Much of New Testament theology is based on ideas drawn from the literal creation and existence of Adam and Eve This common, seldom questioned, oft repeated, historical fallacy of a literal Adam and Eve in a literal garden, with a literal talking serpent antagonist, has been the foundational explanation of how mankind arrived on the scene and ultimately fell from grace. However, the story serves as more of a political statement of what Israelite culture was not to be. It is a clear placing of blame for sin, evil and disobedience clearly on women (matriarchy) and a societal shift to correct the damage (Patriarchy). In fact, we have no choice, as this one literal act was supposed to have condemned all future humanity to eternal death without recourse! But did it? If it never really happened in time and space, then perhaps we need another look.
To set the stage, anyone who is familiar with the elements of the higher criticism knows that there are two creation of man stories in Genesis. The first, or Priestly Account, was written in the fifth century B.C. and extends from the beginning of Genesis through verse 3 of chapter 2. The second, or Jehovistic Account, begins with verse 4 of chapter 2 and extends through the third chapter. This version of the story was written in the eighth century B.C. It is interesting to note that the second account is about 300 years older than the first. They are two different accounts and are not compatible with their "facts." Orthodox Christians insist that both stories must be true and compatible, even though they contradict each other on many points, as do the birth, death, and resurrection accounts in the New Testament. Admitting this, however, would hurt faith and faith always comes before facts to literalists. "Faith" sometimes, is what covers the facts so we are not uncomfortable. When all else fails, you will be lashed with "the wisdom of man is foolishness with God". That will pretty much end the discussion.
The simple fact is however, Adam/Eve and Original Sin never LITERALLY happened in space, time and history. The idea that man literally came in an instant just 6000 years ago in the form of an Adam and Eve is simply not based in FACT. It is mythology, and not an original one at that.
The hypothetical first man of the Bible was rightly named Adam, since the first Adam , which means "MAN" was made out of "adamah" which means "earth". Adam was not so much who he was, but what he was. The Romans called men "homo" since he was made out of "humus". And other mythologies have man made of clay and blood mixed and formed. It is a common origin story, not unique to Genesis. Taking a woman from male parts is also not unique to the Bible account.
Now all through the pages of the Bible, of course, it is considered a real event. That is the nature of the Bible. Or at least that is the nature of the Bible when read by literalists, who perhaps are unaware of any deeper, though not literally intended meaning.
A couple of years ago, while teaching an anatomy class for a massage class, I reminded them that they needed to know that humans had twelve pairs of ribs, ten fixed and two floating pairs. Several students brought up the with the Biblical story of human origins being literally true, informed me that "of course, men have one less rib than women " I said no, that women did not literally come from the rib of man , an expendable part, no matter how close to his heart the smooze might have you believe. The Genesis story was not explaining biology and human origins. One girl said she was telling her father and he'd be calling me. He never did... darn!
Paul clearly plays off his belief in the literal truth of Adam and Eve to make a very ignorant point of supposed truth to the early Church. This "truth" is designed just as much to keep women out of the male church as the OT law was designed to keep women out of the male system.
"Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. FOR (this is the reason why to Paul) Adam was formed first, THEN Eve. And Adam was NOT deceived, but the woman being deceived, FELL into transgression. Nevertheless (I, Paul, still have a role for her to fulfill), she will be saved in childbearing (though painfully which was part of the punishment in Genesis), IF they continue in faith, love, and holiness with self control. I Timothy 2:11-15
Do you honestly believe this is why women should not speak in a church, or if they have questions, go ask their husbands? So plainly Paul bases his teaching on a mythology that he believed to be literally true.
Perhaps you think I think they were all lying. I don't think they were lying for what they knew or believed, any more than I think Elijah or Jesus knew that remains of Neanderthals lay under their feet in Jerusalem or in Caves of Carmel. (They do). The answer is, of course Jesus believed it was literally true, or at least the writers who put their own reflections on Adam and Eve in Jesus mouth believed it. This was a COMMON practice in the writings of the time Western Christians are most unfamiliar with. "God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me" is the phrase that indicates a general ignorance as to how many conversations in the Bible are written. It is often written as fact, what the author imagines the character to have said in such an instance. Jesus' alone time in the Garden of comes to mind. Who wrote his prayer down? Did he tell the sleeping disciples what he said in his personal prayer minutes before his arrest. No . An author made up what he imagined Jesus would say in such a predicament.
It might also help to point out that Paul also believed that marriage was to avoid fornication but the best choice was to remain single like him. Do you believe that is valid thinking? I don't. Ask a Catholic Priest! Paul says a true widow, who lives in pleasure, is dead while she lives. (I Tim. 5:6). Do you believe that is a balanced truth about widows? Paul says younger widows will weaken and grow wanton against Christ and cast off their faith and marry, the marriage being the proof of her wantonness. Do you believe this? I don't.
Paul says weak people marry and single people think only of Jesus, while married people think only of pleasing their mate. Do you believe this? I don't. I know lots of mates who don't. I don't remember a lot of wives telling me ask their husbands to stop paying so much attention to them.
I don't remember any singles so caught up with Jesus and the Church, I had to tell them stop it. Paul was naïve about relationships in the extreme. Perhaps because he seems not to have had any quality ones in his personal life given what we have about him. Paul said he had the power to lead around a wife. I doubt most women were interested in his power to lead them around.
In another place Paul says "for the man comes not from the woman, but the woman from the man" referring back to the Adam myth. Do you believe that biologically? I don't. No one does today, at least no one with an open, functioning mind not clouded by years of superstition, fear and compliance to the expectations of others.
One of the benefits of making mythology literally true is that one can formulate laws to prevent the literal problems from happening again. In the origins stories it is WOMEN who take the biggest hit. It is not possible to make laws against various things, or institute whole religious systems if the origin stories are perceived as mythical. They must to have literally happened to enforce literal laws and control people.
While not literally true, the story of the fall of woman and matriarchy, which it really is, has been used by the men of the Old Testament, predominately the controlling priesthood, to re-institute patriarchy and protect Israelite men from the dangers of surrounding Goddess worship.
It is no coincidence the great counselor to the female Goddesses (Astarte, Ishtar, Isis, and many more) of the nations around Israel, was the wise and benevolent Serpent. In a Goddess oriented society, birth and reproduction was the sole function of the female. This was real mystery to the male who could not connect the events of nine months previous to the birth. Women were mystical. They could produce humans. Remember, the male spermatozoa was not discovered until 1677 by Hamm and Leeuwenhoek and the female ovum by Baer until 1827! It is no coincidence that once the woman was again connected to the how of birth process after 1827, women began to demand equal rights again with men.
In a Goddess oriented society, women get a lot of respect as well. The Goddess could give her property to all her children. It did not matter who the fathers were. Specific paternity with multiple partners could not be proved. If they were hers, and she'd know, they were family! But this would not do in Israelite society. If Israelite men cohabited with "pagan women", property could go to these women when the man died and this was unacceptable. The nation was in danger. Matriarchy had to be prevented in Israel and Patriarchy installed to enforce paternity and the laws of inheritance.
The Goddess concept had to go. God now HAD to be male. And with a male God, only marriage could prove fatherhood and property rights of children. One woman to serve the one man. Any children would be his children and only his children would get the land. It would not be lost to a pagan wife or unmarried woman.
Remember too that women in the Patriarchal Israelite society were basically property. Much like we still see today in the Middle East. "You shall not covet your neighbors house (thing), your neighbors wife (thing), nor his male or female servants (things), or his ox , nor his donkey (things), nor any (thing) that is your neighbors" (Ex 20:17) .
In Genesis, Lot was able to barter his things, (daughters), to the town folk so that his guests would not be raped. (The rape of strangers was not sexual, it was to humiliate and warn them to not endanger the clan hometown). Lot was concerned about his image as being a safe and hospitable man to these men. When he fled Sodom he begged not to go Zoar, but rather the mountains, as he knew what his fate would be at the hands of some of the men of Zoar, symbolic humiliation.
In war, it was fine for Israelite soldiers to take the girls who could show signs of their virginity (don't even imagine it), and kill those who could not prove it. You can take your enemies' "things", just not your neighbors.
Most laws against sexuality were enforced, often fatally, to serve as warning to others and insure paternity. A woman was not stoned if raped in the country because she is assumed to have cried out for help and no one could hear. She was stoned for not crying out for help if raped in the city as this might indicate she was enjoying herself, and the paternity of the baby might not be known.
You might notice the pattern through history of first the Goddess alone, fertile and a mystery. Then as suspicion of a male role in birth arose, the Goddess takes a male consort, though always portrayed as smaller and less powerful than her. Then as connection between the male contribution to birth is more suspected, the consort becomes her equal and the shift that she becomes his equal occurs, as we see in Egyptian culture.
Next, the male begins to feel that he alone is the cause of the mystery of birth and the female is a mere incubator. Now we have the death of Matriarchy and the Goddess and the birth of male dominated Old Testament Patriarchy. We now have a God that doesn't even have a consort, needs no company, knows no female and reproduces all by himself.
From this we have the story fall of the goddess in Genesis 2, and her evil (though never alluded to as Satan... that was added later) serpent counselor. The fall, caused by Eve (the goddess) is the reason for every evil thing to come and why humanity is the way it is. Therefore, she now only gets to have babies painfully and be subject to the one man. This is the meaning of Genesis 2 and 3.
Let me be perfectly clear. The story of the fall of man or woman or both never literally happened. It is a mythology written for the purpose of derailing and dethroning goddess worship in ancient Israel. It is to avoid the attendant risks of losing land to pagan wives and men finding more theological satisfaction in Goddess worship and fertility rights than in being controlled body, mind, spirit by a male Priesthood with all it's attendant obligations.
New Testament authors reach back to The Fall as literally true for the same reasons. Modern Christian do the same, some thinking it is literally true, and many other individual pastors KNOWING it is not, but hey, "I'd lose my job".
So why do I bother to write about the mythology of Adam/Eve and Original Sin, and invite the scorn of literalists? Well first of all, I used to believe and teach it faithfully myself as a literal fact. As a pastor, I did not have the guts to publicly question church teaching. And by church, I mean all denominations. I am past that stage now and am seeking the simple truth for me and my life, which I will never again give over to the group, the organization or "the church". Had the information available to me today been available when I was younger, I never would have gone into the ministry. All denominations only teach what supports the view of some founding individual.
So back to the original premise. Adam and Eve did not literally exist in space and time. There was no Garden of Eden in the salt flats in southern Iraq. There was no talking serpent (a sure sign of a mythology). The events of the Fall have the deeply political and theological intent to dethrone goddess worship and thus all women from any special treatment or adoration save for having babies painfully and serving men. We, meaning every human to come along since, did not fall into sin because of Adam, from which we must be theologically extracted by bloodletting of any sort. If the events did not literally take place, the consequences did not either. Perhaps one can now feel they were born right the first time.
It's a long and painfully negative road to attempt to go from a being whose "heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it" to the absolute requirement to become "perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect". No pressure to perform there!
I spent 26 years with these concepts. I met NO perfect people, "like your Father in heaven is perfect"--NONE. None were close. None were much on their way.(Nor were they "mature" as their father in heaven is "mature")
I met a lot of wonderfully normal people, but also, a lot who never could feel quite good enough to be who they are, and a feeling somehow this is just not achievable.
Being told that it is God and the Holy Spirit that will now do this for us, or maybe to us (whether by unconditional love, which seemed to have lots of conditions, or by grace, which in practical fact had a lot of laws), never really helped. Even Paul, depending on the book he may or may not have literally authored, never quite seems sure where law and grace, faith and works converge, or if they do.
This is what literalist Christianity does to people. Literalist, Patriarchal Christianity thrives on division. If it has no enemy, it has no purpose or motivation. There can be no "we only" without a "not them". There can be no "chosen" without the "unchosen" . There can be no "converted" without "the unconverted". And certainly no "true church" without the "false church".
When it finally discovers (don't worry, it won't) that the inerrant and literally true Book is neither inerrant nor literally true, it will have to face the fact that literalist teachings, Christian or Fundamentalist Islam, have been responsible for more damnable repression and destruction of the body, mind and spirit than a literal Satan could ever dream of.
We're all here to learn. I don't ask you to see the world of religion and theology through my eyes, nor would most. I got here with my own experiences, curiosity and need to know. However, I do encourage you to see it through your own eyes, and not as interpreted for you by Apostles, Ayatollah's, Prophet's, Priests and King's , AKA Gerald Flurry, Dave Pack or Robert Thiel, James Malm and the entire host of theological midgets and misfits.