much that they regarded the day of their birth as a curse. (No wonder that some under duress commit suicide!) As he himself said the sun shines and the rain falls on good and evil alike. His moral purity did nothing to alleviate the recalcitrance of the world he experienced on this side of the womb. He was subject to temptation and trial, pain and trouble, toil and sweat and like everyone else, but he did not rebel against it like Lamech (Gen. 5:29).
Thus the earthly life of Jesus was fully covenantal and in fact illustrated biblical covenant theology. He began his pilgrimage from an earthly origin to heavenly destination (Eph. 4:9f.) initially uncovenanted, since at the beginning no covenant was made with either creation or the creature. (5* On this, see my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation? If a covenant implies an agreement no matter how minimal, it can only operate on a bilateral basis. Neither the non-rational creation nor the creature can agree with anything! They are simply commanded.) As the second Adam who did not sin when faced with the parental commandment as he emerged from infancy, he lived under the covenant with Noah as a child in heathen Egypt. (Jesus of course underwent circumcision on the eighth day but at that stage of his life it only marked him out as a member of the elect race.) At his bar mitzvah, which signified the end of his childhood, he became a son of the commandment and undertook responsibility to keep the law of Moses on his own account as his forebears had done before him. Since he was uniquely successful in this, he became the first man in history to do so, as repeated references to OT failure make clear (see above). Thus, having pleased his Father, he was baptized by the Spirit in preparation for laying the foundation of the new covenant (Mt. 3:13-17). Of course, until the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, he alone was a born-again ‘Christian’ and as such was able to pioneer the regenerate or heavenly life here on earth. Put otherwise, while in the earlier stages of his life he recapitulated the life of his ancestors, now he himself became the pioneer of those who recapitulate his unique regenerate life. As those who are justified by faith and redeemed by his blood, they also are born again. And led by the Spirit as he was, they follow in his steps imitating him both morally and generically (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:21; 1 Thes. 1:6; Heb. 12:1f.). It is they who are redeemed from the earth and follow him wherever he goes (cf. Rev. 14:3f.).
The Covenantal Pattern
In 1 Corinthians 10:32 Paul implies that mankind is made up of three groups: Greeks (Gentiles) who lived before the giving of the law (ante legem), Jews who were under the law (sub lege) and Christians who were under the law of Christ (post legem). This being so, the covenantal pattern that characterizes the race as, first, heathen under Noah, second, servant under the law of Moses, and, third, as son under the Spirit of Christ (John 1:10-13; Rom. 1-3) is recapitulated on the individual level as slave, servant and son (Rom. 7-8; Gal. 4:1-7). (6* For greater detail see my Covenant Theology.) Thus it is that as the sons of God we are his people and not unnaturally reach our covenant goal in his presence, in his house (John 14:1-3; 17:24; Rev. 21:3).
If it is true that Jesus as the perfected man (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) is our pioneer, our own path to perfection is to follow in his steps (cf. Heb. 12:1f.). At this point Paul provides an excellent exemplar of this. Like Adam, Jesus himself and all the rest of us he begins at the beginning, for we are all creation in miniature. In Romans 7:9 he tells us that he was once (biologically) ‘alive’ in his innocence before the commandment made any impression on his then non-existent consciousness. However, unlike Jesus in the course of his development he failed to keep the law. First, he was deceived like Eve and the heathen in general who did not receive a specific commandment from God (Rom. 7:11, cf. 1:18-32, etc.). Next he was sold into the slavery of sin (Rom. 7:14) like Adam who did and who rebelled directly against the commandment that promised life (Rom. 7:9f.). In this way he proved himself a true Jew who like all his compatriots throughout their history persistently failed to keep the law uniquely granted to them (Num. 14:19; 1 Sam. 8:8; 2 K. 21:15; Jer. 7:24f., Neh. 1:6f.; Ps. 106:6, etc.) to be a light to the nations (Isa. 49:6; Rom. 2:19). Indeed, Paul was so fanatically committed to the law he was manifestly unable to keep (Rom. 7:13-25, cf. John 7:19; Acts 7:53, etc.) that he even persecuted the church which he was to adorn with equal commitment once he had seen the light (Acts 9,22,26) and the veil had been lifted from his eyes (2 Cor. 3:13-16). Thus, the great apostle, the one-time persecutor of Christ bent all his efforts to be like Christ even in his sufferings (Phil. 3:10). While he relied on the perfection of Christ, his personal aim was perfection in Christ (Phil. 3:12-14), and so to enter heaven transformed into the same image (2 Cor. 3:18) to receive a crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8,18).
In effect, like Jesus, Paul in the course of his life has progressed through heathenism, Judaism and finally Christianity. He has been a slave, a servant and finally a son (Rom. 7:9-8:39, cf. Gal. 4:1-7). The same is true of all who reach maturity in Christ. (Of course, other instances (e.g. Peter) of progress to the celestial city can be found in Scripture but none is as clear as the journey of Paul.)
To sum up, the human story is not only covenantal it is intrinsically teleological and perfectible in Christ. (7* I am tempted to use the word ‘evolutionary’ but it could be misconstrued and as a consequence be seriously misleading. However, there is little doubt that the church’s commitment to the Augustinian worldview, involving original perfection, sin, curse and restoration, has blinded the eyes of Christians to the reality of human recapitulatory development as both race and individual.) Starting at the beginning we are all meant to grow up into Christ despite our sin (cf. Eph. 4:14-16) and to be spiritually, corporeally and corporately glorified in him (Rom. 8:30). We journey as he did from ground to glory (Eph. 4:7-10), from Eden to eternity (Rev. 22:1-5), from flesh to spirit (1 Pet. 4:6). At the last day, the tree of man, apart from the wicked who will be pruned and purged (cf. John 15:6; Rev. 21:8, etc.), will be complete (Rom. 11:16). All the (spiritual) Israel of God will be saved in accordance with the promise. Soli Deo Gloria.