Prior to exploring various Jewish interpretations of Adam, and Paul’s interpretation in that context, Enns summarizes the “interpretive culture” wherein we find Paul. It is a post-exilic culture where Scripture gives Israel her identity. Enns writes that the Jews sought to do this because of the occupation of groups like the Persians, Greeks, and Roman. He says:
“In response to the specific cultural and religious pressures placed upon them by their captors, Judaism began to reflect diligently on what it means to be the people of God in a land not their own—whether in exile in Babylon or in their own homeland under foreign rule. Judaism is the postexilic transformation of Israel’s preexilic faith as it answered one fundamental question of national identity: ‘How can we be connected to our past and be God’s people here and now when things are so different?’ (Kindle Locations 2303-2306).”
In conjunction with the formation of Jewish Scripture was the beginning of the interpretive enterprise. “By the time Jesus came on the scene, Jews had already been steeped in several hundred years of careful reflection on their own now sacred and inscripturated story (Kindle Locations 2314-2316).” They edited their sacred texts, they wrote about their sacred texts, and they studied those texts together.
Enns provides several examples of these kinds of texts:
- The Dead Sea Scrolls
- The Targums
- The Septuagint
- The Pseudepigrapha
- The Apocrypha
- The New Testament
Enns gives his reasoning for studying this literature:
“My purpose in skimming this topic is to show that there was a tremendous literary output by faithful Jews in trying to come to grips with how their Scripture and their own current story intersected. The New Testament was written amid this flurry of interpretive output and so likewise engaged Israel’s Scripture with almost relentless energy (about 365 citations and well over 1,000 allusions). The New Testament message was unique in its world, but the manner in which the New Testament writers handled the Old Testament was not. So once again, just as we calibrate the genre of Genesis by looking to the surrounding religious cultures, we can calibrate the interpretative approach of Paul and any New Testament writer by paying close attention to the interpretive culture surrounding them.
“By the time Jesus came on the scene, Jews had already been steeped in several hundred years of careful reflection on their own now sacred and inscripturated story (Kindle Locations 2314-2351).”
This is where Paul and his world come into the picture. The New Testament was engaging in the same task of self-description and understanding as these other libraries of Jewish literature. The message is different, but the method is similar. Therefore, Jews interpreted Adam in various ways, and Paul interpreted in that context, but as a follower of Christ the uniqueness of his exegesis is not that he transcends his culture, but that he participates in it from a Christocentric perspect.
In the next post we will survey with Enns the various interpretations of Adam in Jewish literature.