Adam is conventionally thought of simply as the male half of the first human couple. But what if we understand the statement “Let us make adam” (Gen 1:26) to include the notion of general human personhood? In this sense, the adam of Gen 1:26 denotes the archetypal human person, a complex expression of the relational potentialities of class, plurality, and individuality. Later on, Gen 5 presents Adam as an archetype with a history by genealogically connecting the first human(s) with subsequent generations (Gen 5, Gen 10:1-32, Gen 11:10-32; compare 1Chr 1). Collectivity (Gen 5:1), plurality (Gen 5:2), and individuality (Gen 5:3-5) are brought together in Adam, the human progenitor (Gen 5:1).
The Hebrew text of the creation and Eden narratives of Genesis 2-4 tends to avoid explicit use of adam as a personal name and does so by prefixing it with the definite article (ha-adam). Interestingly, the Septuagint frequently refers to (ho) Adam “the Adam,” in addition to anthropos (“human”); though the name Adam alone without the article does appear in its pages. Using the literary framework of Gen 1-5, we can consider the two members of the couple as representing aspects of the single archetypal adam —composed of earth (Hebrew, adamah; Gen 2:7), containing male and female potentialities (Gen 2:21-23; compare Gen 1:26-27, Gen 5:1-2), endowed like God with certain capacities (Gen 2:19-20, Gen 4:1, Gen 4:25; compare Gen 1:26-27), and fatefully inclined to acquire others (Gen 3:6, Gen 3:22).
Other texts in the Hebrew Bible describe an archetypal human individual in terms that reflect the Genesis narratives, in particular the problem of desiring, acquiring, and then misusing great wisdom (see, for example, Job 15:7-8 and Ezek 28:11-19). We also encounter a similar figure outside the Bible, in the Mesopotamian myth of Adapa. This name is equated with the word “human” and may be etymologically related to adam. In the myth, Adapa is called the “seed of humankind,” is endowed with great wisdom, and loses eternal life over instructions concerning food and drink in a manner that resembles Gen 2-3. Thus the genealogy of Gen 5 suggests that Adam, the human person, is the embodiment of all “humans” (Hebrew bene adam, literally “children of adam,” Deut 32:8, Ps 8:5-6).