Re: How to interpret Adam (was: Re: Kerkut)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Wed Feb 11 2004 - 13:40:40 EST

Peter Ruest wrote:
> George Murphy wrote (in answer to Dick Fischer):...
> << I know where it says "As in Adam _all_ die." It doesn't say anywhere "As
> in Adan _some_ die." Adam is the theological representative & beginning of
> all humanity which is enmeshed in death - which is to say, the whole human
> race today. Adam is not "merely a symbolic representation of" humanity, he
> IS humanity qua sinful & dying creature - including the first humans who
> chose to sin. You chose to make him a single historical individual at the
> cost of destroying his theological role as the one in whom "all" die. ... >>
> Sometimes "all" is indeed used in the sense of "some", as in Matthew 3:5
> "Then Jerusalem, all [pasa] Judea, and all [pasa] the region around the
> Jordan went out to him" or Genesis 41:57 "So all [kal] countries came to
> Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all [kal]
> lands". Even in the second half of the very verse you quote, 1 Corinthians
> 15:22b, "... even so in Christ all [pantes] shall be made alive", the lost
> ones probably are not included.
> As to 1 Corinthians 15:22a "For as in Adam all die...", I agree with you
> that Adam certainly is "the theological representative" of "the whole human
> race", of "humanity qua sinful & dying creature - including the first humans
> who chose to sin". But I don't agree that he necessarily is the "beginning
> of humanity", or even that he "IS humanity". The text doesn't imply that his
> being "a single historical individual" would mean "destroying his
> theological role as the one in whom 'all' die".
> This theological role would not necessarily require a historical Adam to be
> the temporally first human being created in the image of God, from whom all
> true humans would have to have biologically descended, and who is the cause
> of all other humans falling into sin (I assume this idea is the reason why
> you claim Dick's interpretation would "destroy his theological role as the
> one in whom 'all' die"). Jesus is called the "second Man" and the "last
> Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:45,47). But neither of these designations is meant
> in the historical or biological sense. Christ is the "firstfruits" (1
> Corinthians 15:20,23), the beginning of the new humanity. But the fruit of
> his sacrifice on the cross is effective even into the past. It is not only
> New Testament saints who "shall be made alive" in Christ, but also Old
> Testament ones, e.g. Abraham: in John 8:56, Jesus says, "Your father Abraham
> rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." Similarly, an
> historical Adam need not be the genealogical "beginning of all humanity",
> their common progenitor, to have the theological significance required.

        Yes, "all" can be used hyperbolically to mean "some," "a lot," &c. And one can
argue that the "all" who will be made alive in Christ in I Cor.15:22 are those who are
saved, since Paul doesn't say anything explicitly about the resurrection of the damned
in this chapter. But again one has to ask whether the resurrection of anyone, saved or
damnded, takes place apart from Christ. It is not simply a natural possibility.
        & who are the "all" in "in Adam all die" if not literally all humans? Is it
simply _some_ humans? This would mean that some don't die. (I suppose some would
appeal to Enoch & Elijah but that seems a stretch.) One could say "in Christ shall all
be made alive" means "all who are made alive are made alive in Christ" which is OK but
then the parallel would be "all who die, die in Adam" which again seems to mean

        But there is another problem which I've already noted which is independent of
the interpretation of this verse. I appreciate the theological need that some people
feel for strict monogenism (i.e., that all humans can be traced back to one historical
couple) & don't think it's a preposterous idea, though it certainly encounters problems.
But to do that you have to put Adam & Eve a lot farther back than 7000 years simply
because virtually the whole world seems to have been populated by Homo sapiens by then.
So unless you want to have all those others wiped out by a worldwide flood (which I
don't think Dick wants) or have them somehow all quickly interbreed with A & E's
descendants (which hardly seems feasible), then in historic times there have been
millions of people walking the earth who looked human but in a theological sense weren't
(to use Dick's term) "responsible." This seems to me problematic for several reasons!

        I don't buy Glenn's concordist scenario but if I had to choose between it &
Dick's I would choose Glenn. It seems to me highly contrived & unnecessary but it
doesn't create the sort of theological problems that arise with "Adam" appearing in a
world populated by a lot of people who seem to be fully human.

George L. Murphy
Received on Wed Feb 11 13:54:49 2004

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