Adam & Eve: real people or symbols?


#1

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Catholic Answers Live, and a caller asked about Adam and Eve and whether or not they were real people. The answerer (it was one of the regulars; either Jimmy Aiken or Karl Keating–probably Jimmy–but I always mix up those two guys’ names) said that Adam and Eve were definitely humans (as opposed to creatures from other universes or something) and even said that there are some Catholic theologians who say that Adam and Eve might actually be symbols for the early human race.

I really liked the idea that Catholics can believe that Adam and Eve were literally two individuals OR that they were symbols for the early human race; I like that openness to interpretation on something that doesn’t seem to impact our daily lives in the way that some other things do.

But then this afternoon, I’m listening to an encore presentation of Catholic Answers Live again, and the calendar tells me the answerer is Tim Staples. Someone called with a similar question, and the answerer said that Adam and Eve were definitely two real human beings. He made references to some teaching on Original Sin from the Council of Trent.

Is it possible for these two ideas to exist together? Is it possible I’ve misunderstood one or the other of these shows?

Thanks.


#2

…the final word might be from the scientific community that has utilized DNA studies, and the last word i heard on a PBS show was that they believed that DNA shows a path back to only two original parents…

jury is still out… exciting though…:thumbsup:

http://img.shopping.com/images1/di/61/65/54/33/71/6e7a5056497176746b68394b66424f6367-100x100.jpg


#3

Here is what Father Mateo of CIN has to say:
[left]

For Catholics, all Scripture is inspired of God ([2 Tim. 3:16](“http://bible.gospelcom.net/bible?version= RSV&passage=2+Timothy+3:16”)). Therefore we must take seriously the Bible witness to Adam, especially, as the personal parent of the whole human race. See [Luke 3:38](“http://bible.gospelcom.net/bible?version= RSV&passage=Luke+3:38”), [1st Chronicles 1:1](“http://bible.gospelcom.net/bible?version= RSV&passage=1+Chronicles+1:1”), and many other places.

There simply is no tenable concept of original sin if a personal Adam is trashed. As the Protestant Chineses scholar Nee To-sheng writes: “We derive our existence from him (Adam), and because his life became a sinful life, a sinful nature, therefore the nature which we derive from him is also sinful … the trouble is in our heredity.”

To read the entire article, go to: cin.org/mateo/adam-eve.html[/left]


#4

I like the fact that the Catholic Church believes there is no conflict between science, Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Any conflict that seems to exist is a result of our lack of true understanding. This is why it is important to remember that we never should stop learning and listening and reading and praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit.:yup:


#5

Regardless of what one believes regarding how humans got to be where they are today - whether literal creationism or theistic evolution, if one believes in a soul, then there had to be a first man and first woman created miraculously because the soul cannot evolve. In this sense, there had to be an Adam and Eve. These first true persons must have been in a state of grace and must have disobeyed God in some specific way in order for original sin to exist. God wouldn’t create people with original sin, thus, there had to be a fall.

If one takes Adam and Eve to be symbols of early man, then the whole theology of the fall and original sin kind of unravels.


#6

I think we would do well to know what Pius XII taught in Humani Generis:

[T]he faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own. (37)


#7

I like the idea that Adam and Eve were the first to be given souls. The anthropological record doesn’t do a great job of explaining why we have all of these anatomically “human” remains for almost two hundred thousand years but we don’t see anything even remotely resembling religious practices until around 50,000 years ago when such practices appear, bloom and flourish.


#8

[quote=surfinpure]Here is what Father Mateo of CIN has to say:
[left]

To read the entire article, go to: cin.org/mateo/adam-eve.html[/left]

[/quote]

I don’t think I agree with Father Mateo. I don’t think it necessarily trashes anything. I mean, even if Adam and Eve didn’t exist as two individuals, that doesn’t change Original Sin… you know? They were or they weren’t, and in either case, Original Sin still exists.


#9

[quote=LSK]I like the fact that the Catholic Church believes there is no conflict between science, Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Any conflict that seems to exist is a result of our lack of true understanding. This is why it is important to remember that we never should stop learning and listening and reading and praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit.:yup:
[/quote]

Yes, I like that fact, too! I had forgotten that. Any conflict that seems to exists is a result of our lack of understanding–either of science or of God.

Thanks!


#10

[quote=brotherhrolf]I like the idea that Adam and Eve were the first to be given souls. The anthropological record doesn’t do a great job of explaining why we have all of these anatomically “human” remains for almost two hundred thousand years but we don’t see anything even remotely resembling religious practices until around 50,000 years ago when such practices appear, bloom and flourish.
[/quote]

Ooh, I like that one, too! That’s a very nice blending.


#11

[quote=KBarn]I think we would do well to know what Pius XII taught in Humani Generis:
[/quote]

Wow. That’s very difficult to understand. :slight_smile:


#12

[quote=space ghost]…the final word might be from the scientific community that has utilized DNA studies, and the last word i heard on a PBS show was that they believed that DNA shows a path back to only two original parents…

jury is still out… exciting though…:thumbsup:
[/quote]

I actually learned about this in an anthropology class in my very liberal college. They can trace Mitochondrial DNA back to a single woman (for some reason they can only trace it through women). I mean, if there was one woman, there had to have been a man around to. Obviously this theory is stillv ery controversial.

When you think about, even given evolution, at some point a non-homo sapian had to give birth to a homo sapian. There has a to be a point where homo erectus (or whatever) ceased and homo sapians began.


#13

[quote=JEGirl]Ooh, I like that one, too! That’s a very nice blending.
[/quote]

Well, remember what a human being is. Body *and *soul. Just body or just soul is not fully human. Likewise, there is nothing that says God did not create Adam and Eve from previous biological material. For example, bilogical material could have been molded by God (in other words evolved) until a certain point at which time God infused the first two souls into Adam and Eve.


#14

JEGirl,

Welcome to the forums.

Yeah, it is difficult to understand. Popes have historically been fond of jamming all sorts of information into the sentences they write.

But the gist of the paragraph is that we as Catholics are bound to believe that we have two original parents, and we must believe that they are the source of Original Sin. Whether or not they were really named Adam and Eve and what constituted the historical situation of their sin can be debated, however, even the manner in which their bodies were brought forth can be debated.

I personally go with the Genesis creation account, but I do not think that a belief in theistic evolution necessarily hinders another’s genuine love of God and the Catholic faith.


#15

[quote=Genesis315]I actually learned about this in an anthropology class in my very liberal college. They can trace Mitochondrial DNA back to a single woman (for some reason they can only trace it through women). .
[/quote]

Yes but mitochondrial Eve goes back about 200,000 years ago and that’s another subject entirely. (I agree with Milford Wolpoff and not the out-of-Africa theory). A concept of theistic evolution (i.e. the record of “evolution” is nothing more than the record of God acting in His universe) goes a long way towards explaining why, bam, “fiat lux”, humanity starts exhibiting religious behavior 50,000 years ago.


#16

This from CatholicBridge.com: davidmacd.com/catholic/catholic_creationism.htm

[left]There are many scientific theories that attempt to prove that there was no such thing as one man and one woman at the beginning of creation. They theorize that there were a group of people who were our first parents (polygenism) They claim that Adam and Eve are archetypes for humanity. The Catholic Church made a statement about this in the 50’s. The official position of the Church is that:[/left]

“Polygenism cannot be taught safely.” [left]It is against the Catholic faith to teach that humanity came from a group of first parents. We teach monogenism, that Adam and Eve were indeed our first parents. Although scientists and theologians are free to grapple with these difficult questions it would be considered wrong to teach it. [/left]
[left] [/left]
[left]Polygenism runs into some serious theological difficulties when we consider the implications of original sin and its transference through all of humanity. If there were a group of people in the beginning of time and only two of them made the mistake of eating apple. Then God’s judgment against humanity would be unjust, because not all human beings would have spawned off of the two who made the errors. And therefore Jesus’ role in redeeming the sin of Adam would be called into question.[/left]
[left] [/left]
[left]The Vatican says:[/left]

[left]Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that the Truth that God wanted to put into sacred scripture for the sake of salvation. (Vat II, Dei Verbum, 11)

[/left]


#17

I think that Adam and Eve can be seen as real people AND as symbols, as long as we do not reduce them to being only symbols. A symbol is something that represents something else. Yes, we are descended from an original couple. However, we can also see meanings in Adam and Eve beyond just their being real people. For example, John Paul II talked about original solitude in Adam’s loneliness, saying that Adam’s loneliness shows that man is alone in all creation and is separate from animals because man was made for relationship with God and with other people. He isn’t saying that Adam didn’t really exist, but he is showing that there is deep meaning in the story of Adam and Eve when we see Adam as representing humanity as a whole.


#18

[quote=Grace and Glory]I think that Adam and Eve can be seen as real people AND as symbols, as long as we do not reduce them to being only symbols. A symbol is something that represents something else. Yes, we are descended from an original couple. However, we can also see meanings in Adam and Eve beyond just their being real people. For example, John Paul II talked about original solitude in Adam’s loneliness, saying that Adam’s loneliness shows that man is alone in all creation and is separate from animals because man was made for relationship with God and with other people. He isn’t saying that Adam didn’t really exist, but he is showing that there is deep meaning in the story of Adam and Eve when we see Adam as representing humanity as a whole.
[/quote]

I see nothing wrong with this view at all. :slight_smile:


#19

Here is what the Catechism has to say about Adam:

402 All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many [that is, all men] were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned…” The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”


#20

[quote=KBarn]JEGirl,

Welcome to the forums.

Yeah, it is difficult to understand. Popes have historically been fond of jamming all sorts of information into the sentences they write.

But the gist of the paragraph is that we as Catholics are bound to believe that we have two original parents, and we must believe that they are the source of Original Sin. Whether or not they were really named Adam and Eve and what constituted the historical situation of their sin can be debated, however, even the manner in which their bodies were brought forth can be debated.

I personally go with the Genesis creation account, but I do not think that a belief in theistic evolution necessarily hinders another’s genuine love of God and the Catholic faith.
[/quote]

I guess I don’t understand what you’re saying; it seems contradictory to say we believe in two original parents who are the source of Original Sin AND it’s okay to believe in theistic evolution. Could you talk about that a little more?


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