We all know that the early pages of the Bible–namely, the creation account–has long been scrutinized and made out to be merely allegorical (or just false). Even some professing Christian scholars, theologians, and the like go as far as to say that Adam and Eve weren’t real people. They were symbols, as it’s said.
However, I would contend–along with many others–that if we make Adam and Eve mere symbols and not real, historical people, then we lose the gospel itself. You see, this is a slightly different issue than, say, the age of the earth. Can you believe in an old earth and be a Christian? Sure, but I think it’s a slippery slope.
Can you believe that Adam was not a historical person and be a Christian? I would say no.
In this post, I seek to show that believing in the historical person of Adam is a gospel issue. That is, believing in him or not has massive implications in light of the gospel. No historical Adam? No gospel.
Do We Believe the Apostle Paul?
In a number of passages, the Apostle Paul alludes to Adam (and Eve) as historical people. For example, in 1 Timothy 2:12-14 (which is a controversial passage in itself) Paul speaks of Adam and Eve as historical people (referring to Genesis 2) while giving his arguments for the role of men and women in the church. It is clearly to be taken literally.
And, even more so, Paul “places Adam and Jesus in parallel relationship” in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 (source). He refers to Jesus as the “Second Adam.” First Corinthians 15:47 says this:
The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.
Jesus is also called the “Last Adam” in verse 45, where he says that “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” The relationship that is drawn here by the Apostle Paul requires Adam to be a historical person. Why? Because he compares each man to what they did. Adam ate the fruit and all humanity fell in him; Jesus obeyed God the Father perfectly and for all who are in Him. As Guy Waters said, “For the comparison to hold, Adam’s actions must be as fully historical as Christ’s actions are historical, and Adam must be as historical a person as Christ was and remains.”
Do We Believe Jesus?
In Matthew 19, when answering the Pharisees’ question regarding divorce, He said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (v. 4). Not only does this have implications for the issue of marriage and sexuality, but for this context, it has massive implications regarding the historicity of Adam.
Jesus is speaking in no allegorical terms here. He’s not painting Adam and Eve–“male and female”–as mere symbols. He is referencing the ex nihilo creation of God.
Adam and the Gospel
If we do not have an historical Adam, we do not have a gospel that saves. Why? Because the Bible explicitly states that all mankind fell in Adam through his act of blatant disobedience to the will of God. Though at first glance, believing in the historicity of Adam seems like a secondary issue, it is certainly not.
Believing in the historical Adam is, in fact, a gospel issue. But to me, it all comes down to this question: do you believe in the authority of Scripture? Of course, Scripture is not to be taken literal in everything it says, as you shouldn’t take everything literally in the Proverbs. However, in the places where it talks in a literal, historical way, we must apply it appropriately. The Bible speaks of Adam in an historical way. We should too.
Like Romans 5 tells us, though we all fell in Adam, we all–through the obedience, death, and resurrection of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ–will be raised up in Christ, given that we trust in Christ!
Soli Deo Gloria