4. The Recapitulation Theory

By James M. Rochford

Who taught it?

Irenaeus (AD 130-202) was the first to articulate this view.

What does it teach?

This view states that Christ is the new Adam. Where Adam sinned, Jesus faithfully obeyed. Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. Christ bought back what Adam lost for us. William Barclay writes, “Through man’s disobedience the process of the evolution of the human race went wrong, and the course of its wrongness could neither be halted nor reversed by any human means. But in Jesus Christ the whole course of human evolution was perfectly carried out and realised in obedience to the purpose of God.”[1]

Which passages support it?

Several passages speak about Christ being the new Adam. For instance, Paul compares Jesus’ saving work to Adam’s sinful work (Rom. 5:15; c.f. 1 Cor. 15:22, 45). Advocates of this view argue that this is the central view of the Cross.

Criticism of this view?

We don’t have an extended criticism of this perspective. But as we have already argued, this perspective shouldn’t be central to the atonement. It should be held as a tertiary aspect of Christ’s work on the Cross.

[1] Barclay, William. Crucified and Crowned. S.C.M. 1961. 100.