Genesis, The Problem of Adam, and the Function of Humanity




Imagine just for a moment a restaurant being constructed from the ground up.  There would be many cycles that the restaurant would have to go through in order to become a fully formed building.  But, the question arises of when the restaurant actually becomes a “restaurant.”  Is it when the building is finished?  Is it when the sign is put up of the name of the restaurant?  No.  If these two things are true, then it is just a building with a name, not a restaurant.  It becomes a restaurant when a staff is hired, when a menu is made, and when food is served.  This gives the building a function, which then makes it a restaurant.  This is just a simple illustration of how the beginning account of Genesis works.  The purpose of the first few chapters is to give the world and humanity a functional, not a material scientific account of origins.  So, as I have described in my previous posts, the beginning of the Bible does not give us any indication over the age of the earth and how life arose.  The method to figuring those things out is not biblical, but scientific and historical.


So, moving on past the creation account, I want to investigate a character who has played a vital role in the Scriptures, Adam.  Now, I often feel as if we miss the point of who Adam is and what his role is.  First of all, the name “Adam” literally means “man” or “humanity.”  Many assume that Adam was the very first person who God created.  Now, we know that from research in fields such as archaeology and ancient DNA that Adam was most certainly not the very first person.  However, he is the first person that is mentioned in the Bible.  Adam is also by far the oldest character in the Bible, and there is a lot of mystery behind his existence.  So, a question arises as to whether Adam was even a real historical character or not.  But more importantly, does it matter if he was a real person or not?  I am not going to answer his historical validity because there is much debate over it, and I am reluctant to even take a stance on it.  My main concern is what Adam’s function is, and that is the real issue.  Adam plays a central role in the first three chapters of Genesis.  But, as I said above, the intention of Genesis is functional, not material.


So, what is Adam’s function?  First of all, whether a historical figure or a representation of humanity as a whole, Adam is given the role of living in harmony on the land, in God’s presence, and is told not to turn his back on God.  The biblical story is of him and his wife, Eve, who are living in the Garden of Eden exactly where God placed them.  They are told not to do one thing, and that is eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God tells them that the day that they do this they will surely die (emphasis on the “spiritual” death).  Now, of course Eve eats the fruit after the devil in the form of a serpent tells her to, but something I notice is that God blames Adam for this event.  Why?  Because Adam was not doing his job by taking care of his wife.  The first sin, from a literal standpoint, is not Eve eating the fruit, but Adam not doing his job as a husband.  Now, to me this event points to something beyond the text, and that is that God did not just want them to stay away from the fruit, but there are many other things that he did not want us to do, also.  But, if this is true, why so much emphasis on the tree?  Again, I don’t take a full on stance on all of this, but whether Adam, Eve, the serpent, and even the tree are real or not, it doesn’t at all change the function of this story.  God gave humanity the role of following him, and we screwed that up by turning our backs on him.  Adam doesn’t matter, humanity matters.  We are fallen, sinful creatures not because Adam is real, not because there was a talking snake, and not because of a literal tree with evil fruit, but because WE turned away from God as a whole.  This is the true function of the beginning stories of Genesis.  In a way, we are all a part of Adam, for he is the representation of a man who brought sin into the world, and we are keeping this cycle going by doing the same exact thing as he did.  This is the real problem of Adam.  Not that he screwed up and sinned, but that HUMANITY screwed up and sinned.  God gave us a function, and we failed to use it properly, and now we have to pay the deadly consequences.  People often accuse Adam of bringing sin into the world and messing it up for the rest of us, and these people are missing the point.  Adam, being a real person or not, is a symbol of who we are as a human race:  weak, fallen, and in need of a savior.


However, God gave us a new function.  When Jesus came down to die for our sins, He gave His life for us and became apart of our messed up function in order that we gain a new function, and that is to accept his perfect gift of eternal salvation.  And that is the true function of humanity.


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