Adam as a real person in real history is under attack in our day. From attacks on the scientific community to the Christian community, some are suggesting we shouldn’t take seriously the Bible’s teaching on Adam. What is often missed in books and articles on this topic is how our understanding of Adam affects how we understand the entire makeup of the Bible from it’s storyline to how we interpret Scripture. Since Adam as a real person in real history is so serious in this article, I’m going to attempt to lay out how Adam is not a side project to the Bible’s storyline. Denying Adam as a real person in real history has devastating consequences on our understanding of the Bible, of mankind, sin, salvation, and a whole host of other topics. I plan on demonstrating this by showing first how Adam relates to the whole of the storyline of Scripture and then turn to look at the significance of understanding Adam as a real person in real history to our theology and practice of the Christian life and ministry.
The Bible opens up by focusing on how the Lord created one man, Adam, in His image and likeness in the first three chapters. The Bible continues for the first several chapters to explain the life and legacy of Adam. In-between all of that, Moses explains how Adam disobeyed the command of God to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Through Adam’s disobedience, man is now a sinner by nature and by choice.
Some people take the view that the early pages of Genesis don’t teach what I described in the previous paragraph. Instead of taking a literal view to the opening pages of Genesis, they believe it’s figurative. They believe that these stories are only myths and fairytales. These people come to the Bible with the perspective of proving the validity of their position. Instead, they reveal their presupposition that the Bible isn’t the Word of God.
The Bible begins with God. In the earliest chapter of its pages, it teaches that God created Adam for Himself. God placed Adam in the Garden to lead all creation He made. God created the earth in such a way that man could live, breathe, and flourish in it. Sadly, in our day, we see many people dismiss this under the guise of “science” or under the auspices of biblical scholarship.
Adam in Scripture
Adam is not an add-on to the Bible. Instead, how we understand Adam is determinative. The study of hermeneutics is the science of how to interpret the Bible. Adam is a primary figure in the Bible. Let’s look at a few verses that demonstrate this…
In Luke 3:38 the ancestry of Jesus Christ is traced up to Adam, “Adam, the son of God,” thereby testifying to the acceptance of the Old Testament genealogies of Genesis. This is the only place in the Gospels in which Adam is actually named, though there is an allusion to him in Matthew 19:4-6 (Mark 10:6-8), referring to Genesis 1:27; 2:24.
Romans 5:12-21, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
1 Corinthians 15:45-49, “Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
The Significance of Adam
Through Adam we learn about how we are sinners by nature and by choice. Through Adam we also learn how, now through Jesus, we have our sins transferred to Him and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our account. Through Adam we learn how we can have our sins legally forgiven (justification), how the wrath of God no longer burns against us (propitiation) and removed from God’s sight (expiation). Through Adam we also learn about redemptive history (Genesis 3:15), and the first mention of the gospel (Genesis 3:15).
When people say that Adam is not a real person in real history, what they are telling us is that we should not believe what the Bible teaches. They are suggesting to us that everything mentioned before in this article is not real. Adam, they suggest, is not a real person in real history. What they are saying, without saying it explicitly, is that they don’t believe Adam is essential to the storyline of Scripture. Not only is this view wrong, it assaults the glory of God in creating man and undercuts the inspiration and authority of God’s Word.
The Authority of Scripture
At the heart of the denial of Adam as a real person in real history is a denial of the Bible itself. These people want to come to the Bible to “investigate” its claims. We should commend this desire. Yet, God created man, man did not create God. When man makes claims that God never makes, they are acting out of their sinful nature. They are also acting in willful rebellion to the One who created us in His image and likeness.
The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word of God. As we’ve considered in this article, Adam is not a figurative figure in the Bible. The storyline of the Bible revolves around the first Adam and the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. When people teach that Adam is not a real person in real history what they are doing is revealing their view of the Bible. They are saying, “Yes, I believe this book, but I don’t believe it is without error.” The argument goes that Adam is just fictional and made up by Moses. Yet, if Adam is made up, then who is to say that the rest of what the Bible teaches isn’t also made up? Who’s to say that we can’t, under this scheme, also deny the death and resurrection of Christ? When people dismiss Adam as a real person in real history what they are also doing is denying the validity of the Bible itself. These are the same people who want people to consider their arguments from the Bible. Yet, by denying Adam, such people are assaulting the glory of God in creating man.
Adam is a real person in real history. From the story of Adam, we learn a greatly deal, not only about the doctrine of man, but also ultimately how Jesus would come into the world to die in our place and for our sin. Adam is hugely important to the storyline of Scripture. Throughout this article, we’ve been operating under the biblical definition of Adam, seeking to explain how attacks on Adam as a real person in real history are ultimately an assault in the glory of God. These attacks also undermine the redemptive storyline of Scripture. Throughout the church today we are seeing attacks on Adam become commonplace. Many people are confused and wonder how to handle these attacks. Christians need not fear false teaching or false teachers. Christians have a clear and steady Word from God via the Bible.
Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, said, “When the Bible speaks God speaks.” It’s not just as some have said, “The Bible speaks and that settles it.” For some people in a post-Christian culture, that is not enough. They need to understand why we believe the way we do and the reasons we believe the things we do. Understanding Adam as a real person in real history is not a secondary matter. It’s not like the “days” of Genesis, for example, where we can “agree to disagree”. Understanding Adam is a first-order gospel issue. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul make reference to the Adam in their teaching. Paul, in particular, uses Adam as a reference to how the first Adam in the Garden fell into sin thus causing man to be a sinner by nature and by choice. He then goes on to explain how, through the Second Adam, we can have our sins imputed to Christ and therefore be declared not guilty through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 5:12-21).
Understanding Adam then is not a secondary matter. It’s not an issue we can cast aside and say is not important. It’s not an issue we can ignore. As we are continuing to see assaults on the idea of Adam as a real person in real history will continue to come. We are living in a time where the default religion of the day is science. Scientists are supposed to operate from the scientific method. Instead of discovering new theories, the cultural “priests” of our day—scientists—tell us what they “find”, and we believe them. Instead of challenging their assumptions, many people believe what they say without question even though their own conclusions don’t match the scientific method, nor are they evaluated in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Ours is a day of great confusion about truth. While people want to pursue truth in every form and through every avenue, at the end of the day there is only One Truth: Jesus Christ came into the world as the Second Adam to die the death we deserved and rise in our place for our sin. His death secured our pardon and His resurrection provides the foundation for our new hope in Christ.
Adam is a real person who lived in real history. We know this, not only because the Bible tells us so, but because we know ourselves. At the core, we are not improving as a race. Instead, we continue to fall more and more in love with our own sin. We continue to discard biblical values and biblical morality in favor for our own “morality”, and our own (so-called) moral judgments. God’s ways are better than our own.
At the end of the day, Adam shows us what a life lived for self is all about. It always ends in disaster. In Adam’s case, it ended in the disaster of all of humanity becoming sinners by nature and by choice. You and I today are still reeling in the choices of Adam. There is no denying that, nor dismissing it, despite what science and what many liberal theologians want you to believe. We are sinners in need of a Savior. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “I have a great need of Christ, I have a great Christ for my need.”
This article first appeared in Theology for Life Fall Issue. To download the rest of the issue click here.