In Pt. 22 I shared Enns’ thoughts on Paul’s interpretive culture. In this post we survey the various “Adams” of Jewish interpreters as presented by Enns.
According to Enns this Adam is “delivered from his transgressions,” unlike Paul’s Adam who appears to be punished for them. Death is the fault of Satan, not Adam. Enns writes:
According to 2:23–24, death entered the world “through the devil’s envy,” not through Adam’s disobedience. (Equating the serpent with the devil is itself an interpretive move, since in Genesis the serpent is simply a cunning creature.)” (Kindle Locations 2374-2375)
Life of Adam and Eve:
Adam is created in the image of God and Michael commands the angels to worship him. Satan rebels against this idea attacking Adam, but God aims to protect him.
“This author portrays Adam not as a victim or the font of human misery but the most exalted figure in all of creation, yet as one who also lacks wisdom, is mortal, comes from the earth, and returns there. Sirach places no blame on Adam for the misery of humanity. Rather, this author blames Eve for death: “From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die” (25:24) (Kindle Locations 2385-2387).”
Enns argues that Adam is presented as a priest and that the narrative is shaped by “Israel’s cultic life.”
Adam is created perfect, but each subsequent generation brings decline. There is no “Fall,” but when Eve is created Adam seeks “pleasure” and therefore his relationship with God declines.
Enns says that this book comes close to the view of Paul. He writes:
This book addresses the present and future status of Israel by explaining the predicament they find themselves in presently: subject to the Romans, with the Jerusalem temple lying in ruins. The answer is found in what happened to the first man, Adam. His transgression affected all of humanity by introducing death, although individuals are still responsible for their own moral path (3:4–27). Among all the nations, this author tells his readers, God has chosen Israel eventually to reestablish the dominion that would have been conferred on all humanity if Adam had not transgressed (6:53–59). Israel is true humanity (Kindle Locations 2415-2419).”
This book shares views similar to Paul’s as well. Enns writes:
“This author sees Adam as the cause of everyone’s “corruption” (= death; 23:4; 48:42–43), but Adam is not the cause of anyone else’s sin. Humans imitate Adam when they sin and so have personal moral responsibility to decide whether to follow in Adam’s footsteps (Kindle Locations 2433-2435).”
What do these various and mixed interpretations of Adam say about Paul?
“Paul may not make Adam into a priestly figure, but he too is driven in his exegesis by what he has experienced as fundamental to the new phase in God’s plan: God’s purposes are now fully revealed in the crucified and risen Messiah. Paul’s point is central to Christianity, but that does not mean his use of Adam stands alone as a straight reading of the story. Ancient interpreters were not neutral observers of the text—which is often considered to be a model of biblical interpretation in the modern world (Kindle Locations 2397-2401).”
“Paul’s Adam is a vehicle by which he articulates the gospel message, but his Adam is still the product of a creative handling of the story. In that sense, Paul’s handling of Adam is hermeneutically no different from what others were doing at the time: appropriating an ancient story to address pressing concerns of the moment. That has no bearing whatsoever on the truth of the gospel (Kindle Locations 2447-2450).”
In my next post I will finish these preliminary discussions by surveying how Enns views Paul as an interpreter of Scripture then we can get to Enns’ interpretation of Paul.