The Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve: Literal, Symbolic, or Myth? -- By: Mark Pretorius

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 12:1 (Sep 2011)
Article: The Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve: Literal, Symbolic, or Myth?
Author: Mark Pretorius

The Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve: Literal, Symbolic, or Myth?

Mark Pretorius1


The purpose of this paper is to attempt to explain the deeper meaning determined in the reference to Adam and Eve, the two trees, and the serpent found in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. The intention is to demonstrate that these characters and events were not mythological anecdotes, but concrete descriptions of factual events and characters, which have a deeper and added significance and spiritual importance now. The optimism of this paper is to reach a conclusion which will appeal to many as a favourable counter to the quandary and mystification arising from the questions asked.


The view that the book of Genesis is myth or allegory will most likely influence how one interprets associated passages of scripture. For example, how can one comprehend the significance of John 3:16 if one were to construe the narrative of the fall in Genesis 3:1-24 as myth or allegory? As the federal head, Adam symbolized all humankind before God in the Garden of Eden. When he sinned, it affected humanity for all future generations. Accordingly, interpreting this narrative as non-literal significantly dilutes the coming of Christ and his redemption of all humankind as the second federal head of the human race. This

would affect related scriptural references that follow this imperative narrative, hence, presenting a distorted picture of redemption.

Consequently, one would likewise view hell as mythological. According to Kennedy (2006:57), Christianity’s Augustinian orthodoxy persuaded many people—over more than a millennia—that hell awaits any person not saved by Jesus Christ. For Kennedy, this was based on the second chapter of Genesis imaginatively describing the rebellion of Adam and Eve. He goes on to say that those scholars who reject the view of hell and the first primordial humans as fact, are to be admired for their insight and honesty.

The ramifications of decreeing the first two chapters of Genesis as myth has grave implications for believing the rest of the Bible. How would one distinguish which parts of the Bible are myth, and which parts describe factual events? Who has the authority to make such significant judgements?

According to Mitchell (1897:913-914), before one can attempt to answer these questions, one must first answer the question of whether the story of the fall, and the events that led up to it, is literal history or an allegory? Did th...

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