Jesus Christ: The New Adam


Adamic Typology in the New Testament


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The Synoptic Gospels



Adamic typology is found early in the Synoptic Gospels through the relating of the Temptation of Jesus by the Devil in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13). "The Temptation of Jesus is, as it were, a sequel to the Temptation of Adam" (Danielou, "From Shadows to Reality" 16-17). The reign of Adam in Paradise was overthrown by the devil through the temptation of Adam; Christ's reign could only be instituted after he had overcome the temptations of the devil.

Each of the accounts of the Temptation differs slightly from the others; but it is in Mark's and Luke's accounts that we find the most explicit Adamic typology (Matthew is more concerned with Mosaic typology throughout his Gospel, and thus narrates his stories to point to Jesus as the "new Moses"). Mark begins his entire Gospel with the phrase "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1); the use of "Son of God" (cf. Luke 3:38) means "an Adamic typology is already operative" (Reimer 109), thus preparing us for the temptation account to be found a few verses later. As is typical for him, Mark uses a scarcity of words to convey the scene:
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. (Mark 1:12-13)
The first direct parallel to the Genesis story is found in the very first words of the pericope. "The Spirit immediately drove him out..." appears to parallel Genesis 3:24 which occurs after the Fall: "He drove out the man." Jesus, who has to reverse the curse of Adam, must also reverse the actions of Adam. As Adam was driven out of Paradise by God due to his falling to temptation, thus Jesus must be driven by God out into the desert to resist the devil's temptations.

The second parallel in the Markan account occurs after Christ's successful overcoming of temptation: "he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him" (Mark 1:13). This invokes the Paradisiacal situation related in Jewish Midrash that Adam was honored by beasts and served by angels (Goppelt 98); a state of affairs that was lost due to the Fall. Now that Christ has overcome the temptations of Satan, he is able to restore the status which Adam had forfeited (cf. Danielou, "From Shadows to Reality" 17). So it becomes clear early in his Gospel that Mark wishes to evoke multiple images of Adam to establish Christ as the second Adam who undoes the damage caused by humanity's first parent.

It is in the Gospel of Luke, however, that the most explicit use of Adamic typology occurs. This is not surprising, as Luke, being the disciple of Paul, would have been deeply familiar with the idea of Christ as the second Adam (Goppelt 97). Luke's account goes as follows:
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli..., the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'"
And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'"
And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'"
And Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 3:23,4:1-13).
In both Matthew and Mark, the recounting of the Temptation narrative occurs immediately following the Baptism of Jesus. Luke, however, inserts the genealogy of Jesus between these two stories. This placement seems odd until one notices the difference between Luke and Matthew's genealogies. Whereas Matthew begins with Abraham, Luke traces Christ's genealogy all the way back to Adam, whom he calls "Son of God" (Luke 3:38). By calling Adam "Son of God" here, he directly links him to Jesus, who before the genealogy account has been called "my beloved Son" by God at his baptism (Luke 3:22). Thus Luke is making the Adam-Christ typology quite overt leading into the Temptation account. The divine sonship motif continues in 4:3, as the devil's first words to Christ are "if you are the Son of God..." As the devil tempted the first "Son of God," and he fell, so now he is attempting to lead this "Son of God" (cf. Luke 3:22) to fall as well.

The three temptations related by Luke can each be traced back to the original temptation of Adam. The first temptation, for Jesus illicitly to turn the stones into bread to feed his hunger, parallels the temptation to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam ate what he should not have eaten; Jesus resists eating. The second temptation, in which the devil offers Jesus full authority and glory, matches the temptation of Satan in the garden that Adam "will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). In both cases, the person is tempted to acquire God's authority and glory for himself through illegitimate means. As Leonard writes, "unlike the first Adam...Jesus refuses to grasp for the power and authority Satan offers Him. He will abide by the terms of the covenant: God will be God, and He, the Son of Man, will remain in the role of Servant." (Leonard 89). The final temptation, in which Jesus is tempted to test God by throwing himself off the pinnacle of the temple, corresponds to the fundamental disobedience of Adam: Adam was commanded not to eat of one particular tree, but he tested God by eating of it anyway to see what would happen. Jesus, however, resists this temptation and has no desire to test God.

In each of the temptation accounts, the basic message is the same: the obedience of Jesus contrasts to the disobedience of Adam. As the first "Son of God" fell to the temptations of the devil, so this new "Son of God" resists his temptations and overcomes the power of the devil. Christ's public ministry can now begin as the New Adam.


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