Let me start off with what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that Adam is unimportant.
With that out of the way, in some discussions I’ve glanced at lately, I do think that some assign more importance to Adam than necessary. What I’m referring to is the idea of “no literal Adam = no Jesus.” Perhaps someone has covered this ground already. In fact, I hope they have, and I’m a late to the game. Only my schedule has flown all over the map this summer.
I’ll just make three brief points about “no literal Adam = no Jesus.” First, I don’t think this does justice to relative lack of a role Adam plays in the rest of the bible, in general, and Hebrew Bible, in particular. I know that some people read parts of the Hebrew Bible, but I’d swear that the only part that many pay attention to is Genesis 1-5.
Many people don’t realize that the Hebrew Bible contains only one undisputed reference to Adam outside of Genesis 1-5. The reference comes in the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 1:1. The word Adam in Hosea 6:7 is likely referring to a place as in Joshua 3:16.
The New Testament, in general, also contains very few references to Adam, especially outside of the epistles attributed to Paul. The only time a gospel writer explicitly mentions Adam is Luke’s inclusion of him in Jesus’ genealogy.
At this point, I would ask the question: Does “no literal Adam = no Jesus” make more out of Adam than scripture actually does? The Bible came along just fine, at least from my perspective, without mentioning Adam nearly as often as some groups seem intent on mentioning him in modern times.
Second, I would mention another related point. Since the Hebrew Bible makes little reference to Adam outside of Genesis 1-5, messianic hopes develop among a people for whom, in their scriptures, Adam does not play that significant of a role, especially compared to say … Moses, who has four whole books devoted to his activities. In light of this, I don’t think it makes sense to say “no literal Adam = no Jesus.” A person can still have messianic hopes without having everything hinge on Adam as evidenced by many Jews in modern times who maintain messianic hopes while not having a doctrine akin to the Christian doctrine of original sin.
Finally, from my perspective, it is not Jesus’ connection with a literal Adam that imbues his death with utmost significance, but rather his resurrection from the dead. I doubt seriously New Testament authors would really have thought to relate Jesus back to Adam if they did not believe he had been raised from the dead.
At any rate, this is my two cents. I think we must discuss Adam. Yet I also believe that the relative importance that we attach to him often does not reflect the relative importance of he plays within the whole of either the Jewish or Christian scriptures.