Literally

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.

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The Tumble Outta Eden

Genesis 3: The Fall of Man

So, reading about the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, this is what I was thinking about and focusing on.

In vs. 16, Eve is given the consequences of eating the fruit.  Specifically, God says that He will “greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Continue reading

My Genesis of Bible Study

Before I begin discussing Adam and Eve, and while I was reading it, there are a few important issues that I sort of have to mentally rummage through.

First, do I believe that the story of Adam and Eve is literal?  Was there really a man, Adam, and a woman, Eve, who lived in a paradisaical garden wherein there was a fruit tree that would give them knowledge of good and evil and a snake that could talk and tempt?  (Now that last part sounds sort of derisive, but obviously if it is literal, my disdain of the talking snake is just part of the enmity between me (woman) and the serpent, and I’m crushing its head (ego).  So, please, literal readers of the Bible, don’t get all up in arms about me yet!)

Second, if I do believe that the first few people in the Bible were real people, and it all happened exactly as Genesis claims, how do I reconcile that to dinosaurs and early fossils of humans, as I don’t really buy into a fossil-hiding god.

Third, if I don’t believe that the first few people were real people, but are in fact mythological (as in, early stories that evolved through years of retelling to explain the beginnings and nature of humankind, through which a person can find rich life lessons and meaning about life), when do I believe that they start being real?  If not Adam, then Noah?  Abraham?  King David?  Jesus?  As someone who has absolutely no understanding of the actual history of the times of the Bible (or, you know, recent history), if I don’t believe that everything in the Bible is literal and exactly as written, I have to make decisions (prayerfully, hopefully) about what I believe were real miracles and what are good life lessons.

Also, something worth noting as I begin discussing Genesis, is that I began reading A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren.  In the first chapter, he discusses the narrative question, specifically, how should we approach the narrative of the Bible, and is the way that we’ve historically approached it the best way?  (Note: my words and how I understood the chapter.)  I found the chapter to be incredibly rewarding and generative of a ton of questions to ask while reading.

Basically, McLaren suggests that we (Christians) historically have looked at the Bible from a Plato-esque worldview, with perfection, the fall, condemnation, salvation, heaven, and hell.  And that the Bible is messier than that.  And more real and earthy and dirty and alive than that, if that makes sense.  Anyway, he said it much better than me, so go read the book (although I might blog more about it later).

So, without further rambling by me, I will begin my discussions with some thoughts on Adam and Eve and the so-called Fall.

Recommitting to the Bible

Doesn’t that sound just so religiously provocative?  It’s like I’ve come to this realization and been reborn or something, and really getting back to the roots of my faith.

Except that’s not it.  Last year, I started reading the Gospel of Mark and blogging about it.  My plan had been to be ridiculously thorough and really pick apart every word and verse and chapter using four different translations, and really be transformed.  The problem with this lofty goal is that I am, in fact, lazy.  And I really don’t have time to read and blog about every word in the Bible.

However, reading the Bible is something important to me and something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.  So, my New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to read the whole darned Bible.  So I found a few ‘read the Bible in one year’ reading plans (thanks to Jack for her links which got me started), and ultimately decided that reading it chronologically made the most sense for me.  (I’m one of those people–if there are more people like this than just me–who can’t start a TV show or book series in the middle, even if they are completely episodic.)

So, I started reading.  I don’t read every day–it turns out that I can’t even rip a page off of a calendar every day for a year, so I probably won’t do much of anything else consistently for a year either.  But when I read, I read in the order and check off the days that I’ve done.  I’ve had a couple of days where I had large chunks of time and was able to read a bunch of it.  (Including one day when my hard-workin’ man had to do something “quick” at his office over the weekend, so we all drove downtown and I sat in the car with my hazards on in a no-parking zone reading some Genesis out loud to Hazel while Oliver hung out with his daddy for the 30 minutes that quick turned out to be.)

Anyway, I’m not going to blog about every word.  But if I think of something that maybe interesting, or may spark a good discussion, I’ll probably blog about it.  Or, you know, compose a brilliant blog post in my mind while I’m falling asleep at night and wake up to realize that my theories don’t actually hold any water when it’s light outside and I’m not so tired that zombies seem like a plausible explanation for the Fall.

Okay, okay, I admit it.  I actually liked the zombies idea.  It really did make everything else make sense.