Questions of Inerrancy

A Denial of the Historical Adam

Adam has been historically seen as a literal person who made a decision to go against God’s command. The result of which caused the world to plunge into a broken, sinful state. A more recent development is to question the existence of a historical Adam in the literal sense and a move towards an allegorical or figurative Adam. I would like to explore the premise of that claim to see if the that view lines up with the biblical writers.

The Age of Reason

Opening up the Bible to critique, especially during the middle ages, was abhorrent. Questioning even the basic premise doctrines was shunned and elicited violence if brought to the public square. It was seen as an attack on God himself. Punishment was doled out by the Christian leaders of the time in cruel and violent burnings and witch hunts. God was, apparently, in need of defending. The burning of heretics ironically pointed out the heresy of the perpetrators. They took vengeance for God even when expressly forbidden to in their own holy book. Romans 12:17-21

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21

Beginning with the Age of Reason, a new school of liberal christians arose. The theological liberalism advocated by philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Schleiermacher demand the Bible be scrutinized. With the emphasis on reason stemming from the Enlightenment, a new school of liberal christians arose. Thus opening up the Bible to secular criticism. Finally the Bible could be examining on the basis of it’s claims. The transcripts could be analyzed, questioned, and reason would be allowed. What was once the exclusive domain of faith, reason took it’s place as a valid method of examination. Unfortunately, the pendulum swung completely in the direction of reason. Faith became secondary to the historical-critical method and fundamental Christian doctrines were questioned or disregarded outright.

Biblical inerrancy became a house of cards. Take one out and the rest falls. To combat this dilemma, and to preserve the faith, experience became the new standard. If you could “feel” the presence of God, then there is tangible evidence that he exists. I may go into deeper depths in the future of the relationship between experience and doctrine. For the purposes of this essay, I will focus on the repercussions of having an experiential relationship with God as it relates to a literal Adam. The age of reason brought about a new emphasis on experience and science. With it came the questioning of long-held biblical beliefs. One of which was the literal Adam. In doing so, it attempts to pull against the house of cards to which Christian belief resides.

Historical Accounts of Adam in the Bible

The Old Testament writers treats Adam as a literal, historical figure. In the creation account of Genesis, historical and verifiable locations are included.

“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” (Gen 7-14)

Notice the sequence of events. God made man, planted a garden, caused trees to spring up and then describes verifiable details. We know that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers exist in an area known as the Fertile Crescent.

Genealogies

Genealogies are incredibly important to the Jewish people and the writers of the Hebrew Bible took painstaking care to preserve them. They allowed a person to prove their identity as a Jew, what tribal they belonged to and their significance to the nations history. Our society mirrors this emphasis on knowing our heritage. Royal families rely on genealogies to prove the rights of inheritance. Websites devote themselves to showing our relations with someone famous. Geneologies are incredibly important in preserving a nations history. They would be held in high regard. This is echoed in the matching genealogical records in Genesis 5 and 1 Chronicles 1. Adam is the beginning and everyone else comes from him.

The bible places great importance on genealogies when addressing the life of Jesus years later. Luke 3 recounts the genealogy from Jesus to Adam. From the time of Genesis to the life of Jesus the Jews held that Adam was a literal person. And from the time of Jesus to the 17th century, Adam was seen as a historical person. The history bears out that Adam was a historical figure who lived and, according to the Bible, we descended from him.

The takeaway should be that in Luke’s gospel Jesus’ genealogy is linked to Adam. If Adam is not literal, then neither is Jesus. I say this because Jesus cannot come from nothing. He is eternal and his substation on the cross was because of Adam’s transgression in allowing sin to have dominion over the earth. Therefore, without Adam there is no Jesus and there is no need for redemption. For how can Paul say in  that sin came through one man and redemption from another if the former never existed?

Authors Interpretation

Hosea wrote of the person of Adam as if he actually lived:

“ For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood.” Hosea 6:6-8

Steadfast Love and sacrifice certainly are not quantifiable and are used to show a type rather than a literal thing. Love is not quantifiable and sacrifice unmeasurable. Unless of course, sacrifice is limited to the physical sacrifices commanded by the Jews. But even then, “steadfast love” connotes a state of being. Hosea then states the Jews transgressed, like Adam. If he believed that the Adam was a figurative person then the Jews would be figurative as well. The next verse mentions Gilead, a historical place, and a pronouncement that all who reside there are evildoers. In order for Adam to become figurative he would have to be equated with love and sacrifice since those are figurative terms. Then the Jews would become a figurative as would there transgressions. But we know that the Jews are a people and Gilead is a place. So it must be that Adam is a historical figure.

Paul provides what is perhaps the closest to the figurative Adam and arguably the impetus for the figurative Adam debate. Paul uses the Adam as a motif but also as a real person. He compares him to Jesus and yet says that he was a living person.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” Roman 5:12-14

Paul ascribes to Adam the means by which sin entered the world. Sin being the disobeying of God’s will. Since sin is often times vague in it’s definition (Romans 14:21) it can be seen as a figurative meaning. Separation from God came into the world through one man. Sin if a state of being just like steadfast love. In fact, one could argue that it is the opposite. So equating Adam with sin and death, figuratively, is reasonable. Man is sinful, therefore, all men are sinful. Adam is a representation of us all. Christ did not come to save one man from the penalty of sin, but all who believe on his name.

In the next verse; however, Paul compares Adam to Moses. In Fact, he mentions a genealogy: from Adam to Moses. We know the generations that exist between these men because it is clearly recorded in Genesis and 1 Chronicles. Therefore, Adam cannot be a figurative person. However, in the same sentence, Paul affirms that Adam was a type of the one who came, Jesus. Paul moves from figurative to literal and back effortlessly, thus adding to the confusion and propagating the debate.

Paul continues with this comparison between Jesus and Adam:

“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:4-49

Paul makes some clear distinctions that are not overtly emphasized in the book to the Romans. “Adam is a living being”. Paul clearly states that Adam lived, unequivocally. Why is it necessary that Adam be a living person? Because Jesus, the “man from heaven” can be directly compared to him. Jesus, a historical figure, is forever attached to the person of Adam. Without this direct connection, there is no reason for him to be offered as a living sacrifice. If Adam were figurative, then sin, transgression, steadfast love, sacrifice would be mind-sets. A worldview if you will. Jesus then becomes a worldview and the house of cards falls. Without a literal Jesus dying and resurrecting, there is no remission of sin or eternal life. And there can’t be a literal Jesus without a literal Adam. They are interwoven, inseparable.

Paul makes some clear distinctions that are not overtly emphasized in the book to the Romans. “Adam is a living being”. Paul clearly states that Adam lived, unequivocally. Why is it necessary that Adam be a living person? Because Jesus, the “man from heaven” can be directly compared to him. Jesus, a historical figure, is forever attached to the person of Adam. Without this direct connection, there is no reason for him to be offered as a living sacrifice. If Adam were figurative, then sin, transgression, steadfast love, sacrifice would be mind-sets. A worldview if you will. Jesus then becomes a worldview and the house of cards falls. Without a literal Jesus dying and resurrecting, there is no remission of sin or eternal life. And there can’t be a literal Jesus without a literal Adam. They are interwoven, inseparable.

Paul makes some clear distinctions that are not overtly emphasized in the book to the Romans. “Adam is a living being”. Paul clearly states that Adam lived, unequivocally. Why is it necessary that Adam be a living person? Because Jesus, the “man from heaven” can be directly compared to him. Jesus, a historical figure, is forever attached to the person of Adam. Without this direct connection, there is no reason for him to be offered as a living sacrifice. If Adam were figurative, then sin, transgression, steadfast love, sacrifice would be mind-sets. A worldview if you will. Jesus then becomes a worldview and the house of cards falls. Without a literal Jesus dying and resurrecting, there is no remission of sin or eternal life. And there can’t be a literal Jesus without a literal Adam. They are interwoven, inseparable.

Paul uses dust to show our separation from God. As was Adam so are we. We who have not been reconciled to God are the same as Adam. “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes”. But we are made alive to Christ when we become as he is: a man of dust and heaven. Jesus invites us to move from what Adam did to what he is. Also known as sanctification. Nowhere in the text does the writer allude to an allegory or a figurative account of Adam.

Making Everything Spiritual

It’s important to remember that we can all over spiritualize things. We all have our biases and beliefs. But we shouldn’t hold to them so tightly that we ignore what is in front of us. If we go on vacation, we are literally going somewhere, but figuratively escaping the stress of our busy lives. I think is the case with the Adam. He was a person, but he was also an image of fallen humanity. Examining the genealogies in Genesis and 1 Chronicles demonstrates that the Jews believed Adam has real. Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians show that he also saw Adam as a living person. Adam was also something more. He is the image of what we are without God. Sinful and lost. Adam was dead hope, but Christ is the living hope to those who believe. Lets never forget to examine what is being said in it’s context. The direct words of the writer is better than the thought of the interpreter.

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