"adam" the common noun

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See also The human race (lit. children of adam)

A common noun, meaning humankind

The Hebrew word אדם adam is a common noun meaning man or person, including in the sense of humankind (see more detail of usage at The human race). In Numbers 31:35 it clearly refers to women, not men. It is used to mean person or humankind in this way about 500 times in the Hebrew Bible. Examples:
  • I made the earth,
and created humankind upon it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host. — Isaiah 45:12 (NRSV)
  • . . . ever since the day that God created human beings on the earth... —Deuteronomy 4:32 (NRSV)
  • and thirty-two thousand persons [וְנֶ֣פֶשׁ אָדָ֔ם literally, and souls of adam(s)] in all, women who had not known a man by sleeping with him. — Numbers 31:35 (NRSV)

a man of clay

The adam (אָדָם) is made of adamah (אֲדָמָה) — the human is made of earth.

Isaiah 29:15-16 — the thing the potter made cannot claim equal status with the potter, or deny him.
He is Formed from the dust, from Mother Earth

A personal name

The word "Adam" is also used, less frequently, as Adam's personal name — he is the man called "Man". It is used in this sense only in Genesis and 1 Chronicles, also perhaps, though ambiguously, in Deuteronomy 32:8 and Job 31:33.
The first time in Genesis where adam definitely refers to "Adam" the individual man is in Genesis 5:1-5. (See notes, especially re the Masoretic Text, at Genesis 3:17 - translation. In Genesis 4:1 it is translated "the man" by REB, NRSV and JPS Tanakh.)

This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created humankind [Heb. adam], he made them [Heb. him] in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them “Humankind” [Heb. adam] when they were created.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Genesis 5:1-5 (NRSV, including NRSV notes in square brackets.)
See Robert Alter's translation of this passage and his notes on the meaning of 'adam at Genesis 5:1-5.

Adam and Eve as archetypal Man and Woman

The understanding that Adam is the archetypal adam, the man called "Man" who represents all humankind, is reinforced by the fact that Eve can best be understood as the archetypal woman and mother: not only by the reference to her as "Mother of All Living" (which cannot be interpreted literally) but also by the reference to her in 1 Timothy 2:13. (The archetypal roles that Adam and Eve have do not, of course, preclude the possibility that they also existed as real individuals.)
See also Adam's Deep Sleep.
For on-going creation, see Genesis 2:3.
For on-going creation of people see Psalm 102:18.

Disagreeing with the above,
Colin wrote (June 2018) in the Conclusions to our "Reconciliation Challenge" re Acts 17:26 :–
"It does no credit to God’s inspired word in the creation account to misapply the Hebrew word for “man” to mean “humankind” to the exclusion of the one man, Adam. It makes no sense, when the tenor of God’s word demonstrates Adam was the first man of the human race, and that God formed Eve from Adam’s side after there was found no help meet for him among the beasts of the field that the angels brought before him. Jesus accepted the Genesis teaching that God first made Adam and Eve in the beginning, and instituted marriage on the basis of that union (Mark 10/6-9), whereby Eve became the mother of all living (Gen 3/20). "

Bruce replied:–
Don't disagree with Genesis though:—
  • "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:27)
  • "Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam" (Genesis 5:2)

Is Eve an "adam"?

Yes, Eve is an adam — she is a person (see above) — and Genesis 1 says of adam that "male and female created he them". Nevertheless when Genesis says that God "built" a woman for the man, she is described by the word אשה "ishah," the feminine form of the word איש "ish," which means "man" in the sense of a male person. Adam is not called an "ish" until Eve appears in the text and is called an "ishah".

Adam in the New Testament

The New Testament writers were of course aware of the ambiguity of the man ("adam") named Adam.

“When Paul speaks of or alludes to Adam he speaks of humankind as a whole . . .  We should probably see the figure of Adam, the archetypal human. . . .  We may note at once, therefore, Paul's awareness that that Adam (adam) denotes humankind."

"Whether Paul also thought of Adam as a historical individual and of a historical act of disobedience is less clear.”

— James Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle pp 83, 91 and 94
as cited in 'The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology'.
  • See also Ephesians 2:14-15 — the "one new man" made in Christ was "one new humanity" (NRSV and others), not a new individual man.
  • explicitly figurative Rom 5:14 - "who is the figure of him that was to come" (KJV) "who is a type of the one who was to come" (NRSV)
  • the "one" of Acts 17:26, from whom or which all nations have been made — usually translated simply as "one" but also "one blood", "one stock", "one ancestor" or "one man". (See detailed list and discussion at Acts 17:24-28#variant_translations.)
  • As above, see also 1 Timothy 2:13-15, where Eve is archetypal Woman standing for the sisters in Timothy’s ecclesia.

Misreading Adam

If Christians fail to give full weight to the significance of Adam as an archetypal figure, the paradoxical result is that they can also fail to give full weight to the importance of Jesus Christ himself. This is the result of interpreting the Saviour's primary task as rectification of his ancestor's error. See An Adam-based faith and follow the links from there.

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