Continuing from my post Divine human-like figures in Hellenistic Judaism . . . .
During the period that saw the early evolution of Christianity (or Christianities — a range of beliefs that eventually coalesced into what we would recognize as Christianity today) there was a rich diversity of Jewish sectarian beliefs. Most of these vanished as rabbinic Judaism extended its influence throughout the first few centuries of the Christian era. But some of these early Jewish beliefs offer tantalizing clues to the matrix of Christianity in its formative years. Alan F. Segal notes that
Adam traditions are especially important in this regard. . . . Philo identifies the heavenly man with the logos, which is identified with God’s archangel and principal helper in creation. There is an extraordinary amount of Adam speculation in apocalyptic and pseudepigraphical writings, often including descriptions of Adam’s heavenly enthronement and glorification. The traditions can be dated to the first century, if an early dating of enthronement of Adam in the Testament of Abraham ch. 11 can be maintained. Adam legends are certainly well ramified later in Jewish, Christian, gnostic, Mandaean and other documents, and even appear at several important junctures in the ascent texts of the magical papyri. . . . (p. 189 of Two Powers in Heaven)
Philo justified his view that there were two Adams in the Garden of Eden by interpreting Genesis 1:26 to refer to two separate creations:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;
The first Adam was the logos, and he was made in the “image” of God. He was the (Platonic) Ideal Man. The second was the earthly Adam whose destiny was to become “like” God. (See Allegorical Interpretation 1)
What of chapter 11 in the Testament of Abraham to which Segal refers? This passage demonstrates a “mythical” view of Adam, even of the physical Adam originally created from the dust, amongst some Jews.
So Michael turned the chariot and brought Abraham to the east, to the first gate of heaven; and Abraham saw two ways, the one narrow and contracted, the other broad and spacious, and there he saw two gates, the one broad on the broad way, and the other narrow on the narrow way.
And outside the two gates there he saw a man sitting upon a gilded throne, and the appearance of that man was terrible, as of the Lord.
And they saw many souls driven by angels and led in through the broad gate, and other souls, few in number, that were taken by the angels through the narrow gate. And when the wonderful one who sat upon the golden throne saw few entering through the narrow gate, and many entering through the broad one, straightway that wonderful one tore the hairs of his head and the sides of his beard, and threw himself on the ground from his throne, weeping and lamenting.
But when he saw many souls entering through the narrow gate, then he arose from the ground and sat upon his throne in great joy, rejoicing and exulting.
And Abraham asked the chief-captain, My lord chief-captain, who is this most marvelous man, adorned with such glory, and sometimes he weeps and laments, and sometimes he rejoices and exults?
The incorporeal one said: This is the first-created Adam who is in such glory, and he looks upon the world because all are born from him, and when he sees many souls going through the narrow gate, then he arises and sits upon his throne rejoicing and exulting in joy, because this narrow gate is that of the just, that leads to life, and they that enter through it go into Paradise. For this, then, the first-created Adam rejoices, because he sees the souls being saved. But when he sees many souls entering through the broad gate, then he pulls out the hairs of his head, and casts himself on the ground weeping and lamenting bitterly, for the broad gate is that of sinners, which leads to destruction and eternal punishment.
And for this the first-formed Adam falls from his throne weeping and lamenting for the destruction of sinners, for they are many that are lost, and they are few that are saved, for in seven thousand there is scarcely found one soul saved, being righteous and undefiled.
So we have in some quarters among the diversity of Jewish thought in the first century the idea of the Logos (the Word) being linked with Adam. Philo does not use the term “Christ” or “Messiah,” but he does use messianic terminology when he talks about the Logos. The first clear identification of the Logos and the Messiah/Christ is in the Gospel of John.
But arguably contemporary with Philo, Paul establishes a link between Adam and Christ. In Romans 5 Adam is set in opposition to Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul speaks of Christ, the heavenly Adam, being the remedy for Adam’s fall.
Segal says little more about the details of the different beliefs about Adam and Adam typology at this period. He does discuss later rabbinic speculations about Adam, including the mythical concepts of his being of gigantic size when originally created, and being at first androgynous. How far back these speculations went we cannot be certain.
But when we read Paul’s discussion of Christ as a second or last Adam against the background of Philo (as well as the Testament of Abraham’s 11th chapter), it is easy to understand this Christ of Paul being a heavenly being from the beginning, without at any time having crossed over to become one with the first Adam. For Paul, Christ appears to be as much a spiritual, “Ideal” or heavenly Adam/Man as Philo’s Logos.
The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven. As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one. (I Corinthians 15:47-49)
If this is Paul’s understanding of the “two Adams”, that they are necessarily two distinct beings, one physical and the other spiritual, then on what basis can we go on to argue that Paul’s heavenly Adam was ever at any time a literally physical Adam? Do we rely entirely on that little “kata sarka” (according to the flesh) phrase for such a rationale? Is there more?
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