Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Adam in Romans by Jonathan Gibson

This paper discusses the degree of Adam’s importance in the argument of Romans. It commences with a presentation of the purpose and argument of the epistle, followed by a brief assessment of allusions to Adam in 1:18-23 and 7:7-12, before focussing in on the connections of 5:21-21 to various parts of the letter. In doing so, the measure of Adam’s importance is explored in six sections of Romans: 1:18-4:25, 5:1-11, 5:12-21, 6:1-8:39, 9:1-11:36 and 12:1-15:13. It is concluded that whilst scholars assert Adam’s importance in the letter, they do not deal explicitly with the degree of his importance, thus highlighting the need for further research in this area. This paper concludes that Adam is of foremost significance in the edifice of Paul’s argument to ensure a correct understanding of the gospel – and also the law – in order to bring unity to the church at Rome.

The seventeenth century Puritan, Thomas Goodwin, said, ‘In God’s sight there are two men – Adam and Jesus Christ – and these two men have all other men hanging at their girdle strings.’ Whilst most commentators assert Adam’s importance in the argument of Romans, this essay will explore the degree of his importance. We concur with Kreitzer that the Apostle Paul assumes Adam’s historicity and therefore this will not be our concern; neither will the issue of original sin. After presenting Paul’s purpose and argument, followed by a brief discussion on the passages concerning allusions to Adam, we will focus in on 5:12-21 and its connections to the argument of Romans. In doing so, the measure of Adam’s importance will be presented, along with some concluding reflections.
Paul’s purpose in writing to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles in Rome is multi-faceted: self-introduction (1:1-6); strengthen the church (1:11; 16:25); explain the gospel, particularly in relation to the role of the law (1:1-5, 15-17; 3:19-20, 31; 5:13-14, 5:20; 7:7-25; 8:2-4); resolve the Jew / Gentile conflict and bring unity (3:22, 29-30; 11:17-24; 12:3-13, 16-18; 15:1-7); ensure support for his Spanish mission (15:23-24).

Paul’s argument in Romans is united by the overriding theme of the gospel, which frames both ends of the letter (1:1, 9, 15; 15: 16, 19; 16:25). At the heart of the epistle is the issue of Jew / Gentile conflict in the church, and in particular the Jewish opponents who accused Paul of proclaiming a fictional gospel of justification that was outside the realm of proof, required no change in one’s life, and provided no security for the future.

Read the full paper by Jonny Gibson at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You may be interested to know that a scholar by the name of Chris Vlachos recently wrote a dissertation on this subject: