You know what’s a minor pet peeve of mine? When people mispronounce the word literal. Instead of saying literal (three syllables) they say litrel. Or when they say something is literal when it isn’t. “It was lit-relly, like, bigger than the planet.”
Anyway, are Adam and Eve literal? Lots of people think that they are, and it’s a really fun idea. So while thinking about them, I like to come up with ways that Adam and Eve could really be real people, 6000 years ago, when we have fossils of people much earlier than that.
So, there’s the standard ‘we don’t know what the measurements of time were that were used–a day could mean an era of some sort. Especially since this was all written later, if someone was sort of having a vision of all that happened and then tasked with writing it down, well, God would sort of have to speed up the process. So a vision with a time-stop thing that sort of showed the creation could make it seem like, okay, this was a day. (Do you know what I’m talking about? They do it in the movies all the time but I don’t know the technical name for it. Let’s just say that if you were in the Twilight movie universe, you’d be spinning around a chair showing the seasons going by.) Then the next thing happened. And that was, like, another day. If Adam and Eve were real people, that probably makes the most sense.
But! What if God isn’t talking about the very first man at all? What if there were totally men and women hanging out, living lives, herding, hunting, gathering, farming, whatever, but Adam and Eve were the first of God’s people? So, evolution happened the way that we think, but the Bible has this record of the Israelites, who were some of the descendants of Adam and Eve. But what if there is some other -ible, the Gible or Zible perhaps, about Ronald and Sue, the first people of another set of people. Why haven’t we heard of these people, you ask? Well, there’s the flood, after all. I bet a lot of paperwork was lost in the flood. Also, have you heard about all those fires that California keeps having? Stuff that’s written down is notorious for just, like, disappearing when there is a wildfire. (And obviously all this stuff is written on pieces of paper, right? I mean, my NIV is, so I extrapolate that to all documents by every culture ever in history.)
*Note that in all of this, I haven’t said that I actually think that Adam and Eve were real people.
So, now, what if Adam and Eve were not real people, but are in fact myths, stories of the beginning of time that aren’t supposed to be literally interpreted, but mined for the wealth of information that they give. I suppose it is also possible to very narrowly interpret the story, possibly putting too much emphasis on ideas that could then skew your entire perception of the Bible.
If Adam and Eve were not real people, there are some questions. What about all of those random descendants who are named but (as far as I know) never really returned to or seen again? Why bother with the cameos of these children who didn’t turn out to be the ancestors of Abraham? Perhaps they had (have?) more meaning to the Jews at the time that it was written.
Also, when did the people start being real people and not just myths? It’s possible that there is some blurring here–maybe Abraham was real, but more has been attributed to him than actually happened, or stories about a few people were combined into one. You see this a lot in the Greek myths–depending on which stories you read, you get different versions of which god did what, etc.
*Note that in all of this, I haven’t said that I actually think that Adam and Eve were mythological people.
So, is it time for my opinion? I warn you–it’s going to sound wishy washy.
I don’t know if Adam and Eve were literal people or not. And I don’t really think that it matters. Whether they were literal people or not doesn’t change the lessons that we have to learn from them. It doesn’t make or break my faith.
In any case, I think it is a beautiful story about the origins of mankind (civilized mankind?) with so much to learn about man and God and what our relationship should and could be with God. And for what God thinks about people and how He treats us.
Wishy washy? Maybe. Post-modern? Probably.