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 March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

Play-doh Christianity and the Vanishing Cross

Image of Bell can have his happy-clappy, navel-centered religion and his wimpy god. He just can't call it Christianity, and he can't claim it's the Church.

By Jennifer Hartline

There is no Christianity without Christ, and no Christ without the cross. There was no need for the cross except for our Redemption, and no need for that except for our sin. To preach Christianity without preaching repentance from sin and taking up your cross is ... continue reading


Bella's Gift: The Santorum Book that Keeps on Giving Watch

Image of The book, Bella's Gift, has shaken me. On more than one occasion, it has forced me to my knees in tears. That is because, in a candid, honest, profoundly spiritual way, this splendidly written book puts the reader in the presence of unconditional love. then, through its deep spiritual truths, it unleashes the dynamic power of amazing grace.

By Keith A Fournier

I was with Rick Santorum at the Awakening Conference in Orlando, Florida. Rick and Karen Santorum are personal friends. Their whole family is a source of inspiration to me. But most especially, that little Princess named Bella Santorum. She is the center, the ... continue reading


McDonald's does the unthinkable - Big Mac Shop launches McFashion clothing line Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fast food conglomerate McDonald's had released its own fashion and lifestyle line, with the clothes full of Big Mac prints on them. The McFashion debuted on Tuesday in Sweden, in celebration of their most recent campaign, "I'm Lovin' It 24." Profit generated from the ... continue reading


Top Stories of the Week You Can't Miss Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

From a tragic airplane crash that killed 150 people to the blood of St. Januarius liquifying, this week in news has been quite a roller coaster. We saw nuns mob Pope Francis, a father lose seven of his eight children in a horrifying fire and the first announced ... continue reading


Majority of Latinos in United States speak English Watch

Image of  Latinos who only speak English are often ostracized by Latinos who only speak Spanish or are bilingual. Many Latinos, upon being hired for positions, are presumed to know and speak Spanish.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While it would appear to some to be contrary, the majority of Latinos within the continental United States, 62 percent, speak English. A new analysis of the Pew Research Center's 2013 National Survey of Latinos has found that the current demographics will ... continue reading


The Christian Feast of the Annunciation is About More than Mary Watch

Image of The Annunciation: The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you. (Luke 1:26,27)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Walking along this Way of Yes, leads us into a dialogue, a conversation, a communion, a new Way of life, the Christian Way. By saying Yes, offering our own Fiat, we become consecrated and enlisted in the ongoing mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mary shows us that ... continue reading


Where's the most hate in the United States? A look into the top states with the highest amount of hate groups may shock you Watch

Image of There is hope. According to the center,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While California is typically known for laidback attitudes and acceptance of diversity - it comes as a shock to learn that the Golden State has the largest amount of "hate groups" across the United States. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the ... continue reading


Fox News asks New York City's party district if they are proud to be an American: Watch their unbelievable responses (VIDEO) Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fox News producer, Jesse Watters, took to the streets in the "party district" of New York City to sample the opinion a certain demographic has toward America. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As a part of Watters' World and The O'Reilly Factor, Watters asks people ... continue reading


What would you do to get your childhood back? People spend big money to find their inner child in adult preschool Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Preschool Mastermind is a preschool for the adults in Brooklyn; it started the first week of March and ends the last week. Students come in every week, trying to get in touch with the magical world they left behind as their childhood ended. However, this adult ... continue reading


'Meet the Animals' SeaWorld continues to fight negative publicity from 'Blackfish' with new campaign Watch

Image of SeaWorld comes back to negative reviews with the

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. releases their new campaign, ahead of a book release by their former trainer John Hargrove. The company received a rapid decrease in audience attendance and revenue from negative responses after the release "Blackfish," a documentary ... 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 20:10-13
10 I heard so many disparaging me, 'Terror on every ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 18:2-3, 3-4, 5-6, 7
2 Yahweh is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer is ... Read More

Gospel, John 10:31-42
31 The Jews fetched stones to stone him,32 ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 27th, 2015 Image

St. Rupert
March 27: Bishop and missionary, also listed as Robert of Hrodbert. A ... 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