If you listen to NPR or read Christian-themed blogs at all, you’ve probably heard about the Morning Edition story about Evangelicals questioning the existence of Adam and Eve. Personally I think the implications of the article are a bit overblown. Citing two examples of academic Evangelicals questioning the historical reality of the Adam and Eve story should not be extrapolated into a trend within Evangelicalism in general. Still this article has got some useful discussions started on the themes of science and Bible interpretation.
The tension between science and Adam and Eve is generally solved by interpreting the creation story allegorically. This is in line with early Christian interpreters like Origen. I also think a valid argument for this interpretation can be made from the text itself. However, I see a problem with an allegorical approach where New Testament authors argue from the Adam and Eve story. For example, Paul in 1 Timothy 2:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (NIV)
Obviously this passage is already difficult to interpret. But it seems to me that Paul’s argument does not make sense if we assume that he understood the Adam and Eve story metaphorically. If Adam and Eve are symbolic, then neither men nor women were formed first. Likewise it cannot be said that woman was deceived but not man if there were no particular first woman and man. This line of reasoning only makes sense when arguing from a historical understanding of the story, and I believe that is how Paul understood the text of Genesis.
Please respond if you see a way that Paul’s argument makes sense under the assumption of an allegorical Adam and Eve. If I am right, there is an important implication: by trying to argue literally from an allegorical text, Paul’s argument becomes invalid (since in an allegorical reading his premises are no longer true). This in turn calls into question the inerrancy of Paul’s writing.
Accommodating science with an allegorical interpretation of Adam and Eve can put pressure on other Evangelical values. I could be making a mountain out of a mole hill, but I am now curious if anyone has researched the topic of the interpretation of Genesis 2-3 in the New Testament. I wonder if there are any clear examples where the NT author employs a metaphorical understanding of Adam and Eve. Let me know what you find.