December 10, 2018

Genesis: Where It All Begins (5), with Pete Enns

Het paradijs met de zondeval van Adam en Eva, Brueghel

Note from CM: I have wanted to use this piece by Pete, especially its anecdote, for a long time. In the final analysis, I don’t even think it has to do with a Jewish vs. Christian perspective, however. In my opinion, Pete’s Jewish friend is expressing a common sense understanding of the actual material before him. It is not actually hard to identify that the early chapters of Genesis are a different genre of literature than biblicists insist upon. It’s a terrible thing when genuine common sense gets sacrificed on the altar of dogma. “Story” is not a dirty word.

• • •

Genesis: Where It All Begins (5)
“Because it’s a story!”
by Pete Enns

One day I was eating lunch with a Jewish classmate who grew up in Israel. We were both in our first year, and somehow the topic turned to the story of Adam and Eve.

Many Christians understand this story’s meaning not only to be quite obvious, but absolutely foundational to the Christian faith. Even the slightest movement one degree to the left or right threatened to shrivel the gospel like cotton candy when it hits your tongue.

Every Christian just “knows” the Adam and Eve story is about the “fall” of humanity from a blissful state of perfection into a state of sin subsequently passed down from parents to children, the root cause of every conceivable ill on earth, from tyranny to taxes to the fine print in your cell phone contract.

So my classmate and I were having lunch talking about this story and I mentioned casually the “fall” of humanity.

“The what?

“The fall of humanity. You know, Adam and Eve’s sin plunged all subsequent humanity into a state of alienation from God.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Really? That’s odd, since it’s so obvious.”

“No it’s not. The story nowhere says what you just said it says.”

“Well then what do you make of Satan tempting Eve with the forbidden fruit….”

“Who?”

“What do you mean ‘who?’”

“Satan? There’s no Satan in the story. There’s a serpent, just a serpent. He’s called the most ‘crafty’ of the creatures that God had put into the garden. He’s a serpent. A crafty creature. That’s what the text says.”

“But the serpent is talking.”

“Because it’s a story.”

It came as a bit of a shock to me that what I thought I “knew” the story of Adam and Eve was about wasn’t really “in” the story itself, but how I had been taught to interpret the story. The dominant Christian reading is rooted in the apostle Paul, in the book of Romans, where Paul seems to place at Adam’s feet (not Eve’s, curiously) the blame for human misery.

Many Christians have understood Paul this way, and by “many” I mean more or less the entire tradition of western Christianity, especially as it has been steered through the influence of Augustine, the fourth century CE Church Father and his rather disastrous reading of Romans 5:12. (You can get the gist of Augustine’s mistake here.)

Augustine concluded that all humanity sinned “in” Adam, and that state of sinfulness was passed on biologically (through sex) to their children (which is why Cain killed Abel), and so on and so on. (See more here.)

This post isn’t about original sin. It’s just happened to be the topic of our lunch conversation. My point here is that my Jewish classmate–who knew his Bible, in Hebrew, backwards and forwards–didn’t get.

Jewish theology doesn’t depend on Augustine (or Paul), and so they read the story differently. Rather than being born in sin because of something Adam did, humanity has an “evil inclination,” meaning humans are, for whatever reason, prone to disobey God.

That’s why Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the first place (before there was a “fall”), Cain followed his father’s pattern, and on and on all the way to story of the Flood, which is where the problem is explained and the reason for the Flood is given: The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5)

In the years that followed, I’ve come back to that moment and perceived its importance.

All it took to rock my certainty about what what I “knew” the Bible “says” was one lunch with someone who, like me, was committed to understanding his scripture but who didn’t think like me and took a moment to point out what the Bible says.

It got me thinking: I wonder how much else I think I know about the Bible might be less what I actually read in the Bible and more what I bring to it?

A key factor in my own growth as a Christian is something that wasn’t even on my radar screen during seminary or when I began my doctoral work: hearing Jewish voices talk about their Bible.

Comments

  1. “Rather than being born in sin because of something Adam did, humanity has an “evil inclination,” meaning humans are, for whatever reason, prone to disobey God.”

    Potato, potahto. 🙂 Whatever Augustine’s other faults (and they are many), he at least got this much right – we are all born sinful bastards. We can argue over the mechanism, but the results are undeniable.

    • Robert F says:

      Humanity having an inclination to evil is not the same as babies being “born sinful bastards”. It doesn’t imply that babies are already sinful when they come into the world; evil is real only when sinful actions are taken, and there is no guilty verdict pronounced on the individual before the commission of the act. This makes a huge difference for the theological geniality of your one’s anthropology, it changes the language and thinking about what it means to be born human, and that necessarily changes the way human beings treat each other.

      • “Humanity having an inclination to evil is not the same as babies being “born sinful bastards”

        isn’t it? Sounds like a distinction without a difference to me…

        “evil is real only when sinful actions are taken”

        Jesus’s teachings on adultery in the Sermon on the Mount belie that sentiment.

        • Robert F says:

          Are you accusing Jesus of being a systematic theologian? Low blow!!

          Notice he said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me”, not, “Suffer the miserable little wretches to approach.”

          • That’s a whole different topic. No distractions please. 😉 You still have to deal with the “If anyone looks upon a woman with lust…” passage.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              I can deal with that passage effortlessly – what if anyone looks upon a woman without lust? Well, Total Depravity just went out the window. Problem solved. Next.

              • To quote the great John Cleese, “Explain to me the logic underlying that conclusion.”

              • I’m not sure how that passage can be read in any other way than “an evil thought is as bad as en evil deed in God’s eyes”.

                • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                  That passage does not condemn every thought at as evil. So?

                • Not “as bad as”, more “no different than”. He’s speaking towards Pride, not sin.

                • Clay Crouch says:

                  I thought in this passage Jesus was addressing man’s desire for self righteousness, not some sin nature boogeyman.

                  • And self-righteousness is but one more manifestation of the sin nature.

                    • Clay Crouch says:

                      No, not really I suggest that you read some Robert Capon and Richard Rohr. It might clear your head and set you free.

                    • Good suggestion Clay C.

                      Capon would say that religion is our effort to track and expunge our own sense of guilt–which is really guilt–and to do it in ways that God does not.

                      “[…] even God is not above dropping the subject of sins. If you think about the death of God incarnate in Jesus on the cross, what is that if not the gift of God’s silence to the world? After millennia of divine jawboning about the holiness of justice and the wickedness of sin, God himself simply shuts up about the whole business. He dies as a criminal, under the curse of the Law – as if to say, ‘Look, I’m as guilty as you are in this situation because I set it up in the first place; let’s just forget about blame and get on with the party.’ ”

                      (From The Mystery of Christ… & Why We Don’t Get It)

                      I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these.
                      Is. 45:7 KJV

                      “In God’s world good and evil are an ecology. The whole world is an ecology of opposites dancing with each other. And God loves their dance. The real sin at the tree of knowledge of good and evil was man trying to manage good and evil as God does not manage them. God lets evil be. Given the actions of people God is not, except in very rare circumstances, in the business of preventing their consequences.”

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=-ueqWpyKOvo#t=1213

                      The entire human race is profoundly and desperately religious. From the dim beginnings of our history right up to the present day, there is not a man, woman, or child of us who has ever been immune to the temptation to think that the relationship between God and humanity can be repaired from our side, by our efforts. Whether those efforts involve creedal correctness, cultic performances, or ethical achievements—or whether they amount to little more than crassly superstitious behavior—we are all, at some deep level, com¬mitted to them. If we are not convinced that God can be conned into being favorable to us by dint of our doctrinal orthodoxy, or chicken sacrifices, or the gritting of our moral teeth, we still have a hard time shaking the belief that stepping over sidewalk cracks, or hanging up the bath towel so the label won’t show, will somehow render the Ruler of the Universe kindhearted, softheaded, or both.

                      But as the Epistle to the Hebrews pointed out long ago, all such behavior is bunk. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins, nor can any other religious act do what it sets out to do. Either it is ineffective for its purpose, or the supposedly effective intellec¬tual, spiritual, or moral uprightness it counts on to do the job is simply unavailable. The point is, we haven’t got a card in our hand that can take even a single trick against God. Religion, therefore— despite the correctness of its insistence that something needs to done about our relationship with God—remains unqualified news: it traps us in a game we will always and everywhere lose.
                      But the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is precisely Good News. It is the announcement, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that God has simply called off the game—that he has taken all the disasters religion was trying to remedy and, without any recourse to religion at all, set them to rights by himself. How sad, then, when the church acts as if it is in the religion business rather than in the Gospel-proclaiming business. What a disservice, not (only to itself but to a world perpetually sinking in the quagmire of religiosity, when it harps on creed, cult, and conduct as the touch-stones of salvation. What a perversion of the truth that sets us free (John 8:32) when it takes the news that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8), and turns it into a proclamation of God as just one more insufferable bookkeeper.

                      (The Parables of Grace, chapt. 3)

                      I would say that “original sin” is in reality a symptom of separation anxiety that we experience when our mother begins to insist that we as toddlers are not attached to her hip.

                • Do infants have evil thoughts? I don’t remember having any when I was an infant; do you?

                  • Perhaps not, but I have seen an 18month old toddler whack a baby on the head with a toy mallet. Just for the lulz.

                    • Survivor says:

                      You clearly don’t understand toddler development. He hasn’t yet learnt it’s unkind (bad, if you will) to hit. He is not mentally capable of that. And if he does learn it, he will still try to hit, not because he’s being bad but because ‘well it wasn’t okay here but is it okay now? How about now? What if I do this way?’

                    • Oh, he knew. He thought it was funny as the baby cried. “Toddler development” my eye.

            • Iain Lovejoy says:

              It’s about divorce and remarriage. Under Jewish law a woman divorced can remarry whomsoever she likes. The only restriction is if she has committed adultery she may never marry the man with whom she committed adultery. Consequently, if a woman was granted a divorce from her husband in order to marry someone else and her husband agreed it was all lawful and above board and no-one committed adultery, provided the new husband and the woman hadn’t slept with each other yet. Jesus’s point was that in such a scenario it was indeed adultery, because her new lover had already committed adultery with her “in his heart”, which was why they had sought a divorce from her husband in the first place.
              (This is why Jesus specifically refers to adultery, which can only be committed with a married woman.)

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Potato, potahto.

      Fluffy bunny, Tyrannosaur. 🙂 The step from story and moral to Theology is a big one. And from that first step you can take the next step and the next step until you have a library full of books of which the reading has no reward except arrogance.

      Inclination to Original Sin to Total Depravity…

      • “The step from story and moral to Theology is a big one.”

        And if Genesis was the only place that our “inclination to evil” was discussed in scripture I’d be less dogmatic. 😉

        “And from that first step you can take the next step and the next step until you have a library full of books of which the reading has no reward except arrogance.”

        Even the process of theology proves my point. :-/

        • Well if you frame “inclination towards evil” as “disagrees with the religious leaders and their tribal deity”…

          Justice is an inclination towards evil.

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      The Eastern Church, as much as I can understand it, views the problem not as sin and bastardliness, but of death. Adam and Eve turned away from the fount of Life and became disciples of the Serpent, and so began to learn the ways of death. As Adam was not created either immortal or mortal, but with the capacity to become either, God didn’t take immortality from him because He was pissed off at Adam and wanted to get back at him for breaking the Law. Adam’s communion with the serpent introduced Death into the web and with death, fear, usually fear of loss of control.

      I think fear gets short shrift as a motivator of our actions; fear and shame, although I think shame is primarily a fear of being found out. Everybody I’ve ever met is absolutely terrified, myself included.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Eastern Church makes a lot of sense on that issue; a matter of Life vs Death.

        And as for fear, when I was in-country I encountered NOTHING else, from Hal Lindsay to Jack Chick. Fundagelicalism is based on Fear — Fear of Hell, Fear of God’s Wrath, Fear of Being Left Behind, Fear of The Other Du Jour. Fear is an excellent whip for keeping people in line, and God just holds the Biggest Whip of All.

        “Fear Always Works!”
        — Acting Mayor Bellweather, Zootopia

    • Donalbain says:

      I deny your “results”. I deny that humans are all bastards. I weep that you see the world that way.

  2. Bryant Lindsay says:

    No the yetzer hara is an inclination to do what pleases you. It is evil when we do what we wish instead of God’s wish. It is really the very essence of free will.

    • But if our “inclination” is towards evil, it’s not a totally free choice, is it? 😉

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > it’s not a totally free choice,

        And there’s the rub! What makes a choice “totally” free? And down the rabbit hole we go!

        I feel the important distinction is that an “inclination” is a rather nebulous thing, which may wax and wane, and is not in any specific situation predictive. So “original sin” generally speaking is not far from that; but you get l-o-n-g unfruitful conversation about defining precisely what “original sin” is – and NOW IT HAS A METHODOLOGY – and from the forest of words grows the tree of “Total Depravity” which bears no resemblance to its ancestor but cites her as its origin. And now having Total Depravity we must split Grace into “Prevenient” Grace, “Common” Grace, and a possible “Irresistible” Grace [having lost the non-predictive nature of inclination completely – as such a tenuous thing cannot be made to concord with our wise and mighty extrapolations].

        All to what possible good or useful end?

        • Robert F says:

          But Total Depravity isn’t as bad as it sounds, according to its supporters. So don’t worry, but don’t be happy either, you miserable wretch. (Inert smiley face HERE).

          • Which is, on the face of it, a much truer description of reality for most people than the “we’re all basically good” codswallop.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              JMJ/Christian Monist once related a (punk?) band at a local musical event:

              “I’m F’ed up!
              You’re F’ed up!
              He’s F’ed up!
              She’s F’ed up!
              WE’RE ALL F’ED UP!”

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Yeah.

            If someone has to follow everything they say with “what that really means is…” then what they said was probably rubbish.

            “Yes, I said you were a wholly corrupt reprobate bastard, but really I mean that in the most helpful and loving way; God loves you”. . . . .edit – for – valuable – content: “God loves you”. And shorter too!

            Aside: If one ever gets the opportunity I strongly recommend the “if that is what you meant why didn’t you say that in the first place” response. It is illuminating how very angry that makes many people – perhaps they love the particular words more than they cherish what they mean?

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              In my line of work, I encounter “When we say ABC, you should know we really mean XYZ!” a LOT.

              Four-five years until I can finally retire… I need a countdown-clock app.

        • To what good and useful end? Perhaps self-understanding? In any case, there are any number of human beings, myself included, who look at the world and attempt to make sense out of it. Asking us to not do that is like asking us to not breathe.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            We possibly disagree if Theology contributes to “sense”. I am skeptical. Or I believe it can, when carried very lightly, and that if carried too tightly it blinds the bearer.

            Humility is very important to Making Sense; often we make far more Sense than our knowledge or perception warrants. Last weeks question of “What are you asking me to do?” is often a better question than “How does this work?” [to which, in my head, I often hear Christ’s response: “What is that to you?”]

  3. Well, this discussion has taken an interesting turn from the start! A post stressing that the text is a story, which has been read in an overly theological manner, has elicited nothing but theological responses!

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      What did you want, CM? Neil Gaiman’s latest book, Norse Mythology, is on my nightstand right now. It is a clever and engaging read, but those stories don’t inform a body what to do. From what I gather of Peter Enns he kinda wishes we took the same attitude towards the stories in the Bible, and just let our grown-up common sense inform our actions. Go forth and fellate as long as you do it in lurve, or whatever, bruddahs. Oh yes, and be sure to vote for politicians who support redistributive policies, and so fulfill the law of Christ, whose concern for the poor for some reason is not a Story.

      Since Seneca’s not around, someone had to say it.

      • Oh Mule, now you’ve added the political/culture war perspective!

        The fact that it’s a story does not mean it has no theological meaning or significance. But this post is not so much about that as it is a recognition that the way we read something can get all caught up with things other than what is actually on the page.

        This post is simply an appeal to recognize that we are reading a story, and to read it as such, without bringing all of our cultural/theological/traditional baggage into it at the beginning.

        If we do that, I doubt that we will be lacking in divine instruction for our lives. It just might come out a bit differently than we’ve always assumed.

        • Burro (Mule) says:

          But all the baggage comes from the story, CM. Even the culture war comes from the story. This story is the spinal column of the Western tradition. Inject a virus here, and it’ll get out to the rest of the body quicker than if you prick an extremity.

          What does a man have that he has not received?

          • Ok, Mule, but the Eastern Church does not read the story in the Augustinian fashion, but in a way more like the Jewish perspective Pete writes about here. You can’t act as though there has always been a universal consensus about the exact meaning of the story.

            In fact, a more “Jewish” approach would say that is the great thing about stories — they lend themselves to a variety of perspectives. They lead us to wisdom as we ponder and discuss them. They do not pronounce propositional dogma.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              The Jewish people have an unfair advantage. They have “midrash” – diggin in the Torah for meaning – the Torah is typically reproduced with the various insights|ponderings|rantings of the various rabbis.

              We Christians [supposedly] try to go straight-to-the-text, which means we are almost always reading like through a monacle. And worst there are “study bibles” which conveniently represent A interpretation; or at least dog whistle that one interpretation is “accepted” and there are those “other” ones. Finding THE answer is so very baked in.

              I’ve mentioned it before, but this is why the Talmud is so very enlightening and liberating. It is a radically different way, but it takes the material no less seriously And it orients towards what one should DO – even to questioning if one should pray for needed rain before a holiday when many will be traveling. When was the last time a Christian pastor preached about that ethical conundrum? But they debate it for pages. Then after those debates – the various sides argued – no summary – no conclusion.

            • Burro (Mule) says:

              Like the post-Evangelical wilderness, there are a lot of roads out of the Augustinian impasse, Both Christian and Pliable escaped the Slough of Despond. If y’all want to join of the Eastern Church, welcome home. If you want to become Jews, Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

              Treating the Genesis story like I treat the stories of Thor and Loki on my bedstand is, probably, the most popular alternative, but I have to believe it is the wrong one.

              • I just want to try to read and understand what the Bible actually says. Period.

                • Me, too. I’ve annoyed several people during a men’s fellowship that I facilitate by refusing to go down theological/denominational paths. People want to yank things that way all the time, which is actually quite selfish when you think about it. “This text supports my insert-theological-stance-here.”

                  I’m quick to point out that there are other areas that support OTHER theological stances, so just put that in yours in your pocket and let’s look at what the text REALLY says, not what some theological/denominational brainchild says it says.

                • I just want to try to read and understand what the Bible actually says. Period.

                  But you can’t do that without interpreting. A recent post, or re-post, here at iMonk rightly asserted that it is wrong to think that you can just read the Bible without interpreting it. How is the assertion that you can read the Bible without interpreting it substantially different from the assertion that you can “just….read and understand what the Bible actually says”? There is no simple reading of the Bible stories, if simple means reading without interpretation.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Oh Mule, now you’ve added the political/culture war perspective!

          At which point, “I give Donald Trump Praise & Adoration” is only a matter of time and Entropy.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is an excellent book. But to be honest, he ia my favourite living author.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      A post stressing that the text is a story, which has been read in an overly theological manner, has elicited nothing but theological responses!

      When all you have is a Theological Hammer…

    • You can’t not read theology and purpose into and out of the story, CM. That’s the purpose of myths, after all. 😉

      • I wouldn’t disagree with that, Eeyore. But there are many people who would deny that stories can do that. They must have an inerrant historical report or propositional statement.

        • Used to be me, but I’m getting better. 😉

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          But there are many people who would deny that stories can do that. They must have an inerrant historical report or propositional statement.

          i.e. A checklist of FACT, FACT, FACT.
          Nothing more.

  4. I like viewing things from different angles, so I certainly enjoy reading Enns’ account.

    The potential problem with “it’s just a story” is the tendency in people to read/hear a story but not let it change them. It’s rather passive in nature, allowing for any message to either be debated (at best) or ignored (more likely). I mean, heck…here we are debating whether Genesis is just a story or not, let alone what the message of it might be!

    To further argue that “it’s just a story” is potentially problematic: I think most of us here would probably agree that reading the Bible and reading scriptures has changed them. Doesn’t that automatically make it “more than a story”? Don’t we come here to interact and learn because it’s “more than a story”? I mean, we don’t come here to debate the symbolism of Moby Dick or the potential that Jar Jar Binks was a Sith Lord, do we? No, we come here because to us the Bible is more than a story. It has impacted us and changed us.

    And now, after having argued that side, I’ll take up the others with one simple comment:

    Jesus and his parables, stories meant to change people and their behavior.

    • Rick, come on. No one said “just a story” in the way you suggest. It is a story that has been accepted as sacred scripture, and of course that makes a difference.

      Still, there is difference in the way one reads and draws lessons from a story from the way one reads propositional statements of doctrine.

      • I said, “The POTENTIAL problem…” My assertion is that saying/claiming “it’s a story” has the POTENTIAL to make it more passive in nature and thus easier for people to choose to ignore the message. You don’t agree with that? If we begin telling people “it’s a story” yet expect them to be CHANGED by that story, it’s easier for them to wave you off with a dismissive “You told me it’s a story.”

        (I also offered a counterpoint to my own argument: Jesus’ parables.)

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          I think it is the insert of “just”; “just a story” vs. “is a story”. The first carries an embedded diminution.

          Anyway, I believe it is Dogma/Theology that is “passive”. Stories are anti-passive; a healthy human person cannot hear or read a story without entering it, at least a little bit.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Not just “a story”, but the Old Stories of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

        We need The Old Stories.
        If they are deconstructed, we will make New Old Stories.
        (Why do you think Superhero movies are so hot? They’re the only Stories of Heroes we have left. Kim Kardashian & Charlie Sheen, just don’t measure up that well in the Hero department.)

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > The potential problem with “it’s just a story” is the tendency in people to read/hear
      > a story but not let it change them.

      Is that any different than Theologizing a text? Does Dogma change people?

      Personally I suspect very little changes people OTHER THAN STORIES. Narration is the human’s second super power after all.

      That Jesus guy with his parables was onto something. 🙂

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    A key factor in my own growth as a Christian is something that wasn’t even on my radar screen during seminary or when I began my doctoral work: hearing Jewish voices talk about their Bible.</blockquote
    Where you learn that:

    Genesis 1 is a SONG, not a checklist of Fact, Fact, Fact on pain of Eternal Hell.

    Ezekiel was a nutbar with the dirtiest mouth of any of the prophets.

    A lot of the prophet's visions and prophecies (especially Amos) center around bad puns in the original Hebrew.

    "Subversive Wisdom of Torah" regarding such tribal norms as slavery and honor killings — banning them would be Crazy Talk and disregarded, so Torah regulates them to the point they're not worth doing (and in the case of honor killings, requiring public permission from the "elders at the gate" which defeats the whole purpose).

    And continuous narrative instead of one-verse proof text incantations.

  6. Christiane says:

    I’m confused. 🙂

  7. Christiane says:

    “Jewish theology doesn’t depend on Augustine (or Paul), and so they read the story differently. Rather than being born in sin because of something Adam did, humanity has an “evil inclination,” meaning humans are, for whatever reason, prone to disobey God.” (quote from the post)

    ” an inclination to sin that Tradition calls ‘concupiscence’ ” (Catholic tradition)

    so, are these two concepts related, similar, the same, or not? . . . Our Lord talks about ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’

    connections in meaning????

    ?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Just that every time I’ve heard the word ‘concupiscence’, it’s always had SEXUAL overtones. Is this another example of “One-Track Minds”?

  8. Dana Ames says:

    CM wrote that all he wants to do is read and understand what the Bible actually says.

    I think that’s what every sincere Christian wants.

    But there’s a problem, and that problem is getting at the MEANING. With some parts of the Bible, the text just about screams at you that there is a different meaning underneath it. And we get right back around to Interpretation.

    Enns is right in that the first part of Genesis should not be read “literally”. Ok, fine – so how then to interpret it? Enns is also right that Jewish tradition has resources to which we should pay attention. Enns is wrong that all the fourth century Church Fathers took the same view as Augustine. They most emphatically did not.

    I BEG YOU (yes, I’m shouting, and jumping up and down and waving my arms, too) to mosey on over to Fr Stephen’s blog and read the second-most-recent post AND Fr Stephen’s comments: The Singular Goodness of God. The post itself is outstanding, and like this post the comments took a different turn – into the subject of how the Eastern Fathers took the MEANING of the OT, and historicity, “fact”, etc. No need to read all the comments, unless you want to know exactly what point Fr S is addressing in any particular answer – just read his. There’s so much more to it than simply treating Adam and Eve as “story”, as Mule has pointed out. PLEASE! GO READ IT!

    Dana

    • Christiane says:
    • john barry says:

      Dana, I “moseyed” over to the blog of Father Stephen as I like the word mosey and your sincere recommendation. I moseyed over in the manner of Gabby Hayes and Walter Brennen who were masters of moseying.

      Seriously, I loved the article. It really is well written and simple yet revealing. Anyway I can see why you were so intense in your feelings on the value of the article. I got it . Thanks for sharing it. Just good stuff to reflect and ponder.

      • Dana Ames says:

        jb, hope you read Fr Stephen’s comments, too – that’s the point of my enthusiasm as to how they relate to the post here on iMonk.

        Dana

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Great article and comments, Dana. I even posted it to my FB page!

    • Dana, I haven’t read the article by Fr. Stephen, but I agree with the substance of your comment, and I think it hits the nail on the head. The idea that we can simply read what the Bible stories actually say, without interpretation, participates in the same kind of fallacy as the fundamentalist idea that we should read the Bible “literally”, without interpretation: no one has ever done either, and no one can.

  9. Christiane says:
  10. Christiane says:

    Let the Genesis story be shrouded in mystery for those of us who need that.

    The imagery in Genesis is so rich, far too rich to be consigned to a ‘literal’ translation by them what uses the sacred Scriptures to uphold the worst kind of hatred towards those who are different from themselves.
    They can have their ‘Creation Museums’. And they can be contemptuous of the sad Earth that is sending us all signals now that it is distressed by misuse and abuse.

    I feel that for some among us, the mystery and beauty and sacredness of Creation is not something they were meant to know because it can neither be felt or comprehended by those who hold so much in contempt that is dear to the Creator.

    • Pellicano Solitudinis says:

      “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”

  11. Crochetman says:

    The interpretation I have adopted for the Adam and Eve story comes from a rabbi who sees this as a rite of passage story, moving from a child-like state to a more mature state be it in sexuality at puberty or a more critical reading of religious source material as one’s faith develops to developing a more mature concept of right and wrong with increasing maturity. Transition can be messy and painful leading to feeling of shame in Jewish eyes or guilt in Christian eyes and we need stories to help us cope with these times, which is why the Adam & Eve story has persisted in both Jewish and Christian scripture.