Adam, Jesus, and the Divine Economy (1)

I’m currently writing my Master’s thesis on Cyril of Alexandria’s exegesis of Romans 5:12-21 and his use of the Adam-Christ typology throughout the rest of his writings.  As I’ve studied Cyril, I’ve been struck by how important the parallel between Adam & Jesus is throughout many of his works.  In turn, I’ve been increasingly thinking about the relationship between Adam & Christ and its implications for our theology.

Cyril is of course inspired to utilize this typology by the theological work of the Apostle Paul.  In three texts in the New Testament, Paul places Adam & Jesus in a typological relationship: Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, and 1 Corinthians 15:42-49.  There are two questions that stand out to me regarding this theme in the Pauline literature: 1) To what extent is Paul influenced by this theological connection? and 2) What does Paul wish to achieve by making these parallels?

I’d like to start a series of blog posts in which I explore the answers that various scholars (including Cyril) have given to the above questions.  Along the way I’ll try to tease out some of my own thoughts as well.  We’ll start with the first question:

 To what extent is Paul influenced by his view of the Adam-Christ typology?

Gordon Fee lays out three possible ways of answering this question:*

1)  The “Minimalist” Position

  • Believes that the Adam-Christ typology should only be found in the three texts where Paul explicitly mentions it.

2) The “Maximalist” Position

  • Finds that the Adam-Christ typology is an implicit theme in much of Paul’s thought & can be found underneath the surface of many other texts.

3) The “Middling” Position

  • Acknowledges that the Adam-Christ typology might be in play outside of the three explicit texts, but cautions against attempting to detect it everywhere.

What do you think?  How important was this typology for Paul’s theology?  Is it something that he has deeply considered and that forms a foundation for much of his theology or is it simply something he formulates ad hoc on occasion in his letters?  Is there a middle ground where we might be able to land between these two poles of opinion?

Comment and let me know what you think.  In my next post, I’ll survey some of the interesting thoughts that N.T. Wright has offered on the matter.

* Fee, Gordon D., Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 513. [Available on Amazon.]

2 thoughts on “Adam, Jesus, and the Divine Economy (1)

  1. If my memory serves me right, Fee takes issue with James Dunn’s view of Paul’s Adam Christology in his ‘Pauline Christology’…even going so far as to apologize to Dunn in the introduction (something I have never seen anywhere else).

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  2. The Adam-Christ typology was a favorite topic in the patristic era. Your thesis sounds interesting, Mike. I hope you will be able to publish it here someday. The allegorical exegesis of the Alexandrian school can be quite spiritually enriching. Most of my reading of Cyril, however, has focused on his Christology vis-a-vis Nestorianism. God bless!

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