Is the Adam and Eve story to be understood literally?Question: "Is the Adam and Eve story to be understood literally?"
Answer: Let us assume for a moment that the Adam and Eve story is not to be understood literally. What would be the result? Would Christianity remain essentially the same with a non-literal understanding of the story of Adam and Eve? No. In fact, it would have serious implications for virtually every tenet and doctrine of the Christian faith. If Adam was not a real man, then sin did not enter the world through one man as Romans 5:12 states. How, then, did sin enter world? Further, if the New Testament is wrong about how sin entered the world, what else is it wrong about? If Romans 5:12 is wrong, how do we know that the entirety of Romans 5:8–15 is not wrong? If the story of Adam and Eve is not to be taken literally—if they did not really exist—then there was no one to rebel, there was no fall into sin. Satan, the great deceiver, would like nothing better than for people to believe that the Bible should not be taken literally and that the story of the fall of man is a myth. Why? Because once we start denying parts of the Bible, we lose our trust in the Bible. Why should we believe anything God’s Word says if we cannot trust everything that it says?
Jesus taught that God created one man and one woman (Mark 10:6) and mentions Abel, a son of Adam and Eve in Luke 11:51. Was Jesus wrong in His beliefs? Or did Jesus know there were no literal Adam and Eve and He was simply accommodating His teaching to the beliefs of the people (i.e., lying)? If Jesus is wrong in His beliefs, He is not God. If Jesus is intentionally deceiving people, He is sinning and therefore cannot be the Savior (1 Peter 1:19).
That is why this is such a serious issue. To deny the literalness of Adam and Eve is to place oneself in opposition to Jesus and the apostle Paul. If one has the audacity to claim he is right and Jesus and Paul are wrong, then Jesus is a sinner, not God and not the Savior; the apostle Paul is a false prophet; and the Bible is not inspired, inerrant, or trustworthy.
The Bible clearly presents Adam and Eve as literal people who existed in a literal Garden of Eden. They literally rebelled against God, they literally believed Satan’s lie, and they were literally cast out of the Garden (Genesis 3:24). They had literal children, all of whom inherited the sin nature, and that nature was passed down to succeeding generations to this very day. Fortunately, God promised a literal Savior to redeem us from that sin nature (Genesis 3:15). That Savior is Jesus Christ, called the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), who died on a literal cross and literally rose again. Those who believe in Christ will have literal salvation and spend eternity in a literal heaven.
Christians who deny the story of Adam and Eve essentially deny their own faith. Rejecting the literal interpretation of the Bible’s historical narratives is a slippery slope. If Adam and Eve did not exist, then were Cain and Abel not real? Did Seth exist, and did he father a godly line that led all the way to Abraham and eventually to Jesus Himself? Where in Luke’s genealogy (Luke 3:23–38) do the names stop referring to literal people and start referring to mythical characters? To dismiss Adam and Eve as non-literal is to deny the accuracy of Luke’s gospel, cast aspersions on Moses’ record, and remove the foundation of the rest of the Bible.
God’s Word claims to be true (Psalm 119:160). Jesus Christ declared God’s Word to be truth (John 17:17). All of God’s Word is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). These declarations include the biblical account of Adam and Eve.
Recommended Resource: Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care by C. John Collins
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