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

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Thu Feb 26 2004 - 06:54:36 EST

Peter Ruest wrote:
> George Murphy wrote (Sun, 15 Feb 2004):...................................
> > 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.

        As you say, Romans 5:12 does not - as Augustine thought - support the idea of a
strictly _hereditary_ transmission of a sinful condition, the whole passage 12-21 does
say that what the first human did resulted in a condition of sinfulness, condemnation
and death for the whole human race. "For if the many dies through the one man's
trespass ..." (v.15) & "Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all
..." (v.18). There is a condition of "original sin", though it cannot be understood
simply as genetic.

        The call of Abraham to be a blessing to all nations was arbitrary, but God
didn't simply say "If Abraham is faithful I'll consider all people faithful even if
they're not descended from Abraham." & there is no basis here then for thinking that
God would have said in effect "If Adam sins I'll consider all people sinful even if
they're not descended from Adam."

        I confess that this kind of discission seems a bit unreal to me - not because
original sin &c are unimportant concepts but because we get into involved theological
discussions & lose track of what seems to me the most obvious thing in the world - that
in the biblical story Adam & Eve are the first human beings. There's just no suggestion
anywhere in the Bible that there were any "pre-Adamites". Don't bother to tell me about
Sumerians &c. Where, _in the biblical text_, is any pre-Adamite?


George L. Murphy
Received on Thu Feb 26 06:57:43 2004

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