Sunday, December 16, 2007

The First Adam

As I’ve studied theology, I’ve come to the conclusion that God really knew what was best when He decided to reveal Himself through the Old Testament shadows before He revealed Himself fully in the person of Christ. As a result, I am going to look at a few of the Old Testament typologies as they relate to Christological significance. There is no better place to begin than with the Garden of Eden itself, and with Adam. Now I should point out that this post is not the place to weigh questions of how literal the six day creation is, or whether or not Darwinism is true. While those are fine topics of discussion, what I want to look at is simply the relationship between the opening chapters of Genesis and the person of Christ. It is my hope that by looking at the Old Testament in more detail, we can all gain more insight into Him.

Before you read any of the following, it is helpful if you read Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 3:24. Due to space concerns, I will not quote the entirety of the passage here (you can read it in the ESV, which is the version I shall be using, by clicking here).

To set the stage, we begin with the creation of the universe. It culminates in the creation of a man, Adam, and his wife, Eve. Of the nature of man, we read:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Genesis 1:26).
There has been much debate over what is meant by being created in the image of God. However, I think it is safe to conclude that at least part of what is meant is given by the rest of the context. Man gains dominion over the animals on the earth. Just as God has dominion over all created beings, man (in the image of God) has dominion over animals.

To exercise his dominion, Adam names all the animals on Earth (Genesis 2:19). In the ANE culture, naming was a way of showing dominion. God named Adam to show God had dominion over man, but He allowed man to name all the animals because God had given Adam dominion over them.

Additionally, Adam named Eve (Genesis 2:23). It is important to note a few things about this. First, Eve was created after God had already demonstrated that none of the animals on Earth were a suitable helper for man. In other words, while pagan cultures always devalued women, the Jewish culture was shown that women were, indeed, to be treated better than any animal on Earth. Women are just as much in the image of God as men are (Genesis 1:27), yet God chose that men would hold a position of dominion. This is a dominance of position, not of worth (in the same way that a governor holds dominion over his subjects, yet holds no greater human rights than his subjects). Naturally, once sin entered the equation this relationship has always been strained; yet it remains a fact that God established this relationship, and it further remains that He worked to ensure that men would know women were of more value than any animal. Sadly, most cultures throughout history have forgotten this.

The form of dominion that Adam had was one that can best be represented in terms of Federal Headship. We see this by the fact that Adam, and not Eve, was specifically given a command to obey:

"You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17).
This command came before God created Eve. Adam had responsibility to obey it, and because of his Federal Headship, his obedience and disobedience would be meted out to all of those who came from him (including Eve, who came from one of Adam’s ribs).

Indeed, we see from the Fall in Genesis 3 that Eve’s eyes were not opened until after Adam had eaten of the fruit too:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked (Genesis 3:6-7, emphasis mine).
Because God’s command had come specifically to Adam, the consequences for sin were not meted out until Adam fell. Since both Adam and Eve fell, we do not know what would have happened to Eve had she eaten and Adam refrained. Quite possibly, given the structure of dominion that God had put in place, God may have simply given Adam the responsibility to mete out punishment since Eve was given the command via Adam and not directly from God. But this is speculation since it did not occur. What we do know from the text is that once Adam sinned, the eyes of both Adam and Eve were open and they knew they were naked.

After the Fall, God punished men and women for their sinfulness. But even while punishing, He offered a promise. To the serpent, He said:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).
This passage, commonly referred to as the protoevangelium, gives us the first explicit information about who Christ would be. However, much is also inferred from the events that occurred before this. Let us now examine both, starting with the clear statements from Genesis 3:15, and then looking at the inferences from the rest of Genesis 1-3.

1) We know that Christ will be human. The serpent is told it will be one of Eve’s offspring.

2) We know that Christ will be wounded in the exchange. “You shall bruise his heel.”

3) We know that the serpent will be destroyed by this. “He shall bruise your head” (other translations use the word “crush” instead of “bruise”).

In addition to this explicit information, we can infer much from what has gone on before, and it deals specifically with what is called Original Sin.

When Adam sinned, all of his descendents were judged sinners with him. This causes most of us to immediately proclaim: “That’s not fair!” After all, we did not have a choice in the matter. We did not sin, so why should we be included in the judgment? That the judgment does extent to all mankind is immediately seen from the punishments meted out to Adam and Eve—the cursing of the ground indeed occurs to this day, as does increased pain in childbirth. And, returning to the theme of dominance, it is certainly the case for woman that “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). These punishments occur to this day; so too does the punishment of all of us knowing we are “naked” before God.

This happens, again, because Adam was the Federal Head of all who came from him. He was the Federal Head of the entire human race, and as such when he fell all mankind fell with him. But had this not happened—had God not put Adam in that Federal Headship role—it would have been impossible for Christ to save all mankind by His actions.

For we know from later Scripture that Christ is the second Adam. Christ fulfilled the laws that Adam could not, and as a result all those who are under the Federal Headship of Christ transfer their status from being under the judgment of God to being under the blessing of God. In order to fix the problem of evil, Christ had to be under the same situation as Adam. If we balk at all men under Adam being condemned in Adam, we must balk at all those under Christ being redeemed by Christ.

Thus, it becomes vitally important to look at the role Adam had before and after the Fall. As Paul tells us, Adam was the “type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14). As a result, when we learn about Adam we learn about Christ.

The opening of Genesis gives us a great deal of information about Christ, information that was given in a type and shadow format. God gave the shadow before the reality so that, when we see the reality, we would have something to relate it to. We can understand Christ's representation of us before God because we already see Adam's representation of us before God. Since we live with the effects of Original Sin, we have something with which we can grasp His imputation.


  1. Unrelated to this post, but, Peter, do you know where I could locate any good discussion on how Adam sinned? By this I mean if we sin because of our rebellious sinful nature, how Adam came to make a choice inconsistent with his unfallen (at the time) nature.

  2. I'd add that something that is sometimes overlooked is that we can also learn that, like Adam, Christ has a wife, namely the Church. His people are predestined, according to Ephesians, "in Him." Eve of course was also taken "from Adam." All of these images go together.

  3. Anonymous, a standard treatment of that topic would be Human Nature In Its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston. It's available over @

  4. Anonymous,

    "By this I mean if we sin because of our rebellious sinful nature, how Adam came to make a choice inconsistent with his unfallen (at the time) nature."

    It wasn't "inconsistent" with Adam's "nature" to sin.

    It would be "inconsistent" with a glorified person's "nature" to sin.

    Adam was not a glorified man.


  5. Paul, I am wanting to consider why Adam desired to sin if he did not have a sinful nature.

  6. Anonymous said:
    Paul, I am wanting to consider why Adam desired to sin if he did not have a sinful nature.

    Unfortunately, since we are not in the position of Adam and since the Bible is silent on the issue, we can only answer with speculation. Granted, it is speculation that is informed by the rest of Scripture, but this isn't an issue that the Bible addresses specifically.

    We do know that Adam's sin did not catch God off-guard. It was foreordained, yet in such a way that Adam freely sinned. These concepts are all clear from Scripture. While I do not have a perfect answer for the question, I will give you my speculation with the caveats that 1) I haven't really worked through this in its entirety and 2) I do not hold this position dogmatically and can easily be influenced away from it.

    My current belief is that barring active influence from God in the form of common grace, it is impossible for anything to remain in a perfect state. That is, the natural state of everything is entropy, and this is true of man and his spirituality. Thus, it is impossible for God to create a man who of his own power (that is, apart from God's continual upholding via His grace and mercy) will remain steadfast and not turn toward sin.

    The advantage to this argument is that it would explain why Adam sinned (i.e. God removed His grace and let Adam be as Adam would be, which invariably means Adam would "break" and sin) and it explains why we will not sin in heaven (i.e. God will not ever remove His grace from us, and therefore we will continually rely on His power to keep us in communion with Him for all time).

    The drawback is that it relies on saying that it is impossible for God to create a man who would not sin if God ever let the man exist of the man's own power. However, I wouldn't have a problem with this in theory since I do not believe God can make a round square or any other contradiction, and if it is logically impossible for God to create a person who cannot sin without His continual grace then we don't have a problem there.

    So the question would be, is it logically possible for God to create a person who is able of his own power to remain faithful to God? And I haven't worked through that one yet.

    But at least it gives me something to think about.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Paul, I am wanting to consider why Adam desired to sin if he did not have a sinful nature.

    12/16/2007 9:23 PM


    Desires are internal mental states, we don't know.

    But, not having a sinful nature might be a necessary, but not a sufficient condition to avoid sinning.

  8. 1. I'd point out that a "desire" and "reason" are not necessarily synonymous. "Desire" infers emotion. "Reason" infers rationality.

    2. Apropos 1, either a "desire" or "reason" can inform sin. All we have to say here is that whatever it was specifically that was in his mind, it was a sufficient motive for him to act.

    3. The Reformed position is that man was created not only "innocent" but positively righteous. (I'll say here that I plan to write on that next month sometime).

    4. God, however, did not create him in an immutable state. Adam's righteousness was a gift, but is not convertible with being confirmed in righteousness. God withheld constraining grace, which, being grace, He was under no obligation to bestow.

    5. Adam formed a desire to sin from his reasonable faculties. This was the occasion for his sin. Being confirmed in righteousness precludes this. Not being so confirmed does not.

    6. The Bible is silent as to exactly what Adam was thinking. That said there is a clue in the curse. God mocks Adam by saying "Now he has become like us." He says this as Adam stands before Him in shame and disgrace. This infers that this is what was in Adam's mind.

    7. Being "like God" is not, in itself, objectionable. God commands we be holy as He is holy. The problem in this account arises not out of the desire to be like God but the action taken. Put another way, the means Adam chose was not the means God had chosen. The covenant God gave Adam includes a promise, eternal life, insofar as it warns him negatively that if he eats of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he will die. Likewise, Adam had no want of anything in the Garden after Eve was given to him, so God is not to blame here (contrary to Adam's assertion). Adam, and only Adam was to blame. His motive was sufficient to move him to act, which, I might add is the only thing that we need to disprove that he had libertarian freedom here. He had the freedom to form a desire that was sufficient to motivate his sin. God seems to name that motive in his mockery, which is in turn based on the serpent's speech.

    8. I would also add that there are a number of other clues throughout Scripture, for this is a theme that repeats itself many times, a man gives away something valuable in exchange for a his life.

    a. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for food.

    b. David, in committing adultery and murder, paid a price, his child. Indeed, his whole kingdom was sent into disarray from that point forward.

    c. Moses in his anger struck the rock and forfeited his life later on.

    d. Samson gave his strength away to the Philistines for Delilah's affections.

    e. Hezekiah bragged about his kingdom to the Assyrians. It was thereby forfeited.

    d. Solomon had a problem with women. He intermarried (a thing prohibited by the Law) and diluted the power of his rule in the process by allowing idol worship. After he died, the kingdom was divided.

    e. Jeroboam tried to rule the North by setting up false gods.

    f. King Saul forfeited his kingdom by taking matters into his own hands contrary to Samuel's instructions.

    g. Judas betrayed Jesus for money.

    h. So, when Jesus says, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul" this is the sort of thing that He has in mind.

    Now, what do we see here. Many of these, indeed most of this, are classic cases of good intentions gone wrong. Being in love is not a sin. Wanting to unify your kingdom is not a sin. Indeed it is wise. Being zealous for God is not sin. Wanting to impress your girlfriend is not a sin. Offering sacrifices to God is not a sin. Looting the enemy in ANE culture was not a sin. However, if any of these violates a specific instruction, it becomes a sin. If loving a woman involves you committing adultery and murder, then you've crossed the line. If you're told to destroy the whole place and take nothing, and yet you do and then say you did it to offer sacrifices to God, you've crossed the line. If you show off the greatness of your kingdom and give no credit to God (indeed if you stupidly show your enemies your treasury in the process), you've crossed the line.

    Well, Adam was with Eve, and she had already eaten, hadn't she? That sounds a lot like Solomon, David, and Samson's problem doesn't it. They did what they did for women. I think there is something to be said for Adam doing it for Eve too. Men do stupid things for women all the time. The serpent played on that.

    Likewise, like I said earlier, the desire to be like God is commendable - but only if it is by the designated means. For us, for example, we can't work our way into God's favor. Adam tried to be like God by his autonomous means, not the way God had said. He listened to the serpent. Indeed, the picture of Adam in the Garden is that of a priest (the Tabernacle of Moses is full of material that points back to the Garden of Eden, cf. The Temple and the Church's Misson by G.K. Beale). He should have driven the serpent out. Instead he listened.

    I'll also say here that I agree with the WCF and LBCF2. He broke the same law given to Moses @ Sinai. We have to remember, this text was written to the Israelites living in the wilderness. They would have read this account through the lens of the Law.

    Think about it:

    He committed idolatry by listening to the serpent. He thereby violated the first two commandments. Luke calls God Adam's father by way of his creation. He disobeys God, and thus dishonors his father. The narrative day in the text is day seven. The inference here is that the Fall happened on the Sabbath. The serpent attacks while God resting and man is resting as well. This is when, ironically, the first couple is most vulnerable. They weren't at work, they were at rest. So, Adam violates the Sabbath. He knew they would die, yet he ate. He is thereby unfaithful to Eve for he fails to protect her. He plunges us all into eternal death too, thereby committing mass murder. The tree was forbidden. He therefore stole. The text specifically describes the appealing nature of the fruit. He thereby covets. Indeed, in desiring to be like God he covets. Finally, when confronted, he seeks to blame everyone but himself. After a long speech, he finally says, "and I ate." Wow. He clearly tries to avoid blame and thereby lies. So, in one sin, he violated the whole Decalogue. Ergo, there is no part of the Decalogue for which the violation of it has not been imputed to us. Indeed, how the mighty have fallen. What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

  9. Adam even before the fall had free will so he could choose to love and obey God. His will is informed by his intellect, which is fallible. Adam fell because he believed a lie. Satan, the serpent, is the father of lies and he lied to Adam and Eve when he said "you will become like God."

    So Adam chose to eat the apple to become like God, which is a good thing when done according to God's plan, that is through faith in Jesus Christ. Athanasius said of Jesus that "God became man that man might become God."

    So Adam sinned because he wanted a good thing - to be like God. However, only God and not Satan has the power to bring that about and to determine the means.