Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The First Adam, Sola Scriptura, and his Commission as King, Priest, and Protestant

I’m continuing to work with Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic ©2011) in looking at the question, “what is the church?”

Here’s God’s creation of, and charge to the first Adam:

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.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “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.”

Beale notes that this breaks out into the following separate elements:

The commission of Gen 1:26–28 involves the following elements, especially, as summarized in 1:28: (1) “God blessed them”; (2) “Be fruitful and multiply”; (3) “fill the earth”; (4) “subdue” the “earth”; (5) “rule over … all the earth.”

Adam being made in the image of God “is what enables Adam to carry out the particular parts of the commission” (30).

God’s creation of Adam in his image as the crown of creation is probably to be seen as the content of the “blessing” at the beginning of verse 28. The “ruling” and “subduing” “over all the earth” expresses Adam’s kingship and is plausibly part of a functional definition of the divine image in which Adam was made. This functional aspect is likely the focus of what it means that Adam and Eve were created in God’s image.

After a brief discussion of how “image” and “function” were related in the ancient Near East (ANE), and noting that “Adam represents God’s sovereign presence and rule on earth”, Beale expands this to say “there is an additional ontological aspect of the “image” by which humanity was enabled to reflect the functional image”:

Adam was made in the volitional, rational, and moral image of God, so that, with regard to the latter, he was to reflect moral attributes such as righteousness, knowledge, holiness, justice, love, faithfulness, and integrity (for the first three attributes as part of the divine image, see Eph 4:24; Col 3:10), and above all he was to reflect God’s glory….

Adam’s commission to “cultivate” (with connotations of “serving”) and “guard” in Gen 2:15 as a priest-king is probably part of the commission given in Gen 1:26–28. Hence, Gen 2:15 continues the theme of subduing and filling the earth by humanity created in the divine image, which has been placed in the first temple [i.e., Eden. For Beale’s complete argument on this, see his work The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God].

Adam was to be God’s obedient servant in maintaining both the physical and spiritual warfare of the garden abode, which included dutifully keeping evil influences from invading the arboreal sanctuary. In fact, the physical and spiritual dimensions of Adam’s responsibilities in relation to the Genesis 1 commission are apparent from the recognition that Adam was like a primordial priest serving in a primeval temple. Adam was to be like Israel’s later priests, who both physically protected the temple and spiritually were to be experts in the recollection, interpretation, and application of God’s word in the Torah. Accordingly, essential to Adam and Eve’s raising of their children was spiritual instruction in God’s word that the parents themselves were to remember and pass on.

In this respect, it is apparent that knowing and being obedient to God’s word was crucial to carrying out the task of Gen 1:26–28 (and disobedience led to failure [cf. Gen 2:16–17 with Gen 3:1–7], pgs 32–33).

Roman Catholics are fond of asking, “where is Sola Scriptura in the Bible?” The first instance of it is right here, at the beginning, establishing the principle from the start. Adam and Eve had a word from God (though no “infallible canon”), and they were simply expected to understand and obey.

One should note that, according to Michael Liccione, this is “the very essence of Protestantism. One assumes that the deposit of faith is knowable independently of ecclesial authority, and that one knows its content.” So we have the formal principle of the Reformation right here starting with God’s word to Adam. One might say that God himself was the first to articulate the principle.

With respect to Roman Catholic ecclesiology, this requirement to know what God’s word was saying, perspicuously, and in an unmediated way, was taken for granted. There is no provision for an “infallible interpreter” at this point.

Thus, knowing God’s will as expressed in his word of command (Gen 2:16–17) is part of the functional manner in which humanity was to reflect the divine image, which assumes that Adam was created with the rational and moral capacities to comprehend and carry out such a command. The first two humans were to think God’s thoughts after him. Thus, Adam and his wife’s “knowledge” of God also included remembering God’s word addressed to Adam in Gen 2:16–17, which Adam’s wife failed to recall in Gen 3:2–3. After God puts Adam into the garden in Gen 2:15 to serve him he gives Adam a positive command, a negative command, and a warning to remember: “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge [LXX: infinitive of γινώσκω] of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen 2:16–17).

When confronted by the satanic serpent, Adam’s wife responds by quoting Gen 2:16–17 but changes the wording in at least three major places (Gen 3:2–3). It is possible that the changes are incidental and are a mere paraphrase still retaining the same meaning as in 2:16–17. It is more likely, however, that she either failed to remember God’s word accurately or intentionally changed it for her own purposes. The telltale sign of this is that each change appears to have theological significance. First, she minimizes their privileges by saying merely, “We may eat,” whereas God had said, “You may eat freely”; second, she minimizes the judgment by saying “You will die,” whereas God said, “You will surely die”; third, she maximizes the prohibition by affirming, “You shall not … touch,” whereas God originally said only, “You shall not eat.” (33)

In effect, Eve has given us the very first instance of “the development of doctrine”, and the consequences of an improper “interpretation” are quite severe.

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