Friday, December 9, 2011
TO BE OR NOT TO BE, ADAM AND EVE, THAT IS THE QUESTION
There are limitations to the historical-critical analysis of Sacred Scripture as well as relying too heavily on literary criticism also. In terms of the first, Pope Benedict in his book on Jesus takes a very sharp razor to much of historical-critical analysis of the Scripture although he does not negate it altogether.
I have found some scholars and priests becoming so dogmatic in trying to debunk people's belief in a literal Adam and Eve and in a literal Manger scene, that in the process they have helped to erode and destroy people's faith rather then build it up. My seminary class in 1976 started with about 60 men. By the end of the first year it was down to 30 and many of those who left, left because of the liberal, Catholic-faith destroying teachings of modern Scripture scholars and those who promoted the spirit of Vatican II theology using the hermeneutic of rupture rather than continuity with what preceded Vatican II. The worst label anyone could give you back then was "you are so pre-Vatican II!" It was like calling you a Nazi.
As it concerns Adam and Eve and all the stories of Genesis up to Abraham, I think it is appropriate to teach that these are not "historical" in the classic sense of what constitutes history. Once we get to Abraham then we begin to enter more into classical history.
If one chooses to see these chapters as a parable, the truth of the Church can never be challenged as it concerns the nature of God's creatures and who is the Creator and that Original Sin tainted the human race and excluded them from salvation. But from the beginning, God has a plan of salvation fulfilled in Jesus Christ and what is called the "Christ Event."
It should bother no one that some accept Adam and Eve as literal and the first 11 chapters of the Book of Genesis as literal. It should not bother anyone that some choose to understand these books in a parabolic sense while embracing the totality of what the Church teaches concerning creation and the fall of the our first parents.
The following apologetic is rather good I think:
By Fr. Peter Joseph, STD.
The Church teaches that the whole human race is descended from Adam and Eve:
Old Testament: This is the obvious sense of Sacred Scripture: before the creation of Adam, “there was no man to till the ground” (Genesis 2:5); Eve is “the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). This is re-asserted in other Old Testament books: e.g., Wisdom 7:1: “I also am mortal, like all men, a descendant of the firstformed child of earth.” Tobit 8:5-6: “Tobias began to pray: Blessed are You, O God of our fathers … You made Adam and gave him Eve his wife as a helper and support. From them the race of mankind has sprung.” (RSV version)
New Testament: St Paul speaks of “the first man Adam” in contrast with Jesus, the new Adam (1 Cor 15:45, and 47. Cf. 1 Tim 2:13; Lk 3:38; Acts 17:26). He says, “sin came into the world through one man” (Romans 5:12). Seven times in Romans 5:12-19, St Paul speaks of Adam as “one man”. If there were many first men, then St Paul was completely wrong, and so is the Bible in the Old and New Testaments.
The Fathers: So many of the early Fathers, such as St Irenaeus and St Justin, following the idea of St Paul, called Jesus the ‘new Adam’—and then developed the idea and called Mary ‘the new Eve’. If there were many Adams and Eves, then Jesus and Mary have been given useless and meaningless titles by the Church. The Adam-Eve and Jesus-Mary parallel is taught all through the centuries. Vatican II says the same in its documents quoted below.
Catholic doctrine of Redemption: The doctrines of Original Sin and the Redemption require us to believe that we are all descended from Adam: we sinned in Adam, because he was our parent; and because we inherited his sin, we had need of Redemption. The Council of Trent’s solemn and infallible decree of 1546 on Original Sin begins by speaking of the sin of “the first man Adam”.
Pope Pius XII: ‘Polygenism’ (belief in several original ancestors) is therefore contrary to the teaching of the Church. Pope Pius XII in 1950 declared, “Christ’s faithful cannot embrace a theory which involves the existence, after Adam’s time, of some earthly race of men, truly so called, who were not descended from him as the ancestor of all men, or else supposes that Adam was the name given to a multiplicity of original ancestors.” (Encyclical Humani Generis)
Vatican II: The Second Vatican Council speaks of Adam and Eve, and the new Adam and the new Eve, in at least 7 passages, quoted below.
The Catechism: Belief in the descent of all men from one man Adam is called ‘monogenism’. It is upheld in the Catechism of the Catholic Church at least 13 times, quoted below.
II. QUESTIONS ON GENESIS AND ITS MEANING
Q. If Adam and Eve had only Cain and Abel, where did everyone else come from?
A. The account in Genesis does not claim to list all their children by name, but makes it clear that there were others: Genesis 4:17 mentions that Cain had a wife. Gen 4:25 mentions the birth of Seth, another son of Adam and Eve. 4:26 mentions Seth’s son, Enosh. Finally, 5:4 says, “Adam … had other sons and daughters.”
Q. Does this mean that brother and sister married at the start?
A. Yes: at the beginning of the human race, marriage between close relations was necessary and unavoidable but was closed off once the necessity had passed. God the Creator ensured that it led to no genetic problems.
Q. What about science?
A. Scientists have not proved the multiple origin of the human species. The fact that all men all over the world, formally educated or not, have the gift of speech and the power to grasp intellectual and moral truths, tends to show that we are all members of the same family, and is, therefore, fully consistent with the doctrine revealed to us that we are descended from a single pair of ancestors. This argument is confirmed by world-wide similarities in ancient traditions and folklore, and is not affected by differences of race and language. All races
are true to a common type, despite their varieties and considerable differences. The human races are all capable of breeding with one another. Difference in language is due chiefly to geographical separation. As the study of philology and linguistics advances, the kinship is gradually being established between all languages, even between those which at one time were thought to be totally unrelated. The more recent researches into human genetic structure would very much favour the common origin of the human race.
Q. I have heard it said that the book of Genesis is just a myth. Why, then, insist that there is history within it?
A. Some parts of Genesis are symbolic; other parts are to be taken literally and historically. The Church guides us as to which is which. Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Humani Generis (1950) said:
The first 11 chapters of Genesis, although it is not right to judge them by modern standards of historical composition, such as would be applied to the great classical authors, or to the learned of our own day, do nevertheless come under the heading of history; in what exact sense it is for the further labours of the exegete to determine. These chapters have a simple, symbolic way of talking, well suited to the understanding of a primitive people. … It may be that these ancient writers of sacred history drew some of their material from current popular stories.
So much may be granted; but it must be remembered that they did so under the impulse of divine inspiration, which preserved them from all error in selecting and assessing the material they used. These excerpts from current stories, which are found in the sacred books, must not be put on a level with mere myths, or with legend in general. Myths arise from the uncontrolled imagination; whereas in our sacred books, even of the Old Testament, a love of truth and simplicity shine out, so as to put these sacred writers on a demonstrably higher level than their profane contemporaries.
The same Pope in the same document ruled out the idea that ‘Adam’ means several people, as quoted above.
Q. How are we to understand the six days’ creation by God?
A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
337. God himself created the visible world in all its richness, diversity, and order. Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine “work,” concluded by the “rest” of the seventh day. On the subject of creation, the sacred text teaches the truths revealed by God for our salvation, permitting us to recognize the inner nature, the value, and the ordering of the whole of creation to the praise of God.
338. Nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator. The world began when God’s word drew it out of nothingness; all existent beings, all of nature, and all human history are rooted in this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun.
Catholics are permitted to believe either in the literal creation in six days, or in a long period of time directed by God. One may believe that God literally created the world in six twenty-four hour days, or over many years through some secondary causes willed by God Himself. The most important thing is, whatever ‘method’ or ‘process’ was used, it occurred and was willed by God. But as to the evolution of man, any theory can only refer to the evolution of the human body, not the human soul—since each person’s soul is directly created by God. The human soul is spiritual, and therefore cannot arise through any natural process.
The Church teaches that:
God directly created the soul of Adam.
God directly creates every human soul.
The human soul is spiritual.
God created the soul of Adam, as every human soul, immediately out of nothing (direct creation). But in forming the body of Adam, He made use of material already existing (indirect creation), and transformed it. Was it an animal body that God transformed and elevated—or was it matter straight from the Earth? The Church has not ruled on the question. But if evolution has occurred (which is far from proved, and even contrary to the evidence), it can only mean evolution of the body, not of the soul. No human person can appear on the earth except by divine intervention, by God’s creation of a soul.
III. VATICAN II ON ADAM AND EVE
Did Vatican II change the Church’s teaching on Adam and Eve? The answer has to be No, since no Council can change Church teaching. Here are some quotes from three Council documents to show the Council upheld traditional teaching:
Lumen Gentium: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964), in 5 different paragraphs:
02. Fallen in Adam, God the Father did not leave men to themselves, but ceaselessly offered helps to salvation, in view of Christ, the Redeemer …At the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’ will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church.
53. The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honoured as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. … At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved.
55. The Mother of the Redeemer … is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise of victory over the serpent which was given to our first parents after their fall into sin.
56. The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son, so that just as a woman [Eve] contributed to death, so also a woman [Mary] should contribute to life. … Thus Mary, a daughter of Adam, consenting to the divine Word, became the mother of Jesus. … For, as St Irenaeus says, she ‘being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.’ Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert in their preaching, ‘The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.’ Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her ‘the Mother of the living,’ and still more often they say: ‘death through Eve, life through Mary.’
63. The Blessed Virgin … by her belief and obedience, not knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the new Eve brought forth on earth the very Son of the Father, showing an undefiled faith, not in the word of the ancient serpent, but in that of God’s messenger.
Dei Verbum: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (1965) in 1 paragraph:
03. God … from the start manifested Himself to our first parents. Then after their fall His promise of redemption aroused in them the hope of being saved (see Gen 3:15).
Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965):
22. The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. … He Who is ‘the image of the invisible God’ is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward.
IV. THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON ADAM AND EVE
Many paragraphs of the Catechism speak of our first parents Adam and Eve:
360. Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for “from one ancestor, [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth”.
374. The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and with the creation around him.
375. The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”.
376. The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called ‘original justice’.
379. This entire harmony of original justice, foreseen for man in God’s plan, will be lost by the sin of our first parents.
390. 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 the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.
391. Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called ‘Satan’ or the ‘devil’. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.
399. Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness.
404. How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”. By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.
411. The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “new Adam” who, because he became obedient unto death, even death on a cross, makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience of Adam. Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”.
417. Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called “original sin”.
635. Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” … [Then comes a quote from an ancient homily]: “Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. … He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, He has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him—He who is both their God and the son of Eve”.
766. The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus. For it was from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the ‘wondrous sacrament of the whole Church. As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.