If dogmas are infallible, how is the Church's teaching on original sin reconciled with the symbolic nature of Adam and Eve when it was most likely not symbolic at the time of the declaration of the corresponding dogma?

Thank you for the recommendation. I’ll look into it.


Also charismatic trained. Increased my faith exponentially. No looking back.

God gave me the privilege of being part of such a spiritual movement (Catholic Charismatic Renewal) inside the church while me being quite rational ( I am an engineer) at the same time. I can’t ask for any more balance as a Christian.

Faith and reason: the left and right hands of the Christian life.

How is that going?

The dogma here is that “Adam’s sin” is transmitted by descent, ie that each of us transmits original sin to our descendants. It was not defined as an assertion of monogenism, but as a statement of the universality of sin. Pius XII said “It is difficult to see” how monogenetic evolution and this dogma can be reconciled, suggesting that the former is not a necessary conclusion from the dogma.

Adam & Eve are not symbolic. The Church teaches that we DID have a set of first parents.

What may or may not have been symbolic are all of the details described in Genesis. But we did have two real, first parents. Their names may not have been Adam & Eve, but regardless… we had first parents who we inherit original sin from.

In regards to proving that the core Catholic belief system has always been perfect or at least since the current one started being used it only needs my original question answered as a group of Adam- related dogmas depend on that answer.

I know it is over simplistic. However, Jesus teachings can be quite simplistic in theory, but impossible for any being to follow along without his assistance. I remember someone once said: “The simplest ideas are actually the hardest ones to define, therefore the complex ones follow the other direction”.

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Good question, I would like to say the church has made no infallible declaration on whether or not Adam and Eve is historical even though the prevailing view is that they are historical figures. The view is Sententia certa which means that it is a teaching without final approval but clearly deduced from revelation. The doctrine of original sin however is may be a different story. I think there are some underlying issues that should be address ignorer to clear the air on this question. Firstly I think it needs to be said the story of Adam and Eve is deeply symbolic. So to answer whether or not it is symbolic would result in a resounding unanimous yes!

We run into confusion when we impose a false dichotomy forcing it to exclusively one or the other. The truth is that you can have real historical things be symbolic for example the tale of the Trojan horse. The embodied symbol is one of the most beautiful aspects of catholic theology by this I am referring to the sacramentals. Beyond that pertaining specifically to scripture we can turn to what the early church describes as the four senses of scripture. These are four distinct yet complementary layers of biblical interpretation, they do not compete and they are the Literal, the allegorical, the moral and the anagogical sense. For example the liberation of the Israelites from bondage in the exodus, where Moses foreshadows Christ freeing up from the bondage of sin as a messianic figure. This is a typological “symbol” of Christ the messiah coming to free us from the bondage of sin. This doesn’t make Moses or Christ any less of a historical figure. The bible is a profound text filled with layers and so virtually everything in it is expected to have symbolic significance, historical or not.

To answer your question of how they can be reconciled suppose we were to assume that Adam and eve was purely symbolic and not historical. Does this undermine the doctrine of original sin? I think not. In the end of the day on the premise that it was divinely inspired and that symbolic narratives are meant to convey a message then we still end up with the divinely inspired message revealing the doctrine of original sin as communicated to us by God. Regardless of historicity if God communicates something to us by any means then we can know it to be true. Imagine if God left out the story of Adam and Eve when inspiring scripture and suppose He decided to simply tell us that we had original sin then we will still affirm the doctrine. So historicity may be a topic of interest but it is not the hinge of the doctrine. Symbolically Adam and eve represents humanity. They have fallen because of their disobedience and we are in a state of exile and in need of atonement. Since they represent humanity we don’t ground this sin on our actions but on human nature as the story symbolically was about the fall of human nature. So the doctrine comes forth either way.

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The Church modesty tends to be open to scientific inquiry on the matters that are susceptible. The charism of the church is to authoritatively declare and discern matters of faith and morals. The church has objected in the past when the scientific consensus leads to conclusions that are opposed to Divinely revealed truths when the conflict is proper. One example of this is when the scientific consensus affirmed ‘polygenism’ which is the view that each of the human races are of different origins. This strikes the story of in Genesis straight to the heart as it denies the notion that we call share the common humanity illustrated symbolised as Adam and Eve. The universality of original sin and the commonality of our humanity is a matter of grave theological consequences. The historicity of Adam and Eve is theologically interesting but it is not in the same category of the polygenism issue which strikes at the core rather than the surface.

Lastly, I do believe that Adam and Eve are historical. I think that Christ also held this view which may be a theological reason affirm the historicity. There is no reason the historicity of Adam and Eve should be forfeited. Scientifically the journey is not out on this topic. This happens to be an area of very rich and interesting dialog between scientist and theologians alike. If you are interested in the historicity of Adam and Eve I strongly encourage you to engage in the literature on this topic if you have not done so already. Here is a short list of just a few notable scientist and philosophers on this.

S. Joshua Swamidass M.D. Ph.D.: a computational biologist at Washington University in St. Louis. He has written extensively arguing from purely based on the science that Science is completely compatible with the historicity of Adam and Even and he shows that there are multiple scientific models as to how this works. One such book “Genealogical Adam and Eve, The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry”. He is currently co-authoring a book with the evangelical philosopher William Lane Craig Where they will discuss this issue with some deeper insight.

Dr. Hugh Ross: An evangelical Christian apologist who founded Todays Reasons to believe. He has made many videos, articles and books regarding science and Genesis.

Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, OP, Ph.D., S.T.D. Catholic Priest, Biologist and member of the biologos society he discusses the historical Adam and Eve and theistic evolution.


This list goes on and on but the point is we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the historicity of Adam and Eve. We have an abundance of plausible views from theistic evolution to special creation which are defendable. We also should expect a plurality of views as that is just how science works. We gather data, test them make inferences and revise hypothesis. So we have many competing models which attempt to account for the biblical and scientific data which are available. For someone to deny the historicity of Adam and Eve they would have to give some kind of a positive case against it or at least they will have to criticise and reject all of the various functional models of Adam and Even or reject scripture entirely. Most of the typical critique of the historical Adam and Even are address in the literature when the model is put forwards. We also cannot confuse the criticising of a particular model of the historical Adam and Eve with the a critique of the notion that Adam and Eve is historical as there are other models. So to sum things up I purely symbolic reading on Adam and Eve does not undermine the doctrine of Original Sin and there is no need to forfeit the literal reading of to begin with.

I hope this helped!


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your ‘most likely’ opens the door for your speculation to be deemed fallible.

Anything else?


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I really appreciate the time spent into putting all of your ideas together.

You’re the second one mentioning that the original sin belief wasn’t in fact dogma but doctrine.

I based my question in 2 catholic websites:

Can you cite you where you got it from as a doctrine since I tried to find it (official list of dogmas) myself in the Vatican website with no success.

If dogmas are infallible, how is the Church’s teaching on original sin reconciled with the symbolic nature of Adam and Eve when it was most likely not symbolic at the time of the declaration of the corresponding dogma?

“most likely not symbolic” … torpedoes that question

I highly recommend you study the Various Orthodox Communions on the topic, especially the Eastern Orthodox. They call it ancestral sin instead of original sin. Their explanation is more intellectually satisfying IMO. I’m not saying they are right and we are wrong, I am saying that their thoughts in the topic are worth studying.

The second one is redundant. All Catholics are born again at our baptism.

And we are all charismatic - if we know what our charisms are and put them to use.

Back to the OP: In this misinformation age, we must really doubt the doubters. This religion of ours has been under the microscope for two millennia! If someone at this late date thinks they have discovered the grail of falsity, they need to stop smoking whatever it is they have in their pipe.

My advice: We are driving toward heaven. There is a ditch on either side of the road which will derail our journey. Keep your eyes on the road and not the ditch.

Haven’t we done DNA or mitochondrial analysis to find out the most recent male and female common ancestors?

I thought it most interesting that the most recent male ancestor was more recent than the most recent female ancestor.

That would fit right in with the story of Noah, whose arc had on board himself, his wife, his sons and their wives, causing a single male ancestor (Noah) but leaving an earlier most recent female ancestor as being before Noah.

If that common female ancestor had only one husband… voilà! Adam and Eve!

So we are all descended from one female and one male ancestor, albeit separated in time, but separated in a way that fits right into what the Bible tells us.


Which piece of information would you like me site.
Also I must say that in reading through the dogma list there I don’t see it directly affirming the historicity of Adam and Eve but it does seem to declare dogmas that presuppose it. For example

God the Creator
21. Adam’s sin is transmitted to his posterity, not by imitation but by descent.
22. Original sin is transmitted by natural generation.
29. The devil possesses a certain dominion over mankind by reason of Adam’s sin.

God The Redeemer
4. Christ was truly generated and born of a daughter of Adam, the Virgin Mary.

The Dogmas clearly seem to presuppose or imply that Adam and Eve are historical. I have not studied the dogmas to say how to classify their corollaries. The main thrust of my argument doesn’t rely on whether or not it is a dogma but rather it says that we should think that it is Historical either way and even if it they were not historical the doctrine still unfolds. I see why there may seem to be a tension though. After all if Adam and Eve were not historical then we run into difficulty with the dogmas that seem to presuppose the historicity. This urges me to return to the notion that the dichotomy between myth and history is false. The dogma’s presuppose historicity not literalism. In the same way Christ is a real historical figure yet there are symbolic elements. For the story of Adam and Eve Mytho-History is a plausible way of describing the genre. It presents the historical figures and the events using the fabric of mythology. This could allow you to condense a lot of information. What is important to the dogmas is the historicity not literalism.

It is not the symbolism that is the problem. It is the unwarranted reduction to symbolism exclusively that runs into problematic territory.

never argued otherwise.

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