Adam and Eve: A Type of all Humans

As an example of typological thinking,  consider the following verse from the Pentecostarion for Wednesday Vespers of the  7th week after Pascha which is commenting on the event of Christ’s Ascension

Adam leap for joy!  Rejoice with him, O Eve!

Cast down in Paradise of old, you were clothed in garments of corruption.

Receive today the hope of immortality,

For your Creator has taken you back to Himself!

He wondrously leads you to eternal life;

Today he lifts you on high,

Restoring you to communion with the Father.

The typological imagery begins by addressing Adam and Eve, the first humans created by God, who by their sin destroyed the God established order to the universe in which humans were to be the mediator between God and the rest of creation.  The “garments of corruption” refer to the clothes which God gave Adam and Eve after their sin to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:21).    The consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve was that death became part of the human condition (Romans 5:12). 

The above hymn says finally with the Ascension the hope of immortality is given to Eve and Adam, a hope they had lost when they sinned and were told they would die for their disobedience to God.   The hymn implies the undoing of God’s curse on humanity, for the Creator now accepts Adam and Eve – not just those two as individuals, but as a type of all humans.   If we read the hymn literally it implies that Adam and Eve were taken into heaven on Ascension Day, but there is no mention of such a thing in the Scriptures.  But in Christ ascending to heaven, we have the reality that humanity is united to divinity in Christ, and thus our humanity (our human nature, not just the persons Adam and Eve) is restored to communion with the Father.  Typological thinking helps us to understand the cosmic and universal dimensions of salvation.  Sin did not just affect Adam and Eve, it affected all humanity.    The same is true of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection.   All humanity and all humans are touched by the salvation accomplished through Jesus Christ who is both fully man and fully God.  We also learn from this a biblical perspective in which humans share a common human nature and thus all humans are interrelated with each other, and everything that one human does affects all of humanity.  We are not unrelated and separated individuals – we are each part of the human race, and always connected to all other human beings.

Creation “ex nihilo” – Not Interpretation “ex nihilo”

“I beseech you, my child, to look at heaven and earth and see everything in them, and know that God made them out of nothing; so also He made the race of man in this way.” (2 Maccabees 7:28, OSB)

The first literal reference to God creating heaven and earth “out of nothing” (Latinex nihilo) occurs in the book of 2 Maccabees, which was written about 120 BC.   It is a work that was not written in Hebrew, but in Greek, and does not exist in the Jewish scripture today for this very reason.   Genesis 1 simply states that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and says nothing about “ex nihilo.  In Genesis 2, God is clearly the fashioner of that what already exists – like a potter, He gives shape and form to the existing material, and thus bestows meaning upon it, giving it a particular existence rather than leaving it as amorphous substance.   This is certainly how humans were formed in Genesis 2. 

But in the light of 2 Maccabees 7:28 and Hebrews 11:3, Christianity accepted the interpretation of the Genesis 1 creation story to mean that God created the universe “out of nothing.”  As John Chryssavgis points out, this interpretation took a little time to gain credence among the Christians – Tertullian  (2nd Century) for example states that Scripture does not unequivocally declare creation “out of nothing.”   However, by the 4th Century Christian tradition accepts creation “out of nothing” as doctrine.   St. Athanasius argues logically that if God had only shaped the world out of pre-existing matter, then why is He called Creator rather than merely craftsman?  To be consistent with the witness of Scripture, one has to conclude that God made the world “ex nihilo.”  And Christianity proclaims that He did this purely out of love, not for any other purpose.  God wanted to share His life with something else – so He creates “not God.”

It is only in reading Genesis 1 in the light of other Scriptural texts that the question of creation “out of nothing” comes up.  Genesis 1 itself is silent on the issue.  But bringing the issue of creation “out of nothing” to Genesis is clearly interpreting Genesis 1.   The literal reading of the text would not address the issue indisputably, since the text doesn’t use the words “ex nihilo.”   And in fact, if we followed only the Jewish Tanakh (the Jewish Bible, which Christians see as the Old Testament), the question of creation “ex nihilo” would also not be addressed.    Reading the Scriptures to discover the full meaning of the text requires interpretation – it requires keeping the text of the Scriptures in its Tradition which fully illuminates the text and brings forth illumination from the text. 

“So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’  He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus”   (Acts 8:30-35).

See Also My Limits of Biblical Literalism