N.T. Wright’s “Adam, Israel, and the Messiah,” in Climax of the Covenant, purports to identify the significance of Adam and Israel in Paul’s theology. Wright has observed previously in intertestamental and Rabbinic literature that Adam has traditionally been discussed in regards to Israel, as the people of God. In Dan 7, the Adam figure is linked with the righteous remnant of Israel. Israel is God’s true humanity, and it takes on the role marked out for Adam, as God’s people.

Moving through Paul’s letters, Wright observes and further examines the twist in this traditional Jewish thought with the development of the Adam-christology. In 1 Cor 15:20-57, the role traditionally assigned to Israel had devolved on to Jesus Christ. God’s true humanity is Christ, not Israel—made possible with Jesus as the Messiah. In Rom 5:12-21, it is stated that the people of Abraham are the true humanity, but Paul further links the true humanity symbolized in Abraham to the people of the Messiah Jesus. The obedience of Jesus Christ becomes the representative act of Israel, undoing and rectifying Adam’s sin and its effects. Wright draws conclusions here: 1) the apocalyptic belief of Israel in Jewish tradition as the last Adam is significant for Paul’s adam-christology, and 2) Jesus stands in the place of Israel. The resurrection is hence the key to understanding the act of grace and the purposes of God in Paul’s theology. God’s plan of salvation is to save Adam, who represents Israel in Jewish tradition. That role of salvation is now fulfilled in Jesus through the cross.

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