Adam and Eve: Figurative?


#1

Peace be with you all,

Is Adam and Eve figurative? What does that mean?

Peace.


#2

Hi Cris,

“Figurative” means that you can’t take something literally but as signifying something else. Some things can be both real and figurative.

In Catholic doctrine, all humans come from the same two parents. So, in that sense, Adam and Eve are not figurative. Adam is, in a negative way, figurative of Christ (see Romans 5), inasmuch as he lost justification for all men, whereas Christ won it back for all men. That’s why Jesus is sometimes called the New Adam. Int the same way, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is sometimes called the New Eve, because she helped gain back what Eve helped lose.

But perhaps you are asking if the whole story of creation is “figurative”. People sometimes say that when they mean “did not really happen”.

The creation story is clear about the following points of Catholic doctrine :

God exist
God is one
God is transcendent (he is not “part” of the world)
God existed before the world
God created all things

If one interprets the creation story in a way that denies the above, then he is not doing it in a Catholic way.

As to whether everything related in the first chapters of Genesis must be taken “literally”, that is, “word for word”, the Catholic Church does not oblige you to do this. Some of the things found in Genesis are found in the traditions of other Middle Eastern peoples. In other words, it is possible that the original writer(s) of Genesis took existing accounts of creation to express the message about the world that God wanted them to convey.

The Bible is not a book of science or history. It tells us where we come from, where we are going, and how to get there.

All this being said, many Catholics take the fundamentalist view that everything is to be taken literally, and that there has to be an explanation for everything. That was the position of the Church for many centuries and no one has said that you can’t hold this view.

Verbum


#3

I’d disagree, the Bible is first and foremost a history book! Without it the Jews and Israel have no history. If you wish to look further into this there is plenty of evidence both historic and scientific to back the Bible from Genesis to the Gospels. With the exclusion of parables. Other literature within it are proverbial, poetic, apocalyptic, laws and agreements.

The Bible is not a science book, that is, it is not concerned with scientific investigation, but that doesn’t mean it is inaccurate when it makes statements that can hold scientific weight.

The writer of Genesis presents the story as history, this is confirmed by Hebrew and language scholars. The similarity it has to other accounts from the Middle Eastern region to the Australian aboriginies to the Native Americans and Ancient Chinese suggests that these accounts really did happen. It is an article of faith for us to believe that Moses wrote Genesis under the inspiration of God and therefore edited the Gilgamesh epic and others whcih he would have had access to, being a prince in Egypt, and gave us the true account while all the others suffered corruption down the ages, likely due to the Babel incident.

If you would like to pursue your faith from the Genesis perspective, there are plenty of resources online that make arguments for creation and biblical inerrancy.


#4

What scholars would those be? Could you name one or two of them?

[quote=jdnation]The similarity it has to other accounts from the Middle Eastern region to the Australian aboriginies to the Native Americans and Ancient Chinese suggests that these accounts really did happen.
[/quote]

I don’t think that helps your case at all, since these other accounts are not seen as history but rather as myth.

In Christ,

Edwin


#5

[quote=Contarini]What scholars would those be? Could you name one or two of them?
[/quote]

Professor James Barr, an Oxford Hebrew Scholar. He does not believe Genesis, but knows what the Hebrew is trying to say. To quote him…

“Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that: (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story © Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the “days” of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.”

Others, I think, are C.D. Ginsberg, S.R. Driver, possibly Charles V. Taylor can be considered one.

The Hebrews themselves knew their own language (Exodus, commandment to honor the Sabbath) and understood it to be six literal days and Jesus Christ Himself testified that God made man and woman at the beginning of creation (Mark 10:6) and referred to Noah as a real person (Mat 24:37-39). Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Noah are referred to in 15 other books of the Bible as real people.

[quote=Contarini]I don’t think that helps your case at all, since these other accounts are not seen as history but rather as myth.
[/quote]

Many people today see the gospels as mythical too. Are they right?

The fact that so many different cultures have startingly similar creation and flood accounts tells us that they refer to a simlar past event that all these various people experienced in the past. There is some connection, unless you’re gonna tell me the Aboriginies and Native Americans and Chinese also somehow copied it from the Babylonians too.

We believe as an article of faith that the Biblical writers wrote under the inspiration of God. I’m sure God would get His story straight. There is no reason to reject the Genesis account as unhistorical unless you already have a commitment to other origin theories, in which cases people will either reject Genesis and Christianity as a whole, or they will try to compromise the two worldviews.


#6

[quote=jdnation] …………Many people today see the gospels as mythical too. Are they right?
[/quote]

“myth” doesn’t necessarily mean “made up” or “untrue”

myth merely describes a type of story used to explain a worldview or set of values.

[quote=jdnation] The fact that so many different cultures have startingly similar creation and flood accounts tells us that they refer to a simlar past event that all these various people experienced in the past. ………
[/quote]

OR it means that floods are relatively common, devastating, and frightening events
Especially for agricultural counties which are, by their nature, very concerned with the right amount of rain falling.

It shouldn’t be surprising that they. Like war, childbirth, betrayal, love, loss, and a host of other powerful events and feelings of the human condition appear in religious works and folk tales worldwide


#7

cs lewis elucidated the idea of myth quite well. he talks about how we find myths throughout the history of man - stories that employ archetypes found in jungian psychology - cups and virgins and gods and gardens and snakes and so forth. these are images that resound deeply in the human psyche for some reason.

then lewis goes on to explain that, certainly, the gospel account (and, we would say, the OT, too) ARE mythological, in that they also employ these archetypal elements.

however, lewis would conclude, the gospel myths (and, we would add, the OT myths) have the distinction of actually being TRUE. they really happened. they’re mythological, in that they resound deeply in our minds by employing these archetypal images (such as a god dying and coming back to life) - but they’re also historically true.


#8

[quote=Steve Andersen]“myth” doesn’t necessarily mean “made up” or “untrue”

myth merely describes a type of story used to explain a worldview or set of values.
[/quote]

A myth, is usually defined as a purely fictitious narrative. In another sense it revolves around actual events which are exaggerated for whatever purpose, perhaps to promote a worldview. In any case, the story is untrue in parts, and can therefore be called fictitious, despite symbolic value. But idealically, it can be rejected as untrue because we are not obliged to believe in anything we consider myths, forget about a religion that has it’s foundation and salvation tied to a myth.

There are some books in the Bible using a didactic style, where an actual historic point was altered to make another point. But this was used in small cases, for example the Death of King Josiah, 2 Kings says he was dying in battle, and then buried in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles will say that he was brought to Jerusalem from the Battle and there he actually died. The writer would purposely move from what is officially known to make a comparison to the similar death of another King, Ahab. In any case there is nothing in the Genesis structure that indicates the author intended it to be mythical, nor can there be found any explanation in the various other books that they believed Genesis to be a myth. God commanded the Israelites to observe the Sabbath because He rested on teh seventh day, therefore establishing a seven day week. Anyone who broke the commandment was put to death. Jesus Christ Himself affirmed the authority of Scripture.


#9

[quote=Steve Andersen]OR it means that floods are relatively common, devastating, and frightening events
Especially for agricultural counties which are, by their nature, very concerned with the right amount of rain falling.

It shouldn’t be surprising that they. Like war, childbirth, betrayal, love, loss, and a host of other powerful events and feelings of the human condition appear in religious works and folk tales worldwide
[/quote]

Granted various religions and cultures would deal with common problems that plague everyone. So are accounts of building a boat to escape a catastrophic flood, or similar creation accounts of two people and a fall, or the curious fact that the ancient Chinese alphabet can be shown to derive key words from the Genesis story… merely be coincidence? Can these really be chance given their startling common storylines? Perhaps it might, I’m not saying that floods and obviously boats to avoid it and other stuff doesn’t occur. I’m simply asking what are the odds of different cultures around the world coming up with very similar creation stories? Where can a commoness from that grow? Simply saying they also experience floods etc. doesn’t tell me how the stories would be similar. There are many possible solutions or creative ways of dealing with the situation of floods, forget about God creating the first man and woman. The only explanation for this is a common original story that as people grew apart due to oral tradition and the passage of time would become less accurate than the actual event. In other words, as said, they’d become myths!

So now that we know there is some original content in there that has been exaggerated, or lost and changed, the commoness of the Genesis account tells us that it has some shred of what was once true. If it was only this alone, then it would be resonable to think Genesis is a myth even if it was written with historic intent. However, it is an article of faith that the writers of the Bible were God-inspired, and therefore we can consider that Genesis could be the edited and true version from God who is the Creator and doesn’t lie. But could God also be giving it as a parable or didactic account? First the text doesn’t suggest this. Secondly the remainder of the Bible, the books we are more comfortable with rely heavily on Genesis, particularly the account of the Crucifixion and sacrifice of Christ to redeem us from the fall. A close study will reveal many startling symbolic things between Genesis and the Gospels, as well feasts and laws were derived from this and seriously begun in ernerst and practiced by countless generations. Would any people so devote themselves to these things if they were only mythical? Particularly those who would actually have to experience the alleged event and so begin the devotion?

There is still a theory going about among sceptics where they believe that Christianity lifted many of it’s dogmas from pagans, particularly from Egyptians. Of course it has been refuted but for reasons as comparing the gospels to other references throughout the pagan world they believe it is also mythical just as many see similarities between Genesis and other accounts and believe it is mythical. This is called the ‘copycat thesis’ by many, but learned historians and scholars today, even if they do not believe in Christ or Judaism, reject it because base similarity isn’t evidence that something is untrue. The Bible, like many other religious books, claims to be revelation from God. If one wants to find out if the gospels are true, then one must study them, and scrutinize their content, not simply invalidly dismiss it. This is how we know that we can trust the Gospels, because they stand up to scrutiny. They are reliable. I can guarantee you that the same can resonably be said for Genesis and the remainder of the Bible. Whether one accepts it or not is up to them.


#10

[quote=jdnation]A myth, is usually defined as a purely fictitious narrative. …
[/quote]

nope

Myth, n. A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society

“Fictitious” is the tertiary definition


#11

The Adam and Eve Original Sin story is figurative, probably purely figurative.

Principally, it is a “thin-sliced hypothetical.” By portraying what ONE man and woman do with ONE moral decision, the story portrays what EVERY human would do with EVERY moral decision, in the absence of the grace of the cross.

In other words, it is a picture of how “ugly-souled” we are, in our fallen state, but for the grace won by Christ on the cross.

The story very heavily foreshadows Christ and the salvation process in response to our fallen state.


#12

[quote=BibleReader]The Adam and Eve Original Sin story is figurative, probably purely figurative.
[/quote]

You would do well to learn what parts of Genesis you are allowed to declare as “purely figurative”. The church has defined quite a bit of doctrine from Genesis. Take, for example, these harsh words delivered to us from the Council of Trent:

“If anyone does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he transgressed the commandment of God in paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice in which he had been constituted, and through the offense of that prevarication incurred the wrath and indignation of god, and thus death with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam through that offense of prevarication was changed in body and soul for the worse, let him be anathema.”


#13

Let’s see what the Cathechism says:

“Each for the other” - “A unity in two”

371 God created man and woman together and willed each for the other. The Word of God gives us to understand this through various features of the sacred text. "It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him."242 None of the animals can be man’s partner.243 The woman God “fashions” from the man’s rib and brings to him elicits on the man’s part a cry of wonder, an exclamation of love and communion: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh."244 Man discovers woman as another “I”, sharing the same humanity.

372 Man and woman were made “for each other” - not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be “helpmate” to the other, for they are equal as persons (“bone of my bones. . .”) and complementary as masculine and feminine. In marriage God unites them in such a way that, by forming “one flesh”,245 they can transmit human life: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth."246 By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the Creator’s work.247

373 In God’s plan man and woman have the vocation of “subduing” the earth248 as stewards of God. This sovereignty is not to be an arbitrary and destructive domination. God calls man and woman, made in the image of the Creator “who loves everything that exists”,249 to share in his providence toward other creatures; hence their responsibility for the world God has entrusted to them.

** IV. MAN IN PARADISE **

374 The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and with the creation around him, in a state that would be surpassed only by the glory of the new creation in Christ.

375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”.250 This grace of original holiness was “to share in. . .divine life”.251

376 By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die.252 The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman,253 and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called “original justice”.

377 The “mastery” over the world that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence254 that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.

378 The sign of man’s familiarity with God is that God places him in the garden.255 There he lives “to till it and keep it”. Work is not yet a burden,256 but rather the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation.

379 This entire harmony of original justice, foreseen for man in God’s plan, will be lost by the sin of our first parents.


#14

** How to read the account of the fall**

390 The account of the fall in *Genesis *3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265


#15

[quote=Stevereeno]You would do well to learn what parts of Genesis you are allowed to declare as “purely figurative”. The church has defined quite a bit of doctrine from Genesis. Take, for example, these harsh words delivered to us from the Council of Trent:

“If anyone does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he transgressed the commandment of God in paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice in which he had been constituted, and through the offense of that prevarication incurred the wrath and indignation of god, and thus death with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam through that offense of prevarication was changed in body and soul for the worse, let him be anathema.”
[/quote]

In reading Trent’s words, we Catholics must realize that even Trent was being interpretive. First, do you think that though we see “Adam” in the anathema declaration, Trent considered that there was an individual named “Adam,” whose name in Hebrew means “red [clay]”?

Also, do you think that Trent thought that this “Adam” lived in a perfect physical place on physical Earth, and that this is the unchangeable, solemn teaching of the Magisterium?

If you do, then you should also think that we should get a new pope, because he, too, is “anathema.”

Relax, anathema thrower.


#16

[quote=BibleReader]In reading Trent’s words, we Catholics must realize that even Trent was being interpretive. First, do you think that though we see “Adam” in the anathema declaration, Trent considered that there was an individual named “Adam,” whose name in Hebrew means “red [clay]”?

Also, do you think that Trent thought that this “Adam” lived in a perfect physical place on physical Earth, and that this is the unchangeable, solemn teaching of the Magisterium?

If you do, then you should also think that we should get a new pope, because he, too, is “anathema.”

Relax, anathema thrower.
[/quote]

Well it says right there that Adam is a man. His name meaning ‘red clay’ as he was formed from the ground. Has the current Pope denied the existence of a real Adam and his responsibility for sin?


#17

As I recall, even Saint Augustine believed that the Genesis account of Creation was allegorical…and he was no liberal lightweight!


#18

[quote=jdnation] It is an article of faith for us to believe that Moses wrote Genesis under the inspiration of God and therefore edited the Gilgamesh epic and others whcih he would have had access to, being a prince in Egypt, and gave us the true account while all the others suffered corruption down the ages, likely due to the Babel incident.

[/quote]

Surely you’re not saying that it is Catholic article of faith that Moses edited the Epic of Gilgamesh.


#19

[quote=Ahimsa]Surely you’re not saying that it is Catholic article of faith that Moses edited the Epic of Gilgamesh.
[/quote]

No, I’m saying it’s an article of faith that the writers of the Bible wrote under the Inspiration of God.


#20

[quote=jdnation]Well it says right there that Adam is a man. His name meaning ‘red clay’ as he was formed from the ground. Has the current Pope denied the existence of a real Adam and his responsibility for sin?
[/quote]

Well, the current pope reportedly believes in evolution. He probably wouldn’t go for the “Adam” or “clay” business.

Listen, no matter what you’re completely missing out on the overwhelmingly more important sensus plenior level understanding.

Question: Why was Adam said to be made of clay which was red? Answer: Because Adam was the “type of the man to come,” Jesus.

Clay = a dirt = an analog of the Dust Type for “sin.” In the Bible, sin types, or symbols, are often used to foreshadow Christ because Christ was “Him-Who-did-not-know-sin-Who-was-made-to-be-sin,” in the sewnse that Christ would take the penalty for our sins upon Himself as though He were sin itself. See 2 Corinthians 5:21. That is why, for instance, in Numbers 21:4-9, Christ on the cross is symbolized by a serpent on a pole. See, in the Adam and Eve story, Adam is made of “red dirt” because Adam is the type, or symbol, of the “bloodied one” who would also be “Him-Who-did-not-know-sin-Who-was-made-to-be-sin.”

In any event, see how many ways Adam foreshadows Christ in the Adam and Eve story.

(1) As we just said, Adam was made out of “reds clay” because he foreshadowed the bloodied one Who would be “Him-Who-did-not-know-sin-Who-was-made-to-be-sin.”

(2) He pre-existed the rest of mankind, like Christ.

(3) Just as the rest of mankind came out of his side, the saving blood of Christ activating the waters of salvation followed Eve out of Adam’s side, in the case of the New Covenant Adam, Christ, when He was stabbed in the side on the cross.

(4) Just as Adam married Eve, Christ married mankind in His Church.

(5) After Eve sinned, Adam “became sin,” by partaking of the same forbidden fruit; after mankind sinned, Christ “became sin” for mankind.

(6) Just as Adam and Eve started out with fig leaf clothing and then donned “sacrificed victim” animal skin clothing, Jesus and His Church started-out Jewish and then donned Christian clothing.

(7) Just as Adam hid from God’s wrath in the trees, Genesis 3:8, so did Christ, in Gethsemane. Just as Adam procured “bread to eat” “by the sweat of his face,” Christ began the process of procuring for us the Eucharist in Gethsemane, by the bloody sweat of His brow.

(8) Just as the Earth brought forth “thorns and thistles” to Adam, Genesis 3:18, the Earth brought thorns to Christ, when they pressed the crown of thorns on His head.

(9) Just as Adam was returned to the dirt though he previously had “eternal life,” so was Christ, Who though almighty, everlasting God, died and was buried."


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