Yesterday I shared Morna Hooker’s analysis of Rom. 1.18-25 where she sees the character of Adam in the background (see here). Today I will relay the comments of J.D.G. Dunn (The Theology of Paul the Apostle, 91-92):

“Lurking behind this we should probably see the figure of Adam, the archetypal human who deliberately refused to give God his due, by refusing to obey God’s one command (Gen. 2.17). But in Rom. 1.22 the echo becomes stronger. The claim to be wise, which in direct contrast plunged into folly, recalls the current understanding of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To covet wisdom, independent of God, was itself the temptation to become like God (Gen. 3.5-6), which resulted in Adam’s debarment from life. It is the same reaching beyond oneself, resulting only in damage to oneself, as with the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28), the ‘vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself, and falls on the other.’ The implication is that humankind is dependent for wisdom from on high, and when it claims such wisdom in itself or in its own resources, that is simply a receipt for folly, darkened counsel, and disaster. The temptation is to become like God. The outcome is that humans are less able to function effectively even as humans. Claiming to have “come of age” and no longer need God, they become not godlike and independent, but futile and confused. The tragedy is that humankind apart from God can no longer properly know itself or recognize its true nature. It thinks it is godlike and cannot grasp that is is only God-breathed earth.”

Along with Hooker’s insights so Dunn’s statements provide strong reasons for reading 1.18-25 (-32!) with Adam in view. Paul unpacks this in 5.12-21, especially v. 12 where he writes, “…sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” This is exactly what he is saying in 1.18-32. Adam is the character who provides the model, but as the long lists of various sins indicates, everyone plays their part.