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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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the name given to man in general, both male and female, in the Hebrew Scriptures, Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 5:1-2; Genesis 11:5; Joshua 14:15; 2 Samuel 7:19; Ecclesiastes 3:21; Jeremiah 32:20; Hosea 6:7; Zechariah 13:7 : in all which places mankind is understood; but particularly it is the name of the first man and father of the human race, created by God himself out of the dust of the earth. Josephus thinks that he was called Adam by reason of the reddish colour of the earth out of which he was formed, for Adam in Hebrew signifies red. God having made man out of the dust of the earth, breathed into him the breath of life, and gave him dominion over all the creatures of this world, Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 2:7 . He created him after his own image and resemblance; and having blessed him, he placed him in a delicious garden, in Eden, that he might cultivate it, and feed upon its fruits, Genesis 2:8; but under the following injunction: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." The first thing that Adam did after his introduction into paradise, was to give names to all the beasts and birds which presented themselves before him, Genesis 2:19-20 .

But man was without a fellow creature of his own species; wherefore God said, "It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a help meet for him." And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and while he slept, he took one of his ribs, "and closed up the flesh instead thereof;" and of that substance which he took from man made he a woman, whom he presented to him. Then said Adam, "This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man," Genesis 2:21 , &c.

The woman was seduced by the tempter; and she seduced her husband to eat of the forbidden fruit. When called to judgment for this transgression before God, Adam attempted to cast the blame upon his wife, and the woman upon the serpent tempter. But God declared them all guilty, and punished the serpent by degradation; the woman by painful childbearing and subjection; and the man by agricultural labour and toil; of which punishments every day witnesses the fulfilment. As their natural passions now became irregular, and their exposure to accidents was great, God made a covering of skins for Adam and for his wife; and expelled them from the garden, to the country without; placing at the east of the garden cherubims and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. It is not known how long Adam and his wife continued in paradise: some say, many years; others, not many days; others, not many hours. Adam called his wife's name Eve, which signifies "the mother of all living." Shortly after, Eve brought forth Cain, Genesis 4:1-2 . It is believed that she had a girl at the time, and that, generally, she had twins. The Scriptures notice only three sons of Adam: Cain, Abel, and Seth; and omits daughters; except that Moses tells us, "Adam beast sons and daughters;" no doubt many. He died, aged nine hundred and thirty, B.C. 3074.

Upon this history, so interesting to all Adam's descendants, some remarks may be offered.

1. It is disputed whether the name Adam is derived from red earth. Sir W. Jones thinks it may be from Adim, which in Sanscrit signifies, the first. The Persians, however, denominate him Adamah, which signifies, according to Sale, red earth. The term for woman is Aisha. the feminine of Aish, man, and signifies, therefore, maness, or female man.

2. The manner in which the creation of Adam is narrated indicates something peculiar and eminent in the being to be formed. Among the heavenly bodies the earth, and above all the various productions of its surface, vegetable and animal, however perfect in their kinds, and beautiful and excellent in their respective natures, not one being was found to whom the rest could minister instruction; inspire with moral delight; or lead up to the Creator himself. There was, properly speaking, no intellectual being; none to whom the whole frame and furniture of material nature could minister knowledge; no one who could employ upon them the generalizing faculty, and make them the basis of inductive knowledge. If, then, it was not wholly for himself that the world was created by God; and if angels were not so immediately connected with this system, as to lead us to suppose that it was made for them; a rational inhabitant was obviously still wanting to complete the work, and to constitute a perfect whole. The formation of such a being was marked, therefore, by a manner of proceeding which serves to impress us with a sense of the greatness of the work. Not that it could be a matter of more difficulty to Omnipotence to create man than any thine beside; but principally, it is probable, because he was to be the lord of the whole and therefore himself accountable to the original proprietor; and was to be the subject of another species of government, a moral administration; and to be constituted an image of the intellectual and moral perfections, and of the immortality of the common Maker. Everything therefore, as to man's creation, is given in a solemn and deliberative form, and contains also an intimation of a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead, all equally possessed of creative power, and therefore Divine, to each of whom man was to stand in relations the most sacred and intimate:—"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion," &c.

3. It may be next inquired in what that image of God in which man was made consists.

It is manifest from the history of Moses, that human nature has two essential constituent parts, the BODY formed out of pre-existing matter, the earth; and a LIVING SOUL, breathed into the body by an inspiration from God. "And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils (or face ) the breath of life, ( lives, ) and man became a living soul." Whatever was thus imparted to the body of man, already "formed," and perfectly finished in all its parts, was the only cause of life; and the whole tenor of Scripture shows that this was the rational spirit itself, which, by a law of its Creator, was incapable of death, even after the body had fallen under that penalty.

The "image" or likeness of God in which man was made has, by some, been assigned to the body; by others to the soul. It has, also, been placed in the circumstance of his having "dominion" over the other creatures. As to the body, it is not necessary to prove that in no sense can it bear the image of God; that is, be "like" God. An upright form has no more likeness to God than a prone or reptile one; God is incorporeal, and cannot be the antitype of any thing material.

Equally unfounded is the notion that the image of God in man consisted in the "dominion" which was granted to him over this lower world. Limited dominion may, it is true, be an image of large and absolute dominion; but man is not said to have been made in the image of God's dominion, which is an accident merely, for, before creatures existed, God himself could have no dominion; he was made in the image and likeness of God himself. Still farther, it is evident that man, according to the history, was made in the image of God in order to his having dominion, as the Hebrew particle imports; and, therefore, his dominion was consequent upon his formation in the "image" and "likeness" of God, and could not be that image itself.

The notion that the original resemblance of man to God must be placed in some one essential quality, is not consistent with holy writ, from which alone we can derive our information on this subject. We shall, it is true, find that the Bible partly places it in what is essential to human nature; but that it should comprehend nothing else, or consist in one quality only, has no proof or reason; and we are, in fact, taught that it comprises also what is so far from being essential that it may be both lost and regained. When God is called "the Father of Spirits," a likeness is suggested between man and God in the spirituality of their nature. This is also implied in the striking argument of St. Paul with the Athenians: "Forasmuch, then, as we are the OFFSPRING of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device;"—plainly referring to the idolatrous statues by which God was represented among Heathens. If likeness to God in man consisted in bodily shape, this would not have been an argument against human representations of the Deity; but it imports, as Howe well expresses it, that "we are to understand that our resemblance to him, as we are his offspring, lies in some higher, more noble, and more excellent thing, of which there can be no figure; as who can tell how to give the figure or image of a thought, or of the mind or thinking power?" In spirituality, and, consequently, immateriality, this image of God in man, then, in the first instance, consists. Nor is it any valid objection to say, that "immateriality is not peculiar to the soul of man; for we have reason to believe that the inferior animals are actuated by an immaterial principle." This is as certain as analogy can make it: but though we allow a spiritual principle to animals, its kind is obviously inferior; for that spirit which is incapable of induction and moral knowledge, must be of an inferior order to the spirit which possesses these capabilities; and this is the kind of spirit which is peculiar to man.

The sentiment expressed in Wis_2:23 , is an evidence that, in the opinion of the ancient Jews, the image of God in man comprised immortality also. "For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity:" and though other creatures were made capable of immortality, and at least the material human frame, whatever we may think of the case of animals, would have escaped death, had not sin entered the world; yet, without admitting the absurdity of the "natural immortality" of the human soul, that essence must have been constituted immortal in a high and peculiar sense which has ever retained its prerogative of continued duration amidst the universal death not only of animals, but of the bodies of all human beings. There appears also a manifest allusion to man's immortality, as being included in the image of God, in the reason which is given in Genesis for the law which inflicts death on murderers: "Whose sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his, blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." The essence of the crime of homicide is not confined here to the putting to death the mere animal part of man; and it must, therefore, lie in the peculiar value of life to an immortal being, accountable in another state for the actions done in this, and whose life ought to be specially guarded for this very reason, that death introduces him into changeless and eternal relations, which were not to be left to the mercy of human passions.

To these we are to add the intellectual powers, and we have what divines, in perfect accordance with the Scriptures, have called, "the NATURAL image of God in his creatures," which is essential and ineffaceable. Man was made capable of knowledge, and he was endowed with liberty of will. This natural image of God was the foundation of that MORAL image by which also man was distinguished. Unless he had been a spiritual, knowing, and willing being, he would have been wholly incapable of moral qualities. That he had such qualities eminently, and that in them consisted the image of God, as well as in the natural attributes just stated, we have also the express testimony of Scripture: "Lo this only have I found, that God made man UPRIGHT; but they have sought out many inventions." There is also an express allusion to the moral image of God, in which man was at first created, in Colossians 3:10 : "And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of Him that created him;" and in Ephesians 4:24 : "Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." In these passages the Apostle represents the change produced in true Christians by the Gospel, as a "renewal of the image of God in man; as a new or second creation in that image;" and he explicitly declares, that that image consists in "knowledge," in "righteousness," and in "true holiness."

This also may be finally argued from the satisfaction with which the historian of the creation represents the Creator as viewing the works of his hands as "very good," which was pronounced with reference to each of them individually, as well as to the whole: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good." But, as to man, this goodness must necessarily imply moral as well as physical qualities. Without them he would have been imperfect as man; and had they, in their first exercises, been perverted and sinful, he must have been an exception, and could not have been pronounced "very good." The goodness of man, as a rational being, must lie in devotedness and consecration to God; consequently, man was at first holy. A rational creature, as such, is capable of knowing, loving, serving, and living in communion with the Most Holy One. Adam, at first, did or did not exert this capacity; if he did not, he was not very good, —not good at all.

4. On the intellectual and moral endowments of the progenitor of the human race, erring views appear to have been taken on both sides.

In knowledge, some have thought him little inferior to the angels; others, as furnished with but the simple elements of science and of language. The truth seems to be that, as to capacity, his intellect must have been vigorous beyond that of any of his fallen descendants; which itself gives us very high views of the strength of his understanding, although we should allow him to have been created "lower than the angels." As to his actual knowledge, that would depend upon the time and opportunity he had for observing the nature and laws of the objects around him; and the degree in which he was favoured with revelations from God on moral and religious subjects.

On the degree of moral excellence also in the first man, much license has been given to a warm imagination, and to rhetorical embellishment; and Adam's perfection has sometimes been fixed at an elevation which renders it exceedingly difficult to conceive how he could fall into sin at all. On the other hand, those who either deny or hold very slightly the doctrine of our hereditary depravity, delight to represent Adam as little superior in moral perfection and capability to his descendants. But, if we attend to the passages of holy writ above quoted, we shall be able, on this subject, to ascertain, if not the exact degree of his moral endowments, yet that there is a certain standard below which they cannot be placed.—Generally, he was made in the image of God, which, we have already proved, is to be understood morally as well as naturally. Now, however the image of any thing may be limited in extent, it must still be an accurate representation as far as it goes. Every thing good in the creation must always be a miniature representation of the excellence of the Creator; but, in this case, the "goodness," that is, the perfection, of every creature, according to the part it was designed to act in the general assemblage of beings collected into our system, wholly forbids us to suppose that the image of God's moral perfections in man was a blurred and dim representation. To whatever extent it went, it necessarily excluded all that from man which did not resemble God; it was a likeness to God in "righteousness and true holiness," whatever the degree of each might be, and excluded all admixture of unrighteousness and unholiness. Man, therefore, in his original state, was sinless, both in act and in principle. Hence it is said that "God made man UPRIGHT." That this signifies moral rectitude cannot be doubted; but the import of the word is very extensive. It expresses, by an easy figure, the exactness of truth, justice, and obedience; and it comprehends the state and habit both of the heart and the life. Such, then, was the condition of primitive man; there was no obliquity in his moral principles, his mind, or affections; none in his conduct. He was perfectly sincere and exactly just, rendering from the heart all that was due to God and to the creature. Tried by the exactest plummet, he was upright; by the most perfect rule, he was straight. The "knowledge" in which the Apostle Paul, in the passage quoted above from Colossians 3:10 , places "the image of God" after which man was created, does not merely imply the faculty of understanding, which is a part of the natural image of God; but that which might be lost, because it is that in which we may be "renewed." It is, therefore, to be understood of the faculty of knowledge in right exercise; and of that willing reception, and firm retaining, and hearty approval, of religious truth, in which knowledge, when spoken of morally, is always understood in the Scriptures. We may not be disposed to allow, with some, that Adam understood the deep philosophy of nature, and could comprehend and explain the sublime mysteries of religion. The circumstance of his giving names to the animals, is certainly no sufficient proof of his having attained to a philosophical acquaintance with their qualities and distinguishing habits, although we should allow their names to be still retained in the Hebrew, and to be as expressive of their peculiarities as some expositors have stated. Sufficient time appears not to have been afforded him for the study of the properties of animals, as this event took place previous to the formation of Eve; and as for the notion of his acquiring knowledge by intuition, this is contradicted by the revealed fact that angels themselves acquire their knowledge by observation and study, though no doubt, with great rapidity and certainty. The whole of this transaction was supernatural; the beasts were "brought" to Adam, and it is probable that he named them under a Divine suggestion. He has been also supposed to be the inventor of language, but his history shows that he was never without speech. From the first he was able to converse with God; and we may, therefore, infer that language was in him a supernatural and miraculous endowment. That his understanding was, as to its capacity, deep and large beyond any of his posterity, must follow from the perfection in which he was created; and his acquisitions of knowledge would, therefore, be rapid and easy. It was, however, in moral and religious truth, as being of the first concern to him, that we are to suppose the excellency of his knowledge to have consisted. "His reason would be clear, his judgment uncorrupted, and his conscience upright and sensible." The best knowledge would, in him, be placed first, and that of every other kind be made subservient to it, according to its relation to that. The Apostle adds to knowledge, "righteousness and true holiness;" terms which express, not merely freedom from sin, but positive and active virtue.

Sober as these views of man's primitive state are, it is not, perhaps, possible for us fully to conceive of so exalted a condition as even this. Below this standard it could not fall; and that it implied a glory, and dignity, and moral greatness of a very exalted kind, is made sufficiently apparent from the degree of guilt charged upon Adam when he fell: for the aggravating circumstances of his offence may well be deduced from the tremendous consequences which followed.

5. The salvation of Adam has been disputed; for what reason does not appear, except that the silence of Scripture, as to his after life, has given bold men occasion to obtrude their speculations upon a subject which called for no such expression of opinion. As nothing to the contrary appears, the charitable inference is, that as he was the first to receive the promise of redemption, so he was the first to prove its virtue. It is another presumption, that as Adam and Eve were clothed with skins of beasts, which could not have been slain for food, these were the skins of their sacrifices; and as the offering of animal sacrifice was an expression of faith in the appointed propitiation, to that refuge we may conclude they resorted, and through its merits were accepted.

6. The Rabbinical and Mohammedan traditions and fables respecting the first man are as absurd as they are numerous. Some of them indeed are monstrous, unless we suppose them to be allegories in the exaggerated style of the orientals. Some say that he was nine hundred cubits high; whilst others, not satisfied with this, affirm that his head touched the heavens. The Jews think that he wrote the ninety-first Psalm, invented the Hebrew letters, and composed several treatises; the Arabians, that he preserved twenty books which fell from heaven; and the Musselmen, that he himself wrote ten volumes.

7. That Adam was a type of Christ, is plainly affirmed by St. Paul, who calls him "the figure of him who was to come." Hence our Lord is sometimes called, not inaptly, the Second Adam. This typical relation stands sometimes in SIMILITUDE, sometimes in CONTRAST. Adam was formed immediately by God, as was the humanity of Christ. In each the nature was spotless, and richly endowed with knowledge and true holiness. Both are seen invested with dominion over the earth and all its creatures; and this may explain the eighth Psalm, where David seems to make the sovereignty of the first man over the whole earth in its pristine glory, the prophetic symbol of the dominion of Christ over the world restored. Beyond these particulars fancy must not carry us; and the typical CONTRAST must also be limited to that which is stated in Scripture, or supported by its allusions. Adam and Christ were each a public person, a federal head to the whole race of mankind; but the one was the fountain of sin and death, the other of righteousness and life. By Adam's transgression "many were made sinners," Romans 5:14-19 . Through him, "death passed upon all men, because all have sinned" in him. But he thus prefigured that one man, by whose righteousness the "free gift comes upon all men to justification of life." The first man communicated a living soul to all his posterity; the other is a quickening Spirit, to restore them to newness of life now, and to raise them up at the last day. By the imputation of the first Adam's sin, and the communication of his fallen, depraved nature, death reigned over those who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression; and through the righteousness of the Second Adam, and the communication of a divine nature by the Holy Spirit, favour and grace shall much more abound in Christ's true followers unto eternal life. See REDEMPTION .

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Adam'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​a/adam.html. 1831-2.
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