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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:41 pm 
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MiloHilltop wrote:
These responses have helped my understanding, I believe. Many more questions follow that perhaps only God could answer, because they are mostly 'why's.

A more reasonable question for mortal men, then. Does the Church teach the existence of Adam and Eve as allegory or literal truth?


The corollary:
When was the idea of allegory introduced and why is it felt to be necessary? I see no evidence of that line of thought anywhere in any part of the Bible.

If there was no actual first Adam, why is Jesus called the second Adam? (1 Cor 15:45)


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 1:58 pm 
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MiloHilltop wrote:
A more reasonable question for mortal men, then. Does the Church teach the existence of Adam and Eve as allegory or literal truth?

The answer to that showed up earlier in this thread, though I don't blame you for not recognizing it:

    When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.

Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis 31.

This stops about a sixteenth of an inch short of saying that it is absolutely certain that all humans descended from Adam, and it does say that if you don't have a workable alternative theory of Original Sin at hand (and no one does), you shouldn't go around saying that all humans don't stem from one original ancestor.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:23 pm 
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EtcumSpiri22-0 wrote:
MiloHilltop wrote:
These responses have helped my understanding, I believe. Many more questions follow that perhaps only God could answer, because they are mostly 'why's.

A more reasonable question for mortal men, then. Does the Church teach the existence of Adam and Eve as allegory or literal truth?


The corollary:
When was the idea of allegory introduced and why is it felt to be necessary? I see no evidence of that line of thought anywhere in any part of the Bible.

If there was no actual first Adam, why is Jesus called the second Adam? (1 Cor 15:45)

I've talked to a lot of people who think all of Gen 1 is allegorical. Those who embrace that view typically aren't phased by the implied argument in the question about Christ being the Second Adam, namely, that if there was no real, historical first Adam then the notion of a real, historical second Adam (Christ) becomes meaningless. They just say that the lesson of the first Adam, the truth he represents, is real whether or not he was ever flesh and blood; and that this lesson is just as real in the flesh and blood of Christ as the second Adam. Whether or not any of us find that satisfactory, they certainly do. What I've always found more interesting is another question: namely, if Gen 1-3 is mythical or allegorical or whatever, then at what point in Genesis does it start becoming real history? At Cain and Abel? At Noah? At the flood? At the Tower of Babel? I don't see any reason at all to claim that those stories are historical while the accounts of the Creation and Fall are not. They all fit exactly into the same literary genre. So, then, if you allow Gen 1-11 are all of an allegorical genre of sorts, then what about Gen 12-50? That is, what about the other patriarchs? If Gen 1-11 are not real history, as written, then why do we think Abraham really was? Why Isaac or Jacob? Again, I don't see anything at all in the stories to suggest that they are of basically different genres. So, then, if Gen 1-11 are not historical, then we may as well say that the whole of Genesis is not really historical. But here the problem becomes obvious. If not Genesis, then what of the rest of the Pentateuch? The whole story of the Exodus only makes sense of you have hundreds of thousands of Hebrews enslaved in Egypt. But take that account away (so the Genesis account), and you don't really have any basis for saying Exodus was a real event. But take it away and that whole book falls, as does the absolutely fundamental historical event that defined old Judaism. Now you have major historical questions that are almost (though not quite, for technical reasons) on the same level as those historical questions related to the birth and growth of Christianity sans the Resurrection of Christ (NT Wright has done a lot of great work on this issue). In short, without an Exodus, how do you get Judaism at all? No Exodus means no Moses. No Moses means no Law. No Law means no Judaism.

What you end up with, and this is actually much of the modern critical view of the Old Testament as far as I can tell, is that the whole of the OT is basically non-historical; that "Judaism" never really existed as the OT presents it. Instead, you had a group of Hebrews already living in Palestine who slowly supplanted the resident Canaanites and just as slowly evolved a religion, complete with backwriting a history to invent an apologetic for the kings, and maybe even later than that! So all of it . . . the Law, the Historical Books, certainly the Prophets . . . it's all non-historical. At least, there is no basis to affirm it's historicity. At a bare minimum, this destroys as far as I can tell any meaningful notion of inspiration and certainly of inerrancy. So what is Scripture? It's barely even a historical record. It's more akin to a collection of fairy tales, fabricated if not out of whole cloth then based on tiny bits of kernels of truth so overgrown with legendary development that they are totally lost to us.

At this point, the critic tends to be satisfied, because, in my experience, that's exactly what they want. They just nod their head and so, "You're right, that's all the Old Testament is." But all of that gets me to the question I find far more interesting: if we treat the OT that way, then what about the rest of history? What about Roman and Greek and Hittite and other such history? What about the history of the ancient Babylonians or Persians and so on? In fact, if we're going to write off the OT this way, then following the same methodology, we don't know ANYTHING about ANY part of history! So what happens is that all of this doesn't just leave us without an inspired OT (which is what the critics wants). It leaves us totally bereft of any sort of ancient history at all.

The only potential solution I can see here is to start inventing--and this does seem to me to be out of nothing--tools to separate "real" history from historical embellishments. And that is what a lot of OT critics have tried to do. But the fact that there is no agreement amongst themselves I think more than demonstrates the subjectivity of such "tests." And worse, the tests themselves don't even yield consistent results when applied by different scholars. What that means it that people end up picking and choosing what to believe and what not to believe.

So maybe it is possible that somewhere between the entirety of the OT being true as written and the entirety of the OT being fabricated for some sort of religio-political reasons, but I'm not aware of any such principled positions. It seems to me that the loss of Adam and Eve actually means the loss of history itself. :-/


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 6:35 pm 
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theJack wrote:
EtcumSpiri22-0 wrote:
MiloHilltop wrote:
These responses have helped my understanding, I believe. Many more questions follow that perhaps only God could answer, because they are mostly 'why's.

A more reasonable question for mortal men, then. Does the Church teach the existence of Adam and Eve as allegory or literal truth?


The corollary:
When was the idea of allegory introduced and why is it felt to be necessary? I see no evidence of that line of thought anywhere in any part of the Bible.

If there was no actual first Adam, why is Jesus called the second Adam? (1 Cor 15:45)

I've talked to a lot of people who think all of Gen 1 is allegorical.
...
It seems to me that the loss of Adam and Eve actually means the loss of history itself. :-/


The greatest allegory ever told!
;)


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:10 pm 
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theJack' wrote:
I've talked to a lot of people who think all of Gen 1 is allegorical. Those who embrace that view typically aren't phased by the implied argument in the question about Christ being the Second Adam, namely, that if there was no real, historical first Adam then the notion of a real, historical second Adam (Christ) becomes meaningless.


Well, I don't see why that should be so. During the 1980's, a lot of liberals said that Ronald Reagan was behaving like he thought he was Rambo, I don't see why that ought to imply that they thought that Rambo was an historical person.

Similarly, we might say that someone is a 'modern Hercules', but that need not imply that we think there is an historical Hercules.

One can claim a comparison between historical figures, such as all the people who say that Trump is just like Hitler, or the more sensible view that I have expressed that Trump is more similar to Andrew Johnson.

Or one can compare a historical figure with a figure from fiction, such as my comparisons made in fall 2016 of Hillary Clinton to Madam DeFarge from 'A Tale of Two Cities'. But just because I make that comparison, it doesn't mean that I think Madam DeFarge was a real person , or that Hillary Clinton is a fictional character.

One can even compare one fictional character to another fictional character, such as when I have suggested that there are similarities between Sherlock Holmes and Batman.

But the bigger problem with this analysis is that to interpret the opening chapters of Genesis allegorically does not in any sense imply that there was no historical 'Adam', it only implies that we know next to nothing about him, which, by the way, is still true even if we adopt a literal word for word interpretation of those chapters the way a fundamentalist would.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:19 pm 
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And that's the sort of argument they make to dismiss Etcum's position. As I said, "Whether or not any of us find that satisfactory, they certainly do." With that said, aside from the problem of genre and historiography generally I raised, the theological problem I have with the response you're suggesting isn't the problem with the historicity of Adam per se, but rather with the historicity of original sin. I think that is the more fundamental problem. You could say that Reagan was acting like Rambo because, while Rambo wasn't real, heroism and violence is. But that comparison doesn't work with Christ and Adam without a real Adam, because while sin is real whether Adam was or wasn't, the big idea in the comparison is the origin of sin and death and so the origin of eternal life. So take away a real entrance of death, and the claim of a real entrance of life does, in my assessment, become meaningless. Whether or not we know much of anything about Adam beyond that is, as far as I can tell, entirely immaterial to the discussion.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:27 pm 
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False dichotomy much?


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:30 pm 
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Not sure I see a third option. Without a real, historical entrance of sin, I don't see the meaning of a real, historical entrance of life (given the way Paul structures his argument in Romans 5).


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:28 pm 
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I agree that Genesis 1-3 narrate historical events for exactly the reason you cite; but it is possible (and to my mind likely) that they narrate historical events in figurative language. I didn't see you leaving room for that option. If you did and I missed it, I of course withdraw my snarky remark.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 9:59 pm 
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I don't know that there needs to be any room for that option. Whether or not it's true seems to me irrelevant to the argument I'm making. Suppose the Gen 1-3 story is figurative language. Fine. Everything I said still applies, since I'm making the claim about genres. The exception here (which will turn out, I think, not to be an exception) is if you want to say that the figurative language denies the historical reality of the thing described. For example, if someone says the resurrection of Jesus is in figurative language, and means by that the He did not actually, physically rise from the dead, then they really aren't talking about figurative language at all but rather reducing the story to mere allegory or myth. I think it's a common misconception that "figurative language" makes things non-real. The truth is that figurative language always and everywhere intends to convey a literal meaning. So when I say it is raining cats and dogs, I literally am referring to how bad it is actually storming. The language itself doesn't mean there was no rain!

I know you know that, but that gets back to why I think it's irrelevant. If the language of Gen 1 is figurative, then we're saying that the events are still historical. And if they're still historical, then my overall argument stands. But if they are non-historical, then appealing to figurative language doesn't save you from any of the problems I think we see (i.e., the loss of history as discipline itself as well as the loss of the OT as revelation in any meaningful sense of the term). After all, the genre of Gen 1-3 looks exactly like the genre of Exodus 1-19, of Numbers, of Joshua, of Judges, of the Kings, etc. Again, that with figurative language or not.

But if I've missed your point or argument, by all means, let me know. I'm open to being wrong!


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:18 pm 
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I disagree with your assessment of genres; I don't think Gen 1-3 are at all the same sort of thing as your other examples. Where to draw the dividing line in Genesis is hard to say--no later than Abram, at the latest, I think.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:22 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
I agree that Genesis 1-3 narrate historical events for exactly the reason you cite; but it is possible (and to my mind likely) that they narrate historical events in figurative language.


That brings up the second half of my question (after the word 'and') :)

Which is the most important point in my mind.
That question is ...Why?
My question above is:
"When was the idea of allegory introduced and why is it felt to be necessary?"

Narrowing it to the key issue ... What's the point?
Why ... would God go all allegorical (figurative) on us right from the get go?
Why would actually telling/ documenting the real events be improbable?


Last edited by EtcumSpiri22-0 on Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:42 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:22 pm 
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That's certainly a fair argument. It'd just need support, and as much as I've looked (and I have), I cannot find any linguistic or literary evidence whatsoever that there is any sort of change in genre whatsoever. I grant that Genesis 1 in particular is more stylized than the rest of the book, but that doesn't seem at all to indicate that the material in Gen 1-11 is of a different genre. You have all the same literary devices (most especially the waw-consecutive). The creation event doesn't change the genre ... after all, it's recording a unique event! Talking snake? So what. In Numbers we have a talking donkey. Long ages? Yeah, but we have a 99 year old man and a 90 year old woman having children. And besides, we have Noah at 600, and I see even less of a difference between Noah and Abraham than I do between Adam and Abraham. God is very active in both sections, as is the identification of Him as YHWH. You have the exact same stories and themes (the creation of the world and of a special people; the establishment of order; the selecting of that man/people through which God rules; the destruction that sin brings; etc). Yes, you have a worldwide flood, but you also have twelve plagues that are themselves highly stylized a few chapters later and other great miracles (i.e., the stopping of the sun!) in other parts of the OT.

In short, if you took the stories of Gen 1-11, took the self-contained narratives and mixed them up with the self-contained narratives of Gen 12-50, and then asked someone unfamiliar with the whole book if the genre of one was fundamentally different than the other, and you'd get a no. Perhaps you see a difference in the type of literature. I just. I see exactly the opposite.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 12:00 am 
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theJack wrote:
And that's the sort of argument they make to dismiss Etcum's position. As I said, "Whether or not any of us find that satisfactory, they certainly do." With that said, aside from the problem of genre and historiography generally I raised, the theological problem I have with the response you're suggesting isn't the problem with the historicity of Adam per se, but rather with the historicity of original sin. I think that is the more fundamental problem. You could say that Reagan was acting like Rambo because, while Rambo wasn't real, heroism and violence is. But that comparison doesn't work with Christ and Adam without a real Adam because while sin is real whether Adam was or wasn't, the big idea in the comparison is the origin of sin and death and so the origin of eternal life. So take away a real entrance of death, and the claim of an real entrance of life does, in my assessment, become meaningless. Whether or not we know much of anything about Adam beyond that is, as far as I can tell, entirely immaterial to the discussion.



I don't find at all convincing the argument that if one doesn't interpret Genesis in the literal, word for word fashion that the fundamentalists do that, therefore, we are left with original sin being unhistorical and there is no 'real entrance of death'.

I was raised as an evangelical, and these were the kinds of arguments I was subjected to in my religious upbringing, and I left evangelicalism precisely because I didn't find this kind of argument compelling. I couldn't put my finger on what exactly I didn't like about it, but I knew I didn't feel right about that kind of argument. But now that I'm older and I have had many years to think about it, I have figured out what it is that I don't like about it.

This is a logical fallacy, the fallacy in question being the fallacy of the non-sequitur because you are literally jumping from one conclusion to another, completely unrelated conclusion, without really showing why the two statements are related or why one implies the other.

If I was to try to diagram this argument it would go something like

1. The first three chapters of Genesis are not literal history, they are allegorical or figurative
2. ????
3. Therefore, we are left with no 'real entrance of death'

Certainly, the Fathers of the Church were not young Earth creationists, they did not interpret the first three chapters of Genesis in the literal, word for word fashion of modern fundamentalists, and they had no problem constructing a doctrine of Original Sin. They were not confronted with your dilemma at all.

In fact, what I said in my original post, that the point of the first three chapters of Genesis is that, God created everything, then he issued some kind of command, then, as a result of temptation, the command was disobeyed, and that this is what caused all of our problems. The specific command that was disobeyed (and it probably wasn't something as arbitrary as not eating a fruit from a particular tree, that is probably a symbol or allegory for some kind of moral command) is less important than the fact that it was not obeyed.

You don't have to believe that snakes really used to be able to talk, or that people really did wander around naked in a garden to believe that the basic outline I described in my original post, is largely correct.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 1:57 am 
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It is easy to find an argument unconvincing when you ignore it. :fyi:

edit:

And your syllogism is very easy to complete.

    1. The first three chapters of Genesis are not literal history, they are allegorical or figurative
    2. Unhistorical (i.e., allegorical) characters cannot do anything "real" (i.e., they cannot provide a "real entrance of death")
    3. Therefore, we are left with no 'real entrance of death'

And as a final aside, please don't keep confusing "figurative" with "allegorical" or using them as if they are interchangeable. Again, if you don't want to be convinced by an argument, fine, but don't misrepresent or ignore the argument you aren't being convinced by. That's just dishonest. And lastly, I'd just point out that whatever is the proper way to read Gen 1-3, your own church has all but declared that there was a real Adam and a real Eve who fell into a real original sin, and that for very similar reasoning to what I'm applying here. So . . . yeah.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 12:01 pm 
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What should I consider when I begin thinking, as I often do, that God's perfect plan as presented in the Bible was not the best possible plan?


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 12:37 pm 
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Ask how you know what the best possible plan would be.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:25 am 
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I have no trouble recognizing that my thinking and perception are not boundless. And yet, I can imagine several scenarios that reduce human suffering and increase the number of those 'saved'.

Even if there are flaws in these ideas, they could be overcome by an all-powerful being.


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:55 am 
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"Why?" questions with respect to God are tricky things. We can't know what God knows nor see as He sees; we can only imagine something like us, only bigger and a lot more powerful, and sometimes that leads us astray.
"


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 Post subject: Re: I Don't Understand the Eden Story
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 10:06 am 
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God didn't have to choose those criteria, and obviously He didn't.


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