The Quest for the Historical Eve & Adam


I just wanted to briefly follow-up on my post on a letter to a confused young Christian. Fellow blogger Craig Falvo wanted to know where did my understanding of Adam & Eve as the first priests come from.

This, I think, is a good question, and deserves a more detailed response pertaining to my sources, and where did this notion come from.  In terms of biblical interpretation, I do not begin with the narrative, allegorical, or typological understandings of Scripture as my dear friend Clement or Origen. Instead, I try to understand the meanings of the original words used within their historical context (to the best of my ability).  One could say that historical criticism distances a Christian further from TRADITION, and ultimately, disconnects one from a larger community while story/metaphor supposedly allows the Christian intellectual to relate more to the layperson. I do not think that is necessarily true, and I do not see why historical and literary readings of the Bible have to be all that antagonistic towards the other.  For instance, could not one begin with historical understandings of the text, and then use allegory and metaphor to complement  that reading.  I think it is possible, and a case in point is my limited and changing view of Genesis 1-3.

For instance, Catholic theologian Scott Hahn (who prefers an allegorical reading of Scripture in his work, The Father Who Keeps His Promises),  points out that the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 are written are both complementary and distinct; the first chapter describes God building the Earth as His temple and in the second chapter, He constructs the Garden of Eden as His sanctuary (Hahn, 54).  There is some evidence of this throughout the biblical story in the Hebrew Bible.  For instance, the same Hebrew verbs used in God’s order for Adam to till (abodah) and keep (shamar) only appear in the divine demands for the Levitical priesthood attend to God’s sanctuary in the midst of the Israelites, the tabernacle (Ibid).  Also, like the Garden of Eden’s imagery in Genesis 1-3, God walks (hithallek) and dwells among the Hebrews just as He does with Adam and Eve.  God is also accompanied by God’s guardian angels, the cherubim, which coincidentally guard the inner sanctuaries of the tabernacle and temple.

While Hahn discusses only Adam in his equation of the priesthood (for theological reasons since he is working within the Catholic tradition), I have included Eve since she and Adam are assigned to reside in the sanctuary of creation (The Garden). As I see it, Adam and Eve are not necessarily the first human beings but rather are “the first among the human race” much like Israel is first among the nations to receive YHWH (John 4:22 & Romans 3:2 NRSV).

Now, if one examines the history behind the building of the tabernacle and temples, the imagery and references to Eden are striking, as well as intentional (Compare Genesis 1-3 with 1st Kings 6 NRSV). Genesis 1, as well as the fact that there is only permission for humanity and animals alike to consume vegetation (Genesis 1:29 NRSV).  There are some that say (in the rabbinic tradition & religious vegetarians) that the reason for the Kosher Laws found in such passages as Leviticus 11 may be to bring humanity back to vegetarianism.  Indeed, a very early form of non-violent politic practice. This non-violent ethic stems first, and foremost from the creation narratives, which is a peaceable creation initiated by the God of Peace.  Unlike many other histories or creation stories, where chaos & war form the culture of a people, the Israelites were taught something different because they were called to be different, to be holy.

I think all of this leads me to conclude that no serious theology of creation, within the Christian tradition at least, cannot afford to overlook the Jewish roots of Christianity and the priestly theological tradition.  This is the point I want to make: the debates between evolutionists and creationists [read: Eurocentric] distract Christians from appreciating the historical and theological significances of Genesis 1-3.

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