Original Sin / Salvation without a literal Adam and Eve?

by Coded Logic 30 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Coded Logic
    Coded Logic

    Something I've never understood is if Adam and Eve are just metaphorical where did "original sin" come from. And, if there was no original sin, what is the value of Jesus sacrifice?

    I know a lot of Christians believe in evolution but I've never understood how such a belief is structured. My personal experience might be a little different as I didn't accept evolution until after I realized the Bible was something I couldn't justify believing as "divinely inspired".

    Not looking to debate anyone on this thread - just genuinely curious if anyone on here is a Christian and also accepts evolution and/or doesn't believe in a literal Adam and Eve. Would be much obliged if you could share your thoughts on the issue.

  • ctrwtf

    This was the linchpin in my exit of the wits and belief in religion in general. No Adam/Eve. No original sin. No kingdom promise. No Armageddon.

    Most mainstream religions treat Genesis as a myth or allegory. I'm not sure what theological gymnastics are involved in integrating that into whatever belief system they have. Sorry, as I've written, I pretty much gave up on religion. I admire the fact that they don't just deny science the way the wits and other fundamentalist crazies do.

    It seems to me that evolution and the Genesis story are really two different subjects. Adam and Eve are mythical and the tribal accounts of the Hebrews are mostly the fictionalized histories that have woven themselves into the life and belief systems of Christians and Jews.

    Evolution on the other hand, addresses the more generic (and scientific) question of how life began.

    Just my two cents.

  • sir82

    Don't Catholics believe in evolution, but also believe that at some point God stepped in and imbued an immortal soul on 2 of the humans roaming around, and named them Adam & Eve?

    That way you get evolution but also still get to have an "original sin" and a need for a redeemer.

    Conveniently, this also solves the dilemma of where Cain got his wife - one of the un-souled humans who were hanging around.

    I know, my version leaves unanswered gaps - but I have not read the catechism, they may have worked it all out somehow.

  • David_Jay

    From what I remember from Theology 101 (and if I can find my books I will get the actual quotes to you), while Adam and Eve are believed to represent the literal first humans, the narrative is what is written in figurative language. This is generally the same starting point in both Jewish and Christian circles.

    Judaism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy (along with most mainstream Protestants) concur that this is not a story about how sin was introduced into humanity as much as it is a story teaching that sin has been a factor in the human condition from the outset. The narrative simplifies this in an illustrative manner by giving the "first couple" a directive which they cannot fully complete without interference of the basic makeup of human nature.

    Judaism sees this not as "original sin" but as describing a facet of humanity that does not disqualify anyone from being the same "very good" creation mentioned in Genesis 1. Humans aren't perfect because they were not created that way. In Judaism the thought is that humans need God and, unlike some in Christianity, the Jewish view is that God may equally need humans. We are two parts of puzzle, say many Jews of this story, both needing one another to be whole like the two lovers that later sing to one another in the Song of Solomon.

    Christianity would understand this story in the light of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and Pauline teaching to the Gentiles. In Jewish theology God redeems the children of Abraham on the basis of a promise with a future but has not done this for humanity in general, nor fully fulfilled the Abrahamic covenant. The idea in Chrisitanity is that this facet of imperfection keeps redemption from being fully realized, and for them Jesus has come to remove it.

    The narrative in Genesis 3 was in the light of this understanding labeled "original sin." It doesn't change the original view that the story is figurative, however. "Original sin" is the theological concept or interpretation of the event, but the first suggestions of this come from the written Gospels and Paul's letters. The term itself, being theological, does not occur directly in Scripture form.

    The idea that this was a literal series of events was late in Christian history. The revivals in American religion which gave birth to Fundamentalism occurred among teachers who were generally not formally educated in theology. They have interpreted not merely the Biblical stories as literal for this reason but some of the theological discussions of the same as well. References to the imagery in Scripture and exegesis were seen as validating that the details were factual.

    These groups often shared in the rejection of the universities of higher learning where these are generally learned (originally colleges came from Christian churches rejected by these new religious movements), and thus their hermeneutical views became absent of the traditions that carried the Biblical concepts to their generation.

    It is from these groups that the Jehovah's Witnesses sprung, and they carried this "tradition-rejecting" tradition into their religion, claiming the events in Genesis have to be real.

    One final word: the sacrifice of the cross is not a concept which Christianity claims to fully understand like the Witnesses. Christianity teaches that in some mysterious way the Cross is the Tree of Life promised to Adam and Eve (and obviously their children) in the original story. Though nailed to a dead tree, like the sacrifices that provided food for the Israelites at the Temple, this Tree provides the "true food" of the body and blood of Christ that gives life to anyone who "eats" from it. Where JWs see this a a sacrifice needed to appease a God who demands such a victim, Christianity sees it as God giving his life as "food" to share his life with humanity.

  • cofty

    For most christians Jesus' death is not about Adam.

    They see it in the context of the sacrifices under The Law. In other words Jesus ' punishment on the cross was vicarious. He died in the place of the repentant sinner. The key text is Isaiah 53

    Here is an essay I wrote about it when I was a christian...

  • Beth Sarim
    Beth Sarim

    This is another main key of the WBTS. Without Adamic sin, the entire theology of the Borg can implode on itself too.

    The entire theme of the Borg is the restoration of the Earth to a paradisiac environment as to what it was like with Adam and Eve before they sinned. And why Jesus came down to restore that purpose.

    Without that intent, the entire resolve of the Borg is for not. Then the whole thing is a sham.

    THAT, is another HUGE reason why the Borg hates evolution so much!!!!

  • David_Jay

    Cofty's essay on the matter is quite on top of it from the other perspective as well, that of mainstream Fundamentalism and even the conservative movements in Protestantism. (You should write professionally, Cofty...about anything. You are good with words.)

    Jehovah's Witness have built their idea of God based on this foundation, making God a deity that has such high standards that physical death and bloodletting are the only way to satisfy His judgment and quench His demands for atonement. Their idea that God demands a physical sacrifice for sins comes from the misapplication of Hebrews 9:22, namely that the Mosaic Law was interpreted by this Christian statement.

    The problem is that there are many ways to read Hebrews 9:22, and only one fits the accepted Jewish interpretation. Jews don't believe that animal sacrifices are the panacea to remove sin. As several rabbis I know have explained it to me, "If we believed that we would have rebuilt another Temple as soon as we could."

    The Jewish sacrificial system was about thanking God for life through food. Since food sustains life, some of what was eaten was "given back to God" to say "thank you" (though this portion usually ended up being reserved for the priests at service in the Temple). Blood was poured out of animals because the ancients believed that the very life force of beings existed within it. The life force of a creature belonged to God, so it had to be properly given back through the sacrificial system. To this day Jews generally cannot eat hunted game because the idea behind kosher laws is that blood has to be sufficient drained to demonstrate that God is recognized as the giver of life. Rabbis generally are not widely available for all who hunt, therefore kosher law is generally viewed as broken if game is consumed, even today, unless it can be proven that the animal was slaughter and bled under the direction of a rabbi. The ancient sacrificial system, while concerned with religious worship, was largely in place for this very thing regarding keeping kosher.

    "Today we have modern kosher butchering systems," one of these rabbis explained to me. "Now we can make sure Jews don't mishandle animal life or blood through rabbis on staff for just that purpose. But the idea that sin could only be erased by blood, if that was ever fully understood in the way Christians believe, was not of our making."

    While blood was originally seen as a means of atonement via the sacrificial system, it was only one of the ways sins could be forgiven. As their theology progressed and Judaism evolved (and Jewish theology even has space for the belief that God evolves in His ways to), sacrificing animals as a means of atonement for sins was phased out. Already by the time of Solomon Judaism had begun to embrace the idea that personal repentance could do just as good or better than the offering of an animal's blood. (For a thorough Jewish explanation from one of their best sources, see Jews for Judaism: Leviticus 17:11.)

    Simply put, the verse from Hebrews is often applied by some Christians, like the JWs, as if it expresses a Jewish view. The only way it can do this is if the verse is rendered something similar to this: "Indeed, under the law, it might almost be said that everything is cleansed by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Revised English Bible) The author of Hebrews, if they had the Jewish understanding in mind, may have actually meant that sacrificial shedding of animal blood is such a rule of thumb in the Mosaic Law, so much so that it seemed that without blood forgiveness could not occur. The author of Hebrews then builds upon this as an illustrative symbol of Christ's sacrifice, but never states that this is a definitive law in itself. The Jewish Bible regularly testifies to the fact that God does not require blood and that repentance and forgiveness can and will occur without it for Jews.--See Psalm 50:13-15; Isaiah 43:23-25; Proverbs 16:6; Ezekiel 18:21-30.

  • opusdei1972

    If you take seriously Paul's theology on Jesus as the second and the last Adam, you must believe that the Genesis' account of the fall is historically true, otherwise Jesus was a false Adam, inasmuch Adam never existed.

    So, if Adam did not exist, there is no original sin, then Jesus' dead does not save anyone, because nobody is dying on account of Adam. Indeed, it makes sense why biblicists need to defend the Genesis account.

  • opusdei1972
    The Church Father believed that Adam and Eve were historical persons and the first couple of humans. This strongly suggests that Christians of the first century did not take the Genesis account as figurative.
  • David_Jay

    While the Church Fathers believed Adam and Eve were historical, that does not mean they believed the account of Genesis chapter 3 was likewise historical.

    For instance, canonized Catholic saint Gregory Nazianzen (c. 329-390) wrote that the narrative of the Fall was set in simplified language, detailing that the Tree of Knowledge was but a symbol for "contemplation" (which in Roman Catholic theology is a type of wordless prayer that brings humans in mystical communicative intercourse with God).

    There are other historical personages which Scripture often sets into parable type narrative. The prophet Jonah is supposed to be a historical prophet according to Jewish history, but the Biblical book is written as a humorous moral lesson with details impossible to reconcile with reality even by religious standards. The Hebrew Daniel is supposed to be historical, a hero who lived faithfully as a Jew among Gentiles before the Babylonian exile, but the "prophet Daniel" of the book in Scripture are but legends of him set in apocalyptic tableau (which is why Daniel is not considered one of the historical prophets in Judaism). Ruth is also a historical figure, but her narrative was likely invented during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah during the foreign wives controversy.

    Jesus of Nazareth often used fictional narratives called "parables" to pass on what are viewed as religious truths. Some of the characters may be real personages known to the culture of the period (such as the "Lazarus" who dies alongside a nameless rich man--a poor beggar who would likely not be known by a name for any reason except the possibility that he was well-known in that era perhaps). The stories are complete fiction, but the situations are real, often drawing from real things common to first-century Jewish life with axioms that have practical value and universal applications in some instances, again all this despite their fictional nature.

    Lastly, it is a common mistake of Jehovah's Witnesses to draw the conclusion that God requires the death of an Adam like figure to ransom humanity as JW theology claims God must be appeased by human sacrifice. This is a late interpretation, confined mostly to American religious movements that arose from the Second Great Awakening era. This idea has no commonality with the centuries-old view which is well established not merely in theology but in countless paintings, poetry, and even song throughout the centuries.

    This older Christian exegesis is that Adam and Eve are also saved by Christ's death, and even the Church Fathers often speak of Adam being the first to be released from death by Christ. Christ is "Adam" in nominal Christology not because his death is an equivalent payment to balance the scales of justice (which is a Watchtower teaching) but that Christ becomes the new Father of the human race. In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, as well as Anglicism and even among some Lutheran teachers, Mary becomes the new "Eve" for humanity in the same manner.

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