From the Dust: Paul’s Adam
Today's post features a clip from the documentary “From the Dust”, directed by filmmaker Ryan Pettey. It is our sincere hope that, above all else, the film can become a focal point for discussion of some of the big questions that inevitably arise at the intersection of science and faith.
To help foster such dialogue, we are including several discussion questions with this week’s clip. In the transcript below, you’ll find several prompts that are meant to help viewers dig deeper into the material being presented. Mouse over each highlighted region and a question will appear on the side. We encourage you to watch this video with your friends, your churches, your small groups and Sunday School classes, your pastors -- or anyone else for that matter – and take some time to discuss what is being said (and maybe even what isn’t). You may not all agree, but you will find yourselves engaged in fruitful and spirited conversation. And it is this kind of conversation that will help move the science and faith discussion forward.
"Paul's Adam" Transcript
N.T. Wright: “The message to the Romans has many, many things going on in it. It is an amazing masterpiece, and at the heart of the first half in chapter five, Paul draws together what he has been saying with kind of a big picture summary. He has been talking about Abraham and Abraham’s family and the way in which the death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes Abraham’s family as a worldwide forgiven family, and that enables him to stand back from that and say now, ‘Look—as in Adam, so in the Messiah.”
Chris Tilling: “Paul contrasts Christ and Adam. Scholars call this the Adam-Christ typology. Paul’s point seems to be that both figures—Adam and Christ—are significant for the destiny of all creation. To understand what Paul meant when he was speaking of Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, we have to read the Adam tradition in light of the story of Israel—the significance that Adam played in the story of Israel, the way Adam was interpreted by contemporary Jews in the time of Paul.”
N.T. Wright: “And so Paul is taking us right back to the big picture of Genesis, and saying that that whole problem which started way back, has now been addressed and more than addressed. God has actually got the project of Genesis one and two back on track at last, after it had been derailed.”
Alister McGrath: “Paul is seeing Adam and Christ as representative figures. Adam is the representative, the figurehead—whatever you would like to say—for humanity in general. What went wrong in Adam was rectified in Christ. Basically, what I see here is Paul saying that salvation is in effect a putting right of what has gone wrong with humanity.”
N.T. Wright: “That is the inner logic of Romans chapter three, Israel was unfaithful—is God then going to say, ‘Okay, let’s forget the idea of an Israel and do something different…?’ No! God is committed to saving the world through Israel. What he needs is a faithful Israelite. In Romans 3:22, this is precisely what you have got. God’s covenant faithfulness is revealed through the faithfulness of the Messiah for the benefit of all those who believe. Paul says this is how the Adam problem gets dealt with.”
Alister McGrath: “Now the key question, and it won’t go away, is whether Paul is seeing Adam as a representative figure—in some way, here is a figurehead of humanity as a whole—or whether Paul is seeing him as a specific historical figure who in some way gave rise to the human race as we now know it.”
David Wenham: “What was Paul’s view exactly about how the world was created? What was his scientific point of view? Now, Paul was somebody who lived in the first century, and Paul did not understand modern science. When he thought about creation, he wasn’t thinking in terms of modern science. It wasn’t the question he was asking. I suspect that Paul would have shared many of the views of his day. He may well have believed in a flat earth. But, his theology does not depend on his science. His theology of Adam has mainly, I think, to do with his understanding of humanity and how it was created, rather than in any way being a scientific statement. I do think we mustn’t underestimate the sophistication of people like Paul. He was highly trained. He will have known and did know aspects of Greek philosophy where they discussed questions of creation and so on. He will have understood the Old Testament with a very sharp eye, and I think he will have understood that the stories of creation are not scientific descriptions, but are theological affirmations about God’s truth and about how God created the world.”
Chris Tilling: “If we try and understand Paul’s Adam talk in terms of later scientific terms relating to creation and evolution, then we are actually putting the Adam talk into a different story, and we will ultimately end up misunderstanding Paul. So it is actually quite vital if we want to understand what Paul is saying to put it firmly in the Jewish story and the Jewish narrative.”
Alister McGrath: “I think we can say that, fundamentally, whatever Christ did is about the rectification of the natural state of humanity.” Michael Lloyd: “And, therefore, it seems to me just natural that Paul would refer to Jesus as the new Adam because here at last is a human being doing what Adam was called to do, but didn’t.”
N.T. Wright: “It is Jesus who is the truly human one and anyone who is in Jesus the Messiah is truly human.”
Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.
Ryan Pettey is a filmmaker and the director/editor of Satellite Pictures. He produced the feature length video From the Dust, which examines the question of human physical origins from a theological, historical and social perspective.