[Note: This post coincides with week 3 in our Origins series: Paradise Lost. If you haven’t heard that message yet, it might be better to go there and give a listen first. Also, don’t forget to sign up for email alerts! Enjoy!]
Adam and/or Eve are mentioned a handful of times in the New Testament, always with something helpful to teach us. In this post, we’ll look at those instances and ask how these references contribute to our understanding of human origins, how we interpret the Bible, and the good news of Jesus.
1. Jesus and Marriage and Singleness
Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.
In response to the Pharisees’ questions about divorce in the law of Moses, Jesus points back before the law to God’s original design. This is good wisdom whenever we feel pulled into debates about this or that command of Scripture. Always look for the love that precedes the law.
Even though this debate was initially about divorce, Jesus makes it about marriage, and eventually singleness too as a high calling of God (read on in Matthew 19). Adam and Eve are a model for marriage, for companionship, and for the value of men and woman being friends and partners together.
And since Jesus refers to Adam and Eve (though not by name) as real examples, this also supports the view of their historic reality. Still, some Christians point out that it may also be that Jesus is referencing God’s first story, his first parable. Just like we might draw on the Parable of the Prodigal Son for teaching truth. (This line of reasoning could also be used for Jesus’ reference to other Old Testament stories, like Jonah in the belly of the big fish.)
As an aside: notice above that Jesus says he is quoting “the Creator” saying “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother…” etc. Jesus says that this line in Genesis 2 is God talking. But in the actual Genesis 2 text, this line is not spoken by God. It is, rather, the author of the text speaking as the narrator and making a point. Are you catching this? Jesus sees the ultimate author of Scripture as “the Creator”. That is to say, Jesus believed that all Scripture is inspired by God and therefore, in some way, speaks for God. What motivation to keep on learning from the Bible!
Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, … the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
(Luke 3:23-33, with a lot of names skipped)
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them…
In the Gospel of Luke, the genealogical line of Joseph is traced right back to Adam. Jude also assumes a known genealogical connection directly back to Adam. It seems this puts Adam on the map as a historical person.
Yes, it could be argued that genealogies were not scientific and they didn’t have Ancestry.com. Ancient genealogies were more literary devices to give people a sense of place or to point to a symbolic reality. Certainly, ancient genealogies were not always technical – skipping, adding, adjusting. And since Augustine, theologians have noted that Luke’s genealogy totals a count of 77, a numeric symbol for total forgiveness. Still, these passages are among the strongest biblical evidence that Adam and Eve were historical people. (For those of you who do not believe Adam and Eve were historical people, I would love to hear your views on this in the comments!)
Finally, notice that Luke calls Adam “the son of God,” since Adam was a direct creation of God. This points beautifully to Jesus, the second Adam. Just a few verses later, the serpent will tempt this second Adam beginning with the phrase, “If you are the son of God…” (Luke 4:3). The pieces are fitting together.
3. The First and Second Adam
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, BECAUSE all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.14 Nevertheless, death REIGNED from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern [or type/model; Greek, tupos] of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death REIGNED through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness REIGN in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin REIGNED in death, so also grace might REIGN through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord
Wow. This is the longest passage about Adam and it is packed with gospel goodness.
As we pointed out in a previous post, Paul says we die because we sin. Adam has somehow influenced us, but we are not guilty because of Adam – we are guilty because of our own sin. So how did the doctrine of original sin morph into the doctrine of original guilt?
When translating from the original Greek into Latin, an early Church Father, Jerome (347-420 AD), mistranslated “because” in verse 12 as “in whom”, referring back to Adam. So the text was made to say that we all sinned in Adam’s sin. That makes us all equally guilty as Adam just by virtue of being born human.
Augustine (354-430 AD), one of the most influential Christian theologians, used this wrong translation to build his case of original sin being original guilt – we are not only born with a propensity to sin, which we act upon and therefore acquire our own guilt, but we are actually born guilty with the sin of Adam already condemning us. We are born depraved, guilty, condemned from birth. Not a terrific way to start life.
Also, notice Adam is said here to be a “pattern” or “type” of Christ. Does that suggest he must be historical since Jesus was a historical figure? That makes sense to me. But a literary character can also be a type. The Prodigal Father in Jesus’ parable shows us a picture, a type, a pattern of who God is, but that doesn’t mean he is a historical figure. The same goes for the the gracious manager or a number of others characters in Jesus’ parables.
So Adam is a type of Jesus, perhaps because both are historical humans who were directly fashioned by God. But other parallels are even more striking: both Adam and Jesus are in their own way a fresh start for humankind, made sinless, in God’s image and likeness, and both will face the temptation of the serpent.
And, as Romans 5 goes on to explain, Adam is also a kind of anti-type for Jesus – a mirror image, a reverse form, like a photographic negative.
Adam is disobedient, selfish, and the bringer of death, whereas Jesus is obedient, loving, and the bringer of life.
One more thing before we move on: in the passage above I highlighted the word group for “reign” which is the same word group in Greek for “kingdom”. The gospel of the kingdom shines through here. God created and established humankind to be rulers (Genesis 1), and we blew it (Genesis 3). We turned God’s kingly commission to us – to be benevolent rulers over creation – into a pursuit for personal gain apart from God’s partnership. We welcomed sin and shame and death into our realm. We abdicated our royal role and lost our way.
Jesus came to establish his upside down kingdom of love, and to re-invite all of humanity to join with him in crushing the serpent’s head under our feet (Romans 16:20).
4. All die in Adam
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. …
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
(1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 45-49)
Here Adam is contrasted with the resurrected Jesus in a few ways, as a sort of anti-type: 1) Adam leads us to death, while Jesus leads us to life. 2) Adam transitioned from non-being to living-being, while Jesus transitioned through his resurrection from physical body to spiritual body. 3) Adam’s origins are dust, while Jesus’ origins are divine.
Paul is encouraging Christ-followers to remember: Adam may be our past but Jesus is our future.
5. Eve was the one deceived
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
(1 Timothy 2:11-14)
This passage helps us understand why the serpent targeted Eve for temptation. In the Genesis story, when God gives Adam the instruction, the command, the Torah about the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Eve is not created yet (Genesis 2:16-17). We are left to assume that Adam passed along the instruction to Eve after she was made from his side. So, Eve had indirect knowledge of God’s Word, and indirect knowledge is never as firm and secure as direct knowledge. So the serpent knows whom to target – the one who has a less firm grasp on the details and importance of the Torah.
Likewise, Paul in his context knows whom to restrict from teaching – those who had not been allowed to study Torah directly, namely, women. They will be more easily deceived, like Eve. And yet, over time, we might expect this situation to change. Paul’s first thought above – “A woman should learn…” – amounts to some of the most provocative words in this passage. (For more on this, please check out our Her Story series and the corresponding After Parties.)
6. Eve as a warning to all believers
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 11:3)
Eve is a type, a pattern, a warning for all Christians. The serpent’s deception of Eve is not a warning that all women are more easily deceived by virtue of their gender, but rather that all Christians, male and female, might become deceived and drawn away from God’s will, as was Eve. Eve is a type of what deception might look like for any one of us at any time. Beware the subtly of the serpent!
7. Adam as the origin of all people?
From one man God made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
Many ancient Jewish commentators saw the story of Adam and Eve as the story of the first Jews. They accepted that there might be many races of people already living in the world outside the garden of Eden, but the story of Adam and Eve was an origin story about God creating and choosing and commissioning Israel. That’s an interesting way of looking at Genesis, but passages like Acts 17 suggest otherwise: the apostle Paul saw Adam as the origin of everyone.
It is possible that Paul actually has Noah in mind when he refers to the “one man”. But that doesn’t change the main lesson here. The story of Adam and Eve, like the story of Noah, should be understood as the origin story of all humankind.
That being said, what I love most about this passage is the main point Paul makes: that God has been constantly working through history, politics, geography, etc., to create maximum opportunity for people to seek him, reach out for him, and find that he has always been close by.
And while God is always at work “behind the scenes” working at arranging people in the best position possible to hear the gospel, he leaves it up to us, the Church, to actually go out and share the gospel.
As I’ve said before, I see the local Church as being a lot like the garden of Eden. It’s a place God puts us so we can be with him, learn from him, train with him, and practice our calling. And that calling is to eventually move out beyond Eden, beyond the Church, to “serve and protect” the world and to share God’s good news. We were made to live in the garden, but we were never meant to stay in the garden.