Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr Dwight Longenecker

2/6/2014 (5 months 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 (5 months 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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More U.S.

Thousands of Christians Flee Under Death Threat From Tyrannical Caliph and ISIS Jihadists Watch

Image of (Pictured: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, or Caliph Ibrahim) At first, Christians were ordered to gather in a central place to receive the directive from the self appointed Caliph. Understandably, given the track record of this maniacal tyrant, few did. So, the text of the statement was issued as a formal declaration to all Christians - We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of Jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

By now, everyone who is in anyway concerned about what is happening to Christians in Iraq has heard the horrific news. The madman who claims to be a descendant of Mohammed, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi - who in his delusion and grandiosity has taken to calling himself ... continue reading


A Tribute to Protestant Bishop Tony Palmer, Friend of Francis and Champion of Christian Unity Watch

Image of The late Bishop Tony Palmer with Pope Francis- He was catapulted into prominence in the broader Christian community when, while meeting with his friend the Pope in January, he was given a recorded message from Francis to deliver to a large group of charismatic, evangelical protestant leaders who gathered in the United States. The video went viral. It moved millions to sincere prayer for the healing of the divisions in the broken Body of Christ and is prompting a renewed commitment to common apostolic action between Christians.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I never personally met Bishop Tony Palmer. However, I look forward to spending an eternity in the full communion of God's love with him. I appreciated his Christian courage and felt that his efforts were prophetic. He wrote his life - and lived his ministry - ... continue reading


Exclusive: Tribute to Bishop Tony Palmer, A Life Dedicated to Unity Watch

Image of (Pictured: Left to Right - Dirk West, Matteo Callisi, Bishop Tony Palmer, and Deacon Darrell Wentworth) - Faith to Bishop Tony Palmer was a dynamic, lived experience and, as a result, his life built up the whole Body of Christ and tore down the walls some have built to separate us from each other! What a legacy! A true example of living Jesus' prayer in John 17! (Deacon Darrell Wentworth)

By Deacon Darrell Wentworth

Monday, July 21, 2014, was supposed to be like most Mondays - the start of a work week. But Deacon Keith Fournier sent me a text informing me that my friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, had died. Shock went through my body as I processed that news; then disbelief as I ... continue reading


Anarchy in Chicago! Weekend of crime tears city apart Watch

Image of The weekend of July 18 saw the death of five people and the wounding of 47 in Chicago.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There were 47 shooting victims in Chicago this weekend, five of which ended up being fatal, statistics from the Chicago Police Department report. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chicago officials met on July 21 to discuss the city's recent surge in gun ... continue reading


The Contraceptive New York Nanny, Bill Donohue and the Catholic League Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The idea that the government is now in the business of arm-twisting women not to have more children - immediately after childbirth - is morally obnoxious and socially disturbing. It is so apt that this is happening in a city where its mayor lusts for abortion ... continue reading


Building a culture of life: Colorado clinic takes brave stand Watch

Image of Inspired to bring their mission home to Colorado, they decided to start a natural women's health clinic that would uphold the dignity of women and give them the care they deserve.

By CNA/EWTN News

A Colorado women's health clinic seeking to offer natural care that respects human dignity has drawn praise for helping to build up a culture of life. (CNA/EWTN News) - Authentic women's care "is essential to the pro-life movement," said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, ... continue reading


When more than 80 percent of California faces extreme drought -- the spigots remain open Watch

Image of At the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, fountains are still operating. The one change is that they turn off at mid-morning, and haven't been running full-time since the spring.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Extremely dry conditions in the state of California has 80 percent of the so-called Golden State in extreme drought conditions. Many couldn't tell the difference in many urban areas: Sprinklers go full blast on many lawns, and lots of waters goes wasted by ... continue reading


IT'S ABOUT TIME: Rick Perry deploys national guard to halt southern invasion! Watch

Image of Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border, in an effort to stem the flood of illegals that have crossed over throughout 2014.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In an effort to stem the influx of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children that have been entering the United States illegally in 2014, Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


Is Mount Rainier about to blow? A new study promises to reveal clues about an upcoming eruption Watch

Image of Mount Rainier is the tallest volcano and the fifth-highest peak in the contiguous United States, towering more than 14,400 feet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A huge magma reservoir below Mount Rainier in Washington state has been mapped by American and Norwegian researchers, which may provide subtle clues as to when the volcano will next erupt. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This huge magma reservoir was formed as ... continue reading


BUSTED: FedEx indicted on numerous counts for shipping illegal internet pharmacy drugs Watch

Image of Online pharmacies, operating beneath the radar of drug regulation, often make drugs intended for pain control and psychiatric needs available for illegal recreational purposes.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Online pharmacies, operating beneath the radar of drug regulation, often make drugs intended for pain control and psychiatric needs available for illegal recreational purposes. As a result, FedEx Corp. - a trusted mail delivery system has now was indicted for ... 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, Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10
1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:1-9
1 That same day, Jesus left the house and sat by the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Bridget of Sweden
July 23: Saint Birgitta was the daughter of Upplandís Lagman, Birger ... 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