Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr Dwight Longenecker

2/6/2014 (2 years 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 (2 years 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'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2016
Universal:
Respect for Women: That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed.
Evangelization: Holy Rosary: That families, communities, and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace.



Comments


More U.S.

The Feast of the Ascension is the Portal to Eternity Watch

Image of We really can participate in the Divine Nature - beginning now - and continuing for all eternity. We are in communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and with one another.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The Ascension invites us to reflect on who Jesus is - and who we are empowered to become in Him, beginning now and opening up into the life to come. He is indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus helps to ... continue reading


LET US PRAY! National Day of Prayer calls on Americans to come together in prayer Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

On April 17, 1952, President Truman initiated a law calling on the President to set a National Day of Prayer every year; a day where Americans can "turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals." In 1988, Congress specified the ... continue reading


President Obama's Declaration of a National Day of Prayer (FULL TEXT) Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

"Our country was founded on the idea of religious freedom," wrote President Barack Obama. "On National Day of Prayer, we rededicate ourselves to extending this freedom to all people." READ OBAMA'S FULL STATEMENTS BELOW: In times of steady calm and extraordinary ... continue reading


Cinco de Mayo, the Fifth of May: A Day to Celebrate Heritage and History

Image of On May 5, 1862 the smaller Mexican army, with older, more inferior weapons and equipment, defeated the French at Puebla, southwest of Mexico City.

By Fr Randy Sly

Cinco de Mayo currently has only a regional importance in Mexico. In the United States and other countries, however, the day has come to be known as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. Like St. Patrick's Day and Oktoberfest, one doesn't need to be of ... continue reading


Catholic woman heartlessly fired for refusing to support Scientology Watch

Image of Catholic woman denied pay raises and pressured to watch Scientology videos before being fired (Wikipedia).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Grecia Echevarria-Hernandez is a Catholic who was pressured to take part in Scientology at work. When she refused, she was passed up when raises were available and was eventually fired. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Echevarria-Hernandez filed a wrongful ... continue reading


Captain James Cook wreckage discovered! Watch

Image of Legendary British explorer Captain James Cook's vessel is believed to have been discovered (John Webber).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Captain James Cook was a famous British explorer who commanded the HMS Endeavour from 1768 to 1771. Since it was intentionally sunk, its whereabouts fell into question - until now? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to CNN, researchers from  the Rhode ... continue reading


You won't believe why this ICONIC WWII image is being investigated! Watch

Image of Two amateur historians raised questions concerning a service member in the image (Corbis).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Two amateur historians believe one of the men in the iconic Mount Suribachi image was misidentified, prompting a Marine Corp investigation. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The image, taken by the Associated Press' Joe Rosenthal, reveals the struggle six servicemen ... continue reading


Puerto Rico drowns in debt - What is the U.S. going to do about it? Watch

Image of Puerto Rico missed its first nearly $400 million bond payment (YouTube).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

U.S. territory Puerto Rico defaulted its first payment of nearly $400 million - so what is the territory going to do? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Puerto Rico has suffered a recession for the past decade, resulting in the government borrowing money from foreign ... continue reading


ISIS kills U.S. Navy SEAL in violent attack Watch

Image of ISIS breaks Peshmerga lins to kill U.S. Navy SEAL (navysealsmuseum).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in the line of duty when ISIS forces pushed their way through a Kurdish Peshmerga line. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "It is a combat death, of course. And a very sad loss," U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said during an official ... continue reading


'It was an escape:' father of Scientology founder tells all Watch

Image of Ron Miscavige, the father of Scientology leader David Miscavige, opens up (20/20)

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Ron and Becky Miscavige escaped the California Scientology compound known as the "Gold Base" and have stepped forward to share their story. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Scientology is a quiet religion shrouded in secrets - many of which are believed to be ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • 'The doctors were shocked': Conjoined twins share unusual bond
  • Daily Reading for Monday, May 9th, 2016 HD Video
  • Daily Reading for Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 HD Video
  • Historical Jubilee documents on display!
  • Bl. Edward Jones: Saint of the Day for Friday, May 06, 2016
  • The gruesome way scientists are killing unborn babies in school ...
  • Daily Readings for Friday, May 06, 2016

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 1:1-11
1 In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
2 For Yahweh, the Most High, is glorious, the great king over all the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:46-53
46 and he said to them, 'So it is written that the Christ would suffer ... Read More

Reading 2, Ephesians 1:17-23
17 May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 5th, 2016 Image

St. Hilary of Arles
May 5: Bishop of Arles, France, and friend and relative ... Read More