Sunday, April 19, 2020

Three Portraits of Adam

Alice C. Linsley

The story of Adam in Genesis 2 has the marks of myth, and myths speak of truths. Adam is a man of his time long in the past, and his place in the vast well-water region called Eden; the part of the world where the some of the oldest human fossils have been found. Adam is representative of the first humans created by God and unique among all creatures in that he is created in the image of the Creator.

In another biblical account of Adam is clearly presented as an historical figure. The historicity of Adam is proven by the kinship analysis using the data from the Genesis 4 and 5 king lists. The historical Adam was the father of Cain and Seth who married their cousins, the daughters of a ruler named Enoch. Cain is described as an early city builder and Seth is the founder of the Sethite Hebrew who are mentioned in texts from 2400 BC. This means that the historical Adam lived between c.4500-3500 BC. Since we have many human fossils older than 6000 years, the Adam of which Paul speaks is analogical, not historical. Paul's analogy involves a typical Hebrew parallelism between Adam by whom sin and death entered and the New Adam, Jesus Christ, by whom sin and death are overcome. Clearly this analogy is not intended to be taken as history, unless we are to believe that people before 6000 years ago did not sin and did not die.

Paul's analogy serves to identify Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. This is depicted in the icon of the resurrection above.

The historical Adam is the eponymous founder of the mound building Horite and Sethite clans. In Genesis, people groups and their regions are identified with a founder or early eponymous ancestor. An eponym is a person after whom a clan or place is named. There are many such clans, but the earliest in Genesis are the clans of Adam and Enoch. A deep structural analysis reveals that their descendants intermarried. This probably explains why Enoch and Adam are paralleled in Psalm 8:4. “What is man [enosh] that you are mindful of him, the son of man [ben adam] that you care for him?

Adam's name refers to blood and the color red. His descendants are remembered as red people. One of those descendants is Abraham who ruled in the territory of Edom. The Greeks called Edom "Idumea," which means "land of red people." The rulers, priests, and prophets of Edomite blood are described as red: Esau and David are examples. Some of the red peoples are listed in Genesis 10. They are identified by the DD biradical, which refers to the color red. In ancient Egyptian didi refers to red fruit. In Yoruba, red is diden, a variant of the biblical word Dedan (Gen. 10).

To speak of the biblical Adam requires making distinctions between the portraits of this figure drawn by the biblical writers. We must not confuse or conflate the historical Adam (eponymous ancestor) with the mythical Adam or the analogical Adam.

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