Sunday, December 2, 2018

Adam and Eve as Federal Representatives of Humanity

If you have ever competed on a debate team then you have probably had to argue for a position that you don't actually believe is true. A good debater understands the various sides of an issue and can make a plausible argument either for or against a certain position even if they personally hold a different view about that particular issue. In this blog post, I will attempt to be a good debater and argue for a position that I currently don't think is correct.

In my previous four blog posts I have discussed various issues about Adam and Even including the genetic evidence that points to a common female and male ancestor of all humans, the origin of modern human behavior, some options about who Adam and Eve were and when they lived, and some comments on the scientific and biblical viability of the four different views on Adam and Eve. In discussing these issues I have ventured outside of my physics expertise and into the realm of genetics and archeology. Two of the possible ideas that were proposed about Adam and Eve, the Genealogical View and the Federal View, would imply that they were not the genetic ancestors of all humans throughout history. If that were true, then many questions arise about whether or not such a view could be compatible with the biblical account of the fall of humans and of the universality of sin and a fallen human nature. To answer these types of questions I have to continue this journey outside of my arena of physics expertise and into the arena of theology. I also have to propose and defend a position that I currently do not think is correct. So I'll put on my debater's hat and dive right in.

In this journey which may take us far from the traditional understanding of Adam and Eve, let's address three questions (1) is Genesis 2 written as a historical narrative or a figurative narrative, (2) what does Paul say about Adam's sin and its consequences in Romans 5, and (3) if Adam and Eve were not the genetic ancestors of all humans, how do humans inherit their fallen nature? Remember that in this post I am promoting ideas I do not currently think are true, but I do think have some viability and could possibly be true if some other certain propositions were confirmed.

Did the author of Genesis 2 write a historical narrative or an allegorical account of an actual historical fall of humans? In our English translations the story seems to be historical, but what did the author intend and what would an ancient Hebrew reader understand? I have a friend who is an evangelical Christian and a Old Testament scholar. He says that there are many clues within the context and language of Genesis 2 that would indicate to the original readers that the story is not historical but an allegorical account of a historical event. Consider in English that if I start a story with "Once upon a time" that is a linguistic clue that the story is allegorical. But would a reader 10,000 years from now understand that phrase unequivocally means that the rest of the story is fictional or embellished? In Genesis 2 a reader might understand that the story must be allegorical since we all know that serpents don't talk or tempt. Presenting Satan in the guise of a serpent may be an indication that the story is not historical. In addition, almost all Hebrew scholars that I have read would agree that the proper name Adam in our English Bible is primarily not a proper name in the original Hebrew. The word translated Adam is ha'adam, which is simply the Hebrew word for man or mankind and doesn't seem to be a proper name except possibly in Genesis 3:17, 4:25 and 5:1-5. The Hebrew word for Eve is hawwah, which is related to the word hay which means living, and is likely a proper name but could also just be an indication that Eve is the mother of the living human beings. Of course the Bible is clear that humans are fallen and sinful and require redemption and salvation, but could it be possible that the Genesis account of the fall is embellished or a fictionalized account of a historical fall?

Let's now look at what Paul says about the fall of humans and its consequences in Romans 5:12-21 which says,

       "Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned—for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.
       But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous. The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (NASB)

It is abundantly clear that Paul is saying that death came to all humans by one person's sin. But does that fact require that all humans are the genetic descendants of Adam? Consider a few aspects of what this text says. First the text claims that just as condemnation came to all because of one transgression, so life and acquittal comes to all because of one righteous act. Of course we are not genetic descendants of Jesus who did that righteous act and brought life to us. His righteousness is attributed to us as believers, not based on a genetic link but based on adoption and a judicial link. Is it possible that the condemnation that is attributed to us as humans is also not because we have a genetic link to Adam, but because he was a federal representative for us or some similar reason? The parallelism in the text might suggest that the best understanding of the passage is that just as our righteousness from Jesus doesn't require a genetic link, so our condemnation from Adam doesn't require one either. The second thing to notice in verse 12 is that according to Paul sin came to all men not because they are genetically related to Adam but because "all sinned." It doesn't seem like Paul himself is requiring sin and its consequences to be passed to humans genetically, but that death comes to all because all sin. We repeat the same process of rebellion that our representative Adam enacted in the garden. Adam's sin as our federal representative could be attributed to us legally, and then we continue to sin individually showing that we, too, are practicing sinners.

Consider the most extreme possibility, that even if the story of Adam and Eve were not historical, could Paul have used it to make a parallel between Adam and Jesus? (I may be walking on thin ice here, but I'm debating the side I don't think is correct). For example, I could say something like, "You better tell the truth now or you won't be believed when you say something really important. Remember about 'the boy who cried wolf.'" In such a statement I'm appealing to the apocryphal story of the boy who cried wolf to make a real point. It isn't necessary that the story is factual in order to make the point. Paul could be appealing to the fictionalized or embellished story of the fall of humans to make the point that humans have fallen.

Finally, how do humans inherit Adam's sin, death, and condemnation if all humans are not genetically related to Adam? I think the answer could be found in Romans 5:12, because all sinned. Humans consistently, continually, and universally make the same decision to rebel against God and to sin that Adam made. We are condemned judicially because Adam was our representative, and we are condemned practically because we all sin.

Suppose that some day science were to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the modern human population could not have come from a single human couple? How would Christians respond? One option would be to maintain Adam and Eve as an actual historical couple whom God set apart, provided special revelation of himself, and placed them in the garden protected from the outside world. In that pristine environment they represented all humanity and were given the opportunity to walk in complete fellowship with God. But they rebelled against God and the consequences of that fall were attributed to all humans because all humans sin and because Adam and Eve acted as representatives of all humans. This scenario actually solves some biblical complications. It could easily place Adam and Eve within the last 10,000 years which seems to be the appropriate timescale for the development of human culture depicted in the text. It provides a possible scenario for where Cain got his wife and why there were cities and other people by the time Cain killed Abel. It would also remain historically viable regardless of other archeological discoveries. I would say that the proposal that Adam and Eve were a historical couple who acted as federal representatives of all humans is one that should be considered as possibly valid biblically and definitely valid scientifically.

After five blog posts in which I have primarily discussed various ideas related to genetics, archeology, and theology, it may be time to get back to physics. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. The special isolated garden combined with the genetic inheritance is quite appealing. It seems logical that cursing a "small" garden, ome woman and one man would not be particularly threatening.

    Rather an instantaneous genetic curse effecting the entire creation coupled with a universal law of disorganization is reasonable. It seems that is what is observed, precisely.

    When Cain was marked it was to protect him, from people who would otherwise kill him. This would be possible only if there was already a large population on the earth wherever Cain might wander and Killing him would be murder (evil) implying the fallen character of all mankind was well in place and universal.

    It follows that Adam and Eve in disobedience would then have caused an instantaneous universal curse upon the entire creation and thus they were the genetic "ancestors", but not the genealogical ancestors of all mankind. To this I agree, most importantly, the spiritual death of the soul is incorporated at the same time.

    Considering a number of interventions it seems God acts to effect universal changes and effects: the flood, the tower of Babel confusion, the finished work of Christ.

    As to the argument concerning evil writ large I have for some time considered it the product of free will wherein God permits mankind to make choices whose results include acts of evil.
    As in: God we are tired of these patriarchs, what we really need are judges.
    God the judge thing didn't work out at all what we really want is to be ruled by Kings. God some of these Kings are bad news, what will really work is a vested theocracy.