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Biblical Adam Examined

Adam in the story of Genesis is a mythical construct of the biblical authorship determined to give an account of the origin and destiny of a particular nation of people, but starts out as a universal myth of man’s origin.  And there we have it, for even in today’s usage of the term ‘man’ we have a single representative term for ‘all men’.  We say, for example, man is ingenious, or man is the cause of the world’s woes, or man has conquered space.  This ‘man’ is no particular man we refer to, but it implies a collective individual.  We simply replace the name Adam by the term 'man'.  Adam in the myth of the garden of Eden stands for man as in all men, and Eve for all women.  Thereby are they representative.

The myth has significance for the whole of humanity. Christ, by contrast, is a historical individual, but as in Adam, Christ is ‘man’, the clue to this being his own self-endowed title of the ‘Son of Man’.  It is said that all men as ‘man’ sin in Adam who represents them and therefore as ‘man’ are redeemed by Christ whose humanity subsumes all mankind or ‘man’.

To think of Adam in the myth of the garden of Eden as an historical person in his own right, and Eve, for that matter, is premature, and confuses the all-inclusiveness of man in Adam in the myth with an historical individual in his own right subsequently.  Indeed, the biblical authorship signifies the fall of Adam’s representation of man one with his being cast out of the mythical garden, when indeed, he becomes de-mythologised and sets out on a new tack as the genealogical head of an elected people destined to be restored to favour in God’s sight.  Manifestly, in genealogical terms, all men are not descended from Adam, though being represented by Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Fallen Adam’s narrow genealogical line of descent yet holds the seed of an event as extraordinary as the myth of the Adam in  the garden of Eden and as all-embracing in its representation of man in the historical Christ, who, genealogically descended from the mythical turned historical fallen Adam, as the ‘Son of Man’, resumes by his divinity the representation of ‘man’ as the new Adam in whom by divine grace we are raised to life eternal.


More by :  R. D. Ashby

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Views: 3427      Comments: 2

Comment You make the point that Adam is not historical. But to the biblical authorship the myth represented the reality. Myth is about reality, being derived from it. So much so that Paul can base his theory of salvation through Christ as 'man' on the reality he assumed of Adam as 'man', the latter having sinned, the former come down to redeem the sin. But the genealogical line of Adam, albeit a construct, is painstakingly chronicled on more than one occasion by the biblical authorship to the inclusion of historical characters whose reality gives textual credence to reality of Adam. At the same time, it shows only a narrow genealogical descent from Adam in the Jewish people. The inspired element is in the Adam of the Garden as indeed representing 'man', as explained in the article.

18-Oct-2015 20:26 PM

Comment Thanks for a coherent article on Adam, Mr. Ashby. I would like to comment on the statement, "when indeed, he becomes de-mythologised and sets out on a new tack as the genealogical head of an elected people destined to be restored to favour in God’s sight." Jewish Rabbi's maintained all through history that Adam was the father of all humanity and not just the Hebrews. This is in spite the contempt Jews held towards non-Jews, the vast gentiles. But they did acknowledge the fraternity of all humans in a definitive way. Saint Paul says the same thing when he was talking to Greeks in Athens that God has made from one man all nations. If nothing else Paul was an authority on Old Testament during his time.

Human genome sequencing of DNA conclusively stands behind the statement that all of humanity is closely related biologically. It is easy to accept it now. But those "narrow minded" ideologues in the distant past believed the oneness of humanity by worshiping that story every Saturday in their congregations. Nobody need to believe as you said Adam is the biological father of all of humanity. Let me state lest I am misunderstood that Adam is not historical. The creation story is more like an equation where some assumptions are made (dogma) and then you draw a series of conclusions.

Prasad Rao
18-Oct-2015 18:59 PM

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