The Adam-Christ Typology In Paul And Its Development In The Early Church Fathers -- By: John VanMaaren

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 64:2 (NA 2013)
Article: The Adam-Christ Typology In Paul And Its Development In The Early Church Fathers
Author: John VanMaaren


The Adam-Christ Typology In Paul
And Its Development
In The Early Church Fathers

John VanMaaren

Summary

This article examines the development of the Adam-Christ typology in the early church. It begins by outlining the characteristics of typology and considering Paul’s use of the Adam-Christ typology. It then looks at the Adam-Christ typology in Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, Methodius, Augustine and Cyril of Alexandria. Each of these is compared with Paul. For Paul, it is Christ’s death and resurrection that correspond to Adam’s sin. The church fathers expand Paul’s typology and these expansions eventually come to overshadow the main point of correspondence for Paul, Christ’s death and resurrection.

1. Introduction

One way the New Testament writers understood the person and work of Christ was through the person and work of the first man, Adam. Christ was pictured as the second Adam who succeeded where Adam failed. This typological interpretation of the Old Testament was a common way New Testament writers read the Old Testament in which they found ‘types’ of Christ throughout the Old Testament that prefigured different aspects of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Because Paul’s writings contain the only explicit Adam-Christ typology in the New Testament, this paper will compare his use of the Adam-Christ typology with the early church fathers’ use in the writings of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, Methodius, Augustine and Cyril of

Alexandria.1 This comparison will show a gradual development away from Paul’s understanding of the Adam-Christ typology, which finds its correspondence between Adam’s sin and Christ’s sacrificial death, and toward a typology that finds its correspondence between Adam’s sinful life and Christ’s sinless life.

2. A Genuine New Testament Typology

In his seminal work on typology, Typos: The Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New, Leonhard Goppelt defined typology as ‘a prefiguration in a different stage of redemptive history that indicates the outline or essential features of the future reality and that loses its own significance when that reality appears’.2 This seventy year-old definition notes three aspects of correspondence between type and antitype that have retained general scholarly consensus. First, the correspondence must be historical. It is a ‘theological interpretation of history’ in the same way the Old Testament interpreted history theologically, but done after the further revelation given in Christ.

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