Of course, the Church Fathers did not believe in the same Watchtower's explanation of the meaning of Jesus sacrifice. However, it seems that the majority in the churches of the first centuries did believe in the account of Genesis chapter 3 as historical. Of course, some of the Alexandrian School gave to it an allegorical interpretation, however, Augustine pointed out that the whole account was a historical fact:
Original Sin / Salvation without a literal Adam and Eve?
"...some allegorize all that concerns Paradise itself, where the first humans, the parents of the human race, are, according to the truth of holy Scripture, recorded to have been; and they understand all its trees and fruit-bearing plants as virtues and habits of life, …as if they had no existence in the external world, but were only so spoken of or related for the sake of spiritual meanings. As if there could not be a real terrestrial Paradise! ...No one, then, denies that Paradise may signify the life of the blessed; its four rivers, the four virtues, prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice; its trees, all useful knowledge; its fruits, the customs of the godly; its tree of life, wisdom herself, the mother of all good; and the tree of the knowledge of good …and evil, the experience of a broken commandment.. .These and similar allegorical interpretations may be suitably put upon Paradise without giving offence to any one, provided we believe the truth of the story as a faithful record of historical fact."(Augustine, City of God, Book XIII.XXI )So, the early church understood this myth as it were a fact.
I'm afraid you have misquoted St. Augustine. He is well known for teaching that the Genesis account is allegorical. Even Wikipedia notes this :
"In the book, Augustine took the view that everything in the universe was created simultaneously by God, and not in seven days like a plain account of Genesis would require. He argues that the six-day structure of creation presented in the book of Genesis represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way. Augustine also doesn’t envisage original sin as originating structural changes in the universe, and even suggests that the bodies of Adam and Eve were already created mortal before the Fall. Apart from his specific views, Augustine recognizes that the interpretation of the creation story is difficult, and remarks that we should be willing to change our mind about it as new information comes up."--Italics added.
To date the Catholic Church still follows the views of the Church Fathers in not demanding a dogmatic literalist interpretation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of man. Revelation [from God (not the Bible book of the same name)] gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents."--CCC 390.
But viewing the account as allegorical is not the same as viewing it as fiction, nor should the methodological use of the word "mythology" as sometimes applied to Biblical allegories in critical Biblical analysis be confused with the vernacular use of the word "myth," which most people take for a "false story." Instead within the narrative frame of an allegory is found a historical truth, according to this exegesis. Adam and Eve are not considered symbolic, neither is "original sin" something fictional according to this view. As Catholic Answers explains in an article regarding this: "The story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if not written entirely according to modern literary techniques."
The narrative is not a literal report like that found in a history book, a documentary, or even a journalistic account, but the religious truth within is fact as these Christians see it. I personally cannot say how Catholics make this distinction, not being a Roman Catholic myself, but I do know there is no dogmatic demand on how a Catholic may or may not interpret the story found in Genesis 3 as well.
I did not say that Augustine believed that the seven days were literal. However, he said on Adam and Eve, as I quoted before:
These and similar allegorical interpretations may be suitably put upon Paradise without giving offence to any one, provided we believe the truth of the story as a faithful record of historical fact."(Augustine, City of God, Book XIII.XXI )
Now Let's read Irenaeus:
But, in order that the man should not entertain thoughts of grandeur nor be exalted, as if he had no Lord, and, because of the authority given to the man and the boldness towards God his creator, sin, passing beyond his own measure, and adopt an attitude of self-conceited arrogance against God, a law was given to him from God, that he might know that he had as lord the Lord of all. And he placed certain limits upon him, so that, if he should keep the commandment of God, he would remain always as he was, that is, immortal; if, however, he should not keep it, he would become mortal, dissolving into the earth whence his frame was taken. And the commandment was this: ‘You may eat freely from every tree of paradise, but of that tree alone, whence is the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat; for on the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die’ (Gen 2.16-17). (The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 15)
The above words clearly show that Irenaeus believed in a literal interpretation of the account of Adam and Eve.
Irenaeus did believe that Adam was made conditionally immortal, as in certain sense Witnesses believe.
Adam was made conditionally immortal, The condition being, to have continued access to the fruit of the tree of life.
Origen's views seem to place him as seeing Adam as being both historical fact (eg in the preface of De Principiis Adam is listed alongside Moses and Abraham etc as a historical figure) as well as something of an allegory. Origen also pushes something which seems close to the idea of inherited sin requiring a ransom sacrifice, but it's not the whole Adventist interpretation Russell was plugged into. (Commentary on Romans is where Origen ends up trying to square circles of Pauline doctrine on sin.)
My apologies, Opusdei, if I misunderstood you.
When you wrote, "Augustine pointed out that the whole account was a historical fact" I assumed from this you meant that he taught that all of Genesis 3 was fact.
As I pointed out from his own work, while he believed Adam and Eve were historical, he did not accept the narrative in the same light. Apparently you were saying the same thing when you said "whole account" which I read wrong. My pardons.
Sometimes I wonder if everything in the Bible is big fairy tale. And that Adam and Eve never really existed and about Christ coming down to serve as a ransom is a big myth.
Hi Coded Logic, you wrote: 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".
I'm going to echo Sir82's sentiments, the Catholic church today addresses the problem the same way that Russell originally did: God used evolution but Adam and Eve were specific creations of God.
I find it sort of unsatisfactory and disjointed but it does solve many problems though.
David_Jay: It seems that the guy (one of many authors) who wrote in Genesis that the world was created in seven days took it from a Babylonian legend. So, may be there was a belief that the world was created literally in seven days. I think that the author wrote it with that intention, although not all the ancient readers understood it in that way. Who knows ?