Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Friday, September 29, 2006

LDS Views on Adam and Insights from Ancient Christian Texts

"Adam in Ancient Texts and the Restoration" by Matt Roper over at FAIRLDS.org scores some excellent points for the Restoration, showing that a number of LDS concepts about Adam were also found in at least some parts of early Christianity. Forgetting that LDS apologetics are nothing more than ad hominem attacks, Roper makes the mistake of providing extensive documentation and scholarly insight. Yes, I know a lot of his fellow apologists share that weakness, but that's no excuse. While weak on the mindless anti-anti-Mormon ranting that we all crave so much, Roper's article is still an interesting read.

Roper's discussion covers many topics of interest including the pre-mortal existence of Adam, God's foreknowledge that Adam would transgress, the resulting preparation of the Plan of Redemption through the Messiah from the beginning, Adam's baptism, his relationship with God, and his divine destiny (theosis), etc. These concepts do not fit well with a common modern spin on Adam that makes him into a monster who wrecked God's plan of happiness for all of us, but they certainly resonate with several LDS perspectives. Here is one brief excerpt to whet your appetite:

Adam in the Garden

Recent studies by Michael Stone, W. Lipscomb, Gary Anderson and others have focused on a set of Armenian Christian Adam and Eve texts. These texts were first published in Armenian in 1898 and only in English in the last several decades.25 These texts discuss the events which took place in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. In one of these entitled, Adam and Eve and the Incarnation, the serpent tells Eve, "God was a man like you. When he ate of the fruit of this tree he became God of all"26 In The History of the Creation and Transgression of Adam, the serpent states, "God was like you, because he had not eaten of that fruit, When he ate it, he attained the glory of divinity." Speaking of devil's words to Eve, Michael Stone, the editor and translator of the recently published Armenian and Georgian Adam and Eve texts observes, "The formulation in our text says not just that humans will become like God (gods)" but also that "God was himself originally human and became divine through eating the fruit."27 This variation on the serpent's words is also found in several later medieval Jewish texts about Adam and Eve.28 In the Transgression of Adam, after Eve partakes of the fruit, Adam asks her, "Why have you eaten the fruit?" Eve responds by saying, "The fruit is very sweet. Take and you taste, and notice the sweetness of this fruit" but Adam refuses, saying, 'I cannot taste it." According to this particular account Eve the begins to cry and beg Adam to eat and "do not separate me from you." After some deliberation (three hours according to one account) Adam reasons, "It is better for me to die than to become separated and detached from this woman." Then he partakes of the fruit as well.

These and other extra-canonical texts indicate that after the redemption of Christ that Adam would be taken to paradise and that after the resurrection he would be restored to his former inheritance which he had lost at the Fall. The significance here is that Adam's restoration to his pre-mortal inheritance, where according to these texts he once reigned under God as a king and at God's specific command was even worshiped by the angels, suggests a return to a state where he could again receive such adoration, a state clearly suggestive of deification. The theme of deification in fact is explicit in the Syriac Testament of Adam. There Adam explains to his son Seth that God would eventually fulfil Adam's desire for deification. Just before being cast out of the Garden, the Lord tells him, "Adam, Adam, do not fear. You wanted to be a god; I will make you a god, not right now, but after the space of many years."

For your sake I will taste death and enter into the house of the dead.... And after three days, while I am in the tomb, I will raise up the body I received from you. And I will set you at the right hand of my divinity, and I will make you a god just like you wanted."*

25. W. Lowndes Lipscomb, The Armenian Apocryphal Adam Literature (University of Pennsylvania, 1990), 7.

26. Adam and Eve and the Incarnation, 4 (M5913), in Michael Stone, Armenian Apocrypha Relating to Adam and Eve (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 25.

27. Stone, Armenian Apocrypha Relating to Adam and Eve, 25.

28. "He well knows that if you eat thereof your eyes will be opened, and you will know how to create the world just as He." Chronicles of Jerahmeel, 22:3, in M. Gaster, ed., The Chronicles of Jerahmeel; or, The Hebrew Bible Historiale (New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1971), 47; "What he said, however, was that God ate of the tree and so built the world. `Therefore,' he went on, `eat you of it and you shall create worlds." Zohar, Genesis 36a, in Harry Sperling, ed., The Zohar (New York: Rebecca Bennet Publications, 1958), 134.
If you've been to the Temple recently, you may note that some Temple-related concepts resonate well with some parts of those ancient Christian texts.


David B said...

Much doctrinal misunderstanding arises from the mistaken belief that the patriarchs were as ignorant of christian and spiritual prinicples as they were of quantum mechanics. Christian historians rightly point to the first scriptural foreshadowing of the atonement of Jesus Christ being God's warning the serpent in the Garden of Eden that "I will place emnity between thee and the seed of the woman, ye shall have power to buise His heal but He shall have power to crush thy head."

Through Joseph Smith's `Pearl of Great Price,' we know that Adam was the first Christian and received knowlegde of all the principles and ordinances of the gospel necessary for Eternal Life which is now being substanciated by numerous Apocraphal texts.

Bishop Rick said...

Don't you mean that Adam was the first Jew?

Anonymous said...

Rick, Adam was the first person on earth to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and follow him. That makes broz's terminology perfectly accurate. Adam wasn't a descendant of, or a member of the Kingdom of, Judah, so "jew" would be a less accurate term.

Jeff said...

Brothers and Sisters, be careful when blogging on anything relating to early LDS views of Adam. That, among other things, has gotten me into disciplinary trouble because of the contents of my blog. I'm sure it varies from ward to ward but it seems to be a very sensitive subject.

Anonymous said...

My wife is Armenian, and she has some family members living there who have at times considered joining the church, but took issue with some of the doctrine, to include the church's position on Adam, pre-existence, divine progression, etc.

I will be forwarding this to my wife, as I will be very interested in their reaction to this "new" apocryphal material that has recently surfaced in their very own country. Armenians are very proud of the fact they were the first nation to adopt Christianity. Maybe the older the doctrine, the better, eh??

Anyway, thanks a bunch Mormanity for digging this up.

Anonymous said...

The problems associated with the Adam-God doctrine are nearly insurmountable. In the temple, Jesus is clearly subservient to the Father; however, Adam (Michael) is clearly subservient to Christ. If Christ was Adam's offspring, shouldn't Adam be over Christ? I don't have problems with Adam having a Celestial body, but if he were already like God, why would the pre-fallen Adam covet godhood? The fact that Brigham Young was primarily responsible for structuring our temple ordinances makes this even more of a mystery.

In the scriptures, that Christ is brought before the Ancient of Days and not the other way around has always fascinated me, but I can see why that might be, even if Adam was not divine. In short, though, we have some authorities who embraced this strange doctrine, and others, like Elder Orson Pratt who counseled the people to “believe it not!“

Either Adam was a god our he was an angel. How could he be both? Gabriel was an angel, or was he, too, divine? It goes far beyond paradox and well into contradiction.

As someone who one day hopes to inherit celestial glory, I certainly have no wish our desire to become an Adam for nearly a thousand years. And we know, too, that the Father has many worlds. Is he thus to be an Adam for each one? If God is a continuum, consisting of many gods, this only complicates things. It makes me wish Brigham could be here to answer these questions, because we KNOW he frequently referred to Adam as Michael, and this is what the temple and scriptures teach as well. If Adam came from a lower level of the celestial kingdom, might this be an upgrade? Who knows? Brigham said he wasn't telling the whole truth and that he was holding some things back.

I have no idea how he could have untangled this mess, which makes me hope this doctrine came from a bad meal and nothing more.