Updated 8/9/07 6:30 p.m. pst
Dialogue with Mark Pele: Was Adam the Prototypical Priest-King?
Thanks for waiting for this response, Mark, I needed to take a little breather there…
We agree, “Adam's position before the Fall is extremely significant,” however we disagree as to the nature of that significance. Please allow me to flesh out my position further. Along with the responsibilities that were originally given, God also gave Adam the appropriate authority to carry them out. What were these responsibilities? They were to subdue the earth, multiply offspring, and rule the animal kingdom (Gen. 1:28). This original commission to humanity, which should be considered all of a piece (i.e., the cultural mandate), involved the initial grant of man’s essential authority roles. What were these roles? The first responsibility (to subdue) is the most complex, so I’ll tackle it last. The second responsibility (to multiply offspring) is easy: Adam became the original father of mankind. The third responsibility (to rule the animals) is also easy. This rule was first exercised when Adam named all the animals. So, Adam was endowed with fatherhood and a kind (I hope you’ll grant) of kingship.
Let us now consider the initial work the man was given: to subdue the earth. His task was to work and care for the Garden of Eden wherein he was placed (Gen. 2:15). But God’s commission to Adam was that he was to subdue the entire earth; his work of cultivation was to begin in the Garden but not to stop there. How was he supposed to accomplish this monumental task? First, Adam was to produce offspring to aid him in his work and, I presume, to delegate work he could not do himself. Second, he was to govern the animal kingdom. Consider, there were no wild animals in the sense we are now familiar with, post-fall. All the animals were potentially domesticatable, and so were to assist humanity in its cultural task. So it appears that the last two responsibilities are actually supplementary to the first: to cultivate the earth.
I have already discussed why I think this command to subdue the earth is a complex task, but I’ll recap here. First, it involves Adam hearing God’s word and conveying it to his wife and posterity. This is the vocation of prophecy. Second, it involves the duty of planning and overseeing the cultivation project. This is the vocation of administrative authority, or, kingship. Third, it involves offering the completed work of human culture to God. This is the vocation of priesthood. James Jordan thinks Adam’s priestly ministry primarily involved the custodial task of guarding the tree of knowledge. I would modify Jordan’s insight here and say that this custodial guardianship of the sacramental tree (of covenantal curse) is a negative corollary to Adam’s positive priestly vocation: that of offering the cultivated life-system of the world in thankfulness to the Creator.
I will agree, Mark, that Adam was not a king in the limited (and misleading) sense of some feudal monarch of the Middle Ages. He was much more than that. As God’s vice-regent, Adam was granted a primordial office simultaneously prophetic, priestly, kingly and fatherly. All vocations of human authority and oversight were given to Adam as the first man. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that all natural human authority is derived from his primordial office. I know I’ve pretty much said all this before, but I wanted to state it comprehensively in order to proceed with the following argumentation.
I propose, further, that there is plenty in Scripture and recorded history showing how the primordial Adamic authority developed over time. We do know kingship did later arise and that the principle of hereditary succession was already operative in the patriarchal societies we have record of. Some biblical examples are Cain’s line (Gen. 4:17ff.), Noah’s oracle regarding his sons (Gen. 9:25ff.), and the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 25:1-5; 27:1ff.; 48:12ff.; 49:1ff.). In these cases we observe the various practices of fathers distributing inheritances, and pronouncing curses and blessings upon their offspring.
The blessings and curses are especially significant in that they show how fatherly authority determines which descendants are to rule and which will be subservient. Such oracular determinations hold significance far beyond what we normally think of as the family sphere and actually concern the fate of whole nations. Our modern desacralized notion of fatherhood as a “common” institution simply does not do justice to how fatherly authority was exercised in the patriarchal eras.
Mark, you write: “We can say that Adam acted like a king, but to say that God's role for Adam was to be the supreme monarch of the earth in light of the first chapters of Genesis is a generalization I'm not willing to make.” I hope that the reasoning provided in the first paragraphs above qualifies as a little more than the fast and loose handling of the text you imply I’m guilty of. I’ll grant you that in Gen. 1:28ff. we see God granting authority to both Adam and Eve over the created order. The human race (in general) was to fill, subdue, and rule over the earth and its creatures. So, the right of dominion over creation was not a unique property belonging solely to Adam. Yet, the sequence of how God created man and set him in the garden first (before the woman was even created) shows Adam was granted authority first. This is what I mean when I refer to Adam’s prime or primordial authority.
“Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13; cf. 1 Cor. 11:8). Here we see St. Paul deriving a general principle from biblical revelation that it is improper for woman to rule over man. Mark well: this principle transcends social spheres; woman is not to teach or have authority over man in church or in the home. We may reasonably conclude she is not to do so in the political sphere either. To separate social from covenantal headship, as you propose, Mark, is a mistake, I believe. The “male headship principle” enunciated by the inspired apostle Paul is logically and temporally prior to the existence of every human social institution.
Adam’s generational priority can reasonably be extended beyond the simple male-female relation. His prior generation implies a perpetual rule over his offspring. While fathers do not exercise total authority over the minutiae of their adult children’s lives, we do see a broad authority exercised in the examples given above. The fifth commandment may be applied more comprehensively to young children than children come of age, but its obligation can never be fully discharged while one’s parent is still alive.
To round out the argument, I find sphere sovereignty problematic because life is lived as an integrated whole. There is all kind of overlap between the three “spheres” (so-called) of family, church and state. So, we should not impute modern specialization, much less egalitarian theories of equality, to the race’s natural social structure. A king’s wife is his subject as well as his queen, and it is not easy to disentangle the two. Similarly, in addition to being a wife, a woman is subject to the headship her husband exercises as executor-administrator of the family estate (a civil function). I prefer instead to speak of different institutions (i.e., family, church, state) distinguished by proper vocations that cooperate to advance mankind’s single purpose: to serve, glorify and enjoy God forever.
Mark, you write: “While I believe that Adam was Eve's head, as her husband, I believe that there is a difference between submission and obedience. My wife vowed to submit to me, but did not vow to obey me.” The difference you make between “obedience” and “submission” here is based on a perceived distinction between the honors that are due to civil authorities on one hand and familial authorities on the other.
I’d suggest that submission and obedience are not different kinds of things, but simply different degrees of honor owed—dependant on the relationship in question. This is confirmed by the fact that the fifth commandment has been traditionally understood to encompass all honor that inferiors are obliged to render their superiors, not merely that owed by children to their parents (e.g., Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 64). The honor due to any superior (including one’s familial covenant head) must involve some kind of submission; and submission is meaningless without obedience to some degree. I would be remiss to omit that this commandment also respects the care and regard superiors owe to their inferiors.
Mark, you write: “I believe that Adam was ‘whole’ and that Eve being taken from Adam meant that God was taking certain roles and responsibilities, and even characteristics from him in creating this woman. Thus masculinity does not define humanity, nor does femininity. Adam was, prior to that, in possession of some combination of both traits, which God separated into distinct, yet complementary roles.”
I don’t think this is quite correct. While I agree that “certain roles and responsibilities” were given to woman, she is to fulfill her vocation and exercise her responsibilities under the oversight and guidance of man. I believe that the hierarchical relationship of man to woman is definitional of what it means to be human. Man was created to image and foreshadow Christ, and woman was created to image and foreshadow the Church (Eph. 5:23ff.). In other words, “man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man” (1 Cor. 11:7). Certainly, the roles of male and female are complementary and are each necessary to express the full reality of humanness, yet one is original, the other, derivative.
I’m not arguing here for a sort of absolute autocracy of male headship. Human authority should be exercised with respect to how God ordered human nature with its variety of vocational responsibilities. There is a degree of obedience proper for young children to their parents, another for adult children to theirs, another for wives to husbands, another for servants to masters, and another for subjects to kings. For each of these relations there is potentially a point where authority figures will transgress the bounds of their proper authority and take honor belonging only to God. To exercise authority well, a ruler must have a sense of these limitations and not demand more than is just, for it is by wisdom (knowledge of the Creator and the created order) that kings reign (Prov. 8:15-16).
Mark, you write: “Historically, it seems that monarchies tend to draw more power to themselves to the point of the "Divine right of kings" where even your own conscience was to be given to the king. The Pope is no different, claiming to speak inerrantly for Christ, and claiming that Christ's own words (scripture) are inadequate. It's hard for me to not associate those abuses, when it seems they occur over and over. Even Absalom used that mentality to sway his servants to murder his brother.”
I do believe in a divine right of kings, but would agree that abuses have occurred over and over again. All I can say is that abuses do not delegitimize a good institution, especially when I think that institution ordained by God. I am more than willing to discuss the pragmatic differences between monarchies and republics. I am even willing to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of the democratic republic you favor versus the sacral constitutional monarchy I favor. However, I have more thoughts regarding the biblical basis of monarchy, for, certainly you agree, theoretical considerations must precede pragmatics. Finally, I am not willing to argue for monarchy or prelacy in ecclesiastical government without recourse to the royal-priesthood we see existent in the OT, and so my account must begin with Adam.
We know that Adam was originally placed in a probationary position in the garden. After proving himself in that capacity, he was to be exalted to a higher state: a glorified man over a glorified kingdom. This exaltation was to occur after Adam faithfully fulfilled what traditional Reformed theology commonly calls the Covenant of Works (CoW). An aspect of this preliminary (pre-consummate) form of the kingdom was that Adam was placed under tutelage administered through the ministry of angels (Ps. 8:5; cf. Heb. 2:5-9), but was in time to be placed over them to judge them (Ps. 45:6-7; cf. Heb. 1:4ff.; 1 Cor. 6:3). Adam was basically a crown prince, who had yet to enter into the full exercise of his kingship. Of course, Adam failed his probation, and this necessitated the coming of the second Adam—Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ obedience unto death the CoW was at last fulfilled, and as a reward he was endowed with his consummated Kingship (the realization of his authority, power and glory) when he ascended on high to the Father (Ps. 2:6ff.; Phil. 2:6-11).
Jesus was a king both before (Matt. 27:11) and after his exaltation (Mark 16:19). He was king by right, by virtue of his messiahship, but he became king in power and glory when he formally entered into his inheritance (Heb. 1:3-4). Similarly, I argue that Adam was a king by virtue of being God’s son (Luke 3:37), but looked forward to a future investiture of glory—a confirmed kingship—once his obedience was complete.
Ezekiel’s vision of the King of Tyre in the twenty-eighth chapter of his prophecy is a remarkable description of that king’s glory and is indicative of far more than superfluous metaphoric fancy. While it has been traditionally acknowledged that Lucifer is in view (vv. 14, 17), it is certainly appropriate to consider the vision as referencing man’s fall (vv. 15-17; cf. Amos 1:5), and even the glory Adam would have inherited if he had successfully fulfilled the terms of the CoW (v. 13). It is a common feature of biblical apocalyptic that several themes are combined together in symbolically rich imagery. We are under no compulsion to choose between the two options. Rather, we are obliged to recognize an intentional thematic recapitulation of several events in the vision. The king of Tyre (henceforth: “Tyre”) falls because his temptation is the same as the serpent’s deception: the delusive prospect of achieving autonomous godhood (Ezek. 28:1-2; cf. Gen. 3:5). Because of his pride, God brought Tyre to the dust (like the serpent) and expels him from the mount of God (simultaneously a reference to Eden and Heaven).
Tyre is pictured as standing in Eden, clothed with the same precious stones and metals that characterize Aaron’s high priestly breastplate (Ex. 39:8ff.) and the glory of the coming New Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21:18-21)! What could possibly be the purpose of identifying a pagan king of Tyre with Lucifer, Adam and Aaron? Furthermore, what is the connection these personages have to the bride of Christ? First, it should be noted that the original Hebrew of Ezekiel 28 lists only nine precious stones for Tyre, while there are twelve stones set in Aaron’s breastplate. So, it seems that Tyre is of less dignity than Aaron.
But this disparity is not that between the superior dignity of a high priest versus that of a king. This is because Tyre is portrayed in this vision as a priest: he is described as a cherub guarding (a priestly function) sacred mysteries. He walks among fiery stones much as a greater Priest-King would later walk among seven golden lamp stands (v. 14; cf. Rev. 1:12-16). Let us not forget that Adam once walked among the trees of Paradise. So, we have priestly clothing, priestly guardianship, and priestly ministry attributed to Tyre!
How can this be? The key is to be found in the mysterious connection between Adam and Lucifer. Ezekiel’s vision is both an image of what Satan once was, the glory he had as the chief of God’s angels, and an image of what Adam might well have been. If Adam had completed his probation faithfully, he would have been set above the angels. But this was not to be. So, from Adam until Christ, covenant administration from the divine side was effected through angelic mediation (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19) and on the human side, through various human mediators (most notably Moses). I submit for your consideration that the king of Tyre was another such mediator, but like Lucifer he fell, deceived through his own pride. Tyre was certainly not an angel, but he was a beneficiary of Adam’s royal-sacerdotal office. Covenant headship necessarily includes a mediatorial function, and since Adam was the first covenant head he was also the first covenant mediator.
The connection between Adam’s priestly kingship and that of his descendants, is strengthened, I believe, by Scripture’s likening of kings and their nations to the trees of Paradise (Judges 9:7ff.; Ezek. 31; Dan. 4:10ff.; cf. Ps. 1:1-5; 52:8; 92:12-15; Jer. 1:18; Rev. 3:12). I would speculate—though my studies are incomplete at this time—that under the old covenant the rulers of the earth were in a real sense ministers in God’s royal sanctuary through angelic representation (cf. Dan. 10:4-20). Because Eden was where God communed face to face with his vice-regent, it was a particularly suitable milieu for picturing the “sons of God” assembled before the divine Majesty. Eden, in other words, was an earthly prototype and small-scale replica of God’s glorious heavenly Temple-Throne room. Perhaps the original trees of Eden actually corresponded to great kings and nations that subsequently arose in history, but this cannot be known for certain.
The trees of Paradise were symbolic of kings and their nations as well as the pillars of God’s house. Here we see an analogical (though real) relationship between trees and pillars, with angelic and human mediators informing the tree/pillar symbol’s substantial content (e.g., so-and-so is a pillar of the community). It is nearly certain that as Adam was to be transformed into a glorious man, a consummated son of God, so Eden would be transformed into the eschatological temple. This is appears more plausible when we consider that Scripture portrays New Jerusalem (adorned with many paradisiacal features) descending out of heaven to earth. New Jerusalem coalesces with earthly Jerusalem; Eden is restored and earth becomes heaven.
Before concluding, I must emphasize that this exploratory essay has been largely concerned with the administration of the old covenantal economies pre-Christ. There is a new administration now, and it is characterized by the rule of Jesus Christ through his Church over all things (Col. 1:15-21; Eph. 1:18-23; 4:7-17).
Finally, this synthesis of patristic recapitulation, traditional angelology, covenant theology, and modern biblical theology is admittedly a speculative endeavor. I hope I have not extended too far and fallen off the beam. Was Adam a king? Let us study the Scripture, fully familiarizing ourselves with its modes of discourse, taking care to distinguish between its teachings and our rationalistic prejudices, to judge whether Adam was indeed the prototypical priest-king.