In my last post (part 13) I relayed Collins’ argument regarding the appearance of Adam and Eve in Second Temple Jewish Literature. In this post I will share his thoughts on Adam and Eve in the Gospels.
Collins does not give much attention to Adam and Eve in the Gospels. He cites Matthew 19.3-9 and Mark 10.2-9 (passages that made it into my post yesterday titled What did Jesus know and how did he know it?) noting that Jesus “ties together Genesis 1:27 (cited in verse 4) and Genesis 2:24 (cited in verse 5)—which indicates, by the way, that he read Genesis 1 and 2 as complementary texts (p. 76).” Of course, Jesus is using the Genesis narrative to establish his teachings on marriage and divorce in light of the contemporary debate among his fellow Jews. Jesus ground his response “in the beginning” indicating that he understood the Genesis narrative to be literally true (or so it seems).
Another statement that I mentioned in my post yesterday is noted by Collins: Jesus seems to assume the historicity of Abel (from Genesis 4.8), the son of Adam, in Matthew 23.35 and Luke 11.51 (pp. 76-77).
In John 8.44 Jesus does not mention Adam, but he does say that his opponents of of their “father the devil” who was a “murder from the beginning” and “a liar and the father of lies.” This seems to equate Satan with the serpent in Eden (p. 77).
Collins’ concluding remarks:
“Hence it is fair to say that the Gospel writers portray Jesus as someone who believed both that Adam and Eve were actual people, and that their disobedience changed things for us their descendants (p. 78).”
I found this lack of coverage somewhat unfortunate. Collins assumes that the “face value” of the text is so obvious that all that he needs to do is mention it to suffice as an argument. I have mentioned yesterday’s post twice now and I think it is sufficient to say that the discussion can become far more complex.
For instance, one could attribute these sayings to the Evangelists arguing that Jesus himself did not say them. I see no reason to assume this, but it could be proposed. Or it could be argued as some have with Paul that the theological point remains even if the “scientific” or “historical” assumptions are incorrect. Or someone could say as Kenton Sparks has said that the incarnation allows Jesus to have “got it wrong.” Maybe Collins finds these arguments too extreme or absurd to address them, but then why write this book? Or maybe he has never heard them, but that seems unlikely.
In the next post I will introduce readers to Collins thoughts on Adam and Eve in the Pauline Epistles and the rest of the New Testament. Then I will return to Peter Enns’ book asking how he interprets the Old and New Testament mentions of Adam and Eve.