Re: [asa] Who do Adam & Eve represent? (Was: Was Adam a real person?)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Fri Apr 11 2008 - 08:13:24 EDT

Gregory -

Thanks for your response. Briefly -

1) I changed the title because I didn't at this time want to continue to debate the question of the historical reality of an individual Adam. I have certainly done so in the past & will do so in the future when appropriate, but there have already been numerous posts in the "Was Adam a Real Person?" thread in recent days. My contribution would largely repeat what has been said by Denis & others.

2) To say that Adam was not a "real person" doesn't mean that the figure of Adam (& Eve) in scripture is a mere abstraction or "just" a symbol. There were real "first humans" in terrestrial history (in the sense I defined below), & Adam and Eve are the way scripture speaks of those first humans. (& that in spite of the fact that the human writers & editors of genesis had none of our knowledge about paleoanthropology.) In that sense Adam & Eve are "real" & even real historically.

3) My beliefs about A & E are part of an understanding of the world as being in process. But I am not a "process theologian" since I do not think that God is in process with the world. In spite of my belief that God genuinely interacts with the world, I'm sure that process theologians would not admit me to their club!

4) It's perhaps worth calling attention to the fact that I speak about Adam & Eve, not just Adam. The first humans weren't all male.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago
  To: George Murphy ;
  Sent: Friday, April 11, 2008 4:14 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Who do Adam & Eve represent? (Was: Was Adam a real person?)

  To a TE/EC perspective, the answer may present an unambiguous 'No, Adam wasn't real.' This nevertheless stings the ears of many, many Christians around the world today. It clearly does not render Christ (2nd Adam) unreal also, but adds ammunition to those who identify disunity in the Church on earth. Let us not be so dismissive, but rather suggestive-only if such is one's (liberal hermeneutic) view of the non-real-existence of Adam, the first (covenant) human. (I'm glad the title of the thread was changed, since George obviously doesn't want to debate the original question - he presents an answer.)

  I would suggest that there is a 'process theology' element in George's position that actually disallows for an 'origin of Adam' in any concrete, historical way. In the same sense that the world 'needs an origin' or 'first cause' in the Aristotelian meaning, there is a need to encounter the 'first human' in order to understand ourselves. The history of 'Adam' is still present with us today and 'will not go away,' as George has been fond of saying to me in defense of TE.

  Talk of 'representations' is one thing. But to speak about the 'significance' of Adam and Eve without the historical dimension involved may just be to impoverish one's view of scripture. Sophisticated hermeneutics have their limits as well.

  So it seemeth to me...

  George Murphy <> wrote:
    We can only spend so much time debating "Was Adam a real person?" To me the answer seems pretty clear - No, he wasn't. I.e., there was not an historical individual "Adam" who did the things described in early Genesis in the same sense that Jeremiah or Mary Magdalene or Henry VIII were historical (& historic) individuals. But my purpose here isn't to continue to debate that.

    The question now is, What is the theological significance of Adam & Eve? It's easy enough to say that they are theological symbols or something of the sort, but symbols of what? If the point of the biblical texts involving them is not to present them as historical figures but to say something of theological significance, what is that significance?

    It's often said that Adam & Eve represent every person - even that they are every person - & that's true as far as it goes. But I don't think it goes far enough. If they represent all humans then they represent also the first humans. & in fact they are presented to us in Genesis precisely as that - the first human beings. While the Genesis stories are more than just statements about origins, they certainly are theological statements about origins and, inter alia, the origins of the human race.

    & part of that import of those stories is the origin of human sin. One thing they say about that is that sin is not essential to who we are - i.e., human beings weren't created as sinners. Sin may indeed - to use again R. Niebuhr's distinction - have been "inevitable" but it was not "necessary." This of course does not mean that we have to accept the idea of an abrupt "fall" from perfection, a picture that Genesis does not give us. It does mean that the first humans - i.e., the first hominids who were somehow aware of God's will for them - could in principle have acted in accord with that will, but didn't.

    This is only a sketch of an answer to the question I posed in the subject line. More detail is at .


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Received on Fri Apr 11 08:16:45 2008

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