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Christ and Adam
Posted By Eric Sammons On October 20, 2009 @ 8:24 am In Jesus Christ,Scripture | Comments Disabled
In today’s first reading, Paul is comparing the effects of Adam’s actions on the human race with the effects of Christ’s actions:
Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.
If by that one person’s transgression the many died,
how much more did the grace of God
and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ
overflow for the many.
For if, by the transgression of the one,
death came to reign through that one,
how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace
and the gift of justification
come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, just as through one transgression
condemnation came upon all,
so, through one righteous act
acquittal and life came to all.
For just as through the disobedience of one man
the many were made sinners,
so, through the obedience of the one
the many will be made righteous.
Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,
so that, as sin reigned in death,
grace also might reign through justification
for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Rom 5:12, 15b, 17-19, 20b-21)
This beautiful passage uses typology to make the work of Christ more clear. Taking their cue from Paul, the Fathers of the Church loved to use typology to deepen their understanding of God’s work of salvation. By comparing (and contrasting) the work of Christ with the work of Adam, we see more clearly the tremendous work of grace which comes about through Christ’s obedience (and also the tremendous impact disobedience has on us). A few years ago I wrote a paper on “Adamic Typology” in the New Testament , which is just a fancy way of saying how the NT writers compared Adam and Christ. Here is an excerpt related to this passage from Romans:
This passage is quite structured, leading the reader to understand both how Adam and Christ correspond, and how they differ. Verses 12 and 18-19 show the correspondence: the actions of “one man” affect the whole of the human race. Adam’s actions introduce the passage in verse 12: “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin.” Then in verse 18-19, Paul makes the comparison explicit: “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Thus, in both the case of Adam and Christ, it is the actions of “one man” (a term used 11 times in this passage) that impact all who follow that man. This is typical of Hebrew thought – “to see the whole contained in the beginning” (Allen 16). A Jewish writing from the late first century/early second century sees the relationship of Adam to all of humanity similarly to Paul; 4 Ezra 7:118 states, “O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendents” (cf. Dunn 89). Paul sees in each man the beginning of a stage of history – Adam as the beginning of human history, and Christ as the beginning of salvation history.
However, there is a divergence between the two, which is characteristic of typology – anti-type and type are not identical, rather one leads to a deeper understanding of the other, not only in how the two compare but also in how they contrast…
Adam’s one act effected all of humanity, as did Christ’s, but Christ’s action was more powerful than Adam’s. By being a gift of God, it overcomes the transgression of Adam and is able to prevail completely over that transgression. Amiot writes, “Paul has reminded us of our solidarity with Adam only in order to emphasize our contrasting solidarity with Christ, which is infinitely more efficacious because it sets in motion an infinitely greater force than that of sin and death.” (Amiot 71). If Paul had not made this explicit, it might be possible for the reader to think that the two actions have equal strength, setting up an unacceptable dualism contrary to Paul’s beliefs.
Thus, the pattern for Paul in this passage is quite clear: Adam’s disobedience leads to sin which results in death; Christ’s obedience leads to grace which results in eternal life. “For St. Paul, the act of the first man…had essentially been one of disobedience, drawing down upon him death, drawing all other men after him into sin and consequently, into death. But this sinister fruitfulness of the first sin in sin and death is surpassed by the fruitfulness in justice and life revealed by the obedience of Jesus.” (Bouyer 65). By invoking Adamic typology, Paul is able to further his overall argument in Romans 1-8 that humanity is lost, but through the actions of Christ, the human race is able to be justified and gain eternal life with God.
One of the best ways to deepen our understanding of the life and work of Jesus Christ is to compare and contrast it with other great Biblical figures, such as Adam, Isaac or David. By engaging in typology, we are able to come into a deeper encounter with our Lord in the pages of Scripture.
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 paper on “Adamic Typology” in the New Testament: http://ericsammons.com/article.html?ArticleID=16
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