[asa] Who do Adam & Eve represent? (Was: Was Adam a real person?)

From: George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com>
Date: Thu Apr 10 2008 - 19:21:46 EDT

We can only spend so much time debating "Was Adam a real person?" To me the answer seems pretty clear - No, he wasn't. I.e., there was not an historical individual "Adam" who did the things described in early Genesis in the same sense that Jeremiah or Mary Magdalene or Henry VIII were historical (& historic) individuals. But my purpose here isn't to continue to debate that.

The question now is, What is the theological significance of Adam & Eve? It's easy enough to say that they are theological symbols or something of the sort, but symbols of what? If the point of the biblical texts involving them is not to present them as historical figures but to say something of theological significance, what is that significance?

It's often said that Adam & Eve represent every person - even that they are every person - & that's true as far as it goes. But I don't think it goes far enough. If they represent all humans then they represent also the first humans. & in fact they are presented to us in Genesis precisely as that - the first human beings. While the Genesis stories are more than just statements about origins, they certainly are theological statements about origins and, inter alia, the origins of the human race.

& part of that import of those stories is the origin of human sin. One thing they say about that is that sin is not essential to who we are - i.e., human beings weren't created as sinners. Sin may indeed - to use again R. Niebuhr's distinction - have been "inevitable" but it was not "necessary." This of course does not mean that we have to accept the idea of an abrupt "fall" from perfection, a picture that Genesis does not give us. It does mean that the first humans - i.e., the first hominids who were somehow aware of God's will for them - could in principle have acted in accord with that will, but didn't.

This is only a sketch of an answer to the question I posed in the subject line. More detail is at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2006/PSCF6-06Murphy.pdf .


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Received on Thu Apr 10 19:25:00 2008

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