2010-10-30

Two Adams – and never the twain did meet

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by Neil Godfrey

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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20 thoughts on “Two Adams – and never the twain did meet”

  1. For Paul, Christ appears to be as much a spiritual, “Ideal” or heavenly Adam/Man as Philo’s Logos.

    Neil, you’ve read Dillon: could any Platonist have thought that the Heavenly Man — the Ideal Form — could be crucified and killed??? It would be like having a Platonist say that the Ideal Form of a horse could be saddled and ridden around.

    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?

    Paul’s “heavenly Adam” was able to be in the likeness of a man, born of a woman (from Doherty’s TJP), seed of David, in the flesh, etc. Think of the platonic implications of that. GA Wells criticizes Doherty on this point:

    “Doherty interprets these passages from the Platonic premiss that things on Earth have their ‘counterparts’ in the heavens. Thus ‘within the spirit realm’ Christ could be of David’s stock, etc. But, if the ‘spiritual’ reality was believed to correspond in some way to a material equivalent on Earth, then the existence of the latter is conceded. In any case, what was the point of Christ’s assuming human form (Phil.2:6-11) if he did not come to Earth to redeem us?”

    For Doherty, Christ was sent into the world (into a sublunar heaven). Neil, are you saying that Paul thought that Christ was the Platonic Heavenly Man itself? Or was he separate to the Heavenly Man? If the latter, what is Paul referring to in 1 Cor 15:47-49?

    1. GDon
      Interestingly, from the Wells article that you referenced (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/g_a_wells/earliest.html) Wells goes on to say:

      “Perhaps Doherty’s strongest point is Paul’s assertion (1 Cor.2:8) that Jesus was crucified by supernatural forces (the archontes). I take this to mean that they prompted the action of human agents: but I must admit that the text ascribes the deed to the archontes themselves.”

      It is important when considering the ideas of Wells to keep in mind his two Jesus figures.

      “Tuckett does not suggest that the two Jesus portraits refer to different persons, but to my mind it is not feasible to identify them, and the suggestion that there was more than one Jesus figure (real or legendary) underlying earliest Christianity is not altogether outrageous in light of Paul’s own complaint that there are people who “preach another Jesus whom we do not preach” (2 Cor.11:4). By the time we reach Mark’s gospel, the two have been fused into one: the Galilean preacher of Q has been given a salvific death and resurrection, and these have been set not in an unspecified past (as in the Pauline letters) but in a historical context consonant with the date of the Galilean preaching.” (The Jesus Myth (via: amazon.co.uk) G.A.Wells Page 103/104)

      There is no equation in Wells between the two Jesus figures. These figures are the Jesus of Paul and the Galilean preacher. There is no transformation process of the one into the other – no matter being transformed into spirit or spirit being transformed into matter. (Although Wells has used Q as a basis for his Galilean preacher – his position could easily survive the downfall of Q. In other words, Wells views the gospel crucifixion story as being linked to Paul’s spiritual Jesus Christ theology. He finds no way to link the Galilean preaching to Paul. So, even if Q gets sidelined his basic position stands – there are two different Jesus stories – Paul’s Jesus and Galilee Jesus. Two separate Jesus stories that when fused together make up the new creation – the gospel crucified and resurrected Jesus. In other words; the link between the Jesus of Paul and the Galilean preacher of Wells is the gospel Jesus crucified and resurrected story.)

      Perhaps that is where this whole debate re HJ and MJ becomes so confused: The one position, the HJ side, views Paul’s Jesus as a transformation of gospel Jesus into the risen Christ, the spiritual Jesus. A mythicist position is often taken (mistakenly in my opinion) as a transformation from the spiritual Jesus of Paul into the reified, pseudo-historical, gospel Jesus.

      However, if one jettisons the transformation process (the magic wand, abracadabra …….) and works from the idea of the ‘two Adams’, “two distinct beings, one physical and the other spiritual” – and keeps that differentiation in constant focus – then questions re Paul’s Jesus ever being a literal physical Jesus become nonsensical. Two Adams that reflect not a transition from one type of existence to another type of existence. Two Adams that reflect our dualistic human nature. As we bear the image of the one – so we also bear the image of the other. Differentiation not transformation from one Adam to the other Adam.

      Our intellect, our spirituality, can reflect our physical reality – our mind drawing images etc from what we observe in the natural world. Conversely, our mind can generate ideas that we can implement in our physical world. Ideas, like our physical bodies, also die. But, unlike our physical bodies, ideas can be re-born – some element of the old idea being taken up in the new. In this intellectual, spiritual world, ‘crucifixion’ can take place – a ‘crucifixion’ that, unlike an earthly, physical crucifixion, can bring about value; intellectual progress etc.

      Doherty, with his spiritual ‘crucifixion’ has something to offer here – but so has Wells with his insistence upon a flesh and blood element underlying the gospel Jesus storyline. Two Adams – two parts to the NT story. No transformation of matter into spirit or spirit into matter – two separate but interconnected ‘Adams’. Paul’s Jesus a symbol of our intellectual, or spiritual world. The Galilean Jesus a symbol of our physical reality.

      (OK GDon – Doherty needs to drop his developments re Middle Platonism and a fleshly sub-lunar realm – all that’s really needed is to postulate a spiritual/intellectual world that is a reflection, in some manner, of our material world.)

      1. The passage I was referring to does not address the crucifixion. I was attempting to clarify in my own mind the question that the passage does address. Crucifixions are another topic. I’m just thinking through the concepts of the Adams that are addressed here. I think it’s a worthwhile task to establish that quite apart from any other passages. Not that the others aren’t important, or that they won’t at some point cast their shadow over this one. But I don’t like starting by attempting to assemble jig-saws. That way is fraught with so many problems. First study each piece and see what belongs to the puzzle in the first place — we don’t even know what the puzzle is, yet. (Unless we have doctrinal interests, perhaps.)

      2. OK GDon – Doherty needs to drop his developments re Middle Platonism and a fleshly sub-lunar realm – all that’s really needed is to postulate a spiritual/intellectual world that is a reflection, in some manner, of our material world.

        I agree that Doherty’s use of “Platonism” in his books are confusing. Paul shows very little indication of using Middle Platonist beliefs, and Doherty very rarely actually offers any examples of MP beliefs among his “mythicist” Christians. Yet people come away from Doherty’s books as though Middle Platonism plays an important part in Doherty’s theory. As Neil Godfrey at one time wrote: “When Doherty references the middle-platonic views of Paul’s day, historists seem to just walk away or deny it without any argument at all”.

        Any investigation of Doherty’s theories needs to start with determining which parts of the theories are consistent with ancient thinking, and which are not. But those people without the background knowledge who read his books simply won’t be able to get a sense of what is consistent with ancient thinking and what is not. So big kudos to Neil here, since he is doing the investigation that others don’t.

      3. Hi Mary — my original comment was addressing more than just your own post.

        More specifically on what you wrote — the idea of transformation is normally from humans to angels. And as far as I know the process is irreversible. But some did believe fallen or bad angels could become flesh in order to be given a second chance. (Posted something closely related to that recently in my Israel/angel of God post.) But I don’t know if there is any evidence of that concept before the second century.

        As for Doherty’s view, I think some of the best evidence for his “heavenly sacrifice” might be in the original/authentic passage in Ascension of Isaiah that is dated earlier than the final Christian-redacted document we read.

        If there was a heavenly sacrifice, the evidence for it seems to be restricted to the canonical epistles.

        But if we are going to posit not a birth of Christianity but a gradual emergence of a number of Christian-like sects with varying focuses on the Logos or Jesus or Word or other, then I don’t see any need to confine “the origin” to simply the view we appear to see in some of the canonical epistles. Did every form of proto-Christianity even have a crucified Christ?

        1. Of course it’s quite possible that ancient people might have had ideas related to re-birth, resurrection or some type of transformation into a spiritual body after physical death. The ninety nine dollar question though is – what did Paul believe?. Was Paul in the morphing business? Or is Paul striving to maintain a differentiation between the two Adams – a differentiation between the flesh and blood Adam and the spiritual Adam?

          Not one Adam that morphs into a new Adam – but two very different Adams. Two very different Adams that reside within our dualistic human nature. Not out there in some ‘literal’ spiritual sphere – but in here, within our own humanity. If so, then Paul has two strings to his bow – not the single string that magically transforms, morphs into whatever. Paul is thus able to give short shift to Middle Platonism with its migrating souls from the spirit realm to the fleshly earthly realm. (or some such nonsense….) Two stings to his bow – two strings that enable Paul to play off both strings simultaneously or separately – as his arguments required…

          Sure, Paul is hampered by the intellectual world in which he lived (whoever he was….) However, rather than assuming that Paul is thinking within the intellectual ‘box’ of his time, it could well be that he was striving to break out of that box, albeit without the language necessary to articulate precisely what he was wanting to convey. But to assume that he was into the morphing business is surely to undermine him. Whatever else may be said about Paul – he was his own man and did not follow the crowd. It’s fine, of course, to keep in mind what the general intellectual framework was at the time Paul was considered to have been writing – but to lump him in with the status quo is a rather lazy way to deal with Paul.

          Neil, as far as Doherty is concerned – I’m in full agreement re his heavenly/spiritual crucifixion insight – I’m just sorry that he has burdened this insight with his developments re a fleshly sub-lunar sphere above the earth. To my mind, 21 century and all that implies – there is no out there – it’s all in here, within our intellectual/spiritual capacity.

          Re early Christianity – or perhaps better, pre-Paul Christianity (if such a thing is not a contradiction…) yes, a non-crucifixion grouping is most likely. (Wells and his insight re a Galilean preacher that was not crucified….).

    2. You’re jumping way ahead of me, GDon. I’m only looking at that one question I addressed. Those other points you bring in also bring with them a host of related issues. My point was to think through what makes sense of this passage as it is in the wider context of ancient thought. (I don’t read Doherty as saying that Paul was a “Middle Platonist” by the way, but Doherty’s discussion is another matter yet again, and he has made his own case.) If I was “saying” something one way or another I would make a case of it. But I like to explore the points one by one at the moment.

      1. Neil, I don’t think I’m trying to get ahead of you. I think this statement is simply wrong:

        For Paul, Christ appears to be as much a spiritual, “Ideal” or heavenly Adam/Man as Philo’s Logos.

        A crucified, dead, buried and resurrected Christ is quite at odds to Philo’s “Ideal form” heavenly Man nor Logos in any way, shape or form. Thus there is more to the difference than just “kata sarka”.

        So, what do you mean when you write that “For Paul, Christ appears to be as much a spiritual, “Ideal” or heavenly Adam/Man as Philo’s Logos”?

        1. My point is to attempt to understand the Corinthians discussion about the two Adams. Is not this a valid exercise quite apart from passages elsewhere that speak of crucifixion etc.?

          Your argument about the nature of the 2 Adams is decided by your views of what is involved with passages re crucifixion, etc. That is one approach. I don’t think it is the only way to try to understand what Paul’s concepts are re the 2 Adams here.

          We do know that sacrifices and transformations did happen in “heavenly realms” as well as in earthly ones. That is a separate question.

          What does the logic of the Corinthians passage inform us about Paul’s concept of the 2 Adams?

          1. My point is to attempt to understand the Corinthians discussion about the two Adams. Is not this a valid exercise quite apart from passages elsewhere that speak of crucifixion etc.?

            Yes, of course. But then why bring in “kata sarka”? You are comparing the heavenly man of Philo’s with the heavenly man of Paul’s and asking if we rely entirely on “kata sarka” for how we view Paul’s Jesus. I say that crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection also need to be taken into consideration, and those concepts (as well as “sarx”) are chalk-and-cheese to Philo’s Middle Platonist views on his heavenly man.

            Philo’s heavenly man is pure Mind, stamped with the image of God, and has no participation in any corruptible or earthlike essence. His earthly man is the mind which is to be infused into the body. The heavenly man has nothing to do with flesh, crucifixion, etc, as you would expect from a Middle Platonist.

            Paul’s earthly man is the first Adam, whom brought death. His heavenly man is Christ, whom brings life. But we know that Paul’s heavenly man had “flesh”, was crucified, etc. Remember what you wrote: “For Paul, Christ appears to be as much a spiritual, “Ideal” or heavenly Adam/Man as Philo’s Logos.” My point is that is simply not correct. It has nothing to do with MJ or HJ.

            Your argument about the nature of the 2 Adams is decided by your views of what is involved with passages re crucifixion, etc. That is one approach. I don’t think it is the only way to try to understand what Paul’s concepts are re the 2 Adams here.

            Actually, my argument is based on the beliefs of that time. Philo’s “two Adams” are platonic complements. Paul’s “two Adams” are antithetical.

            What does the logic of the Corinthians passage inform us about Paul’s concept of the 2 Adams?

            That he regarded them as contrasts. Adam’s disobedience at the start brought in death, which reigned from Adam to Moses. Christ’s obedience at the end leads to life:

            Rom 5:
            12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…
            14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come…
            19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

            1 Cr 15:
            21 For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead.
            22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
            23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

            1Cr 15:
            45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit.
            46 Howbeit that [was] not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
            47 The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven.
            48 As [is] the earthy, such [are] they also that are earthy: and as [is] the heavenly, such [are] they also that are heavenly.
            49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

            Paul’s belief that the natural is first and then the spiritual is quite different from Middle Platonic beliefs. My point here is that Philo’s heavenly man/two Adams doesn’t help to decipher Paul’s heavenly man/two Adams. Paul has something else in mind. Whether that supports MJ or HJ is not relevant to my point.

            1. My reference to kata sarka was to suggest that our interpretation of this Corinthians passage has been conditioned by our interpretations of other passages in other letters, in the same way that the gospel narratives have so easily tended to influence our interpretations of the epistles more generally.

              I am not comfortable with assuming that the bulk (let’s say as much as 90%) of the Pauline epistles in our canon is all original or authentic Paul. Hence my emphasis on seeing what can be made of passages like this apart from any other canonical context.

              I grant you Philo did not have any concept of a crucified christ, and Paul’s thought is not to be equated with Philo’s. But there are certain concepts in common across Philo and some other NT literature (e.g. Hebrews) and Jewish intertestamental/sectarian literature. Within the broader view of thought structures (not restricted to just Philo or just the NT canon), what is the best way to understand Paul’s concept of the 2 Adams in 1 Cor 15?

              Does not 1 Cor 15 infer 2 distinct beings from alpha to omega, one physical, the other spiritual?

              1. Within the broader view of thought structures (not restricted to just Philo or just the NT canon), what is the best way to understand Paul’s concept of the 2 Adams in 1 Cor 15?

                One is a man whom through disobedience brought death. The other is a man whom through obedience, including crucifixion and death, brings life. For Paul, the key is the significance of the resurrection:

                [Christ Jesus. . .] who came from the seed of David according to the flesh, who was appointed Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:3-4)

                Jesus’ resurrection is the “firstfruits” of the general resurrection, which indicates a new creation of heaven and earth is just around the corner. Adam was made “Son of God” from the earth. We inherit death from Adam, with death reigning from Adam to Moses until the law came. Christ came in the fullness of time and was appointed “Son of God” by the spirit of holiness. We are adopted into life via Christ. (Again, none of this really impacts on the MJ vs HJ question)

                Does not 1 Cor 15 infer 2 distinct beings from alpha to omega, one physical, the other spiritual?

                1 Cor 15 contrasts Adam with Christ: disobedience obedience; death life; living according to the flesh living according to the spirit. So I suppose if Paul thought that flesh, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection are consistent with a “spiritual” being, then yes. At the least, it isn’t something that Paul is getting from middle platonism.

              2. “Jesus’ resurrection is the “firstfruits” of the general resurrection, which indicates a new creation of heaven and earth is just around the corner. Adam was made “Son of God” from the earth. We inherit death from Adam, with death reigning from Adam to Moses until the law came. Christ came in the fullness of time and was appointed “Son of God” by the spirit of holiness. We are adopted into life via Christ. (Again, none of this really impacts on the MJ vs HJ question)”

                JW:
                Oh sure it does GD. It gets directly to the issue of Paul’s CREDIBILITY. He’s being dishonest here about what the Jewish Bible says. If he is not credible about what the Jewish Bible says that is evidence that he is not credible about what HJ witness said. Combine that with he does not say hardly anything that HJ witness said and even has a policy against using historical witness. Combine that with Paul is the first potential witness to us for HJ. Combine that with known Pauline forgery by the orthodox to provide evidence of HJ.

                Joseph

              3. Known orthodox forgery to provide evidence of HJ? You will have to explain. Who knows this? As far his “dishonesty” in using the Jewish Bible, these sorts of odd interpretations were rampant at the the time, and I’m not sure how much credibility they undermine. God I wish my historical interest was in the history of apple farming or something no one cared about.

  2. In an effort to “explore the points one by one at the moment”, I’ll only respond to your direct questions at the end of the post.

    Neil:

    “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?

    pearl: Based on your analysis considering “the wider context of ancient thought,” I don’t see groundwork presented for an argument that “Paul’s heavenly Adam was ever at any time a literally physical Adam.”

    Neil:

    Do we rely entirely on that little “kata sarka” (according to the flesh) phrase for such a rationale? Is there more?

    pearl: Before even considering “more”, I’m not sure we can rely even on that little “kata sarka” (according to the flesh) phrase “, if you are referring to Romans 1:3.

    Neil, you brought up a good point about “context”. We should consider that “his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh” occurs at the beginning of the letter to the Romans, in Paul’s salutation. Paul is addressing “all God’s beloved in Rome.” That could imply different levels of understanding in the audience as to the nature of Christ. Or Paul could simply be recounting the historical development of understanding.

    Without getting into complicated exegesis of “descended from David according to the flesh”, if we even take it to be authentic to “Paul” and literally to mean the Son was physical, there is still reason to believe that Paul did not necessarily believe that himself, even as he recognized his own dual human nature. Paul could simply be acknowledging that this belief through the prophets in the holy scriptures existed among his kindred, “the gospel concerning his Son.” The “Son of God with power according to the spirit” is the theme he expounds upon, rather than a fleshly Jesus.

    Indeed, tailoring his message to the audience’s understanding could be expected from Paul. In 1 Cor 3, he says, “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.”

    Later fleshly references to Christ in Romans do not necessarily imply Paul’s belief in a literal, physical Christ. In Romans 8, Paul refers to the Son being sent in the likeness of sinful flesh. The Son is not physical; he just appears to be so (regardless of literal or metaphorical meaning).

    And in Chapter 9, it becomes clear that he suffers anguish on behalf of his kindred according to the flesh, the Israelites who believe in a Messiah who comes,… from them, according to the flesh.

    1. The Gospel of Mark appears to have Jesus both accepting and denying his status as a Son of David. This suggests to me that he speaks of this status as having a hidden meaning — a spiritual one behind the physical, as is the theme of many of the “hidden sayings” in Mark. (Also keeping in mind the parabolic nature of the whole of Mark’s narrative.)

      Now on the one hand I’m arguing that we cannot interpret Paul’s letters via the gospels, so I am not using this as an argument for what Paul is saying. The best it can posit is that it is an indicator that with respect to that Son of David passage we have ambiguity even in the gospels themselves.

      Another bedevilling thing with trying to understand Paul is that there are so many reasons to suspect the authenticity of so many chunks of what we have in the canon.

      And the suffering concept is not an easy one, either. It’s probably not from Paul, but Colossians speaks of Paul perfecting or completing the sufferings of Christ in his flesh. Why did he have to do that? What does it mean?

      1. There a couple of ways to look at Mark’s use of the “son of David” term. He may not think Jesus is a descendant of David at all. The demons don’t call him son of David. Blind “son of Timaeus” does, but is he placed as an accurate witness or just as someone who makes statements regarding Jesus? I don’t see Mark using this as a throw away compliment though. Jesus flees from the association of being Messiah and King, but the reader knows it is because he his not a messiah/king of this world.
        Mark has Jesus referred too as the son of 3 different people; Mary, God, and David. Paul, in his intro to the Romans, calls him a descendant of David according to flesh and son of God by the spirit. John seems to deny Davidic decent all together, at John 7:41-42, there is no response to the charge that the Messiah will not come from Galilee. Both Luke and Matthew posit Jesus as the son of God by a miracle, but descended from David by Joseph, the opposite of Paul’s statement.

        My guess is that several ideas were circulating on the Davidic link to Jesus. Paul thinks Jesus is descended from David physically but God spiritually. Luke and Matthew see it the opposite, but have different tradition for exactly how, indicating either that the tradition is late, and thus emerged as different forms or one of them(Luke/Matthew) decided to just change the tradition to suite there own goals. Mark and John may see both son of God and Son of David in a symbolic way (or spiritual for those who like magic language.) I think both works used a common source, and may both reflect the same “sect” of Christianity, one where physical descent from David was not a necessary feature of the Messiah. It is possible that Mark thinks Jesus is a descendant physically of David but doesn’t mention it, but it complicates Jesus statement on how can David can call his descendant his lord.

        Paul seems to give the impression that the early Christians were a disorganized group of freelance enthusiast, so an early diversity of ideas isn’t terribly unlikely. If an idea wasn’t firmly established at base one, then there is a lot of room for individual centers of Christianity to develop their own concepts.

        1. Jesus flees from the association of being Messiah and King, but the reader knows it is because he his not a messiah/king of this world.

          There is a change in this secrecy theme from the moment Jesus comes to Jerusalem. As he approaches he is heralded by a blind “son of honour” as the Son of David, and is not rebuked by Jesus. It is the spiritually blind followers who order this man’s silence this time, not Jesus. Then many hail Jesus as the Messianic Son of David as he enters Jerusalem, and Jesus gives them licence to do this by riding on the donkey or mule like the earlier son of David, King Solomon. Then he says outright at his trial that he is indeed the prophesied Messiah.

          As in popular fiction (epics, drama, novellas) of the day, the secret identity of the hero is gradually unveiled to the other characters in the closing chapters.

          It is usually done in graduating stages, with ironical clues mounting as the climax approaches.

          I’m thinking the Son of David was one of these intermediate clues that was coming very close to revealing the true identity of Jesus. The evidence for this is Jesus pointing to the Psalm that confuses the identity of David’s son. The reader sees that the Davidic sonship is not physical, but spiritual. Just as Jesus was not trying to teach his disciples about how to run a low capital-maintenance food production business or how to control the weather when at sea.

  3. I don’t know if anyone else is knocked off balance by the thread attached to Comment 1, but I have a need to retrace by taking a few baby steps here during review.

    GDon queries: “Neil, are you saying that Paul thought that Christ was the Platonic Heavenly Man itself? Or was he separate to the Heavenly Man? If the latter, what is Paul referring to in 1 Cor 15:47-49?”

    [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)]

    My understanding is that Neil proposes Paul thought Christ was Heavenly Man, (Neil: “In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul speaks of Christ, the heavenly Adam, being the remedy for Adam’s fall.”), and that “for Paul, Christ appears to be as much a spiritual, ‘Ideal’ or heavenly Adam/Man as Philo’s Logos.”

    maryhelena focuses on “the idea of the ‘two Adams’, “two distinct beings, one physical and the other spiritual”.”

    Actually, although there are two Adams, perhaps rather than dualistic, we see something more like tripartite nature within two Adams, initially there being physical body and mind in first Adam “from the earth” and also the spiritual second man “from heaven”. (And per 1 Corinthians 15:47-49, we humans have borne the image of the earthly one and shall also the heavenly one.) I suspect this because Paul frequently differentiates between the three natures. The human mind is not spirit, nor is it physical. For instance, see Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 14:15. Importantly, the mind is able to independently consider the physical or the spiritual. As example, see Romans 8:5 and Colossians 3:2. An additional consideration would be whether “mind” could be equated with “soul” as we read about “spirit, soul, and body” in I Thessalonians 5:23.

    Moving right along, maryhelena states: “Was Paul in the morphing business? Or is Paul striving to maintain a differentiation between the two Adams – a differentiation between the flesh and blood Adam and the spiritual Adam?”

    I see him interested in differentiation between the two Adams, but also in human transformation by renewal of mind (Romans 12:2), through an unveiled face – a theme of blind, but now seeing (2 Corinthians 3:18), from lowly body to be like his (the Lord Jesus Christ’s) glorious body (Philippians 3:21).

    maryhelena further says: “Paul is thus able to give short shift to Middle Platonism with its migrating souls from the spirit realm to the fleshly earthly realm. (or some such nonsense….)”

    Wouldn’t that rather be migrating souls from the earthly realm to the spirit realm? Well, that’s something to think about, that is, what is involved in renewal of mind, and transforming from lowly body to be like a glorious body. But I don’t want to get too far from Neil’s focus in this post.

    Back to GDon, who says:

    “Paul’s earthly man is the first Adam, whom brought death. His heavenly man is Christ, whom brings life. But we know that Paul’s heavenly man had “flesh”, was crucified, etc. Remember what you wrote: “For Paul, Christ appears to be as much a spiritual, “Ideal” or heavenly Adam/Man as Philo’s Logos.” My point is that is simply not correct. It has nothing to do with MJ or HJ.”

    The “flesh” issue is far from resolved. There are matters to consider of authenticity, context, meaning, including whether to be taken literally or metaphorically, not to mention the fact that “likeness” of flesh is something else altogether.

    And from GDon:
    “Paul’s belief that the natural is first and then the spiritual is quite different from Middle Platonic beliefs. My point here is that Philo’s heavenly man/two Adams doesn’t help to decipher Paul’s heavenly man/two Adams. Paul has something else in mind. Whether that supports MJ or HJ is not relevant to my point.”

    There could be a possibility that “Paul” deliberately reversed this order, for whatever reasons, in direct response to Philo’s belief. Also to consider is that, in general, we shouldn’t pigeonhole Philo in Middle Platonism. He was likely not only engaging various Hellenistic beliefs, but also contemporary Jewish ones in his formation of the two Adams.

    Also from GDon:

    Actually, my argument is based on the beliefs of that time. Philo’s “two Adams” are platonic complements. Paul’s “two Adams” are antithetical.

    And if the lower Adam is redeemable, so much more creativity is afforded the theologians who figure out the logistics of making that other Adam adhere to a more complementary theme.

    Anyway, a few nascent thoughts, subject to continuing revision…

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