The Last Adam As The “Life-Giving Spirit” Revisited: A Possible Old Testament Background Of One Of Paul’s Most Perplexing Phrases -- By: Benjamin L. Gladd

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 71:2 (Fall 2009)
Article: The Last Adam As The “Life-Giving Spirit” Revisited: A Possible Old Testament Background Of One Of Paul’s Most Perplexing Phrases
Author: Benjamin L. Gladd


The Last Adam As The “Life-Giving Spirit” Revisited:
A Possible Old Testament Background
Of One Of Paul’s Most Perplexing Phrases

Benjamin L. Gladd

Benjamin L. Gladd is Adjunct Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill.

In 1 Cor 15:45b Paul declares, “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”1 Christ becoming a “life-giving Spirit” surprises the reader.2 We expect the phrase “living Spirit,” paralleling the first Adam “becoming a living being.” Conzelmann contends, “This exegesis cannot be derived from the Old Testament text.”3 Fee likewise claims that 15:45b”is neither present nor inferred in the Genesis text.”4 From whence does Paul derive his hermeneutic? This article explores the notion that the Genesis narrative, specifically Gen 5:3, has indeed shaped Paul’s thinking with regard to Christ becoming a “life-giving Spirit.” Adam’s impartation of his image to Seth typologically parallels the last Adam’s impartation of his image to believers.

Scholars have generally placed Paul’s Adamic hermeneutic in either a Gnostic or a broadly Jewish stream of thought. The Gnostic background, though initially strong, has severely waned in recent years, whereas the Philonic backdrop ebbs and flows.5 Others see Paul developing his framework against the

background of the OT and early Judaism.6 In this respect, some argue that Paul’s Adamic Christology had its seeds in the Damascus road encounter with Christ,7 and that Paul further developed this Christology in the light of the OT and early Jewish tradition. The emphasis on the Jewish background is probably correct, but nobody has been able to explain convincingly why Paul uses the expression “life-giving Spirit” in its wider context.

I. Genesis 2:7 In 1 Corinthians 15:45

First Corinthians 15:45 can be easily arranged and co...

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