Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Historicity of Adam

I'm not sure how long or relevant or even true this'll be. But i want to write it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as i've said before, because i think it's important, secondly because i want to work out what i think about certain aspects about it, thirdly, it'll stop me watching Celebrity X-Factor, which really is too much! A lot of this relies heavily on the essay written by John Stott on the subject in his BST Romans book, but not all of it. I'd reckon what's true biblically speaking is John, and any nonsense in there is me.

Why does it matter?
I think there are two major reasons why the historicity of Adam matters. The first is the inerrancy of scripture. Many genealogies in the Bible trace themselves back to Adam, nowhere that i can see in Genesis is the account of Adam and Eve mentioned to be mythical, so it seems that the writer of Genesis wanted us to take it as real. If Adam was a metaphor, or an idea, the genealogies don't work, and scripture seems to be letting itself down right from the start, which leads us to the top of a very slippery postmodern slope. Secondly, because of imputation. Paul's argument in Romans 5 about the imputation of ones mans sin and another man's righteousness neccesarily depends on Adam being a real guy, just as it depends on Christ being fully human. No one is seriously doubting the existance Jesus of Nazareth, regardless of who they regard Him to be. I think Adam is just as important in this argument. I think Paul treats him (Adam) as real rather than metaphor here, as he talks about one man versus one man, not anything else. So the historicity of Adam has implication for inerracny and for imputation.

Adam means 'man' in Hebrew, so people would point out that as an early objection. I should probably make it clear here that i regard myself as an every word literalist when it comes to parts of the Bible like this (thus, i believe the earth was created in six periods of 24 hours) but i'm not really sure that it matters and i don't see any call from Genesis for dogmatism over this. I certainly wouldn't burn for it, it's just what i believe about creation. As i said earlier, i think scripture intends us to take Adam and Eve as real people. The Bible tells us that they married, and later on Paul tells the men of Athens that every person was 'made from one man'. This can be coupled with Paul's comparison and contrasting argument based around Adam and Jesus from Romans 5. So it scripture clearly intends us to believe in the existance of one man, named Adam, who's sin bought death into the world.
There appears to be little in science that contradicts this (and i'm leaning heavily on Stott's arguments here). All humans share the same anatomy, physiology and chemistry, and this points to all coming from a common ancestor: 'genetic evidence indicates that all living people are closely related and share a common recent ancestor' (Dr Christopher Stringer, Natural History Museum). This is where it starts to get exciting. How recent was that recent ancestor? Genesis 2-4 places Adam in a garden, which we can assume he looked after. During the Neolithic era, placed between 10000 and 6000 BC The New Stone Age dawned, which was marked by the appearance of gardens especially in eastern Turkey near the head of the Ephrates and Tigris rivers (Genesis 2:10 and 14) So science seems to back up what we already believe from the Bible, especially as the next chapters of Genesis have Adam, Eve and their decendants cultivating the land and working livestock.
But what about the evidence that there was some form of Homo around in parts of Africa long before Adam is placed in history. Well, for a start, if i personally had to back a winner between the Bible and fossil records, i know who i'd choose. I'd say that that Bible mentions Adam as the first human, and therefore he was, and the fossil records are wrong. Stott puts forward the view that the other types of Homo around at the time can be discounted from the Bible as we are not their decendants. They were not created in the image of God. As Stott puts it, they could be homo sapiens without being homo 'divinus', that is, in God's image. So whether God created Adam as the first in a new line with a divine image that none of the other human races at that time had and that Adam became the Federal head of those people, and their death entered the world through his sin, or whether, like me, you think it's just as likely that the other types of Homo are erroneous and that Adam was the first of any human, the problems caused by this argument do not seem very problematic.

There is little doubt that Adam's sin was real, and that we have participated in it, and that we need a Savior from it. That whatever you believe about Adam's historicity, you realise that through him sin entered the world. The we have participated in, and the sin we need to be rescued from by Jesus. The new Federal head, if only we would accept Him as Lord over us, if only we would be united with Him in His death. Paul's statement that 'sin entered the world through one man and death through sin' seems to confirm and be confirmed by Adam's real, personal existance.
Jesus was real. He existed, and He offers us freedom from the bondage that Adam sold us into. There is no doubt about His historical existence, i see little reason for there to be about Adams.

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