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

From: Peter Ruest <>
Date: Mon Feb 23 2004 - 00:50:25 EST

George Murphy wrote (Sun, 15 Feb 2004):
> Peter Ruest wrote:
> ...........
> >
> > I agree that the "all" in "in Adam all die" are literally all humans, not
> > just some, and I would include all Preadamites since the time when God
> > created humans in his image at least 30,000 years but perhaps even much
> > longer ago.
> We've gone over this before. It seems clear to me that in Genesis Adam & Eve
> are the beginning of the human race. With our modern understanding of evolution that
> means that theologically they play the role of the first small group of humans - i.e.,
> hominids who could be aware of God's communication (however that may have happened) -
> though in some ways that is not as important as their role as representatives of all
> humanity. D.h., there were no Preadamites.

Yes, if we want to both take Adam and Eve as a literal human pair and
respect what we know from science, there are just these two possible
interpretations: either (1) Adam is placed into the Pleistocene (or even
earlier), or (2) there were genuinely human Preadamites. Solution (1)
requires us to ignore the clearly Holocene environment the Bible presents us
in Gen.4-5, whereas (2) requires us to understand Adam as the
representational head of humanity, rather than a biological founder. Neither
of these two solutions is straightforward, and it is a matter of opinion
which one to prefer. By the way, a solution (3) of refusing to accept Adam
and Eve as a literal human pair is even less straightforward. I don't
believe either (1) or (3) to be more acceptable theologically than (2).
> > But I would not primarily see physical death in this statement,
> > but spiritual death as a consequence of personal sin. And with this, I would
> > have to exclude Jesus from this "all" (I wouldn't exclude Enoch & Elijah).
> > This is fallen humanity, typically represented by Adam. I also agree that it
> > wouldn't be very helpful to say, in this context, "all who are made alive
> > are made alive in Christ" (although it would be correct). But the new
> > humanity, which is here contrasted to the fallen humanity, and of which
> > Jesus is the firstborn, comprises all who have been made alive spiritually,
> > i.e. believers from OT and NT times (Romans 8:29 "For whom He foreknew, He
> > also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be
> > the firstborn among many brethren"). Whether the resurrection of the lost is
> > apart from Christ or through him, I don't know, but in any case, they are
> > not in Christ and therefore not in this new humanity which Paul here
> > contrasts with the old one.
> Of course I agree that physical death did not 1st occur with the 1st human sin,
> but sin does have something to do with physical death. Inter alia, it changes its
> meaning.
> One needs to be careful about excluding Christ from "in Adam all die." The
> Lucan genealogy of Christ goes back to Adam. The idea that the humanity of Christ was
> somehow preserved from the "contagion" due to Adam is problematic. (It is one - though
> far from the only - reasons for the development of the idea of Mary's immaculate
> conception.) It is better to say - with the eastern church & Barth - "'Without sin'
> means that in our hujman and sinful existence as a man he did not sin."

I am happy to agree with this.
> > << 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! >>
> >
> > As I don't see any requirement for monogenism if Adam's headship of humanity
> > is taken as being typical and spiritual, rather than physical (just as with
> > Jesus' headship of new humanity), I don't have to place Adam at any other
> > time than about 7000 years ago, nor do I have to require all non-Adamic
> > descendents of Preadamites to die in Noah's flood (which I believe to have
> > been local in southern Mesopotamia) or to interbreed with the Adamic line.
> > As they were "created in His image", they were responsible for their own
> > sin, whatever it was.
> >
> > << 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. >>
> >
> > I believe they were fully human. I wouldn't go as far back in time as Glenn,
> > but I really don't know when to place that date. What are the theological
> > problems you see with this scenario?
> As I said in an earlier post, one problem is that this seems to make Adam a
> quite arbitrary representative of the human race. Why are other humans who are not
> descended from him, & who may not have had any contact with his descendants until recent
> centuries, "responsible" (to use Dick's term)? This seems to be just a matter of divine
> fiat. For whatever criticisms we can make of traditional western ideas about the
> transmission of original sin (Erbsuende, hereditary sin), they gave some reason why what
> Adam did affected all people.

If this would be arbitrary, wouldn't the call of Abraham also be arbitrary,
or that of Moses, or the election of Mary as Jesus' mother? I don't think we
are in a position to judge such divine decisions. With Jesus, it is obvious
that his headship of the new humanity is quite apart from time or heredity
relationships. Why then not with Adam's headship of the old humanity?

As for sin affecting all humans, Rom.5:12 is perfectly clear about the
reason: "because all men sinned". There is no requirement for the dogma of
hereditary sin. It seems to me that your question about responsibility is
quite analogous to the one about the responsibility of those of our
contemporaries who have never heard of Jesus.


Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Mon Feb 23 00:47:34 2004

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