Madam, I’m Adam

adam eve

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Sometimes there is no good news unless you search for it. I found some recently, for instance, when I wondered if college students today are still obliged to purchase and—though I doubt they ever did—read Michael C. Howard’s Contemporary Cultural Anthropology. Well, it seems they aren’t.

Howard’s miserable work evidently did not survive its fifth edition in 1997, used copies of which are currently available at Amazon for as much $147.30. My own copy, third edition, would not fetch so much, I think, as it bulges with countless critical remarks scribbled along the margins and on every available white space.

For example, here is the final observation, written as I finished the book on August 10, 1989:

“This is my first reading of any book that described itself as ‘cultural anthropology.’ Are they all, I wonder, as awful as this one?”

That question was repeatedly answered in the affirmative over the ensuing years, as various publishing houses continued to send me sample copies of their own textbooks, hoping I would select one of them for my course, Cultural Anthropology 101. Looking through them, one-by-one, I never did.

The reason is simple: Right from the start my course had taken on the form of a systematic, semester-long drubbing of Howard’s work, and I was disinclined to switch from one bloody nose to another.

The deepest flaw in Howard’s deeply flawed anthropology is its Darwinian view of anthropos—Man—a view that fails to account for the formal qualities that separate the human being from other kinds of animal life.

The presence of this flaw is perhaps most obvious in the author’s treatment of language. Howard, who discusses speech in the section called “Culture and Communication,” reduces language to the purely social function of conveying messages; accordingly, human speech is regarded only as a refinement of the grunts, squeals, and chirpings by which other animals send information to one another. (Even in this treatment, Howard fails to use the best evidence in support of his thesis: talk shows and rap music.)

However, if one determines to approach the phenomenon of language through the lens of Evolution, I think it behooves him to take the available evidence seriously. And what is the evidence? Human beings are the only creatures whose language does evolve. This evolution is what distinguishes man and sets him apart.

Suppose for the moment that my canary, Chirpies, and I were suddenly to be transported to some distant place and former time—let’s say the high period of the Ming Dynasty. I, not Chirpies, would suffer from the journey. My little canary is totally fluent in canary language from all periods, going back to the first canaries. So, on the supposition of our visit to the Ming Dynasty, Chirpies would sit there on his stupid branch, cheerfully exchanging gossip with all the other canaries, while I was reduced to smiling and nodding a faint agreement from time to time, quite at a loss to follow even the bare gist of their conversation.

Indeed, Chirpies, something of a smart aleck on occasion, might start to rub it in. With a view to my further humiliation, he might venture the exchange of monosyllabic pleasantries with the finches and sparrows. Or, for all I know, he might be telling them,

“Don’t mind Stupid here. He fancies he’s further evolved than we are.”

Language, the area in which it is easiest to demonstrate a very large measure of evolution in human beings, is the one place where there is zero evidence of evolution in other animals.

Most folks, unless their brains have rotted from exposure to anthropology textbooks, recognize that human language serves a double function; it moves in two directions: within and without. Words are not only the sounds by which we communicate outwardly with one another, they are also the means by which we commune inwardly with our own hearts. They are the medium of reflective thought.

Holy Scripture ascribes primacy of place to this internal direction of language. Before even the second human being appeared, Adam had already named, to himself, the various animals. The human race had a father tongue before it acquired a mother tongue. It is instructive to reflect that Adam, when he laid eyes on his newly formed companion, did not talk first to her, but to himself:

“This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.”

After that, we may suppose, he added something along the lines of

“Good morning, Eve. Let me introduce myself. I’m Adam. What we’re about to do now is called breakfast. So how do you want them, scrambled or over-easy?”



The Once and Future Darkness


by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

From the first page of Holy Writ, the reader is left with no doubt about the nature of the world and humanity’s place within it. These themes are made very plain.

Perhaps it is less obvious that a certain polemical concern is active in the mind of the Hebrew author (let’s call him Moses); he is at some pains to declare that God is the Creator of all things, even those things which many non-Hebrews commonly regarded as gods.

Although, for instance, the Babylonians set their sun god, Shamash, high in the pantheon, Moses treated Shemesh (“sun”) as simply a big light God placed above the earth on Creation’s fourth day. And although most of their neighbors regarded the earth as a divine mother, the Hebrews treated it as simply a creature on which other creatures walked about. In short, the Bible treats no part of Creation as divine. Only God, ultimately, is the king.

I write “ultimately,” however, because there is a qualification to be considered. Under God, and only by God’s command, Adam also functions on the earth in a royal capacity, having dominion over the other creatures. God assigned him this task when He created man in His own image, after His own likeness. According to the Bible, man is not simply one within a multitude of creatures. He is God’s vice-regent over Creation.

The Bible-reader must be clear about man’s vice-regency in Creation: It is entirely one of stewardship. At no point can it challenge or diminish the proclamation, “the earth is the Lord’s.” Adam’s is a delegated royalty, a custodial responsibility. Whatever authority he has in the world, he has only for the sake of his duties.

According to Genesis, Adam’s regal state is expressed in tending and caring for Creation. He is to treat it as a garden, a place of nourishment and beauty. Much of his time, in act, is spent in the pursuit of agriculture, the indispensable basis of all culture.

Adam’s stewardship in the world, however, was not merely physical. It was also-and preeminently-intellectual and moral. When, on the first day, God established the order of Creation on the principle of “light,” He had in mind to form the single creature, Man, who would be able to discern that created light within its sundry expressions-its “kinds”-among the other creatures.

This is why we observe Adam functioning in Creation, not only as a king, but as a philosopher/king. He ruled the world by understanding it and taking its proper measure. When God formed each creature different “according to its kind,” He intended for Adam’s mind to discern those differences. And Adam clearly did this, when he assembled the animals and gave a specific name to each kind.

The names Adam gave to the creatures were not arbitrary. On the contrary, as God’s vice-regent over Creation, he recognized in each creature its specific logos, and he named every one of them kata logon, “according to its logos.” Adam thus became mankind’s first cataloguist, the father of scientific and analytical study, the very founder of philosophy.

Adam received these God-given abilities for the sake of his God-given responsibilities. Enabled to discern the differences between light and darkness, day and night, firmament and earth, sea and dry land, swimming fish and flying bird, male and female-Adam’s mind (nous) was instructed how to discern the differences separating true and false, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, right and wrong. Adam’s conscience, thus, was educated for moral discernment and choice.

Adam knew this. Unlike every other creature in the cosmos, he was gifted-burdened!-with the ability to decide. The Creator gave no other creature the capacity to reflect critically on what it knows and how it knows what it knows. Adam’s mind was the only place in Creation where epistemology was possible.

The proper prayer of this philosopher/king was,

“Bless the Lord, o my soul, and let all that is within me bless His holy name.”

This kol qerabai, this reflective inner life of thought, freedom, and resolve was the basis of Adam’s unique place as ruler of the world. If, at any point, however, this

“all that is within me”

were to cease blessing the Lord, not only would Adam fail as the head of Creation, but Creation itself would fall with him.

A terrible cosmic darkness would ensue.

A New Kind Of Death


by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

However we are to treat the “necessity” Christ ascribes to his Passion, we should not speak of it as a physical necessity. It was not an mere instance of second law of thermodynamics. Nor—to pose the question theologically—can we say that Jesus had to die in the same sense that the rest of us have to die. Although descended in the line from Adam, Christ did not inherit the death imposed on the human race by reason of Adam’s disobedience.

Indeed, Sacred Theology rejects that possibility out of hand. Reflecting on the pertinent dominical affirmation —

“I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again”

—orthodox Christians have traditionally inferred that the humanity assumed by God’s Son was not, like ours, in bondage to death. The devil, who held our race in subjection to mortality, had no power over God’s Son.

Thus, Saint John Chrysostom wrote of Christ,

“He everywhere endeavored to show that his death was of a new kind, inasmuch as the whole of it lay within the power of the person dying, and death did not come upon his body until he willed it, and he willed it only after he had fulfilled all things” (Homiliae in Joannem 85, on John 19:28).

Chrysostom was hardly alone on this point. The whole Christian Tradition was insistent: Because Christ was not “fallen,” there was no “inherited obligation” for him to die.

Augustine of Hippo, wrote of him:

“The Mediator did not depart from his flesh against his will but because he willed, when he willed and as he willed, because he was united to the Word of God by a unity of Person. . . . It was not because some power had authority over him that he was deprived of his bodily life, but he himself stripped himself of it; for he that had it in his power not to die if he did not wish to die doubtless died because he willed it so. Therefore he subjected to mockery the principalities and powers, unhesitatingly demonstrating his Victory over them in his own Person. For this was his purpose in dying, that, by the one and truest sacrifice (uno verissimo sacrificio) offered up for us, he might cleanse, abolish, and extinguish whatever claim there was, by reason of our sins, for the principalities and powers to make us the objects of a just punishment (On the Trinity 4.13).

Within decades of this declaration, Pope Leo I of Rome, ever Augustine’s close reader, repeated his thought on the subject:

“No violence could have been done to the temple of Christ’s body if he had not permitted it, because God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. . . . He allowed the godless to stretch forth their hands against him. The power of the deity was held in check so that he might arrive at the glory of the Passion (Cohabita est potentia deitatis ut perveniretur ad gloriam Passionis)” (Sermons 65).

And again,

“What [Christ] endured was endured, not of necessity, but undertaken from his own free will” (Sermons 54.2).

In the Middle Ages, this conviction of Chrysostom, Augustine, and Leo was repeated by Thomas Aquinas:

“Because Christ, of his own accord, did not keep from his body the harm inflicted upon it, but willed that his bodily nature should succumb to the injury, it is truly said that he laid down his life (animam), or that he died of his own accord” (Summa Theologica III 47.1).

In other words, orthodox Christian theology affirms that our Lord’s humanity, hypostatically united to the divine nature, was not obliged to die; the Savior was not subject-subjugated-to sin, death, and corruption. There was no physical necessity for him to lay down his life, because the power of death held no sway over him. We believers affirm this, not on the basis of some esoteric Christological theory, but because the Gospel of John obliges us to affirm it.

At the same time, nonetheless, Christian theology insists that Jesus was able to die, capax mortis. This is inferred from the fact that he consented to die. This capacity for death had been inherent in Adam’s original freedom. That is to say, Adam chose death, thereby becoming subject to death.

When Christ, however—not being subject to death—chose to suffer and die, he did so with a better and more complete freedom. He did this from the motive of love for his Father and for us men and for our salvation.




Adam, Ralph, Moses and Man

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

adam man or mythEssential to the idea of the Incarnation is what Anscar Vonier called

“the assumption that to God mankind is a unity far beyond anything we can conceive.”

I will argue, in these reflections, that this unity is biological, psychological, and historical.

With respect to biology, perhaps some attention should be given to a recent theory that interprets the biblical Adam as a literary metaphor for the human race or for some early portion thereof.

Aside from the shock and dismay it would animate in the minds of St. Irenaeus and others, is it not obvious that such an interpretation reflects a failure to understand Genesis through a Christological lens? In the New Testament Christ’s solidarity with the humanity is inseparable from his descent from the common father of us all.

I hope it is clear that I have more in mind than simply Adam’s name. The ubiquitous appearance of ’adam in the Hebrew Bible—562 times and in every major source and era—is convincing evidence of the Old Testament’s abiding interest in the entire human race, and not simply the Jews.

“Adam” is the noun normally used in the Hebrew Bible to mean “mankind” or “the human race.” In the instances where ‘adam refers to individuals, those individuals tend to be representative of humanity as such. Thus, we are told,

“Blessed is the ‘adam to whom the Lord imputes no guilt” (Psalms 32 [31]:2).

Because it has this generic nuance, ‘adam is never pluralized in Hebrew. For the same reason it is never used in what grammarians call “construct”; this means that the noun is never modified by a genitive. For example, if the Bible wants to describe someone as a “man of mercy,” some other noun for “man” must be employed. ’Adam has too general a sense to be used in such a case.

In no way, however, does this general sense of “Adam” warrant the notion that there was no uniquely original person who goes by that name in the opening chapters of Genesis. If humanity had no initial father, then there is no common human history and, thus, no structural nucleus for the salvific event known as Jesus Christ. The Fall declared in Genesis was a single, factual, incident. In some way, then, hamartiology is inseparable from biological history.

With respect to this point, we observe an obvious and important distinction Genesis makes: Whereas all other creatures on the earth are created in the plural, the origin of the human race is located in a single couple (Genesis 1), even a single individual (Genesis 2). God did not create men; He created a Man.

If the Christian faith, the deposit once transmitted to the saints, is to remain intact, the historicity of the first parent—call him “Ralph” for all I care—is as essential as the historicity of Jesus. If the whole human race—indeed, the entire universe, of which man is the head—did not fall in the one man, Adam, then it could not possibly have been redeemed in the one man, Jesus Christ.

Among those who imagine the biblical Adam to be metaphorical, the early chapters of Genesis are commonly treated as a form of mythos. Indeed, this may be the source of the problem, because the category of mythos provides a seriously inadequate format for understanding this part of Genesis.

The author of Genesis—for the heck of it, let’s call him “Moses”—in constructing the story of Creation, is not looking at it from outside. He is not taking the “matter” around him and subjecting it to an arbitrary narrative, an account alien to its essence. Rather, Moses is actively striving to examine what the Greeks would later call a mneme, a memory. What he endeavors to accomplish, as he crafts the story, is not mythos but anamenesis.

It would be impossible for Moses to do this without the priority of an icon. (The “what” of memory is always an icon.) Here is what we have in Genesis: Moses, his mind elevated by the prophetic Spirit, reverts to that inner native image derived from our first parent, the primeval tselem ’Elohim by virtue of which man is the “head” (the thinking part) of Creation.

Moses gazes at the world (and history) through the mediating light of this icon, indistinguishable from his own being. He regards Creation from within its intelligible structure, inasmuch as he is the sole locus of the world’s understanding and self-reflection.

What he writes he writes in rei memoriam.

This is remembered history, not myth.

 See also:  Was Adam an Actual or Symbolic Figure, According to the Fathers of the Church?

The Transgression of Adam

adam fall sinby St. Symeon the New Theologian


1. In What Consisted the Transgression of Adam?

THE FIRST-CREATED ADAM, being in Paradise, fell, at the instigation of the serpent, into pride; and having dreamed of being a god, as the devil told him, he tasted of the tree from which God had commanded him not to eat. For this he was given over to great chastisements – to corruption and death, for the humbling of his pride. But when God condemns for some­thing, he gives also a sentence, and His sentence becomes deed and an eternal chastisement, and there is no longer any possi­bility of annihilating this chastisement which has come from the decree of God.

But think now: Adam sinned with a great sin because he did not believe the words of God, but believed the words of the serpent. Compare God and the serpent, and you will see how great was the sin of most-wise Adam. In his great wisdom he had given names to all the animals (Gen. 2:19-20). But when with his whole soul he believed the serpent and not God, then the Divine grace which had rested on him stepped away from him, so that he became the enemy of God by reason of the unbelief which he had shown to His words. Adam thought that God envied him and did not wish that he also should know good and evil; and he thought that God had commanded him not to taste of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in order that he might not become a god like unto God Who had created him. And he tasted, and immediately he knew his nakedness, and instead of becoming a god he became corruptible, and as corruptible, mortal.

2. How by Reason of his Transgression did all Men become Corruptible and Mortal?

And behold, as you see, the sentence of God remains forever as an eternal chastisement. And all of us men became both corruptible and mortal, and there is nothing that might set aside this great and frightful sentence. And when there is no possibil­ity to set aside this sentence, then what benefit is there in wisdom or in wealth, or in power, or in the whole world? For this reason the Almighty Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, came so as to humble Himself in place of Adam. And truly He humbled Himself, even to the death of the Cross. The word of the Cross, as the Scripture says, is this: Cursed is everyone that hangeth upon a tree (Gal. 3:13).

Adam, without having any need for this, took from the fruit of that tree (from which God had commanded him not to taste, threatening him that if he should only taste of it he should die); he tasted and died. One should know that since a man has a body and a soul, therefore he has two deaths also: one, the death of the soul, and the other, the death of the body. Likewise, there are also two immortalities, one of the soul and one of the body, even though both of them are in one man, for the soul and the body are one man.

Thus, in soul Adam died immediately, as soon as he had tasted; and later, after nine hundred and thirty years, he died also in body. For, as the death of the body is the separation from it of the soul, so the death of the soul is the separation from it of the Holy Spirit, by Whom God Who had created him had been pleased that man be overshadowed, so that he might live like the angels of God, who, being always enlightened by the Holy Spirit, remain immovable towards evil. Later, for this reason, the whole human race also became such as our forefa­ther Adam became through the fall—mortal, that is, both in soul and body. Man such as God had created him no longer existed in the world. And there was no possibility that anyone should become such as Adam was before the transgression of the commandment. But it was necessary that there should be such a man.

3. How did the Merciful and Philanthropic God, through the Dispensation of the Incarnation, Deliver Mankind from Corruption and Death?

And thus God, desiring to have such a man as He had created Adam in the beginning, sent in the latter times to the earth His Only-begotten Son, and He came and was Incarnate, accepting a perfect humanity, so as to be perfect God and perfect man, and thus the Divinity had a man worthy of It.

And behold the Man! Such a One there has never been, there is not, and there shall never be. But why did Christ become such a one? In order to keep the law of God and His commandments, and so as to enter into battle with and conquer the devil. Both the one and the other occurred in Him by themselves; for if Christ is that very God Who gave the commandments and the law, then how could He not keep that law and those commandments which He Himself had given? And if He is God, as He is in truth, then how is it possible for Him to be deceived or deluded by any trickery of the devil? The devil, to be sure, being blind and senseless, rose up against Him with warfare. But this was allowed so that there might be performed a certain great and fearful mystery, namely, so that Christ, the Sinless One, should suffer, and through this Adam, who had sinned, might receive forgiveness. For this also, in place of the tree of knowledge, there was the Cross; in place of the stepping of the feet by which our first ancestors walked to the forbidden tree, and in place of their stretching out of their hands in order to take of the fruit of the tree, there were nailed to the Cross the innocent feet and hands of Christ; in place of the tasting of the fruit, there was the tasting of gall and vinegar, and in place of the death of Adam, the death of Christ.

And then what happened? Christ lay in the grave three days, for the sake of the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, so as to show that even though He alone, the Son, became Incarnate and suffered, still the dispensation is the work of the All-Holy Trinity.

And in what does this dispensation consist? One Person of the Holy Trinity, namely the Son and Word of God, having become Incarnate, offered Himself in the flesh as a sacrifice to the Divinity of the Father, and of the Son Himself, and of the Holy Spirit, in order that the first transgression of Adam might be benevolently forgiven for the sake of this great and fearful work, that is, for the sake of this sacrifice of Christ, and in order that by its power there might be performed another new birth and re-creation of man in Holy Baptism, in which we also are cleansed by water mingled with the Holy Spirit. From that time people are baptized in water, are immersed in it and taken out from it three times, in the image of the three-day burial of the Lord, and after they die in it to this whole evil world, in the third bringing out from it they are already alive, as if resurrected from the dead, that is, their souls are brought to life and again receive the grace of the Holy Spirit as Adam had it before the transgression. Then they are anointed with Holy Myrrh, and by means of it are anointed with Jesus Christ, and are fragrant in a way above nature. Having become in this way worthy of being associates of God, they taste His Flesh and drink His Blood, and by means of the sanctified bread and wine become of one Body and Blood with God Who was Incarnate and offered Himself as a sacrifice.

After this it is no longer possible that sin should reign and tyrannize over them, for they are gods by grace. Since Adam had fallen under the curse, and through him all people also who proceed from him, therefore the sentence of God concerning this could in no way be annihilated; and therefore Christ was for us a curse, through being hung upon the tree of the Cross, so as to offer Himself as a sacrifice to His Father, as has been said, and to annihilate the sentence of God by the superabun­dant worth of the sacrifice. For what is greater and higher than God? Just as in this whole visible creation there is nothing higher than man (for everything visible was created for man), so also God is incomparably higher than everything created, and nothing can enter into comparison with Him, not the whole visible and invisible creation.

Thus God, Who is incomparably higher than the whole visible and invisible creation, accepted human nature, which is higher than the whole visible creation, and offered it as a sacrifice to His God and Father. Being shamed by such a sacrifice (I speak thus), and honoring it, the Father could not leave it in the hands of death. Therefore He annihilated His sentence and resurrected from the dead first of all and at the beginning Him Who had given Himself as a sacrifice for the redemption and as a replacement for men who are of the same race as Himself; and afterwards, in the last day of the end of this world, He will resurrect also all men. Moreover, the souls of those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in this great and fearful sacrifice, God resurrects in the present life; and a sign of this resurrection is the grace of the Holy Spirit which He gives to the soul of every Christian, as if giving a new soul. Such a soul of a Christian is called “trustworthy” (or “faithful”), because to it is entrusted the Holy Spirit of God and it has accepted Him – the Spirit of God Who is life eternal, since the Holy Spirit is eternal God Who proceeds from the eternal God and Father.

4. And in What Consists the Mystery and the Three-Day Burial of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ?

Inasmuch, therefore, as the Cross has become as it were the altar of this fearful sacrifice – for on the Cross the Son of God died for the fall of man – therefore the Cross is justly revered and worshipped and depicted as the sign of the common resurrection of all men, so that those who bow down before the wood of the Cross might be delivered from the curse of Adam and receive the blessing and grace of God for the doing of every virtue. For Christians the Cross is magnification, glory, and power: for all our power is in the power of Christ Who was crucified; all our sinfulness is mortified by the death of Christ on the Cross; and all our exaltation and all our glory are in the humility of God, Who humbled Himself to such an extent that He was pleased to die even between evil-doers and thieves. For this very reason Christians who believe in Christ sign themselves with the sign of the Cross not simply, not just as it happens, not carelessly, but with all heedfulness, with fear and with trembling and with extreme reverence. For the image of the Cross shows the reconciliation and friendship into which man has entered with God.

Therefore the demons also fear the image of the Cross, and they do not endure to see the sign of the Cross depicted even in the air, but they flee from this immediately knowing that the Cross is the sign of the friendship of men with God, and that they, as apostates and enemies of God, being far from His Divine face, do not have any longer freedom to draw near to those who have become reconciled with God and united with Him, and they can no longer tempt them. And if it seems that they tempt certain Christians, let everyone know that they battle against those who have not properly understood the exalted mystery of the Cross.

But those who have understood this mystery and in very fact have known in experience the authority and power which the Cross has over demons, have likewise understood that the Cross gives the soul strength, power, meaning, and divine wisdom. These with great joy cry out: Far be it from me to glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world is crucified to me and I unto the world (Gal. 6:14). And thus, inasmuch as the sign of the Cross is great and fearful, every Christian has the duty to make it with fear and trembling, with reverence and heedfulness, and not simply, and not as it hap­pens, simply out of habit and carelessly: for according to the degree of the reverence which one has towards the Cross, he receives corresponding power and help from God. To Him may there be glory and dominion forever. Amen.






Was Adam an Actual or Symbolic Figure, According to the Fathers of the Church?

From the Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries.

There are thousands of patristic references to Adam – an immeasurable chaos. However, it will be hard to locate a verse that refers to Adam in an absolutely univocal manner; i.e., a verse that cannot but imply a specific person.

An endeavor like this is a difficult one, for two reasons:

a) Because the Fathers had no cause to outrightly state (per our rationale) that Adam “is not a symbolic person”. Such an issue had not been put forward as a theory during their time, which is why they did not preoccupy themselves with something that they regarded a given fact; and

b) Because in the case of Adam, a multitude of symbolisms do also apply, however without them annulling his literal existence as a person – as the hypostatic beginning of mankind.

It is for this reason that in the present article priority has been given (among the multitude of texts that could have been cited), to the more palpable ones, without the need for one to have a knowledge of classical Greek – such basic and essential texts being: the Holy Bible – the Sacred Canons – two or three of the major Fathers and a very concise analysis of the ‘person-centred’ theology, so that anyone can comprehend just how significant the literal acceptance of the person of Adam is, for the Christian faith.

To answer this question we could begin with the New Testament itself.

In the Gospel of Luke which presents the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Luke 3:23-28) – in other words, the persons through which human nature [1] “reached” the Lord – it is apparent that Adam is mentioned as one of many other historical – and not symbolic – persons:

“…of Cainan, who was of Arphaxad, who was of Sem, who was of Noah, who was of Lamech, who was of Methuselah, who was of Enoch, who was of Jared, who was of Maleleel, who was of Cainan, who was of Enos, who was of Seth, who was of Adam, who was of God.” (Luke 3:36-38)

Thus, the Orthodox Church has accordingly instituted the Feast of the Holy Forefathers, [2] during which the following resurrectional (“sticheron”) hymn is chanted, where it again is impossible to arbitrarily exempt Adam (as if he were only a symbolic character) amid an entire sequence of historical persons:

“Come, all you lovers of feasts, let us laud with psalms: Adam the Forefather, Enoch. Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; after the law Moses and Aaron, Joshua, Samuel and David; after whom Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel and the Twelve, together with Elijah, Elissaios and them all; Zechariah and the Baptist and all those who proclaimed Christ, the life and the resurrection of our kind.”

In the Sacred Canons of the Church, Adam is commemorated in one of the Canons that were issued by the Synod of Carthage (AD 419). Of course this was a Local Synod, however its Canons acquired ecumenical authority after having been validated by the 2nd Canon of the Quinisext Ecumenical Synod[3]. The 109th Canon of the Synod of Carthage mentions the following about Adam – whom it obviously treats as a historical person with a body and a soul:

“…Whosoever says that Adam, the first-made man, was made thus mortal, so that whether he sinned or not, he would have died in body – that is, he would have exited the body as a soul, not on account of sin, but by natural necessity, let him be anathema.” [4]

Adam’s historicity is equally stressed by the prominent Father of the Church and recapitulating dogmatologist, Saint John of Damascus:

“… everything that the Father has are also His (the Holy Spirit’s) except for unbegottenness; which does not signify a difference in the Essence or the status, but the manner of Their existence – just as Adam was unborn (for he was a creation of God) and Seth who was born (for he was a son of Adam) and Eve, who proceeded from Adam’s side (for she was not born), thus they too do not differ from each other in nature (for they are all human beings), but only in their manner of existence” [5].

Saint Athanasius the Great regards Adam not as a symbolic figure, but as much a historical one as Moses; and this is also confirmed by the fact that he speaks of the Incarnation – the Lord’s “entry” into human history:

“…and, albeit immediately able, even from the very beginning in Adam’s time, or Noah’s or Moses’, to send forth His Logos, He did not send Him… [6]

Moreover, we can also discern the same correlation (about the historicity of Adam’s person) in the words of the Apostle Paul:

“… but death reigned, from Adam up to Moses…” (Romans 5:14)

But even in regard to the content of Orthodox Theology, it is an entirely inappropriate perception that would give priority to the “essence” over the true being, the “person”.

In order to clarify these terms with certain examples: “lumber” is an essence, but “wooden objects” are the beings. Respectively, “humanity” is understood as being the essence, but “the human” is the being, the person. The being is something tangible and we perceive it with our senses, whereas we only have indirect communication with the essence.

In the

“person-centredness of Hellenic Patristic thought […] first place is no longer given to the notion of the essence, but to the person, the existence, the being. Instead of an impersonal ‘divine’, reference is made to a personal ‘God’, Who is not perceived as the supreme ‘being’, but as the sublime ‘o wn’ (He Who Is), the way He revealed Himself to Moses” [7].

As Saint Gregory Palamas expresses with clarity:

“…when God was responding to Moses, He did not say ‘I am the essence’, but ‘I am the One Who Is’ (o wn); for, (the name) ‘The One Who Is’ does not imply that ‘He Is’ from the essence; rather, it is the essence that comes from the being; because He, the ‘One Who Is’ has included in Himself all of being” [8]

This helps us to understand that the Fathers refer to Adam as a “being”, as a “person”, and not as an “essence”, not as the symbol of “mankind” – a stance that would not have been consistent with the overall viewpoint of their theology.



[1] “Christ bore Adam’s nature, without however being ‘of Adam’. He was not part of the natural continuity of descent of all humans, from a natural (biological) forefather. While he did have Mary as His mother, an actual descendant of Adam (and this guarantees the authenticity of His human nature), He did not have a natural (biological) father; a fact that exempts Him from any incorporation in the natural roots of the race that Adam represents as a patriarch”. (Andreas Theodorou, “Basic Dogmatic Teaching – Answers to questions on Dogma”, 3rd edition, Apostoliki Diakonia, Athens 2006, p. 83).

[2] “Adam and Eve (December, Sunday of the Holy Forefathers). The commemoration of the first-created is observed together with the remaining forefathers of Christ, on the Sunday before Christmas, at times on December the 16th, at times on the 18th and at other times on the 19th of the month” (Sophronius Eustratiades (Metropolitan of Leontopolis), “Calendar of Saints of the Orthodox Church”, Apostoliki Diakonia, Athens 1935, p.10)

[3] Panagiotis I. Boumis, “Canonical Law”, 3rd ed. augmented, Gregoris, Athens 2002, pp. 39.41

[4] Original and translation taken from: Prodromos I. Akanthopoulos, “Codex of Holy Canons”, 3rd ed., Vanias, Thessalonica 2006, pp. 340. 341

[5] Original and translation taken from: St. John of Damascus, “Exact publication of the Orthodox faith” (transl. N. Matsoukas). Pournaras, Thessalonica 1992, pp. 54-57.

[6] St. Athanasius the Great, “Complete Works”, Dogmatics 1 (Against Arians 1), by Patristic Editions Gregory Palamas, Thessalonica 1974, pp. 112-113.

[7] Marios Begzos, “The Future of the Past – Critical introduction to the Theology of Orthodoxy”, Armos, Athens 1993, pp. 41-42

[8] St. Gregory Palamas, “A catalogue of the outcomes of the incongruous”, No. 37, found in: Writings, tome 1, ed. P. Christou, Thessalonica 1962, p. 666