Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 16th, 2015 by Joel Watts

CTP Class — Reactions to Eden (Genesis 3.8-24)

Creation of Adam ( )

Creation of Adam ( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to do something a little different with our reading of Genesis. As I have said from the beginning, if we read Scripture as Christians we should do so at some point in that cycle (the ‘T’ in CTP) canonically. Because of this, I want to read Genesis 3.8–24 next to later understandings of the text from within Scripture.

If you have just the books in the Protestant canon, you will miss the development of Adam and the Fall. Let’s define the Fall just a bit. This is the usual notion that Adam’s eating of the fruit brought death and despair to all people who are also his descendents. Only in Christ is the remedy found. But, this almost requires a particular view of how hold the earth is and where we all came from, i.e, Adam about 6000 years ago.

There are other alternatives that rely on Reason, and Tradition to interpret Scripture. For one, Adam could be Israel, or representative of Israel (perhaps even an ancient tribal king). Since the Old Testament doesn’t mention Adam any more, nor afford any cause of the condition of humanity to him, it is likely Adam is simply a progenitor of Israel. Remember, Israel is the only one with covenants with God and is a product of a covenant. It is better to see Adam as the first human in covenant with God. Another thing to think about — there is no sin outside of the covenant (just as there is not rewards from God outside the covenant). So, Adam could still bring sin to the world (i.e., the knowledge of what it means to be without God) because he finally knew what it meant to be with God.

A side note, and you don’t have to agree with me. I see Adam as the first person God covenanted with. This is not the first of humans, although he is the first of God’s creation, with creation remaining not the physical but the method of God and humans. Adam is the first of living beings, so Eve is the mother of living beings, with living being defined in Genesis 2 as “living soul.” When Adam and Eve left the Garden, they took with them the knowledge of God and in doing so, the covenant and hope of God which culminates in Christ. Is Adam historical? Maybe. Could be. But not as the first human, but as the first human in God’s plan. 

A few verses to consider when seeing the theology of  Adam and his sin develop. We see it really take off in what we Second Temple Judaism. Both of the books below are in Catholic and Orthodox bibles as well as Anglican Articles of Religion, deuterocanonical lists, and liturgies (PDF).

  • Wisdom 2.23–24 and Wisdom 10.1–2. I think these are very important, especially when exploring how wisdom became Wisdom, the female attribute of God and how she saved Adam because of his sin. (Compare this to 1 Co. 1.24.)
  • Sirach 15:14; 17:1-4; 25:24; 40:1; 49:16. Sirach 25.24 is particularly important given how many see Eve as the root cause of the sin.

I favor a date of 50BCE for Wisdom, placing it among the Hellenized Jews (perhaps in Alexandria. Hellenized means those Jews who used Greco-Roman philosophy to interpret Judaism). Sirach shows some Hellenization, but is dated much earlier. Both are used by the writers of the NT, which I also afford a certain measurement of Hellenization.

St. Paul, then, is the first of those we could call Christian to use Adam as a means to understand Christ.

In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul uses Adam as a way to exalt Christ and the benefits of the Resurrection. He does this only by comparison, with Wisdom’s view of Adam’s death in mind. See:

  • 1 Corinthians 15.22 and 1 Corinthians 15.45–47.

However, in Romans 5.12–21, St. Paul gives us something more. He gives us a new reaction to the Genesis story.  Adam is no longer just a comparison between the temporal and the eternal, but now provides a problem Jesus resolves. Focus specifically on Romans 5.15, but look at different translations (especially the Revised English Bible’s translation of this).1

For those following along elsewhere, last week I asked for songs that make use of the Adam and Eve story. This time, I am thinking of songs that remind us of God’s grace or perhaps, better, what we want to think of God’s grace.

Back to Genesis 3.8–24. Look at God’s reaction to Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Look especially at God’s fear in 3.22–24.

Admittedly, I’m more interested in St. Paul’s reaction than I am God’s, but…

Also, Prince is now covering Nicole Nordeman.

  1. “But God’s act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam’s wrongdoing. For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of that one man, Jesus Christ.”
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

One Response to “CTP Class — Reactions to Eden (Genesis 3.8-24)”
  1. From Mere Christianity Bk 4 Ch 11 The New Men
    “Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth.
    Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognizable: but others
    can be recognised. Every now and then one meets them. Their very
    voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter,
    happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They
    are, I say, recognisable; but you must know what to look for. They
    will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’ which you have
    formed from your general reading. They do not draw
    attention to themselves. You tend to think you are being kind to
    them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more
    than other men do, but they need you less…..They will usually seem
    to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When
    you have recognised one of them, you will recognise the next one
    much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?)
    that they recognise one another immediately and infallibly, across
    every barrier of colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. In
    that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society.
    To put it at its very lowest, it must be great fun.”

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