Creation: myth?


I am searching my memory. I cannot recall where or how St. John Paul II said: the creation accounts are myths. I am not sure if he said that.

But if he wrote that, does any one recall where, when and why?

Does the Catechism say that?



Pope Pius XII: "If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.

  1. Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers." Humani Generis]

Pope John Paul II: “Following the contemporary philosophy of religion and that of language, it can be said that the language in question is a mythical one. In this case, the term “myth” does not designate a fabulous content, but merely an archaic way of expressing a deeper content. Without any difficulty we discover that content, under the layer of the ancient narrative. It is really marvellous as regards the qualities and the condensation of the truths contained in it.” General Audience]

The first 11 chapters of Genesis make heavy use of figurative elements, in order to recount the history of creation and humanity. So it depends on what you mean by the word “myth”.


Oh, Great One:



It reminds me of how JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis defined myth. Here’s a video from an EWTN show. It’s a dramatisation of Tolkien and Lewis having a conversation on the subject back when Lewis was an atheist. Tolkien explains to Lewis (who he calls by his nickname Jack) why he believes in myth.

(It’s a very well-acted dramatisation)


No, the creation accounts in Genesis are not myths but divine revelation. That God created the entire universe and everything in it out of nothing is a central truth of the catholic faith. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…”


Dear Sugar!

You are a great one, too!




Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich had visions of scenes from the Bible, and saw God create Adam and Eve, and saw Eve tempted by the serpent and eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge.

Even in the New Testament letters Adam is mentioned and Eve is mentioned such as by St Paul himself in his own letters, which were written by himself, not passed down through tradition and written hundreds of years later. Paul wrote his own letters and these survived and are in the New Testament. He mentioned How through one man we all fell. And that Eve fell and tempted Adam to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.





Except nowhere in Genesis does it say “apple.”


I usually refer to organic fruit – just a thought! :smiley:


Not really an apple. - Right, in the Middle East the forbidden fruit was commonly thought of as a fig. In the Latin world the play on the word “malum” made apples the popular forbidden fruit.

In Latin the word “malum” (with no long vowel) means “evil” and “mālum” (with a long “a” sound) means “apple”.

So its true, no particular fruit is named, rather people just like to fill in the blanks of a good story.

I don’t think this either confirms or diminishes Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions. Why would her vision need to be so clear so as to identify what sort of fruit it was? Her later description if she indeed said apple was just her interpretation of her vision using the excepted terminology of her understanding.


In Latin the word “malum” (with no long vowel) means “evil” and “mālum” (with a long “a” sound) means “apple”.

Yes. thanks.


Yes, thanks very much for sharing.

I am of the impression that the Garden of Eden story/ies are supposed to be read as symbolic.

I think the presence of repeating phrases such as - “on the first day…”. and “God saw that it was good” etc lends itself to poetry or song. I have heard also the comments that the lines rhythmed in the ancient Hebrew.

Perhaps someone else can comment but if Adam in Hebrew means ‘man’ then the Garden of Eden stories look very much like symbolic stories when you read things like God made man and man said to God and man rebelled against God and man named the animals etc rather than a wholly specific one man character named Adam.

I await to be corrected. :slight_smile:


Sorry mistake there!

She says the fruit closely resembled a fig!
I forgot.that, but you reminded me!


You’re good. Here’s the catechism references specific to the Creation:


The name or meaning of “Adam” is one thing that is open to discussion. However, in the Catholic Church, it is the reality of the first human person on planet earth which is the believable Catholic doctrine.

When one reads the first three chapters of Genesis, one discovers the dramatic shift from Genesis 1: 25 to Genesis 1: 26. It is precisely Genesis 1: 27-28 which is the bedrock of numerous Catholic teachings. Continuing into Genesis chapter 2, the position of the first human, apparently in a friendship relationship with his Creator, is explained in terms of obedience, that is, living in free submission to God. Genesis 2: 15-17. This is the foundation of Original Sin.

Link to the books of the Bible.


The author of Genesis, working under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is laying down historical and theological truth in the first few chapters of Genesis that deal with the origins and creation of the world, man, the vocation of man, the fall of man, the consequences of the fall, the promise of salvation, etc. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this in #289. The inspired author of Genesis also uses some figurative and symbolic language to reveal theological truth. For example, the CCC#378 says “The sign of man’s familiarity with God is that God places him in the garden.” This familiarity with God as the Church teaches is that God establishes the first man and woman in intimate friendship with Himself through the gift of sanctifying grace and original holiness and justice. This does not mean that the garden of Eden or paradise is not a real physical place for God placed Adam and Eve obviously somewhere on earth. The inspired writer of Genesis calls it a garden which must have been a beautiful, temperate, and pleasurable garden as befits God’s goodness as God has a special eye and calling for human beings. Christian tradition calls this garden the garden of paradise as does the CCC. At the same time, the garden of paradise has a spiritual meaning as noted above.

The first few chapters of Genesis are very rich in meaning, divine truth, as well as some symbolism for it is the inspired word of God. Again though, the figurative and symbolic language does not necessarily mean that the events layed down did not happen as they are layed down. As the Church teaches, Sacred Scripture can have at one and the same time a literal and spiritual meaning (cf. the senses of Scripture, CCC#115-119). Another example, Holy Scripture lays down that God created the first woman, Eve, from the side or rib of the sleeping Adam. There is a very rich spiritual meaning here. For the fathers of the Church say that the Church, the bride of Christ, was born from the side of Christ asleep on the cross when he was pierced with a lance in his side and out flowed blood and water, symbols of the sacraments of the eucharist and baptism. The CCC#766 says " “For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the ‘wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.’” As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross." Now, if we take away what the inspired author of Genesis says about Eve being formed from the side of the sleeping Adam, we will also be taken away the spiritual and mystical meaning in reference to Christ and the Church. The inspired author of Genesis may not have even been aware of this mystical meaning of the formation of Eve from the side and rib of Adam but he wrote what he did under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and divine revelation. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the CCC#129 says “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” St Paul, commenting on Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh,” also sees in marriage of man and woman a great mystery, a sign and symbol of the union of Christ with his bride, the Church, “This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).






W. Bruce Masse did a study of myths in various cultures. He found that myths often express historical events in figurative or symbolic terms. His work on the Flood of Noah is quite enlightening. There are “flood myths” in cultures all over the globe (over 1,000 flood myths). He concludes that some type of worldwide flood event occurred, though not one that killed all humans and animals other than those on the Ark.

The flood “myth” of Noah was an historical event, retold in figurative terms in order to favor the spiritual level of meaning of this true story. And the same for Adam and Eve: historical event, described in figurative terms.



As my teachers use to say: “it is how one phrases the idea.”

I love the way you stated the ideas!


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