Paradise Lost

3 10 2006

Tonight I lead a Bible study at my old college dormitory, with the focus being a study on the character of Adam.

Yes, that Adam. He is largely ignored in Bible studies, since there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to study – his life story is told in about four chapters, and everybody knows about the infamous scene with the forbidden fruit.

But thirty minutes into my preparations, a feeling of “What have I gotten myself into?!” overtook me. It’s not that Adam’s story is hard to follow – it is the implications of his story. They reach very far and very deep, and when given serious thought, they threaten to really shake you up.

For example: when Eve was tempted by the serpent, where was Adam? Somewhere else is the common response, but scholars have suggested that maybe Adam was right there with Eve, citing the Hebrew translation of Genesis 3:6 as proof. If so, why didn’t he say anything? 

We’re not given a reason for his passivity, but one thing is clear: it cost them (and consequentially, us) paradise. What’s worse, Adam’s silence set a pattern that is still being played out in families all across the world, several thousand years after he let the serpent get to his wife.

When you think about it, Adam wasn’t very different from you and I; sure, he was the first human ever, and for awhile, was as perfect as a creation could get, but other than that, he comes across as an ordinary fellow – not unlike the ordinary people you meet on an ordinary day.
So what’s so disturbing about that? Well, take a look at other Bible characters of note: David, Moses, Solomon, Daniel, Paul…and chances are you’ll see these people in the light of their abilities and/or character, i.e. “I wish I was like him/her.” or “I want to be like him/her.” Simply put, they are heroes.  We look up to them with admiration, like the statues of local heroes in our town plazas, knowing full well that we are not like them, but would like to be someday.

But studying Adam’s life and character, noting his flaws and mistakes (his redeeming qualities aren’t really emphasized in his part of the Bible) and seeing how they deeply affect us to this very day, is very much like looking into a mirror: the face you see is your own.

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