20th November 2023

In the Genesis 3 account of Adam’s rebellion against the rules of good order in Eden, in a passage challenging to ardent feminists, it is through Eve that the serpent secures human disobedience with its fateful consequences. By vivid contrast, Mary’s response to Gabriel’s announcement that she is to bear a child who will be ‘the Son of the Highest’ is simple consent. But with that consent comes the announcement of radical changes, scattering the proud, putting down the mighty and filling the hungry with good things [Luke 1.26-38]. It was for this reason that the apostolic church came to call Mary, God’s ‘Second Eve’, obedience replacing rebellion.

The familiarity of the language of ‘Second Adam’ we owe to John Henry Newman who in ‘Praise to the holiest in the height’ has the memorable lines: ‘A second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.’ But the idea is already there in St. Paul [Romans 5.12- 21, 1 Corinthians 15.21-23, 45-47]. In the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, Adam’s rebellion is, at great cost, undone, and mankind is restored to created innocence for, ‘God created man in his own image’ [Genesis 1.27]. Whilst the tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden brought about Adam’s sin, the second Adam’s death upon another tree is the source of redemption. In our physical being we all share the first Adam’s earthly existence which suffers from his rebellion, and its consequential limitations of death, disease, and incomplete achievement. But the good news is that believers can know with certainty that in their heavenly bodies they will become like the second Adam, sharing Christ’s imperishable, sin-free, eternal and completely fulfilled life.

John Briggs