Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Adam and Israel

There are two ways of looking at this parallel. You could say that the Adam story came first and then the Israelites just followed that pattern. But there is another way. Maybe Israel’s history happened first, and the Adam story was written to reflect that history. In other words, the Adam story is really an Israel story placed in primeval time. It is not a story of human origins but of Israel’s origins. 
The parallels between Israel and Adam that we see above tell us that the particular people in mind are Israel. Adam is “proto-Israel.”

Professing Christians who are desperate to reconcile Gen 1-3 with evolutionary theory might find this reinterpretation appealing. However, I'd like to draw attention to one of the many problems besetting this reinterpretation. The comparison between "the Adam story" and the Exodus is only as good as the historicity of the Exodus. Enns himself recognizes the issue:

Christianity is a historical faith, and so evangelicals have a vested interest in defending the fundamental historical character of the Bible…If the events surrounding Israel’s entrance to and deliverance from Egypt— which includes the events at Sinai and the wilderness—can be shown to be fiction, the heart of the Old Testament’s theological content is drained of its life force.

I daresay scholars who doubt or deny the historicity of Gen 1-3 generally doubt or deny the historicity of the Exodus. They don't think the Biblical story of Israel's origins is more factual than the Biblical story of human origins. They don't believe in the burning bush, rods turning into snakes, the Ten Plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the Angel of the Lord, the pillar of fire, the Shekinah, the miraculous provision for Israel in the wilderness. 

So even if, for the sake of argument, we grant the parallel between Adam and Israel, that's comparing one fictional story with another fictional story. This wouldn't be a case of Israel's history happening first, then "the Adam story" written afterwards to reflect that history.  Rather, this would be a case of both written together with a view to each other, where the Exodus is the imaginary counterpart to "the Adam story," and vice versa. 


  1. Why do these people have any interest in continuing to profess Christianity?

  2. It's hard to tell with liberals, but it seems to me like many of them find atheism intellectually acceptable while finding Christianity culturally acceptable. So instead of making a stand of one or the other, they'd prefer to compromise on both.