Joshua, here are some hurried thoughts as far as permitted by a house full of grandchildren!
1 Where do you place Adam in geography and time (e.g. 10 kya, in Persian Gulf Oasis is one proposal).
2 Are Adam and Eve de novo created? Why or why not?
3 What is the Image of God? Is it also on those outside the Garden?
4 Do you affirm original sin? What is its affect on people outside the garden, and how does it transfer?
5 Is universal genealogical descent from Adam theologically important or not? Why or why not?
What are the other key features of your theology?
1 Following most modern “literal Adam” scholars, I treat Gen 2.4-11 as “proto-historical” or “mytho-historical” in genre. That is, despite the abundance of mythically-expressed motifs, such as a talking serpent, eternal life and illicit knowledge linked to trees etc, there are many features suggesting a specific place and time, and genealogies linking to clearly historical figures. Additionally there are both cultural and literary links to Mesopotamian stories like Eridu Genesis and Atrahasis, which can be dated and situated.
Accordingly I place Adam in either southern Mesopotamia or the Anatolian highlands to the north, a countable number of generations before the “Shuruppak” flood of c2900BC that is the best candidate for the epochal flood of Sumerian history. I attribute normal lifespans to his line, considering the great ages in the text more likely to be for literary or mathematical reasons rather than supernatural vigour - which the text itself doesn’t seem much interested in. That leaves a few centuries leeway, but I’m unwilling to tie Adam to any particular human beginnings, such as making him the founder of the Neolithic or agriculture: there is no need, as he is, like Abraham later, is a representative, not a cultural torchbearer.
2 De novo creation: this is a sticky question, in that (in my view) there is both continuity and discontinuity between the adam created in Gen 1, and the Adam taken into the garden in Gen 2. I’m sympathetic to Richard Middleton’s idea that the breath God breathed into Adam’s nostrils constitutes a new supernatural empowering, like that represented in Egyptian rituals to “divinise” an image. This would constitute a true act of divine creation, even if Adam was taken from an existing mankind (the text itself, of course, has Adam created from dust, not ex nihilo, so transformation is already in view). An Adam re-created and empowered in this way is a product of more than biology - and that might explain the propensity for disaster due to his rebellion: man returned from Eden with a sense of the lost eternal (Ecc 3:11), and a perverted sense of his own importance, as well as (probably) a new and perverted moral sense and general cognitive skills.
3 This does not mean that pre-adamic mankind is not an “image bearer” - a phrase which is actually misleading, since man was not created to bear an image at all , but to be an image. It is the royal/religious sense of “image” that makes more sense than any particular human endowment like reason, though since “imageness” is intrinsic to what it is to be human, all human qualities are part of it. That applies whether the original (palaeolithic) men were specially created or created through an evolutionary process: God “designed” mankind to be what he is, reflecting the likeness of Christ, the true Image of God (as those like Irenaeus stressed).
It follows that there is no theological problem in pre-adamic man having advancedc culture, language, and even religion as history and archaeology suggest: what they lacked was what Adam gained, possibly through the divine breath, and definitely through the whole Garden episode. One way of considering this is extending the pagan temple analogy: before an Egyptian “god” was empowered by ritual, it was nevertheless made in order to be a divine image. It looked like Ptah before it “became” Ptah. And so early man was created as an earthly creature in God’s image, always with the purpose of becoming God’s true representative at the proper time, through Adam.
4 The nature of original sin is still a work in progress on my model. Central is the understanding that Adam’s sin begins with disobedience to the specific command of Yahweh, and however it later generalises to lack of love for fellow man and God, it must always retain the key feature of revolt against God’s command. That’s why evolutionary accounts of sin fail: they redifine sin in purely moral, rather than religious, terms. Adam is the federal head of the “new” humanity, as well (under Genealogical Adam) as its physical fountainhead, and so his sin becomes ours (see below).
That leaves the question of the moral nature of man before there was a covenant in Adam. A few points:
To be sinless is to be true to your created nature - and that is why lion infanticide or chimp warfare are not sinful. God surprises us with the range of creatures he has made, and all “very good.” The given nature of mankind doesn’t, therefore, necessarily require congruence the law God intended for the children of Adam.
As C S Lewis points out, artifacts usually reveal little of the inner life of man. We cannot assume from tools or burials that pre-adamic man was like “primitive” adamic mankind today. The Garden changed everything. It is quite possible to endorse the traditional view that Adam was endued with a gift of original righteousness, appropriate to the “new mankind.” It is also possible that before Adam sinned, mankind had a natural tendency to what we understand as righteosuness. However, some probabilities come out of the ground.
Sapiens and Neanderthals bones show signs of butchery - but that tells us only about a taboo: even good Catholics have eaten human flesh when starving after a plane crash in the Andes: and they were not in an ice age. Burial honours may reflect belief in an afterlife - but they may not. The Bolsheviks who embalmed Lenin so carefully to this day had no belief that he would rise again: just respect for his achievements. Evidence of murder maybe equivocal, like the very ancient skull showing marks of two blows, or possibly two teeth. Even kings have been killed by arrows in hunting accidents (and even an Archbishop of Canterbury accidentally killed someone that way). More telling are remains of massacres with identical injuries - the oldest discovery of which, so far, seems about 13,000 years old. Adam rather older than my model? A violent pre-adamic nature? Faulty dates? It’s too early to be certain - but behind it all, remember that it was disobeying Yahweh in sacred space, not a universal moral law, that brought death and sin into the world.
As to the pervaseivness of sin and original sin, To me there is so much emphasis on genealogy in the Bible, not only in the Genesis genealogies, but in the unique Table of Nations, in the genealogies of Christ, in the theology of Paul, in the analogies of new birth and inheritance of the New Testament, etc, that being physically “in Adam,” though irrational to modern minds, is still important.
I believe in the forensic Reformed idea of federal headship, but that idea requires a legitimate participation in the head. In the case of the Davidic kings, he represented the nation by divine anointing and popular consensus. Likewise Christ is divinely appointed, and we participate by making him our Lord, by faith. Physical descent from Adam gives us a true solidarity with him, which seems to be absent from other models (and especially those where he doesn’t actually exists!).
I believe (despite objections about Augustine and mistranslations) that Romans 5 does teach imputed guilt for Adam’s specific transgression. But the propensity we have for sin - the our bondage of our wills, may also be due to the fact that we only become true humans through enculturation: rational beings are the product of (sinful) society, and not vice versa. Adam’s corruption is a very potent leaven in human society.
5 I think the above shows the importance of genealogical descent from Adam in my position, as far as sin goes, but I would just stress (as it sometimes isn’t) that sin was only the spoiling of what Adam received through his encounter with Yahweh, and passed on to his descendants. We have ancestral knowledge of God, of the possibility of eternal life, of our accountability to God, and even of the high calling received (and for the time being lost) by Adam to rule not only the earth, but the angels and all that God has made (Ps 8, as interpreted in Heb 2). We are (as Blaise Pascal said) both of heaven and earth, and that (I beleieve) we receive from Adam, and not merely through Cro-Magnon man.
Accordingly, a major theme of what I’m working on is the narrative structure of the Bible, which it seems to me is, from first to last, about the struggle to bring about the New Creation - the transformation of the first, good but natural, creation into that in which spirit empowers all and God’s glory fills the heavens and the earth. The Genesis 1 creation is merely the backdrop for that drama, which begins in Gen 2 with Adam, has its first reiteration in the call of Israel, and its successful culmination in the work of Christ… which reveals to us that achieving it through and for Christ was God’s secret intention from the first.