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The Historical Adam and the Saving Christ Part 3: Jesus as the New Humanity

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April 30, 2010 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin
The Historical Adam and the Saving Christ Part 3: Jesus as the New Humanity

Today's entry was written by Daniel Kirk. 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 final post on Jesus and Adam in Paul’s thought, I want to move into Paul’s claims in 1 Corinthians 15. This, in addition to Romans 5, is where Paul calls Adam a “type” of Christ and directly addresses the connection between them.

As in Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15 first brings Adam into the discussion to compare him to Christ as one human who determined the fate of all humanity. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s exposition of Adam is more clearly set within a larger framework of Jesus as representative of a new humanity. As Paul puts it, the resurrected Christ is the firstfruits of a larger harvest of resurrection-life, i.e., the resurrection of believers (1 Corinthians 15:20). This offsets the work of Adam as the firstfruits of a harvest of death (1 Corinthians 15:21).

The major thrust of these posts on Adam and Christ has been that we cannot separate Genesis 1-3 from the function these chapters perform throughout the canon. This is true for the blessings of “fruitfulness and multiplication,” as we have seen. It is also true for reversing the death that Adam and Eve were stricken with for their disobedience in the garden.

The hope that saturates the Pentateuch is that obedience to the Torah will lead to life. Where Adam and Eve were given one command as they lived in the presence of God’s garden, Israel is given numerous commands, including, especially, those tied to the Tabernacle. Where Adam and Eve were given the garden to serve and keep (2:15), the Levites are to serve and keep the Tabernacle (Numbers 3:7-8; 8:26)—itself adorned with trees, fruits, and guardian angels evocative of the lost garden. The Levites are “second Adam” figures, representing all the community in presence of God, even ransoming their lives for God (Numbers 3:11-13).

Again, in the Old Testament itself, the story of Adam is told not simply to tell us “what happened.” It tells us who Israel is called to be before God and how Israel-as-Adam is both God’s means for affirming his purposes in creation, and for reversing the shortcomings still inherent in the world, as we know it.

Now back to Paul. He claims in 1 Corinthians 15 that Christ’s work represents humanity by bringing it life even as Adam’s work represents humanity by bringing it death. When he does so, he is joining with the Old Testament writers in reading Israel’s story as God’s means for setting the entirety of creation to rights. This is not a claim that requires a historical Adam as depicted in Genesis 1-3, though it does depend on taking those creation stories seriously as reflecting God’s intentions for humanity on the earth.

Paul’s use of the Adam story follows in a long trajectory of Jewish use of these stories. Not only do they reverberate through the Pentateuch, but also into the traditions of Israel’s kings. The kings of Israel, like Adam, are seen as sons of God who rule the world on God’s behalf (Genesis 1:16-28; 2 Samuel 7:9-16; Psalm 2; Psalm 110). The Adam story sets the trajectories for the story of Israel, as the writers of the creation accounts, themselves, tie Adam to Israel in the Pentateuch, and as the imagery is found in other OT writers.

So when we find Paul engaging in an extended contrast between the first and last Adam, we are not encountering any new mandate that Adam be a particular historical figure. We are in the presence of a Jewish man participating in the long tradition of retelling the creation story so that it dovetails with his understanding of how God is at work to save the world by means of human agency. The very presence of two creation narratives in Genesis 1-3 indicates that historicity was not the principal concern when these stories were first told. There is no reason to add such a requirement when the apostle Paul takes up the stories.

“The first Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:45-46). The case Paul makes here is simply that Jesus is the representative of a new kind of humanity. Embodied, yes. But with a Spiritual, resurrection body. Perhaps it is important to note here that the point is contrast: the resurrected Jesus is not like Adam. The image of God has been remade, so that those who are “in Christ” will bear the heavenly image. Jesus is the start of something new.

The resurrection of Jesus was a surprise. It was not expected that the Messiah would be crucified and raised from the dead, and thereby enthroned. When we see Paul invoking Adam as a point of comparison and contrast, we are observing theological reflection at work striving to communicate how it is that Jesus determines the destiny of all humanity. The determining factor for Paul is not what Genesis 1-3 tells us about Adam, but what his vision of the resurrected messiah tells him about the climax of Israel’s story.

Surprise! The Torah is not God’s means of salvation!

Surprise! An accursed death is redemptive!

Surprise! Jesus is the new humanity, and the rest of us will follow in his train.

In light of these (and other such surprises), Paul reinterprets the story of Adam in light of the Christ event. His convictions about Christ do not ride on Genesis 1-3 taking place just so in history. His assessments of Adam ride on his convictions about God’s redeeming work in Christ.

For Paul, as for the writers of the OT, the creation stories are true introductions to the story of God irrespective of their literal historicity.

Daniel Kirk is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Fuller Seminary in Northern California. He is the author of Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God and blogs regularly at Storied Theology. He has published articles in numerous venues including Journal of Biblical Literature, Zeitschrift for Neues Testament, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, and Christianity Today.

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David T. - #11878

April 30th 2010


It appears the CT has “one (man)” while the TR and MajT has “one blood.” If you say that “one blood” is the better reading, I would be interested in the MS evidence and a look at what Paul would mean by “blood.”
In any case, he made from one “something” every “ethnos,” or ethnic group. There is a one-to-many aspect here. You seem to be interpreting this passage to essentially say that all mankind is of one blood, which would echo I Cor 15:39, where there is flesh of man, and flesh of beasts, and flesh of birds. But again, would that be what Paul had in mind if he used the word “blood”?

Gregory - #11881

April 30th 2010

I go fourth after Bilbo, JimScott (Vatican) & David - historical fall/Adam.

“I’m not sure why we need to press so hard to argue that “Adam” wasn’t a “real person.”  The ontological reality the text relates to is relational and covenantal, not genetic and biological.” - David

I wonder if Dr. Kirk has read Dr. Fischer yet or if he knows Dick’s views?

BioLogos promotes the ‘reality’ of human evolution & Old Earth. I’m fine with that. But I agree with David; there is *no need* also to argue ‘Adam’ wasn’t ‘real.’ This is why BioLogos does *not* take an official position on A&Es; historicity, even though many BioLogos people are saying they believe there was ‘no real Adam.’ This is a minority Christian view & anathema to Catholic & Orthodox (i.e. majority) teachings.

“This whole “If you accept Evolution or a non-“literal” reading of Genesis u must deny a real historic Adam” [view] is nothing more than an exercise in dogmatic liberal Protestant fundamentalism.” - BenYachov

Maybe it just means that BioLogos needs to show more its conservative side too?

I accept ‘biological evolution’ & do *not* deny a real, historical Adam.

David T. - #11883

April 30th 2010


The historicity of Adam is a huge sticking point for those under the influence of YECs. Because of this, I understand why Biologos is allowing a number of articles to be written questioning whether Scripture warrants that assumption. In the end, you are going to have to convince the YEC from Scripture that Adam was not real, OR you are going to have present TE in such a way that it respects and fits in with a historical Adam. If you do both/neither, you win nothing.
I think Biologos’ neutrality on this issue is detrimental to its cause.

Norm - #11893

April 30th 2010

David T.

The Greek word simply means blood and not man. I’ll let you decide what that implies.

Here is another example where the same Greek word for Blood is actually translated as such. It would have been interesting if “blood” had been translated “man” below.

Joh 1:12-13 KJV But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  (13)  Which WERE BORN, NOT OF BLOOD, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

By the way the discussion in 1 Cor 15:39 concerning the various kinds of flesh is very likely not talking about animal and human flesh at all. The topic under discussion there is the modes of existence as Jew and Gentile with the Jew having one “flesh” and the Gentile another. This is Hebrew symbolism straight from the OT using animal metaphors to denote an application. The same is going on with the Seed and the Celestial bodies analogy that preceded and followed that verse.

Justin Poe - #11895

April 30th 2010

Norm -#11846

I can name dozens if not hundreds of commentators that would disagree with your view of Genesis being nothing more then symbolic.

Chris Massey - #11896

April 30th 2010

Dick Fischer wrote:

“If we regard Adam as the first of the old covenant and not first of our species then the “fall” would be Adam’s failure to live according to God’s standards.”

Is there any indication in Scripture that God entered into a covenant with Adam? Even if this is correct, it leaves us with a situation where man was sinful from the time he evolved to the present. Failure to comply with a covenant is a “fall” of sorts, but not of the kind that corrupts a previously uncorrupted state.

Dick, I confess to not having read your book, but I must also confess to a high degree of skepticism at the idea that you have found archaeological evidence of Adam. The summary of your book indicates that you link him with the Sumerian character “Adamu” or “Adapu”. If anything, finding a link between the Adam in Genesis and the Adamu of ancient Sumerian mythology seems (to me at least) to strengthen the claim that Adam is mythological. Could you summarize your reasons for concluding otherwise?

Norm - #11898

April 30th 2010


I’m not saying it is entirely symbolic as you suggest I believe.
It is however heavily symbolic in its literary approach.

Also I’ not concerned in how many we can count that disagree with me as I’m sure there are hundreds of YEC that would fall into that camp.

Bilbo - #11899

April 30th 2010

At least Prof. Kirk acknowledges a “good world gone bad.”  I take that as an encouraging start.  Perhaps if he is willing to flesh that out a little more, we might be able to further the discussion.

Norm - #11900

April 30th 2010

Dick Fischer,

I appreciate your thoughts on the historical nature of Adam and that is basically what my thoughts would have been. That is Israel was accounting for a historicla figure that was a part of that areas history in which to illusrate their covenant antiquity.  And you are correct for sure that this is a called Covenant forerunner of Israel and not of mankind at large. I’ll have to check your book out and see more about what you have to say. I hope you deal with not only the historical nature of Adam but how that is worked theologically into the NT account of Paul. I think that is critical to do in reflecting true Hebrew concepts about Adam’s story line and purpose.

David T. - #11903

April 30th 2010


“Blood” can carry the idea of natural descent. I think it does in both places (John 1 and Acts 17). The greek word is used in a variety of ways in the NT. The traditional understanding, is that the KJV rendering of “one blood” referred to Adam (see John Gill). Now, a case could be made that “one blood” refers to mankind in general, but it makes the passage a little repetitive (“And He has made from MANKIND every nation of men) and somewhat pointless. I prefer the NRSV here: “From one ancestor he made all nations…” which I feel captures what Paul was trying to say.
Additionally, here is the textual evidence for and against “blood”:

TEXT: “he made from one every nation of men”
EVIDENCE: p74 S A B 33 81 1739 vg cop

NOTES: “he made from one blood every nation of men”
EVIDENCE: D E P 614 945 1241 2495 Byz Lect lat syr

Gregory - #11915

April 30th 2010

“I’m not saying it is entirely symbolic as you suggest I believe.” - Norm

Bluff called then Norm: What is the ‘first’ real, historical moment in the Genesis narrative, in your humble opinion?

In the past you’ve come across as entirely anti-historical on this list. Now’s your chance to say otherwise.

Dick believes in a(n) historical Adam. As far as I’ve read, you do not, and you are one of the few respondents at the BioLogos site who’s consistently been anti-historical Adam, i.e. heterodox.

Likewise, Chris, I suggest you go to the ASA archives to find Dick’s views. This is neither the place nor the thread, unless Dick would so choose, to show his position . If BioLogos invites him to post a thread, then we could discuss Dick’s views there. He holds a unique and provocative position, indeed, and is better versed in ‘history’, afaik, than anyone at BioLogos.

But Dick is not a genomicist, so in some peoples’ eyes, he is no authority at all on the topic of A&E!

John VanZwieten - #11918

April 30th 2010

David T.

I’m somehow missing the other men on the ark.
Gen 7:7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.

norm - #11928

May 1st 2010


You must be selectively reading my postings because if you would note in #11900 above I agreed with Dick Fischer that Israel considered Adam as historic. However the literature genre of Genesis while reflecting some historicity is also reflecting the Hebrew penchant for allegory and symbolism. The question thus becomes more complex than just stating that since Adam is historic then Genesis must be literature that fits the modern literal sensibilities. It obviously doesn’t and so the quest to determine that issue is before us. I keep an open mind yet I see Hebrew patterns found in Genesis throughout the scriptures that provide clues on how to understand it’s intent.

Gregory - #11932

May 1st 2010

Yes, allegory and symbolism are in Genesis. I’m not suggesting that Genesis is modern literature, of course! But where’s the history, ‘when’ does it begin? You haven’t said a clear word about it, Norm.

What does ‘reflecting some historicity’ actually mean? Enough hand-waving and gloss. It sounds merely ‘clever’ and ‘sophistic’ if you don’t actually put your foot down somewhere, at some ‘moment’.

Evolutionists, whether theists or not, tend to fail miserably at this ‘marking the moment’ exercise, due to the philosophy of time that evolutionism dictates. I expect it will be the same with you, Norm, since you defend evolutionism. But I would be pleasantly surprised to hear otherwise.

I am *not* an ‘evolutionist’, though I accept some aspects of ‘natural evolution.’

You are one of the few participants here who doubts and even writes *against* the historicity of Adam. Please stress otherwise if I’ve misinterpreted you. So, aside from ‘respresentation’ talk, where’s the history?

David T. - #11937

May 1st 2010

John V.,

Ah… you are right. I was thinking that Noah was bringing sons-in-law, when it was actually daughters-in-law. I suppose then it could possibly be Noah…

BenYachov - #11938

May 1st 2010

Ah someone who really gets it.

>In the end, you are going to have to convince the YEC from Scripture that Adam was not real,

I reply:  Which I might add has been DONE already by Liberal mainline Protestantism & long story short THEY ARE A DEAD religion.  People join Evangelical, conservative Catholic & EO Churches.

> OR you are going to have present TE in such a way that it respects and fits in with a historical Adam. If you do both/neither, you win nothing.
I think Biologos’ neutrality on this issue is detrimental to its cause.

I reply; Amen to that!  Hint we Catholics have done a lot of the legwork in that area. 
Use us.

Gregory - #11942

May 1st 2010

Before you celebrate the Vatican too much, BenYachov, there *are* parts of the world where ‘mainline Protestantism’ is doing just fine and where the Catholic church is badly floundering.

I agree with David T. also on his assessment about YECs and TEs. We agree that Adam is a difficult topic and that de-historicizing Adam and Eve is a bad idea, theologically, scientifically and philosophically. I do hope that BioLogos finds a way to ‘leave Adam alone’ in its bid to educate American evangelicals about evolution and evolutionism.

Catholics’ legs are still working, as are Protestants’ and the Orthodoxs’. That’s more important than trumpeting Rome as if we don’t live in a world nowadays where ‘central planning’ is obsolete.

If we do live in a “good world gone bad,” as Kirk says and Bilbo accentuates, then there is no doubt that all THREE major Christian branches can improve in multiple ways.

Chris Massey - #11947

May 1st 2010


I think Biologos is wise in not having a fixed position about the historicity of Adam. That is an issue on which reasonable minds may differ.

I personally can’t think of any compelling reason to believe in a historic Adam. The science doesn’t point that direction. There is no extra-biblical evidence in archaeology or other sources (unless I’m overlooking something). The only evidence of Adam is found in a creation narrative that in all other respects appears to be a mythological tale of origins written thousands of year after the “event”.

What I hear over and over again in these discussions is people saying that we need a literal Adam in order to maintain coherent doctrine about the fall or in order to make Paul’s use of Adam problem-free. But believing something just because it’s convenient for one’s theology is a very poor justification for a belief. If I wanted a neat and tidy theology, I’d have stuck with YEC.

Norm - #11972

May 1st 2010

Gregory #11932

I realize that you have a penchant for historicity and that is good and I’ll state again that I believe that Adam was derived from the Hebrew belief in his historicity. Like Dick Fischer is pointing out there appears to have been an historic Adam but I like Dick believe that there were also pre Adamites.  These others called Gentiles are found right under our noses throughout Genesis 1-11. They are called the “Animals” and they are brought to Adam to provide him a helper. This “Animal” motif is found throughout the bible over and over again is easy to qualify if one will learn to read and think like an ancient Hebrew. These animal’s did not meet the qualifications for a helpmate to Adam because they were pagans and not suitable for the job so the need of a wife for Adam. Eve as the wife and mother of all the living (that is spiritual living not physical) becomes one with Adam who represents Israel and the Law/Commandment. As Paul points out in Eph 5:31-32 this is also prophetically pointing to the new second Adam/Christ and His bride/wife the church. 


Norm - #11973

May 1st 2010

Now its interesting that the story of Cain and Abel is so similar to the Egyptian story of Osiris ( a wise and good King of the afterlife or the living) and younger brother to the murderous Seth and is killed by him. However in the Hebrew account Seth becomes the reborn son to replace Abel and to continue Eve’s lineage of the Covenant Living. Next we have a Hebrew genealogical List in contradiction to the Babylonian Kings list and these ancient fathers of the lineage all live to long lives similar to Babylonian long lives.  None of them attain the Hebrew perfect age of 1000 years which signifies eternal life thus reflecting the Covenant lineages fallen state from Adam. This is all a covenant people story though as we can tell by the introduction here in these sections of Genesis by the usage of the Hebrew name for God YHWH contrasted to the usage of Elohim exclusively in Gen 1. So Noah’s flood is a local Covenant judgment upon the lineage of the Land of the living because like Israel they are polluting the lineage by intermarrying with Evil men outside the Covenant against God’s instructions for purity.


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