In this video Conversation, senior biblical fellow Peter Enns asks Rev. N.T. Wright to respond to a common question of readers concerning the historicity of Adam. Specifically, Enns asks Wright to respond to the question of how Adam functions theologically in the Old Testament and whether a historical Adam is central or important for that “Adam theology” that is brought up later in Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he describes Christ as the “new Adam.”
Wright describes the first half of the letter to the Romans as offering a big-picture summary in that it returns to the project of Genesis 1 and 2 and announces that the original plan is back on track. In the Old Testament, redemption was to come through Israel—the people of Abraham—but Israel let God down.
In Romans, Paul says that Israel remains the solution. For Paul the significance of Abraham’s family is not who is this family, but what was this family supposed to do. Israel’s mission or promise will be fulfilled through the Messiah, Christ Jesus, and will be offered to all those who believe. Thus, the historicity of Adam is not central to the theology, it what Adam represents—which ultimately is revealed through Christ, who shows his faithfulness by keeping the original covenant between Israel and God the Father.