Adam in the New Testament by Mark D. Ellison

After the opening chapters of Genesis, Old Testament authors rarely mention Adam or Eve. That apparent lack of interest changed during the intertestamental period and into late antiquity, when writing, speculation, and debate about Adam and Eve flourished. Part of this broader trend, New Testament authors appealed to the creation story as they discussed various matters of theology and practice—salvation and resurrection, marriage and divorce, men’s and women’s roles in church life. In these discussions, New Testament writers took diverse approaches to the figure of Adam.

Paul dealt with Adam more than any other New Testament author, and his are the earliest-written Christian texts on the subject. In his letter to the Romans, Paul portrays Adam as a “type,” or Old Testament pre-figuration, of Christ, almost like a literary foil (Rom 5:14). As Adam brought sin and death into the world, Christ brought justification; Adam’s transgression resulted in condemnation for all, but Jesus’ death brought life to all (Rom 5:12-21). In typological interpretations of scripture, “types” are usually surpassed by their “antitypes,” and Paul emphasizes that Christ’s salvation fully overcomes the effects of sin and death that Adam introduced.

In 1Cor 15 Paul contrasts Adam and Christ in order to distinguish the natural, perishable mortal body from the spiritual, imperishable body that will rise because of Christ (1Cor 15:21-22, 1Cor 15:45-49). Other passages in Paul’s writings also reflect his Adam-Christ typology (see Phil 2:6-8, Phil 3:21, Rom 1:18-32, Rom 8:18-30).

Paul makes a rather different reference to Adam in 1Cor 11:8, not by name but as “the man” from whom “woman” was made. This is part of a notoriously complex and much-debated passage marked by tension between hierarchical and egalitarian views of gender (1Cor 11:2-16). On one hand, the sequence of creation (Gen 2:7, Gen 2:21-22) leads Paul to say that “the husband is the head of his wife” (1Cor 11:3). On the other hand, Paul states that man also comes through woman, and neither is without the other in the Lord (1Cor 11:11-12).

Jesus’ single mention of Adam and Eve similarly alludes to them as “the man” and “the woman.” When asked about the lawfulness of divorce, Jesus cites the creation story (Gen 1:27, Gen 2:24) to support his answer, “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matt 19:4-6; compare Mark 10:6-9). Here the biblical first parents serve as figures of an ideal unity and permanence of marriage. (The author of the deuterocanonical book of Tobit likewise used the story of Adam and Eve as a way to conceptualize marriage; Tob 8:6-7).

A passing reference in Jude regards Adam as the first man (Jude 14), as does Luke’s genealogy of Jesus, which traces his descent all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38). Luke calls Adam “son of God” (Luke 3:38), reinforcing the portrait of Jesus as God’s “beloved Son” in the baptism story immediately preceding the genealogy (Luke 3:22).

The author of 1 Timothy used the story of Adam and Eve as a reason to deny teaching and leadership roles to women (1Tim 2:11-15). The author’s rationale that “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” is based on his reading of the Genesis narrative—but it stands in contrast to Paul’s portrayal of Adam as the one who brought sin and death into the world.

Mark D. Ellison, "Adam in the New Testament", n.p. [cited 26 Mar 2017]. Online: http://bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/adam-in-the-new-testament

Contributors

Mark D. Ellison

Mark D. Ellison
Doctoral candidate, Vanderbilt University

Mark D. Ellison is a doctoral candidate in early Christianity and early Christian art at Vanderbilt University. With Professor Robin Margaret Jensen, he is co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art (forthcoming, 2018).

A collection of first-century Jewish and early Christian writings that, along with the Old Testament, makes up the Christian Bible.

The historical period from the beginning of Western civilization to the start of the Middle Ages.

Literally, "second canon"; refers to texts accepted by Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as sacred scripture, but not included in the Hebrew Bible. Not to be confused with Apocrypha, which include noncanonical works.

Of or related to the written word, especially that which is considered literature; literary criticism is a interpretative method that has been adapted to biblical analysis.

A written, spoken, or recorded story.

Also called the Hebrew Bible, those parts of the canon that are common to both Jews and Christians. The designation "Old Testament" places this part of the canon in relation to the New Testament, the part of the Bible canonical only to Christians. Because the term "Old Testament" assumes a distinctly Christian perspective, many scholars prefer to use the more neutral "Hebrew Bible," which derives from the fact that the texts of this part of the canon are written almost entirely in Hebrew.

Writing, speech, or thought about the nature and behavior of God.

The third division of the Jewish canon, also called by the Hebrew name Ketuvim. The other two divisions are the Torah (Pentateuch) and Nevi'im (Prophets); together the three divisions create the acronym Tanakh, the Jewish term for the Hebrew Bible.

Rom 5:14

14Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

Rom 5:12-21

Adam and Christ
12Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—13s ... View more

1Cor 15

The Resurrection of Christ
1Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also y ... View more

1Cor 15:21-22

21For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;22for as all die in Adam, so all will be made ali ... View more

1Cor 15:45-49

45Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.46But it is not the spiritual that is first, but t ... View more

Phil 2:6-8

6who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,7but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being bo ... View more

Phil 3:21

21He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject ... View more

Rom 1:18-32

The Guilt of Humankind
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth ... View more

Rom 8:18-30

Future Glory
18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.19For the creation waits wi ... View more

1Cor 11:8

8Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man.

1Cor 11:2-16

Head Coverings
2I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you.3But I want you to understand th ... View more

Gen 2:7

7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

Gen 2:21-22

21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.22And the rib that the ... View more

1Cor 11:3

3But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ.

1Cor 11:11-12

11Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman.12For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all t ... View more

Gen 1:27

27So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Gen 2:24

24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Matt 19:4-6

4He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’5and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his fathe ... View more

Mark 10:6-9

6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,8and th ... View more

Tob 8:6-7

6You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve
as a helper and support.
From the two of them the human race has sprung.
You said, ‘It is not good that the ma ... View more

Luke 3:23-38

The Ancestors of Jesus
23Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli,24son of Matthat, son of ... View more

Luke 3:38

38son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.

Luke 3:22

22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

1Tim 2:11-15

11Let a woman learn in silence with full submission.12I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.13For Adam was formed fi ... View more

 NEH Logo
Bible Odyssey has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.