As I have discussed the “historicity” of Adam and Eve on this blog there have been a few comments asking how a denial of a real, historical Adam impacts not only our Bibliology, but our Christology as well.
Jesus affirmed the historicity of Adam. If we assume that authenticity of these statements (which I have no reason to doubt) then Jesus is reported to have mentioned the first man in Matthew 19.4-6 and Mark 10.6-8 and his son Abel in Matthew 23.35 and Luke 11.51. This causes some problems for Christians who argue that Adam is figurative. It would seem to indicate that Jesus was wrong about something or that Jesus taught something based on a mythopoetic description of human origins that many moderns seem to find misguided and misinformed.
Peter Enns has been reviewing K.L. Sparks’ Sacred Word, Broken Word. Today he mentions an argument that Sparks makes concerning Christology and its analogy to Bibliology. In Enns’ post Jesus Had a Fallen Nature, Just Like the Bible he summarizes Sparks’ views as the following:
“…Sparks asserts that Jesus did not fake being fully human. He really was, and that necessarily means he was limited in his humanity. Part of that limitation, Spraks argues, is that Jesus necessarily participated in our fallen nature, though without sinning. (See Romans 8:3-4, where Paul says that God sent Jesus “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Also, Jesus was made like us in every way, as in Hebrews 2:17 and 4:15.)
“It was necessary for Christ to take on the fallen human condition in order to redeem it. “Fallen creation is redeemed only when God participates in fallen creation” (p. 27).”
Enns says that Sparks compares this to Scripture. Jesus did not sin, but the incarnation demands that he was a real first century Jew with real human limitations. Like Scripture, Jesus may have spoke the truth through his worldview. In other words, for example, when Jesus mentions the first man he may have been wrong about the historicity of Adam but he was right about the need for fidelity in marriage. Simply put, Jesus taught truth through the limitations of his humanity and Scripture does the same.
We know from the Synoptic depiction of Jesus that he “grew” in wisdom (Luke 2.52) and that there were some things he did not know like the time of his coming (Matthew 24.36; Mark 13.32; cf. Acts 1.7). It seems quite orthodox to say that Jesus’ knowledge was limited if we affirm the Kenosis (Phil. 2.5-11). It seems a tad more dangerous to say that what Jesus did claim to know may have been in some sense “wrong.” It is one thing to say that Jesus did not know when he would return, but it is something different to say that he might have been wrong about returning altogether–maybe he made a mistake?
What do you think? Does the incarnation open the door for Jesus to believe things about reality that may not meet the standards of modern knowledge? Is there a difference between Jesus admitting he doesn’t know something and saying he knows something that may be misguided or outdated? To what extent should we understand the Kenosis?