Typology in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15

My Facebook friend Krysta asked a question on Facebook yesterday about a point made by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger in their 2014 book “God’s Design for Man and Woman.” Their point is that Romans 5:12-21 says Adam is the first human being through whom sin entered the world, and this indicates that God holds Adam ultimately responsible and accountable for the first sin.[1] This is despite the fact that Eve was the first to eat the forbidden fruit. The Köstenbergers use Romans 5 to then claim that God gave Adam authority over Eve. I was going to reply on Facebook, but my answer got too long, so I’ve posted it here.

Typology, Type, and Antitype

To understand Adam’s role in Romans 5:12-21 we must recognise that Paul is using the device of biblical typology in this passage. Paul plainly says as much in Romans 5:14b: “Adam, who is a type (Greek: typos) of the one who was to come” (NRSV). Jesus is the “one who was to come” and is the antitype in Paul’s carefully constructed teaching.

In typology, the antitype is always more important and decisive than the type.[2] The antitype is also usually clearer to understand than the type, the type being an Old Testament example, pattern, or analogy that prefigures or foreshadows the messianic antitype. This foreshadowing is often imprecise in some aspects, as in the case of Paul’s use of Adam. Nevertheless, Adam makes a useful type for Paul’s teaching on Jesus, as Adam was the first human and all his descendants were a race of sinners, while all followers of Jesus are a new, redeemed race.[3]

Adam also makes a useful type because his name is the Hebrew word for “humanity/human being” (’ādām). For example, in Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 5:2 in the Hebrew text, men and women together are identified as ’ādām (“humanity”).[4] While I’ve seen some question if Paul used the word “Adam” for the first couple, it is more likely he used the figure of Adam, and not Eve, because he could make neat comparisons and contrasts between the two men, Adam and Jesus, with great rhetorical effect.

Adam and Jesus: Humans (anthrōpoi)

Interestingly, Jesus is rarely referred to in the Greek New Testament as an anēr (an adult male person); he is most commonly referred to as an anthrōpos (a human being). Similarly, in Genesis 2 of the Septuagint,[5] Adam is rarely referred to as a male person but is repeatedly referred to as the anthrōpos (the Greek translation of the Hebrew ’ādām).

The word anthrōpos occurs several times in Romans 5:12-21 in reference to Adam and to Jesus where unfortunately it is often translated as “man” in English Bible versions. “Man” is not an incorrect translation, especially as both Adam and Jesus were men, but it obscures the more general sense of “human.”[6] The Greek word anēr (adult male person) is entirely absent in this passage.

In Romans 5:12-21, the disobedience and trespass of the anthrōpos who brought condemnation and death is contrasted with the obedience and righteousness of the anthrōpos who brings the gift of justification and life. Paul was not ignorant that Eve sinned first, yet he seems to have decided that the rhetorical force of using Adam, the anthrōpos in Genesis 2 in the Greek scriptures, was more persuasive in making his main points about the anthrōpos Jesus Christ.

Limited Symbol vs Universal Saviour

It is important to keep in mind that types are prophetic symbols and they are often used without being entirely accurate and without having a perfect correspondence in every detail. Strictly speaking, Adam was not the first person to sin and thus bring sin into the world. Genesis 3:6 tells us Eve was the first to eat the forbidden fruit; she disobeyed God’s command and sinned moments before Adam. Genesis 3:11-13 tells us that God questioned Adam and Eve individually and held each accountable for their own actions. Furthermore, they each will suffer the consequences of their own actions in their own ways.

God did not hold Adam solely responsible for bringing sin into the world, and neither does Paul who mentions Eve’s transgression when it suits his message (e.g., 1 Tim. 2:14 CSB). We err if we think Paul was making the point in Romans 5:12-21 that sin and death came only through Adam. Paul’s intention in Romans 5 was not to state that sin entered the world through Adam only and not through Eve also.

Adam is a type and symbol in Romans 5:12-21, as well as in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. Adam was used as a foil to help Paul highlight the work of Jesus our Saviour. Cranfield writes, “Adam is only mentioned in order to bring out more clearly the nature of the work of Christ. The purpose of the comparison is to make clear the universal range of what Christ has done.”[7]


It is a mistake to read too much into Paul’s use of Adam as the Köstenbergers have done. Romans 5 has nothing to say about their idea that God gave Adam more authority than Eve, or authority over Eve. Rather, in Romans 5, Adam functions as a representative of humanity.[8]

Finally, let’s remember that the Genesis account is our primary source for information about Adam and Eve. Genesis 2-3 should inform our understanding of the first couple, and their sin, more so than Paul’s secondary use of these figures to make certain points in his letters.


[1] I don’t have access to the book Krysta is reading, but this quote from another book co-authored by Andreas Köstenberger expresses much the same idea: “. . . it is the man, not the woman, who is primarily held responsible for the rebellious act . . .” This quote is followed by a reference to Romans 5:12-14 and verses in Genesis 3. Andreas J. Köstenberger and David W. Jones, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (Second Edition) (Wheaton: Crossways, 2012), 27. (Their italics.)

[2] “We must not press this [typology] to mean that Adam was the decisive person and that Christ conformed to the pattern Adam had laid down. Always for Paul, Christ is the decisive one.” Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 234.

[3] Morris, Romans, 234.

[4] In the Septuagint, ’ādām is translated as anthrōpos in Genesis 1:26-27 and in Genesis 5:1a, etc, but is transliterated as “Adam” in Genesis 5:1b, 5:2b, and in verses 3, 4, and 5, etc. You can check the inconsistency of translation/transliteration of ’ādām in Genesis 5:1-5 in this edition of the Septuagint. Furthermore, there is some variation among the different editions of the Septuagint as to which verses in Genesis chapters 2 and 5 contain the translation or the transliteration of ’ādām.

[5] The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament and was Paul’s “Bible”.

[6] Anthrōpos is used twice in Romans 5:12; once in Romans 5:15 (but implied several times in verses 15-17); the plural of anthrōpos is used twice in Romans 5:18; and the singular is used once, and implied once, in Romans 5:19.

[7] C.E.B. Cranfield, Romans: A Shorter Commentary (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1985), 115.

[8] A.W. Pink explains the doctrine of federal, or Adamic, headship, here. I don’t agree with everything Pink says, but I want to point out that he never mentions Adam having authority. Rather, he states that Adam, as the federal head of the human race, “did act and transact in a representative capacity, and that the judicial consequences of his actings were imputed to all those for whom he stood, [as] is clearly revealed in God’s Word.” Pink then quotes from Romans 5.

Andrew Bartlett also states that Adam is a representative of humanity in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5.

We can express the basic idea by saying: Adam was created first and all have their source from him; he sinned; his fall is seen as representing the fall of all humanity. . . . In 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 Paul is speaking of Adam’s representation of humanity, not of ruling over humanity. Nor is he saying anything about Adam as ruler of his wife.
Andrew Bartlett, Men and Women: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts (London: IVP, 2019), 80.

A Note on Hosea 6:7

Hosea 6:7a is occasionally brought into conversations about Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. This verse is sometimes translated as “But like Adam, they transgressed the covenant.” However, this verse may not be about Adam, but about humanity more generally. (The Hebrew word adam can mean humanity or man in a generic sense.) Some translations reflect this understanding and translate adam as “men” (e.g., KJV, CJB, JPS Tanakh). Furthermore, the Septuagint does not mention Adam but has hōs anthrōpos (“like/as humanity/man”).

Other translations have “Adam” as a place name, rather than as the name of a person (e.g., NIV, CEV, GNT, NET, NRSV, TEV) (cf. Josh. 3:16 which mentions a town named Adam). It depends on how to translate the preposition attached to the Hebrew word adam (= k’adam, כְּאָדָ֖ם) in Hosea 6:7. And note that Adam in Hosea 6:7 parallels Gilead mentioned in Hosea 6:8. Here are some English translations of 6:7 to compare. For more information, see NET note 19 on Hosea 6 here.

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Further Reading

Biblical Typology
Does Romans 5 Teach Adam’s Federal Headship . . . ?

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