Is Genesis all literal, all allegory, or somewhere between?

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by ZachT, Jun 27, 2021.

  1. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    The burden of proof rests on the accuser. The first problem you would run into is that the opposite of “orthodox” isn’t “progressive”; it’s (literally) heterodox. Orthodoxy and heterodoxy have reference to what’s been defined by the Church on the basis of Scripture, which, as the Word of God, contains all things necessary to salvation. And what are those ‘necessary things’? - The Articles of the ecumenical Creeds. The Apostles’ Creed doesn’t mention belief in a literal Adam (or a literal Satan, as C.S. Lewis once noted), as necessary to salvation. Nor does the Nicene. Remember, it was the allegorizing (and Origenist) Alexandrians, like Athanasius and Cyril, who landed on the right side of orthodoxy during the Trinitarian and Christological controversies, not the overly literal Antiochenes, like Theodoret and Nestorius. Nor does the Athanasian. They do mention things like belief in God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the virginal conception and birth, the crucifixion, descent, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, his unity of Person and duality of natures, the last judgment, the communion of saints, etc. Each and all of these things are required for belief. Now, if a Christian questions the historicity of figures like Adam, or Moses, which article of the Creeds has he violated? In what way is such a person truly ‘heterodox’?
     
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  2. Carolinian

    Carolinian Member

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    Would you consider the Adamites heterodox? What council condemns wearing no clothes to church services? Is the ordination of active homosexuals heterodox? I certainly wouldn't affirm that verbal subscription to the creeds, councils, articles, and scriptures themselves automatically makes one orthodox. There are many denominations that affirm many, if not most/all, of the same creeds/councils/scriptures that Anglicans do. Does this make the Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, and/or Romanists orthodox?
     
  3. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Then you’re simply mistaken, because that’s exactly what it means to be ‘orthodox’, by definition. The Athanasian Creed in particular says so explicitly, as does the 1662 Catechism.
     
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  4. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

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    With respect Rexlion, you seem to be intentionally ignoring Tiffy's point. Suppose Paul wrote the following:

    "Just as Cain slew Abel, so too did even Romulus slay his own brother". We all know the founding story of Rome, with two brothers (Romulus and Remus) being raised by a wolf in the forest, building a city themselves, and then Romulus murdering his brother for making fun of his wall is a fable. It's made up. But all Romans knew the story, so it would have been a useful rhetorical device for Paul to quote to better explain something to his audience.

    So even if Paul was to say Romulus killed his own brother we wouldn't take that as evidence of a historical Romulus. The exact same applies with Cain and Abel - the story serves its purpose regardless of if Paul believes it to be literally true. It's completely unnecessary in the context of that quote. Naturally the same extends to Paul saying sin came through a historical Adam.

    Note: None of this is evidence Cain and Abel weren't historical, or Adam and Eve weren't historical. Just that Paul using them in an example does not indicate they must have been, and if we conclude that they were not historical it does nothing to impact the authority of the verses in First Timothy or Romans.
     
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  5. Carolinian

    Carolinian Member

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    So Roman Catholics would be orthodox under such a definition? Or someone like Bishop Spong. Trying to understand this view.
     
  6. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    No, because they have, as a body, added articles of faith of their own, which are not contained in the Scriptures and cannot be derived from them. Spong arguably subtracted from them. Pay close attention to what is and isn’t included in them, below.

    St. Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, Q. 1, Art. 8, resp.:
     
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  7. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Tiffy's point (and yours) is invalid in the situation at hand.

    Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

    There is no way to state that a non-factual illustration about a nonexistent 'person' can lead logically to a consequential act of Jesus. Notice the the word therefore in Rom. 5:18 and ask yourself what it's there for! The word of God is saying, because of this fact, another fact follows. One cannot say, 'because of an allegorical fiction about some man's sin, all men are condemned,' let alone say, 'because of this allegorical fiction about some man's sin, it therefore follows that Jesus' death remits all men's sins.' It doesn't follow. The comparison must have an equivalence, an actual man on the one hand and another actual man on the other, or else it is nonsensical.
     
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  8. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Actually the “therefore” is connecting the whole of v. 18 to the previous verse. What follows in v. 18 is structurally a simile, not an enthymeme.
     
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  9. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Yes, of course it is connecting v 17 to v 18. And what does the previous verse say?

    Rom 5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
    Rom 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.


    It says that death reigned due to one man's sin, and that we will much more reign in life due to one man's gift. And therefore, just as one man sinned, in similar manner we will be justified by one man's gift. That is why I wrote, "One cannot say... 'because of this allegorical fiction story about some 'pretend' man's supposed sin, it therefore follows that (likewise) Jesus' death remits all men's sins.'" It's a non-sequitur. The only way to make the one follow the other is if the one man who sinned was an actual individual, just as the one man who redeems us from the consequences of that sin is an actual individual. What would the hidden premise be, if not that the action of one man can affect all of mankind? But that can only be the premise if there were one actual man, Adam, who affected all of mankind. No 'pretend' man in an allegorical tale can affect all of mankind.
     
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  10. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I don’t recall claiming such. Romans 5 is a brilliant deduction by St. Paul, which results in a re-purposing of a part of the Torah which hadn’t been read that way before. The plain meaning of Gen. 3 doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the subject matter of Romans 5. Paul assumed (I would argue, correctly), that a universal need for redemption must have a primordial cause. He found the closest thing to what he was looking for in Gen. 3. This deduction would be true whether or not Genesis 3 is historical.
     
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  11. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Not quite "the first Adam" as a discrete individual.

    The human race in its unregenerate spiritual condition (caused by some developmental error of choice in our ancient ancestors, from whom we are all descended) are / were, 'the first Adam'. Jesus Christ, born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit, without our developmental error of choice (he always did the will of the Father), was the second and 'Last' Adam.

    This is simply another way of looking at the story of the fall as it is presented to us in Genesis ch. 3-5. It does not contradict the story, it explains it.

    There must have been a 'first man' evolutionarily speaking, but it would be impossible to identify the point at which the species Homo Sapiens became 'human'. It's still a matter of some dificulty defining what truly differentiates us from our nearest evolutionary 'family members'. Genetically the differences are only about 5% between us and Bonobos or Chimps, but can they and do they sin? They certainly suffer the consequences of it just as the rest of creation.

    The issue both we and Paul are considering is human 'sin', its origin and remedy. Jesus Christ was the final, once and for all, solution to our problem with sin and death of the spirit. He was himself the remedy to our condition, the LAST initiative of God in His plan to 'crush Satan's head' even though Satan would 'bruise his heel' Gen.3:15. When Romans crucified their victims, often a single nail was driven through both heels of the feet which pinned them to the wood. Rom.16:20. Saint Paul well understood this and applied its reasoning to all those who are disciples of Jesus Christ.

    It's not a new theology really, when you consider that Paul and Christ understood it, Rev.3:9 but you obvously don't, because you can't read Genesis 3-5 without turning it into dusty boring history, instead of interpreting it prophetically and spiritually in terms of what it really means to us, the redeemed.
    .
     
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  12. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    I didn't ask you if the charaters were REAL, I asked you if the statements were true or not. How about answering the question that was asked rather than answering your own questions instead. :laugh:
    .
     
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  13. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Which only goes to show how our understanding of the written English language can detrimentally affect our understanding of the Christian faith and the Bible that informs it.

    My best friend's mother once said to me, (in my childhood days), that she wouldn't go to church because Jesus was cruel to children. I asked her why she thought that, and she replied. "He said little children must suffer to come to him". She seriously believed that Jesus was cruel to children.
    .
     
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  14. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I see no way for it to be true if Adam was not a single discreet individual.

    You are applying a secular mindset. I’m seeing this problem with a lot of this discussion. Your approach is, this is a scientific document and an atheist should be able to deduce anything that a Christian will, or a prophet or apostle had. Otherwise, it is a forced, or strained Christian interpretation, which ‘re-appropriates’ the underlying text, or violates the plain meaning.

    This is what Scripture talks about when saying we have to divide the Word of God rightly. This is what it means when saying that God’s Word is spirit-breathed. You simply cannot take the atheistic framework and say, that should be the correct/default framework. Whatever the plain meaning is in the atheist reading, that is the actual plain meaning, and if a Christian interprets it differently he is re-interpreting it or “adding” to the (atheist) plain meaning.

    That is a wrong approach. The simple fact is, the first few chapters of Genesis contain the whole of the rest of Scripture. That is how all the prophets and saints saw it. That is how God himself saw it.

    Now you may scour through those first chapters with a magnifying glass, and see nothing quite so elaborate, just a pretty basic origin narrative of a bronze age people.

    It’s again, up to you. Up to what you bring with you. It’s not Scripture’s fault. If you bring the atheist filter because it’s “more right”, then you’ll see one thing. A primitive narrative of a bronze age tribe. If you bring the Christian filter, you will see redemption, heaven, hell, messiah, eternity, human nature, cosmos, highest physics, highest biology, highest chemistry, and nature of existence.
     
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  15. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    This video from R. C. Sproul may shed some light on this discussion. In particular I think that people should understand the point he's making when he tells us that the RC church had a point when they resisted the movement to translate the Bible into the vernacular. Many of the fears of the Roman church were borne out in the subsequent years. Allowing each Christian to apply their own (often idiosyncratic) interpretation of the Bible brings extreme dangers as well as benefits.

    In my view, Cranmer's first sermon in the Book of Homilies prescribes the correct approach to this issue (read the whole thing; my excerpt doesn't do it justice):

    I shall show you how to read it without danger of error. The Bible must be taught. This is in a nutshell why I am an Anglican rather than, say, a Presbyterian or a Baptist. The Church is just not a place for corporate worship of Christ, but also a school whereby Christians are taught the basics of theology and church practice. This is what we call catechism. It used to be a standard feature of Anglican practice, and God willing, will become so again.
     
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  16. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    There are several problems with this. First, you apply the word "secular" as though it is a bad thing, but then make no argument to show why that is the case. What followed were mere assertions without evidence:
    This is a species of the Question Begging Fallacy.

    Second, it is clear from the context of Genesis 3 that it did not have the same significance for the original human author than it did for St. Paul. Genesis 3 never says that humans were immortal until Adam's (and Eve's) disobedience, nor does it say that Adam's descendants would inherit any kind of moral stain or condemnation as a result. Ancient Judaism did not interpret Genesis 3 this way, so it is fair to ask where St. Paul got the idea. The answer, it seems to me, is that the fact that the Lord's death and resurrection were the remedy to the fundamental problem with humanity was, until St. Paul, poorly understood. The role of the Messiah in Judaism was almost exclusively understood in nationalistic terms. Through Christ's act of redemption, Paul came to understand the depth of humanity's fallenness. In the search for verification of this teaching, a new reading of Genesis 3 suggested itself. Although Judaism had not interpreted it this way before, for Paul to do so would nevertheless have been very much in line with his training. Ancient Jewish (and Christian) interpreters assumed the biblical text had hidden meanings which were often the true teaching of the text as well as the reason for which it was inspired.

    It is almost amusingly ironic that for all the fundamentalist fist-slamming on "literal" interpretation of these passages in this thread, it has been overlooked by the same ones making those claims that what St. Paul explicitly did in Romans 5:14 with respect to Genesis 3 was Judaism's version of allegorical or typological interpretation, called remez:
    It's not at all clear to me why pointing this out should be considered a "secular" or "atheist" approach, but then I've never been a fan of the tactic of trying to shut down the argument of an opponent through the use of mere epithets. I in fact never said that St. Paul interpreted Genesis 3 incorrectly or that what he said wasn't the text's true, inspired meaning; only that his interpretation wasn't the literal one, and that the literal sense in this case is likely non-historical in nature. The approach I have outlined is a mere example of how St. Paul's experience of the Risen Lord allowed him to see Christ on every page" of the (OT) Scriptures. The non-historical nature of the original version of the story, and the subsequent evolution of its interpretation, are the very evidence of its divine inspiration. That an ancient etiological fable about the transition from semi-nomadic existence to a life of agriculture could be incorporated into an ancient people's founding myth, for that people to be preserved against all odds, and for that founding myth to be illuminated centuries later by the death and resurrection of the Messiah they weren't expecting, is something so remarkable that only God could have accomplished it.
     
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  17. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    "Not for real" = Not true for real = NOT REALLY TRUE. Sorry if you couldn't comprehend that.
     
  18. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    It was ambiguous. Things are ‘real’ or (‘unreal’); propositions are ‘true’ (or ‘false’). Unlike Aristotelian logic, modern logic only treats particular propositions as existential. So statements like “Arthur lived at Camelot”, or “all unicorns have rainbow-colored wings”, being universal propositions, carry no inherent existential import. In other words, we would have to know, independently of such statements, whether there actually was an Arthur or a Camelot (or unicorns). I believe @Tiffy was merely making the point that “real” and “true” are distinct concepts with different objective referents, and thus that it’s possible to have true propositions about unreal things (just as it’s possible to have false propositions about real things).
     
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  19. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I assumed that the 'why' is obvious, but it may not be if someone is catechized in the Episcopal Church.

    Secular, by definition, is something that does not deal with the Sacred. Secular and Sacred are antonyms. Now both domains, the secular and the sacred, have their rightful place. The problem comes in when we corrupt the one with the other. For example, it is an apocalyptic problem when people make the Secular be the Sacred. That's what marxism does. And contrarywise, it becomes the root of heresy and apostacy to make the Sacred be the Secular; that's where a liberal Christian, Unitarian, 'Spiritual' person lives.

    So to answer your question, it's not that secular itself is bad, but rather that you're making something which was sacred, be secular.

    And that's basically the answer to the whole of this thread. You're reading Genesis through secular eyes, rather than the sacred eyes.
     
  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Good one, Ananias. :thumbsup: R.C. Sproul (in that video) makes the point that scripture, being divinely inspired, can only have one correct interpretation (although a given scripture may have a multitude of applications). He calls out the danger of 'relativism', and says that even though we respect the right of private interpretation, we also must look carefully at what the church (I'd add the early church) interpretation has been to see if we as individuals have drawn a correct or a wrong interpretation.

    I have already pointed out how the Apostle Paul understood Gen. 2 & 3, and how (by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) wrote of Adam as a literal individual who lived and sinned.

    I invite you all to read from Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapters 21 through 23. In it, Irenaeus consistently refers to Adam as a historical individual and "the first formed man". Also in Book 1, Ch. 9, Ireneaus writes: "But flesh is that which was of old formed for Adam by God out of the dust, and it is this that John has declared the Word of God became." Irenaeus interpreted Genesis 2 & 3 as saying that Adam was as real, as flesh-and-blood, as was Jesus.

    Justin wrote that God will judge all men, including "Adam himself" (Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 132). In Ch. 19 Justin writes that God made Adam uncircumcised in a physical sense (do allegorical constructs have foreskins?).

    Perhaps the naysayers would like to research all the writings of the Ante-Nicene fathers in an effort to come up with any who regarded the account of Adam & Eve in Genesis as an allegorical tale. I doubt there will be any. I suspect that all of them, to a man, believed Adam to have been an actual, living, breathing, walking, talking, eating, flesh-and-blood human being whom God literally formed out of the dust of the earth. But then, of course, the naysayers will still not be convinced by the overwhelming consensus; they will most likely protest that we are relying on meaningless "tradition."
     
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