Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr Dwight Longenecker

2/6/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Difficulties with the faith are not only permissible, they are to be encouraged because it is through facing the difficulties that we think through our faith and discover solutions.

I reminded him that the stories in Genesis are ancient Hebrew creation myths. They are symbolic stories that incarnate the truth. They are not necessarily factual reports of exactly what happened. However, it is not true that the stories are intended to be merely myth-that is a fairy tale that didn't happen at all.The Jewish writers are intent to show that God's interaction with humanity is historical and real and not mythological in the fairy tale sense. Consequently, we affirm that Adam and Eve were historical figures-how and when they lived and the details of their fall from grace are open to speculation based on the Biblical account.

Highlights

By Fr Dwight Longenecker

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/6/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Bible, Genesis, creationism, exegesis, Adam and Eve, Eden, biblical interpretation, creation account, Romance of Religion, Standing on My Head, Fr Dwight Longenecker


GREENVILLE, SC (Catholic Online) - One of the interesting things about conducing a parish mission is how many people stay behind to ask really probing questions. Last year, while out on such a mission, a man we'll call Frank asked me if it was wrong not to believe certain things the church teaches.

He's a scientist and he said he simply can't accept the story of Adam and Eve. He asked if it was true that the church expects us to believe in a historical Adam and Eve.

So I explained the difference between a doubt and a difficulty. A difficulty is when you are confronted with something seemingly incredible or impossible and you say, "How can that be?" You retain curiosity and open and enquiring mind. That's OK.

A doubt is when you are confronted with the incredible or impossible and you say, "That can't be." At that point you've closed your mind and cut off enquiry and possible solutions to the problem.

Difficulties with the faith are not only permissible, they are to be encouraged because it is through facing the difficulties that we think through our faith and discover solutions. The mindset of "How can that be?" is full of wonder and trust and most of all-open mindedness. Doubt is negative, self righteous and closes down.

So what are we to do with the story of Adam and Eve? I asked Frank what he didn't believe about Adam and Eve. It turned out that he was a former Baptist and what he didn't believe was the picture book Bible story fundamentalist version of the second chapter of Genesis. He didn't believe in a handsome naked man standing behind a waist high bush and a beautiful naked woman with long hair discreetly covering her bosom as she talked with a snake about an apple. He didn't believe there were only two people in the world who lived in a garden somewhere around Iraq about six thousand years ago.

Good, because you don't have to believe all that about Adam and Eve to be a good Catholic. All you have to believe is that there was, somewhere at some point in time a man and a woman who were our first parents and that they made a monumental choice to disobey God. I reminded him that the stories in Genesis are ancient Hebrew creation myths. They are symbolic stories that incarnate the truth. They are not necessarily factual reports of exactly what happened. However, it is not true that the stories are intended to be merely myth-that is a fairy tale that didn't happen at all.

So when and where did they live? The answer is, we don't know. The stories in the first twelve chapters of Genesis are lost in the mists of what we call "pre-history". It is only with Father Abraham that we can begin to piece together historical places and people. What can we say about Adam and Eve? First of all, we can conclude that they were not the only people or humanoids on earth at the time because their son Cain went out and found a wife.

My own theory is that there were other human-type creatures on earth, but that Adam and Eve were the first specially created humans with souls, with free will and perhaps the first with language. They were the first to have a relationship with God, and therefore the first parents of all who believe. Did they live in a garden? Were they naked? Did they talk to a snake? Did they eat an apple? Was there a tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

I'm not saying there wasn't, but it is possible to believe that most of these elements of the story are symbolic, but that the essential story is that a specially created man and woman lived on the earth in a state of child-like innocence and bliss-that they had a unique relationship with God which they spoiled by disobedience. The rest of the details can remain open ended. You may believe it all literally, but you needn't.

Why does it matter? It matters because our faith is historical. From the beginning of the book of Genesis, through the genealogies of the Jews we are reminded that the characters from pre-history are linked with the characters we know are historical.

The Jewish writers are intent to show that God's interaction with humanity is historical and real and not mythological in the fairy tale sense. Consequently, we affirm that Adam and Eve were historical figures-how and when they lived and the details of their fall from grace are open to speculation based on the Biblical account.

-----

More on this topic can be found at Father Longenecker's blog, Standing on My Head. Go here.
Dwight Longenecker's latest book The Romance of Religion explores the relationship between faith and myth and encourages readers to embark on the great adventure of following Jesus Christ.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More U.S.

Mexican drug cartels fueling U.S. heroin epidemic Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The insidious Mexican drug cartels are having a massively detrimental effect on U.S. communities. The cartels have flooded the cities and suburbs with far more potent, less expensive heroin, sending overdose deaths skyrocketing. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


African-American churches frequently targeted by arsonists Watch

Image of African American churches are targeted by arsons more than any other houses of worship. The ATF's results have been reported to a national database of church fires.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There have been 29 cases of churches being torched by arsonists in the United States this year alone. Frequently, African-American churches are set alight by arsonists because of racism, religious intolerance, or vandalism. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Anytime ... continue reading


Planned Parenthood threatened to be exposed with EIGHT MORE undercover videos Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The series of unfortunate events will keep on rolling for Planned Parenthood as the founder of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), David Daleiden, shared with conservative radio host Sean Hannity that there are eight more undercover videos that will reveal Planned ... continue reading


Remains of four early leaders of America uncovered in Jamestown with Catholic artifacts Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Under the floor of a Jamestown church, four body remains of the earliest English colonial leaders in America were unearthed. One was identified as Captain John Smith's rival, who researchers speculate to be part of a secret Catholic cell because of some artifacts ... continue reading


Planned Parenthood caught in FOURTH VIDEO showing the horrific practices of selling aborted baby organs

Image of Dr. Savita Ginde, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains' Vice President and Medical Director, standing in the harvesting lab.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Another new Planned Parenthood expose video has been released, making this the second video this week and the fourth revealing hidden camera video in total. The Center for Medical Progress claims to have hours upon hours of footage exposing Planned Parenthood of ... continue reading


AMC movie theaters issue warning to moviegoers urging them to stay vigilant during visit Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A unusual video message is being played at AMC Theaters in Central Florida, urging the audience to keep their eyes open to any bad agendas and malicious or suspicious actions within the establishment. The short film came to be after violent incidents inside movie ... continue reading


A massive 30,000 more immigrants expected to arrive to U.S. before year's end Watch

Image of Illegal immigrants continues to cross the U.S. border.q

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The number of illegal immigrant children and teens in the United States continues to increase. The United Nations and other humanitarian groups predict that a total of 30,000 more are expected to reach the U.S. before the year ends. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic ... continue reading


The youngest convicted murders released from jail after 15 years Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

At just 12 and 13-years-old, two siblings confessed to killing their father's girlfriend and both were charged with first-degree murder as adults, despite evidence they were sexually abused by a family member. Yesterday, the two first faced the world they once knew. ... continue reading


Satanic statue secretly unveiled in Detroit, drawing Christian protest Watch

Image of Satanists secretly unveiled a nine-foot, one-ton statue of Baphomet, the horned devil god of satanic practice in an undisclosed location in Detroit this past weekend.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Satanists secretly unveiled a nine-foot, one-ton statue of Baphomet, the horned devil god of satanic practice in an undisclosed location in Detroit this past weekend. This has spurred on heavy protest from the city's Christian community. Hundreds gathered at Detroit's ... continue reading


Will Pope Francis be warmly welcomed in the United States? Watch

Image of Pope Francis will be in the United States in September.

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will visit the United States for the first time ever in his lifetime during September. However, amid the excitement, the American populace may have lost some warmth towards the pontiff, who they once believed revived the Catholic Church in the country. ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
2 And the whole community of Israelites began ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
3 What we have heard and know, what our ancestors ... Read More

Gospel, John 6:24-35
24 When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his ... Read More

Reading 2, Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
17 So this I say to you and attest to you in the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 2nd, 2015 Image

St. Eusebius of Vercelli
August 2: Christians who breathed a sigh of relief when Constantine ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter