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.]

In Christ – 1 & 2 Corinthians and Philemon

Read for fuller explanation of this series of post.

Continuing march through Paul’s use of “in Christ.” I have categorized each usage of the phrase within three lines – the use of the preposition εν*; the main referent or object of the phrase; and its place within Paul’s already/not yet framework. Today’s entry includes 1 & 2 Corinthians and Philemon. (For Romans and Galatians read)

1 Corinthians

  • 1:2 – state, cause: sanctified: already
  • 1:4 – state, cause: grace of God: already
  • 1:30 – state: because God chose: already
  • 3:1 – location**, state: infants: already
  • 4:10 – state: wise: already
  • 4:15 (1) – location**: countless (10,000) guides: already
  • 4:15 (2) – location**: I became your father: already
  • 4:17 – location, state: my ways: already
  • 15:18 – location, state: fallen asleep: already
  • 15:19 – state: hope only in this life: already
  • 15:31 – state, cause: my pride in you: already

2 Corinthians

  • 2:17 – state, cause: speak: already
  • 3:14 – cause, means: it (veil) taken away: already
  • 5:17 – state, cause: new creation: already
  • 5:19 – cause, means: God was reconciling: already
  • 5:21 (in him) – state, cause: become the righteousness of God: already
  • 12:2 – location: a man: already
  • 12:19 – state, cause: speaking: already


  • Philem 8 – location: bold enough: already
  • Philem 20 – state, cause: refresh my heart: already***
  • Philem 23 – location: my fellow prisoner: already

Initial Thoughts:

1. In these three books, “in Christ” is always a present reality. Through five books, the phrase has been united with the ‘not yet’ of Paul’s theology only once. Thus, understanding ‘in Christ’ is not only important for grasping Paul’s theology but also his ethic.

2. In 1 & 2 Corinthians, God’s activity becomes essential for understanding the phrase. There are now three primary cords being tied together in the phrase – God’s activity, Christ as the cause, and our state of being joined with Christ (perhaps in joining God’s activity, but this needs more time before I am willing to draw firm conclusion).

3. For those interested in the partition theories often associated with 1 & 2 Corinthians (see Margaret Mitchell for example), the absence of the phrase in major sections of each letter may be worthy of further consideration.

*There are many ways εν can function (see BDAG and Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar beyond the Basics). I decided to list the two, at most, strongest possibilities as determined by my interpretation of the passage.

**Location simply means Paul may be using phrase to identify a “Christian”

***What Paul is asking for has not actually happened (it is why Paul is writing the letter), but Paul expects it to be present reality. In other words, because Philemon is “in Christ” this should come to pass; it should be real now.