“‘First Adam' and ‘Second Adam' according to Paul (1 Cor 15)

in the Light of Midrashic Exegesis and Hebrew Usage”

Menahem Kister

The Hebrew University


The central theme of 1 Cor 15:45-49 is the contrast between the bodies of human beings in this world (similar to those of the animals), and the “spiritual” bodies of the resurrected. Paul's term for the "physical" body is ??????´? , literally "pertaining to the soul." The source of this terminology is obscure, but it is used in this passage to interpret Gen 2:7.


The bodies of human beings in this world are similar to those of animals, while the spiritual bodies of the resurrected are similar to the bodies of the luminaries. This notion has a striking parallel in a tannaitic Midrash and in a nomistic passage in a treatise by Theophilus of Antioch.


Paul's proof-text for this dichotomy is Gen 2:7, a verse interpreted as referring to two Adams . In the lecture, I will deal with the interpretation of verse 46 as commenting on Gen 2:7, as well as with interpretations of Genesis 2 as referring not only to Adam in Paradise but also to the future of the righteous in Paradise in some writings of the Second Temple period and in rabbinic literature.


The Pauline terms "last Adam" and "second man" will be discussed. It will be argued that these terms are a product of Paul's bilingual thinking. The identification of the “last Adam” with “the life-giving spirit” is probably motivated by Paul's Christology.


The parallels to Paul and Theophilus in rabbinic literature are important for interpreting Paul's argument in this passage, for understanding his bilingual thinking, and for elucidating the cultural background to Theophilus' passage. On the other hand, Paul and Theophilus are no less significant for dating and interpreting some passages in rabbinic literature.


The striking rabbinic parallels help to place Paul's ideas in their proper, Jewish rather than non-Jewish Hellenistic context, and to discern the significance of biblical exegesis for understanding Paul.