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 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2016
Universal:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More U.S.

Former Catholic priest arrested in connection with beauty queen's murder - 56 years later Watch

Image of Now a married grandfather, former Catholic priest John Feit is accused in the 1960 murder of 27-year-old Irene Garza in 1960 (CNN).

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Many thought, but few actually believed that a small town Catholic priest would be capable of such a savage crime. Fifty-six long years later, former priest John Feit, now a married grandfather living in Arizona has been arrested in connection with the 1960 ... continue reading


Ash Wednesday and Lent. It Works if you Work It Watch

Image of After receiving the ashes, we are exhorted to leave the Church as penitents and pilgrims and continue in a Christian way of life every day

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If we enter into the observance of Lent with our entire person, it can draw us, at its' closure, into a deeper embrace and experience of the power of the Resurrection, beginning right now and stretching into eternity. Our frequent liturgical celebrations present ... continue reading


No Catholic or other Christian Should Support the Candidacy of Bernie Sanders Watch

Image of Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America, denies the fundamental Human Right to Life of children in the womb.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Legalized abortion on demand is an open rejection of the entire ethic of being our brothers (and sisters) keeper. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children and calls it a right. No ... continue reading


Mardi Gras' several names and traditions: How is it celebrated around the world? Watch

Image of Mardi Gras is famous for its colors, masks, beads, food, floats and more (Pixabay)!

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

People around the world celebrate Fat Tuesday each year with regional traditions - but did you know it is a celebration with roots in Christianity?  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Fat Tuesday" is English for the French "Mardi Gras," and is traditionally ... continue reading


7 Fun facts about Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras celebrations Watch

Image of Mardi Gras first became a holiday in 1582.

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday; it comes directly before Ash Wednesday. "Mardi Gras is a raucous celebratory affair that serves as a final shebang before the 40-day abstinence of Lent," explains The Huffington Post. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Amidst all ... continue reading


605,000 undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses in California Watch

Image of California driver's licenses do not bestow any federal benefits to the recipient. State sources say the law is intended to make California roadways safer.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Thanks to a new California law known as AB60, which took effect on January 2, 2015, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV has handed out 605,000 driver's licenses to undocumented workers. It is estimated that 1.4 million migrants will receive licenses under ... continue reading


Center for Medical Progress releases another Planned Parenthood video despite injunction Watch

Image of Pro-life CMP stands against abortionists NAF (imgsuccess).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

After ousting illegal actions performed by Planned Parenthood clinics, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and its founder Daniel Daleiden, have been ordered to cease further distribution of illegally-obtained Planned Parenthood footage. Unfortunately for the ... continue reading


Huff Po Gestapo, beats down Trump, First Amendment with editorial billy club Watch

Image of Huffington Post has found a way to turn the First Amendment into a billy club for their PC police duties.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Liberal mouthpiece, The Huffington Post (not to be confused with an actual news organization) is pandering to liberal readers by posting an addendum at the end of every story about Donald Trump. The addendum labels Trump a "racist" and a "serial liar." LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Lower Your Nets For a Catch! We Are All Called to Evangelize Watch

Image of Lower your nets for a catch

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The New Evangelization is meant to bring about an authentic renewal of the Church so that she can then undertake a new missionary outreach to the whole world. Only a Church fully alive in the Lord and filled with His Spirit can carry out such an evangelical ... continue reading


'Church ladies' finally force phony priest in Los Angeles to authorities Watch

Image of Erwin Mena  was arrested by Los Angeles police for allegedly impersonating a Roman Catholic priest and on suspicion of grand theft (Los Angeles Times).

By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN News

For months, Erwin Mena donned vestments, called himself "Padre," and convinced Southern California Catholics that he was a priest, police say. Los Angeles, Calif. (CNA/EWTN News) - He was good at it, too, reportedly. He attended seminary in El Salvador for a time ... 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

  • Can you answer these four challenging questions about Lent?
  • Take this thought provoking Stations of the Cross survey
  • St. Paschal: Saint of the Day for Thursday, February 11, 2016
  • Is Valentine's Day...? (Take the quick survey!)
  • Daily Readings for Thursday, February 11, 2016
  • Stations of the Cross - Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother HD Video
  • Palm Sunday HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 30:15-20
15 'Look, today I am offering you life and prosperity, death and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:22-25
22 He said, 'The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously, to be ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 11th, 2016 Image

St. Paschal
February 11: Paschal was the son of Bonosus, a Roman. He ... Read More