Adam appears to be paralleled with Israel in the Torah. Both were made from the existing creation. Both were given a land to call their own. Both were given commandments from the Creator God. Both were threatened with death if they disobeyed and offered life if they obeyed. Both experienced exile when they disobeyed. It seems like Adam is Israel.

If Adam did not exist as a real person can we continue to find him useful as a metaphor/prototype?

As I have written on C. John Collins’ Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care and Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins it has been apparent that those who want to argue for a figurative Adam find these parallels to be very useful. Others have responded that even if Adam is a type of Israel or Israel a type of Adam this doesn’t negate the importance of Adam as the first human or human prototype. Some have noted in 1 Chronicles 1.1 Adam is considered to be a real person who was the first person. While the biblical authors may have sought to show how Israel is like Adam it doesn’t seem that ancient Israelites understood this to result in a purely figurative Adam. Rather, like Luke 3.38 which connects Christ back to Adam the point seems to be that Israel was created to be what Adam (and all humanity) were to be prior to his rebellion and that Christ is what Israel was to be prior to their rebellion.

So yes, Israel is like Adam, but so is Noah. Noah is the “first man” again, but he fails. Abraham is the “first man” called out from the pagans, but he and his sons cannot “bless” the nations in their lifetimes. Israel is the “first man” as a nation of priest among the nations, but they fail. Christ is the “first man” again, he does what the others could not do. This seems to be the Pauline argument as well.

I think what some people have been saying in the comments is essentially this: the Adam-Israel parallel does not remove our need to a real “first man” in the biblical tradition, especially the Christian tradition.

[Now let me be quick to make sure no one thinks that I am saying that Enns says this. It appears that he is fine with Israel affirming a real, historical first human and he is fine with Paul being in that tradition. I have not made it far enough to describe how he addresses this, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem with Paul being wrong about the historicity of Adam while “right” in his Christological argument (Christ is still the savior of all humans who all sin like Adam sinned in the biblical story).]

I think what is being said in response to the Adam-Israel parallel is that it is fine and dandy if the canonical formation of Torah including framing the story of Adam and Eve in such a way that it made Israel recognize that they had done what Adam and Eve had done, but this doesn’t remove the problem that the stories go back further than the canonical forms of the Book of Genesis and therefore it is likely that many post-exilic readers would have shared a view of Adam as a real man with their pre-exilic and exilic forefathers.

I tend to agree that the parallels between Adam and Israel do not negate the assumption that Adam was a real person nor do they alter his literary character drastically enough that we can say that ancient Israelites would have thought of Adam as purely metaphorical. What I think some people are saying is that this literary function does allow a reader to speak of Adam as a metaphorical person if they think that it is unlikely that he was a real person. In other words the biblical emphasis on Adam as a symbolic prototype can be preserved even if ancient Israel was wrong about his existence as a real person.

This is the debate: Can the metaphorical Adam remain useful to readers of Scripture even if there was no first man like Adam? Or does the assumption that Adam was a real person force us to recognize him as such? Do we have to abandon the theological/Christological claims associated with references to Adam elsewhere in Scripture (i.e. 1 Chron. 1.1; Lk. 3.38; Rom. 5.12-21) if the “Adam” upon which the metaphor is built never existed?