Thursday, September 8, 2011

Adam, Where Art Thou? PART II

In the previous post, we discussed the debate over Adam’s existence. I pointed out that Dr. Enns really has no good reason to deny the existence of an historical Adam, and expressed my bewilderment as to why he does so.
We also discussed that Mohler, his most popular critic in the blogosphere these days, is confusing the importance of Adam’s historicity with the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3; but said that I largely agree with him concerning the heretical nature of denying the existence of a literal Adam and a literal Fall (although to be fair, I’m not sure Dr. Enns would say he does not believe in a literal Fall; it just wouldn’t be with a literal Adam).

I also think that identifying the pattern of Israel’s plight in the Genesis narratives as a way of denying the reality of an historical Adam, as Dr. Enns does, is faulty and does not contribute to what Dr. Enns seeks to prove. Literary patterns often display harmony-discord-rejection-redemption (as well as lack, initiator, hero, etc.), as my NT professor, Vern Poythress, used to say, the gospel narrative (at the very least parts of it) is ingrained into all of our stories. Hence, it is ingrained into the creation narratives, Israelite history, Church History, novels, and even our own personal lives. This doesn’t mean that only the people in a particular narrative are real and everyone else is fake. So I agree that the creation event is patterned after Israel’s narrative specifically as a microcosm of their experience, but deny that this has any implications for the existence of the characters of that story. To give another example, William Wallace’s execution scene in the movie Braveheart is patterned after Christ’s passion narrative in the Gospels. That doesn’t mean that William Wallace never existed.

Second to this, Dr. Enns fails to see that Genesis 1 and 2 are not different narratives relating two different creations (one of the world and one of Israel), but the same creation even from two perspectives (the divine and human, i.e., from heaven down and from the ground up). The parallels, which I will pursue in another post at some time, are too overwhelming to ignore; and certainly, the rest of Genesis that displays this pattern confirms this assessment. But, again, even if we were to grant Dr. Enns this division, it says nothing about whether an historical Adam existed in history (especially if, in his view, it doesn’t relate history at all). In any case, I don’t find his arguments here convincing, as they don’t touch on the historicity of Adam, which is supposedly the whole point of bringing these arguments up in the first place.

Today, however, I want to show, contra Mohler, just one of the ways it is possible to maintain that both the Genesis narrative, even if taken literally, and the gospel narrative can allow for a non-singular Adam (i.e., an Adam created with tons of other people). I want to also show that if the narrative is taken as symbolic, it can also allow for an Adam that exists through evolution without jeopardizing the gospel narrative.
So let’s begin with Adam’s non-singularity. 

First, it’s important to know that multiple people are always made in ancient Near Eastern creation stories that deal with the creation of humanity. There is never a single person made when talking about humanity in general. They are said to pop out of the ground in Sumerian texts, to be made of clay in Assyrian and Babylonian texts, and to come from the tears of Re (likely falling on the sand), or fashioned from clay by Khnum (god of the nile river), in Egyptian texts, both of which may also be imagery of humans coming forth from clay (= water and dirt). So, as in the text of Genesis 2, people are made from clay, but they are made in large numbers, i.e., as a population. In fact, they are made as a tribe/city/community.

But there is a singular human made along with them. He is not singular because he is not human. He is. But he is singular because he is made for an expressed purpose. He is made as a king. Hence, he is a human, but a different kind of human, a royal human. In Mesopotamian literature, he is of a nobler creation than the rest (but human nonetheless). In Egyptian literature, he is a divine human, a manifestation of the sun-god. Of course, all humans come from Re, so they are connected to the king, but he is an actual manifestation of Re, and is thus equated with deity. The point I would make, however, is that he is of the same “DNA” as the rest. He’s just closer to the purity of the divine than the rest, but he bleeds, eats, drinks, laughs, and has children as a man.

So my point in saying this is that there is a plurality of men created, but the royal man is created to rule them as the representative of God to them, and their representative to God. For instance, VAT 17019, a Neo-Babylonian tablet found within Aššurbanipal’s library, relates the creation of humans in general and subsequently the king.  The text is very broken, but yields some relevant information. It dates roughly to the first millennium B.C. (i.e., during the Neo-Babylonian period, ca. 1000-600 B.C.).  About three-fourths of the tablet is preserved, and reads as follows:

[ x x x ]x x[ . . .
[su-u]h}-h}u-ru p[a?-nu-šu-nu . . .
dbe-let-DINGER.MEŠ NIN-s[u?-nu] qu?-lat-su-nu i[g?-lu-ut]
a-na dé-a ma-ši-šu a-mat i-q[ab-bi]
ša DINGIR.MEŠ tup-šik-ku UGU-šú-nu im-r[a-as[-ma]
ut[-t[ah}-h}i(-)x[ . . .                ]-qu?? ni-bi-h}u [x x x]
su-uh}-h}u-r[u pa-nu-šu-nu(-ma)] nu-kúr-tu4 it-b[a-a-ma]
ni-ib-ni-ma s[a-lam t[i-it[-t[i ni?-mi-i[d(-su) tup-šik-ku]
an-h}u-ut-su-nu nu-pa-áš-ši-ih} a-na du-[ri da-ri or u4-mi]
dé-a KA-šú DÙ-ma [D]U11.GA ana dGAŠAN-AN IN[IM MU-ár]
[ . . .            ] x [ ] te? en qu? ár-ka-niš
[x] x x x [x (x)]x qa-ta?-a-šú
dbe-let-DINGER.MEŠ ik-te-ri-is[ t[i-t[a-a-šú
[x x x x ]x ik-ki-il nik-la-a-tu4
[x x (x) ú]-za-ka-ma? ib-ta-lal t[i-t[a-a-šú
[ . . .           ] i-te-li-ih} {x} zu-mur-šú
[ . . .               ] gi-mir la-a-ni-šú
[ . .  .           ]x(-)me-e iš-ku-un
[ . . .              ]-UB-šú iš-ku-un
[ . . .              ]x-pi iš-ku-u[n]
[ . . .            .M]EŠ iš-ta-kan zu-mur?-šú
[ . . .                 ]dEN.LÍL UR.SAG DINGIR.ME GA[L.ME]
[ . . .              ]x i-mur-šu-ma h}u-lu b[u?-nu-šú]
[ . . .       ina p]u-h}ur? DINGIR.MEŠ ú-s[ab-bi [x x]
[ . . .               ]x-šu nab-nit-su ú[-šak-lil]
[ . . .                  dEN].LÍL UR.SAG DINGIR.MEŠ GA[L.MEŠ]
[LÚ.ULÙlu a-me-l]u? iš-ta-ka-an MU-šú
[tu]p-šik-ku šá DINGIR.MEŠ e-med-su iq-bi
dé-a KA-šú DÙ-ma DU11.GA ana dGAŠAN-AN INIM MU-ár
at-ti-ma tab-ni-ma LÚ.ULÙlu-a a-me-lu
pi-it-qí-ma LUGAL ma-li-ku a-me-lu
t[a-a-bi u[b]-bi-h}i gi-[mi]r la-a-ni-šú
s[u-ub-bi-i zi-i-mi-šú bu-un-ni-i zu-mur-šú
dbe-let-DINGIR.MEŠ ip-ta-ti-iq LUGAL ma-li-ku
id-di-nu-ma a-na LUGAL ta-h}a-za DINGIR.ME[Š GAL.MEŠ]
da-nù it-ta-din a-gu-ú(Text: PA)-šú dEN.LÍL it-[ta-din kussâ-šú]
dU.GUR it-ta-din gišTUKUL.MEŠ-šú dMAŠ i[t-ta-din šá-lum-mat-su]
dbe-let-DINGIR.MEŠ it-ta-din bu-un[-na-ni-šú]
ú-ma-)i-ir dnusku ú-ma-lik-ma iz?-z[iz ma-h}ar-šú]
šá KI LUGAL i-dab-b[u-bu su-le-e u sur-ra-a-ti]
šum-ma x x[. . .[1]

They (the gods) turn[ed their] f[aces away] . . .
Mistress of the Gods, th[eir] lady, tr[embled] at the silence (from their despair)
She to[ld] the matter to Ea, her twin brother:
“The hard labor,[2] that which was (placed) upon the gods, has become ard[uous],
It was brought near x[ . . .             ] the strap [ . . .]
They have turned [their faces away (and)] war has brok[en out].
Let us create a clay image.[3] Let us plac[e (upon him) the hard labor.]
Let us give rest from their (i.e., the gods’) tiredness for[ever.]”
Ea lifted his mouth to [sp]eak, [directing a wo]rd to the Mistress of the Gods:
“[Mistress] of the Gods, you are the Lady of the Great Gods.
[ . . .          ]  x[]  ? ? ? afterward
[x] x x x [x (x)] x          ?
Mistress of the Gods cut out clay for him;
[x x x x ]x   she was very skillful;
[x x (x) she] purified and mixed clay for him;
[ . . .              ] adorned his body
[ . . .              ] his entire human form
[ . . .              ] she set in place . . .
[ . . .              ] she set in place . . .
[ . . .              ] she set in place . . .
[ . . .              ] she established his human form . . .
[ . . .              ] Enlil, the hero of the great gods . . .
[ . . .              ]x  he looked him over and his appearance was radiant. . .
[ . . .      in the a]ssembly of the go[ds] he gazed at . . .
[ . . .              ] he fini[shed] his bodily form . . .
[ . . .         En]lil, hero of the great gods,
[ . . .              ] he established “Lullû-Man” as his (i.e., the created man’s) name;
He has commanded the hard labor of the gods to be imposed upon him;
Ea lifted his mouth to speak, directing a word to the Mistress of the Gods:
“Mistress of the Gods, you are the Lady of the Great Gods;
You have created the lullû-man;
Fashion the king, the governing-man.
Cover his entire human form with goodness;
Create his features in harmony, create his entire body beautiful.”
Mistress of the Gods fashioned the king, the governing-man;
The great gods gave to the king the battle;
Anu gave him his crown, Enlil gave him his throne;
Nergal gave him his weapons, Ninurta ga[ve him his radiance];
Mistress of the Gods gave him his splendid facial features;
Nusku instructed, gave advice, and st[ood by him in service].
The one who speaks [impudence and lies] to the king,
If . . .[4]

           After the creation of the more primitive lullû-man, in the final statements that are preserved in this episode, the king is created, and more beautifully so that that of the lullû-man. This shows the purpose for the text in that a commoner should consider the king as more perfectly made than he, and he is to be reverenced accordingly.  He was fashioned specifically by the gods to be better, and to rule over other men. The gods give the land to the king to subdue it. He is the protector of the lullû-man over whom he rules.

Now, I bring this up because there is a lot of this in the Genesis narrative. Adam is created from clay (rp(). He is told to subdue the earth and rule over it. He is placed within a garden sanctuary, which mimics those found in the temple/palace constructs of the ancient near East. He is made a representative of God to creation as God’s image. In essence (and scholarship has noted this for some time), Adam is made and spoken of as a king in the Genesis creation narratives. But king over what? It could be that he is just king over the other animals. It could be that he is king over the rest of creation. But it could also explain why there are other people already existing as a population when Cain is banished after he murders Abel (4:14–17). Who are these people that are going to kill Cain? Where does he get his wife and enough people to start a city?

In other words, it’s possible that Genesis literally communicates a plurality of people created at the same time, or around the time of Adam, it’s just that Adam is their king. He’s the one with whom God makes a covenant and through whom God’s covenant with all of mankind is mediated. In other words, Adam is humanity’s federal head. His actions represent all of humanity, and all of humanity’s fate is in his hands. If he stands, all stand. If he falls, all fall, just like any other ancient Near Eastern king whose entire city is held accountable for his decisions, since the people are his children, his possessions. He is also the best of them, so if he falls, they all would have fallen as well. So he represents them in more ways than one.

Now, this is just if the accounts are literal. If they are symbolic, and meant to communicate something about God’s covenant with people, rather than the means through which Adam was made, then there is no reason to suggest that Adam, and the others over whom he rules, were not created through a process of evolution. And this is an important point. We need to look at each narrative to see what it is and is not teaching, not just look at it and assume that every statement or presentation made is being taught as a fact that we need to believe. Do we need to believe that the sun stopped in the sky in the Joshua narrative because the sun goes around the earth (can someone say “Galileo”)? Or is it there to communicate something through myth (the Canaanite war gods represented by the sun and moon, so much so that they carry the exact same names šāpāš “Sun” and yarich “Moon,” stand helpless to defend the Canaanites when YHWH comes to judge them).

Now, do I believe that Adam is one of many or that he made through the process of evolution? No. I’m agnostic toward time frames and the means of creation (not toward the Creator of those means), as I do not believe the Bible communicates that to us (I believe the real creation and the real fall of the real historical Adam is being portrayed literarily rather than literally here), and I in no way believe science is capable of knowing what actually took place in terms of human origins. I’m not a scientist and choose to refrain to say much about it, but I will say that observing the present and recreating scenarios that could have happened is not proving what actually occurred. The event of creation is simply an unknowable event unless God was actually communicating to us what happened. If He was, then we could know it. Otherwise, we cannot. Hence, because I believe that God does not communicate the means through Scripture, I remain agnostic on the subject.

However, I do believe that Adam, as an historical person, is being communicated to us as a part of the history of redemption and gospel narrative of Scripture, but I can believe that he was not singularly made, or that he was made through evolution and keep the biblical gospel fully in tact. I am just not convinced of science’s abilities in the matter, nor do I start with empiricism, but with the Scripture in its historical context, as my means to judge all other claims. In other words, I don’t wish my biblical interpretation to be governed by what is trending in modern cultural theories at the moment, but by its context and the Christian orthodoxy that interprets it, an orthodoxy that I believe has been guided by God the Holy Spirit.

I should mention, however, that there are also numerous obstacles in interpreting Adam as the king of many, but I don’t think they’re that big. For instance, the text says that no man was yet made, but that is before Adam is made. We might also say Adam is made first in history and his subjects afterward (as is Eve). We might also point out that the text isn’t chronological, since it is the same account that we see in Genesis 1, but from a different perspective. Hence, animals are made before mankind in Genesis 1, but after him in Genesis 2. The same can be said of vegetation. So this is an obstacle to evolution if the text is to be taken literally, but not to a plural creation of humanity.

Likewise, texts like Acts 17:26, which is often translated as “from one man he made every nation,” where this would be consistent with federal headship, can also be translated “from one [nation/people group] he made every nation/people group.” And even if we take it in the traditional way as “one man,” what does it mean that all nations were made? This can be easily talking about Adam as king as much as Adam as sole progenitor of these nations.

Also, Romans 5:12–14:

 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Supposedly, this negates evolution and a plurality of first humans, but actually it doesn’t. First, the death that it is speaking about here is spiritual death first and foremost with physical death only assumed by the reader. Second to this, this passage speaks of Adam as federal head of humanity, not necessarily biologically linked to them. Sin simply entered the world through him, and spiritual death through him. It spread to all humans through him, but how? The text doesn’t say, and since the subject seems to be federal headship in context, we should assume that it spreads to us, not biologically (as a Gnostic might maintain), but through the curse being placed upon our federal head, Adam, we were all cursed, and have entered death. Hence, there is nothing here that negates evolution or a plurality of original humans.

Now, again, do I believe in evolution? No, I’m agnostic toward that; but would lean toward a big, No, if pushed. In fact, I would tend toward believing in a singular Adam who was directly and immediately created.  I’m open toward being corrected, but I just don’t trust the present intellectual climate, especially since more often than not scientists are not mindful of their presuppositions. But do I know that Adam was singular and a product of direct creation? No, I don’t believe God has told us this. And I certainly don’t want the church to split apart over issues it doesn’t need to when God hasn’t even informed us of these things. So I offer this up as a way of saying, Let’s not do this. Let’s affirm the historical Adam, but not reject others who accept different means or a different understanding of the historical details of the creation event or the identification of Adam as a federal rather than biological head (historically, people have accepted both, but it is not necessary to do so), as long as that understanding does not conflict with, or undermine, the actual teaching of Scripture. And that’s what is really important here. What does Genesis teach? That’s what we’re missing as we infatuate ourselves on knowing every chronological and mechanistic detail concerning the creation event.

In the end, however, it is ironic that the one historical detail God likely does wish to communicate in the text is that He made a covenant with an individual who represented the rest of humanity He either made together with him or after him. He is the individual through whom God began His covenant relationship with mankind. However he got here, however many were made with him, regardless of the genre of literature through which his existence is communicated, we call that very real, historical individual “Adam.” So if you want to know where Adam is, I found him. He’s still in the Bible and in the gospel, regardless of whether some theologians and Bible scholars would like him to disappear.

[1]Werner R. Mayer “Ein Mythos von der Erschaffung des Menschen und des Königs” Or 56 (1987): 55-68.
[2]tupšikku, lit. “brick-carrying frame” (CDA, 410), the common Mesopotamian metaphor for hard, or forced labor.
[3]The Akkadian word here is s@alam from s@almu. Cf. the Hebrew word <l#x#Â.
[4]Translation mine.

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