The Importance of the Historical Adam

I found this essay’s concerns about a historical Adam to be similar to what we have discussed before. The question of Adam is an order of magnitude more important than questions about the age of the Earth or even evolution. This is more than just a matter of how we interpret Romans 5:12-21 or any other single passage. Rather, it’s may affect overall meaning of the Christian story. If a historical Adam is no longer important, then perhaps a historical resurrection of Jesus is also not important, or at least not as important as before.

We return to our main question, and we offer this unreserved thesis: The historicity of Adam determines the public nature of our religion. If Adam was a historical individual, then the Bible makes authoritative claims about all of humanity and indeed all of the cosmos. It can, at least in theory, be falsified, and it is thus a legitimate topic of dialectical discourse. It is rational and not a retreat to commitment. If Adam was not a historical individual, and if instead the Genesis account is a sort of mythical story which was employed in order to make a uniquely religious point, then Christianity is necessarily rendered merely metaphorical, expressing truths of the human condition through symbols. The Bible in this case is no longer an authoritative account of human origins, history, and final destiny. It no longer addresses all men in all places and times, but rather expresses one faith-narrative that seeks to convey a meaningful but wholly internal truth.

Put more simply: if Adam is mythical, then so is redemption. While it does not follow that if Adam is mythical, then the historicity of Jesus must also be denied, it does follow that if Adam is mythical, then the historicity of Jesus as Second Adam must be denied. And Christianity is founded on Jesus as Second Adam.

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I do not buy the slippery slope argument here, but I certainly agree that many people are convinced this argument has weight.


I find Jack Collins’ take to be better explained. What do you think @dga471?

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I differ with this take:

An excerpt from what I’ve posted before several times:

Sin is not only an internal and personal problem for the Apostle Paul. It is an ontological issue, affecting the very creation itself, the entire cosmos. Because of Adam’s sin, “the creation was subjected to futility.” Corruption is quite plainly unnatural. And the Apostle says that our hope is that one day it will no longer exist. This world will be free from all corruption, decay, suffering, sorrow, pain, and death, and this is because Jesus Christ has reversed the fall of Adam.

The ontological problem is failing to understand my point above.

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Yeah, one of my current questions now is reconciling the seeming naturalness of corruption of all matter (which also flows out of the 2nd law of thermodynamics) with the Fall. Even if one insists on a historical Adam and Eve created de novo, it still makes most sense to think of the Fall as only causing human death. Otherwise how did Adam and Eve eat any food if there was no death at all, animal or plant? Even more, the 2nd law governs everything: if pre-Fall Adam splashed some water to bathe, would it still result in increased entropy? Would the 2nd Law cease to be strictly true in heaven?


@dga471, I think @jongarvey’s book is really helpful on these questions: God's Good Earth Reviewed.


I hope you won’t be disappointed if the ‘laws of physics’ are completely different (Jesus’ resurrected body was unconstrained by the current set with respect to visibility, anyway). :slightly_smiling_face:

I think it makes the most sense to think of the Fall as only causing human spiritual death.


I’ve been reading several (mostly evangelical) commentaries on Romans 5:12-21, and the odd thing to me is that they never consider the idea that the Fall caused only human spiritual death and not physical, instead of both.

Augustine, however, did suggest the spiritual death interpretation. IN the GAE, I read it as physical death.

Spiritual/physical death: on my understanding (see my forthcoming The Generations of Heaven and Earth) working from genealogical Adam and Eve one can see Adam not as the first created “human”, but as the first man called to inaugurate the new creation, in covenant fellowship with God.

What came with that, or should have come were it not for the Fall, was all that is promised in the gospel, including abundant life in God’s presence (spiritual life), and unending life in the body (physical life - the tree of life). Both, of course, are exemplified in the risen Jesus.

Consequently, the loss of covenant life in the Fall led both to spiritual alienation from God (spiritual death) and a return to natural mortality in the world outside the sanctuary (physical death).

In other words, it seems to me that Genesis neither restricts itself to a crude biological frame of reference, nor spiritualises away the fundamental questions of life and death, to do with bodies, decay, dissolution and loss to the human race. There is no absolute distinction between the two kinds of death in this understanding.


In a negative sense, it can be said to cause physical death also as Sin deprives Adam and Eve of the opportunity to eat of the “tree of life” and gain eternal life.
This shows a clear logical connection between Sin and physical death.
Sin leads to Seperation from God which leads to judgement and hence the person misses out on eternal life.
Jesus solves the Sin problem and it leads to justification/reconciliation with God and hence ressurection to eternal life.
Since God is the one who gives and sustains all life, it makes sense that Sin leads to physical death, not in the sense that it kills us, but in the sense that it seperates from God who alone can grant eternal life.

3 posts were merged into an existing topic: Is support of de novo creation motivated by fear?

Actually not true. God’s expulsion of the pair from Eden deprives them of the opportunity; in fact depriving them of that opportunity is the reason for expulsion. God doesn’t want them to be like him, both knowing good and evil and also immortal. Says so right there. Now you could say that God’s decision is the result of the pair’s sin, but doesn’t that deprive God of agency? It’s God’s choice to do what he did.


God did not want them immortal, knowing what is good and evil while not able to choose the good instead of evil in a consistent manner.
This would lead to an eternal Seperation from God.
God had a better plan for their restoration to eternal life with him.
We see that plan fulfilled in Jesus where all people have an opportunity to enter an eternal relationship with God.

No, that isn’t what it says. You’re adding the second half of that to the text, based on…what?

So he curses them for their own good?

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Context. They were innocent and had just one rule to follow…and failed.
The bible is clear that no human being is sinless (except Jesus)? That’s why the incarnation is required.

The curses are a consequence of Sin. If our actions don’t have a consequence, how do you expect us to change?
Think of a society in which evil actions do not have consequences. The society itself would become a place of injustice and evil.

Of which you provide none.

How could they have known it was a sin, lacking knowledge of good and evil? It’s a Catch-22.

You tie yourself in knots. God requires the sacrifice of himself to himself to appease himself of his wrath toward humans for sins he knew when he created them
they would commit.

No, they aren’t. They’re a consequence of God punishing (or rewarding??) sin. Again, you seek to remove God’s agency.

In fact, I don’t expect us to change, but that’s another matter. So, this is the deterrence theory of punishment? One problem with that is that it can’t possibly work unless the consequences are known in advance. But they weren’t. God told them the tree was poisonous, but it wasn’t. He never mentioned a curse as consequence for disobeying, until after the fact.

But this is wandering far from the original topic, which you have never addressed.

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Read the text. The context is clear. The eating of the fruit causes Adam to be afraid of God.The very next chapter describes the first murder, that too of a sibling. And then it just gets worse from there. It’s obvious human beings could not handle the knowledge of good and evil.

They were given a clear instruction to not eat from the tree. It was simple matter of obedience.
The “law” provides a limited understanding of good and evil. It’s good to eat of any other tree… evil to eat the fruit of this particular tree.

Where did you get this understanding? I spoke about the incarnation, not the sacrifice on the cross. The incarnation involves a man living without Sin in perfect obedience to God.
Only God could have done this.
The sacrifice is about Jesus representing/taking responsibility for humanity. That’s why one needs to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and master to receive the benefits of the cross.
It’s not a matter of God being pissed off and taking it out on himself.
If you don’t belong to Jesus, your sins remain and so does God’s wrath.
The point of the cross is to bring humanity (those who are willing) into union with God in Christ Jesus.

I am not removing God’s agency. Being cast out of the garden is a judgement of God.

Where did God say the tree was poisonous? You are reading that into the text.
God said they would die if they ate of the tree and it did happen.

That’s a wierd accusation. I have answered your questions.

Nope. It causes him to be afraid of being seen naked; apparently nakedness is immoral. Who knew? How is that relevant?

How is that relevant too? And wouldn’t a person who didn’t know it was wrong be even more likely to commit murder?

True, but how would they know it was wrong to disobey? And they weren’t told it was wrong, just that the tree was poisonous and would kill them, which turned out to be a lie. Catch-22.

Nobody said it was evil, least of all God. He just said they couldn’t do it, because it would kill them.

In which case, God created man with a sinful nature; not Adam’s fault at all. Why punish us for doing what he created us as?

We could belabor the shaky logic of these claims for quite a while, but do you really want to go through it?

That’s exactly what substitutionary atonement is. Or, better, it’s a form of sympathetic magic, an extremely primitive concept.

Exactly. It’s not a consequence of sin but a consequence of divine judgment for sin. Those are quite different.

That’s what “in the day you eat from it you will surely die” means.

It happened only because God expelled them, not because they ate the fruit. And it wasn’t that day either, but hundreds of years later. Lies.

I suppose you think you did. You are still suffering from the confusion between the consequences of sin and the consequences of God’s judgment. Ah, if only Adam had thought to eat from the tree of life first.