In Israel’s Gospel, John Goldingay writes, “It is the essence of Israel to be a people with a story….The Old Testament tells us who God is and who we are through the ongoing story of God’s relationship with Israel.” While Goldingay’s assertion is well-founded, I find it striking that Israel’s Scriptures do not begin by telling the story of God’s relationship with Israel. They begin, rather, with a much broader scope – God’s relationship with humanity, as told in the story of Adam and Eve. Is there a deep connection between the two stories? Does the story of Adam shape the story of Israel, and vice-versa? An imaginative reading of the text suggests so.
In our module "The Biblical Story", one of our assignments is to pick an act from the Bible's narrative and write an essay on it. I chose The Fall, with the above being a little taste of where I went with it. There were many conclusions that I was unable to explore due to lack of space, but one of them is that the story of Adam is best read from a post-exilic context. It was told to "catch the conscience" of Israelites in exile, and in doing so it created deep connections between the story of Israel and the story of non-Israel. The chief connection was not merely that both parties are human beings, but that both parties of human beings are partnered to Yahweh. Moreover, the destiny of non-Israel is contingent on the destiny of Israel - but like non-Israel (as represented by Adam), Israel has been "driven out" from Yahweh's special presence due to disobedience.
It turns out that non-Israel is actually Israel, or perhaps that Israel is actually non-Israel. Their stories parallel up to a devastating exile. What next? *broad strokes conclusion alert*
During Israel’s exile a new story was told amongst the people: The story of a Servant. Would Adam’s story of “falling short of the glory of God” – a story embedded not only in the conscience of the nations, but in Israel herself -- be put to rights through a righteous Servant?
It is into the yoked stories of Adam and Israel that Jesus of Nazareth fits. Indeed, he forms the climax of these stories and in turn weaves one new story for all of humanity to participate in: the story of cross-resurrection; the story of “new creation”. Israel’s Messiah becomes the “second Adam”. The exile is over. Access to the “tree of life” is once more available (Rev. 22:2). The Father is calling for his sons and daughters to return home.
Has Israel’s faithlessness nullified the faithfulness of God? Me genoito! Through the faithful Israelite Jesus, “God’s single-plan-through-Israel-for-the-world” is brought to fulfilment. Blessing triumphs over curse.