According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Story of Genesis as Wisdom Literature, Part 3

The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, Benjamin West

Fall, or Folly? (3): Paul Reads the Story

by Chaplain Mike
[with added commentary by re slater]
November 12, 2014

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin,
and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the
world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from
Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense
of  Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. - Romans 5.12-14, NASB

[Paul] does not posit a perfect pre-fallen state, nor does he attribute later human sin to
the sin of Adam. Rather, he sees Adam as a kind of beginning — the beginning of a
death-bound mode of life. Peter Bouteneff, Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings

21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in [a]Christ all will be made alive. [ie, the Messiah]...
45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The
last Adam became alife-giving spirit. - 1 Cor 15.21-22, 45, NASB

Christian tradition has held certain views about “the fall,” “original sin,” and the part Adam played in plunging humankind into ruin on the basis of a few words by the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Romans (5:12-21). There is also a short statement focusing on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians (15:21-22, see v. 45). Other than these two passages and the seminal story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-4, the Bible is virtually silent about Adam and the nature and results of his first-recorded transgression.

The only other certain references to Adam in the OT are found in genealogies: in Genesis 5 and 1 Chronicles 1:1. In the Gospels, Jesus never mentions Adam and Eve by name or refers to their sin. Matthew and Luke include him in Jesus’ genealogies and Jude names Adam in another genealogical reference. Paul writes of Adam and Eve on one other occasion in a discussion about men and women in the church (1Timothy 2:13-14).

This paucity of material may come as a surprise to some, since the Creation-Fall-Redemption template using the account of Adam and Eve in a prominent role has become part and parcel of the way Christians present the message of the Bible and salvation.

Given this background, why did Paul set his attention on Adam in Romans 5?

Death of Adam, Francesca

First, as many have noted, there was an explosion of interest in the paradise narratives in post-biblical Jewish literature in the intertestamental period. As Peter Bouteneff writes,

[D]uring the centuries under review, and especially during the first century of our era,
several of the key, enduring questions surrounding the creation and predicament of the
human person as treated in Genesis 1-3 were already on the table, even if they were
not yet receiving clear and consistent answers. (p.25)

A vibrant discussion was taking place in Jewish literature in this period, raising questions (1) about Adam — was he a figure who stood for humanity in general [ie, as type, or typology - re slater] or an individual? (2) about Eve — was she (a woman) ultimately responsible for the entrance of sin? (3) about the state of the first-created humanity — a dual legacy emerged, that of both a glorious Adam and a tragic transgressor, (4) about what the effect was of the first transgression on subsequent humanity — there is a whole mixed bag of opinions and interpretations, from denying that Adam’s sin played any causal role, to exonerating him completely and blaming Cain, to holding him responsible for subsequent human sin because he was the progenitor of all humanity.

One prominent voice was that of Philo, whose view Bouteneff summarizes: “The transgression is regarded neither as the greatest of sins nor as the cause of subsequent sin. Rather, subsequent sin becomes progressively worse, effecting an ever greater distancing from the noble protoplast.” (p. 29) But Philo also set forth allegorical interpretations of Genesis that paved the way for later Christian allegorical thinkers such as Origen.

Paul’s use of Adam must be seen in the context of this discussion. He didn’t make it up.


Second, it is clear that the primary reason Paul turned his attention on the one man Adam in the biblical story is because he began his thinking with the one man Jesus Christ [ie, as type, or typology - re slater].

His starting point was Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, who rose from the dead and was thereby declared Son of God and Lord of all, Jew and Gentile alike (Romans 1:1-5). For Paul, one Man now ruled the world, bringing life to everyone. As he sought to communicate this good news to both Jews and Gentiles, he thought through the biblical history and found a type (Romans 5:14) in Adam, one man who likewise had a worldwide influence by his actions.

And Paul is especially concerned to show how the world was filled with sin and death in the time before the Jewish Law was given at Mt. Sinai, making clear God’s religious, moral, and ethical standards (Romans 5:14). Adam and Eve set that “beginning” era into motion.

According to Paul, what did Adam do? As the first recorded transgressor [sic, in narratival terms that is, not as historical fact - re slater], he initiated an ongoing process of sin and death that affects the entire world. Therefore, Adam is the perfect foil for Christ. “Putting Adam and Christ together in Romans 5 is merely a way of showing how the actions of one lone figure can have profound (though opposite) effects on many people” (Bouteneff, p. 40). Paul is not analyzing and explaining Adam’s story as much as he is interpreting Christ through setting up the well-known case of Adam as his antithesis. [That is, Paul uses the Story of Genesis as Jewish wisdom (narratival) literature to speak to the historical Christ. He mixes literary genre to get to the theological truth of Jesus as Savior. - re slater]

It is important that we not take this comparison too far and draw conclusions from it that are unwarranted. Again, Bouteneff:

[Paul] does not posit a perfect pre-fallen state, nor does he attribute later human sin
to the sin of Adam. Rather, he sees Adam as a kind of beginning — the beginning of
a death-bound mode of life. (p. 45)

There is nothing here about drastic changes in the world or the nature of humanity after Adam’s sin. [There is] nothing about how Adam passed on a newly acquired sin nature to his progeny, or how his children bear original guilt because of the ancestral transgression [sic, this is entirely assumed by theological thinkers - re slater]. Nowhere in Genesis, the rest of the Bible, or in Paul is Adam blamed for any sin other than his own. Sin and death passed to all people, Paul says, because “all sinned,” which is fully consistent with what we read in Genesis 1-11. There is no denying the universality of sin and death, and that story begins with Adam, but we each bear our own blame.

All that Paul seems to want to say is that this epoch of human history is characterized 
and determined by the fatal interplay of sin and death — a partnership first established
in power at the beginning of the epoch, through the one man Adam.
James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8 (WBC)


The main adjustment that Paul must instill in Jew and Gentile alike is the establishment of
(1) Jesus Christ as not only a prophet - and not only a prophet to the Jews - but also
universal Savior. And, still more, (2) the one in whom is founded not just Israel but all
of creation.

This is part and parcel of Paul’s transformation of the scriptural message. Genesis
becomes the story not just of the origins of Israel but of the beginning of universal
humanity, and this in turn paves the way for stressing the universality of salvation in
Christ for the Jew and for the Greek.

Paul’s universalization of the Scriptures and his understanding of the Scriptures as
revealing Christ are thoroughly interrelated. Together they constitute the cornerstone
of his work in the establishment of Christian thought. - Bouteneff, p. 38

continue to -

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