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.
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?
You have to deal with ideology in light of facts. The evidence is that the earth is billions of years old and people didn’t spring up from dust or ribs or whatever. The strong evidence is that Genesis is not a literal newspaper-type account of creation. (Further evidence is the differences in the creation account, which makes it seem that there were different traditions blended into the text.)
It seems backwards to deny facts because it messes up one’s interpretation of an ancient text — especially since we’re not even sure that the text was meant to be read literally.
I agree that we ought to go where the evidence leads us. Remember that evidence is interpreted and we all bring a variety of presuppositions to that hermeneutical process. There is a lot for Christians to consider when thinking through this subject.
Brian, about Adam is Israel you say, that those who want to argue for a figurative Adam find these parallels to be very useful. I would say Adam is figurative but I do not find the Adam/Israel parallels to be useful. Whether you believe a historical Adam or not, Adam/ Israel contradicts Gen. 2-3. I agree with everything else in Enns’ book but think this idea is counter productive. It’s a distraction to the more important things he has to say. He just throws this idea out but offers nothing to back it up. There are some parallels but also differences. Is there any written sources that back up the claim that the post-exilic editors or readers thought of Adam as Israel. I have a high regard for Enns work as a whole but find too many problems with this particular idea.
It seems like the parallels are constructed in order to show that Israel is like Adam, not necessarily that Adam is merely a pre-historical, mythopoetic Israel.
Brian, the question I have is who constructed the parallels. Was it those responsible for the final edition of the OT, or commentators in the Middle Ages, or some 20th Cent. scholars. If those writing or editing the text were not intending to construct parallels and we have no evidence they were. Then why should we make too much out of the parallels.
I suggest that the similarities in the Adam story with the blessing/curses language and the formation of Israel’s story in the Torah was a parallel constructed by those who put it together (maybe post-exile) in the form closest to what we have now.
Brian, you said ‘It seems like the parallels are constructed in order to show that Israel is like Adam, not necessarily that Adam is merely a pre-historical, mythopoetic Israel.’
If Adam represents the ‘human condition’ (as the ’cause’ of the fall) Israel would be like Adam, since even Israelites could not rise above their fallen nature. I certainly wouldn’t be one to reject that motif (though its mileage might vary)
I would say Enn’s evidence indicates Adam may be a type of Israel or vice versa.
Boaz is a type of Christ. The commonalities and type/ante types between Boaz and Christ are valid, same with Joseph and Moses and Joshua and David, we wouldn’t use that logic to conclude they are all myths. Adam is said to be a type of Christ as well.
We’re in a headlong rush to mythologize ole Adam and if Adam is a myth, why would Jesus literally judge 30 AD Jewish leadership with the culpability of the “blood of righteous Abel”? Jesus was judging them as Yahweh right there. So, in that passage, His omniscience would be in play, IMO.
No Adam, no Abel, no Cain, no murder, Yahweh judges 30 AD Israel partially based on a mythical culpability? Not IMO.
Call me crazy, but it seems to me that Gen 1ff is begging to be read as something other than straightforwardly literal/historical, at least in it’s final (i.e. biblical) form. In Genesis 1, God creates plants on day 3, animals and humans on day 6. In Genesis 2, God creates Adam, then plants, then animals, then Eve. How can these both be literally true? Regardless of how Genesis reached it’s present form, it seems to me that anyone smart enough to read and write in ancient times would have been smart enough to notice this sort of discrepancy, so I don’t think this is accidental or reveals the ignorance of a primitive culture. It seems to have been perfectly acceptable that the stories can’t be utterly harmonized.
Along the same lines, if Adam and Eve are the first humans, where did Cain’s wife come from? Who was Cain concerned might kill him as he wandered the earth? How can we make sense of his building of a city if he and his family were the only ones who lived there? Or was it inhabited with some of Adam’s post-Seth children (Gen 6:4)? Ultimately, we’re not told, and to me, that suggests again that the story is something other than straightforwardly literal/historical.
On Israel/Adam and their relationship, I recently noticed that there is great literary similarity between God’s encounter with Adam and Eve after their disobedience and God’s encounter with Cain after his sin. To me this suggests that Cain’s sin recapitulates his parents’ sin. His “exile” likewise seems to me to recapitulate A/E’s own “exile.” It seems quite probably that exiled Israelites would/could read this in such a way as to see their own exile as following the same pattern. If the theory is right that says Gen-Kings comes to us in it’s final form as a reflection on how Israel got to exile (and thus how to turn back to God), then that would corroborate such a reading.
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