The topic of whether we should take Genesis 1 to be literal or allegorical can be traced back for centuries. Some like to interject that recent scientific discoveries in geology, cosmology, and biology have forced Christians to change their interpretation in order to find harmony with science. But, is this true? Some of the most well-known Rabi’s and church fathers throughout history have written about this allegorical interpretation– namely, 4th century Saint Augustine, 1st century Philo, and 3rd century Origen of Alexandria.
Let’s set aside any other issues with taking Genesis 1 literally that don’t have to deal with scripture itself. There are numerous reasons why we should doubt Genesis 1 is a historical narrative. It’s not that we are reading an allegorical interpretation into the text (via eisegesis), we are reading the text and coming away believing it’s allegorical because that’s the only way it could internally make sense.
First off, let’s look at the internal contradictions of chapter 1 if we take it to be a historical narrative. You have a supposed account of six ’24 hour days’ yet the sun was not created until the 3rd day which would make the first 2 days impossible or, at best, very improbable. Some people at this point would interject that all you need for a day is to have “light” and “darkness” which were made in the first day, but this goes against the very definition of what a day is: “the interval of light between two successive nights; the time between sunrise and sunset” via http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/day. So, these first two days are either impossible or not 24 hour days.
*Please understand the views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views of everyone associated with Hashtag Apologetics.
As someone who is a firm proponent of evolution as well as a devoted Christian, I get questions all the time about how I could possibly collaborate those two views. Doesn’t the Bible teach that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old? Doesn’t the Bible teach that all of mankind came from a single primal biological couple? In short, no. You run into problems in both scripture and science with holding those views.
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553): Adam and Eve. Beech wood, 1533. Bode-Museum, Berlin (Erworben 1830, Königliche Schlösser, Gemäldegalerie Kat. 567) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are several ways we can incorporate the story of the Garden of Eden into a Christian worldview that accepts evolution. I will take you through a couple of the top ideas that fit both logically and theologically.
Adam and Eve as literal people:
Accepting evolution doesn’t automatically equate to an allegorical/figurative view of Adam and Eve. There are certainly ways we can incorporate them into the evolutionary stream while respecting the fact that they indeed could have been historical people. In fact, this is the view I lean towards most considering how Jesus and Paul both spoke of Adam as literal people. Population genetics strongly suggests that Homo sapiens didn’t descend from a single primal couple but descended from several thousand common ancestors. So, there really is no way to posit that Adam and Eve were the first two biological humans that were created distinctly alone on this earth (with no other Homo sapiens). Continue reading