The Exile of Adam in Romans: The Reversal of the Curse against Adam and Israel in the Substructure of Romans 5 and 8

Written by David P. Barry Reviewed By Chris Conyers

This book is an edited form of Barry’s doctoral dissertation, completed at Westminster Theological Seminary and discussing the intersection of exilic and Adamic themes in Romans 5 and 8. His central thesis is that Romans 5 and 8 depict Christ’s work as reversing the effects of Adam’s exile from the garden, and bring Christ’s people to their originally intended telos.

After introducing his topic in his first chapter (pp. 3–9), Barry surveys first century Jewish understandings of exile (ch. 2, pp. 13–31). His particular foci are the duration and the characterization of the exile. By surveying the Hebrew Bible, Second Temple literature, and (very briefly) the New Testament, he shows that, while heterogeneous, Jewish understandings of the exile generally characterized it as a theological problem, and not merely a geographical one that was over simply because some Jews had physically returned. Furthermore, while “many texts … suggest that the exile has ended in some sense” (p. 31, emphasis original), there was widespread hope for a future restoration of God’s people to the fulness of his blessings. Exile was generally not viewed as an entirely past event.

Barry’s third chapter (pp. 41–63) then delves into the relationship between Adam and exile in the Hebrew Bible, Second Temple literature, and the New Testament (outside of Romans 5 and 8). This chapter moves very quickly through a wide variety of background texts, drawing connections that, though suggestive, may not be convincing for a reader who is skeptical of Barry’s thesis. For example, he connects Adam’s expulsion from the garden to the Deuteronomic concept of exile, but his argument appears to depend largely on the repetition of the common word ἐκβάλλω in Genesis 3:24 LXX and Deuteronomy 29:27 LXX (pp. 44–45). As a purely lexical connection (which is how it is presented), this is tenuous in Greek and has no basis in the underlying Hebrew. While I am sympathetic to Barry’s implicit thematic or theological connection of these two texts, his explicit exegetical argument is weak. Whether the reader is convinced by Barry’s argument for an Adamic concept of exile in first century Judaism may therefore depend somewhat upon theological presuppositions—though I, at least, find his overall argument persuasive.

Having argued for an Adamic notion of exile, Barry’s remaining chapters then investigate this theme in Romans 5 (ch. 4, pp. 75–95); 8:1–30 (ch. 5, pp. 103–31); and 8:31–39 (ch. 6, pp. 141–65). These chapters make several interesting connections, showing that Adam’s explicit presence in Romans 5:12–21 extends below the surface in 5:1–11 and chapter 8. I was particularly intrigued by his connection of humanity’s exchange ([μετ]ἀλλάσσω; Rom 1:23, 25, 26), which has often been associated with Adam, with humanity being reconciled (καταλλάσσω; twice in 5:10, cf. 5:11). Barry thus argues that “reconciliation” is a solution to an Adamic problem (pp. 76–77).

As in Barry’s argument for an Adamic concept of exile, these latter chapters are rich in theological and thematic connections, but weaker in detailed exegesis. For example, Romans 5:5 is repeatedly cited as a reference to “the Spirit’s outpouring” (p. 81, cf. pp. 95, 103, 107, 111, 174), but this verse explicitly describes the outpouring of “the love of God,” not the Spirit. The Spirit is rather the agent or means of the pouring. While Romans 5:5 may offer legitimate theological resonances that support Barry’s wider argument, his use of it is exegetically careless. Similarly, while Genesis 1:26–28 describes the creation and commissioning of humanity in general, Adam’s specific creation is not described in Genesis 1:27 (contra p. 55, cf. Gen 2:7), nor is the commission of Genesis 1:26–28 specific to him (contra p. 44). Barry’s underlying points are probably legitimate, but this exegetical imprecision is unfortunate since it distracts from an otherwise interesting contribution to discussions of Paul’s Adamic theology.

Rather than dwelling on these distractions, though, it is worth dwelling on Barry’s wider contribution. He argues persuasively that the things that are not able to “separate [believers] from the love of Christ” (Rom 8:35) derive (mostly) from Deuteronomy 28, which describes a future exile (pp. 149–57). Likewise, Psalm 44:22 (cited in Rom 8:36) “depicts the experience of the righteous in exile” (p. 157).

By firmly establishing this exilic background (at least for this conclusion to Paul’s argument so far), Barry’s work has potential to contribute to readings of Romans 5–8 more broadly by more clearly highlighting the significance of the concept of exile in Paul. For example, this exilic theme has already been suggested as background to Romans 7 (Will N. Timmins, “Romans 7 and the Resurrection of Lament in Christ: The Wretched ‘I’ and His Biblical Doppelgänger,” NovT 61 [2019]: 386–408). Both Barry’s clarity on the concept of exile and the book’s potential to contribute to further study of Romans 5–8 make it well worth engaging.

Chris Conyers

Chris Conyers
Moore Theological College
Newtown, New South Wales, Australia

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