I just finished reading through Daniel Kirk’s three part series for The Biologos Forum on “The Historical Adam and the Saving Christ”. It is a stimulating engagement with the question of the historicity of the biblical Adam. This discussion is applied most directly to the role of Adam in the writings of the Apostle Paul.
In part one Kirk argues that the historicity of Adam is not essential for Israel’s reading of a text that is dealing primarily with Israel’s role to restore creation as the descendents of Abraham. Israel is to be the new humanity. In part two he understands the Apostle Paul to be adopting this same theme while applying it to Jesus as the one who adopts the vocation of Israel to become the new human, especially as this relates to Rom. 5. In part three he continues this discussion while focusing on Christ as the new human animated by the Spirit who provides humanity with the opportunity to follow him in this.
While I agree with Kirk that the historicity of Adam does not determine the theological validity of Paul’s statements regarding Jesus, I do wonder about other Pauline passages such as 1 Cor. 11.9, which implies the Adam-Eve creation order is real history with a moral point for modern male-female relationships, should cause us to proceed with more caution. It seems that Paul did think of Adam as a historical man and Eve as a historical woman. If his presuppositions are incorrect does this challenge the rest of his argument?
Likewise, I wonder why it is so important to deny, as N.T. Wright has said, that “something like a primaral pair getting it wrong did happen”. At some point our relatives arrived a place where there was a man and a woman very much like we see today. Why can’t these people be the one’s who are Adam and Eve? Cannot the evolution from dust (the man) and from the “side of a man” (the woman) be some sort of poetic description of unknown origins while retaining that humanity did arrive at the point that reflect what we see today and that those two failed to care for creation (i.e. “the garden”)?
While Kirk’s articles leave questions like these unanswered they are very valuable for understanding Paul’s view of the new humanity in Christ becoming the ideal humanity which is Paul’s primarily theological point afterall. I recommmend reading them!