t f p g+ YouTube icon

The Apostle Paul and Adam

Bookmark and Share

March 10, 2010 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's video features Pete Enns. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

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.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Pete Enns is a former Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies for The BioLogos Foundation and author of several books and commentaries, including the popular Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, which looks at three questions raised by biblical scholars that seem to threaten traditional views of Scripture.

Learn More

View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Page 5 of 6   « 2 3 4 5 6 »
Daniel Mann - #6639

March 12th 2010


You responded, “Daniel, surely you are joking about claiming certainty of historic events based on a 2000 year old eyewitness account.”

You will have to argue with the Apostle John, who wrote to those who weren’t eyewitnesses, about that: 

•  Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you [Thomas] have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have BELIEVED.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:29-31)

John declares that as Thomas believed, we too can believe based upon eyewitness accounts, something also confirmed to us by the Spirit. In fact, the evidence of the resurrection is so compelling that unbelieving historians have commented:

1.  “Even the atheist Ludemann conceded: ‘It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.’” (Lee Strobel)

Daniel Mann - #6640

March 12th 2010


2.  “The Disciples’ conviction that they had seen the risen Christ…is historical bedrock, facts known past doubting.” Paula Fredriksen

Gordon,  you wrote, “But when you or I read these accounts thousands of years later, we must believe by faith.” You also stated that the present scientific consensus is more certain.

It is no surprise that if you start with these presuppositions, what is more uncertain (faith) will be commandeered by what is more certain (the present consensus). Consequently, you and I end up at opposite points. My question to you, therefore, is “Who is paying the greater price?”

Gregory Arago - #6641

March 12th 2010

The vast majority of comments in this thread & the other by Dr. Enns on ‘Adam’ have rejected his proposal of a ‘non-historical’ Adam.

My conclusion is that *if* the BioLogos Foundation wants to stake its reputation on the non-historicity of Adam as one of its core messages to promote ‘evolutionary science’ to the evangelical masses in America, it will fail.

But I don’t think BioLogos needs to do this because there are multiple perspectives available that allow for the ‘real’ historical existence of ‘Adam’ consistent with the Bible. Dick Fischer has provided one of them on this Blog already. I’ve posted links to others.

I say Pete is either ‘too liberal’ interpreting Scripture or that he is too infatuated with ‘evolutionary philosophy’ to accept the real existence of a ‘first human’ known as Adam.

As a result of reading people’s opinions on this Blog, it is evident that ‘Adam’ is *much* more important to protect than ‘young earth’. BioLogos should challenge sola scriptura hyper-literalism and YEC, yet leave open middle ground for Adam’s historical reality.

Joe Francis - #6653

March 12th 2010

Greg, #6641

As much as I might disagree with you about ontological reality, I must say I agree with many statements in your 6641 post.

However, you have been a stickler for definitions.  What do you mean by hyper-literalism?
I attend mainstream evangelical churches, and if I am a hyper-literalist, that means there is a lot of us out there, even here in the “left coast.”

Here are stats that were just republished at Science Daily(dot) com:

The paper cites a 2009 Gallup poll that coincided with the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth reporting that only four out of 10 people in the U.S. believe in evolution. The poll also reported that 16 percent of biology teachers believe God created humans in their present form at some time during the last 10,000 years.

Are you saying that 16% of biology teachers are wacko hyper-literalists?

Daniel Mann - #6654

March 12th 2010


The reason that I wrote that ID is incontrovertible is not because we humans can’t find a way around it, but because the Bible strenuously claims this:

•  The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20

Paul claims that this deprives us of any excuse for not knowing God. Bertrand Russell had been asked what he would answer to God if he encountered Him after he died. Russell famously responded, “God, there just wasn’t enough evidence, just not enough evidence.”

However, that will simply not cut-it with God! Instead, humanity has always demonstrated a profound ability to deny the obvious. I think it love’s duty to confront the denial.

Gregory Arago - #6655

March 12th 2010

@ #6654

And the reason I wrote the term ‘pre-theoretical’ is to uncover exactly the incoherent position you are espousing, Daniel.

I borrow this perspective from a well-known 20th c. Christian philosopher, whom you will no doubt also self-righteously condemn with your Scripture-centric idolatry.

You didn’t answer my question, Daniel: Can you come up with a ‘theory’ [of ID] that passes the muster of ‘scientific accuracy,’ since ID claims it simply *is* science & not *just* philosophy of science?

Intelligent Design is a ‘theoretical’ position. The Holy Bible is *not* a ‘theoretical’ piece of literature. There are many aspects of the Biblical story that are ‘pre-theoretical’ and which do not require the sophistication of biblical scholars.

Gregory Arago - #6657

March 12th 2010


I’m sure you know better what a “wacko hyper-literalist” is than I do. I don’t live in the USA, after all.

Hyper-literalists hold on too strongly/tightly to the view that the Holy Bible is ‘truth’ without *any* possibility of it containing human errors.

This is a translated text, gathered and legitimated by a Christian Council, which was not originally written in English. There are some who would defend the ‘literalism’ of the King James edition as being ‘perfect.’ I am not one of those (e.g. U.S.Southern Baptists).

If you have ever translated a text in your life, Joe, then you’d realise (as I was doing yesterday), that a ‘perfect translation’ is impossible. Gordon’s comments on this have been most acute and realistic and I thank him for it.

The polls about ‘believe in evolution’ are problematic. I’m a sociologist, Joe, i.e. one of the people who write those surveys.

You are disgraced by a vast majority of fellow Christians worldwide who accept an ‘old Earth.’ You are not a geologist or a cosmologist. Why not seek knowledge outside of your YEC clique to discover the power of evidence that suggests an ‘old earth’? You could gain respectability on this path and still ‘do biology’.

Joe Francis - #6659

March 12th 2010

Greg, #6655

I am not a big fan of the ID strategy which is lets argue science first and talk about God later, I think this strategy has hurt their cause in some ways.

But that said, you can find ID principles in science.  For example, in my field, many molecular biologists, use the principle of “reverse engineering” to figure out the complexity of cellular machines.  The idea is that a functional machine requires a core subset of parts, and so we can begin the process of figuring out the essential nature of those parts by eliminating them one by one.  This is done in genetics with “knock out” mice.  We knock out a gene in the mouse and look for disfunction.  The assumption is that many genes are essential.  Why? because they are often part of complex entities inside cells or complex pathways inside cells.  This is a design principle which you can find as a major part of molecular biology today.

Joe Francis - #6665

March 12th 2010

Greg # 6657,

If you believe their are no reliable translations, why argue for the historicity of Adam as you have been doing?

Why do you care?

Kendalf - #6667

March 12th 2010

@Gordon (#6627)
“...when science did eventually progress to the point where the falseness of these hypotheses became evident, it was the Church that argued in favor them BASED ON SCRIPTURE.”

What are the examples that you are thinking about when you say that the Church continued to argue in favor of a specific hypothesis even after the hypothesis was proven false? The context of your comment was in reference to the flat-earth view and geocentrism, and in regard to these two views at least the research of historians of science does not support your statement. For example, once the scientific evidence for heliocentrism became conclusive, the Church did not continue to maintain that the geocentric model was still valid, but it readily accepted that the passages of Scripture that seemed to imply a stationary Earth had to be interpreted figuratively or phenomenologically.

Gregory Arago - #6670

March 12th 2010

#6665 If you really believe you are disgraced by *most* Christians in the world for your (blatantly out-dated) ‘young-earth’ views, why not realize simply that you are fantasizing in a self-centred way, not dealing with outside-world reality and adjust your personal perspectives?

You have dodged so many of my questions, Joe. Why not address this one?

I’m well-familiar with the ID-creationism links or lack thereof and the reverse-engineering issue.

When you pinched yourself, did you not conclude that you are ‘real,’ Joe? Ayn would shrug at you in disbelief and philosophical condescension!

No ‘book/Book’ can give you that same sensation as pinching, nor can ‘Adam’, Dr. Joe.

Joe Francis - #6675

March 12th 2010

Greg, #6670

Greg #6670

Greg, I am trying to follow the rules of the blog and avoid personal attack, so I won’t answer those style questions.  There is no need for that here.

Just a note that one of the Presidents of BioLogos has verified that ID is a scientific endeavor on another blog:

“This is just one example of why I have come to conclude that the ID movement ought to be considered a scientific movement -Darrel Falk.

More to the topic of the list I am waiting for your answer as to why you think Adam is historical?

Daniel Mann - #6676

March 12th 2010


I think that you are confusing two issues. While I’m gladly a “Bible-centrist,” it does not follow that I’m a literalist. In fact I don’t know of any scholar who takes the Bible literally in the way you use the term. We all seek to understand it the way that it was intended – historical, hyperbolic, figurative, parabolic language, whatever!

I am a Bible-centrist because Moses, Joshua, the Prophets, Jesus and the rest of the NT writers were Bible-centrists. Just look at the way that they quoted Scripture to settle any differences of opinion.

I don’t understand “Christians” who pick-and-choose their way through Scripture. If you have that ability, then why even bother with the Bible?

Joe Francis - #6680

March 12th 2010


I agree with Daniel.  Why do you care about the Bible or the historicity of Adam at all?

Gregory Arago - #6688

March 12th 2010


Trying hard to be respectful. But it really is tough with a YEC who won’t answer difficult questions.

You wrote: “one of the Presidents of BioLogos has verified that ID is a scientific endeavor on another blog”

I already addresed this (6645). Falk wrote: “the Intelligent Design movement is a scientific movement.”

You are loose and sloppy with words again, Joe. Falk didn’t write ‘endeavor.’

There is no reason for me to conclude we are having a ‘dialogue’ until you answer the questions in 6670.

Daniel says: “I’m gladly a “Bible-centrist”.”

Yet he is a ‘teacher’ at a Bible College. Doesn’t that somehow make sense?

Those ‘above’ Daniel Mann in the hierarchy of theologocial knowledge and practice disagree with his imbalance, of course. So, why would I want to respond to two idolatrous scripture-centrists when other more balanced Christians are available for conversation?

Gregory Arago - #6698

March 12th 2010


What’s the difference or similarity, in your view, between ‘bible-centrism’ and God-centrism’?

You sure sound (#6676) like a ‘fundamentalist’ to me.

Will you seek to join mainstream Christianity by rejecting Scripture-centrist Protestant idolatry?

This seems to be about more than just ‘historical Adam’ now.


Daniel Mann - #6700

March 12th 2010


Bible-centrism is God-centrism!!! This is because God has always insisted that His people relate to Him through His Word, as Jesus summed it up:

•  Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him….If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:21-24)

You might ask, “Why is God so insistent about His Word?” Perhaps this might help. Jesus insisted that we had to worship God in spirit (in the depth of our being) and in truth (according to His revelation) (John 4:20-24).

It is so critical to any relationship that we love/appreciate the other according to who they really are. For instance, if you’re wife adored you because you reminded her of her first lover, such a relationship is built on smoke and is a fraud. This is why we are not free to mentally construct God in any we way please, but according to His own self-revelation.

Joe Francis - #6713

March 12th 2010

Gregory, #6688

The rules for the blog say to avoid inflammatory language so if you want to rephrase your questions without the derogatory language perhaps I will answer them.  If you look on other blog discussions we have had you will see I have answered all your questions.

The one question I am asking you, I think, could be one of a few or the only question I have asked you. 

Is there a reason you won’t tell us why you think Adam is a historical person?  The only data you have presented is that it would be a nice “middle” position to take….or a lot of people take this view?  Not sure.  Are you using reasoning from sociology to make your decision? Is it that the majority opinion leads to the correct answer? That seems to be the conclusion we are left with.

Joe Francis - #6734

March 12th 2010


You said:

“You wrote: “one of the Presidents of BioLogos has verified that ID is a scientific endeavor on another blog”

I already addresed this (6645). Falk wrote: “the Intelligent Design movement is a scientific movement.”

You are loose and sloppy with words again, Joe. Falk didn’t write ‘endeavor.’”

So changes in words do have meaning and changes in words in sentences bother you, so when biblical scholars are loose and sloppy with the words and meanings of the words of scripture does this bother you?

Gregory Arago - #6758

March 13th 2010

No offense meant, Joe.

I’ll rest my comments for ‘historical Adam’ in this thread on #6641.

No desire to get into a discussion here about ‘literalism’ or ‘Bible-centrism’ with literalists or Bible-centrists. Simply, I don’t think that is a responsible religious position to hold.

John the theologian’s words on this (#6546) are better than mine:
““Idolizing” sacred scripture would be one thing, but what ends up “idolized” is the particular interpretation of scripture handed down in one’s own tradition/denomination/church.  Throw in an unwillingness/inability to even see the influence of one’s own group in that interpretation, and you’ve got quite a mess.”

I also agree with John’s suggestion: “It seems to me that BioLogos would do well to approach the science-faith challenge from a good variety of traditions in order to help us understand what we learn from science within any faith tradition that can possibly accomodate it.”

Page 5 of 6   « 2 3 4 5 6 »