Adam, Eve, and the Fall

The final four theses in chapter six of Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science focus on the role of Adam and Eve in human history. First – humans are fallen. It is important that we do not read too much from later theological developments and categories into the story (this would violate the principle of respect for the original ancient Near Eastern context), but neither should we ignore the disobedience of this pair. Scot McKnight covers many of the classical questions and views that arise from the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. Here I will highlight only a few to focus in on Adam and Eve.

9. “Adam and Eve … have the freedom to choose to defy God and the arrogance to think that they can be “like” God.” (p. 139) The very first humans in the very first story of humans in our Bible emphasizes their freedom and their disobedience. This is important, but it is not cast as the origin of all human sinful desire – as Peter Bouteneff has put it (Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives), Adam (and Eve) is the original sinner, but not the origin of sin. Scot elaborates: “Neither the Old Testament nor Romans 5 blames Adam for the sins of others or blames Adam for our own death. We sin by choice; we die because we sin.” (p. 139)

Adam, Eve, and the serpent experience the consequences of their sin. Adam and Eve are sent into exile out of the Garden. Life becomes much harder and conflict more pervasive. God’s mercy is displayed and a plan for redemption begins.

10. “Adam and Eve are called by God to continue in their role as God’s images in this world: cocreating, cogoverning, and conurturing one another and the created order.” (p. 141) The exalted role of humans in God’s plan did not end with the disobedience of Genesis 3. Scot points to Genesis 9:6-7 to remove any doubt that humans retain their status and calling as the image of God. “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” (NIV)

11. “What will become evident to the one who reads the whole Bible, is that Adam and Eve are not just two individuals, but representatives of both Israel and Everyone.” (p. 142) Peter Enns develops this theme in his book The Evolution of Adam. While Scot suggests that we go too far if we view this as the only theme in the narrative of Genesis 1-3, we also miss much of the intended message if we ignore this theme. The parallels are striking and intentional. In an endnote Scot also refers to the work of John Sailhammer (The Pentateuch as Narrative) and Seth Postell (Adam as Israel: Genesis 1-3 as the introduction to the Torah and Tanakh). The next chapter of Adam and the Genome will dig into Jewish traditions and readings of Genesis 1-3 active in the first century context of the New Testament. The theme of Adam as “the archetypal Israelite and archetypal sinner and archetypal exile” plays an important role in this literature.

What happens then to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1-3 is that they become archetypal Adam and Eve, not only for Israel but also for universal humanity. They become by extension-somewhat indirectly in Genesis 1-3 but explicitly in the Jewish literature and explicitly as well in Romans 5-”Adam and Eve as Everyone.” Nothing is more true about humans than what is said about Adam and Eve in Genesis 3: offered the world, humans somehow find a way to want more. Given great standing, but filled with pride and the desire for honor, the primal pair want more. That is to say, the Adam and Eve narrative of Genesis 1-3 depicts them as free and capable of choice, but that freedom and choice can become the power that takes over and grows as if fed by steroids to become more than freedom and more than choice. This freedom becomes a self-intoxication. (p. 144)

12. “Genesis 1-2 presents Adam and Eve as what might be called the genealogical Adam and Eve.” Many commenters on this blog have pointed out that whatever else we might say about Adam and Eve as literary or archetypal characters, it is also true that the genealogies of Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1, and Luke 3 run back to Adam. Scot suggests (and I agree completely on this) that “the literary Adam of Genesis became the genealogical Adam in the biblical story.” (p. 146) These references are not independent attestations to some historical Adam, but the result of a context where the authors and audience were familiar with Genesis 1-3 and the rest of the biblical narrative. Some views of the nature of inspiration may dictate the consequences of the genealogical Adam. John Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, sees Adam and Eve as historical persons in some fashion and one of the major reasons is this evidence. Other faithful and “high” views of scripture as the Word of God read less significance into the genealogies.

Bottom line – the story of the man named Human and the woman named Life (or male and female named human or ˀādām Gen 5:2) is about more than two people with given names Adam and Eve. It is the literary and the archetypal Adam and Eve that are important in the Jewish world of the first century and in the New Testament. Much of this discussion should be familiar – we’ve touched on it in many different posts over the years. The next chapter, on the variety of Adams and Eves in the Jewish world, should bring some new insights.

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