Morna Hooker’s book FROM ADAM TO CHRIST: ESSAYS ON PAUL is a theological gem, but not easy reading. She pieced together some ideas that seem quite profound to me.
“According to Gen. 3-5 and 22, the eating of the forbidden fruit meant that Adam became as God, knowing good and evil; according to Jewish tradition, however, his action meant that he ceased to be like God; in disobeying God’s command, Adam ceased to be in the likeness of God.” (p 97)
“Adam, created in the form and likeness of God, misunderstood his position, and thought that the divine likeness was something which he needed to grasp; his tragedy was that in seizing it he lost it.” (p 98)
The first Adam, according to St. Paul, is the exact opposite of Christ Jesus, the new Adam, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Hooker goes on to say about Christ:
“At this point the one who is truly what man is meant to be – in the form and likeness of God – becomes what other men are, because they are in Adam… Men have ceased to be what they were meant to be; they have become slaves to sin and death and the Law, as Paul expresses it elsewhere; hence we have the paradox that when the true man becomes what they are, this human likeness is a travesty of what man is meant to be.” (pp 98-99)
“Here is the paradox: it is precisely because he is truly in the form of God (or God’s image) that he is prepared to take on the form of a slave … Christians are called upon to be like Christ in his self-humiliation which involved becoming like men. In becoming what we are, Christ becomes subject to human frustrations and enslavement to hostile powers; but his very action in becoming what we are is a demonstration of what he eternally is – ungrasping, unself-centered, giving glory by all his actions to God.” (p 100)
The Gospel story is thus the revelation of God, of God’s true nature, which even His chosen people misunderstood. Consequently, they didn’t understand their own calling and role in the world – what it means to be God’s people, to be fully human.
Christ in dying on the Cross – a rebellious slave’s punishment – suffers the punishment and death that Adam never experienced. Christ became obedient – a slave/servant! – in order to die this death. God as a human incarnate in Christ is obedient to God’s command! God doesn’t simply command us, He becomes us and obeys the divine intention and will. He shows us what it is to love, to be God, to be human.
Thus becoming dominant over creation (including over death) requires submission to God. Equality with God means becoming God like; God shows Himself to be self-emptying (kenotic), self-sacrificing love. He shows that to be God is to practice self denial (asceticism). Most incomprehensible of all is that this is both what God is, and also what God wills. YHWH, “I am who I am”, means God is what He does and what He does is Who He is. He is love divine – self-emptying and self-sacrificing. Christ is the incarnation of love, of God.
Jesus however is not only God; He is also perfect human. He reveals not only God to us, He shows us what it is to be fully human, to be like God. To be human is to be Christian: Christ like. To be Christ like is to be self denying, self empyting, self sacrificing. To be human is to love as Christ loves. To be like God is to be like Christ, for God is love.