Jim Denison on How Do We Know Adam and Eve Were Real People?

We all know that Eve ate the apple in the Garden of Eden so that the Fall is all her fault.

Except that Genesis nowhere states that the forbidden fruit was an apple.

In fact, unless climatic conditions were much different then in that region, apples would likely not have grown in the area.

And Adam was with Eve in the Garden and ate the fruit as well.

What else do we know that we don’t?

Were Adam and Eve symbols?

Some people, anxious to bridge the perceived chasm between science and faith, are quick to suggest that Adam and Eve were not real persons at all.

Perhaps they were mythical figures, symbols for humanity in general. When Robert Frost writes of two roads diverging in a yellow wood, I don’t need to know where the wood is located because I understand that he’s using poetic language. Maybe the same is true with the first humans.

The Hebrew word adam simply means “man.” Nowhere does Genesis say that God or anyone else gave him the proper name Adam; you can translate the Hebrew as “man” everywhere “Adam” appears and be correct. The New International Version follows most translations in rendering Genesis 1:20, “for Adam no suitable helper was found.” But there’s no change in the Hebrew from earlier references to him as “the man” (cf. 1:27, 2:7, 15, 18).

Similarly, “Eve” doesn’t make her appearance by name in the NIV until Genesis 3:20; previously she is “woman” (2:21, 23, etc.). Her name probably means “living,” pointing to her status as the first mother of humanity. So perhaps “Adam” and “Eve” are symbols for “man” and “life.”

This wouldn’t be the last time Scripture uses symbolic language to make its point. Jesus called himself the “true vine” and his Father the “gardener” (John 15:1), but no one thinks he is describing botanical truth. Earlier, he described himself as “the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7), and his disciples knew he was not speaking as a carpenter.

Could it be that the writer of Genesis used “man” and “life” to make larger symbolic statements about humanity?

Perhaps their temptation narrative is meant to describe such experience as we all face it. Perhaps the later narratives which describe the Tower of Babel and Noah’s flood, equally troubling to some who wish to reconcile Genesis with current scientific knowledge, are equally symbolic in nature.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jim Denison