Stump a Scholar: John H. Walton on Original Sin

Stump a Scholar: John H. Walton on Original Sin March 19, 2015

BC_TheLostWorldofAdamandEve_1A new book on Adam and Eve and the human origins debate by Old Testament scholar John H. Walton has created significant buzz at Patheos. We invited our Facebook followers to try and stump our scholar, by asking Dr. Walton any question related to the book they wanted.

We received some 45 comments and questions– from the serious (“Assuming the Genesis stories are allegorical, what are the lessons we should take away from them?”) to the silly (“Did they have bellybuttons?”). Today, and for the next several Thursdays, Dr. Walton will respond to selected questions from our Facebook challenge.

FB Question (Walton combined these two questions this week): If Adam and Eve are figurative, is St. Augustine’s original sin argument false? Did the writers of the New Testament, and the early church, consider Adam and Eve literal or metaphor?

Professor Walton Responds:

BC_JohnWalton_bioI do not claim that Adam and Eve are figurative, but that even as real persons in a real past they are used archetypally. I have no trouble with the concept of original sin and that we are all subject to sin, though there are other formulations of this doctrine in the church besides Augustine’s.

When we inquire whether the authors of the New Testament and the Church Fathers considered Adam and Eve as literal or metaphorical, we are being too restrictive in the options. I consider Adam and Eve to be real people in a real past, but I would not label that as “literal.” I also believe that they are being used by both Genesis and the New Testament authors as archetypal figures, but I would not label that as “metaphorical.” We have to become more nuanced in our categories.


Next week’s questions for Dr. Walton:  Could it be possible that the tree of knowledge was placed in the garden by something greater than Yahweh?

For more on The Lost World of Adam and Evevisit the Patheos Book Club here.



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