Adam was the first man (אָדָם = man) and the parent of the human race.—1. When the writer of Jude (v. 14) thinks it worth noting that Enoch (q.v.) was ‘the seventh from Adam’ (ἕβδομος ἀπὸ Ἀδάμ), he probably has in mind the sacredness of the number seven. It seems to him an interesting point that God, who rested from His work on the seventh day, found a man to walk in holy fellowship with Him in the seventh generation.
- In 1 Co 11:9f. and 1 Ti 2:13f. the doctrine of the headship of man and the complete subjection (πάσα ὑποταγή) of woman is based upon the story of creation. Man was not created for woman, but woman for man; Adam was created first and sinned second, Eve was created second and sinned first; therefore let woman ever remember that she is morally as well as physically weaker than man, and let her never attempt either to teach or to have dominion over him (αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός). With the premisses of this argument one may compare the words of Sirach (25:24): ‘From a woman was the beginning of sin (ἀπὸ γυναικὸς ἀρχὴ ἁμαρτίας), and because of her we all die.’ St. Paul did not take pleasure in this quaint philosophy of history, as many of the Rabbis did; but, with all his reverence for womanhood, he felt that the accepted belief in woman’s creation after and her fall before man’s clearly established her inferiority. It was not a personal and empirical, but a traditional and dogmatic, judgment.
- St. Paul had, and knew that many others had, a religious experience so vivid and intense that ordinary terms scorned inadequate to do it justice. It was the result of a Divine creative act. If any man was in Christ, there was ‘a new creation’ (καινὴ κτίσις); old things were passed away; behold, they were become now (2 Co 5:17). Not legalism or its absence, but ‘a new creation’ (Gal 6:15) was of avail. Reflexion on this profound spiritual change and all that it involved convinced the Apostle that Christ was the Head and Founder of a new humanity; that His life and death, followed by the gift of His Spirit, not merely marked a now epoch in history, introducing a new society, philosophy, ethics, and literature, but created a new world. ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.’ As St. Paul brooded on the stupendous series of events of which Christ was the cause, on the immeasurable difference which His brief presence made in the life of mankind, there inevitably took shape in his mind a grand antithesis between the first and the second creation, between the first and the last representative Man, between the intrusion of sin and death into the world and the Divine gift of righteousness and life, between the ravages of one man’s disobedience and the redemptive power of one Man’s perfect obedience (Ro 5:12–21).
It is to be noted that the Apostle does not advance any new theory of the first creation. He knew only what every student of Scripture could learn on that subject. He had no new revelation which enabled him either to confirm or to correct the account of the beginning of things which had come down from a remote antiquity. He no doubt regarded as literal history the account of the origin of man, sin, and death which is found in Gn 2–3. He did not imagine, like Philo, that he was reading a pure allegory; he believed, like Luther, that Moses ‘meldet geschehene Dinge.’ It is remarkable, however, with what unerring judgment he seizes upon and retains the vital, enduring substance of the legend, while he leaves out the drapery woven by the old time-spirit. He says nothing of a garden of Eden, a miraculous tree of life, a talking serpent, an anthropomorphic Deity.
But he finds in the antique human document these facts: the Divine origin and organic unity of the human race; man’s affinity with, and capacity for, the Divine; his destiny for fellowship with God as an ideal to be realized in obedience to Divine law; his conscious freedom and responsibility; the mysterious physical basis of his transmitted moral characteristics; his universally inherited tendency to sin; his consciousness that sin is not a mere inborn weakness of nature or strength of appetite, but a disregard of the known distinction between right and wrong; the entail of death, not as the law obeyed by all created organisms, but as the wages of his sin. The narrative which blends these elements in a form that appealed to the imagination of primitive peoples has a ‘depth of moral and religious insight unsurpassed in the OT’ (Skinner, Genesis [ICC, 1910] 52).
The teaching of St. Paul with regard to sin and death does not materially differ from that of his Jewish contemporaries and of the Talmud, in which the same sense of a fatal heredity is conjoined with a consciousness of individual responsibility, ‘O Adam, what hast thou done? For if thou hast sinned, thy fall has not merely been thine own, but ours who are descended from thee’ (2 Es 7:48). Yet ‘Adam is not the cause of sin except in his own soul; but each of us has become the Adam of his own soul’ (Bar 54:19). According to the Talmud, ‘there is such a thing as transmission of guilt, but not such a thing as transmission of sin’ (Weber, System d. altsyn. palästin. Theol., Leipzig, 1880, p. 216).
The ‘immortal allegory’ of Genesis cannot now be regarded as literal history. ‘The plain truth, and we have no reason to hide it, is that we do not know the beginnings of man’s life, of his history, of his sin; we do not know them historically, on historical evidence; and we should be content to let them remain in the dark till science throws what light it can upon them’ (Denney, Studies in Theol., London, 1894, p. 79). Science knows nothing of a man who came directly from the hand of God, and it cannot accept the pedigree of Adam as given by Moses or by Matthew.
Its working hypothesis is that man is ‘a scion of a Simian stock,’ and it is convinced that man did not make society but that society made man. Beyond this it has not yet done much to enlighten theology. ‘We do not know how Man arose, or whence he came, or when he began, or where his first home was; in short we are in a deplorable state of ignorance on the whole subject’ (J. A. Thomson, The Bible of Nature, Edinburgh, 1908, p. 191).
- Art has made it difficult to think of our first parents without adorning them with all graces and perfections. ‘But when we get away from poetry and picture-painting, we find that men have drawn largely from their imaginations, without the warrant of one syllable of Scripture to corroborate the truth of the colouring’ (F. W. Robertson, Corinthians, 242). To St. Paul (1 Co 15:45–49) the primitive man was of the earth, earthy (χοϊκός), a natural as opposed to a spiritual man, crude and rudimentary, with the innocence and inexperience of a child. ‘The life of the spirit is substantially identical with holiness; it could not therefore have been given immediately to man at the time of his creation; for holiness is not a thing imposed, it is essentially a product of liberty, the freewill offering of the individual. God therefore required to begin with an inferior state, the characteristic of which was simply freedom, the power in man to give or withhold himself’ (Godet, Corinthians, ii. 424). St. Paul’s conception is that, while ‘the first man Adam,’ as akin to God, was capable of immortality—potuit non mori—his sin made him subject to death, which has reigned over all his descendants. Cf. 2 Es 3:7: ‘And unto him (Adam) thou gavest thy one commandment: which he transgressed, and immediately thou appointedst death for him and in his generations.’ Formally as a deduction from the story of Adam, but really as his own spiritual intuition, the Apostle thus teaches the unnaturalness of human death. This is apparently opposed to the doctrine of science, that death is for all organisms a natural law, which reigned in the world long before the ascent of man and the beginning of sin—a debt which, as it cannot be cancelled, man should pay as cheerfully as possible. And yet his sense of two things—his own greatness and God’s goodness—convinces him that it is radically contra rerum naturam.
‘He thinks he was not made to die,
And Thou hast made him, Thou art just’
(Tennyson, In Memoriam).
Christianity confirms his instinctive feeling that death is in his case a dark shadow that should never have been cast upon his life. Acknowledging that it is not the mere natural fate of a physical organism, but the wages of sin, the Christian believes that it is finally to be abolished. ‘In Christ shall all be made alive.’ ‘The last Adam,’ having vanquished death, ‘became a life-giving spirit’ (1 Co 15:22, 45). See also artt. Life and Death, Sin.
Literature.—B. Weiss, Biblical Theology of the NT, 1882–83, i. 331ff., 409ff.; W. Beyschlag, NT Theology 1894–96, ii. 48ff.; C. v. Weizsäcker, Apostolic Age, 1894–95, i. 149ff.; G. B. Stevens, The Pauline Theology 1906, p. 122ff., Theology of the NT, 1901, p. 349ff.; A. B. Bruce, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity, 1896, p. 125ff.; D. Somerville, St. Paul’s Conception of Christ, 1897. p. 86ff.; Sandy-Headlam, Romans5, 1902, p. 136ff.; A. Deissmann, St. Paul. 1912, pp. 59, 107, 155ff.; H. Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Doctrine of Man, 1911, p. 122ff.
ICC International Critical Commentary.
Strahan, J. (1916-1918). Adam. In J. Hastings (Ed.), Dictionary of the Apostolic Church (2 Vols.) (J. Hastings, Ed.) (1:39-41). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.