1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Adam
ADAM, the conventional name of the first created man according to the Bible.
1. The Name.—The use of “Adam” (אָדָם) as a proper name is an early error. Properly the word ādām designated man as a species; with the article prefixed (Gen. ii. 7, 8, 16, iv. 1; and doubtless ii. 20, iii. 17) it means the first man. Only in Gen. iv. 25 and v. 3-5 is ādām a quasi-proper name, though LXX. and Vulgate use “Adam” (Αδαμ) in this way freely. Gen. ii. 7 suggests a popular Hebrew derivation from ădāmah, “the ground.” Into the question whether the original story did not give a proper name which was afterwards modified into “Adam”—important as this question is—we cannot here enter.
2. Creation of Adam.—For convenience, we shall take “Adam” as a symbol for “the first man,” and inquire first, what does tradition say of his creation? In Gen. ii. 4b-8 we read thus:—”At the time when Yahweh-Elohim made earth and heaven,—earth was as yet without bushes, no herbage was as yet sprouting, because Yahweh-Elohim had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and no men were there to till the ground, but a stream used to go up from the earth, and water all the face of the ground,—then Yahweh-Elohim formed the man of dust of the ground, and blew into his nostrils breath of life, and the man became a living being. And Yahweh-Elohim planted a garden in Eden, eastward; and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (See Eve.)
How greatly this simple and fragmentary tale of Creation differs from that in Gen. i. 1-ii. 4a (see Cosmogony) need hardly be mentioned. Certainly the priestly writer who produced the latter could not have said that God modelled the first man out of moistened clay, or have adopted the singular account of the formation of Eve in ii. 21-23. The latter story in particular (see Eve) shows us how childlike was the mind of the early men, whose God is not “wonderful in counsel” (Isa. xxviii. 29), and fails in his first attempt to relieve the loneliness of his favourite. For no beast however mighty, no bird however graceful, was a fit companion for God’s masterpiece, and, apart from the serpent, the animals had no faculty of speech. All therefore that Adam could do, as they passed before him, was to name them, as a lord names his vassals. But here arises a difficulty. How came Adam by the requisite insight and power of observation? For as yet he had not snatched the perilous boon of wisdom. Clearly the Paradise story is not homogeneous.
3. How the Animals were named.—Some moderns, e.g. von Bohlen, Ewald, Driver (in Genesis, p. 55, but cp. p. 42), have found in ii. 19, 20 an early explanation of the origin of language. This is hardly right. The narrator assumes that Adam and Eve had an innate faculty of speech. They spoke just as the birds sing, and their language was that of the race or people which descended from them. Most probably the object of the story is, not to answer any curious question (such as, how did human speech arise, or how came the animals by their names?), but to dehort its readers or hearers from the abominable vice referred to in Lev. xviii. 23. There may have been stories in circulation like that of Ea-bani (§ 8), and even such as those of the Skidi Pawnee, in which “people” marry animals, or become animals. Against these it is said (ver. 20b) that “for Adam he found no helper (qualified) to match him.”
4. Three Riddles.—Manifold are the problems suggested by the Eden-story (see Eden; Paradise). For instance, did the original story mention two trees, or only one, of which the fruit was taboo? In iii. 3(cp. vv. 6, 11) only “the tree in the midst of the garden” is spoken of, but in ii. 9 and iii. 22 two trees are referred to, the fruit of both of which would appear to be taboo. To this we must add that in ii. 17 “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” appears to have the qualities of a “tree of life,” except indeed to Adam. This passage seems to give us the key to the mystery. There was only one tree whose fruit was forbidden; it might be called either “the tree of life” or “the tree of knowledge,” but certainly not “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The words “life” and “knowledge” (= “wisdom”) are practically equivalent; perfect knowledge (so primitive man believed) would enable any being to escape death (an idea spiritualized in Prov. iii. 18).
Next, which of the trees is the “tree of life”? Various sacred trees were known to the Semitic peoples, such as the fig-tree (cp. iii. 7), which sometimes appears, conventionalized, as a sacred tree. But clearly the tree referred to was more than a “sacred tree”; it was a tree from whose fruit or juice, as culture advanced, some intoxicating drink was produced. The Gaokerena of the Iranians is exactly parallel. At the resurrection, those who drink of the life-giving juice of this plant will obtain “perfect welfare”, including deathlessness. It is not, however, either from Iran or from India that the Hebrew tree of life is derived, but from Arabia and Babylonia, where date-wine (cp. Enoch xxiv. 4) is the earliest intoxicant. Of this drink it may well have been said in primitive times (cp. Rig Veda, ix. 90. 5, of Soma) that it “cheers the heart of gods” (in the speech of the vine, Judg. ix. 13). Later writers spoke of a “tree of mercy,” distilling the “oil of life,” i.e. the oil that heals, but 4 Esdr. ii. 12 (cp. viii. 53) speaks of the “tree of life,” and Rev. xxii. 2 (virtually) of “trees of life,” whose leaves have a healing virtue (cp. Ezek. xlvii. 12). The oil-tree should doubtless be grouped with the river of oil in later writings (see Paradise). Originally it was enough that there should be one tree of life, i.e. that heightened and preserved vitality.
A third enigma—why no “fountain of life”? The references to such a fountain in Proverbs (xiii. 14, &c.) prove that the idea was familiar, and in Rev. xxii. 1 we are told that the river of Paradise was a “river of water of life” (see Paradise). The serpent, too, in mythology is a regular symbol of water. Possibly the narrator, or redactor, desired to tone down the traces of mythology. Just as the Gathas (the ancient Zoroastrian hymns) omit Gaokerena, and the Hebrew prophets on the whole avoid mythological phrases, so this old Hebrew thinker prunes the primitive exuberance of the traditional myth.
5. The Serpent.—The keen-witted, fluently speaking serpent gives rise to fresh riddles. How comes it that Adam’s ruin is effected by one of those very “beasts of the field” which he had but lately named (ii. 19), that in speech he is Adam’s equal and in wisdom his superior? Is he a pale form of the Babylonian chaos-dragon, or of the serpent of Iranian mythology who sprang from heaven to earth to blight the “good creation”? It is true that the serpent of Eden has mythological affinities. In iii. 14, 15, indeed, he is degraded into a mere typical snake, but iii. 1-5 shows that he was not so originally. He is perhaps best regarded, in the light of Arabian folk-lore, as the manifestation of a demon residing in the tree with the magic fruit. He may have been a prince among the demons, as the magic tree was a prince among the plants. Hence perhaps his strange boldness. For some unknown reason he was ill disposed towards Yahweh-Elohim (See iii. 3b), which has suggested to some that he may be akin to the great enemy of Creation. To Adam and Eve, however, he is not unkind. He bids them raise themselves in the scale of being by eating the forbidden fruit, which he declares to be not fatal to life but an opener of the eyes, and capable of equalizing men with gods (iii. 4, 5). To the phrase “ye shall be as gods” a later writer may have added “knowing good and evil,” but “to be as gods” originally meant “to live the life of gods—wise, powerful, happy.” The serpent was in the main right, but there is one point which he did not mention, viz. that for any being to retain this intensified vitality the eating of the fruit would have to be constantly renewed. Only thus could even the gods escape death.
6. The Divine Command broken.—The serpent has gone the right way to work; he comprehends woman’s nature better than Adam comprehends that of the serpent. By her curiosity Eve is undone. She looks at the fruit; then she takes and eats; her husband does the same (iii. 6). The consequence (ver. 7) may seem to us rather slight: “they knew (became sensible) that they were naked, and sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles (aprons).” But the real meaning is not slight; the sexual distinction has been discovered, and a new sense of shame sends the human pair into the thickest shades, when Yahweh-Elohim walks abroad. The God of these primitive men is surprised: “Where art thou?” By degrees, he obtains a full confession—not from the serpent, whose speech might not have been edifying, but from Adam and Eve. The sentences which he passes are decisive, not only for the human pair and the serpent, but for their respective races. Painful toil shall be the lot of man; subjection and pangs that of woman. The serpent too (whose unique form preoccupied the early men) shall be humiliated, as a perpetual warning to man—who is henceforth his enemy—of the danger of reasoning on and disobeying the will of God.
7. Versions of the Adam-story.—Theologians in all ages have allegorized this strange narrative. The serpent becomes the inner voice of temptation, and the saying in iii. 15 becomes an anticipation of the final victory of good over evil—a view which probably arose in Jewish circles directly or indirectly affected by the Zoroastrian eschatology. But allegory was far from the thoughts of the original narrators. Another version of the Adam-story is given by Ezekiel (xxviii. 11-19), for underneath the king of Tyre (or perhaps Miṣṣor) we can trace the majestic figure of the first man. This Adam, indeed, is not like the first man of Gen. ii.-iii., but more like the “bright angel” who is the first man in the Christian Book of Adam (i. 10; Malan, p. 12). He dwells on a glorious forest-mountain (cp. Ezekiel xxxi. 8, 18), and is led away by pride to equalize himself with Elohim (cp. xxviii. 2, 2 Thess. ii. 4), and punished. And with this passage let us group Job xv. 7, 8, where Job is ironically described as vying with the first man, who was “brought forth before the hills” (cp. Prov. viii. 25) and “drew wisdom to himself” by “hearkening in the council of Elohim.” No reference is made in Job to this hero’s fall. The omission, however, is repaired, not only in Ezek. xxviii. 16, but also in Isa. xiv. 12-15, where the king, whose name is given in the English Bible as “Lucifer” (or margin, “day-star”), “son of the morning,” and who, like the other king in Ezekiel, is threatened with death, is a copy of the mythical Adam.
The two conceptions Of the first man are widely different. The passages last referred to harmonize with the account given in Gen. i. 26, for “in our image” certainly suggests a being equal in brightness and in capacities to the angels—a view which, as we know, became the favourite one in apocryphal and Haggadic descriptions of the Adam before the Fall. And though the priestly writer, to whom the first Creation-story in its present form is due, says nothing about a sacred mountain as the dwelling-place of the first-created man, yet this mountain belongs to the type of tradition which the passage, Gen. i. 26-28, imperfectly but truly represents. The glorious first man of Ezekiel, and the god-like first men of the cosmogony (cp. Ps. viii. 5) who held the regency of the earth, require a dwelling-place as far above the common level of the earth as they are themselves above the childlike Adam of the second creation-narrative (Gen. ii.). On this sacred mountain, see Cosmogony.
8. Origin of the Adam-story—That the Hebrew story of the first man in both its forms is no mere recast of a Babylonian myth, is generally admitted. The holy mountain is no doubt Babylonian, and the plantations of sacred trees, one of which at least has magic virtue, can be paralleled from the monuments (see Eden). But there is no complete parallel to the description of Paradise in Gen. ii., or to the story of the rib, or to that of the serpent. The first part of the latter has definite Arabian affinities; the second is as definitely Hebrew. We may now add that the insertion of iii. 7 (from “were opened”) to 19—a passage which has probably supplanted a more archaic and definitely mythological passage—may well have been the consequence of the change in the conception of the first man referred to above. Still there are four Babylonian stories which may serve as partial illustrations of the Hebrew Adam-story.
The first is contained in a fragment of a cosmogony in Berossus, now confirmed in the main by the sixth tablet of the Creation-epic. It represents the creation of man as due to one of the inferior gods who (at Bel’s command) mingled with clay the blood which flowed from the severed head of Bel (see Cosmogony). The three others are the myths of Adapa, Ea-bani and Etana. As to Adapa, it may be mentioned here that Fossey has shown reason for holding that the true reading of the name is Adamu. It thus becomes plausible to hold that “Adam” in Gen. ii.-iii. was originally a proper name, and that it was derived from Babylonia. More probably, however, this is but an accidental coincidence; both adam and adamu may come from the same Semitic root meaning “to make.” Certainly Adamu (if it is not more convenient to write “Adapa”) was not regarded as the progenitor of the human race, like the Hebrew Adam. He was, however, certainly a man—one of those men who were not, of course, rival first-men, but were specially created and endowed. Adamu or Adapa, we are told, received from his divine father the gift of wisdom, but not that of everlasting life. He had a chance, however, of obtaining the gift, or at least of eating the food and drinking the water which makes the gods ageless and immortal. But through a deceit practised upon him by his divine father Ea, he supposed the food and drink offered to him on a certain occasion by the gods to be “food of death,” “water of death,” just as Adam and Eve at first believed that the fruit of the magic tree would produce death (Gen. iii. 4, 5).
The second story is that of Ea-bani, who was formed by the goddess Arusu (=the mother-goddess Ishtar) of a lump of clay (cp. Gen. ii. 7). This human creature, long-haired and sensual, was drawn away from a savage mode of life by a harlot, and Jastrow, followed by G. A. Barton, Worcester and Tennant, considers this to be parallel to the story which may underlie the account of the failure of the beasts, and the success of the woman Eve, as a “help-meet” for Adam. This, however, is most uncertain.
The third is that of Etana. Here the main points are that Etana is induced by an eagle to mount up to heaven, that he may win a boon from the kindly goddess Ishtar. Borne by the eagle, he soared high up into the ether, but became afraid. Downward the eagle and his burden fell, and in the epic of Gilgamesh we find Etana in the nether world. According to Jastrow, this attempted ascension was an offence against the gods, and his fall was his punishment. We are not told, however, that Etana had the impious desire of Ezekiel’s first man, and if he fell, it was through his own timidity (contrast Ezek. xxviii. 16). But certainly the myth does help us to imagine a story in which, for some sin against the gods, some favoured hero was hurled down from the divine abode, and such a story may some day be discovered.
To these illustrations it is unsafe to add the scene on a cylinder preserved in the British Museum, representing two figures, a man (with horns) and perhaps a woman, both clothed, on either side of a fruit-tree, towards which they stretch out their hands. For the meaning of this is extremely problematical. Some better monumental illustration may some day be found, for it is clear that the Babylonian sacred literature had much to tell of offences against the gods in the primeval age.
The student may naturally ask, Whence did the Israelites (a comparatively young people) obtain the original myth? It is most probable that they obtained it through the mediation either of the Canaanites or of the North Arabians. Babylonian influence, as is now well known, was strongly felt for many centuries in Canaan, and even the cuneiform script was in common use among the high officials of the country. When the Israelites entered Canaan, they would learn myths partly of Babylonian origin. North Arabian influence must also have been strong among the Israelites, at least while they sojourned in North Arabia. From the Kenites, at any rate, they may have received, not only a strong religious impulse, but a store of tales of the primitive age, and these stories too may have been partly influenced by Babylonian traditions. We must allow for stages of development both among the Israelites and among their tutors.
9. Biblical References to the Adam-story.—It is remarkable how little influence the Adam-story has had on the earlier parts of the Old Testament. The garden of Eden is referred to in Isa. li. 3, Ezek. xxxvi, 35. Joel ii. 5; cp. Ezek. xxviii. 13, xxxi. 8, 9, 16, 18, all of which are later. And it is mostly in the “humanistic” book of Proverbs that we find allusions to the “tree of life” (Prov. iii. 18, xi. 30, xiii. 12, xv. 4), and to the “fountain of life”—perhaps (see § 4) an omitted portion of the old Paradise story (Prov. x. 11, xiii. 14, xiv. 27, xvi. 22),—the only other Biblical reference (apart from Rev. xxi. 6) being in that exquisite passage, Ps. xxxvi. 9. One can hardly be surprised at this. The Adam-story is plainly of foreign origin, and could not please the greater pre-exilic prophets. In late post-exilic times, however, foreign tales, even if of mythical origin, naturally came into favour, especially as religious symbols. If even now philosophers and theologians cannot resist the temptation to allegorize, how inevitable was it that this course should be pursued by early Jewish theologians!
10. Incipient Reflexion on the Story.—Let us give some instances of this. In Enoch lxix. 6 we find the story of Eve’s temptation read in the light of that of the fallen angels (Gen. vi. 1, 2, 4) who conveyed an evil knowledge to men, and so subjected mankind to mortality. Evidently the writer fears culture. Elsewhere eating the fruit of the “tree of wisdom” is given as the cause of the expulsion of the human pair. In the Wisdom of Solomon (x. 1, 2) we find another view. Here, as in Ezekiel, the first man is pre-eminently wise and strong; though he transgressed, wisdom rescued him, i.e. taught him repentance (cp. Life of Adam and Eve, §§. 1-8). Elsewhere (ii. 24; cp. Jos. Ant. i. 1, 4) death is traced to the envy of the devil, still implying an exalted view of Adam. It is held that, but for his sin, Adam would have been immortal. Clearly the Jewish mind is exposed to some fresh foreign influences. As in the Talmud and the Jerusalem Targum, the serpent has even become the devil, i.e. Satan. The period of syncretism has fully come, and Zoroastrianism in particular, more indirectly than directly, is exercising an attractive power upon the Jews. For all that, the theological thinking is characteristically Jewish, and such guidance as Jewish thinkers required was mainly given by Greek culture. On this subject see further Eve, §. 5.
11. Growth of a Theology.—Let us now turn to the Apocalypses of Baruch and of Ezra (both about 70 A.D.). Different views are here expressed. According to one (xvii. 3, xix. 8, xxiii. 4) the sin of Adam was the cause of physical death; according to another (liv. 15, lvi. 6), only of premature physical death, while according to a third (xlviii. 42, 43) it is spiritual death which is to be laid to his account. Of these three views, it is only the second which harmonizes with Gen. ii.-iii. In one of the two passages which express it we are also told that each member of the human race is “the Adam of his own soul.” Adam, like Satan in Ecclus. xxi; 27, has become a psychological symbol. Truly, a worthy development of the seed-thoughts of the original narrator, and (must we not add?) entirely opposed to any doctrine of Original Sin.
In 4 Ezra, too, we find no real endorsement of such a doctrine. It is true, not only physical death (iii. 7), but spiritual, is traced to the act of Adam (iii. 21, 22, iv. 30, 31, vii. 118-121). But two modifying facts should be noticed. One is that Adam is said to have had from the first a wicked heart, owing to which he fell, and his posterity likewise, into sin and guilt. All men have the same seed of evil in them that Adam had; they sin and die, like him. The other is that, according to iii. 7-12, there are at least two ages of the world. The first ended with the Flood, so that any consequences of Adam’s sin were, strictly speaking, of limited duration. The second began with righteous Noah and his household, “of whom came all righteous men.” It was the descendants of these who “began again to do ungodliness more than the former ones.” Doubtless the problem of evil is most imperfectly treated, even from the writer’s point of view. But it would be cruel to pick holes in a writer whose thinking, like that of St Paul, is coloured by emotion.
At this point we might well make more than a passing reference to St Paul (Rom. v. 14; 1 Cor. xv. 22, 45, 47), whose doctrine of sin is evidently of mixed origin. But we cannot find space for this here. In compensation let it be mentioned that in Rev. xii. 9 (cp. xx. 2) the “great dragon,” who persecuted the woman “clothed with the sun,” is identified with “the old serpent, that is called the Devil and Satan.” The identification is incorrect. But it may be noticed here that the phrase “the old serpent” sheds some light on the Pauline phrases “the first man Adam” and “the last Adam” (1 Cor. xv. 45, 47). The underlying idea is that the new age (that of the new heaven and earth) will be opened by events parallel to those which opened the first age. As the old serpent deceived man of old, so shall it be again. And as at the head of the first age stands the first Adam, whose doings affected all his descendants to their harm, so at the head of the second shall stand the second Adam, whose actions shall be potent for good. There is reason to suspect that the expression “the second Adam” is the coinage either of St Paul or of some one closely connected with him (as Prof. G. F. Moore has shown), for there is no proof that such terms as “the last,” or “the second Adam,” were generally current among the Jews.
12. Jewish Legends.—The parallelism between the first and second Adam in 1 Cor. xv. 45 is a parallelism of contrast. Jewish legends, however, suggest another sort of parallelism. The Haggadah gives the most extravagant descriptions of the glory of Adam before his fall. The most prominent idea is that being in the image of God—the God whose essence is light—he must have had a luminous body (like the angels). “I made thee of the light,” says God in the Book of Adam and Eve (Malan, p. 16), “and I willed to bring children of light from thee.” Similarly in Baba batra, 58a, we read, “he was of extraordinary beauty and sun-like brightness.” So glorious was he that even the angels were commanded through Michael to pay homage to Adam. Satan, disobeying, was cast out of heaven; hence his ill-will towards Adam (Life of Adam and Eve, sec. sec. 13-17; cp. Koran, xvii. 63, xx. 115, xxxviii. 74).
It only remains to give due honour to one of the most beautiful of legends, that of the deliverance of Adam’s spirit from the nether world by the Christ, the earliest form of which is a Christian interpolation in Apoc. Moses, sec. 42 (cp. Malan, Adam and Eve, iv. 15, end). We may compare a partly parallel passage in sec. 37, where the agent is Michael, and notice that such legendary developments were equally popular among Jews and Christians.
Authorities.— On the apocryphal Books of Adam, see Hort, Dict. of Chr. Biography, i. 37 ff. In English we have Malan’s translation of the Ethiopic Book of Adam (1882), and Issaverden’s translation of another Book of Adam from the Armenian (Venice, 1901). In German, see Fuchs’s translations in Kautzsch’s Die Apokryphen, ii. 506 ff. For full bibliography see Schurer, Gesch. des jüd. Folkes, ed. 3, iii. 288 f. On Jewish and Mahommedan legends, see Jewish Cyclopaedia, “Adam.” On the belief in the Fall, see Tennant, The Sources of the Doctrine of the Fall and Original Sin (1903). (T. K. C.)
- The English Bible gives “the Lord God.” This, however, does not adequately represent the Hebrew.
- See commentaries of Gunkel and Cheyne. As in v.10, the oceanstream is meant. (See Eden.)
- A widely spread mythic representation. (Cp. Cosmogony.)
- See an illustration from Naville’s Book of the Dead (Egyptian) in Jewish Cyclopaedia, i. 174a.
- Or park. (See Paradise.)
- The later Jews, however, supposed that before the Fall the animals could speak, and that they had all one language (Jubilees, iii. 28; Jos. Antiquities, i. I, 4).
- Cheyne, Genesis and Exodus, referring to Dorsey, Traditions of the Skidi Pawnee, pp. 280 ff.
- ”Good and evil” may be a late marginal gloss. See further Ency. Bib. col. 3578, and the commentaries (Driver leaves the phrase); also Jastrow, Relig. of. Bab. and Ass. p. 553; Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 242.
- See illustration in Toy’s Ezekiel (Sacred Books of the Old Testament), p. 182.
- Gaokerena is the mythic white haoma plant (Zendavesta, Vendidad, xx. 4; Bundahish, xxvii. 4). It is an idealization of the yellow haoma of the mountains which was used in sacrifices (Yasna, x. 6-10). It corresponds to the soma plant (Asclepias acida) of the ancient Aryans of India. On the illustrative value of Gaokerena see Cheyne, Origin of the Psalter, pp. 400-439.
- See Life of Adam and Eve (apocryphal), §§ 36, 40; Apocal. Mos. § 9; Secrets of Enoch, viii. 7, xxii. 8, 9. “Oil of life,” in a Bab. hymn, Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, ed. 3, p. 526.
- Cp. the Bab. myths of Adapa and of the Descent of Ishtar.
- W. R. Smith, Relig. of Semites, pp. 133, 442; Ency. Bib., “Serpent,” §§ 3, 4.
- Note the food and drink of the gods in the Babylonian Adapa (or Adamu?) myth.
- The mortality of man forms no part of the curse (cp. iii. 19, “dust thou art”).
- See H. Schultz, Alttest. Theologie, ed. 4, pp. 679 ff., 720; Driver, Genesis, p. 44.
- See Cheyne, Genesis and Exodus.
- Cp. the “fair shepherd” Yima of the Avesta (Vend. ii.), the first man and the founder of civilization to the Iranians, though not like the Yama of the Vedas.
- See Jastrow, Rel. of Bab. and Ass. pp. 548-554; R. J. Harper, in Academy, May 30, 1891; Jensen, Keilinschr. Bibliothek, vi. 93 ff.
- The wisdom was probably to qualify him as a ruler. It is too much to say with Hommel that “Adapa is the archetype of the Johannine Logos.”
- Jastrow, op. cit. p. 474 ff.; Jensen, Keil. Bibl. vi. 120 ff.
- Jastrow, p. 522 f.; Jensen, vi. 112 ff.
- See Smith and Sayce, Chaldaean Genesis, p. 88; Delitzsch, Wo lag das Paradies? p. 90; Babel and Bible, Eng. trans., p. 56, with note on pp. 114-118; Zimmern, Die Keilinschr. und das A.T., ed. 3, p. 529; Jeremias, Das Alte Test. im Lichte d. Alten Orient. pp. 104-106.