It is time for me to resume my juxtaposition of 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. I paused for a while, but the previous twenty (!) posts can be accessed through this portal here.
In parts 12 and 13 I surveyed Collins’ reading of Second Temple Jewish literature as it discusses Adam. Now it is time to do the same with Enns. Collins seems to be convinced that Adam’s appearance in this literature is further support that Paul believed something like the traditional view of Adam and therefore we ought to do the same. Enns comes from a different angle. He seeks to show how the worldview and hermeneutics of that time are different from our own. Paul is different from us and he lived in their world, not ours. Other Jewish interpretations of Adam don’t establish his historicity. Rather, they establish Paul’s context. As Enns writes: “However much he was guided by the Spirit of God to proclaim his gospel, as Christians confess, he was guided by the Spirit not as an empty vessel but as a first-century Jew (Kindle Locations 2254-2255).” Also, “Paul engaged his Scripture against the backdrop of hermeneutical conventions of his day, not ours, and we must understand Paul in that context (Kindle Locations 2296-2297).”
Enns discusses the Jewish worldview and where Paul fits, including ideas like a threefold heavenly realm and other aspects of ancient cosmology. Paul is an ancient and he views the universe as an ancient. Therefore, we should not expect scientific accuracy from Paul regarding matters of science, human origins, cosmology, and so forth.
Enns writes, “It is my experience that Christians by and large have little trouble with what I am saying here in principle, but all bets are off when this logic is applied to Paul’s understanding of human origins—which is where his take on Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 comes into the picture (Kindle Locations 2281-2283).”
This is true: we are OK with Paul telling us the truth through a fallible cosmology, but Christians tend to be more reserved when it is suggested that he did the same through a fallible anthropology.
Next, I will share Enns description of Jewish hermeneutics post exile and Paul’s interpretive paradigm.