Who was Adam?
There is perhaps no story in the Old Testament better known today in popular culture than that of the Garden of Eden. If you recall, this is the story about the first man, Adam; the first woman, Eve; a scheming snake and a forbidden fruit. The story goes that the snake tempts Eve to eat the fruit and she then tempts her husband to do the same. Ultimately, because Adam gives in and eats the forbidden fruit, God cast him out of paradise and sentences him and his descendants to death.
Now, while we all know this story, many people question its reality or whether it is even true at all. But it’s not just the mere facts that are important here; it’s what Adam represents throughout the Bible that makes his story meaningful to us.
What does the Bible say about Adam?
There are a mere 26 references to Adam, which basically means “ruddy man,” in the Bible (KJV). Now, while Adam may be referred to less than one might expect in the Bible, the few references made tell a story that is more striking than any other story told on Earth. These references can be grouped into 4 themes:
1. The story of the Fall (Genesis 2:19 – 5:5)
This is the largest section of the Bible that refers to Adam and it is where the story of the Garden of Eden is told. The point of this reference to Adam is to show the consequences of disobeying God and trying to live life without Him. It sets the stage for the rest of what occurs in the Bible.
2. Genealogies (Deuteronomy 32:8, 1 Chronicles 1:1, Luke 3:38, Jude 1:14)
Many of the genealogies (or “family trees”) contained in the Bible begin with Adam at the head. Adam is often viewed as the “father of the human race,” the first man created by God, our father, and therefore our link to God.
3. References to the Fall (Job 31:33, Romans 5:14, 1 Timothy 2:13,14)
There are both Old and New Testament references to Adam with a focus on the sin he committed in the Garden by eating the forbidden fruit. Job talks about how he is open about everything he does, unlike Adam. In Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he talks about how we have all inherited Adam’s sinfulness, even though we may not sin like he did. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he also refers to the relationship Adam and Eve had as an example of the roles of men and women in the church.
4. Another name for Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:22,45)
Perhaps the most important reference to Adam in scripture is not in the Old Testament, but the New. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he refers to two “Adams.” The first is the one already described, made from the dust of the ground, who brought sin and death to the world. The second is a completely different type of “Adam,” made of the Spirit of God, who brings holiness and life to the world. We know him as Jesus Christ. He represents the undoing of what his ancestor, the first Adam, did. For this reason, following Jesus is the only way to find everlasting peace with God.
What does Adam mean to you and me?
So what makes Adam’s story meaningful to us? He IS us. Adam represents both our sinful nature, which takes us away from God, but also the means by which God reconciles us to Himself. The first Adam looked forward to the day when his heir would be born into the world and bring all mankind back to paradise with God – back to the Garden of Eden. This will happen when Jesus returns to set up God’s kingdom on Earth; something that we can all look forward to!