Luke’s Adam

I am about to dive into some interesting materials that have surfaced over the last couple of years regarding our understanding of creation and in particular our understanding of human origins and the historicity of Adam – the first man.

Peter Enns’ recent publication, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, is well circulated now and continuing to make waves. To Enns’ credit, he is forcing Christians to talk about tensions that have existed in the Church since Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of the Species. I have not yet read the book, so my comments will be minimal here in regard to critique. If you are interested in an audio/visual resource that will introduce you to some of Enns’ ideas, check out this video:

Westmont College — Erasmus Lecture — Peter Enns, Feb. 9, 2011

Enns’ proposal of Adam as the origin of Israel (as opposed to the origin of humanity) can certainly be biblically and theologically hypothesized; however, his position forces a complete overhaul of the Church’s historical doctrines of original sin, the image of God in humanity, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and even forces a fresh look at the meaning of the atonement. Further, I have heard said (or read it said) more than once that we learn a lot about the end from the beginning; therefore, our eschatology may even need to be reevaluated in light of Enns’ proposals.

I also plan to investigate the articles that have been gathered and published in Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture, which is edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Lastly, I want to watch a film that was recently released entitled From the Dust: Conversations in Creation.

Of course, I want to also study the Scriptures as I try to wrap my finite mind around what God is doing with what he has said in his general and specific revelation to us.  My first stop is indicated by the title of this blog – Luke’s Adam. In his book, Enns spends most of his time discussing Paul’s Adam. He briefly comments on Luke 3:38 in the above lecture as well as in an endnote (#10) on page 150 of his book,

After Gen. 5:3, Adam us mentioned by name elsewhere in the Old Testament only as the first name in the genealogy in 1 Chron. 1:1 (see discussion in chap. 5). In the New Testament, Adam appears in two genealogies (Luke 3:38 and Jude 14), which will not be considered here, since our New Testament focus is Paul, and the issues raised by these genealogies add little to the conversation. Only Paul deals with Adam in detail, specifically in Rom. 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:20-58 . . . The importance that Paul places on Adam relative to the apparent lack of emphasis elsewhere, especially in the Old Testament, seems a matter worth considering seriously, which we will do in part 2.

In one sense, Enns may be right. Luke’s mention of Adam or “the one man” may not contribute anything new to Paul’s articulation of Adam. However, I think Luke may have something to add to the conversation. As Enns mentions above, Luke 3:38 includes Adam as the starting point for the genealogy of Jesus Christ. It could be – as Enns highlights in the above video – that those mentioned from Adam to Abraham make up a consistent, Old Testament, theological genealogy for the nation of Israel. However, it could be that Luke is demonstrating that all people – both Jews and Gentiles – have a common ancestral origin. Therefore, Adam through Abraham is not merely the theological genealogy of Israel, but for the whole of humanity. This seems more consistent with Luke, who is extremely interested in all of humanity seeing the salvation of the Lord in Jesus Christ.

This particular notion is also expressed in Acts 17:26-27 where Luke has recorded Paul’s sermon at/to the Areopagus in Athens. Luke writes,

From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Paul as recorded by Luke here is much more physical and earthy in his description of the first man than Paul’s more spiritual expression in Romans 5:12. Neither Paul nor Luke’s focus here is to paint Adam as a metaphorical expression of the origin of the nation of Israel. The first man Acts 17:26-27 is the origin of all humans and every nation. The passage is so physically focused that we learn of God’s sovereign exertion something as earthy as divinely sanctioned territorial boundaries.

Thus, I think Luke’s record of Paul’s preaching in Athens needs some consideration in the discussion. I think all of us want to be better equipped to synthesize what we see in the general revelation of the creation and in the written revelation of the Scripture. So, my prayer is that we may proceed carefully,honestly, and humbly as the Church of God into our inquiries for the truth.

In Christ,


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