Jesus Christ: The New Adam


Adamic Typology in the New Testament


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Epistles of Paul



The Adamic typology found in the Gospels consists of implicit allusions; in Paul's letters however the Adam-Christ comparison fully blossoms. The Apostle Paul makes much use of the Old Testament in order to further his own arguments about the centrality of Christ in Salvation History (cf. Amiot 40). The events recorded in the Scriptures are intended to assist the believer in coming to a full acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which Paul preaches: "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). Typology is one of the primary constructs for Paul to interpret past occurrences in salvation history; the events, persons, and realities recorded in the Old Covenant point to the events, persons and realities of the New Covenant, such as Christ and his Church. "Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come" (1Corinthians 10:11). Interestingly, Paul's typology is mostly concerned with the Church, rather than the person of Christ (cf. Goppelt 129). In fact, "the only typological relationship Paul uses to illuminate the meaning of Christ's coming into the world is Adam-Christ typology" (Goppelt 129). Adamic typology thus is a key component of Paul's Christology and his explanation for the purpose of Christ's saving works. There are a number of instances in which Paul either explicitly or implicitly incorporates an Adam-Christ comparison; due to space limitations, this paper will consider five instances: Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 1 Corinthians 15:44-49, Colossians 1:15-20, and Ephesians 5:22-33. (For the purposes of this arcile, "Paul" and "Pauline" will refer to the author of all thirteen letters attributed to Paul.)

Romans 5:12-21

In the first eight chapters of Romans, Paul is concerned with relating to his readers the situation of the human race without Christ, and the effects that Christ's saving work have on humanity. In chapters 1-3, he details the unfortunate situation of all of humanity, both Gentiles (chapter 1) and Jews (chapter 2). Some scholars have seen in Romans 1:18-32 many links to the creation account in Genesis (Allen 15), thus incorporating Adamic typology implicitly before using it explicitly in chapter 5. Paul's conclusion for humanity is that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Then, beginning in chapter 4, Paul begins to speak of Old Testament figures to point the way to the resolution of the dilemma mankind finds itself in. Chapter 4 deals with Abraham and the importance of faith. Then in Romans 5 we find the most explicit Adamic typology in all the New Testament. Whereas one may find in the Gospels allusions and hints to an Adam-Christ relationship, in Romans 5:12-21 Paul makes a direct link between Adam and Christ:
Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned -- 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 sins were 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 in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 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. Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In verse 14, Paul makes the connection between Adam and Christ explicitly typological ("Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come"). This sets the stage for the comparison between Adam and Christ.

This passage is quite structured, leading the reader to understand both how Adam and Christ correspond, and how they differ. Verses 12 and 18-19 show the correspondence: the actions of "one man" affect the whole of the human race. Adam's actions introduce the passage in verse 12: "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin." Then in verse 18-19, Paul makes the comparison explicit: "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." Thus, in both the case of Adam and Christ, it is the actions of "one man" (a term used 11 times in this passage) that impact all who follow that man. This is typical of Hebrew thought - "to see the whole contained in the beginning" (Allen 16). A Jewish writing from the late first century/early second century sees the relationship of Adam to all of humanity similarly to Paul; 4 Ezra 7:118 states, "O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendents" (cf. Dunn 89). Paul sees in each man the beginning of a stage of history - Adam as the beginning of human history, and Christ as the beginning of salvation history.

However, there is a divergence between the two, which is characteristic of typology - anti-type and type are not identical, rather one leads to a deeper understanding of the other, not only in how the two compare but also in how they contrast. In verses 15-17, Paul lays out the difference:
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 in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 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.
Adam's one act effected all of humanity, as did Christ's, but Christ's action was more powerful than Adam's. By being a gift of God, it overcomes the transgression of Adam and is able to prevail completely over that transgression. Amiot writes, "Paul has reminded us of our solidarity with Adam only in order to emphasize our contrasting solidarity with Christ, which is infinitely more efficacious because it sets in motion an infinitely greater force than that of sin and death." (Amiot 71). If Paul had not made this explicit, it might be possible for the reader to think that the two actions have equal strength, setting up an unacceptable dualism contrary to Paul's beliefs.

Thus, the pattern for Paul in this passage is quite clear: Adam's disobedience leads to sin which results in death; Christ's obedience leads to grace which results in eternal life. "For St. Paul, the act of the first man...had essentially been one of disobedience, drawing down upon him death, drawing all other men after him into sin and consequently, into death. But this sinister fruitfulness of the first sin in sin and death is surpassed by the fruitfulness in justice and life revealed by the obedience of Jesus." (Bouyer 65). By invoking Adamic typology, Paul is able to further his overall argument in Romans 1-8 that humanity is lost, but through the actions of Christ, the human race is able to be justified and gain eternal life with God.

After this linking of Adam to Christ in salvation history, Paul follows this passage by applying its principles to the life of the individual Christian. In Romans 6:6, Paul, writing of the effects of baptism, explains, "We know that our old self (or "old man") was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin." The "old man" referenced by Paul alludes to Adam (cf. Allen 17), and as Christ brings life to humanity, this life is applied to the "old man" of each individual believer in the waters of baptism. The early church continued to see baptism as a moment in which the failings of the "old man", or Adam, is overcome in the life of the Christian by the power of Christ's death and resurrection. For example, the baptized Christian was to take off their garments before being baptized, and "this old garment of corruption and sin which the baptized are to strip off...is the very garment with which Adam was clothed after his sin. So we see the relationship between the scene in Paradise in which Adam, vanquished by Satan, is clothed with corruptibility; that of Calvary in which Jesus, the new Adam, the conqueror of Satan, strips off his tunic of corruptibility; and finally, Baptism, in which the person being baptized takes off, with his old garments, the corruptibility in which he shared as long as he was under the dominion of Satan" (Danielou, "The Bible and the Liturgy" 38-39, cf. Danielou, "The Bible and the Liturgy" 21, 43).

Paul's linkage to the first chapters of Genesis does not end in chapter 6. In chapter 7, Paul relates the struggle of the sinner to overcome the sin that dominates his life. In verse 8, he writes, "But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness." This can be seen to correspond with fact that in Genesis 3 the sin "received its stimulus through the commandment" (Goppelt 131). Also, in both Romans 7 and Genesis 3, sin is a personal force that deceives men (Romans 7:11; Genesis 3:13). Finally, the result of sin is death (Romans 7:11; Genesis 3:19).

So it is clear that Paul is using various types and images from the creation account to bolster his argument in this section of Romans (chapters 5-7). There is the explicit Adam-Christ typology found in chapter 5, but this connection between the work of Christ and the work of Adam continues to be used by Paul to apply to the life of the Christian - both how he sins like Adam and how he overcomes the "Adam" living within him through baptism.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians are found two more instances of an explicit Adamic typology applied to Christ. In the fifteenth chapter of this letter, Paul is elucidating details of the resurrection of Christ, and how it is applied to the individual believer. He first recounts (vv. 1-11) in creedal formula the historical details of Christ's resurrection. He then goes on to explain how Christ's resurrection is proof against those who preach that there is no resurrection of the dead (vv. 12-19), and that Christ's resurrection is the central doctrine of the Christian faith.

At this point Paul inserts a comparison to Adam:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)
Verses 22 and 23 have an obvious repeated parallelism, in which Paul emphasizes his point that death has entered the world through "a man," Adam, and resurrection has entered the world through "a man," Christ (cf. Kreitzer 11). This is in brief form the same argument he was to make more clear in the passage from Romans studied above, but in this case it is used to support the resurrection. For if death entered the world through Adam, and Christ reverses the curse of Adam, then death had to be defeated, and thus Christ had to have been raised from the dead. As Paul writes a bit later, "then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (1Corinthians 15:54-55). In Romans, the emphasis was on the act of each man, Adam and Christ, and how Christ's act overcomes Adam's. Here the emphasis is more on the practical proof of Christ's act overcoming Adam's: it is through the resurrection that Christ has overcome the result of Adam's action, which is death. His resurrection is the "first fruits" of the general resurrection that will be applied to all believers at his coming (1 Corinthians 15:23).

1 Corinthians 15:44-49

Paul's discussion of the doctrine of the resurrection encompasses all 58 verses of chapter 15. Starting in verse 35, Paul begins to write of the resurrection body each person will receive; again, he includes Adamic typology to make his point:
It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 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 which is first but the physical, 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 are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so 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. (1Corinthians 15:44-49)
In verse 45, Paul paraphrases LXX Genesis 2:7 in the manner of the Targum, adding two words: "first " and "Adam". This allows him to set up the typological contrast between Adam and Christ which follows. Adam is the "first man," and has a physical body, and Christ now has a spiritual body and is the "last Adam." Adam became a "living being," and Christ becomes a "life-giving spirit." However, in this case, Paul's analogy breaks down a bit. Kreitzer notes,
in calling Christ the 'life-giving spirit' Paul is making a statement about the work of Christ within the church which has no parallel on the Adamic side of the analogy. The motivating factor in Paul's use of the analogy was his desire to show that a relationship exists between Adam and the rest of humankind. But the wonder of what God had done for humankind through Christ was so great that the Adam/Christ analogy broke down. (Kreitzer 12)
Using Adamic typology, as always, helps Paul to emphasize the solidarity of the two Adams with the rest of humanity, but Paul does not hesitate to go beyond the typology to make an important theological statement.

In bringing Adam into a discussion of the final days of history when Christ will return, Paul betrays a dependence upon the Jewish eschatology of his times. One common belief was that the end would correspond to the beginning, and thus Adam would have a role in the eschaton (Murphy-O'Connor 813). Paul too sees a role for Adam in the final days; however, it is Christ, the "last Adam," who plays that role. Thus Paul, while showing a dependence upon contemporary Jewish eschatology, feels free to shape it in a Christo-centric fashion. Furthermore, Paul sees Christ's resurrection as more than a simple restoration of the pre-Fall state: "the new humanity is not a return to a primordial entity, but a genuinely new thing, begun by Christ" (Ziesler 53).

Colossians 1:15-20

The above passages are the only ones in which Paul explicitly declares an Adamic typology in relation to Christ. However, the Adam-Christ relationship is alluded to in other places within the Pauline corpus. For example, in Colossians 1:15-20, Paul writes of Christ:
He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities -- all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Adamic allusions permeate this Christological hymn. The phrase "image of the invisible God" points to Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Furthermore, Christ is called the "first-born of all creation", as Adam is the first-born of humanity. In Romans and 1 Corinthians, it is clear that Paul sees Adam as the head of fallen humanity; in Colossians, he calls Jesus "head of the body, the church" (1:18), in other words, of the new humanity redeemed by Christ.

However, there is a distinct difference between the Adam-Christ comparison found in Romans and 1 Corinthians and the comparison found here in Colossians. Ridderbos notes, "whereas in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 Christ is the second or last Adam, who follows after the first in the order of redemptive history, in Colossians 1:15 as the Firstborn, the Image of God, etc., he is antecedent to the first, and in this respect the first Adam cannot be regarded as his 'type,' as is the case in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15" (Ridderbos 84). As is typical for Paul, when he needs to make a point, he does not mind stretching an analogy or comparison beyond convention. In this case, Christ is a type of Adam, rather than the opposite. Adam, the first-born of humanity made in the image of God, comes to reflect Christ, the pre-existent "first-born" and true image of the invisible God.

Ephesians 5:22-33

Paul's use of the Adam-Christ comparison extends to practical pastoral issues as well. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul is giving advice on how husbands and wives are to treat one another:
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Paul wants to emphasize the integral unity between a husband and wife, and quotes Genesis 2:24 for scriptural proof: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (Ephesians 5:30). However, Paul immediately follows this quote with a sudden shift in emphasis: "This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:31). For Paul, the union affected in the marital bond between Adam and Eve is so intimate that they are considered "one flesh", and this reflects the mysterious union between Christ and his Church. Thus, in this typology, Adam is a type of Christ, and Eve is a type of the Church, which echoes the typology that was seen in the Gospel of John, but it is used here for practical pastoral reasons.


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