Jesus: The Final Adam


Closeup on the hands from "The Creation of Adam," the fresco painting on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling by Michelangelo.

Some mystical traditions tell that in the beginning, Adam, the first man, was given luminous and glorious body.
(Image credit: Bigstock/pkruger)

Beyond the Biblical Accounts

In the Old Testament Book of Genesis, God created Adam and his companion Eve, allowing them to live in the Garden of Eden with only one rule: never eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the midst of the garden. One day, a serpent convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and then Adam followed suit. God found out, reprimanded them, and then banished them from paradise.

In addition to the biblical account, there are also many apocryphal texts which expand on the stories of Adam and Eve and provide alternate descriptions of their lives. In one of these texts, The Apocalypse of Adam, Adam explains to his son, Seth, that he and Eve were more powerful and knowledgeable than the God that had created them. In his wrath, this God, ruler of the aeons and powers, divided them. Once separated, they then lost even more knowledge after their creator exiled them.

The Apocalypse of Adam seems to relate to the Jewish mystical interpretation of the Bible, which refers to Adam as Adam Kadmon. He was the first man that was created, and is therefore the ideal model or archetype for all of mankind. Adam Kadmon is also completely androgynous, containing both the male and female forms.

The Pauline Writings

In the New Testament, St. Paul refers to Jesus as the "Second Adam" or "Last Adam." In Romans 5:12–21 (KJV), Paul says:
For as by one man's (Adam) disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Christ) shall many be made righteous.
Additionally, in 1 Corinthians 15:22 (KJV), Paul again reiterates that:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Finally, in 1 Corinthians 15:45 (KJV), Paul explicitly calls Jesus the "last Adam" by declaring:
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
The basis for Jesus being referred to as another Adam is likely in the fact that Paul seems to view Jesus Christ as a sort of Adamic counterpart; in other words, Adam is that being that brought about sin and death to the world, while Jesus Christ has the opposite task of bringing light to the world, redeeming that Original Sin and bringing life or salvation back to humanity. They are both in the image of the divine, and an argument can be made the prior to Adam's fall, both Jesus Christ and Adam were not only sinless, but absolutely perfect.

A fragmentary text found within the Dead Sea Scrolls, known as Words of the Luminaries, makes a direct reference that not only was Adam created in the image of God, but also in the image of God's glory. Both the Palestinian and Babylonian Targumic traditions tell of Adam and Eve wearing "garments of glory." In the Torah of Rabbi Meir, clothing worn by Adam was described as "garments of light." Finally, in the Spiritual Homilies by Macarius of Egypt, Adam's luminosity in the Garden of Eden and Jesus Christ's luminosity during the miracle of the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor both seem to represent the divine light latent in human nature.

Referring once again to Paul, there can be no doubt that he is aware of the concept of a "glorious body" when we read in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
Furthermore, both Luke and Matthew created a genealogy of Jesus. Matthew chose to connect Joseph to Abraham though Solomon, while Luke decided to connect Adam to Mary through Nathan. While it could be argued that all of mankind can trace his and her lineage back to Adam, the first man, it seems as though Luke took peculiar effort to trace Jesus all the way back to Adam in order to further demonstrate the spiritual connections between the two.

Stained glass portrait of Jesus Christ giving a benediction to a man

Unlike Adam, the Devil failed to tempt Jesus while they were together in the Judaean Desert.
(Image credit: Bigstock/curaphotography)

In the biblical accounts, Adam and Jesus were also both tested by the temptation of sin. Adam failed, dooming all of humanity to be burdened by sin in the material world. Jesus, on the other hand, was tempted by the "prince of this world" in the Judaean Desert, but he was able to begin his ministry because the Devil had no power over Him. While Adam caused mankind to be naturally sinful, Jesus put an end to that cycle. His glorious resurrection reversed the consequences of Adam's fatal mistake, making sure there would be no more Adams.

The Skull of Adam

But there are still more connections between Jesus and Adam. In the Church of the Holy Sepulcure, built by Empress Helena in 330 AD, is a shrine known as the Chapel of Adam. The Church of the Holy Sepulcure is the most holy site in all of Christendom because it is believed to be the site of the crucifixion and resurrection. In this chapel, there is a crack in the rock that is believed to have been caused by an earthquake at the exact moment Jesus died on the cross. As the legend goes, this crack ran all the way down to Adam's grave. The blood of Jesus then fell through that crack onto the remains Adam, which redeemed him from his sin. The names Calvary and Golgotha roughly translate to "the place of the skull." It is a little-known fact, though, that the name is actually a reference to Adam's skull.

In the New Testament, Ephesians 4:9 and 1 Peter 3:19 both state that Jesus descended into the earth when he died. Furthermore, the Catholic Apostles' Creed explicitly states that Jesus descended to the dead after his death. Finally, in the Apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew, Jesus said that when he vanished from the cross, he went down into Hades so that he might bring up Adam and everyone in prison with Adam, thanks to the supplication of Michael the archangel.

Jesus, as the second and last Adam, purified the first Adam with his blood, as well as all of humanity, with his death and resurrection. This may all sound circumstantial and coincidental, but when combined it creates very solid evidence for the claim that Jesus is the Final Adam. Both being created by God, Adam brought sin upon humanity while Jesus cleansed all believers of that sin.

As always, religion is a matter of interpretation and debate. However, it would seem that numerous writers and theologians went to great lengths to express the similarities (and differences) between Jesus Christ and Adam. This is a subject worthy of contemplation, regardless of religious belief and affiliation.
 

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