A SECOND ADAM CHRISTOLOGY IN HEBREWS 2

by Pastor Timothy Bertolet

The purpose of this paper will be to argue that the epistle to the Hebrews contains an implicit Second Adam Christology that serves to advance its argumentation concerning the work of Christ to bring humanity to eschatological glory. This paper will seek to build on the foundation of those who have, to varying degrees, highlighted an incipient Second Adam Christology in Hebrews while proposing several ways that this helps us understand the flow of argumentation in Hebrews 2. This paper will be divided into three parts of argumentation. Our first task in this paper will be to define a Second Adam Christology, which we will follow, with a second section containing an introductory examination of the use of Psalm 8 in the context of Hebrews 1 and 2. Finally, we will suggest that this Second Adam Christology illuminates Hebrews’ conception of Christ as ἀρχηγός, is the manner in which Hebrews understands Christ’s representation for the σπέρματος Ἀβραὰμ, and thus undergirds the significance of the humanity and superiority of Christ in the epistle.

  1. A Working Definition.

Second Adam Christology is usually a designation used to refer to Paul’s discussion in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 where he draws direct correlations and contrasts between the role of Adam and the role of Christ in their respective acts of disobedience and obedience or their roles as head of humanity and the new humanity. In our discussion of the text of Hebrews 2, we will use this same designation to show how Hebrews conceptualizes Christ in light of Psalm 8 and Christ’s relationship to the people of God. In using this designation we are making no statements about the relationship between Paul and Hebrews, but assume that both are drawing from the background of the role of Adam in Second Temple Judaism. In order to briefly establish a working definition, we shall turn to two New Testament scholars whose work in Christology has strongly influenced the direction of the field of Christological reflection for this generation of New Testament scholarship.

In 1977, C.F.D. Moule, in his work “The Origin of Christology,” brought one of the early challenges to the notion that a “high” Christology of later Christian writers must have evolved from a original low Christology.[1] His work sketched how Christ was conceived by the early church not only as an individual, but personal experience was attached to Christ so that early Christians considered the corporate implications of Christ. He seeks to go beyond Oscar Cullmann’s Christology via titles to look at the corporate experience of Christ.[2] Of particular interest early in his work is his discussion on the relationship between the title Son of Man, its background in Daniel 7, and the corporate dimension of this exalted figure.

Moule writes concerning the Danielic Son of Man:

It is often pointed out that the Danielic vision constitutes a meditation on the supremacy of Adam over the rest of nature in the Genesis creation stories. Perhaps it is even more apposite to recall that Ps. 8 expresses surprise and admiration that God has exalted frail man to this position of supremacy. All in all, then, the human figure of Dan. 7 is highly appropriate to the ministry of Jesus. On this showing, it is not a title for Jesus, but a symbol of vocation to be utterly loyal, even to death, in the confidence of ultimate vindication in the heavenly court. Jesus is alluding to “the (well known, Danielic) Son of Man” in this vein. As Dr. Morna Hooker has shown, this makes good sense of the Marcan sayings about the Son of Man’s authority: it is the authority (whether in heaven or on earth) of true Israel, and so, of authentic Man, obedient through thick and thin, to God’s design.[3]

Later in his work, building on this discussion, Moule remarks that contained in Hebrews 2 “in nuce is an Adam-Christology.”[4] He marks this by the conception of vindication in glory and corporate representation of God’s people. Jesus, after his temptation and agony, has now “by his flesh … made the transition from earth to heaven.”[5] While Jesus is ahead of the believer in heaven, he has gone ahead to enable the believer to make such a transition to exaltation.[6] Jesus “is identified as the one who alone fulfilled the glorious destiny designed, according to Psalm 8, for mankind as a whole.”[7] His crowning is the crowning to which mankind was destined. His fulfillment guarantees a corporate fulfillment upon believers. As Moule puts it later summarizing other NT data, “he [Jesus] is the origin and active initiator of all that the believer may hope — derivately [sic] and by dependence upon him — to become.[8]

James D.G. Dunn’sChristology in the Making” has also been influential in the study of the Christological reflections of the early church. He, too, suggests that Hebrews 2 contains something akin to an “Adam-Christology.” He characterizes this concept as “[t]he divine program for man which broke down with Adam has been run through again in Jesus — this time successfully.”[9] Similar to Moule, Dunn highlights the concepts of solidarity with humanity, recapitulation of Adam’s task, and progenitor of a new humanity.[10] Dunn concludes, “The way in which Jesus becomes last Adam is by following the path taken by the first Adam.”[11]

Thus for both Moule and Dunn what constitutes a Second Adam Christology is representation and recapitulation with fulfillment. Adam represented humanity and in a Second Adam Christology, Christ represents a new humanity. There is also a recapitulation. The Second Adam repeats but completes or fulfills the activity of the first Adam therefore setting things right. He is rewarded dominion and regal sovereignty over creation in an Adamic-like capacity.[12]

Second Temple Judaism considered the fulfillment of the eschaton to be patterned after Adam and the Garden of Eden.[13] Thus, the restoration of the saints and their vindication entailed an endowment or crowning with the glory of Adam.[14] For Hebrews, the activity of Christ as an act of obedience leads to a crowning of his humanity with glory and honor. It is the movement from humiliation to exaltation. This is much like the movement of Second Temple Judaism where the righteous are lowly and suffering in this age but exalted in the age to come at the judgment.

Second Adam theology takes its cue from Second Temple Judaism beliefs in the age to come that provided part of the seed bed for early Christian theology regarding the inaugurated eschaton and work of the Messiah. This seed bed flourishes in various ways in early Christianity including Paul’s articulation, early gospel writer’s reflections on Jesus’ Son of Man tradition, and early Christian inaugurated eschatology. It is our proposal that this “Adam Christology” explains Hebrews’ reflection on the work of Christ and his exaltation in Hebrews 2:5-18. In short, we propose that Hebrews has a “Second Adam Christology” that explains in part how Hebrews conceptualizes not only the work of Christ as obedient to death followed by exaltation but also aspects of the representative nature of Christ’s humanity and his corporate connectivity to believers.

  1. Psalm 8 in the Argument of Hebrews 1 and 2.

The argument of Hebrews 2:5-18 flows directly out of the argument of the exaltation and identity of the Son in Hebrews 1. The writer begins with a concern over the dominion and rulership of the eschatological age. Angels are not those who have dominion and authority over the age to come: Οὐ γὰρ ἀγγέλοις ὑπέταξεν τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν, περὶ ἧς λαλοῦμεν.

The thought in this passage is rooted in the Second Temple distinction between the present age and the age to come.[15] This pattern can be found in modified form in the New Testament as it is well recognized that early Christians believed that the work of Christ had inaugurated the eschatological age.[16] This in-breaking of the eschaton drives the argument of Hebrews in significant ways.[17]

Right from the introduction of the book, the author is concerned with the activity that God has done in ἐπʼ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων as he has ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ. This climax of historia salutis has come in God’s action of the Son being appointed heir of all things (ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων). In appointing this reign to the Son, he has ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς. Hebrews sees the dawning of age to come in that actions of God that are both revelatory (apocalyptic) and eschatological. The Son is appointed ruler. The appointed heir (the firstborn: τὸν πρωτότοκον) comes εἰς τὴν οἰκουμένην (1:6) so that he can usher in the τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν directly through his activity of behalf of the people of God. He does this not only by means of offering atonement but by offering up active human/Adamic obedience.

Speculation on the rulership of angels over human realms and nations is quite common in Second Temple Judaism. Hebrews, however, argues that the Son is different in several ways. First, none of the angels have ever been designated Son (1:5). This statement may have seemed contradictory at first glance since angels were sometimes referred to as sons of God, e.g. בְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים in Job 1:6 & 2:1, which the LXX translates οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ. Yet, Hebrew’s point is that no angel ever was exalted to God’s right hand although they might minister within the divine glory.[18] Second, Hebrews quotes LXX Deut. 32:43 with reference to the Son so that the angels worship the Son just as they would God. Finally, the Son inherits the rulership of creation via exaltation and declaration of Sonship. This signals the climax and inauguration of the last days. Even the Son was the means by which God created the ages (1:3 διʼ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας), He rules over all via God’s appointment (1:3 ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων; see also Psalm 110 in Heb. 1:13).

The author of Hebrews does not merely lay out that Christ is divine in chapter one only to turn and pursue a different tact in chapter two that the son is human.[19] While these two statements in themselves summarize key points, the author of Hebrews is driven by the eschatology of his argument. Chapters 1 and 2 serve a unified argument. This Son who inherits does indeed inherit because he shares in the divine glory and divine identity of YHWH.[20] No angel, though present in the glory of heaven and often described as having a sort of glory, has ever been called out as Son and installed to reign over all creation. Nor will any angel receive such position over creation in the age to come despite what role they might hold in the present age over nations and kingdoms. But even more in this appointing to reign over the new age, the Son has also been crowned with eschatological glory exceeding the glory of angels. He fulfills the destiny for which humanity was created—glory and rulership of creation under God. The Son has not only been installed as heir of creation, his crowning with glory is the dawning of ‘τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν’. The Son, unlike angels, is the hinge point of history but also the ἀρχηγός of the transition of humanity into glory.

Having laid out the context up to Hebrews 2:6, we turn to the quotation of Psalm 8:5-7 from the LXX in Hebrews 2:6-8. The MT and the LXX are as follows:

5              מָֽה־אֱנ֥וֹשׁ כִּֽי־תִזְכְּרֶ֑נּוּ וּבֶן־אָ֝דָ֗ם כִּ֣י תִפְקְדֶֽנּוּ׃

6              וַתְּחַסְּרֵ֣הוּ מְּ֭עַט מֵאֱלֹהִ֑ים וְכָב֖וֹד וְהָדָ֣ר תְּעַטְּרֵֽהוּ׃

7              תַּ֭מְשִׁילֵהוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂ֣י יָדֶ֑יךָ כֹּ֝ל שַׁ֣תָּה תַֽחַת־רַגְלָֽיו׃

5 τί ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος, ὅτι μιμνῄσκῃ αὐτοῦ, ἢ υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου, ὅτι ἐπισκέπτῃ αὐτόν;

6 ἠλάττωσας αὐτὸν βραχύ τι παῤ ἀγγέλους, δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφάνωσας αὐτόν,

7 καὶ κατέστησας αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὰ ἔργα τῶν χειρῶν σου, πάντα ὑπέταξας ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ,

The key difference between the two texts is the Hebrew “מֵאֱלֹהִ֑ים” and the LXX “παῤ ἀγγέλους.” While it is possible that the original Hebrew refers to the divine council or heavenly beings, the best translation would be to translate it as a “little lower than God.” This would be consistent with the Psalm’s reflection on Genesis 1:26-28 where humanity is established as vice-regents under the authority of YHWH/God.

While the writer of Hebrews uses the LXX more regularly in his quotation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the LXX serves the argument of Hebrews in two ways. First, the LXX serves Hebrews’ purpose more clearly because Hebrews is concerned to show the superiority of the Son over the angels. While Jewish angelology placed angels over man and as governor of the nations, Hebrews needs to make clear that in the eschaton man will rule over angels and so Christ as Son and king of the age to come now rules over the angels. Second, the argument capitalizes on the temporal aspect of the phrase “βραχύ τι παῤ ἀγγέλους.” In the Greek  βραχύ has a decidedly temporal point while the Hebrew מְּ֭עַט has no temporality.[21] The author highlights this in 2:9a “τὸν δὲ βραχύ τι παρʼ ἀγγέλους ἠλαττωμένον βλέπομεν Ἰησοῦν.” The Son’s humiliation in suffering death is part of the phase of his existence with creation as one lower than the angels.[22]

The use of Psalm 8 expounds the humiliation of the Son followed by his exaltation over all things. Hebrews, like other early Christians, connected Psalm 2, 8 and 110 to Jesus’ exaltation. For example, Paul quotes Psalm 8:6 in 1 Corinthians 15:27. In this passage, Paul is concerned with the raising up of the Son over all creation. Christ is a new Adam. He is the firstfruits of a resurrected new humanity. He reigns until all is under his feet (1 Cor. 15:25, alluding to Ps. 110:1). Similarly, the writer of Ephesians[23] alludes to Psalm 8 in Eph. 1:22 with “καὶ πάντα ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ.” Ephesians is equally concerned with Christ’s exaltation, the two ages and its powers in submission to him and the unique representation that offered over the church, the new people of God. As Martin Hengel suggests in his study of the use of Psalm 110, “one could even say that they [Ps. 110:1 and 8:7] were ‘woven together.’”[24]

For several reasons, we propose that in Hebrews’ use of the Psalm 8 the concept of a Second Adam is at work in the mind of the writer. First, the background of Psalm 8 references the role of humanity in creation and reflects the theology of Genesis 1:26-28. The psalm reflects the concept of vice-regency common to the ANE where humanity is installed under the high King but in exaltation over all the creation. The vice-sovereign or viceroy exercises dominion on God’s behalf over everything that God has made. While Psalm 8:7a [Eng. 6] does not use the same word for dominion as in Genesis 1:26-28, it uses the hiphil form of משׁל which means not only to give someone dominion but to make them a ruler or lord.[25] In Psalm 8:7b [Eng. 6], the notion of God putting all under man’s feet is the idea that God has set, ordered or determined that this man should have dominion. It entails imagery of a vice regency receiving his installment to royalty and sovereign by the authority of the high sovereign.[26]

On Genesis 1:26-28, it is readily acknowledged by most Bible scholars today that the concept of man’s creation in the image of God establishes his functional sonship, which entails regal imagery as a vice-regent under God but over God’s created world. Yet, it is important to emphasize that the role humanity is established to is one of kingship, albeit a delegated kingship under the authority of the highest King. In this, the early chapters of Genesis fit strongly within an Ancient Near East setting.[27]

The first two key words in Genesis 1:26-28 are image (צלמ) and likeness (דמת). The two terms should be seen as near synonyms, not as describing two different aspects of humanity.[28] The word צלמ is often used to denote a statue or an idol (1 Samuel 6:5; Numbers 33:52; 2 Kings 11:18). Idols would stand as proxies for the divine being they represented. In the Ancient Near East, kings were considered to be “sons” of the gods so that they were considered visible manifestations of the rule of the god.[29] Furthermore, it is recognized that earthly kings themselves would erect images of their regal power in lands they had conquered. Gerhard von Rad connects this to the implications for Adam as God’s image:

Just as powerful earthly kings, to indicate their claim to dominion, erect an image of themselves in the provinces of their empire where they do not personally appear, so man is placed upon earth in God’s image as God’s sovereign emblem. He is really only God’s representative, summoned to maintain and enforce God’s claim to dominion over the earth.[30]

Taking a line of argument other than our reflection, Doug Green reaches the conclusion that Psalm 8 is first about the royal identity of David.[31] Green discusses the use of Psalm 8 to refer to all humanity, the so-called “democratic” interpretation.[32] His argument, similar to the argument by N.T. Wright, is that in the unfolding redemptive history of the Old Testament, Israel becomes a new Adam and Israelite royal ideology portrays King David as a Second Adam.[33] In this vein, J. Richard Middleton goes so far as to state that Psalm 8 has a clearer royal ideology than Genesis 1.[34] But Green argues further that there is a link between Adam and Davidic ideology since originally Adam had a royal identity:

There is a stream of theological reflection in the Old Testament … that speaks of Israel and her kings using what may be called second-Adam imagery: the godlike (or near-divine) human, the son of Man crowned with divine splendor, who rules over the animal kingdom, and by extension the animalized humanity of the Gentile kingdoms. Psalm 8 floats in this stream. Read in context of the Psalter, and read in the context of Israel’s story, Psalm 8 is less interested in the dignity and worth of humanity in general, and more concerned with the dignity and worth, the glory and honor, of the true humanity, Israel, and the true human, David (and his descendants).[35]

It is no surprise, then, that Psalm 8 becomes in Hebrews 2 an identification of Christ and his crowning with glory and honor in his exaltation. In fact, for Hebrews it is a false dilemma to ask whether Psalm 8 is intended to be understood as anthropological or Messianic within the unfolding argument of chapter two.[36] The psalm is a reflection of the vice regency of humanity in its ANE setting but also read now amongst the early Christians as Davidic and Messianic. Jesus in his humanity and Messianic function takes on that regal capacity as the true human. To use more Pauline language, when Jesus becomes the installed king over all creation at his resurrection and exaltation he is designated Second Adam or Last Adam precisely because the original Adam had a royal function.[37]

Second, there is good reason to believe the reference to crowning and glory evokes Adamic imagery even without the clear citation of Psalm 8 and our interpretation. In Second Temple Judaism there is a motif that the righteous sufferer is destined to inherit the glory of Adam. C. Marvin Pate has shown that the connection between Paul’s conception of suffering and glory in the righteous saints has its “impetus” in Jewish apocalypticism that “these intertwined motifs are rooted in the belief, so prevalent in the Judaism of this period, that Adam’s lost glory will be restored through righteous suffering.”[38] He concludes “Judaism [of the first century] taught that suffering was a prerequisite for inheriting Adam’s glory.”[39]

Pate cites three texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls in defense of his thesis: 1 QS 4:22,23; CD 3:20 and 1 QHa 4:15.[40] These texts describe the future people of God inheriting the glory of Adam (כבוד אדם) as a reward over and against the wicked being punished. The glory of Adam restored is a reward for those who inherit the age to come.[41]

In 1 QS 3:18 mankind was created to rule the world. Later in 1 QS 4, the righteous are those who inherit an everlasting covenant (4:22 ‘לברית עולמים’[42]) with God. God has sorted the righteous from the unrighteous. In this life they offer service “as a legacy to the sons of man so they might know good [and evil],” clearly an echo of Genesis 2. But in the final state, they inherit the ‘כבוד אדם’ glory of Adam (4:23). This includes various gifts such as “fruitful offspring with all everlasting blessings, eternal enjoyment with endless life, and a crown of glory with majestic raiment in eternal light” (4:7-8, emphasis ours). It is a new/renewed humanity with Adamic blessing and glories.

Similarly CD 3:20 describes man as inheriting the glory of Adam. In the context, various people from the sons of Noah on are described as going astray from God. God has established a covenant with Israel for the faithful who are steadfast in God’s precepts. Given that sons of Jacob and Israelites are described as going astray, it is quite possible that these faithful are seen as the true Israel. They do the will of God “which man must do in order to live by them” (3:15-16). They will receive a safe home in Israel. It is the steadfast who acquire eternal life and “all the glory of Adam is for them” (3:20).

Finally from the DSS, 1 QHa 4:15 promises that the faithful to God have “raised an [eternal] name … giving them as a legacy all the glory of Adam [and] abundant days (כבוד אדמ ו רוב ימים).” It is the eschatological end after atonement has been made and the dead are judged. The faithful inherit the glory of Adam, which was lost in the fall.

In Jewish apocalyptic literature there is association with the glory of the age to come and the glory of Adam.[43] Those who are obedient to God receive a glory. For example, in the day of judgment at the end of the age “glory and honor shall be given back to the holy ones” (1 Enoch 50:1).[44]

We find this in more detail in 2 Baruch. After suffering (51:2) they shall be exalted and glorified (51:5). This entails having the splendor of angels (51:5), but “the excellence of their righteousness will then be greater than that of the angels.” This is a restoration to glory but an exaltation over creation. 2 Baruch, like Hebrews, believes that man was made as a guardian of God’s creation (14:18). After suffering and tribulation in this fallen world the righteous will receive “a crown with great glory” (15:8).[45] In fact, Adam was offered Paradise before his sin but now this glory awaits the righteous (2 Bar. 4). Baruch is, of course, privileged to see it like Abraham and Moses. Thus, this glory that awaits man is an Adamic glory of the age to come.[46]

If our reading of Hebrews 2 and the use of Psalm 8 is correct, we can bypass a precise answer to whether or not the use of “son of man” in the passage refers to Jesus’ title. On the one hand it is quite possible that the early community was aware of the title and that this is in the background of what Hebrews is articulating.[47] On the other hand, “Son of Man” was not a title the church used actively for Jesus after his resurrection and accession. Regardless of the interpretation that one takes on this issue, the point of human representation and fulfillment of Adamic vocation stands.[48] Hebrews uses Psalm 8 to show that Christ is the fulfillment of true humanity. Remember Moule has remarked that Daniel 7 contains “a symbol of vocation to be utterly loyal, even to death in the confidence of ultimate vindication in the heavenly court.”[49] More clearly, this is precisely the motif that Hebrews sees fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus even without a possible contested reference to Daniel 7 with the phrase “son of man.”[50] The declaration of Psalm 2:7 and 110:1 is a vindication in the heavenly court as the Son having been faithful on earth in suffering is exalted up over creation. In this light, Psalm 8 read within the context of Hebrews’ theological concern for the exaltation is both anthropological and Christological because Christ is a second Adam fulfilling Adamic vocation and receiving Adamic glory in exaltation.[51]

  1. The Activity of Christ as Second Adam in Hebrews 2:10-18.          

In order to advance our defense of the conception of a Second Adam Christology undergirding Hebrews 2, we note the way that the work of Christ functions as a corporate representation in Hebrews 2:10-18. As we stated in our section of definition above, an Adam Christology will entail representation of the people of God just like Adam represented humanity in his act. For example, in Romans 5:12-21 Adam’s act of disobedience was contrasted with Christ’s act of obedience. But each act represents the people for which it stands. Similarly in 1 Cor. 15, Adam stands as representative life that he has given to his descendants. This was the “first age” or the present sinful age, the perishable. But Christ stands as a Last Adam who puts on an imperishable spiritual resurrection body and thus becomes a “πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν”—one who gives the Holy Spirit of the eschaton.

The role of Jesus in Hebrews 2 is to bring about Adamic glory of the age to come through his own suffering (2:9).[52] But it is this vocation that brings others to glory as well. When Christ fulfills the human/Adamic vocation and conquers death, he opens the path for others to come to glory with him and through his representative work.

Christ himself is perfected into the glorification of the eschatological state (διὰ παθημάτων τελειῶσαι). Hebrews has already pointed to the eternal glory that the Son had (1:2-3), yet the word “Ἔπρεπεν” denotes a rightness, fitting or suitableness[53] that this is the path that the Son should walk according to the Father. The reference to the Father creating may also highlight that it was the Father who established the order of man over his creation. Thus, if the fall is going to be undone, it must happen through a second Adam.

The purpose of God is to “πολλοὺς υἱοὺς εἰς δόξαν ἀγαγόντα.” The context is talking about the work of the Father.[54] He is the one who has created all things. The Son is the author of His (God’s) salvation. So if the Father is going to bring sons to glory, there must be “τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν.” There must be a pioneer and originator who can accomplish what the people of God need. If the people of God need perfection and glorification, then the ἀρχηγός must experience it first.

While ἀρχηγός can mean leader, ruler or prince,[55] here in Hebrews it certainly connotes someone who begins something as originator or founder.[56] Paul Ellingworth and William Lane in their respective commentaries suggest a more Hellenistic background of the champion or pioneer who blazes a path for followers.[57] This interpretation has a degree of validation in the context: (1) with the notion of the Son being necessary to bring other sons to glory, (2) the description of Jesus as a forerunner ‘πρόδρομος’ in 6:20, and (3) exhortation Hebrews 12:1 gives that we are to run with endurance because Jesus “τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν” has already suffered and received exalted glory. None of this negates our proposal of a Second Adam Christology but enhances it. Christ’s act of obedient suffering accomplishes the redemption of the people of God and achieves their eschatological glory. The community of believers is exhorted to faithful suffering in order to receive their eschatological glory precisely because Jesus’ Second-Adam-obedience has opened and cleared the way. In fact, if there was not a new man inaugurating a new covenant, the obedience of God’s people would be impossible. Hebrews 8:7-9 tells us that the Exodus covenant of the Law was not faultless because the people were unable to keep it. Christ must enter as a mediator, but to do so he offers obedience and pioneers the path into glorification/perfection.

The corporate relationship between Christ and the sons of glory is so close that Hebrews 2:11 tells us that he calls them brothers. Hebrews 2:12 quotes Psalm 22:22 [MT: 22:23; LXX: 21:23]:

MT:      אֲסַפְּרָ֣ה שִׁמְךָ֣ לְאֶחָ֑י בְּת֖וֹךְ קָהָ֣ל אֲהַלְלֶֽךָּ׃

Ps. 21:23        διηγήσομαι τὸ ὄνομά σου τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου, ἐν μέσῳ ἐκκλησίας ὑμνήσω σε

Heb. 2:12  ἀπαγγελῶ τὸ ὄνομά σου τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου, ἐν μέσῳ ἐκκλησίας ὑμνήσω σε,

Aside from the minor textual difference (LXX: διηγήσομαι; Heb. 2:12: ἀπαγγελῶ), which corresponds better with the MT, the wording is the same. Hebrews sees Christ as representative of “brothers” in the great congregation singing and leading in this singing. What is noteworthy is that Psalm 22 is well known in the gospels’ tradition to be used to refer to Christ. It points to one who suffers violently only to be raised up in triumph. The sufferer is raised up before the Lord after his deep humiliation. Narratively, this is the same movement that Hebrews 2 has in mind, so it is unlikely that the quotation of the Psalm is a mere coincidence on the narrow reading of just one verse.[58] As C.H. Dodd writes in his classic study “The conclusion is that Jesus is Messiah, or Son of Man, in the sense that He has passed from death to glory and universal sovereignty as representative Head of a redeemed mankind.”[59]

Finally for our discussion, in Hebrews 2:13, Jesus becomes the representative truster of God with the use of Isaiah 8:17-18. The role of humanity has always been to live in obedience under God and his command.[60] As the prophet stood as the remnant and trusted God along with those who are left, so Jesus trusts God along with the family that belongs to him.[61] Thus, having trusted God through suffering in offering himself in obedience, he is fit to lead the people of God in their trust of God. Lane concludes that there is here both representation and solidarity in what we have labeled under the rubric of ‘Adam Christology’:

“Jesus is now the representative head of a new humanity which is being led to glory through suffering … Although the concept of the people of God as τὰ παιδία, “the children,” of the exalted Son is not found elsewhere in the NT, the image of family suggests an intimacy of relationship and a tenderness that broadens the concept of solidarity.”[62]

Hebrews 2 goes on to spell out what exactly the incarnation of the Son entails. He became like his brothers in all ways. This is so he could represent them. Thus, he does not help angels but “σπέρματος Ἀβραὰμ.” At first glance this reference may seem curious, but it is precisely as representative man, a last Adam, that the Son helps his brothers, the people of God. Thus the “house” is constituted under the representative man who stand for them and acts upon their behalf (cf. 3:1-6). Per Second Temple Judaism, only the seed of Abraham is destined for the glory of Adam. As N.T. Wright puts it “Abraham’s children are God’s true humanity, and their homeland is the new Eden.”[63]

The completion of the Adamic vocation for Christ through obedient suffering makes Jesus to be the perfect exalted king and high priest as the Father has exalted him, per Psalm 110. Thus, having been the forerunner into the eschatological glory, he can also serve as priestly representative. In his office, Jesus is superior to the angels, but he is also a superior representative of the people having walked through weakness to the eschatological glory.[64] In short, he succeeded where Adam failed. While Hebrews 1 makes clear Christ is superior as a  ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης and the χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, it is in Hebrews 2 that we see his fitness for the vocation of ruling over creation as the representative man. Thus, in the last days God has spoken ἐν υἱῷ, it was necessary for this Son to take on Adamic sonship to enact the transition of the ages. In both aspects of Sonship [divine and Adamic], Christ is superior to angels and to other human beings, including Moses and the patriarchs.

  1. Conclusion.           

The purpose of this paper has been to argue that Hebrews 2 contains a sort of Adam Christology. This is not to say that Hebrews is Pauline, but rather to describe the features of representation and restoration through recapitulation and fulfillment. Thus, a Second Adam Christology will have a figure who represents the people of God but is individually the apex of humanity. But this figure also acts in solidarity with the people of God on their behalf. We have pursued our argument along two lines. First, we examined the use of Psalm 8 in the context of Hebrews 2. We situated against the background of Adamic and royal ideology in the Old Testament. We also sought to show that the very concept of eschatological glory in Second Temple texts is read against the background of the fulfillment of the glory of Adam.

Seeking to establish that Hebrews 2:6-8 is sufficient warrant to describe an Adam Christology, we proceeded to examine Hebrews 2:10-18 highlighting the aspects of the argument that are consistent with Adamic Christologies. Taken alone they may not prove an Adamic Christology, but with the advancement of the use of Psalm 8 in Hebrews it becomes clear that these features are indeed an aspect of an Adamic Christology.

The writer of Hebrews sees the climax of salvation history coming in what God has done in and through the work of Jesus Christ. This work is Messianic and anthropological. The true human moves from humility to exaltation. He is crowned with glory and honor through representative suffering. His activity ushers in the eschaton where he is crowned over all creation in fulfillment of the royal ideology of Ps. 2, 8 and 110. As Messianic King, he is the true new Adam who offered perfect obedience to bring in the perfection of glorification upon the people of God.

[1] C.F.D. Moule, The Origin of Christology (Cambridge University Press, 1977), 6.

[2] Moule, 8. Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament (trans. S.C. Guthrie and C.A.M Hall; London: SCM Press, 1959)

[3] Moule, 14. Emphasis original. Seyoon Kim reaches a similar conclusion: “With ‘the Son of Man” then Jesus intended to reveal himself to be the divine figure who was the inclusive representative (or the head) of the eschatological people of God, i.e. the Son of God who was the head of the sons of God … he intended to reveal his mission in terms of gathering or, as it were, creating, God’s eschatological people who, represented or embodied in him as their head, would be elevated (or made) God’s sons” (The Son of Man as the Son of God [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985] 36).

[4] Moule, 101.

[5] Moule, 101.

[6] Moule, 101.

[7] Moule, 101.

[8] Moule, 103.

[9] James D.G. Dunn, Christology in the Making Second Edition (London: SCM Press, 1989) 110.

[10] Dunn, 110-111.

[11] Dunn, 113.

[12] More recently, Kenneth Schneck has used narrative substructure analysis to reach the same conclusion on Hebrews 2. He shows that Hebrews’ argument is dependent on the notion that God’s original intent was to crown humanity with glory and honor, and this original destiny has been fulfilled in Christ. Cosmology and Eschatology in Hebrews: The Settings of the Sacrifice (Cambridge: University Press, 2007) 51-59.

[13] See discussion below in its relationship to understanding Hebrews 2. On Second Adam Christology and Second Temple Judaism see N.T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 20-23. N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992) 262-8. David M. Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews, 81-118, 133-142. Seyyoon Kim briefly discusses the evidence in The Origins of Paul’s Gospel (Mohr Siebeck, 1981; Reprinted: Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2007) 186-193.

[14] See discussion below.

[15] Some of the Second Temple references that divide history into two ages include 4 Ezra 7:50, 113, 8:1; 2 Baruch 15:7.

[16] Some of the representative secondary literature would include George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament Revised Edition (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1993) 54-67; Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time (Translated by Floyd Filson; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1964); Oscar Cullmann, Salvation in History (New York: Harper & Row, 1967).

[17] See C.K. Barrett’s classic essay “The Eschatology of the Epistle to the Hebrews” The Background of the New Testament (Edited by W.D. Davies; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964) 363-93.

[18] See for example the angelic presence in Isaiah 6:2-3. On the role of angels as divine agents of God see Larry Hurtado, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988) 71-92.

[19] David M. Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Leiden: Brill, 2011) 52 n.9, 58. Contra Peter O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 2010) 92.

[20] Richard Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1998). He has used the term divine identity to describe how God is characterized in Second Temple Judaism and the Hebrew Scriptures and then applies the term to Jesus Christ to explain how the early church described Jesus as divine, namely in sharing attributes reserved for YHWH alone in the Hebrew Scriptures. See especially pp. 25-42 and p33 briefly on Hebrews 1.

[21] BAGD, 147.

[22] This phase of Christ’s existence is true of his humanity even though Hebrews 1:2-4 shows the superiority of Christ as sharing in the divine glory and being an agent of creation, a role reserved for YHWH alone in the Old Testament, especially in Isaiah 40-55.

[23] We simply acknowledge that New Testament scholarship debates Pauline authorship of the book.

[24] Martin Hengel, Studies In Early Christology (New York: T&T Clark, 1995) 165. He suggests other allusions to Psalm 8 in 1 Peter 3:22; Polycarp and Phil. 3:21. More recently Aquila H.I. Lee has also argued for a “Christological Fusion” of Psalm 110:1 and 8:6 in From Messiah to Preexistent Son (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2005) 216-23.

[25] CHALOT, 219. See also Daniel 11:39 “He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.”

[26] It would be interesting to explore the implication for the notion of a covenant and suzzerain-vassal treaties, but this is beyond our immediate scope. It may be possible to suggest that covenant is not far from the author’s thought in Psalm 8 given the ordering and setting of a viceroy in place.

[27] J. Richard Middleton The Liberating Image: the Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2005) 93-145.

[28] It is beyond our scope to review the long history of interpretation. Suffice it to say, in earlier centuries it was common to assign different aspects to humanity based the different words. The use of image and likeness in Gen. 5:1,3; and 9:6 lead most scholars to assume they are near synonyms. See for example Eugene Merrill “Covenant and Kingdom: Genesis 1-3 as Foundation for Biblical Theology” Criswell Theological Review 1.2 (1987) 299 and Antony Hoekema Created in Gods Image (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1986) 13.

[29] Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Waco, TX: Word, 1997) 30. Phyllis Bird “Male and Female He Created Them”: Gen 1:27b in the Context of the Priestly Account of Creation” HTR 74:2 (1981) 137-44. Again, J. Richard Middleton The Liberating Image, 93-145.

[30] Gerhard Von Rad, Genesis, (E.T.; OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961) 60. In discussing the use of Psalm 8:6 with Psalm 110 in 1 Corinthians 15, Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins note that the first chapter of Genesis’ use of image and likeness “draws upon royal ideology” (King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008], 110). For a discussion on the relationship between image and rule see Middleton, The Liberating Image, 50-60

[31] Douglas Green “Psalm 8: What is Israel’s King that You Remember Him?” http://files.wts.edu/uploads/pdf/articles/psalm8-green.pdf accessed 3/24/14.

[32] Green, 1-2

[33] Green, 3. N.T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant, 20-23. N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 262-8. For a discussion of royal ideology in Israel’s king as God’s son see also Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins, King and Messiah, 1-47. Commenting on Psalm 2 and 110 they remark “As God’s surrogate, he [the Davidic King] is sovereign of the whole world by right” (22). However they do not link this to Psalm 8. See also Moule, The Origin of Christology, 152 and Middleton, The Liberating Image, 24-28.

[34] Middleton, 57.

[35] Middleton. 7

[36] Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) 151-52.

[37] 1 Cor. 15 especially vv.20-27 and 45.

[38] C. Marvin Pate, The Glory of Adam and the Afflictions of the Righteous: Pauline Suffering in Context (Lewiston, New York: Mellen Biblical Press, 1993) 67.

[39] Pate, 67.

[40] Pate (The Glory of Adam, 67) and N.T. Wright (New Testament and the People of God, 265 n.86) follow the older designation 1 QH 17:15, we have chosen to follow the structure of the scrolls proposed by Emile Peuch, “Quelques aspect de la restauration du Rouleau des Hymns (1 QH),” Journal of Jewish Studies 39 (1988): 38-55. This designation is found in Florentinie Garcia Martinez and Eibert J.C. Tigchelaar The Dead Sea Scrolls: Study Edition Vol. 1 & 2 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1997). All English quotations and references will be from this study edition.

[41] N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 265.

[42] Interestingly in Hebrews 13:20 there is also the phrase “διαθήκης αἰωνίου”

[43] C. Marvin Pate, The Glory of Adam, 72-74.

[44] All citations from The Old Testament Pseudiphigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature & Testaments ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday, 1983).

[45] Moffitt, rightly in our estimation, sees a possible allusion to Psalm 8 here (Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection, 112).

[46] N.T. Wright states “The later writings of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch witness the same theological position: Israel will be given the rights of Adam’s true heir” (Climax of the Covenant, 24). He cites 4 Ez. 3:4-36; 6:53-59; 9:17ff.; and 2 Bar. 14:17-19.

[47] O’Brien remarks that the title would have struck the hearers with a “force beyond the original setting [of the Psalm]” (Hebrews, 95).

[48] This is not to say that this is not an interesting scholarly question or that we should ignore investigation. Rather regardless of one’s position on the issue, Hebrews 2 unifies the anthropological and Christological reading of Psalm 8. Ellingworth notes that some commentators see a possible allusion to Adam (Epistle to the Hebrews, 150). And although Ellingworth does not take the logical step of identifying an Adamic Christology in these verses he does rightly see a cohesiveness to the anthropological and Christological readings in Hebrews 2 (152-53).

[49] See above. Moule, Origin, 14.

[50] It is our opinion that Daniel 7 is not in view in Hebrews 2 but that the same motif is at work.

[51] David Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection reaches this conclusion 135-43, esp. 142-43. Likewise F.F. Bruce sees a second/last Adam theology at work in the use of Psalm 8 (The Epistle to the Hebrews Revised [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990] 72-73). Harold Attridge mentions the possibility but concludes “in general Hebrews does not utilize the elements of such an Adamic Christology” (Hebrews [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989] 75). He believes that the Abrahamic lineage is more important, yet if N.T. Wright’s understanding of Adamic Christology is to be preferred, and we believe it is, the mention of “seed of Abraham” is precisely part of what an Adamic Christology would entail. First Israel and finally the Messiah has Adamic vocation. The seed of Abraham is the new Adam. William Lane states that “in Jesus we see exhibited humanity’s true vocation” although he never mentions Adam or Adam Christology (Hebrews 1-8 [Dallas, TX: Word, 1991] 48). Kenneth Schneck likewise sees both a unity of the anthropological and Christological readings (Cosmology and Eschatology, 56).

[52] See C. Marvin Pate, The Glory of Adam, 66-75, where he shows that righteous suffering was believed to be rewarded in Second Temple Judaism with Adamic glory.

[53] BAGD, 699.

[54] Attridge, Hebrews, 82. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 159.

[55] BAGD, 112. Cf. Acts 5:31

[56] BAGD, 112. Used only here and in 12:2. The TDNT notes that Philo considered Adam and Noah to be ἀρχηγέτης while also confirming the Hellenistic background of the concept of “hero” (Gerhard Delling “ἀρχηγός” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [Ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich; Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans; Logos Electronic Library] volume 1, p.487).

[57] Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 56-57 and Ellingworth, Hebrews, 161.

[58] Simon Kistemaker, The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1961) 84. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 167.

[59] C.H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures (London: Fontana Books, 1965) 20.

[60] Adam receiving the command in the garden; Israel receiving commands in the Law.

[61] Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 60.

[62] Lane, 60.

[63] Wright, Climax of the Covenant, 23.

[64] We suggest then when Jesus is described as being faithful over the house, in contradistinction to Moses who was faithful in the house, not only is Christ’s glory greater that Moses’ glory, but this superiority is both by virtue of radiating divine glory and being crowned with human glory as an ἀρχηγός.

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