In my last post about contextualizing the OT in light of the ancient Near Eastern culture of the OT wrtiers, I was reminded again of the striking absence of Adam’s sin in OT theology. Other than Genesis 3 and then Genesis 4-5, where Adam is mentioned with respect to having children with Eve, the person Adam is mentioned only two times in the entire Old Testament. One reference is a genealogy (1 Chron 1:1). The other is Hosea 6:7 which reads: “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.” Not surprisingly (to me anyway), there is no mention here of Adam’s original sin being transmitted to the rest of humanity. Instead, Adam’s transgression of his relationship to God is used as an analogy to covenant violation of Israel. Eve is never mentioned in the OT after Genesis 4:1.
What this means is transparent: There isn’t a single verse in the entire Hebrew Bible that produces the theology put forth by the traditional interpretation of Romans 5:12. The idea that Adam’s guilt was transmitted to all humanity is completely absent from OT theology. One would think that, given its central importance to the whole idea of salvation, if this view were accurate, at least one writer in the OT during the 2000 year history of Israel from Abraham to Jesus would have put the idea out there. But none did (under inspiration to boot).
What we do have is the simple story of the garden: Adam sins, humanity is removed from the tree of life and the direct presence of God which (apparently – in all views of this) was essential to Adam remaining without sin up to the Fall, and so humanity will thereafter die and sin. One is now his biological nature and destiny; the other is his spirtual nature–that all humans WILL sin, without exception.
Do you know what else we have in OT theology? The idea that humans are guilty before God because of THEIR OWN sins and transgressions. My detractors seem to have missed the fact that Paul’s statements in Romans 3, for example, either come irectly from the OT or are allusions to OT verses. Think about that. The verses that are supposed to convince me (and us) that humanity inherited guilt (as opposed to becoming sinners and producing their own guilt) comes from that document (the Hebrew Bible) that doesn’t have a single verse in it about humans inheriting Adam’s guilt. For sure we inherit the conditions and nature that will PRODUCE sin and guilt BY OUR OWN HAND, but that is different than the traditional view. How ironic. Using OT citations (through the mouth of a NT writer quoting them) to prove an idea that isn’t in the OT.
So why is it that Paul breaks the silence about Adam and the human race in Romans 5:12? Why did we have to wait until Paul for someone to say something? The answer is simple. It wasn’t until Paul — living as he was in “post Jesus” Judaism (and the birth of Christianity) that Adam became a useful ANALOGY for something. Paul brought up Adam and humanity for the specific purpose of comparing and contrasting Adam with Jesus, who in Paul’s thought became the “second Adam.”
I came across an article last week about Paul’s view of Romans 5:12. I now have two of them that discuss his theology in light of earlier Judaism (not the OT per se, due to the above difficulty). Both of them spend a lot of time talking about the Jewish sense of corporate identity. The idea that when one person does X the extended family and even a tribe might be cursed for it (or blessed). For sure this idea is part of Israelite culture (and the wider ANE). But neither article asks the question that logically extends from this observation: In view of how corporate responsibility is ingrained in Israelite thinking, why is it that not a single verse in the Hebrew Bible makes this point about Adam? The silence there is telling. Yes, I agree that what Adam did extended to the entire human race (there’s your corporate identity idea). But, as I noted several posts ago, I’m just asking HOW that is true. And of course, how that questioned is answered must deal with the Jesus problem – that Jesus is a lineal descendant of Adam.