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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

reading genesis 3 literally

A website that calls itself "The Truth Problem" looks at what it would mean to take the Garden of Eden stories literally, and concludes that no Christian actually does.

Evidence tells us that in the early Christian Church, most theologians and leaders believed that the Creation account was at least partially, if not wholly symbolic. Many modern Christians, however, especially in America, say that this account must be read literally. They feel it is dangerous to treat portions of the Bible metaphorically when they are not explicitly stated to be metaphorical.

But here's the rub. Even those who say we should read these chapters literally do not, themselves, read them literally.

The Truth Problem demonstrates this by looking at Genesis 3, the story of the serpent and the tree. Under a strictly literal interpretation:

  1. The serpent is a talking animal

  2. The serpent deceived the humans

  3. The serpent was cursed above all other animals

  4. The serpent's punishment is to crawl on its belly

  5. The serpent will bite humans' heels

  6. The serpent will be crushed by humans

Under the traditional Christian interpretation of Genesis 3, these six statements are all understood metaphorically. They are understood to mean:

  1. The serpent represents Satan

  2. Satan is the deceiver of humanity

  3. Satan is cursed above all created things

  4. Satan's power is diminished

  5. Satan will attack the Messiah

  6. The Messiah will triumph

Why is it that so many Christians who have no problem reading Genesis 3 metaphorically, can't do the same with Genesis 1 and 2?

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