In Chapter Four: Israel and Primordial Time of The Evolution of Adam Peter Enns connects his argument regarding Genesis 1-9 (see Pt. 18) with how Israel used language of God’s victory over the chaos to describe God’s victories on behalf of Israel later in history.
In order to understand this you may want to either (A) read the book (!) or (B) read passages like Pss. 32.6; 77;87.4; 89.5-12; 93; 136.1-9; Isaiah 40-66. In these passages Enns notes that cosmic battles move from God’s defeat of the chaos in Genesis 1, to the exodus, to later assaults against Israel like that of Babylon. For Enns the point of these passages is not pure history, but “self-definition.” He says of the Israelites:
“They understood God’s acts in their national history as continuations of the cosmic battle. However inadequate, confusing, inaccurate, or downright bizarre these stories of primordial time might appear to us, the ancient Israelites spoke this way because they saw in this imagery a point of contact between their own experiences and God’s activity. So for all three events—exodus, monarchy, and departure from Babylon—Israel could say to itself, “Look, the God who battled the waters back then is battling for us here too.” This brings us back to the issue of self-definition. Israel’s God is (1) the one responsible for the created order and (2) still acting in the here and now to save his people (Kindle Locations 1681-1687).”
Enns uses this paradigm of explaining pre-history through the paradigm of Israel’s current struggles to argue for how the story of Adam came to function as a means of self-definition. He writes,
“The Adam story seems to fit into this universal focus, but not entirely so. Some elements of the story suggest that it is not about universal human origins but Israel’s origin. This line of interpretation has pre-Christian roots. For example, the book of Jubilees (second century BC) presents Adam as a patriarch of the Israelites (3:27–32). Similarly, the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus (Sirach/Ben Sira, second century BC) presents Adam as an Israelite ancestor (49:16) (Kindle Locations 1697-1701).”
He compares Adam and Israel this way: both created, both given commands, both places in a land (Eden/Canaan), both disobeyed and this disobedience resulted in exile. Enns writes, “This mirroring can hardly be coincidental.” Adam is “proto-Israel.” For Enns this helps explain oddities like Adam being told he would “die” when he ate the fruit (he began to die when cut off from the source of life…like Israel in exile) and the other humans in Genesis 4 (Adam wasn’t the first human, he was proto-Israel).
Enns says something very similar to Michael Heiser in “Genesis 1-3 at Face Value–Is it Compatible with Recent Genome Research” when he writes,
“In my opinion, the editors of the Pentateuch subsumed the older story under the newer one so that Genesis 1 became the story of the creation of the cosmos and Genesis 2 became the story of Israel’s creation against that universal backdrop. This may be why these two different creation stories are placed next to each other as they are. The editors of the Pentateuch may be expecting their readers to read the two stories sequentially: Genesis 2 presumes the events of Genesis 1 (see also thesis 4 in the conclusion) (Kindle Locations 1765-1769).”
In my next post I will finish reviewing what Enns writes on the Book of Genesis before moving to his interpretation of Paul.