Monday, 10 June 2013

Understanding God's Word Through His Creation - 9

Adam and Eve: the first members of the Covenant Community

If Gen 4 is referring to other humans living contemporarily with Adam and Eve, then it is possible to advance the hypothesis that Adam and Eve were de novo creations of God who lived around 8-10 thousand years ago, but created in a world already populated by human beings who had evolved like every other form of life. This provides a ready answer to the identity of those whom Cain feared would kill him, where he obtained his wife and who would have provided him with the assistance to build a city.

Adam and Eve would not be the first members of the species Homo sapiens to walk the earth, but rather the first people with whom God entered into a covenant relationship. While human beings had been living and dying well before Adam and Eve were created, the concept of sin – as transgression of the divine law – was simply meaningless as God had not revealed Himself prior to then. They died simply “as the beasts that perish” and returned to the dust of the ground. It is trivially true to say that Adam introduced death to the covenant community as it consisted at that time of two people specially created who had never seen human death. [100] More importantly, their transgression introduced not only a poor example into the world which every human since has followed, but also the spectre of eternal death as the punishment for failing to follow God’s law.
Opposition to this view would doubtless come from those who interpret Rom 5v12 as teaching physical death was introduced into the world through Adam’s sin, but this view owes much to the speculations of Ambrose and Augustine in particular:
The precise formulation of the doctrine was reserved to the W. Here *Tertullian, St *Cyprian, and St *Ambrose taught the solidarity of the whole human race with Adam not only in the consequences of his sin but in the sin itself, which is transmitted through natural generation, and the so-called ‘*Ambrosiaster’ found its scriptural proof in Rom. 5:12, translating ἐφʼ ᾧ by in quo and referring it to Adam, ‘in whom all have sinned’. In this he was followed by St *Augustine, who in his ‘Quaestiones ad Simplicianum’ (396–7) and other pre-Pelagian writings taught that Adam’s guilt is transmitted to his descendants by concupiscence, thus making of humanity a massa damnata and much enfeebling, though not destroying, the freedom of the will. [101]
The parallelism in Romans 6:23, in which eternal life is contrasted with eternal death, as well as Paul’s comment in 1 Cor 15:22 that just as all those in Adam will die, so will all those in Christ be made alive suggest strongly that while Paul takes as given the historicity of Adam, his theology does not depend on him being the sole ancestor of the entire human race. Rather, Adam and Christ are two examples which we can follow. Those who remain in Adam will die and remain in the dust of the ground, while those who follow Christ will be raised to eternal life. One need not be physically descended from Adam to be in Adam – all that one has to do is to follow his example, and remain in it to be assured of judgement and eternal death.

There is a neat echo of this idea in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha. The author of 2 Baruch laments:
“Adam is therefore not the cause, save only of his own soul, but each of us has been the Adam of his own soul.” [102]
While the writer of 2 Baruch lamented earlier how Adam’s sin “brought untimely death upon all”, his observation here suggests that the possibility of each man replaying the original transgression each time he chooses between God’s will and his own was very much on his mind. It is not unlikely that Paul, steeped in second temple Judaism would have been aware of this concept. Augustine’s distortion of Rom 5:12 looks very much out of place when compared with this concept. This is not to say that one endorses evolution merely to apply a scientific cudgel to Augustinian dogma – the second temple background of Paul’s theology alone does that. However, the fact that the reality of common descent hammers the final nails into the coffin of Augustinian theology is not unwelcome, to say the least.

This article first appeared at my Facebook page here 


100. The warning in Gen 2:17 implies that they were aware of the finality of death, raising the possibility that animal death in the Garden was not unknown to them.

101. Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. 2005. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev.) (1203). Oxford University Press: Oxford; New York

102. 2 Baruch 24:15