Religion before Adam

On the Genealogical Adam model – and indeed on any model dealing with an historical Adam – one has to account for the fact that humanity appears to have had some kind of religious or spiritual life almost as far back as artifacts can be found.

If one uses this to push back the life of Adam to predate these artifacts, one ends up divorcing the concept of Adam from the whole context of the Bible – even, in some cases, before the origins of Homo sapiens. This would imply that human transgression has been with us for an awfully long time – perhaps in the hundreds of thousands of years – before God took steps to deal with it through Jesus, or even through the older story of the call of Abraham and the foundation of Israel. This is a high cost to pay for sole progenitorship, and in my view doesn’t fit the Bible narrative well.

However, once one is, through Genealogical Adam, open to the idea that Adam could be chosen (or even specially created) in the context of the human race of adam described in chapter 1, and which has left its mark on archaeology and even history, there is actually no need to be surprised that the “adamic people” before Adam had religious awareness. I believe the text not only implies that, but explains how it fits into the big theme of the Bible.

I have said elsewhere (here and here) that the narrative of the Bible is a drama in three parts, the goal of which is the inauguration of the new creation in which “the earth shall be filled with the glory of God”. Against the background of the first, “natural” creation, Adam is called/created for a new and living covenant relationship with Yahweh, in order, as the bearer of God’s image, to reign with him over all things (which you will note is the hope given to us in Christ).

It’s interesting that this “upgrading of man” theme is even present in the early teaching of Irenaeus, in a passage I was pointed to by my old mentor on historical theology, Nick Needham. I need not point out that Irenaeus was, of course, not working with a Genealogical Adam framework, but saw the Eden narrative as occurring immediately after the creation of Adam in Genesis 1, but the sequence is still the common factor.

These three dramatic “scenes”, into which one may place the entire content of the Bible, are the Eden narrative with the consequences of Adam’s failure and exile ending at Babel (Genesis 2:4-11), the story of Israel leading to its failure and exile in Babylon (the rest of the Old Testament), and the story of Christ leading to the defeat of Satan (here, here, and here), the victory over sin, and the final fulfilment of God’s new creation (the prophetic New Covenant teaching after the Exile and the New Testament itself).

On this framework, the narrative function of the creation narrative in Gen 1:1-2:3 is to provide the backdrop to this drama (it does many other things too, but I’m concerned here with its role in story). If, in this way, the creation story is simply to show us the kind of world in which God began to intervene decisively to inaugurate a new creation and a glorified human race, it is less surprising that it tells us nothing of its history.

In fact, knowing through modern discoveries that the world is many more thousands, millions or billions of years old than Ussher’s old-science chronology calculated, Genesis 2:1-3 makes more sense: God was indeed reigning peacefully over his world over its long history, and it was his sovereign decision to change the natural order in Genesis 2 for the spiritual better, that began the conflict of the last few thousand years.

If you doubt that the ancient world we see recorded in the rocks, the genes and the creatures around us matches the goodness described in Genesis, then I beg to disagree and suggest you read my book, God’s Good Earth, when it comes out (better men than I have plugged their own work as shamelessly!).

Under Genealogical Adam, then, the adam created as male and female in Genesis 1 in the image and likeness of God is the mankind we see in ancient evidence, though of course we will come to our own opinions on when and how, and how quickly, that race came into being beforehand (Genesis simply assumes “mankind”), and when and how Adam came and changed the order of things through his trespass.


Now, as I and an increasing number of proper scholars have pointed out, Genesis 1 is in form, a temple inauguration account: its literary aim is to describe the whole cosmos as a place for the worship of God. Mark and I have recently discussed in comments here how there may be some sense of God even in the lower creation, when one escapes from the material reductionism of Descartes and his followers. But even without that, creation worships God by being what it is (such as the little green frog or red snake “doing what he oughta” in the song).

But when man comes on the scene, he comes as a rational being both by deduction from theology and by simply looking at the remains he has left behind. It follows that in God’s good natural creation, mankind would worship naturally, but more rationally than the beasts. We would expect, under Genealogical Adam, to find man as a worshipping creature, because the universe is a worshipping universe.

But what kind of worship would that be? Remember that we must give full weight to the revolution that God was intending to bring through Adam. We must only think of Adam as the originator of sin in the context of his also being the abortive origin of mankind in covenant relationship to God, made aware of his destiny of ruling angels through the tree of knowledge, and of the supernatural possibility of eternal life through the tree of life. None of this was possible before Adam.

I believe the distinction between “primitive old creation religion” and “new creation religion” can be traced through the two distinct types of temple imagery in the Bible. In the new creation, man is in intimate relationship with the triune God, and this is represented in the sacred space of the Garden, where God walks with man; in the theophany of Sinai, where Moses talks with God face to face, and Israel is invited to, but refuses; and in the whole theological imagery of Christ, whose death rips the temple curtain, whose risen body shares God’s throne on his bride’s behalf, and whose Spirit indwells believers as the deposit and guarantee of dwelling in the glory of God in the New Jerusalem.

Israel’s tabernacle, and later the temple, on the other hand, are about separation from God. The tabernacle, with its curtains and inner sanctuary which only the High Priest could enter annually for atonement, was given only because Israel had failed to grasp the opportunity of a garden-like intimacy at Sinai, and had furthermore rebelled ever since. God was faithful to his covenant with them, but (as the New Testament stresses so clearly), kept his distance before, during and after the Exile.

But the tabernacle was constructed “according to the pattern shown you on the mountain,” and as Greg Beale has shown, that pattern was also the pattern of the cosmos, and the cosmos, as described in Genesis 1, was the pattern of the tabernacle. We may deduce, therefore, that the people of adam before Adam had only a distant relationship with a God who dwelt in the Holy of Holies of heaven.

The example of the tabernacle itself shows that worship in such a context can be real and sincere – only remember that the Israeiltes also had the revelation of torah, as Adam had had the revealed command of God that he trangressed, and there was no such torah before Adam. “Early man” had no such revelation but, as far as we know, only God’s good creation itself, and their creaturely propensity for worshipping their Creator. As has been said of many beyond the reach of the Gospel since, “they worshipped according to the light they had.”

The early Fathers taught that creation’s role is to reveal the infinite and invisible God through his works, and not (as so many say today) to conceal him. In the context of the time of Genesis 1, before Adam, this accords with Romans 1, which says that “since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.” Paul says this in the context of “the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” but it does not follow that this too originated from the creation of the world. Indeed, Paul a few chapters later insists that sin came into the world through Adam, and it was at that point that the chain of human perversion of religion that Paul describes began. Perhaps we may even trace its origin to Adam and Eve’s choice of the word of a snake over that of God.

My conclusion, then – tentative, as all these things must be at present – is that primitive religion was natural theology. They worshipped whom they did not know, but that was sufficient for the nature they had been given. My own impression is that they did not hanker after either intimacy with God, nor life eternal, for those things were only revealed to Adam – and they matter to us because we are all Adamic, and not primitive men and women (and it has to be said that even amongst Adam’s children there are those with little curiosity about realtionship with God or the hereafter).

This leads to an idea I have stressed repeatedly recently, in the Genealogical Adam discussion – we must not think of Adam merely as a good boy who turned bad and messed things up for everyone else around – he was, in fact, a good boy who was first shown extraordinary and unprecedented grace, and went bad despite that, messing up not only his people, but his newly-exalted potential role and the purposes of God for him and for the cosmos. Adam left the world considerably worse off than he found it.

What is remarkable in the log run is that God showed increasing and infinitely costly grace to the sons and daughters of Adam, dealing with rebellion and sin, defeating and destroying the deceiver of mankind, and even carrying out his original intention, first described in Genesis 2, to elevate the rational animal to the co-regency of the universe.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
This entry was posted in Adam, Creation, Genealogical Adam, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Religion before Adam

  1. Mark Mark says:

    Yes, this is why Genesis 1:28-30 sounds like a completely different conversation than the one God had with Adam and Even in chapter two. In chapter one, reproduction was the first thing mentioned. In chapter two, almost an after thought. In chapter one they were given God’s blessing to exercise dominion (and the Hebrew here as connotations of subjugating and tramping down) creation. In chapter two all the work was done for them, they were just tending to what the LORD God has already provided. Lastly, there was not a single “thou shalt not” in God’s blessing. To Adam there was.

    Different conversation with a different group of people, and the basis for a different take on worshiping the Creator.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      My own take on the “creation ordinances” of ch1 is that, like those given to the animals, they are more to do with the word of power creating natures and roles, that the verbal communication of those roles. Or at least, that nothing in the text excludes that, and such conversations with the other creatures would not be understood.

  2. Mark Mark says:

    A point of order. My view is not quite that Gen 1:26-30 is talking strictly about humanity before Adam and Gen 2 is Adam. Gen 1 is the whole picture and Gen 2 is telescoping the key component of that picture.

    IOW the text Gen 1:27 is not repeating what God did three times. It is listing three things which God did related to accomplishing His decision in the previous verse. Make The Man in the heavens, an echo of Him on earth, and mankind male and female generally.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Yes – on this point I think our understanding differs, Mark – though I have to say my current choice was reached only recently, in considering the importance of the image applying to all humanity, even before Adam.

  3. Mark Mark says:

    Jon our understanding is the same on that point. The Image applied equally to those humans before Adam as well as Adam. I think our difference is in our understanding of what it means to bear “the Image of God.”

    I can point you to a number of scriptures which clearly say that Christ is the image of God. When we are truly “in Him” we bear the image of God. For now we are being conformed to that image. A living relationship with God is a necessary component of bearing the Image. We can’t outside of it.

    So while those before Adam had the same capacity to bear the image, the relationship necessary to do so was absent. Think of us as light bulbs. We can produce no light unless we are connected to the power source. It is not that the ones in that box in the closet are worse than the ones in your ceiling fixture, it is just that they are connected to the power source and the others are not.

    Of course in this case “no man sees my Face and lives” . The power is too great for us to handle unless the Power itself gently guides us into the relationship.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Mark – a good source on the relationship between Christ as the “express image” of God, and man as created after that image is Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, The True Image.

      I would just say that Gen 1 describes the image as creational – it is what we are in our created form, just as rationality too belongs to our form (as in the discussion with Vincent Torley at Peaceful Science currently – particularly the part of the discussion in which that rationality might be inapparent through immaturity or disease). In the context of Gen 1 as a temple inauguration, a number of scholars have pointed out that you make an image to go in a temple to represent the god – just what Gen 1 describes in our ruling the earth on his behalf.

      Richard Middleton has, intriguingly, pointed out that the inbreathing of Adam in Gen 2 resembles the rituals of Egypt, by which the image manufactured to represent the god (and presumably suited thereto by its form and decoration) became indwelt by the god itself, so that at that point the temple was “activated.”

      Another (possibly irrelevant!) thought is about sacred images that seem to gain all their resemblance from their “indwelling” – a pre-Roman god found at a Romano-British temple is clearly a stone that looks vaguely like a head. It was deemed to be chosen by the god, but surely wasn’t thought to look like him. Likewise, the sacred idol at Ephesus that “fell from the sky” in Acts sounds like a piece of meteorite deemed to represent Diana.

      I think such thoughts might resolve the question of the image as spiritual resemblance to Christ, the way in which the image was marred after the Fall, and so on. By nature, adams (in the Swamidass terminology) are intended as the image of Christ, but are only empowered do be so (and sadly rapidly partly disempowered) in Adam.

      • Mark Mark says:

        Accch! I was with you until the very last sentence fragment. “By nature, adams (in the Swamidass terminology) are intended as the image of Christ, but are only empowered do be so (and sadly rapidly partly disempowered) in Adam.”

        Why isn’t that last word “Christ”? It is fellowship with the LORD God which was broken by sin. He is the God breathing His life into us, and indwelling us through the Holy Spirit so that we may conform to His image.

        Perhaps one might say “only empowered to do so THROUGH Adam, now via the woman” since Adam would still have produced the line of Messiah. But empowered to do so”in Adam”? The scripture says that In Adam all die, but in Christ all are made alive.

        And what does it mean to be either “in” Adam or Christ? It does not mean physical natural descent in the last case, why must it mean that in the former? This last detail is why though I support the framework that GA is in, I doubt the necessity of GA theologically.

        Nowhere in scripture does it say that we inherited our sin nature by physical descent from Adam. The one place it would be a perfect opportunity to do so instead says “because all sinned”. This theology was conjured up back when we assumed Adam was the sole genetic progenitor of humanity. Now we know better. I see GA solving as a problem brought about by theology which is not in the bible.

        • Mark Mark says:

          That last sentence should read… I see GA as solving a problem brought about by theology which is not in the bible.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Accch! I was with you until the very last sentence fragment. “By nature, adams (in the Swamidass terminology) are intended as the image of Christ, but are only empowered do be so (and sadly rapidly partly disempowered) in Adam.”

          Quite right – my bad. Except that, had Adam learned at the feet of the Son in the garden, to learn from Adam would have been like learning from Christ. My meaning, of course, was that Adam was the forerunner.

  4. GBrooks12 says:

    Mark,

    I like what you say here!:

    “Think of us as light bulbs. We can produce no light unless we are connected to the power source. It is not that the ones in that box in the closet are worse than the ones in your ceiling fixture, it is just that they are connected to the power source and the others are not.”

    The humans who evolved until the day came when God created his special couple (Adam/Eve), they were unplugged. And when Adam & Eve came in amongst them, the power began to flow…..

  5. KJ says:

    Jon,
    Thanks for teasing out this model a bit. This model has the strength of considering pre-Adamite biological humans to actually be biblical humans (I.e, image bearers)…over over against the view that the pre-Adamite biological humans—apparently engaging in human-like (even religious) activities—are nevertheless not biblical humans. The latter model, however, has the theological advantage of no biblical-human-death before the Fall. So how do you address pre-Fall human death in your proposed model? Did the Fall bring a different quality of death for Adam and those whom he represents (such that the “death” of Rom 5:12 simply does not apply for pre-Adamites, even though they faced the natural consequences of mortality)? Or perhaps you see a pre-Adamite analogy to Rom 5:13-14?

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      KJ

      Hi, and welcome.

      I tend to go along with George on this one. Once you get past talking about “human” and “non-human” and look at what is actually going on (subject to being wrong, of course!), adam is indeed created in the image of God (is “eikonic” in my newly coined and potentially helpful terminology), yet nevertheless Adam is a significantly new work – he warrants the sometimes used term “Homo divinus”.

      He is, after all, the fountainhead of the line that has (according to Richard Middleton’s thinking) been spiritually empowered as the image, with the role of bringing all creation into the life of spirit and reigning with God – the same role that Christ achieved and is achieving, against greater odds and by infinite grace, which is of course the story of the rest of the Bible.

      Part of that involved the gift of eternal life, represented by the tree. Since the Bible story is written entirely to and about the children of Adam, the forfeiting of eternal life once gained, or at least glimpsed, to me answers the descriptions that Paul gives of death coming into the world, since only YECs (and, it seems, Catholics basing their view of immortality on Thomistic philosophy) contend that any earthly creatures but Adam’s children were exempt from death in the first place.

      Maybe a parallel is how Israel’s punishment for apostasy was exile, and in theology “The Exile” needs no further explanation to be understood. Yet exile was not a unique experience – what makes it unique is that only israel had been given their land as a covenant promise of Yahweh, so that only their exile has theological significance.

    • GBrooks12 says:

      Jon,

      You write: “The latter model, however, has the theological advantage of no biblical-human-death before the Fall. So how do you address pre-Fall human death in your proposed model? Did the Fall bring a different quality of death for Adam and those whom he represents (such that the “death” of Rom 5:12 simply does not apply for pre-Adamites, even though they faced the natural consequences of mortality)? Or perhaps you see a pre-Adamite analogy to Rom 5:13-14?”

      Once you premise a scenario that there were other humans prior to the de novo Adam and Eve…. I think we have to throw out the old timeline of “no death before Adam & Eve”. That was based on them being the first of all humans. Let’s look at Romans 5:12-14:

      Rom 5:12-14
      “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have 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 to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”

      The metaphysical principle that I see invoked here is that all the other humans became “morally responsible” by means of the moral awakening made possible by Adam – – teaching all the other “adams” about Yahweh’s laws. The quote verse specifically says where there is no law, there is no sin. And that the “death” in question is the spiritual death of losing one’s soul.

  6. GBrooks12 says:

    KJ, if I might offer a thought. You write: “So how do you address pre-Fall human death in your proposed model? Did the Fall bring a different quality of death for Adam and those whom he represents (such that the “death” of Rom 5:12 simply does not apply for pre-Adamites, even though they faced the natural consequences of mortality)?”

    Doesn’t Genesis make clear that Adam/Eve are expected to experience no death because of their access to the Tree of Life. After the transgression, God himself points out that they could still eat of the Tree of Life, which he will not tolerate. And they are expelled, joining in the fate of the other “adams” (aka Pre-Adamites), knowing death.

    But this is necessary if the Adam/Eve lineage is to penetrate the older population (evolved into being instead of de novo), so that by the time of Jesus, all humanity is descended from the Adam/Eve pair.

  7. KJ says:

    Jon and George, I’ll reply here so the columns don’t get too messy (and Jon’s reply to me was already out of place). Thanks to both of you for your quick replies. George, your comments (which Jon agrees with) are unobjectionable and certainly fit within the Genealogical Adam scenario under which this whole discussion is taking place (so we’ll assume it). I hope you’ll allow me some “thinking out loud” as I try to understand and prod a bit further.

    I do like the (Greek) “eikonic,” which sounds a little better than the (Hebrew) “tselemic” for “imaging” 🙂 I also like the exile parallel–my dissertation happened to be on the theology of exile (in Deuteronomy), and I see the Israel-focus in early Genesis similar to things you (Jon) have posted. This leads to one area of questioning. Does the statement, “the Bible story is written entirely to and about the children of Adam,” include Genesis 1 or is this the one place where it doesn’t apply exclusively? It seems the latter, both given your sequence understanding of Gen 1 > Gen 2 and the (concordist?) attempt to distinguish ‘adam from Adam.

    Now, to the main point of my original post about Romans 5. A typical OEC/EC response to the YEC objection of “no death before the Fall” is to limit the death of Rom 5:12 to humans rather than non-humans–so all human sin & death are still linked to Adam’s transgression neatly. Additionally, the OEC/EC crowd then argue among themselves whether the “death” in Rom 5:12 is merely spiritual or also physical (I suppose this might distinguish OEC from EC generally?). But, in the present proposal, we now have (pre-Adamite) humans who die, not by their connection to Adam, but by virtue of their innate mortality. So…my questions for clarification are: Are these earlier eikonic creatures in the purview of Paul’s statement in Rom 5:12 at all? Did they “sin” and did they “die” as Paul conceives these terms, even if not in the same logical connection between sin & death as he describes? (We could add, what came of them after death?)

    I guess what I’m seeing is a new creaturely taxonomy in the proposal (which I’m happy to consider). Rather than human and non-human, we have (a) non-human, (b) non-empowered eikonic human, and (c) empowered eikonic human. If I’m understanding you right, the biblical story (perphaps with the exception of Gen 1), is focused on (c) [though not dismissing the continual role of (a)]. Thanks in advance for any clarification or push back.

    • swamidass says:

      Your question bout Adam are likely resolved by remembering that Paul’ statements are contextually bound. He is referring exclusively to Adam and his lineage, which begins in the Garden free of physical and spiritual death. Upon his exile, death comes to their world.

      Unpacking this further here: https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/a-catholic-approach-to-the-genealogical-adam/116/70?u=swamidass

      • GBrooks12 says:

        Another important feature to the scenario or scenarios that Swamidass is developing is that when Paul says death comes to us from Adam, this has all the truth of a notorious family scandal that each generation suffers to confess:

        For those who can claim descent from Adam & Eve (which by the time of Noah, let alone Jesus) includes every human soul on Earth, death comes to Adam’s descendants because of the expulsion, and access to the Tree of Life denied.

        The non-Adam humans (the descendants of an evolved population of humans once as small as 10,000) have never had access to Eden and thus suffered death for the same reasons that the expelled Adam and Eve suffered death.

        I don’t know if Swamidass would agree with this next statement.
        But it is my view that if (for whatever reason) Adam and Eve had decided to never eat from the Tree of Life, they too would have died – – even within Eden. For the sticklers in the audience, I am willing to concede that God might have exiled the pair before they actually died of old age.

      • KJ says:

        Thx, Joshua. The link’s convo appears to confirm that I’m reading Jon rightly. I still wonder if God considered the early adams as capable of “sin,” but on this reading we have no way of knowing, which is fine.

        I think my biggest hesitation with the model right now is with Gen 1, at least if I’m being asked to “fit” the early eikonic humans here in some concordist way. As you say concerning Paul’s contextual boundedness, the same goes for the Genesis narrator. He wouldn’t be thinking of pre-Adam—certainly not in a scientific sense and I’m not even sure in a strictly historical sense. (Biblically a co-Adamite view is easier to handle than pre-Adamite view, but the OP is assuming the scientific evidence, which favors a pre-Adamite view…so I’m assuming that for the sake of discussion.)

        My thoughts are still brewing, but this is fruitful. It does seem that the GA project is trying to find a middle way that rejects literalism and scientific concordism, but retain a moderate level of historical concordism (along with proper philosophical and theological thinking within orthodoxy). (I’ve just begun a book project interacting with some of these things, so I suspect I’ll be footnoting both Jon and Joshua along the way.)

        • swamidass says:

          Hello KJ,

          If by concordism you mean eisogesis of scientific knowledge into Scripture, it seems the other way around. We are emphasizing that we cannot read “genetic” into ancestry, and “Homo sapiens/humans” into “adams,” as others have been wont to do. THAT is the concordist error.

          Seeing the eikonic humans in Genesis 1 is merely from reading the text. This is very closely aligned (if not indistinguishable), for example, with John Walton’s reading of the text. We get there from the textual analysis.

          The fact that it fits so well what we see from science is not a bad thing, nor is it eisogesis. Rather, it is just observing that the world we find around us appears to match the what we see in Scripture, even much more than we might expect. That is a good thing. It is an example of unplanned for consilience.

          In other senses, you mean concordism in a different way, in that what we see in Scripture is consistent with what we see in science and history. That seems like a really good thing. It should be very comforting that a plain and literal reading of Genesis fits so cleanly with what we’ve found in the world.

          • KJ says:

            This is what clears it up for me:

            “We are emphasizing that we cannot read “genetic” into ancestry, and “Homo sapiens/humans” into “adams,” as others have been wont to do. THAT is the concordist error.”

            I was worried the second part was happening here. Thanks!

        • swamidass says:

          And the Genesis writer, as Jon (but also others like Walton and Postell) argues, this makes sense in the original context. Genesis 1 sets the background for Genesis 2.

          The “adams” of Genesis 1 preexist Adam, but they bear his name because they are of the same biological type as him. This emphasizes the continuity between Adam and the people before him. There are clear reasons why that should be emphasized, as becomes clear when we consider the theological problems that this position resolves. So this is a both a textually motivated and theologically coherent reading. The fact that this fits with the scientific account is both surprising and just a bonus. We do not need science to see this in the text; we do not need a new hermenuetical principle or strategy. For example, the principles in the Chicago Statement work just fine.

  8. GBrooks12 says:

    KJ,
    Lots of interesting questions! In no particular order, let me comment as follows:

    1] I can understand why one might prefer to have the entire bible refer exclusively to one category of humans; perhaps this is the reason why the people who live with Cain in his city are not mentioned at all? Still, if by the rules of genealogy (not genetics), virtually all non-Adam/Eve humans are gone even before Genesis is set to ink and parchment, is it really a problem?

    2] The “perfection” of Eden would seem to be, by definition, restricted. Adam/Eve do not appear to be immortal because they are perfect biological speciments; it appears they are immortal because they have access to the Tree of Life. Though there does seem to be some special aspects of Adam, right? Even after being cast out of Eden, he lives longer than any other known Biblical human (excluding Enoch): 900+ years! (?)

    3] This merging of “evolved adams” and “de novo Adam” may not create perfect closure on some fine points, but how much do we need the fine points if we can put Christian Scientists and Creationists in the same room and still make some sense out of their various issues?

  9. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    KJ

    Apologies for slow reply – just back from travelling the other side of the country to a non-existent meeting, which I may share about soon as it was interesting and worthwhile!

    I see everybody’s replied already along roughly my own lines,except that unlike George I think immortality came with the tree of life as part of the deal for a new kind of spiritual life with God: the reason that “Adamic man” (that is, us!) continue to suffer physical death is because sin is part of our mortal bodies, and Christ who is eternal life has not yet returned. For this reason, or in line with it, I don’t think there is a distinction in Genesis or Paul between physical death and spiritual death – mortal creatures die by nature, but spiritual Adam became liable to death because he sinned.

    Redemption remedies both – Christ was physically resurrected as the forerunner, but our physical death remains a liability because of sin, because God has set a day to change all things – and note that the final generation, Paul says, will not die but be changed “in the twinkiling of an eye”, because eternal life returns to earth in Christ. And so it is God’s mercy in delaying the end, and our solidarity with the suffering of Christ, and the indwelling sin “of our members” (prioritize according to theological reflection!) that make the redeemed liable to physical death.

    Does the statement, “the Bible story is written entirely to and about the children of Adam,” include Genesis 1 or is this the one place where it doesn’t apply exclusively? It seems the latter, both given your sequence understanding of Gen 1 > Gen 2 and the (concordist?) attempt to distinguish ‘adam from Adam.

    This is what has taken my interest in the last few months. Clearly all the biblical authros were children of Adam, and nobody has ever read the Bible who was not a child of Adam. Yet since Genesis is our origins story in that role, it necessarily begins before we come to exist.

    So viewing the Bible from the story point of view, I’ve come to see Genesis 1 as the setting in which the drama of our call and fall in Adam is set. The story itself begins at 2:4.

    Gen 1-2:3 is much more than that only, of course. One could view us, to use another Pauline analogy, as “untimely born” – because Adam failed to begin the transformation of creation, then the first creation is the one to which he was exiled, and in which we live. It’s therefore hugely relevant to our lives day by day, as well as relevant to understanding the hope we have in the new creation.

    Does that help?

    • KJ says:

      I always enjoy your rich, even devotional theologizing as you discuss these things. I do think I’m getting close. So Gen 1 is a background, a setting, a “given” for the drama to begin. If so, then it seems to me that its historical nature is irrelevant–other than the fact that God did create the world and prepared it for us.

      Now I’m trying to think of how the author got his info for Gen 1. He need not have been given any direct revelation or had oral/written accounts passed on to him (if he did, nothing in the text points us in this direction); the text could easily be a work of imaginative and creative theological thinking (including the positive temple stuff and negative polemical stuff) construed around a common-sense take on what God had done in creating the world. This common-sense thinking could’ve included the presumption that Adam was elected (if not de novo created) out of a population…just as Noah, Abraham, and Israel would be elected for special service. The fact that the scientific data now seems to corroborate this common-sense thinking is icing on the cake (this seems to be Joshua’s view).

      Of course, I could be wrong: the author may have been given specific knowledge that there was a human pre-history to Adam. If so, he didn’t seem fit to clue us in…and nothing significant changes in the grand scheme of things. I guess one could say that the knowledge of people outside of Adam’s line (in Gen 4) is a clue (though I also wonder the level of historicity in the details of Gen 4 is intended…since Gen 2-4 is a unit [the first toledot], its genre & expectations would probably need to be considered together).

      Thanks for letting me think out loud on your page! To answer your question, yes, you (and George and Joshua) have helped.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        So Gen 1 is a background, a setting, a “given” for the drama to begin. If so, then it seems to me that its historical nature is irrelevant–other than the fact that God did create the world and prepared it for us.

        Essentially yes, KJ, although I’d want to add a few thousand qualifications, particularly on the “mereness” of that last phrase – what Gen 1 does (as every previous interpreter knew) is to form the foundational theology of God’s nature and relationship to the world – no trivial thing! But in terms of story, it is the stage-set against which the drama of sacred history occurs.

        And in particular, I’d agree on your general assessment of the nature of its revelation: As the TEs say, God was not revealing science, but the account as it were follows the logic of the nature of God, in an account intended to reveal the world as a place of worship, in which mankind has a special and privileged role.

        That still requires revelatory inspiration, but involving the kind of “imaginative/visionary interpretation” one sees in, say, the Book of Revelation, rather than what could only otherwise seem a rather Islamic kind of dictation: “Recite – there was long ago a man called Adam…”

        A few additional notes on that:
        (a) This is one reason I’m unhappy with deep time understandings of Adam: the traditional readings, suggesting a recent Adam, allow for a historical tradition being interpreted and clarified by the inspired author in the Spirit. But no human memory could possibly last from 100,000 years before – all the details of the story would require a crudely literal inspiration, quite untypical of all the other prophetic writing in the Bible.
        (b) Gen 1 must also be interpreted in the context of torah – it is important that it was telling Israel how their God formed the world as his temple, for that both resonates with their own tabernacle (so that the imagery of both informs the other, and the tabernacle is seen as a microscom of the macrocosm), and reminds them of their own calling for the sake of the whole world, or even the whole cosmos. Likewise for us, Gen 1 prefaces the story of Christ, not the story of science.
        (c) In my view, the physical descriptions of Gen 1 are entirely phenomenological, rather than theoretical, which is why elsewhere I’ve banged on against the common “Hebrew cosmology”.
        I think the text compares the broad and obvious divisions of earth, sea and sky with the divisions of the tabernacle, to show how God relates to the world. It really doesn’t matter if they modelled the tabernacle on that view of the world, or if by inspiration the tabernacle was seen to be comparable to the perceived world – in either case, inspired imagination and perception is involved, rather than either a divinely dictated history or an imaginary “ancient science.”

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        I always enjoy your rich, even devotional theologizing as you discuss these things.

        Thanks, KJ. Must be the influence of reading the Puritans … “Never seek warm fire under cold ice.” (Samuel Rutherford). Or maybe it’s because, not being an academic, I never had to moiuld my writing to a formula, the way I did doing medical sciences (passive voice, view from nowhere, good clinical signs, no human passions to be seen around here…)

    • GBrooks12 says:

      KJ,

      You write: “For this reason, or in line with it, I don’t think there is a distinction in Genesis or Paul between physical death and spiritual death – mortal creatures die by nature, but spiritual Adam became liable to death because he sinned.”

      Can you clarify this just a tiny smidge more?

      You think Adam would have lived forever in Eden, even if he hadn’t eaten from the Tree of Life? In other words, the Tree of Life was not necessary for him to be immortal? And that once he sinned, the only thing that would keep him alive would be the Tree of Life, if God would permit him eating from it?

      If I am understanding you correctly (and I hope I am not), you are proposing quite a bit of metaphysical reality that doesn’t really seem to be present in any of the Genesis text. Why would you think there would be a Tree of Life that wasn’t necessary at all… except if Adam sinned. And if he did, he couldn’t eat from it anyway? Isn’t that a rather odd construction for something as important as a Tree of Life?

      • KJ says:

        You mean Jon not KJ, since these were his words (though the J in KJ does, ironically, stand for Jon) 🙂

        Though my own answer is that continual eating of the Tree of Life was necessary to avoid mortality, and that Adam would’ve naturally chosen to eat of it regularly (or whatever these symbols actually refer to in reality). Exile from the garden thus denied access to it.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        KJ’s right – either I wasn’t clear, or you misunderstood me, George. When Adam is exiled, God says “lest he eat also from the tree of life, and live forever…” So in fact, exile from the tree is the means by which God’s warning of the result of trangression is accomplished.

        That tree had not been forbidden Adam and Eve in the first place, but neither was it available to them before Adam was placed in the garden.

        Now, how literally the orginal readers were intended to take the tree – either tree – is not clear. But in the fullness of Scriptural revelation, the hope of eternal life – sometimes still expressed as a tree – is placed in the knowledge of God in Christ. And after all, that is what the garden was all about, and exile from it was exile from the presence of God.

  10. Mark Mark says:

    The death is spiritual death, for Adam lived on for centuries after taking the fruit which “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” Martin Luther seemed to have had the view, and I agree, that if Adam had not taken the fruit he would have aged in this life and at the end be translated like Enoch without ever tasting physical death. That is, translation was God’s intended end of our sojourn on this earth, not eternity in these bodies.

    • KJ says:

      Mark, just a Norte from my discipline. Many Hebrew scholars recognize that the construction “in the day of” (preposition + construct noun, followed by infinitive construct [“your eating”]) simply means “when [you eat],” such that the noun for “day” has lost its independent sense within the construction. Also the verbal construction of an infinitive absolute + imperfect verb (lit. “dying, you shall die”) generally carries the connotation of certainly (“you shah surely die”) but not necessarily immediacy. It can have the sense of beginning the process. Therefore, while your argument isn’t off the table per se, I wouldn’t put much stock in it due to the tendencies and flexibility of Hebrew syntax.

    • KJ says:

      Mark, just a note from my discipline. Many Hebrew scholars recognize that the construction “in the day of” (preposition + construct noun, followed by infinitive construct [“your eating”]) simply means “when [you eat],” such that the noun for “day” has lost its independent sense within the construction. Also the verbal construction of an infinitive absolute + imperfect verb (lit. “dying, you shall die”) generally carries the connotation of certainly (“you shah surely die”) but not necessarily immediacy. It can have the sense of beginning the process. Therefore, while your argument isn’t off the table per se, I wouldn’t put much stock in it due to the tendencies and flexibility of Hebrew syntax.

      • Mark Mark says:

        Well thank you for that clarification, which is interesting in its own right and ties into some other things I had in mind. The idea that if a flower gets cut off from its twig then even though it may last for days longer, it’s dead already in that it is cut off from its source of life. The one is immediate and leads to the other eventually. Does that fit a little better?

    • GBrooks12 says:

      Mark,
      If I understand you correctly, you are saying that if Adam hadn’t have been expelled, he would have aged, and then translated like Enoch before dying?
      But why then, was there a tree of life in the midst of Adam? How does that fit with some describing Enoch’s translation as arriving in a place like Eden, God’s dwelling. Wasn’t Adam already “there”?

      Digression:
      What’s interesting is that the Jewish/Christian text History of the Rechabites (the Suidas connects the Rechabites to the Essnes) presents us with a place for righteous souls to “hang out” until either the End of Days, or until Angels come to fetch the soul for something God needs. It was an island paradise, blocked to all mortals by either a sacred river, or an ocean.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        George, Mark

        It seems to me that the idea of translation – given no Fall – unconsiously imbibes a Platonic idea that the real deal is “going to heaven”.

        Given that the eschatological hope in Christ is all about his coming to reign with the bodily resurrected (though pneumatikos) saints on a renewed earth, it would seem likely that the transformation of earthly life, rather than removal from it, was the fruit of the tree of life.

        It makes more sense to me that dwelling face to face with the Son who is eternal life would make translation anywhere else a disappointment. However, the story gives us only hints, and so speculation is risky. My interpretive principle, though, is to see what the rest of Scripture reveals about the restoration of all things.

        In other words, if Christ came to remedy Adam’s failure not only by bringing forgiveness, but by carrying through Adam’s intended role, then our eschatology is the unfallen Adam’s – which, involving no death, cannot involved resurrection, but can involve transformation: Now I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

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