O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
I want to introduce Pete Enns newly released Book “The Evolution of Adam”: What the Bible does and doesn’t Say about Human Origins.
This is going to be a ground breaking book in Christian circles as Pete introduces some new concepts to the evangelical crowd that seriously challenges many of their longstanding hermeneutical approaches. I have listed the Table of Contents and Pete’s concluding 9 Thesis below to give you a flavor of his work.
I find the book quite useful, and challenging at the same time; nevertheless I’m fairly comfortable with much that Pete presents even though I do contest some of his premises.
I would like to emphasize that Chapter 4 alone is worth the price of the book because Pete appears to corroborate what many of us have been declaring about Genesis and Pauline theology for a while. Here are some snippets giving a sneak preview of Chapter 4.
Adam and Israel
“Another place to see the intersection of primordial time and present time in Israel is the Adam story. Genesis 1–11 as a whole certainly has in view a universal setting. Using ancient categories, Genesis 1 describes how the earth and cosmos came to be. Likewise, the flood story speaks of all life on earth being swept away by the chaotic waters (Gen. 6:7), and the table of nations in chapter 10 recounts how the earth became repopulated.
The Adam story seems to fit into this universal focus, but not entirely so. Some elements of the story suggest that it is not about universal human origins but Israel’s origin. This line of interpretation has pre-Christian roots. For example, the book of Jubilees (second century BC) presents Adam as a patriarch of the Israelites (3:27–32). Similarly, the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus (Sirach/Ben Sira, second century BC) presents Adam as an Israelite ancestor (49:16).
I am not suggesting that the Adam story can only be read as a story of Israel’s origins. It is, however, a compelling way to read it, for it makes sense out of some well-known interpretive difficulties while also helping along the evolution discussion. If the Adam story is not really a story of the beginning of humanity but of one segment of humanity, at least some of the tensions between Genesis and evolution are lessened—although we would still need to address the issue of Paul’s reading of the Adam story, which we will get to in chapter 7.”
Enns, Peter (2012-01-01). Evolution of Adam, The (Kindle Locations 1695-1706). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition. Paperback edition Chapter 4 page 65-66
“Reading Adam as a story of proto-Israel is compelling and worthy of careful attention. It also complements yet another approach to the Adam story we will look at in chapter 5: reading the Adam story as a narrative version of Israel’s quest for wisdom in Proverbs. Both of these complementing perspectives support the general point I am making here: Adam is not a story of the origin of humanity in general but of Israel in particular. When seen from this perspective, efforts to reconcile Adam and evolution become unnecessary—at least from the point of view of Genesis. Paul’s use of the Adam story, as I have been saying, is another matter.”
Enns, Peter (2012-01-01). Evolution of Adam, The (Kindle Locations 1803-1808). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition. Paperback edition chapter 4 page 70
Next I want to highlight how Pete interfaces in a limited manner with Revelation.
The Gospel and Primordial Time
“ By employing some of the images we have been looking at, the New Testament describes the final intersection of primordial time and history. For example, we see this in how the Christian Bible ends. The book of Revelation is a highly symbolic, apocalyptic book—not in the Hollywood sense of the word but in the ancient sense: God’s reign is about to break into this world and set it right. It does not mean that the world is coming to an end in some catastrophe, with a disembodied heavenly existence waiting on the other side. Rather, the reign of God brings renewal (Rev. 21:5).
Hence, in Revelation 21–22, a new heaven and earth are revealed, a new act of creation that supersedes the heaven and earth of Genesis 1:1. The Christian Bible ends where it begins; thus it is no surprise to see the re-creation of the cosmos described in ways that recall primordial time. In this new creation, “the sea was no more” (21:1), no chaos to tame. Israel’s Sabbath celebration of the victory of God over chaos is an anticipation of the eventual complete submission of chaos under God’s power. The Israelites captured this belief in the bronze sea in the temple. Revelation claims that the defeat of the sea was accomplished through the victory of the Lamb of God over death—the resurrection is the final defeat of chaos. The enemy is vanquished, and so there is no longer any need for the temple symbolism (21:22). Likewise, part of this new creation is a new Jerusalem, which symbolizes God’s immediacy with this creation—the final intersection of the divine plane and the human plane. God’s dwelling place is now among the people (21:2–3). God’s presence means the ways of the old creation are passing away, including even death and pain (v. 4).”
Enns, Peter (2012-01-01). Evolution of Adam, The (Kindle Locations 1882-1895). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.
This book is only 150 pages and is an easy read with challenging thoughts. I hope to add some post that explores some of Pete’s ideas. I’m going to be challenging a few notions here and there and will insert how I differ with Pete on Paul’s concepts of Genesis and Adam. Pete presents the idea that the proper reading of Genesis or the intent of the author was more literal due to ancient worldview (ANE) concepts. I believe this idea is somewhat an inconsistent approach about the construction and understanding of Genesis. My position is based upon the recognition that Ezekiel and Revelation which differ by 500 years both took liberties with Genesis from a literal standpoint. (This is especially revealing for Ezekiel which very likely was possibly somewhat contemporary with Genesis construction.)
Both books apply Genesis imagery in similar manner that many of second Temple Judaism pieces of literature do as well, so Genesis IMO falls right in line with the 2T literature’s manner of presenting the Adam/Garden themes and can’t be separated from them as cleanly as people might like to. Ezekiel definitely appropriates Garden imagery in several places such as the Nations as Garden Trees and the Single Temple River and animal motifs in Chapter 47 to name a few. Revelation 12 also picks up straight from Genesis 3 concerning the Woman and the Serpent’s ongoing struggles against each other. Rev 21’s de-creation of the Sea, Sun and Moon motifs take us back to Gen 1’s cosmic Temple Creation account to illustrate the passing of the First cosmic Heavens and Earth of Rev 21:1-3.
One can also begin to conceptualize that the “woman” motif was not a singular but corporately driven idea. The “woman” continues the “theme as Eve the mother of all the Living” embodying the Church as the end recipient of that Genesis proposition. Pete though appears to lean toward Eve the mother of all the living is postulating a biological implication but Revelation and it’s doubtful that Paul hardly viewed Eve the “woman” in that manner. If Genesis actually falls into the same consistent Genre field of Ezekiel, Daniel, Revelation and many 2T pieces then it was constructed with the imagery motif as the backbone of its intent and Paul naturally reflected and reoriented these ideas into his writings since he was an educated product of that Hebrew mindset. This would render the proposition of ANE background as a less significant issue than Pete is attempting to make the case for. It doesn’t eliminate it but it moves it a little further back in the pecking order for properly understanding the original intent and context of Genesis and how and why Jews interpreted it the way they did.
I highly recommend that you purchase the book whether as the paperback or digital version and join into a highly relevant and contemporary discussion here. It will not take you long to read the piece, especially for those speed readers out there.
Here are the details below:
The Evolution of Adam: What The Bible does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins By Pete Enns
Details: about 150 pages, $12.10 for paperback and $9.99 for Kindle version.
Pete’s Blog site Here
Amazon site Here
Part One: Genesis: An Ancient Story of Israelite Self-Definition
The Problem of the Pentateuch . Two Early Examples. God Has Two names. Wellhausen and a Postexilic Pentateuch. The Old Testament, the Exile, and Israel’s Self-Definition. The Creation Story and the Church’s Self-Definition
Genre Calibrations. Genesis1 and Enuma Elish. Genesis 1 and Monolatry. The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Atrahasis. Israel’s Second Creation Story. Adam and Atrahasis. Reorienting Expectations of Genesis and Human Origins.
Israel and the Cosmic Battle. Adam and Israel. Creation and Sanctuary. The Gospel and Primordial Time
Part Two: Understanding Paul’s Adam
Doesn’t Paul Settle the Matter. Not Paul’s Adam. Adam and Wisdom
Paul as an Ancient Man. Interpreting the Bible after the Exile. Various Adams of Jewish Interpreters. Paul and His Bible. Paul and His Interpreted Bible
Paul’s Adam: The Historical First Man, Responsible for Universal Sin and Death. Sin and Death without Adam. The One People of God. The solution Reveals the Plight
Conclusion ADAM TODAY: NINE THESES
How are Christians—those who value Scripture as God’s Word and who also accept evolution as the correct model for human origins—to think of Adam today? That is the question we began with at the beginning of the book, and the question for everyone to work through on their own. I hope the thoughts I have outlined thus far may be of some help. Toward that end, I think it is appropriate to conclude this book by outlining in nine theses the core issues before us, retracing some of the steps we have taken throughout this book while also adding a point or two.
Thesis 1: Literalism is not an option.
Thesis 2: Scientific and biblical models of human origins are, strictly speaking, incompatible because they speak a different “language.” They cannot be reconciled, and there is no “Adam” to be found in an evolutionary scheme.
Thesis 3: The Adam story in Genesis reflects its ancient Near Eastern setting and should be read that way.
Thesis 4: There are two creation stories in Genesis; the Adam story is probably the older and was subsumed under Genesis 1 after the exile in order to tell Israel’s story.
Thesis 5: The Israel-centered focus of the Adam story can also be seen in its similarity to Proverbs: the story of Adam is about failure to fear God and attain wise maturity.
Thesis 6: God’s solution through the resurrection of Christ reveals the deep, foundational plight of the human condition, and Paul expresses that fact in the biblical idiom available to him.
Thesis 7: A proper view of inspiration will embrace the fact that God speaks by means of the cultural idiom of the authors—whether it be the author of Genesis in describing origins or how Paul would later come to understand Genesis. Both reflect the setting and limitations of the cultural moment.
Thesis 8: The root of the conflict for many Christians is not scientific or even theological, but group identity and fear of losing what it offers.
Thesis 9: A true rapprochement between evolution and Christianity requires a synthesis, not simply adding evolution to existing theological formulations.
Enns, Peter (2012-01-01). Evolution of Adam, The (Kindle Location 3325). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.