Paul’s Perspective on Adam with N.T. Wright and Pete Enns

Paul's Perspective on Adam
Conversation with: N.T. Wright and Pete Enns

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.”

To discuss this post, see our post "Paul's Perspective on Adam" at Science & the Sacred.

Video Transcription

Dr. Peter Enns, The BioLogos Foundation: Hi, I'm Dr. Peter Enns. I'm Senior Fellow in Biblical Studies of The BioLogos Foundation, and we're here today with the Rev. Dr. Tom Wright. And we have a chance to ask some questions, some of which we've gotten via Twitter and e-mails, and also about a lot of topics such as his recent book, "After You Believe", and science and faith issues. So welcome, Tom.

Rev. Dr. N.T. Wright, Author: Thank you. Good to see you.

Enns: Good to see you again.

Wright: Yeah.

Enns: Think out loud with us about Adam and how Adam functions theologically in the Old Testament, and whether a historical Adam, however, you might want to define that, whether historical Adam is central or important for that, let's say, Adam theology. Paul seems to address that very issue in the book of Romans. Maybe you can explain that a little bit more clearly.

Wright: The letter to the Romans has many, many things going on in it. It's an amazing masterpiece. And the heart of the first half, in Chapter Five, Paul draws together what he's been saying with kind of a big picture summary. He's 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 forgiving family. And that enables him to stand back from that and say, now look, as in Adam, so in the Messiah.

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.

For Paul, it is enormously important because he knows that the significance of Abraham's family, which he has been talking about in Romans, Chapter Four, is not limited to who are Abraham's family but is to do with what were Abraham's family supposed to be there for in the first place. And the answer from Genesis is clearly, to deal with the problem of Adam. So Paul says, this is how the Adam problem gets dealt with.

I think Paul says, Israel remains the solution. So how does Israel remain the solution, and the answer is that the Messiah represents his role. He does what Israel was supposed to do. That is the inner logic of Romans, Chapter Three. Israel was unfaithful. Is God then going to say, OK, then, 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. Through Romans 3:22 that's precisely what you've got. God's covenant faithfulness is revealed through the faithfulness of the Messiah for the benefit of all those who believe. That's how that logic works. So the Israel promise is fulfilled, but it's fulfilled in the Messiah and you can see that aspiration. We are called to be the true humanity. And Paul says, no actually it's Jesus, who is the truly human one, and anyone who is in Jesus, the Messiah, is truly human.