New publications on Adam in Second Temple Judaism

I see that the recent volume of articles from the 13th conference of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature (Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation from Second Temple Literature through Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity, edited by M. Kister, M. Segal, and R. A. Clements, Leiden: Brill, 2015) includes two important articles dealing with Jewish and early Christian traditions about Adam:

Menahem Kister, “Hellenistic Jewish Writers and Palestinian Traditions: Early and Late,” pp. 150–230.

Sergey Minov, “Satan’s Refusal to Worship Adam: A Jewish Motif and Its Reception in Syriac Christian Tradition,” pp. 230–72.

In recent decades some New Testament scholars have sought to downplay the existence of well-defined traditions surrounding Adam in Jewish thought that might have informed early Christian, especially Pauline, ideas about Christ as a new or second Adam. Both Kister and Minov concur with the approach I take in Jesus Monotheism (in, for example, volume 1, chapter 7), that there were indeed a number of traditions that explored Adam’s originally exalted, “divine” (my word) or cosmic status. They each make fascinating observations on the likely continuity between such traditions as they appear in a variety of Second Temple sources (especially Philo and the Pseudepigrapha) and later Christian sources and Jewish ones (rabbinic texts, piyyutim, targums).

Both also favour the view, for which I argue in depth in Jesus Monotheism, Volume 1, chapter 7, that the now famous story of the angels worshipping Adam as the image of God in the Latin Life of Adam and Eve 12–16 is pre-Christian and Jewish. Indeed, Minov makes a number of observations that buttress my argument that the story makes very little sense as the product of a Christian author, but very good sense as the work of a Jewish exegete explaining the meaning of the idol language in Genesis 1:26–28.

I particularly appreciate Minov’s discussion of the ways that The Worship of Adam story figured in later Christian debates with Muslims, who evidently knew a form of the legend and included it the Quran (see Quran 38:71–78; 2:30–36; 7:10–19; 15:26–35; 17:61–65; 18:50; 20:116–17). Minov notes the evidence that in the medieval age some Christian authors rejected the story (though some also affirmed it) because it was treated as authoritative by Muslims. I did not include any discussion of this feature of its tradition history in Jesus Monotheism. Volume 1. But I would now add Minov’s data to the case for thinking that the absence of The Worship of Adam story from some versions of the Primary Adam Books (known to us in Latin, Greek, Georgian, Armenian and Slavonic) is best explained on the theory that, over time, Christian scribes, editors and redactors of an originally Jewish collection of Adam stories removed the adoration of Adam because of it was theologically and apologetically embarrassing. Minov’s discussion suggests that for some Christian tradents of older, traditional Adam stories, The Worship of Adam story was awkward because, inter alia, it seemed to support Islamic tradition and thought. To what degree this was a factor in its suppression, I am not competent to judge. But that it was a factor is surely likely.

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