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Did Paul Believe in a Historical Adam?

Not According to Joel Hoffman—because history (in the modern, post-Enlightenment sense) hadn’t been invented yet:

I think that the whole notion of “historical” is a modern one, created by modern science, and that it’s this entirely modern approach that pits history against myth. Paul didn’t believe in an historical Adam or a non-historical Adam. He just believed in Adam. It’s only as modern readers that we divide things — for ourselves — into historical and non-historical.

Even ancient historians like Herodotus (5th century BC) and Josephus (1st century AD) freely mixed what we would now call history with literature. As part of their histories, they included verbatim conversations that they had no way of knowing. Similarly, they mixed history with myth, as when Herodotus writes about the phoenix in the same terms as the crocodile or when Josephus, whose life overlapped with Paul’s, describes a cow that gave birth to a lamb during his own lifetime.

So while I understand the modern inclination to ask whether or not the Adam that Paul believed in was historical, I think it’s an anachronistic question. And more than any answer to it, it’s the question itself that parts with Scripture.

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3 Comments

  1. […] Here is more the sort of thing you actually hear in churches. […]

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  2. […] Here is more the sort of thing you actually hear in churches. […]

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  3. Ali says:

    Well, it wasn’t too long before history did exist, if Augustine is anything to go by. While we might not agree with every conclusion he came to, he definitely made a distinction between myth and history in the City of God.

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