Responses to Adam and Eve as Special Creation (RJS)

Responses to Adam and Eve as Special Creation (RJS) July 8, 2014

In the last post on Four Views on the Historical Adam we looked at the view of Adam put forth by C. John Collins. He takes an old earth special creation view, but is willing to consider a wide range of scenarios that fit within certain limits. For example, an old earth and an evolutionary description of the diversity of animal life poses no theological problems if this is where the scientific evidence leads. However, he does not think humans can be fit neatly into an evolutionary picture, scientifically or theologically. Scientifically he feels that “it is simply unreasonable to suppose that  one can arrive at human capacities without some “help” from outside” and theologically that it fails to account for human distinctiveness as the image of God.

Denis Lamoureux has a great deal of respect for Jack Collins as a fellow Christian but disagrees with his position on four major points. First, he agrees with Collins on the big story of scripture, but doesn’t feel that this requires a historical Adam. Collins has asserted this as a foundation, but doesn’t really make the case in a convincing manner.

Second, Lamoureux thinks that Collins falls into the trap of scientific concordism. Although Collins is willing to consider figurative and imaginative elements in the text, he feels that the text must relate an account of human origins that is in agreement with the historical events. In Lamoureux’s view this amounts to scientific concordism.

Third, Collins wanders into God-of-the-gaps thinking when he asserts that the complexity of human uniqueness must require divine intervention. Such features as language, art, and a craving for community are not as discontinuous with the other animals as Collins supposes. There is good evidence for roots of some of these in the evolution of mammals and especially primates, and the absence of a complete picture does not mean that there is no “natural” explanation – of God, but not requiring special supernatural intervention.

Finally Lamoureux feels that Collins is somewhat arbitrary in the passages of Genesis 1-11 that he sees as historical and those he sees as figurative or imaginative.

John Walton also has a great deal of respect for Jack Collins. John and Jack are fairly close in their overall interpretation, but disagree on a few points. Walton sees the most significant disagreement as one involving the overall approach to Genesis 1-11. While Collins spends a good deal of effort focused on how people today think about history and science, etc. Walton thinks that the focus needs to be on getting inside the mind of the ancient Near Eastern author and audience. We need to think outside our 21st (…18th, 19th, 20th) century box to understand what they intended to convey in the text we have.

Walton agrees with Collins that the bible conveys a universal impact of sin, but doesn’t think that Collins made the case that this requires a unified origin of humanity descended from Adam and Eve (as unique progenitors or as chief of a smallish group).  In Walton’s view Collins makes a strong case for the historicity of the fall, but not for material human origins.

William Barrick takes a young earth view of creation. He feels that Denis, John, and Jack all fail to take scripture as the authority it is meant to be. In Barrick’s view Collins is right to stress the importance of historicity, but fails to realize that accuracy in detail is an important component of this and that lack of accuracy is a weakness that invites counterattack – in the ancient Near East and today.  Collins appeals to the readers intuition to distinguish between the intent of Genesis 1-11 and Genesis 12-50. Barrick thinks that this is too subjective and “leaves the door open for too many unacceptable options.” (p. 189)   He asserts that “the Hebrews worldview does not give them the freedom to mythologize history the way the ancient Mesopotamians did” (p. 189) and that “Genesis 1-11 set out to record events exactly as they happened.” (p. 190) Barrick sees the formula phrase “and it was so” as intending to convey this precise historicity in the Genesis 1 account of creation. A “very good” creation is not, in his view, consistent with millions of years of death and disease.  He concludes:

The old-earth view yields to the opinions of evolutionary scientists about the age of the earth and about the process of evolution – just like the views presented by Lamoureux and Walton. It boils down to the acceptance of an authority outside the Bible – a dominantly secular authority often very antagonistic to the biblical record – to force the account in Genesis 1-11 to conform to that external authority. The young earth view does not accept reinterpreting the Scriptures to force it into an evolutionary mold. (p. 191)

Jack Collins offers a rejoinder to the comments by Lamoureux, Walton, and Barrick. He feels that Lamoureux is misinterpreting him when claiming that he is guilty of scientific concordism or God-of-the-gaps reasoning from an absence of knowledge. We expect historical concordance in scripture, not scientific concordance. His view of the special creation of Adam and Eve does not rest on the expectation of scientific concordance with scripture, but on theological and philosophical grounds. He also appeals to the presence of different kinds of gaps in knowledge. As Christians we affirm that the resurrection was supernatural because of the very nature of the event. Collins feels that the path from molecule to mankind is also the kind of event that requires supernatural intervention on philosophical grounds, not on the grounds of an absence of scientific knowledge.

Collins doesn’t have much to say in response to Barrick or Walton. He finds the claim that his view is formed because of the acceptance of external authority (science) to be a dead end. The only way forward is to deal with the substance of arguments. He and Walton agree on most things and their disagreement on Adam and Eve has already been elaborated in each essay and in his response to Walton’s essay.

And some comments of my own. I think that Lamoureux is misinterpreting Collins when he accuses him of scientific concordism. I do think that the assumptions that Collins brings to scripture require more historical concordance than is warranted. This doesn’t come up much in the current essay, but was made more explicit in his book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care.  The way Collins describes the need for supernatural intervention in the creation of mankind does strike me as God-of-the-gaps reasoning. This was also discussed in my recent post Fairness Tastes Like Ice Cream, where one of the commenters with more expertise than I provided links elaborating the reasons why the difference are more ones of degree than kind.

But ultimately the reasons Collins upholds some form of special creation and a historical and unique pair are more theological than scientific, or even hermeneutical (dependent on the view of scripture). This is where it is most profitable to focus the discussion.

Over the last few years I have to say that I have become less than convinced that the Bible intends, anywhere, to portray the origin of sin. We don’t know why, for example, the snake is in the garden trying to corrupt Eve and thus Adam also. Rebellion began before Adam. That sin enters the human line with an original pair simply doesn’t seem to be the point in either the Old or New Testaments. On the other hand, the Bible clearly portrays the universal impact of sin and the places the blame firmly on mankind as a species, as communities, and as individuals. Rebellion is the point. We are formed to need God, to be in fellowship with God. But this relationship, like our other relationships, is broken. Broken by us, not by God. Broken time and time again.

I am not convinced by Collins’s arguments for a unique historical Adam because I am not convinced that Adam is theologically important in the story line of Scripture.

How would you respond to the idea of humans as special creation?

Is Collins guilty of scientific concordism and God-of-the-gaps reasoning?

Is Adam theologically significant?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.

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  • Brian s

    I absolutely believe in the historic Adam and special creation. I grow weary of claims that something can be theologically true and historically false. When applied to Jesus these kinds of claims lead to denial of the (physical) resurrection which is heresy. Denial of the historicity of Adam may not constitute heresy but it is close.

  • scotmcknight

    C’mon Brian, this isn’t helpful: the alternatives are not “theologically true” vs. “historically false.” We are all aware of the truth-telling power of parables, though fiction, of novels, though fiction, and of myths (like Narnia, Lord of the Rings), though fiction.

    To then move to denial of physical resurrection is unhelpful in this context: RJS has repeatedly defended the historical resurrection.

    Denial of the historicity of Adam is not heresy, nor is it close. Adam has never been a part of the great creeds, and it is on their basis that the word “heresy” is defined. Denial of the creed, heresy; affirmation of the creed, orthodoxy.

    In this post we are driven to ask how important Adam is to the narrative of (1) the Bible’s big story, (2) the various authors of the Old Testament and (3) the various authors of the New Testament. Think about this with us: How often does the Adam narrative appear in the Old Testament? Which authors of the New Testament make Adam a part of their narrative of the Bible? Perhaps we push on to the next one: Why does Adam so rarely appear in the Bible’s narrative and why is it so foundational to much of the Christian theological narrative? (Is it because some have learned to read the Bible through the lens of Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Cor 15? Is that the only lens through which to read the Bible’s narrative?)

  • Norman

    I agree with RJS’s analysis that the Bible does not intend to portray the origin of sin. In my examination I see that the Bible assumes sin as a natural condition in which man is found and addresses that condition without attempting a biological reasoning for it inhabiting us. Instead we assume a biological reasoning because the section is complex reading and because of our modern concepts.

    The classic section of Romans 5:12 in which most of us derive our understanding of how the Jews understood sin is IMO simply not given enough attention to what Paul actually says. More importantly we stop reading at verse 12 and don’t follow Paul’s reasoning and thinking. In verse 13 he expounds: “13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law”

    Paul tells us that sin was in the world but in the Garden environment (where Adam was first placed) it is not counted. There is no discussion about its biological implications but is about its assumed understanding that all men sin and thus in need of being released from the sin consequences that separates us all from God. Thus he goes on to expound for the next three chapters on how Christ rectified that lost paradise and brings us once again back into the condition where our sins are not counted.

    Now getting back to verse 12 which causes all our biological confusion: “Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— “. If we read this with theological eyes instead of assuming a biological intent for Paul we might see that Paul is coming from his Jewish priestly mindset regarding Adam’s sin instead. What Paul is inferring is that when Adam was placed in the Garden he was to be a priest to the Nations (as was Israel and its high Priest). Therefore when he failed to be obedient to the commandment (see Rom 7:7-12) he suffered the loss of right standing before God and therefore could not act as a High Priest to Israel or the Nations. (Make no mistake about this story being about the failure of the Jewish Priesthood) Therefore Adam who was a type of messiah as Paul declares in Rom 5:14 was an inept High Priest and thus Christ who did not fail is the replacement Adam for us instead. Through Christ the Last Adam we have no sin as was intended and thus is not attributed to the faithful man.

    If we understand Romans 5-8 as I believe Paul is presenting from a Jewish perspective then we have no reason to apply biological concepts to a theological and juridical Priestly discussion. I believe that this is also the failure not only of Collins but of Lamoureux as well. If you can get Romans 5 right theologically then Genesis is simply not the problem it seems.

    1 Cor 15: 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

  • Brian s

    The NT authors, Luke and Paul, treat Genesis as historical narrative. Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam. Does Jesus have fictional ancestors? Paul says that through Adam sin came into the world. He calls him a man, not a fictional character. Jesus said that His generation would be held responsible for the blood of Abel. And the author of Hebrews says that Abel offered a sacrifice by faith. There is no distinction between historic and supposedly non-historic figures. I find it hard to believe that we today know more about the OT than Jesus, Luke and Paul.

    Genesis consists of an introduction (1:1-2:3) followed by ten narrative sections. They are written as narrative, not parable or novel or myth. Why not treat the story of Abraham or exodus as fiction as well? (Of course, I am not sure that you don’t.)

    I am surprised to find that you do not think that Adam is important to the big story of the OT. Without Adam’s fall, the whole thing is unnecessary. The rest of the story is fixing what Adam, and his descendants, have messed up. Not all biblical authors may have mentioned Adam, but he and the significance of his life is implicit in all the Bible and explicit in Paul who called Jesus ‘the Second Adam’. Is the Second Adam relevant while the first is not? Is the Second Adam historical and the first not?

    I am more than happy to read the Bible through Paul’s theology of Adam, but we cannot ignore or discount or minimize it because others did not explicitly cover the subject.

    I think what is not helpful here is to use a scientific hypothesis (macroevolution) to determine who we interpret the Bible.

  • Phil Miller

    Certainly you can see that an approach to theology that insists that Adam has to be a historic figure can easily backfire? If that becomes the lynchpin on which Christianity rises or falls, than once someone has created enough reasonable doubt around that, a person can conclude that the whole endeavor is worthless. And I’ve seen that sort of thing happen. The whole of Scripture is about Jesus – not Adam.

  • Bev Mitchell

    RJS,

    On humans as special (different) creation. Views like Collins’ suffer from a too limited view of creation. If we believe that the entire universe is somehow made possible, given purpose, and sustained by the Spirit of God, it’s OK with me to add humanity to the package. It’s all going somewhere and all will be completely the kingdom of our Lord, not just humans. Our special ‘equipping’ could come about by special fiat, of course, but that explanation is not the only one that would get us to where we are and to what God hopes for us to be. Because of our abilities and through the same Spirit who broods over everything, we are able to imagine God, and are in a position to receive his revelation. The really big question is, will we receive the revelation?

    You observe “Over the last few years I have to say that I have become less than convinced that the Bible intends, anywhere, to portray the origin of sin.” This seems to be going around, and I’ve got it too.

    As for origin of sin, origin of evil, origin of all the things in nature that seem “bad” to us, even the current nature of evil itself (if that can really be separated from the origin of evil) – all the explanations, including any we may dream up ourselves, have a significant speculative quality about them. Maybe that’s why the gospel and other NT writers talk so much more about the Good News. We do have to recognize evil (and all too often we turn away or try to explain it away), but Christian faith is about where to go and what to do when something in us or about us is revealed to be evil (ungodly, not Christ-like).

  • Craig Wright

    Paul’s use of the term, “second Adam”, applied to Jesus, is clearly metaphorical, which seems to allow for a similar consideration for the “first Adam.”

  • Craig Wright

    I have also noticed that the whole Old Testament does not blame Adam for humanity’s sin. It is also striking that Jesus does not, either. It is only found in the two brief passages from Paul, in which he appears to be using allegory. Those two passages also present an interesting situation with their sweeping indictment of all of humanity, as well as the sweeping correction for all of humanity.

  • RJS4DQ

    Brian s,

    One of the things we need to be able to do is hold a conversation. With respect to the connection between Jesus and Adam…

    Part of the reason I am not convinced by the arguments Collins gives is because the references in the Gospels to Adam, Abel, Noah, etc. are to make points about moral failings of the generation that Jesus is talking to – not to make points about Adam, Abel, or Noah. Luke and Matthew use the genealogies (which are not consistent by the way) to connect Jesus to David and Israel as the Messiah – an important point. The OT is the common literature of the people, so it makes sense to refer back to Genesis 1-11 whether or not it is “history.”

    Paul uses Adam to make points about Christ, not to make points about Adam.

    I don’t think it makes sense to tie the historicity of Adam to that of Christ or the resurrection because nothing other than Genesis 2-3 is about Adam (and I am not sure this is actually about Adam) while the entire New Testament is about Jesus and his resurrection.

    And on Abraham and Genesis 12-50 …

    I am sure we would find points of disagreement in the way the text should be read – but the OT is about Israel, chosen by God through Abraham and the Exodus. This “aboutness” shapes a good deal of my thinking.

  • Phil Miller

    In Romans 5:12, Paul actually makes it’s pretty clear that humanity isn’t on the hook for Adam’s sin, but rather for their own.

    “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned

    So it’s not really Paul attempting to create a case that sin is something genetic that’s passed down from generation, but rather that all are sinner. And more importantly, those that were chosen by God to be His representatives on earth are implicated in this sin as well. So they themselves have become part of the problem.

  • Bill Norton

    Scot, where would the Bible’s big story begin, if not with Adam? Most stories, big or small, involve a complication. A real Adam would be the device through which sin enters.

    When did the number of appearances a person become criteria for the validity of that person’s narrative? If sin is the overwhelming problem to be resolved, why or how does it matter how often that narrative is referred to by the compilers and writers of the OT or NT? Where did this counting appearances become a bona fide means of assessing one’s import?

    What other lens would you use to view the Bible’s big story? What makes that lens superior, of greater value than the one in play here?
    Why are Romans and Corinthians necessary for people to infer or deduce that sin entered the world through Adam? Aren’t the reported happenings in the Garden sufficient?

    Finally, in the end, doesn’t this all boil down to speculation? No one can know what happened.

  • Bill Norton

    RJS,

    The Rebellion that occurred before Adam: Where? When? Is this grounded in the Bible? Or is this a conclusion based on supposition? Is this a deduction?

  • RJS4DQ

    I say this based on the Genesis 3 narrative itself.

    The snake was the craftiest of all the creatures that God had made. He was in the garden and tempted Eve which started the whole problem.

    God certainly held the snake culpable as he was directly cursed, and all snakes with him.

    The snake rebelled before Adam or Eve.

  • Craig Wright

    I think it is interesting to note that Jesus’ reference to Jonah compares the belly of a fish with a metaphorical “heart of the earth.” This helps evaluate the literalness of the Jonah story.

  • Norman

    This snake story IMO is about people that were already in the Garden yet led Adam/Israel astray. The Jews including Jesus understood that the snake represented the manipulative/deceptive dark side of Judaism that arose from within the body of the faithful (leaders were a brood of vipers and were like their Father the Devil (deceiver). Revelation chapter 12 also spells out who is represented by the Devil and his minions. It’s the same ones we see that Jesus encounters and that persecute the faithful in the Book of Acts.

    These animal and beast images are simply motifs used to tell story just like Jesus did with his pointed Parables directed at the same dysfunctional leadership. The story in its simplest form is about pure religion that has been led astray and has gone bad . Christ and the disciples reclaimed what had been lost but now is found.

    It was deceived by those who were supposed to be its guardians. In Hebrew apocalyptic style literature you will see that people turn into beast when they dishonor God. Think of the story of Nebuchadnezzar who turned into a beast until he came to his senses and was restored. It helps to know how the Jews used metaphor instead of getting off track by overly literalizing it.

  • Dean

    Guess you forgot about the snake? 🙂

  • Bill Norton

    Thanks for replying.

    So the snake in Eden is not a representative or manifestation of a fallen angel? I guess I was trained poorly in my evangelical Presbyterian upbringing.

    I realize God created the snake. But how can we be certain this particular snake is one of God’s earthly creations?

    I’m having a difficult time accepting that sin entered the world through a serpent. Did all God’s earthly creations have the ability to reason and to speak?

    Why just the snake? How did sin enter the snake? I’m not trying to be contrary. I’m trying to understand. The Adam and Eve narrative is central to my master.s thesis.

    On a slightly different topic: Does a way exist for me to contact you directly? I’d appreciate some help deciding to undertake an online project that involves college students and subjects such a biblical criticism and alternate narratives to such issues as this interpretation of origin of sin. I can be reached through Bethel: w-norton@bethel.edu.

    Many thanks.

  • Phil Miller

    I’m having a difficult time accepting that sin entered the world through a serpent. Did all God’s earthly creations have the ability to reason and to speak?

    The point RJS is making (at least as far as I can tell – not trying to put words in her mouth) is that sin and rebellion exist in some form or another prior to Adam and Eve’s sin. This is clear even from a surface-level reading of the narrative. Classic Augustinian theology would say that sin entered not just the human race but all of creation through Adam and Eve. It portrays the Fall as some sort of cosmic event. So it’s just an example of those who claim to read Genesis literally not really doing that. They are reading their theology into the narrative.

  • Bill Norton

    Phil,

    I’m not denying, based on the Serpent’s actions, that readers and interpreters could deduce that sin/rebellion existed in some form prior to Adam and Eve. But does that make the Serpent responsible for sin trickling down through humanity? What role as the Serpent played in sin’s spread through humans and the earth? We never hear from it again.

    If the serpent is the Prime sinner, what I’m questioning is the origin of the serpent? If the snake is an image of a fallen angel, or whatever, then I wonder if sin exists in whatever firmament houses the angels. Who picked the snake to be crafty?

    If the snake is an earthly creature, this speculation would raise even more questions about sin existing in animals. I would wonder if all animals had the ability to speak. Or just the serpent. And why the serpent? The questions go on ad infinitum.

    As to the Cosmic event description, I would say that if sin entered the world through the acts of two people, considering the consequences of sin ever since, yes, this would be huge blow to humanity. Cosmic? Couldn’t tell you.

    When you write that those who take the Fall seriously and who place more emphasis on Adam and Eve passing sin on to humanity are reading their own, isn’t that what you’re doing by implying a literal reading is an errant reading? Based on what?

    Your theology, or so it sounds, wouldn’t allow for literalist reading of the narrative as it’s written or understood by others. That suggests you have an alternative interpretation. Does that alternative interpretation inform your theology or how you comment on others’ theology?
    Aren’t you doing what you suggest literalists are doing, reading your own theology into the narrative?

    Thanks.

  • RJS4DQ

    Bill,

    Certainly we tend to connect the snake with Satan, based primarily I think on Rev. 12:9. Here the serpent is called the deceiver of the world, or the one who leads the world astray, or who deceives the whole world. Although reference to Genesis 3 makes sense, the action is ongoing, not a one time occurrence that set the world awry, or so it seems to me. (I don’t know enough Greek to be too firm in my conclusions.)

    In Genesis 3 the serpent is one of the creatures v. 1, and is cursed along with his offspring in v. 14-15.

    I find it interesting that the “typical” evangelical approach insists that Adam and Eve can’t be figurative but that the serpent must be in some sense – representing Satan and his offspring representing something other than little snakes.

    But you hit on my main point here: “Why just the snake? How did sin enter the snake?” I have no clue – and the Bible doesn’t tell us. This (along with continued reading of the rest of scripture) is why I am becoming convinced that Bible doesn’t intend, anywhere, to portray the origin of sin. It portrays the reality of sin, the universality of sin, the consequences of sin, and redemption through incarnation – God becoming flesh in the son.

    I don’t think we are intended to read the story of Genesis 3 too literally. It is making an important point – but not about a man, a woman, and a snake (who talks and reasons).

    On your last point – I have an e-mail address at the end of each of my posts. I can e-mail you as well though.

  • Bill Norton

    RJS,

    Thanks. From your second-to-last paragraph, what important point do think the Gen. 3 narrative is making?

  • Phil Miller

    I’m not denying, based on the Serpent’s actions, that readers and interpreters could deduce that sin/rebellion existed in some form prior to Adam and Eve. But does that make the Serpent responsible for sin trickling down through humanity? What role as the Serpent played in sin’s spread through humans and the earth? We never hear from it again.

    As far as who’s responsible for sin trickling down through humanity, I’d say mainly we’re all responsible for our own sin. Scripture does, however, seem to implicate Satan and the spiritual forces opposing God as having responsibility and culpability as well. Indeed, one of the earliest conception of the Cross and Resurrection was Jesus overcoming these forces to free humanity from their oppression. As far as the origin of these forces, I’d say we’re not given clear answers in Scripture. From a philosophical perspective, I would say their origin lies in the fact that God created agents with genuine free will which by definition means they have the ability to oppose God’s will.

    When you write that those who take the Fall seriously and who place more emphasis on Adam and Eve passing sin on to humanity are reading their own, isn’t that what you’re doing by implying a literal reading is an errant reading? Based on what?

    Your theology, or so it sounds, wouldn’t allow for literalist reading of the narrative as it’s written or understood by others. That suggests you have an alternative interpretation. Does that alternative interpretation inform your theology or how you comment on others’ theology?
    Aren’t you doing what you suggest literalists are doing, reading your own theology into the narrative?

    I’m not reading my theology into the narrative. I’m saying that my theology does not rise or fall based on this particular narrative being a literal event. I reacting against the idea that says that if there wasn’t a literal Adam with a literal fall, than there was no need for Christ to die on the cross, and the whole Christian faith falls apart. I’m saying that such a view is unnecessary and unhelpful. I’m also saying that those who claim to be reading the text literally aren’t really. They are playing fast and loose with certain aspects of it to make it say what they want it to say.

    A literal view of the text doesn’t really give answers to the philosophical issues surrounding the problem of evil, either. For one, most literalists would say that prior to the Fall (Adam and Eve’s sin) sin and death did not exist in the world. Well, as RJS and I have mentioned, it seems pretty clear that sin at least was present in the Garden prior to Adam and Eve’s actions. If a literal reading is being put forth as that which bring coherence to Christian theology, I’m saying it doesn’t actually do that.

  • RJS4DQ

    Well, that is an interesting question – and something I am still trying to get my head around. Tentatively for the moment … I think that the story told in Genesis 2-3 uses images well understood by the Ancient Near Eastern Israelite audience for whom and to whom the book was initially written to make a point about God’s relationship with humankind created in his image and our failure to remain in the covenant relationship. Some of the imagery is discussed in a post I put up last June (The Garden in Ancient Context).

    Perhaps when I am done with the series on this 4 views book I’ll wrap up with a post exploring ways in which we could approach Genesis 2-3 – as Scripture, but with out trying to squeeze a square text into some kind of rigid round hole.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    You posed the conundrum, “We don’t know why, for example, the snake is in the garden trying to corrupt Eve and thus Adam also.”

    In response, I’d suggest that the snake is in the Genesis 2-3 story as a useful tool to upset the “age of innocence” that was in God’s “good” creation. The authors drew on mythic motifs from stories such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, where a serpent cost Gilgamesh eternal youth. Which itself drew on mythic beliefs of serpents being associated with youth due to their shedding of old skin replaced with new. The Epic of Gilgamesh also portrays Enkidu in a state of innocence and harmony with nature, until that order is upset by a woman after which Enkidu became “wise.” So, again, Genesis 2-3 is re-working mythic elements from other stories to make a theological point.

    But what theological point is that? I agree with you that it is not about the “origin of sin.” Rather, in my opinion, it seems to be that creation was “good.” That the suffering, strife, imperfection, etc. within creation that no doubt the authors of Genesis experienced was not due to God, but due to man. It’s a way of “protecting” God as it were. Saying that all of this awfulness that people experience is not due to God. That as God is perfect he intended creation to be perfect, but we messed it up. Just as Israel “messed up” the paradise of the promised land.

    So for me personally, I don’t really see this hermeneutical challenge modern scholarship poses to Scriptural interpretation as resolved with things like the message-incident principle. It seems that “incidents” in Genesis 1-3 are things like ancient cosmology, ancient zoology (i.e., “kinds”), etc. While the message of a “good” creation does seem to be…theologically…inaccurate to say the least. The world we live in is the created world. There was never any better world. Suffering has always been with us. And that’s not necessarily a problem theologically, except that that is not what is reflected in Genesis 1-3, but the opposite.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents 🙂

  • RJS4DQ

    Tim,

    I don’t think that It is a way of protecting God or of saying that all of this awfulness that people experience is not due to God.

    I think this idea of a perfect God and perfect creation is imported from later philosophical arguments in the church (and Jewish and Greek or Roman philosophers as well).

    I think Genesis 1 is a prologue, not poetry as those who know Hebrew are quick to point out, but still a poetic exalted prose (to use Collins’s words).

    I think the focus in 2-3 really on sacred space, communion with God – and the way in which humans have broken this communion and failed to remain in fellowship with God.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    I agree that Genesis 2-3 also deals with themes of sacred space and communion with God. I also agree that themes of a perfect God and perfect creation pop up later in philosophical arguments with the Church. However, that does not in my view imply that therefore a view of a perfect creation should be excluded from Genesis 2-3. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are themes in Scripture that do recur.

    One recurring motif in Old Testament literature is chaos, and God is seen as conquering chaos and establishing order in the Cosmos. Perfect order. I included Genesis 1 as it tells this story, and it calls each creative act “good.” Again, we see an absence of chaos in Genesis 2-3. We see perfect order and harmony. This order is disrupted by the actions of Adam & Eve. So was “perfection” viewed as it was later discussed philosophically in the Church? No. Perfection was viewed in an ancient sense in defeating chaos and establishing order.

  • Norman

    Tim,
    If Genesis 1 is a prologue that sets forth the story line that plays out then the progression from Good to very Good is exactly what happens with the coming of Messiah.
    Chaos was starting to be brought into order with the introduction of Adam (think Israel) and even though that was good it was not the fulfillment of the idea desired (full Image of God) until Christ completed man to that fullest extent. Israel was good under Moses but not very Good until Christ. 🙂

  • afrm77

    Where is the original article? Is it not filed under “Adam”? That is how I found all of these reviews of “Four Views of Historical Adam” but the original Collins article was not there. No link in this article either. Thanks for the help!

  • afrm77
  • Lon Hider

    I like it. the continunity of symbols. a semiotic interpretation.

  • Wasted Evangelism

    “Walton agrees with Collins that the bible conveys a universal impact of sin, but doesn’t think that Collins made the case that this requires a unified origin of humanity descended from Adam and Eve . . .” Yet Paul did. Yes, there’s that little tricky-wicket. And, yes, Jesus does refer to the first couple . . . even though u’all strain to reinterpretate for Jesus what he meant so it fits your non-narrative narrative. Anyway . . . can someone who doesn’t hold to the historicity of the Genesis account (and yes, I do believe it is theologically constructed as well and isn’t there to prove anything scientific per se) please tell me in the Genesis account, where and at what point does actual history start and what narrative indicators demonstrate that turn from mythology/legend to actual history?

  • Matt

    If there is no historical Adam, then there is no historical Cain or Abel. And if there is no historical Cain and Abel, there is no historical descendants leading to Noah. And if there are no historical descendants to Noah, then everything in the first eleven chapters of Genesis is a lie. Do we then believe in an historical Abram, or are we to deny that as well? And if so, then let’s also deny the whole of Imago Dei. And let’s deny sin in any form, because it’s just myth. And if you are willing to do that, then why bother identifying as a Christian in the first place?

  • James Lorence

    Notice no reply from the author. Stunning