October 23, 2017

Adam and the Genome 11: Chapter 7- The Variety of Adams and Eves in the Jewish World and Chapter 8- Adam, the Genome, and the Apostle Paul

Adam and the Genome 11: Chapter 7- The Variety of Adams and Eves in the Jewish World and Chapter 8- Adam, the Genome, and the Apostle Paul

We continue our review of the book, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science, by Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight . Today, Chapters 7 and 8.

Chapter 7- The Variety of Adams and Eves in the Jewish World, is an attempt by Scot to set up his theses in Chapter 8 about how Paul viewed Adam.  It lays the groundwork from Jewish literature about how Paul’s predecessors and contemporaries used Adam.  Although somewhat dry and academic, I appreciate Scot’s attempt to set up any interpretation of Paul as grounded thoroughly in his Jewishness.

Philippians 3:5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

If Paul himself, describes himself as a “Hebrew of Hebrews” why wouldn’t we think he was influenced by his culture and heritage?

Scot contends there is a broad and diverse history of interpretation of Adam.  He sketches out three main reconfigurations of Adam and Eve in the Jewish interpretive tradition based on the study of Felipe de Jesus Legarreta-Castillo of Adam in Jewish literature :

  1. Hellenistic Interpretations. Interpreting the story of Adam and the fall incorporating Hellenistic traditions.  Portraying Adam a paradigm of humankind and the ancestor of Israel who faces the dilemma of freedom and its implications.
  2. The “rewritten” Bible Interpretations. These interpretations express the hope of future reward for Israel on the condition that one keep God’s commandments contained in the Law.  Adam’s sin is the prototype of the historical transgressions of Israel and the nations that brought into the world all sorts of misfortunes for humankind.
  3. The Apocalyptic Interpretations. They emphasize the story of the fall over the story of the creation of humankind to explain the hardships and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.

Jean-Guillaume-Moitte: “Spoils of the Temple- After a Relief from the Arch of Titus, Rome”

The first piece of literature Scot summarizes is “The Book of Sirach” sometimes called “Ecclesiasticus” written sometime around 200 BC, and usually included in the Old Testament Apocrypha.  The Adam of Sirach is the volitional Adam, or the Adam of free choice.  Sirach 15:15 says, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.”  Sirach broadens that from Adam to Israel to Everyone.  So a literary Adam becomes an archetypal Adam as Israel, or more narrowly focused, a moral or ethical Adam.  Adam (and Eve) in Sirach, then, can be called archetypal figures for the human summons and responsibility to live well before God.

The next book is “The Wisdom of Solomon”, another OT apocryphal book written in Egypt in the first three or four decades of the first century AD.  It was the author’s attempt to win back Jews who had shifted towards Hellenism and is written in eloquent Greek with Greek rhetorical forms.  The author is interested in “incorruption” and “eternity”, each tucked away in a dualistic framework of body versus soul, all concerned with avoiding “death”.  Immortality for the soul, then, requires wisdom and Torah observance or righteousness which is the supreme characteristic of Adam and Solomon, who are made in God’s image.  It is wisdom that can protect Adam and Eve and all humans from corruption unto death and preserve them to immortality.

Wisdom protected the first-formed father of the world, when he alone had been created; she delivered him from his transgressions, and gave him strength to rule all things. (10:1-2)

Since the Wisdom of Solomon states each human is “a descendant of the first-formed child of earth” (7:1) this author believed in a genealogical and biological Adam.

Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria (ca. 30 BC – AD 50) is the paradigmatic example of Scot’s thesis that each Jewish author saw in Adam what one believed and used Adam to prop up a theology or philosophy.  Scot says:

Adam for Philo is the paradigm of the Greek theory of the human made of body and soul.  Writing in Alexandria, Egypt, and fully conversant with Greek philosophical categories of his day (Platonism and Stoicism), Philo combined exegesis of Scripture, philosophy, and apologetics into a strategy for articulating Judaism in a way that made it palatable to non-Jews.  One might be accurate in saying Philo sought to argue that God’s revelation is mediated through Wisdom, the Logos, and when interpreted aright, the Torah of Moses and the entire Jewish tradition is a manifestation of that cosmic Logos-Wisdom.

The Book of Jubilees, sometimes called the “Lesser Genesis,” was probably written in the 2nd century BC and records an account of the biblical history of the world from the creation to Moses.  The author of Jubilees uses Adam to emphasize his own concerns with Torah observance, like Sabbath practices.  Adam thus becomes an archetypal Adam of Torah observance.

Titus Flavius Josephus was a first-century Roman-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry.  He was a contemporary of Jesus and Paul who rewrote the Bible’s history to appeal to Roman tastes.  The Adam of Josephus is the “first man”, that is, the genealogical Adam with slight modifications to make him the archetypal virtuous figure and example, so as to be palatable to Roman tastes.

A late first-century AD dialogical apocalypse called 4 Ezra presents a theology of Adam similar to the apostle Paul.  In 4 Ezra Adam is a literary Adam who has become, because he is also a genealogical Adam, a moral and fallen Adam.  This portrait of Adam is not identical to the apostle Paul’s, but it is much closer than the Greek- and Roman-sounding Adam.  Similarly, the apocalypse called 2 Baruch came into existence after Jesus and Paul, probably closer to AD 130. For 2 Baruch, each of us is our own Adam, meaning that our own destiny, and the destiny of the world, is in our hands—we can choose to obey God or disobey, but the matter is in our own hands.  In this text we have the literary, genealogical Adam who is archetypal of all humanity; here we find Adam as Everyone.

Here is how Scot summarizes this chapter:

“There are elements of the so-called historical Adam present—genealogical Adam, fallen Adam,– in these Jewish sources, but the historical Adam that Christians now believe in has yet to make his appearance on the pages of history.  Perhaps we will encounter him in Paul, or perhaps not, but this point must be emphasized: the construct Christians use when they speak of the historical Adam is not to be found in the Old Testament or in other Jewish sources.  This does not mean that Christian theology, even if that theology develops after the New Testament, is not true, but it does mean that it is postbiblical.”

Scot and co-author Hauna Ondrey wrote a book: “Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy”.  He notes that, in essence, those who leave the faith discover a profound, deep-seated, and existentially unnerving intellectual incoherence to the Christian faith.  On his blog, discussing the book, Scot notes:

“My personal top challenges–those nagging back seat issues that keep forcing their way to the front seat–are: various issues of intellectual implausibility, few and far between “God moments,” random suffering, and the fact that Christians can be complete jerks to each other and everyone else (I being chief among them, to borrow Paul’s words).”

Obviously, Scot is not laying all deconversions to the “science vs. the Bible” issue, but still he makes the point that, particularly in regard to human origins, the reality of the historical Adam is a deal-breaker for many, especially young, people given the science since the Human Genome Project.  For any Christian who takes the Bible seriously, the passages that count the most are 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49 and Romans 5:12-21 (New International Version (NIV)).

21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49)

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.  15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.  20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)

Scot organizes his arguments into 5 theses.

Thesis 1: The Adam of Paul is the literary, genealogical, image-of-God Adam found in Genesis.

This is a state-the-obvious point before he moves into more particular details later.  However, he makes the point that what Paul knew about Adam was not gained by scientific examination as we now know science.  What Paul knew about Adam and Eve, he knew from the scriptures; the literary and genealogical tradition he inherited from his forebears, which he did not question.

Thesis 2: The Adam of Paul is the Adam of the Bible filtered through—both in agreement and in disagreement with—the Jewish interpretive tradition about Adam.

Jews of Paul’s day did not pick up the book of Genesis as if it had never been read prior to them.  Like you and me, when they read the Bible, they encountered the text of Genesis with terms and categories that had become familiar to them and that shaped what they saw.  The Adam of Paul is a Jewish Adam—that is, he is not simply the literary-genealogical, image-of-God Adam but is instead that Adam as interpreted in the Jewish tradition.

Thesis 3: The Adam of Paul is the archetypal, moral Adam who is the archetype for both Israel and all humanity.

Wiligelmo- Temptation of Adam and Eve

Very much like the Adam discussed in Chapter 7 in the Jewish literature, Adam is presented as the one who was summoned by God to obedience, who disobeyed, and who brought death and destruction.  Paul says nothing about biology and genetics (of course) but instead presents Adam as the man who made the wrong choice and that choice ruined himself and his descendants in both Israel and all humanity.  Paul’s presentation of Adam sets up an antithesis between the first Adam (a tragic hero) and the second or new Adam (a redeemer hero, Christ) schematized as follows:


Adam Christ (the second Adam)
Sin Obedience
Death Life
Condemnation Justification
Union with others Union with others

What matters in the context of this discussion is that Paul uses Adam to bolster his Christology and to magnify the accomplishments in Christ.  It is a re-use of the literary Adam for theological purposes.  Adam as type is the reverse image, or the negative, of Christ.  As to whether Paul thinks of Adam as historical Adam, Scot quotes James D. G. Dunn:

“Whether Paul also thought of Adam as a historical individual and of a historical act of disobedience is less clear.  Philo should remind us that the ancients were more alert to the diversity of literary genres than we usually give them credit for.  And Paul’s very next use of the Adam story (Rom. 7:7-11) is remarkably like 2 Baruch 54:19 in using Adam as the archetype of “everyman.”  Be that as it may, the use Paul makes of Genesis 1-3 here is entirely of a piece with the tradition of Jewish theologizing on Adam in using the Genesis account to make sense of the human experience of sin and death.”

Thesis 4: Adam and all his descendants are connected, but original sin understood as original guilt and damnation for all humans by birth is not found in Paul.  In Jewish fashion, Paul points his accusing finger at humans for their sins.  How there is continuity between Adam, all his descendants, and their sins and death is not stated by Paul.

Scot points out that the Greek in Romans 5:12, έπί ὅς, translated as “because of” in the NIV, was translated by Augustine (following Jerome) into the Latin in quo, “in whom”.  This started the long theological tradition in which all humans were guilty in Adam’s original sin.  The expression, έπί ὅς, is found in 2 Corinthians 5:4, Philippians 3:12, and Philippians 4:10 and never means “in whom”.  What Paul is saying in Romans 5 is that each person, like Adam, sins and therefore dies, NOT that all have sinned IN Adam and therefore die.  So death spreads to all because, like Adam, everyone sins.

Notice also, to maintain the symmetry of the passage, that just as one man’s disobedience brought death, so one man’s obedience brought life; but just as one must act—believe—in order to benefit from the one act of Christ’s obedience in order to inherit eternal life, so we need to act—sin or disobey—in order to accrue to ourselves the ultimate death—our separation from God.  Which leads Scot to conclude:

Thesis 5: The Adam of Paul was not the historical Adam.

Scot repeats his 7 criteria for what it means to call Adam and Eve historical from Chapter 5:

  1. Two actual (and sometimes only two) persons named Adam and Eve existed suddenly as a result of God’s creation
  2. Those two persons have a biological relationship to all human beings that are alive today (biological Adam and Eve).
  3. Their DNA is our DNA (genetic Adam and Eve); and that often means;
  4. Those two sinned, died, and brought death into the world (fallen Adam and Eve) and ;
  5. Those two passed on their sin natures (according to many) to all human beings (sin-nature Adam and Eve), which means
  6. Without their sinning and passing on that sin nature to all human beings, not all human beings would be in need of salvation;
  7. Therefore, if one denies the historical Adam, one denies the gospel of salvation.

As he looks over the list Scot believes that Paul may have believed in #1, even though he doesn’t explicitly say so.  But there are no explicit observations by Paul with respect to 2, 3, or 5.  Paul did explicitly affirm #4, but Paul does not anchor his gospel of redemption in the historical Adam, at least as Scot has explained “historical”.  Scot then says that Paul affirms what his fellow Jews affirmed: people die because they sin.  Paul’s gospel does not require that definition of “historical” Adam; what it requires is:

  • An Adam and Eve who were made in God’s image
  • An Adam and Eve who were commanded by God not to eat of the tree
  • An Adam and Eve who chose to disobey
  • An Adam and Eve who therefore were aimed toward death
  • An Adam and Eve who passed on death to all humans.

And Scot believes it requires an Adam and Eve who are paradigms of the condition of all humans; faced with the demand of God, each human in history chooses to disobey and therefore dies. Scot’s concluding paragraph of the book is:

“If we are to read the Bible in context, to let the Bible be prima scriptura, and to do so with our eyes on students of science, we will need to give far more attention than we have in the past to the various sorts of Adams and Eves the Jewish world knew.  One sort that Paul didn’t know because it had not yet been created was what is known today as the historical Adam and Eve.  Literary Adam and Eve, he knew; genealogical Adam and Eve, he knew; moral, exemplary, archetypal Adam and Eve, he knew.  But the historical Adam and Eve came into the world well after Paul himself had gone to his eternal reward, where he would have come to know them as they really are.”

Well, that was one sophisticated argument, although if you don’t buy it, I suppose to you it was just sophistry.  Nevertheless, if you are going to take science seriously and you are going to take the Bible seriously, then some form of Scot’s argument is going to be the way forward.

There is no way the ancient authors of scripture, including Paul or even Jesus, could have imagined the implications of current genomics.  To them, if you wanted a sheep you bred a male sheep to a female sheep, if you wanted a cow, you bred a male cow to a female cow, if you wanted a man, then a man and a woman had to get together.  So at some point, logically, there had to be a first pair of sheep, a first pair of cows, and a first man and woman.  What other explanation could there be?  There is no way they could have imagined a population emerging, hell, I have trouble imagining a population emerging.  If our species emerges from a primate lineage, when and where did the first morally culpable human arise?  Are there lineages of humans that were/are not morally culpable?  What is sin, how is it revealed to us, and what are its origins?

The only way we are going to get satisfying answers to the question of origins and who we are as living beings is for scientists like Dennis Venema to keep pushing the frontiers of science forward and theologians like Scot McKnight to think through the implications.  There is no going back.

• • •

Other posts in the series:

Comments

  1. If the Adam of Paul is not the historical Adam, and Christ parallels Adam, then the Christ of Paul is not the historical Jesus.

    • Gordon, nothing like missing the point…

      To reiterate what McKnight concluded;

      “If we are to read the Bible in context, to let the Bible be prima scriptura, and to do so with our eyes on students of science, we will need to give far more attention than we have in the past to the various sorts of Adams and Eves the Jewish world knew. One sort that Paul didn’t know because it had not yet been created was what is known today as the historical Adam and Eve. Literary Adam and Eve, he knew; genealogical Adam and Eve, he knew; moral, exemplary, archetypal Adam and Eve, he knew. But the historical Adam and Eve came into the world well after Paul himself had gone to his eternal reward, where he would have come to know them as they really are.”

      Theologically, “Christ” isn’t “historical” in the sense we use “historical”, rather, the Christ is eternal. Paul’s use of “Christ” in Rom. 5 is as an “archtype”. (However, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to me to claim the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.)

      • Robert F says:

        Exactly. Paul personally knew Jesus, whom he identifies with his assertions and teachings about Christ, as an historical figure, but the assertions and teachings are not accessible to historical tools of investigation, and neither is the Christ. Tom, some have used the word cosmic of Christ in place of your equally valid eternal. The cosmic Christ is not the historical Jesus, though they are the same person.

      • Robert F says:

        Part of this is subsumed under the truth that no person can actually be known historically. The characteristics of being an ordinary person may overlap with historical investigation, but most of us, while continuing to be persons, will never be noticed or marked by history. This is especially true of the figure of Jesus Christ, for whom the historically inaccessible dimension of being a specific person in a web of personal relationships is multiplied perhaps infinitely by being the object and source of a faith which knows the historical person to also be a mythological/typological/eternal/cosmic figure that can never be isolated under the microscope of investigation.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      >If the Adam of Paul is not the historical Adam, and Christ parallels Adam,
      > then the Christ of Paul is not the historical Jesus.

      if (not(a==b) and (c~a)) then (not(c==d)) – or – if (not(a==b) and (c~a)) then (not(c))

      I don’t see it, at all.

      I suspect we disagree on “Christ parallels Adam”; Christ “parallels” Adam in the notion that Christ was a Man, and Adam is a representative of Man; Christ is a radical departure from the established construct of “man”.

      Getting much more Theological than that is leaving the text behind, IMO, in favor of our own speculations.

      The more seriously one takes Scripture the LESS Theology there is. Which is a beautiful thing. I do not need to worry about through what genealogy or magical force the taint of creation is transmitted – – – because the text does not care; it accepts it is so and moves on to the point. Is an explanation of how ribosomes replicate proteins from DNA of any comfort to a cancer patient? No, they’d much rather hear that their wife is on the way up from the lobby.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Even as a non-believer I can applaud this point:

        The more seriously one takes Scripture the LESS Theology there is. Which is a beautiful thing.

        Exactly. Like a literary theorist that speculates endlessly about Shakespearean syntax, but gets angry when I get gooseflesh upon St Crispin’s day.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      doubleplusgood doubleplusduckspeak, comrade.

      pure orthdoxy, pure christianese.

  2. Thanks Mike for this summary. Very good job.

    I have been keeping up…

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    An excellent post/series. Off the charts great.

  4. Man oh man a paragraph is too much and a 6 volume treatise is not enough. So just some observations.

    This discussion highlights what has become a historical cliché but hasn’t really sunk in for a lot of Biblical students. The Ancients didn’t think the way we think. Between us and them occurred a profound intellectual revolution that changed the way we think. For shorthand we can call it the “Enlightenment” but it was more than just that. It gave us the ability to make distinctions that the ancients just didn’t make.

    When we interpret “literary Adam, genealogical Adam, moral/ exemplary/ archetypal Adam” we mean “over against” historical Adam. We rightly point out that we have a separate category for “historical” Adam. The Ancients made no such distinction. For then Adam was a real person and allegorical. At the same time. In fact Adam could only be allegorical because he was a real person. Literary and historical were not separate categories for them.

    Sooo…

    Paul is making an analogy between the 1st Adam and the 2nd Adam. So whatever you say about the 1st applies to the 2nd. Certainly Paul theologized Jesus into the Christ but that doesn’t mean he didn’t think Jesus was a real person. Born of the flesh, with a biological brother named James. I would go so far as to say that Paul’s argument doesn’t make any sense if he didn’t think Adam was a real person. Of course he was more than that. But he was that.

  5. Whew, talk about going all round Robin’s barn! Yes, I can see that for those who take what this series regards as “science” seriously as well as what this series regards as “the Bible”, then these convoluted arguments become necessary. I’m not sure whether I would be seen as taking science and the Bible less seriously or more seriously than the participants in all of this sophistry, but in any case it looks to me like people working on a thousand piece puzzle with only a hundred of the pieces. I like what our own Adam sez, “The more seriously one takes Scripture the LESS Theology there is,” tho obviously that could also take you down a different rabbit hole with a wrong turn taken.

    Whatever tortured definitions of “literary” and “historical” and so on, I am convinced that when the genealogy of Jesus lists Adam and Eve as his great-great-ever-so-great grandparents, his DNA would have carried those genes, and I fully expect to be able some day to sit down and talk with them with some questions out of curiosity, because conceivably they are my great-grandparents too. If it turned out that they were figments of someone’s imagination, this would be disappointing but would not turn my world upside down. And I have more pressing things to take care of here and now than to work these idle questions out before their time. Each to his or her own.

    I would like to see a series investigating the psychology of why some people find the need to confine themselves to 3D material reality as they sort out Spiritual Reality. As Adam and Eve discovered, and as Mike the G observes, “There is no going back.” However I would suggest that the way forward might have alternate routes other than those mapped out by the science of Dennis Venema and the theology of Scot McNight. Maybe a preliminary series on just what “orthodox” means. That ought to be a ten-parter with heated arguments all along the way.

  6. To Stephen and Charles: Trenchant observations from both of you. As I stated in the post the ancients including Paul could NOT have imagined any other explanation other than there was a first man (and woman). Where else could have everybody come from? And I’m sure Paul was at least as sophisticated a thinker as Philo was. As Stephen said : “The Ancients didn’t think the way we think. Between us and them occurred a profound intellectual revolution that changed the way we think. For shorthand we can call it the “Enlightenment” but it was more than just that. It gave us the ability to make distinctions that the ancients just didn’t make.” And as Charles makes the point that I have pointed out as well: there is a DNA trail back to the first man in Jesus’ lineage, and perhaps ours as well. Adam (the Man) could well have been the MRCA as Rhode’s analysis implies or even the head of the tribe/clan that became Israel. So where does that leave us today; both for orthodox theology and genomic science?

    • ” So where does that leave us today; both for orthodox theology and genomic science?”

      Well it seems to me that the historicity of Adam still matters but there are some other factors that have to be addressed. For example, for Paul sin is not just a matter of personal choice. It involves the entire world system which is under the domination of demonic forces. Sin affects the entire cosmos. One of the consequences of sin is death. Not just our personal death but death as a cosmic power. Well one of the results of evolutionary biology is the insight that death is not a consequence of either a primordial disaster or our personal choice but inherent in natural processes. Death predates homo sapiens by many many millions of years. So what becomes of the idea of cosmic evil? Biological death is part of the process of evolution. It’s nobody’s fault. Doesn’t this undermine Paul’s whole argument?

      For Paul and for all the ancients there is an intimate connection between what happens here on earth and what happens in the cosmos. As above so below. This view of reality is the foundation of Paul’s view of who Jesus was and the purpose of his mission. What modern science has done is to “impersonalize” the universe. To abstract it by examining it. Comets no longer herald great events on earth. There are no more omens or signs.

      So for me the most important thing we need to ask is not did Adam exist but can those ideas in the Bible that flow from their view of reality successfully make the translation to our view of reality? Or will one of the casualties of this shift in world view be our ability to enter into the world of the Bible? Of course we can explain it. But share it?

      • Great comment

      • >> Or will one of the casualties of this shift in world view be our ability to enter into the world of the Bible?

        Stephen, I’m really not interested in entering into the world of the Bible. The world of Eden, yes, but Eden was closed to the world of the Bible in the Olden Scriptures and in much of the new. As far as I can tell, it is still closed as far as most people are concerned, Christians included. Eden was the one place on Earth not under the dominion of your demonic forces, and that is still true today, tho I believe this is changing as we speak.

        >> One of the consequences of sin is death.

        Well, yes, so to speak, but I think you are confusing biological death with spiritual death, and I’m not so sure that Paul would recognize the argument you attribute to him. If sin supposedly results in biological death, God was wrong and the serpent was right as it turned out. Yes, Adam and Eve eventually died, but they lived ten times as long as we do today. However when they did die biologically, they were held captive by Death until Jesus set them free, so God was right after all. But then I think God knew exactly what was going to happen when He told them not to eat the apple of dualistic thinking. We all eat that apple. People are people.

        >> Comets no longer herald great events on earth. There are no more omens or signs.

        Well, yes, if you buy into the whole Great Scam of the so called Enlightenment. The world is filled with omens and signs for me, and if I have never seen a comet heralding great events on earth it is because I have never seen a great comet. While I don’t yearn to live in the world of the Bible and find arguing with Paul and others tedious, I do very much want to put on the Mind of Christ, as Paul speaks of real enlightenment, and everything I do is geared toward realizing that as much as possible in whatever time I have left. The example and the teachings and the Spirit which Jesus left us as related in the pages of the Bible are the best way I know of reaching that goal.

  7. Chaplain Mike, did you ban Seneca?

  8. As an aside, but perhaps relevant to this series and this whole week, the following was written by an archeologist in the latest issue of Biblical Archeology Review in an article entitled “Whom Do You Believe– The Bible or Archeology?”

    “If it is as obvious as I have argued that new and better histories of ancient Israel are needed and indeed possible, why then have more not been written?

    “There is enough blame to go around. For their part, Biblical scholars have become increasingly uncertain about the adequacy of their only source, the texts. There is also the issue of motivation: Many of the previous generation wanted to construct history as the indispensable ground of faith. Most Biblicists by now have become secularists– thus factual history is no longer so important. As a consequence, the current fad in Biblical studies is something called ‘cultural memory.’ That is, the question is no longer ‘What actually happened in history?’ but rather ‘How was the story transmitted and transformed into “cultural meaning”?’

    ” ‘Cultural memory’ would eclipse history writing as most practicing historians (and some archeologists) have traditionally seen it. It’s a cop-out, in my opinion, a counsel of despair. If that view were to prevail, only a few evangelicals would write any new histories of Israel in the future. (That discounts fundamentalist ‘histories,’ which are little more than paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible.)

    He goes on to show that the inflow of new information in the field of archeology is overwhelming and that trying to keep up or make sense of it all is seen as futile by most in the field now, except perhaps for a few oldsters such as himself with no longer anything to lose. To put this in some perspective, there is an active Jewish wing in Biblical Archeology that denies the reality of King David and the existence of the Jews as a nation at that time, never mind the reality of Adam and Eve. The Biblical Archeology Review tends to take a middle road thru all this, with the editor a Jewish geezer who knows which side(s) the magazine’s bread is buttered on, but also has decided views contrary to the extreme secularists. The author of the article is an American geezer who probably self-identifies as evangelical, and is not typical of the usual fare. What stood out for me in his article was the assessment that most Biblicists have now become secularists, which is probably true in the world of scientific academia.

  9. As usual, you give me too much to think about.

    Thanks for these posts. I will be pondering them for a while.

  10. Iain Lovejoy says:

    As I understand it, the early Christians did not understand Paul as saying we participate in or are affected by Adam’s sin by biological descent at all. This would make no sense in the context because we are supposed to be saved in a similar way by participation in Jesus’s incarnation, death and resurrection, and clearly we don’t do so by biological descent from Jesus!
    From what I have read, the patristic writers understood both Adam’s sin and Jesus’s incarnation as affecting the whole of mankind due to the widely accepted concept of “philosophical realism”: the idea is that e.g. human beings are human beings because they participate in human nature, which is a real existing thing, not just an arbitrary definition. Adam, by sinning, made sin and the propensity to sin part of human nature, so we inherit his propensity to sin not because we are his biological descendants but because we share the same human nature he had, which he indeed (as the first man) embodied.
    Jesus, by becoming man participates in human nature, and because Jesus is now linked to the human nature which we also share, our nature is transformed as a result, and the sin / death nature infecting it via Adam is destroyed.
    This does not then require a single Adam from which we are all physically descended to operate, only a “first sinner” by whom human nature was first polluted through sin, and thus all those sharing it tainted.
    Of course, without philosophical realism Paul’s assumed transmission method for sin and salvation both fall apart, but hereditary descent as a substitute wouldn’t work for Jesus anyway, so the fact that evolutionary theory having group common ancestry rather than a single couple would likewise rule it out for transmission of the sin of Adam as well probably makes no odds. Science backs up theology in rejecting turning sin into a hereditary disease.
    I think a far more satisfactory substitute for philosophical realism for the transmission of both sin and salvation would be a person-to-person, mimetic / viral model, with sin (and its antidote) spreading horizontally in an “infectious disease” model rather than vertically through the generations as a hereditary one, and this is not caused problems if we are not all directly descended from Adam.