Patrilineality and Genealogical Adam

I agree. The key issues, however, are not merely how this particular ancient audience understood ancestry. It also includes:

  1. The intended meaning of the texts.

  2. The indeed meaning of later interpretations of those texts

  3. Cannonized doctrine about those texts.

  4. What is precisely being implicated vs. incidental in all these communications ?

  5. How ancestry actually “works” in theology.

What I see missing this conversation is that comprehensive view. Instead, it is tightly focused on how the original audience understood genealogies and recorded them in a fairly general and generic sense. This is certainly part of the conversation, but not to the neglect of everything else. That broader view clarifies what details are important and what are not. Without that broader context, the conversation here is not well directed.

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Well, at least in my last two posts on Chronicles, I think we’re starting to go more into detail as to what these genealogies are trying to teach us. For example, I commented on the theological significance of Chronicles as a book overall. You can’t just take all of the genealogies in the Bible (Genesis, Numbers, Chronicles, Matthew, Luke, etc.) and draw generalizations from them. We would need to examine each in context as a proper biblical theologian would do. Perhaps some of this work has already been done by professionals: the next step would be to read commentaries and scholarship on these genealogies and see what people have already written about their theological significance.

Of course the comprehensive view is important, but we need to do the detailed technical legwork first. Now, maybe there is a danger of this exploratory discussion being used by combative skeptics as “proof” that the GAE idea doesn’t work. That would be an overly premature conclusion, of course. Research in any field can’t work if every tentative finding is used polemically in service for a larger point. That’s why it’s important for us to have this free space to discuss these findings without worrying how zealous critics will weaponize it. Perhaps the Lounge?

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Yes, of course! I don’t think the two ideas are in conflict; in fact they’re complementary. For example, when reading a book by the major Reformed theologian John Murray (The Imputation of Adam’s Sin), I was surprised to find he emphasizes God’s sovereign right to directly and immediately impute Adam’s sin onto all of his future descendants at the moment of Adam’s sin, even though he also believes the realist Augustinian theory that we all inherit spiritual and physical corruption from Adam. (Note that Murray wasn’t writing in reaction to evolutionary theory or any scientific developments.)

Although I haven’t actually them in detail, I suspect that the Reformed emphasis on federal headship made some theologians think it’s sufficient for God to appoint a representative for humanity by fiat and call him Adam and hold everyone else responsible for whatever he did (e.g. like Derek Kidner’s model). But many people have thought this to be too arbitrary and unsatisfactory. Why is that the case? Part of it could just be our warped modern sense of individuality and fairness, but another part could be that Scripture itself values organic, biological genealogical connections, even if they are far from being exhaustive or even necessary in all cases. Jacob, David, etc. were not just random people that God selected - they were all descendants of the first patriarch, Abraham. The genealogical connection buttresses the legal connection.

This is especially true in the OT. Now in the NT, one could argue that the importance of biological connection is diminished, because the gospel is now directed at both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus did not leave any biological descendants. One does not need to be a biological descendant of Jesus to be represented by Jesus instead of Adam. These are all good points. But what applies in the NT may not apply uniformly to the OT.

Additional note: the importance of genealogical descent is still present in some Christian denominations, especially Presbyterian ones which practice infant baptism and view their children as part of God’s covenant people. Presbyterians baptize their infants and raise them as Christians until they reach an age where they are expected to make their own credible profession of faith. Notice how genealogical descent from a Christian is not required to be a Christian, but it certainly helps.

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I wonder if your goals are different than @Marshall’s.

That is good, but I wonder if what is missing here is a good literature search. We should definitely contribute our own reflections and thoughts, but there must already be scholarly work on this already, right? Perhaps that might be a good direction to shift attention.

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Perhaps, but one of the leading reformed theologians (Jack Collins) emphasizes the difference between arbitrary and natural representation. He rejects arbitrary headship. That distinction is not made by most people promoting headship, which usually is code for “arbitrary representative.”

Kidner’s position is complex too. Despite all the appeals to Kidner among EC, his emphasis on the special creation of Eve was specifically rejected as contrary to evidence and left entirely unmentioned in most cases. Moreover, his speculation is phrased in a way that certainly supports Collin’s emphasis on natural vs. arbitrary headship. For these reasons, I do believe appealing to Kidner as support for representative headship, as it is usually meant, is misleading.

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I agree that we need to properly read up on some biblical scholarship about genealogies, and possibly theological scholarship too (I haven’t actually read Kidner directly, for example, so thanks for that heads up). Of course, the latter will depend on our preferred theological commitment, so what’s satisfying to me (as someone closer to the Reformed tradition) might not be for others.

I should add here a question. @Marshall, in arguing that headship is “legal representation,” appears to be appealing to an arbitrary headship, if full context is considering. Is that true @Marshall?

The part that seems nearly universal in theological tradition is natural, not arbitrary, headship of Adam and Eve. There is a lot of debate about what original sin is and how it actually propagates. The key way natural headship functions, however, is to clarify it is Adam that authors sin and spreads it, not God. Different accounts will succeed in this to different extent, but that is the underlying theological reason for rejecting arbitrary headship.

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Sorry, I’m not sure what you’re asking. As Daniel and I were discussing texts, I was seeking how best to understand them, not trying to describe readings not my own. I agree with the readings even though I disagree with some of what they expose (such as a patrilineal bias). The one reading I put forward that wasn’t my own – federal headship – I clearly marked as such. (Hopefully that also answers your other question on whether I was arguing for headship.)

Since the central (though not sole) text for original sin is one where Paul overlooks one half of our first parents (collapsing one woman and one man into just one man), and since traditional formulations frequently make a much bigger deal of the historical Adam than Eve, I’m far less sure there is widespread agreement that descent from Eve or all the generations of daughters of Eve is just as important as descent from Adam. While I agree with you that women matter just as much as men, and that our mothers shape us just as much as our fathers, that doesn’t always seem to come through in Christian discussions of original sin.

I expect that this near-universal belief is a natural consequence of the similarly strong conviction that all people descend from Adam (and Eve) with no people before them or alongside them outside the garden. My hunch is that natural/biological headship would be far less dominant over legal/governmental headship among those who make room for people outside the garden. But of course, majority alone does not mean right.

I’m interested in how the Bible and its ancient interpreters deal with ancestry and genealogy. I’m also quite interested in how representative Augustine’s views were of other Christians, particularly in earlier times. While I recognize that these topics seem to have intriguing implications for the GAE, that is not something I’m well-versed in or can really speak to. I did comment on the implications initially, and I fleshed out my meaning when requested, but it hasn’t been the focus of my continued participation. Yesterday, I was just enjoying a chance to discuss some relevant texts with Daniel. I’m sorry my posting on smaller issues without expanding to the wider picture crossed some line. Thanks for the conversation.


Thanks for your response.

I think this claim is certaintly open to challenge, and seems false. Have you read the history here?

I don’t mean to shut down the conversation, but merely to clarify for myself it’s goals.

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