I got in an unplanned discussion with a friend today about Adam and Eve and not taking Genesis 1 and 2 literally. I’ve written about my views on that before but there are some rubber-meets-the-road questions about how the gospel segues with that viewpoint, that I am asked pretty routinely. The difference is that today I took the time to write out some replies, which I thought I would share here.
My friend asked the million dollar question (or posed the million dollar objection, whichever 🙂 ) which was:
“When you remove the idea that there was a literal Adam and Eve from the picture, you set up a scenario that says Original Sin does not actually exist. In other words if there were other human beings who had been born before the Fall, then there’s still a race out there that hasn’t fallen potentially and therefore does not need a savior?”
My first reply to my friend was thus:
“This is somewhat off the main topic of what you are bringing up, but just for the record: “original sin” is a term that is somewhat modern compared to antiquity, and postdates the break of the eastern church from Catholicism – the entire Eastern Orthodox church doesn’t believe in “original sin” but something called “ancestral sin” which is a somewhat different spin on the topic – not particularly relevant to a discussion of whether or not Adam and Eve are the first humans, but worth mentioning nonetheless. (http://www.stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/orthodoxy/articles/ancestral_versus_original_sin)
Since that has next to nothing to do with the main discussion here but is offered just as an informative freebee, I just thought I’d throw it out there, hit send, and then reply to what you’re actually writing about. I’m not mentioning this because I believe in the Eastern Orthodox perspective per se, but simply to point out that there are a lot of unexamined ideas that we inherit as Christians about something even as seemingly straightforward as our belief in “original sin” which turns out to be not so straightforward as we’d like it to be, after all. ”
Then I hit send, and wrote my next post, the one that everyone wants to dig into anyway:
I personally don’t believe that removing a literal Adam and Eve from the picture sets up a scenario that original sin doesn’t not actually exist, at least, not in a way that would deny the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice – because I think the Adam and Eve story is parable, it’s meaning is to reveal truth – truth about Gods reasons for sending His son. Just as like 2 chapters later in Genesis we read stuff like, “Jubal was the father of all who play the pipe” and “Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock” I don’t take to means that anyone who ever played the pipe, or lived in a tent and has livestock, is literally the descendants of one of these two guys (and why? because when the [literal, proportedly worldwide] flood came, everyone would have been wiped out except Noah’s descendants, and unless Noah was descended from all three guys…this isn’t talking about NATURAL descent, but spiritual descent. )
If we’re going to interpret scripture with scripture, then we need to look about how scripture interprets what it means to be “the father” or “the mother” of someone – and if two chapters after Adam and Eve, we see scripture speaking metaphorically about what it means to be someone’s descendent, that should give us something to chew on. Sin is transmitted through spiritual descent, just as righteousness is transmitted through spiritual descent. Sin resides in the flesh, but so also can righteousness reside in the flesh (the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.) Just as in Christ, “all are made alive” through yes, “one man” – one is not a physical descendant of Christ in order to inherit His righteousness. Neither does one have to be a literally physical descendant of the “one man Adam” to inherit his spiritual unrighteousness. This is one of the reasons that Jesus could rail at the pharisees and tell them that they weren’t children of Abraham when push came to shove:
John 8 38-39, ESV: “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. “But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.…”
Sure, they were physically literal descendants of Abraham, but what counts in the spirit realm is who one is spiritually descended from. To be a descendant of Abraham is to descend from the faith of Abraham, not from the flesh of Abraham. Likewise, Adam *means* man, Eve means *woman*: He represents the condition of the flesh which is not choosing the tree of life (Jesus) to eat from but rather the knowledge of good and evil (earthly morality/the conscience without the Spirit of God.) – the Adam and Eve story, among other things, is revealing the condition of a human without a vital connection by the Spirit to the life of God in the Heavenlies.
So, there was my answer. I didn’t really get into the issue of whether or not there were other people around before “Adam and Eve” although I think the age old question of “Who did Cain marry?” hints at that. But it wasn’t important to go there, because the main idea of why it even matters is in the above material. Of course, I find that I learn the best as I discuss my viewpoints and others viewpoints together, so feel free to add or question or tweek or say anything at all as long as it is respectful and civil, below 🙂
For more reading, I appreciated this post:
March 10, 2014 at 9:24 pm
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with delving into it. I choose to be agnostic because it seems a safer position, but I could be wrong about that too. it’s the same way with hell for me. I can believe in a God that sends a great many people to hell, but I can also believe in a God that allows all or most people into heaven. I just don’t know. but you could be right that it is a parable all along.
November 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm
INHERITED SIN (ORIGINAL SIN) BY STEVE FINNELL
Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. Does all mankind inherit Adam’s sin?
The doctrine of “Inherited Sin” (Original Sin) is as follows: The guilt of Adam’s sin is imputed to all men. Man is by nature totally depraved. Even infants in their mother’s womb are infected, which produces in man all sorts of sin. Original sin is forgiven only by baptism, hence when an unbaptized baby dies it cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Is inherited sin taught in Scripture or is it a man-made tradition?
If all men are born sinners, that would make Jesus guilty of sin.
WAS JESUS GUILTY OF SIN?
Hebrews 2:9-17 …….17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Jesus was made like us in all things. According to the advocates of inherited sin, that would make Jesus guilty of sin.
Hebrews 7:24-26 but Jesus….26 For it was fitting for us to have a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;
Jesus was not guilty of original sin or any other kind of sin.
There are only two kinds of sin mentioned the Bible sins of omission and committed sins.
SINS OF OMISSION
James 4:17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Matthew 25:41-46 ‘Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared foe the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink………………
Are infants guilty of the sin of omission? Obviously not.
1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
Do babies, in their mother’s womb, practice sin? I do not think so.
John 3:19 This is the judgement, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
Do infants love the darkness because their deeds are evil? I know of not one infant committing evil deeds.
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.
Are babies in the womb committing sins, therefore making themselves slaves to sin? No they are not.
Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
Did the apostle Paul mean they were engaged in evil deeds when they were in the womb, infants, or small children? No.
Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
It the proponents of inherited sin (original sin) are correct, Jesus was saying; the kingdom of heaven belongs to these totally depraved little sinners.
When we all stand before Jesus on Judgment Day, if we are condemned, it will be because of our own unforgiven sins. We will not be sent to hell because of Adam’s sin.
INHERITED SIN (ORIGINAL SIN) IS MAN-MADE DOCTRINE.
YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com
November 24, 2014 at 1:07 pm
Hi Steve, thanks for posting.
Of course, as stated in the blog above, various Christian traditions about “original sin” handle the topic in completely different ways. The main concern of my blog post though is about what to do with a non-literal interpretation of the Adam and Eve story – whether someone believes we have inherited actual sin from our forefathers, as the Catholic church teaches, or whether we have inherited only a “sinful nature” (as many others believe) really isn’t the point. The overall point is that almost everyone believes that we got “something” from Adam and Eve, even if not sin itself – so how do theistic evolutionists such as myself view the gospel in light of a nonliteral approach to the Genesis story? That is what I was trying to present.
March 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm
Heather, your points are good and valid. One clarification is needed – you say: “original sin” is a term that is somewhat modern compared to antiquity, and postdates the break of the eastern church from Catholicism – the entire Eastern Orthodox church doesn’t believe in “original sin” but something called “ancestral sin” which is a somewhat different spin on the topic.”
Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have here practically the same view on original sin or ancestral sin (as the orthodox call it). The focus is slightly different: Catholics focus on the fact that our human nature was wounded [attention: wounded – not more!!] by breaking the original relationship between God and man through distrust towards God followed by disobedience, and the orthodox focus on death (acc. to the article).
In reality, Catholic and Orthodox theology are very, very similar. What the article you refer to describes is the comparision of Orthodox Churches and “Western Christian traditions”, and none of the Authors citated in the article is Catholic. Maybe the Author thinks everyone knows that Catholics and Orthodoxs thinks alike or he forgets the biggest Western Christian tradition – that’s a pity. Anyway.
True, St. Augustine is a Western Catholic, but he did not invent the catholic doctrine of original sin, because the orthodox Church fathers spoke about this prior to him – the article mentions Cyril of Alexandria (and Catholic venerate him as one of the important Eastern Church Fathers). In fact, mainly with Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas ( who citates Augustine often, but not very often approvingly, as Chesterton says), the final turn away from the “a little bit too Manichean” understanding of St. Augustine was done and confirmed many times thereafter.
And as a summary:
“In consequence of original sin human nature, without being totally corrupted, is wounded in its natural powers. It is subject to ignorance, to suffering, and to the dominion of death and is inclined toward sin. This inclination is called concupiscence.
After the first sin the world was inundated with sin but God did not abandon man to the power of death. Rather, he foretold in a mysterious way in the “Protoevangelium” (Genesis 3:15) that evil would be conquered and that man would be lifted up from his fall. This was the first proclamation of the Messiah and Redeemer. Therefore, the fall would be called in the future a “happy fault” because it “gained for us so great a Redeemer” (Liturgy of the Easter Vigil).” Compendium CCC 77-78
March 26, 2014 at 9:06 pm
Heather, not trying to be argumentative, but since Luke in chapter 3 of his gospel traces the lineage of Jesus all the way back to Adam…. just wondering, in your perspective, which people in the genealogy are real, and which are myth? Is Adam the only myth, or 4 generations from Adam … and then the people named are real… or do you think any of them are real?
March 27, 2014 at 7:31 am
I’m glad to have you present questions, alternative viewpoints, rebuttals, what-have-you here; so don’t worry that I would think you’re argumentative! 🙂 I do appreciate the care to keep tone friendly, but beyond that, let’s rock and roll, you know? 🙂
Anyway, as to Luke’s genealogy, all I can say is: I have no idea who in it is real, or myth, or allegory, or truncated. It’s impossible to tell, at least that’s my viewpoint at the moment. But here’s the thing: I think the genealogy leaves itself wide open for all sorts of conjecture and concern and critique, because as you might be well aware, it’s completely a zillion miles apart from Matthew’s genealogy of the same guy. Over the years people have tried to explain away the discrepancies between the two genealogies as “well, one is Mary’s genealogy, and the other is Joseph” but I think that’s really creative damage control, damage control that actually doesn’t control for the damage at all. Both genealogies SAY they are the genealogy of JOSEPH, not Mary. And they disagree right from the start – about who Joseph’s dad is (Matthew says “Jacob” while Luke says “Heli.”) It just gets worse from there.
Luke takes 19 people to get back to Zerubbabel, while Matthew only takes 10 people – but that is where the genealogies first agree on something, that Joseph is a direct descendant of Zerubbabel. They both say Z’s dad was Salathiel, but then they disagree on Z’s grandfather’s name (Matthew says his name was Jechonias while Luke says his name was Neri) and then it’s off to the races again, with Luke taking 20 people to get from Neri to David, while Matthew takes 14 people to get from Jechonias to David, with not a single common person in the lists until David.
One of the biggest problems that results from this is that Matthew’s genealogy is too short to be workable in a time frame that Luke’s geneaology takes (see http://www.errancy.org/matthew-genealogy.html)
Another problem, of particular interest to your query about who in the genealogy is real or not real, is that Luke inserts Cainan into the genealogy between Shem and Abraham, which is not present in the Hebrew Bible’s rendering of Genesis (although it is found in the Septuagint.) Is the Septuagint accurate on this point, or did Luke copy an error from the LXX? (see http://www.errancy.org/cainan.html)
Now on what I think might be a more refreshing note, I see a parallel between how Genesis has what has often been noted as “two” creation stories (the first is Genesis 1:1-2:3, the second is Genesis 2:4-25), and the fact that Jesus is given “two” beginnings, two stories of his genealogy, in the gospels. Just as each creation account in Genesis is concerned with expressing a different angle of divine truth, so also the genealogy of Jesus in each book is concerned with Jesus’s lineage in two different facets: one is concerned with Jesus as the descendent of Abraham and David, and the other, as a descendent of both man and God. Thus one genealogy tracks back to Abraham and stops, and the other one tracks to Adam (man) and then to God. As always, the concern/question I have with the scriptures very often has little to do with “did this really happen/is this person really real” as much as it has to do with “What is the Holy Spirit inspired message in this story?” One approach ultimately runs up against the inevitable “errancy” found in the scriptures, an “errancy” I believe that was put there as a signpost from God to say, “It’s not the letter of this that matters, but what’s hiding in the message underneath the letters.”
LikeLiked by 1 person
January 4, 2015 at 3:31 pm
What’s in a Father’s Name?
by Bodie Hodge on March 2, 2009
Why does Joseph (Jesus’s supposed father) have two different fathers listed in Matthew 1:16 and Luke 3:23?
And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli.
First, a few preliminary comments need to be addressed. Luke’s genealogy is complete, and Matthew’s is merely a selected one. Matthew’s genealogy was not meant to be complete according to Matthew 1:17, where it is specifically broken into groups of 14.
The two genealogies trace through two of David’s sons, and both trace to Abraham. Matthew focuses on the kingly relationship through David and, ultimately, to the Jewish patriarch Abraham. However, Luke doesn’t stop there. He continues to trace Christ’s genealogy back to Adam. Luke focuses more on the humanity of Christ going back to Adam, where sin and death first entered into creation—hence the need for a Savior in the first place.
Another note is that both genealogies are aware of Mary’s virgin birth. For example Matthew says: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom (feminine) was born Jesus.” Luke is more obvious in that he says: “being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.”
With regards to the alleged “two fathers” of Joseph, the explanation of the differences between Matthew 1 and Luke 3 is quite simple. Luke traced Christ’s lineage through Mary, while Matthew traced it through Joseph.
One of the main reasons Matthew is recording Joseph’s lineage is due to Jeconiah (variant spellings: Jechonias, Jehoiakim). He is listed in Matthew 1:11. Because of Jeconiah’s actions, a prophecy came down that none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne of David. Jesus, who forever sits on this throne, could not have been a physical descendant of Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:30). A virgin birth would obviously prevent this.
This indicates that Matthew’s genealogy is Joseph’s, and this confirms the significance of the feminine verbiage. When Matthew mentioned Joseph’s wife, Mary, at the end of the genealogical list, he used the feminine form for the parent of Jesus. This reveals that Jesus was indeed Mary’s son and not Joseph’s.
When looking at Luke 3, the genealogical list is strictly men from Jesus to Adam, whereas in Matthew’s list, some women were included, such as Tamar, Ruth, and so on. So, if this were a genealogy of Mary, then she would be listed.
Joseph, when he married Mary, became the son of Heli according to the Law of Moses and could legally be included in the genealogy.
Moreover, in the genealogy, Heli is listed as the father of Joseph, who had 2 daughters. The first is Mary, and the other was Zebedee’s unnamed wife (Matthew 27:56; John 19:25). When there were no sons to preserve the inheritance in accordance with the Law of Moses (Numbers 27:1–11; Numbers 36:1–12), the husband would become the son upon marriage to keep up the family name. Therefore, Joseph, when he married Mary, became the son of Heli according to the Law of Moses and could legally be included in the genealogy.
Also, in Luke’s genealogy the form is different from that of Matthew’s. Matthew’s list gives the father and who they begot (Greek gennao). In Luke the form is different, where X is the son of Y. But more precisely, the word son is absent in Greek, but only inserted into English so we can better understand it. The only place where son is used in the Greek is in verse 23 where Jesus was the supposed son of Joseph, of Heli, of Matthat, of Levi, and so on.
Luke is being very precise. Jesus was thought to be the son of Joseph, who was of Heli. Notice that Luke never said that Joseph was the son of Heli in the Greek. This reduces the alleged contradiction to nothing and shows that Luke’s genealogy is Mary’s—with Joseph’s name listed due to inheritance laws—and Matthew’s genealogy is Joseph’s
I hope this helps explain a few things
January 6, 2015 at 6:13 pm
HI Jim – I’m tentatively approving your comment – I’m actually not sure of the legality of cutting and pasting a huge swatch from someone else’s website into a comment, even with a link on the bottom. If anyone from answersingenesis.org wants it removed, I’ll remove it.
All I can say, in the short version, is that Mr. Hodge is engaging in some wishful hermeneutics and…I’ll have to come back in a bit and give a much more detailed reply.
May 16, 2014 at 1:56 am
Of course Adam was real, and literal. As Barry points out in Luke, the problem, if Adam was not physical, then Jesus isn’t. All the mincing of Hebrew ‘can’, be construed as a sidestep. However, the answer may lie in the phrase, ‘ and the word became flesh’, but then the question becomes when, and where, in scripture ? If Adam was flesh then there is no problem there, but the original question remains. The scriptures testify that Adam was the first to have ‘fellowship’ with ” I AM”. We also have even archeological evidences of multitudes of other gods and religions, whereas Adam was specifically designed by God for fellowshipping and subsequently introduced disobedience or sin into the otherwise pure relationship. It may be a huge misnomer to think that the adam/man means all homosapiens, since all homosapiens are not in the image of God. ‘Any’, self-centered individual is not in the image, true love being self-less. Stalin and Hitler cannot be portrayed in anyones mind as being in Gods’ image. Did homosapiens exist at least for the past seventy-five thousand years ?, DNA evidence seems to affirm this. Did God make all of reality?, of course, and He made it however He made it, it isn’t that important, and that is not what Genesis one, two, and three, are talking about anyways, so stop thinking it does.
December 3, 2014 at 8:01 pm
I love this subject! It fuels me every day, seriously. Created to “tend the garden” period. Adam (mankind/formed of dirt) and Eve(mother) were convinced they could have the power of God. And take His judgemnets into their own hands. “That, it’s good. That’s bad, destroy it!, We should create an atmoshere where only that good thing should live” plow.plow.plow “Ewe, those are bad must cover” sew. sew. sew. Eating fruit of the agricultural “revolution” narrowed the pelvis acording to fossil records. “Bearing children in pain” ring a bell? Cain, field plower, murders Abel, hunter gatherer…happens to this day, but, meh what are we, our brother’s keeper? Just on an intuitive level I feel my vioce groaning along w/ all creation for liberation…again. Wasn’t Christ the second Adam, then are we not called back to that perfect union and garden place? Zion my mother, out of whom the law comes, where we may live as the lilies and birds of the air. I yearn for His kingdom, manifest in the flesh, on earth as in heaven. I tirelessly strive (as in Israel) for this blessing.
April 12, 2016 at 1:48 am
My own personal belief is that Adam and Eve were real, but were not the first humans, just the first that God chose to invest with a soul and thus ‘make in his image’… but that is purely my own conjecture, in order to tie together the Bible story and the evidence of evolution. I don’t expect anyone else to agree with that.
However, as I wrote my chapter on ‘contentment with sin’ (which turned out to be huge due to having to pick apart the Sermon on the Mount), the question arose: what exactly was it that Adam and Eve did? It wasn’t a literal piece of fruit from a tree, surely? The snake told them that if they ate it, they would ‘be like God, knowing good and evil’ – it WAS called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil! Eve saw that its fruit was ‘also desirable for gaining wisdom’. Now this is not an original thought of my own, but once I applied it, all the other facets of the nature of sin and God’s displeasure with our sins tied together in this: knowing good and evil is vital for judging the actions of others. We are admonished often in scripture to ‘judge not’. God owned the tree, the means of judging rightly. We desired to have it, but we only managed to taste the fruit before we were ejected from Eden, so we THINK we know how to judge our fellow humans, but we only ‘know in part’. We never had the tree. It’s that desire to be like God and be able to pass judgment on others (a sense of self-pride? That we can ‘think of ourselves more highly than we ought’?) which leads us to go beyond what God desired for us; to live in harmonious concord with nature and to love all created beings. He alone can judge properly, and is above all else. We must remain in a state of awareness of our own sin, which was exactly what Jesus laid out in that great sermon: sin is not found in actions, it is found in our hearts. Evil actions are the RESULT of our sinful desires (which ‘crouched at the door’ of Cain’s heart – he was to master them), and that is largely due to a lack of humility and an understanding of our fallen nature.
The ‘tree’ upon which Jesus gave his ‘life’ is where it all centres and comes together! Only through communion with Jesus do we get back to eating from the Tree of Life!
Grace be with you.
LikeLiked by 2 people
April 19, 2019 at 11:43 am
Another thought filled post. I think that original sin, is the original pathology passed on from the condition of “the awareness that there is good and evil” and our mortality. The first time that humanity was declared righteous was in Genesis 1:31, “very good” I believe was the revealed position of God. However, mortality combined with our innate survival instinct and the awareness of good and evil creates the pathology of humanity. We don’t believe Genesis 1:31. Jesus was portrayed as one having perfect faith in the Father and thus perfect faith in Genesis 1:31, in spite of his mortality. The holy spirit allows us to apprehend that faith when we here the gospel thereby assuring us of the truth of Gen 1:31.