Does a Non-Historical Adam Remove the Need For Jesus?
One of the current conversations even among evangelicals, is the historicity of Adam and Eve.While young earth creations might never question the existence, many theistic evolutions (or evolutionary creationists) would question that Adam was a specific individual in history.
This conversation goes deeper than the means of God’s creation but actually touches on issues of salvation. If there was no Adam, there would be no need for Jesus, since Jesus’ death on the cross reverses the curse that came with the original sin.
Before going any further, I need to say something very clearly. I’m going to write in full caps so no one misses it:
I’M NOT SUGGESTING THAT ADAM WAS NOT HISTORICAL.
My only point in this is to look at how this question relates to what Jesus did and what that means for us. Was the death of Jesus completely tied to the fall of Adam and Eve?
There is no doubt that Paul discusses the parallel between Adam and Jesus, especially in Romans.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:12-17)
I will not argue about Paul’s use of Adam in his understanding of the atonement. But I would like to make two observations.
- The four Gospels describe the death of Jesus and emphasize the importance of that death. yet none of them explicitly connect that death with Adam’s sin. They seemed to think it made sense on their own. If we didn’t have any of Paul’s letters, we would still see the death of Jesus on the cross as an extremely important event.
- I don’t need Romans or Genesis to tell me that the human race is fallen. The sinfulness of humanity is one of the easiest doctrines to prove. Whether it is the constant flow of violent crimes reported by the media or our own knowledge of our deceitful hearts, sin is obvious. If Adam had never been mentioned in Genesis, I would still believe that we are sinful and that we needed something radical to restore to God and to other people.
Was Adam a real historical figure? Christians will debates that for years to come. Does that answer determine whether Jesus’ death on the cross was actually needed? No. Humanity is sinful and Jesus restores us to right relationship with God. That is something that all Christians should agree on, whatever they might think of Adam.