Adam and the Apostle Paul
I’ve recently been in e-mail correspondence with a real friendly chap, and he asked me whether I thought an historical Adam is important for those who embrace a Pauline theology.
Here is the issue: a) Only by appreciating the importance of Paul’s understanding of Adam can we understand Paul’s theology, especially his soteriology. b) I’m quite sure that Paul thought Adam was an historical and real figure; I see no reason why he should doubt it. However, c) surely the Genesis story is not literally what happened.
So I suggest that, for us, Adam is important for Pauline theology in the role that he plays in Paul’s ‘social construction of reality’ (to use Berger’s language). This ‘social construction’ doesn’t initially need to necessarily be correlated or demythologised for it to become meaningful for us, but first needs to be understood as part of a bigger narrative. Understood in the light of this narrative, I don’t think an insistence on the historicity of elements of this ‘construction’, here Adam, adds much of significance.
Furthermore, if Adam is not an historical character, death need not be straightforwardly linked with sin. I’m thinking of Moltmann’s reference in The Coming of God to the death of the dinosaurs before human sin existed! I would understand the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 to be interpretations of the present (to the author and to us) and sad human state of affairs, which aim to show, among other things, that the presence of sin and death in creation is not God’s ultimate goal, and not the product of divine vindictiveness or darkness.
My friend asked: ‘But does this mean that Genesis is just about the present?’. I answered that I don’t think so. Genesis surely forms a massively important part of the scriptural narrative, and therefore penetrates the question of inner-biblical hermeneutics, and so I wouldn’t want to restrict the matter to existentialism.
These are seriously late night cut and paste ramblings, so I should go to bed and shut up.