Some years ago Professor C.K. Barrett of Durham University wrote a little book with the provocative title From First Adam to Last. Like all Barrett’s contributions, this book is highly suggestive and very thoughtful. If In the course of thiS paper I find myself taking issue with him on one or two fundamental points, I must first applaud the insight he manifested even In the title he selected; for () major strand of Pauline theology traces the relationships between first Adam and second Adam – between that Adam who, at the head of humanity, introduced sin and death into the race, and that Adam who, at the head of a new humanity, introduced life, righteousness, and resurrection power to the race.
Adam is explicitly mentioned in only four passages of the Pauline corpus; but he lurks behind several major themes, even when his name fails to appear. This paper cannot hope to explore these passages and themes in detail , still less to trace out with rigour their place both in Pauline theology and in contemporary debate. Its scope is much more modest: viz., to sketch in some basic things about Adam which Paul must believe to be true if his own theology is to be judged coherent.
I come, first to the passages where Adam is explicitly named shall treat them in the order in which they were written.
I Cor. 15:20f.: (20) But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. (21) For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (22) For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (23) But each in his own turn. Christ, the firstfruits: then, when he comes, those who belong to him . . .. (25) For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet . . . . (26) The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (27) For he has put everything under his feet’ (NIV – as are all the biblical quotations in this paper).
The thrust of these verses is clear enough. Paul has been arguing for the reality of the resurrection at the end of the age. His first point, occupying 15:1-11, is that the denial of the reality of any resurrection entails the denial of Jesus’ resurrection. But Jesus’ resurrection. Paul says, stands so much at the heart of the gospel that without it there is no gospel. To deny Jesus has risen from the dead is to affirm that Christian faith is futile and therefore that we continue in our sins without forgiveness and without hope. The Corinthians, Paul believes, will not go that far. He therefore attempts to lead them to the truth of the resurrection at the end of the age by pointing them afresh to the reality of Christ’s resurrection in history.