What do we mean when we say Adam and Eve?

More and more I have grappled with the creation account in Genesis and what we mean when we talk about Adam and Eve and original sin. The problem I’ve been noticing is that Genesis is both interpreted symbolically and literally, and that this is done in a way that seems to pick and choose which parts are symbolic and which are literal. For example, most Catholics would agree that the 7 days given are not literal days of the week. So these are interpreted symbolically. Adam and Eve, however, seem to be interpreted literally. Or at least there is a belief in “the first humans” that brought original sin into the world.

What I find lacking in today’s theology is a description of important details of whether original sin occurred over a precise moment, whether it occurred over a long period of time as humanity developed, whether or not the church believes in a creationist account with humans simply being formed from clay, or whether we take an evolutionary approach, in which case it is hard to say just who the first humans were (and therefore hard to lay out exactly how original sin developed).

I guess what is disturbing to me, and maybe it is because I have not exposed myself to the best information available on this topic, is that it seems we Catholics are content to say “the first humans sinned and because of that we have inherited this original sin, the result of which is man’s flawed nature.” And that’s that. But that raises a whole host of questions that need answering. Who exactly was it who sinned? If we interpret Adam and Eve literally as actual people, then we must also interpret the rest of Genesis as literal - we can’t just pick and choose. Also, I apologize for my inability to convey my thoughts in a clear manner right now, I am writing in a bit of a rush and am getting very tired! Any help or links to information would be very appreciated!

In my opinion the only fact that matters is the reality of evil. Animals are not morally responsible for their behaviour but we are. We can only speculate about the precise way in which the original sin occurred but it must have been a serious offence. There is no doubt that primitive men killed one another. At some point in history one of them must have realised it is wrong to take some one else’s life. That was probably when awareness of evil entered the world.

It is very unlikely several men had the same thought simultaneously but others were intelligent enough to understand its implications. They knew it was in their own interest not to kill others because they would have a better chance of not being killed themselves. In other words they were becoming more reasonable but for the most part their respect for life was restricted to their own tribe, as we can see in the Old Testament. It was only the teaching of Jesus that extended love to everyone, including one’s enemies. More than that we don’t need to know! :slight_smile:

They separated from the tree of life-Jesus. The rest are details, point of the moral of the story is there is no life no-where but through the Redeemer.

The Church is quite clear on the questions you ask as far as I can tell:

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

Adam and Eve were the first Human parents.

If someone believes strict atheists evolution (vs divine evolution) they would believe that humans evolved due to genetic mutations over time. Therefore someone in history was born with the correct genetic mutation which first created our DNA. Then, as they mated with either a close related species or siblings, the homo sapien DNA began to spread because it was dominate over the other Homo DNA.

The Human Genome Project (I believe it was them and not another group) has stated that all humans can be traced back to one mother (it can only trace maternal roots). This one mother was either Eve or Noah’s wife. But I believe it is Eve, because it’s possible that Noah’s flood didn’t wipe out every one on the planet, but perhaps just everyone in “Noah’s World.”

In terms of what Catholics may believe, in addition to creationism, we many also believe in Divine Evolution, which states that God was behind everything, but uses what we see as evolution for His purposes and that evolution isn’t random as science thinks it is. But it’s guided by the Hand of God.

Divine Evolution is most likely very probable if you believe that the 6 days that God created the world in (and rested on the 7th) are not 24 hour periods of Earth time. Since God is timeless, He is most likely outside our space-time continuum. So one day for God could be millions of Earth years.

The name Adam means “A man.” Perhaps there were many “Adams” until God created “Eve”? But the point is that one day in history, two people “Adam and Eve” were brought into the world with the right DNA and were created in God’s image. God gave them souls and revealed Himself to them. Then, they defied Him, by eating from the tree of knowledge, causing the original sin.

Knowledge eliminates innocence. And our first parents gained knowledge by defying God.

Therefore, using a little logic alone, it doesn’t matter if Genesis is literal or not. It still expresses an underlining Truth.

There are a number of papers, etc from some of the Saints and other clergy out there that discuss this. You could also always speak with a Priest who is an expert in Old Testament history.

In closing, believing in evolution (as long as it is Divine Evolution) is not in conflict with Genesis.

I hope this is helpful.

God Bless.

I’ve come to believe that Adam and Eve were the first humans with a human soul, capable of knowing good from evil.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again regarding Genesis: I don’t expect whoever first wrote the book to have a level of understanding that could comprehend exactly what God was doing. I’m inclined to say that they probably altered what really happened into something they could understand at the time (Ex: Eve being made of Adam’s rib, versus Eve being made from the DNA of Adam).

Grapple is one of my favorite words. Thank you.:smiley:
In fact, I am still grappling when it comes to the first human person, biblically known as Adam. You are correct that there is “a whole host of questions that need answering.” If my observation of postings is correct, some of those questions have not been considered for decades.

My basic source of information is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition and the first three chapters of Genesis. If you will be so kind as to give me one point or question at a time, I will be delighted to share what I have discerned with the qualification that I am open to discussion, both pro and con. I also realize that it can be difficult to single out one point or question because most of the Catholic teachings are relational to various points.

From a theological point of view, there should not be a problem between a symbolic interpretation and a literal interpretation if one studies the first three chapters of Genesis verse by verse in the light of basic theology that God exists as the Maker of all things visible and invisible. (Creed professed at Sunday Holy Sacrifice of the Mass)
The second basic axiom is that God interacts with His creation, including the human creature. These two concepts come from the thread “Adam & Logic” in the Philosophy Forum. forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=785994

Note: The “Adam & Logic” thread used a basic working (grappling) approach; thus, some of the early propositions following the first two axioms were modified toward the end of the thread. The thread was closed because it reached the limit of 1,000 posts.

Back to the literal/symbolic problem, a sound approach is to refer to Divine Revelation as contained in the Catholic Deposit of Faith. In addition, a few items in the first three chapters of Genesis may be considered both symbolic and literal at the same time. That is the glory of great literature.

I found that this encyclical was very helpful to me…so, if you like to study it, here it is:

vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

It has to do with our first parents and original sin. It doesn’t discount that there may have been creatures before them, but that they were the first ones to be infused with a rational soul and sanctifying grace.

A few misconceptions here.

This is a bit of a faulty conception of DNA. It’s not like there’s one “Human” DNA that is distinct from all other animals and shared across all humans. DNA changes across generations, so our DNA is different from those of humans thousands of years ago.

The Human Genome Project (I believe it was them and not another group) has stated that all humans can be traced back to one mother (it can only trace maternal roots). This one mother was either Eve or Noah’s wife. But I believe it is Eve, because it’s possible that Noah’s flood didn’t wipe out every one on the planet, but perhaps just everyone in “Noah’s World.”

I think you’re talking about Mitochondrial Eve, which is not the first woman, but is the most recent common ancestor of all living people on the maternal line. Mitochondrial Eve had a mother and many ancestors. Not getting into Noah, but the genetics that all this is based on proves rather definitively that humanity was not restricted to a single family any time in recent history (within the past hundred thousand years).

The name Adam means “A man.” Perhaps there were many “Adams” until God created “Eve”? But the point is that one day in history, two people “Adam and Eve” were brought into the world with the right DNA and were created in God’s image. God gave them souls and revealed Himself to them. Then, they defied Him, by eating from the tree of knowledge, causing the original sin.

Knowledge eliminates innocence. And our first parents gained knowledge by defying God.

Therefore, using a little logic alone, it doesn’t matter if Genesis is literal or not. It still expresses an underlining Truth.

There are a number of papers, etc from some of the Saints and other clergy out there that discuss this. You could also always speak with a Priest who is an expert in Old Testament history.

In closing, believing in evolution (as long as it is Divine Evolution) is not in conflict with Genesis.

I hope this is helpful.

God Bless.

This is interesting. What is meant by “knowledge” here? I think the original story specifies that it is the knowledge of good and evil, which implies moral consciousness, so that could be the differentiation point of ensoulment, but other animals clearly have a moral sense.

A nice explanation of the mitochondrial as well as Y chromosome genetics is available.

Very important reading particularly from paragraph 29 on. I must point out that I had wishes that the church would be very clear about every part of scriptire, but now am greatful for the freedom of thought that the Church allows. The Church thus limits what it says dogmatically to a very few specific points that all must believe. She wants to limit the difficulties of accepting the faith to as little as is absolutly necessary, but maintain Her docternal necessities.

[LIST=1]
*] The first man was created by God. (De fide.)
*] The whole human race stems from one single human pair. (Sent. certa.)
*] Man consists of two essential parts–a material body and a spiritual soul. (De fide.)
*] The rational soul is per se the essential form of the body. (De fide.)
*] Every human being possesses an individual soul. (De fide.)
*] Every individual soul was immediately created out of nothing by God. (Sent. Certa.)
*] A creature has the capacity to receive supernatural gifts. (Sent. communis.)
*] The Supernatural presupposes Nature. (Sent communis.)
*] God has conferred on man a supernatural Destiny. (De fide.)
*] Our first parents, before the Fall, were endowed with sanctifying grace. (De fide.)
*] The donum rectitudinis or integritatis in the narrower sense, i.e., the freedom from irregular desire. (Sent. fidei proxima.)
*] The donum immortalitatis, i.e.,bodily immortality. (De fide.)
*] The donum impassibilitatis, i.e., the freedom from suffering. (Sent. communis.)
*] The donum scientiae, i.e., a knowledge of natural and supernatural truths infused by God. (Sent. communis.)
*] Adam received sanctifying grace not merely for himself, but for all his posterity. (Sent. certa.)
*] Our first parents in paradise sinned grievously through transgression of the Divine probationary commandment. (De fide.)
*] Through the sin our first parents lost sanctifying grace and provoked the anger and the indignation of God. (De fide.)
*] Our first parents became subject to death and to the dominion of the Devil. (De fide.) D788.
*] Adam’s sin is transmitted to his posterity, not by imitation, but by descent. (De fide.)
*] Original Sin consists in the deprivation of grace caused by the free act of sin committed by the head of the race. (Sent. communis.)
*] Original sin is transmitted by natural generation. (De fide.)
*] In the state of original sin man is deprived of sanctifying grace and all that this implies, as well as of the preternatural gifts of integrity. (De fide in regard to Sanctifying Grace and the Donum Immortalitatus. D788 et seq.)
*] Souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God. (De fide.)
[/LIST]

The latest science is - “Adam and Eve were contemporaries but didn’t know each other”.

I suspect soon it will be they may have been man and wife.

The landscape of scientific inquiry is one of shifting mountains and sloshing seas. The idea of constant mutaions driving much of evolution is being overturned by DNA that contains much more than we need and may include much of other species like Neanderthals and even current day apes, but what makes us a seperate species bodily is which DNA is active as it is used by the interior workings of the cells of our bodies.

Oh man! I hadn’t thought of 11 through 14. I guess once you get over 20 then “few” starts sounding inaccurate. Thanks!

Got a source for that? Because I know of no science whatsoever that posits that any Adam or Eve existed, as in two humans from whom all of us descend but who had no human parents.

Catholics are required to believe that Adam and Eve are literally the first two people who committed a real sin.

If we interpret Adam and Eve literally as actual people, then we must also interpret the rest of Genesis as literal - we can’t just pick and choose.

Here’s the simple answer to your dilemma: don’t interpret anything in the creation story as symbolic. It’s really a much more credible viewpoint than most people think. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement, but I can’t say any more due to a ban on discussing Evolution currently in effect on these forums (forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=408684), but here’s a link. kolbecenter.org/. There are many more sources for literal creation out there too, although they are mostly protestant, sadly, yet they are still good sources for the science of it. I highly encourage you to look into the matter. It may be the answer to all of your questions.

Very misleading (even dishonest) website from what I can see. In just 10 minutes browsing the website I found several dozen outright lies. I would strongly recommend talking to a professor at a nearby university about why pretty much all researchers in relevant areas (archeology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, history, geology, biology, genetics, cosmology, etc.) believe the evidence to incontrovertibly point to a universe older than 10,000 years.

Just thought I’d provide support for my previous claim:

Catholics are required to believe that Adam and Eve are literally the first two people who committed a real sin.

  1. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either 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.[12]

(Humani Generis, paragraph 37) link: vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

Back to picking and choosing:
The part where God makes Adam out of the dust of the Earth is one of those areas where Catholicism allows more latitude. We can accept people in our Communion that think this was literally done straight from dirt to Man only about 136 hours from the creation from the formless void or that Adam was born from a near human animal 13 plus billion years from the Big Bang. ( I so wanted to call the near human animal a zombie, but I didn’t want to be taken too lightly either.)

Let’s check this against the list of 23: (I love this list!)

Thank you user buffalo…
[LIST=1]
*]The first man was created by God. (De fide.)
*]The whole human race stems from one single human pair. (Sent. certa.)
*]Man consists of two essential parts–a material body and a spiritual soul. (De fide.)
*]The rational soul is per se the essential form of the body. (De fide.)
*]Every human being possesses an individual soul. (De fide.)
*]Every individual soul was immediately created out of nothing by God. (Sent. Certa.)
*]A creature has the capacity to receive supernatural gifts. (Sent. communis.)
*]The Supernatural presupposes Nature. (Sent communis.)
*]God has conferred on man a supernatural Destiny. (De fide.)
*]Our first parents, before the Fall, were endowed with sanctifying grace. (De fide.)
*]The donum rectitudinis or integritatis in the narrower sense, i.e., the freedom from irregular desire. (Sent. fidei proxima.)
*]The donum immortalitatis, i.e.,bodily immortality. (De fide.)
*]The donum impassibilitatis, i.e., the freedom from suffering. (Sent. communis.)
*]The donum scientiae, i.e., a knowledge of natural and supernatural truths infused by God. (Sent. communis.)
*]Adam received sanctifying grace not merely for himself, but for all his posterity. (Sent. certa.)
*]Our first parents in paradise sinned grievously through transgression of the Divine probationary commandment. (De fide.)
*]Through the sin our first parents lost sanctifying grace and provoked the anger and the indignation of God. (De fide.)
*]Our first parents became subject to death and to the dominion of the Devil. (De fide.) D788.
*]Adam’s sin is transmitted to his posterity, not by imitation, but by descent. (De fide.)
*]Original Sin consists in the deprivation of grace caused by the free act of sin committed by the head of the race. (Sent. communis.)
*]Original sin is transmitted by natural generation. (De fide.)
*]In the state of original sin man is deprived of sanctifying grace and all that this implies, as well as of the preternatural gifts of integrity. (De fide in regard to Sanctifying Grace and the Donum Immortalitatus. D788 et seq.)
*]Souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God. (De fide.)
[/LIST]

So as long as we agree that science would have no way to distinguish zombies from humans (the difference being God’s installment of a soul in the humans) and that once humans are present that there wasn’t any interbreeding between zombies and humans then I think we are OK with the Church. I think most scientists would think I’ve gone far from what is likely genetically and some would think impossible.

Therefore, one way picks a highly unlikely but even slightly miraculous start of humanity and the other a very zap God made us from scratch miracle, but yes we can pick and choose.

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