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

From: Peter Ruest <>
Date: Fri Feb 27 2004 - 15:37:54 EST

George Murphy wrote:
> 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 died 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.

Paul compares the "one man's" trespass resulting in sin and death for "all
men" with Christ's righteous act resulting in grace and life for "all men".
But there is no perfect parallelism. We know that not all men are saved (as
many refuse the offer of grace), and that many living before Christ were
also saved through him. We would say that _not all but many_, before and
after Christ, were saved, namely _just those_ who accepted his offer of
grace. But _all_, before and after Adam, fell into sin, as _all_ of them
were disobedient to God's law, which was at least written in their hearts.
This is as much as we can draw from this parallelism, as far as the fall and
its cause is concerned.

That "the many died by the trespass of the one man" (v.15) refers back to
"just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and
in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" (v.12): "in this way"
(houtos) = "in the same way", i.e. by also sinning _themselves_, and not
because of someone else's (e.g. a first man's) trespass. Paul explicitely
emphasizes this. Similarly, "just as the result of one trespass was
condemnation for all men" (v.18, NIV, di'henos paraptomatos) must be
interpreted on the basis of what Paul had specified initially in v.12:
although different people may sin in many different ways, the _type_ of
their trespass is always the same, namely turning away from trusting God, it
is _one trespass_ by all, and as a result of this there is condemnation for
all. I think this is the "condition of 'original sin'" you mention, but it
is not "original" in the sense of being caused by some first man. The
unbiblical term "original" is really misleading. Nothing changes
theologically if the type-man illustrating this view is not the temporally
first man.
> 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."

Another aspect of the call of Abraham was to be the father of God's people
Israel, and at least during all of the Old Testament time (if not
continuing) the entire people of Israel was considered God's people, just
because they were descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is only in
the sense that God is sovereign to call anyone he chooses for a specific
task, that we can talk about "arbitrariness", and only as a way of saying
that we can't discover the reasons for the particular choice of his.

God didn't make the salvation of the believers (OT or NT) dependent on
Abraham's faithfulenss, but knowing Abraham's faithful heart, he forsaw and
promised that he would be a blessing to all nations, i.e. to those in all
nations whose faith would be like Abraham's. Similarly, God didn't make the
sinfulness of all people dependent on Adam's sinning, but their sinfulness
was a consequence of their own sin.

> I confess that this kind of discussion 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?

No, there is no explicit mention of pre-Adamites in the biblical text, just
as there is no explicit mention of the trinity, of Satan's fall, of a very
long period between pentecost and Christ's coming again, of a solution to
paradoxes like free will vs. grace alone, and many other things. There is no
mention of how modern humans in Australia 60,000 years ago could be saved,

I don't want to offend you, but to me it seems that "the most obvious thing
in the world - that in the biblical story Adam & Eve are the first human
beings" sounds like the confidence of Cardinal Bellarmine in front of
Galileo "that the doctrine attributed to Copernicus is contrary to the Holy
Scriptures and therefore cannot be defended or held." (C.E. Hummel, "The
Galileo Connection" (IVP 1986), p.11).


Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Fri Feb 27 15:34:49 2004

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