The following series is based on my senior paper for Seminary. You may remember a video where I invited people to contribute their stories to help make my case. For the next couple weeks, I’ve decided to share my findings with you all. There will be a “thesis/problem” section, a “biblical theology” section, and an “application” section. I hope you will read along and share this with others! You can read the rest of the series here.
Option 2: Adam and Eve as Parable
Timothy Keller believes that space exists for differing opinions on the historicity of Adam and Eve. He states: “One of my favorite Christian writers (that’s putting it mildly), C.S. Lewis, did not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and I do not question the reality or soundness of his personal faith.”
Another option, aside from the historical perspective, understands Adam’s story as a parable. Just as Jesus used parables to describe deeper truths about God’s kingdom, so also this perspective holds that Genesis 2-3 are essentially parabolic in character. If someone had a camcorder when the two creation accounts and the “fall” took place, they would not have been recorded exactly as we read them in Genesis.Rather, the reality that God created and humanity rebelled is what the parables illustrate. This is why it is possible to have two different creation stories presented complementarily in chapters 1 and 2. As John Goldingay states: “If you take them as would-be literal historical accounts, you have your work cut out to reconcile them, but this is unnecessary if they are historical parables.”
In light of this, it is important to highlight an interpretive principle at work here: biblical accommodation. Denis Lamoureux states, “in order to reveal spiritual truths as effectively as possible to ancient people, the Holy Spirit employed their understanding of nature…God came down to their level and used the science-of-the-day.” The science of the day taught that humans always gave birth to more humans; therefore, there must be an original human couple as the source of all. In this case, the Holy Spirit accommodated to this idea so the ancient Jews would understand God as their Creator. “Adam is simply an ancient vessel that delivers eternal truths about our spiritual condition.” Adam and Eve are therefore not presented as historically real people, but as parabolic actors on an all too familiar stage of rebellious self-glorification. Goldingay summarizes:
I am told there are readers of Genesis who argue like this. If evolution is true, there was no Adam and Eve. If there was no Adam and Eve, there was no fall. If there was no fall, we didn’t need Jesus to save us. But this argument is back to front. In reality, we know we needed Jesus to save us. We recognize the way Genesis describes our predicament as human beings. We know we have not realized our vocation to take the world to its destiny and serve the earth… We know there is something wrong with our relationship with God. We know we die… The question Genesis handles is, was all that a series of problems built into humanity when it came into existence? And its answer is that this is not so… There was a point when humanity had to choose whether it wanted to go God’s way, and it chose not to. The Adam and Eve story gives us a parabolic account of that… God brought the first human beings into existence with their vocation and they turned away from it.
Paul seems to think that Adam and Eve were historical figures, so does it not follow that we should as well? The answer to this could be the simple reality that Paul reflects the common scientific worldview of his day. Some might respond, if we are not descended from a literal Adam, then how do Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 fit, where Adam is compared to Christ? Jesus brought life to all and Adam brought death to all. To this question Goldingay points out: “But everyone is not physically descended from Christ, so the parallel would not require all humanity to be descended from one original pair.” In other words, if we are not all physically Christ’s descendants, but are still saved by his obedience, it does not follow that all humanity must come from Adam’s biological lineage.
. Keller, Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, 7.
. Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone: Part 1, 29.
. Denis O. Lamoureux, I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2009), 44-45.
. Ibid., 80.
. Peter Enns and Jeff Schloss, “How Does the Fall fit into Evolutionary History? Were Adam and Eve Historical Figures?,” Biologos Foundation, http://biologos.org/questions/evolution-and-the-fall/ (accessed February 16, 2012).
. Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone: Part 1, 62-63.
. Lamoureux, I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution, 143-48.
. Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone: Part 1, 58.