Adam and Christ in 1 Cor. 15 (in dialogue with Wright’s new book on Paul)

Although N.T. Wright’s new book Paul and the Faithfulness of God was not his first exposition of 1 Cor. 8:4-6 (wherein he argues that Paul changes and splits the Shema by inserting Jesus into it), it is surely his most vigorous attempt. According to Wright (and others like Bauckham and Hays) 1 Cor. 8:6 is best understood as “for us there is One God, the Father…and one Lord (read as YHWH) Jesus Christ.” This amounts to nothing short of bi-theism and arguably 2 Gods. If the Father is YHWH and Jesus is YHWH, then that makes 2 YHWHs. Yet the Shema states that there is only 1 YHWH. Wright not only argues for the above reading of 1 Cor 8:6, but insists that Paul can make such a sweeping statement without any sort of clarification this would require on the part of his audience. 

I am struck at the other christological statements located in 1 Corinthians, all of which argue against Wright’s reading. For example, note carefully what Paul states in 1 Cor. 15:45-46

So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.

One can gather many theological nuggets from this passage, but for our purposes we will focus on two of them. First of all, Jesus is the last Adam. Since ‘Adam’ in Hebrew means “human being,” then Paul is effectively saying that Jesus is a member of the human race. One thing is for certain, no first century Jew would say that YHWH, the Creator God, was a human being. 

Secondly, Paul talks about the chronology of these two ‘Adam’ figures. During this discussion, he states what was very obvious for him (but not so obvious for modern Christians today) that the Adam categorized as sarx was first in time while the second Adam (Jesus), categorized as pneuma, came afterwards. And just to make sure there is no confusion on the matter, Paul states clearly in 15:46 that the second Adam (Jesus) did not come chronologically first, rather the first Adam (from Genesis) came first. 

In short, clearer passages in 1 Corinthians argue that Jesus was a human being who did not preexist prior to the Adam of the Book of Genesis. These truths seem to stare at Wright’s argument concerning 1 Cor 8:6 and beckon for a different approach. 

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