|Type of paper:||Research paper|
|Categories:||History God Christianity|
The view that the story of Adam and Eve is either a historical narration or a myth influences one's interpretation of the associated scriptural passages. By history, we imply that the story is either a literal or symbolic account of actual occurrences. On the other hand, a myth is a widely held belief which is false. The significance of this interpretation is can be seen in say how John 3:16 is comprehended. Adam is presented as the overall head of all humankind. As such, when he sins, the repercussions are carried by all future generations of humanity. The consideration of the story of Adam and Eve as history enables one to appreciate the role played by Jesus. On the other hand, considering the story of Adam and Eve, a myth waters down the need for the coming of Christ and the complete redemption of the entire humankind which bears the original sin. It is only by considering the story of Adam and Eve as history that most of the biblical accounts become relevant.
Many theologians have been sucked into the evolutionist argument that the evolution story needs to be treated as a myth. Borg states that the evolution story can be regarded as "purely metaphorical narratives." He adds that the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man may not be literally factual. On his part, Spangeberg considers the creation story and the fall of man not as history, but mythical and only acknowledges the existence of Adam and Eve only as characters in the story. These views are advanced by the fact that no other biblical book refers to the story of Adam and Eve to explain mortality and the origin of sin. While these observations are valid, and the shared by many theologians, it is noteworthy that the evolutionist arguments have not done much to explain the origin of humankind. Such theories continue to be speculatively added to the fact that the scientific approach is limited to studying an existent world.
There exist scientific backings of the creations story and which sere to confirm that the presentation of Adam and Eve is historical and not a myth. Results from studies by geochemists, geneticists and anthropologists of mitochondrial DNA all conclude that humankind derives their ancestry from a single woman and a single location. Similar conclusions are obtained from Y-chromosomal evidence. Subsequently, geneticists refer to the ancestral mitochondrial DNA as mitochondria Eve. The inherited Y-chromosome is regarded as Adam. The single location is considered to be the Garden of Eden. The matter of common ancestry is accepted by the evolution theory and welcomed by scientists. Such lineage can be extended to the spiritual, biological, and moral aspects of a human being, making them consistent with Genesis 2:4 - 3:24 and further scriptures such as Psalms 51:5, Corinthians 15:21-22, and Romans 5:12 - 14. According to Lioy, the fact that Jesus refers to Genesis 1:27 while accentuating on the sacrosanctity of marriage points to the fact that the couple existed within a space-time history.
By assigning a mythological perspective to the story of Adam and Eve, one elects to consider the creation story as a myth. It is difficult to determine how one can choose to contest one part of the Bible while accepting the other. The Bible is presented in continuum with the fall of man calling for the prophets, and later Christ. It is equally difficult to come up with a criterion to discredit certain portions of the Bible as inadmissible while accepting other sections. According to Ogden, the predetermined which modern man considers to be unreasonable serve as the basis mythologizing certain Biblical accounts. One can, however, apply a fundamental approach to such people to demythologize the Bible in its entirety. For instance, when Adam and Eve are not considered in the creation story, a modern man readily accepts the existence of other created things such as trees. From this perspective, one then questions whether certain trees would be suitable for consumption while others would not. Accepting this would confirm that the creation story is indeed factual.
The history-myth dilemma arises out of the lack of clarity and internalization of certain aspects to the story of Adam and Eve which can be interpreted. Foremost, to accept the existence of two sets of trees in the garden of Eden would lead to the subsequent acceptance of the life of Adam and Eve in the garden. As such, the creation story becomes history, not a myth. Secondly, on their own, these trees have no power. They derive their inherent powers from the supernatural being, God. Acknowledging the omnipresent God leads to the acceptance of all His creation and decisions including the story of Adam and Eve. Thirdly, the inherent ability of humankind to exercise their free will is exemplified by the situation Eve finds herself in. Adam and Eve are free to choose good or bad. Recognizing this fact enables one to accept the creation story. Fourthly, one must acknowledge that the free will aspect of the choices is pegged on the consequences attached to each option, which Adam and Eve are aware of before they make their decision.
Several elements make the literal interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve more feasible. In all the scriptures of the Bible, there is not a single point where a symbolic interpretation is assigned to the creation story. It must be noted that, had the creation story been merely allegoric, there would have been numerous instances of interpretation. This is however absent. As the Biblical accounts progress from the story of Adam and Eve to the story of Noah, there is no indication of a shift from allegory to reality. As such, in the same manner, that Noah remains a real character, Adam and Eve must be real characters. The same realness extends to Abraham and his family. In Romans 5:14 and 1Corrinthians 15:24-45, there is the comparison of Christ with Abraham. Consequently, accepting Christ as a historical character requires the acceptance of Adam and Eve as historical characters as well.
Luke 3:23-38 and 1Chronicles 1-2 provide to genealogical records that appear in the New Testament, in later stages of the Bible. In both instances, Adam is listed among historical characters. Christ's ancestry is traced back to historical characters such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Besides this, the geographical locations mentioned in the story of Adam and Eve are indeed real and include Euphrates and Assyria. The reality of the setting confirms the realness of the characters involved, proving that the story of Adam and Eve is history, not a myth. On top of the realness of the geography of the garden of Eden, the fall of Adam and Eve is evidenced by the fall of nations in other sections of the Bible. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, for instance, is a reality and is the result of the disobedience of God's word and the sinful acts of their inhabitants. It is noteworthy that, as captured in Romans 5:12-14, the Apostle Paul centralizes his message for redemption on the disobedience of humani. As such, it is easy to accept that Adam and Eve had a test which they failed leading to their fall.
The other point of contention on the matter of the admissibility of the story of Adam and Eve is whether to consider the serpent a fact or a myth. Even when considering it as actual, one is faced with the complexity of determining if it is symbolic of something other than the snake as captured in the story of Adam and Eve. Considering the preceding argument, we conclude that Adam and Eve were literal beings. Additionally, one can reasonably conjecture that whereas the trees in the garden were literal, they can be assigned a literal meaning. Why a serpent is chosen over all other animals, however, remains contentious. There is consistency in this choice considering that, in the accounts of Moses, the Egyptian practices are presented to involve serpents. As such, it is no wonder that the first five books of the Bible make reference to the serpent at some point. In Exodus 7:8-12, God uses the paganistic culture of the Egyptians, which involved serpents, against them. The choice of the serpent is, therefore not unique to the setting of the garden of Eden, confirming it as a reality and not a myth.
Understanding the factualness of the story of Adam and Eve requires the comprehension of the relationship between human's sinful nature and the work of God. It is evident from the scripture, that sin does not originate from God. James warns that no human should assign blame to God and claim to be tempted by Him. James 1:14 clearly states that God can neither be tempted nor tempt and in 1 John 2:16, it is declared that all the sin is of the world. One would rebut such scripture by questioning the nature of God's influential providence. As Peters clarifies, God relates to sin. He has the power to allow sin, limit sin, or prevent sin. As such, God is not the cause of sin but acts to the sin. Acts 14:16 and Romans 1:24-28 provide illustrations of God allowing sin while not causing humans to sin.
There is a consensus among most theologians of the need to take Biblical accounts seriously even without accepting their literal sense. The risk of this approach is the likelihood of consideration of the creation story of Adam and Eve as a myth. However, it must be noted that this view is misleading given there exist scientific and textual backings of common ancestry for all humans. The Bible builds from the garden of Eden and the scriptures that follow make reference to and respond to the fall of Adam and Eve. This fall is the essence of the coming and death of Christ. God's decision to bring His son is meant to bring about redemption from the flaws attained by Adam and Eve, and which were transferred to later generations.
Borg, Marcus J. The heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a life of faith. Zondervan, 2009.
Lioy, Dan. Evolutionary creation in biblical and theological perspective. Vol. 148. New York: Peter Lang, 2011.
Ogden, Schubert M. "What Sense Does It Make to Say," God Acts in History"?" The Journal of Religion 43, no. 1 (1963): 1-19. Doi: 10.1086/485502.
Peters, Ted. God--the World's Future: Systematic Theology for a New Era. Fortress Press, 2015.
Spangenberg, Izak JJ. "Can a major religion change? Reading Genesis 1-3 in the Twenty-First Century." Verbum et Ecclesia28, no. 1 (2007): 259-279. Doi: 10.4102/ve. v28i1.107.
Underhill, Peter A., Peidong Shen, Alice A. Lin, Li Jin, Giuseppe Passarino, Wei H. Yang, Erin Kauffman et al. "Y chromosome sequence variation and the history of human populations." Nature Genetics 26, no. 3 (2000): 358. Doi: 10.3199/iscb.8.103.
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