Modern students of the Bible tend to approach Bible study by accepting terms at face value. For example, when we read about Adam, we accept this as the name of the first created man. However, rabbinic study delves behind the surface statement and derives many varied meanings (and some might say far-fetched meanings) from words and concepts. (Any of you who have read Chaim Potok’s The Chosen have had a glimpse of rabbinic discussion.)
We’ve asked Rachmiel Frydland, a Jewish Christian who was trained in rabbinics and Orthodox study from his earliest days, to share some of his experience and scholarly studies. In order to give you a taste of the rabbinic approach to the Bible, he’s shown some of the writings and discussions of that simple word, Adam." He’s also applied some of these rabbinic writings to a New Testament principle.
The first occurrence of this term is in Genesis 1:26 when God says, "Let us make man (Adam) in our own image, after our likeness." The word is probably derived from Adamah , earth, and from the word Adom , red. In this way it would mean that Adam was derived or made from the red earth of the Middle East . In the name Adam there is also contained the word Dam , blood, and the Talmud sees significance in each of the three Hebrew letters, saying that the three letters signify Afar , dust, Dam, blood, and Marah , gall (Sotah 5a*).
Although liberal Judaism has tended to deprecate Adam’s religious significance, early religious Judaism had an attitude of mystical awe toward the first Adam who was called Adam Kadmon. According to rabbinic teaching, he was created a combination of male and female (andro-gunes). This they inferred from Genesis 1:27 "male and female created he them." Moreover, Adam was created two-faced − one face in front and one in back. This they based on Psalm 139:5: "Thou has formed me (KJV "beset") behind and before. (Genesis Rabbah 8:1*)
The Jerusalem Targum (Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures), also called the Targum of Jonathan ben Uziel, informs us that when Adam sinned and accused Eve, and she in turn accused the Serpent, God brought all three before His judgment seat and pronounced judgment on them as described in the text, but the Targum also explains, "they will be healed (or restored) by the wounds in the heel in the days of Messiah." (Targum ad locum. *)
From this teaching there is but a short step to Paul the Apostle’s teaching in Romans 5:19 : "For as by one man’s (Adam’s) disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Messiah) shall many be made righteous. " Saul of Tarsus was a disciple of Rabbi Gamaliel and knew the rabbinic teaching about the first Adam and the result of so many deaths, even until the coming of Messiah. But now He realized that the consequences of the first Adam’s sin have come to an end. Physically we still die but spiritually we have "eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:21.)
*These are the titles of the Jewish writings from which the information is derived.
In attempting to relate the rabbinical view, please understand this is not our view of Scripture.
− The Editor