Re: [asa] No Adam?

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Sat May 02 2009 - 18:20:53 EDT

Indeed! A rebbe (teacher) friend of mine often relates stories of famous
rabbis and other figures in the past, with the stories challenging, yea
even defying credulity. Even after I realized the nature of these
stories, it has still taken me a long time to get acclimatized (I
think!) to this cultural style of teaching where the stories may or may
not reflect historical accuracy. But that accuracy is not the point, the
story being a vehicle for conveying or illustrating a concept.

The problem is of course cultural, our being largely disconnected from
centuries-old story-telling tradition. Our more western ears are instead
tuned such that the truth of the story is predicated on its historical
accuracy (unless the story is clearly defined as non-historical as is
the case for example with Aesop's fables). Even today, I dare say that
if this subject dilemma were posed to most Jewish teachers, they might
well respond, "Well, that's not the real point, is it?!" The
reality-of-Adam discussion may be intellectually stimulating, and even
provocative, ...but at the end of the day, the factual determination of
Adam's existence as an individual versus a notional figure of beginnings
is not the point, is it?

JimA [Friend of ASA]

Murray Hogg wrote:
> Hi Phil,
> You wrote:
>> Given that the Fall was real and occurred in evolutionary history, I
>> think it's quite acceptable for Jesus and the apostles to speak of an
>> Adam as the symbol representing mankind, because they had real things
>> to say about humanity's Fall and it was most easily communicated
>> through the genre of myth. Jesus referring to "Adam" is referring to
>> the character in the story, much as if I said, "well, remember what
>> Hamlet said...'" I would not be asserting that Hamlet was a real
>> individual, only that something spoken by the Hamlet-character was
>> real truth worth repeating.
>> Even if I was unaware that Hamlet was not a real individual (as
>> perhaps the apostles did not know that "Adam" was not a real
>> individual), it would not be wrong for me (or them) to speak that
>> way, because it is not my intention to make assertions about "Hamlet"
>> (or "Adam"), but it is my intention to assert some of the truths that
>> his story presents.
> I thought this was very well put!
> In my experience the single greatest problem facing people when they
> come to the question of whether Genesis is history or not is that they
> can't escape the idea that because Jesus and the apostles spoke of
> Adam as though he were historical, then Adam MUST be historical.
> I try to make the simple point that that is how the genre myth is used
> - one simply can't listen to a person speaking about Adam (or Hamlet)
> and draw the conclusion that this person MUST think the person is a
> real historical character.
> It doesn't follow from this that Adam (or Hamlet) are NOT real
> historical characters, by the way, only that you can't appeal to the
> fact that a person tells a story "as if historical" to make that
> determination.
> Blessings,
> Murray
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Received on Sat May 2 18:21:18 2009

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