The significance of the Adam/Christ parallel

Damian at Castle of Nutshells found an interesting article by Mike Heiser on the subject of “Adam’s Sin and Old Testament Theology.” Heiser brings home the fact that “there isn’t a single verse in the entire Hebrew Bible [the Old Testament] that produces the theology put forth by the traditional interpretation of Romans 5:12.” This verse, of course, is part of one of the famous Adam/Christ parallel passages: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” Heiser argues that interpreting this passage as teaching that “humanity inherited guilt” through Adam’s sin is problematic because, unlike so much of the context’s other material, this teaching has no basis in OT theology.

As Damian points out, although Heiser does not reference the issue of evolution/creation, a rejection of “the traditional interpretation” of this passage (original sin) is a deviation from standard evangelical Christian teaching, a deviation required by acceptance of evolution and a non-historical reading of Genesis 1-2. In fact, it happens to be the lynchpin argument for theologians who deny the compatibility of evolutionary theory and the essentials of the Christian faith — namely the necessity of Christ’s work; for, so the argument goes, if we are not all guilty under Adam’s original sin, then we need no Savior.

Like Heiser, the Christian who does not believe in an historical Adam (Heiser does) must treat Paul’s parallel as an analogy rather than as a causal connection (the belief that we sin and are condemned because of Adam’s sin). Strikingly, the response I expect to his point about the lack of concord between the OT and the predominant interpretation for Romans 5.12 is that Paul’s insight is new revelation, so naturally, like much of his teaching, it wouldn’t be found in the OT. Oddly enough, absent a belief that the Apostle was actually functioning under new revelation, we really have no reason to believe that Paul thought of Adam as anything but a real person whose sin literally brought the whole world under condemnation, imputing “corporate responsibility” upon all of succeeding humanity.

It appears quite possible that Heiser has articulated Paul’s belief more accurately than the traditional doctrine of universal culpability in Adam. Heiser assumes an historical Adam and insists that he’s interested in finding out exactly how “what Adam did extended to the entire human race” rather than denying that it has; he believes that Adam’s first sin affected the human race, but not that it rendered humanity guilty before God. He believes we are not condemned for Adam’s sin, but rather are made susceptible to inevitable sin because of Adam’s sin and condemned by our own sin.

My own belief is that, despite what Paul may have believed, “Adam’s sin” never occurred as such, or rather it recurs in everyone. Naturally, logic dictates that there was a first sin by some ancestor or another, but each of us simply treads the same path as all the rest of humanity: being human, sin simply “goes with the territory”, and so do the consequences. The harmony between my view and Heiser’s is that the necessity of Christ’s work is not seen as dependent upon the sin of Adam.

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