In this video conversation, Old Testament scholar Peter Enns discusses the Apostle Paul and his understanding of Adam as the progenitor of the human race.
Enns writes about this issue in a recent blog post, and in today’s format, he reemphasizes a few key points—but namely that we must consider Paul within his first century context, and not in our contemporary one. What this means is that Paul wouldn’t have had 21st century scientific discovery and knowledge available to him at his point in time. He wouldn’t have understood the theory of common descent, so he would have seen Adam as a historical figure. “There is really little doubt that Paul understood Adam to be a real person, the first created human from whom all humans descended,” Enns says.
One might wonder: does that violate the theological point Paul is trying to make of connecting Adam to Jesus? More importantly, does the “non-literalness” of Adam affect the validity of Jesus?
Not so, says Enns. And as you watch this video, pay close attention to Enns' emphasis at 1:22.
While in Paul’s mind, there may be a more “organic” connection, Enns points out that for most Christians, this has no bearing on the “literalness” of Jesus.
“How Paul handles Adam does not determine modern scientific discoveries about the origin of humanity. Paul does not determine that for us. Paul is a first century man, and what he says about Jesus and Adam has to be understood in that context,” says Enns.