Among my most popular (a relative term if ever there was one!) posts on this blog is a post in which I first began wondering aloud about the historical Adam and Eve. This ongoing debate in the Christian community does not look like it will disappear any time soon, especially with the growing consensus around the results of the human genome project and some fresh approaches to the text of Genesis 2-3 itself.
This morning, a post from David Williams, campus minister for InterVarsity’s chapter at NC State and Meredith College, caught my eye for its approach to a common objection to a non-historical Adam. It’s worth the read, but I’ll summarize.
Williams’s thoughts are launched from a simile found in a biography of Robert Oppenheimer, in which the great scientist is compared to Prometheus. It’s a natural connection. Dr. Oppenheimer was the principle figure in developing the atomic bomb, thereby bringing atomic fire to earth. Prometheus, according to the ancient Greek myth, stole conventional fire from Zeus and brought it to humankind. Sadly, each then spends their lives trying to warn humanity of the dangers of their discoveries, though to little avail.
The question Williams poses, then, is whether the comparison of Oppenheimer to a mythical figure makes (1) the comparison any less poignant or (2) the person of Oppenheimer himself any less real.
From there, Williams makes the leap to the connection Paul makes between Jesus and Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. A common argument among proponents of a historical Adam is that if cease to believe Adam was a real historical being, then our footing for standing on the historicity of Jesus becomes shifting sand.
But let’s apply Williams’s question to Jesus and Adam. If Adam were mythical, for argument’s sake, would the comparison between Jesus and Adam in Romans 5 be any less poignant? Would it invalidate the notion that Jesus brought grace and justification and righteousness and life (Rom 5:15-19)? I don’t believe so.
Would it make Jesus any less real for someone to compare him to a mythical figure? Does it make Jesus any less real that he compared himself to any number of metaphorical images (the bread of life, the door, the resurrection, the good shepherd, etc.)? I don’t believe so.