Understanding Genesis 2-3 is a “doomed task”

Or so says reader Dave Wyman. I am very grateful for his comments and wanted to share them and respond to them in a post rather than just in the comments section.

The story of Adam and Eve doesn’t make much sense if we think about it, and it’s not supposed to make sense. That is, like the story of Santa Claus bringing presents to children, the story of Adam and Eve breaks down upon closer inspection.

Like trying to both examine and pinpoint the location of an atom, discussing both the circumstances and the meaning of Adam and Eve’s story is therefore a doomed task.

This is all anyone needs to know, and all we can know: Adam and Eve (stand-ins for you and me) comprehend their mortality. That’s it. Nothing else to see here, folks, move along.

FocusAs you might imagine I have to disagree with Dave. The story of Adam and Eve can of course be read on a very surface level and in so doing provide some meaning and context within which the audience is to understand their world. But the story makes even more more sense when we think about it deeply. [mfn]As an aside, that the story of Santa Claus does, in fact, also have deeper meaning, especially when one understands more of the historical background to St. Nicolas.[/mfn] So examining Gen. 2-3 is not a “doomed task,” rather it is a necessary one. [mfn]I should add that if Dave’s point is that trying to understand historical aspects of the story, e.g., where is the Garden located, etc. is doomed to failure, then yes, I would agree with that. But he suggests what the simple meaning of the text is and I too am arguing that there is meaning to the text.[/mfn]

I would also argue very strongly that it IS supposed to make sense. We have something that was written, leaving divine inspiration out of the discussion for now, by someone with intent and purpose. The author intended it to have meaning and to convey something to the audience. That is why it is necessary to take the time and effort to consider the story and what meaning and messages might well be in it. Furthermore, the very process of investigation is itself worthwhile and illuminating for the investigator, even if one fails completely to understand the story.

My previous posts make it obvious that I do believe there is a lot more to the story, especially within its canonical context, than simply the contemplation of mortality. There is, for example, the contemplation of morality (odd that only a “t” separates the two words). What does it mean to “know good and evil”? Robert Holmstedt had some great observations on that. Certainly Gen. 2-3 provides us some insight into the author’s view of God and humanity’s relationship to God, creation, and one another. And so on.

Dave’s site, iCyclist, is well worth visiting (as is his photography site). He is, so the site says, “Cycling through the meaning of life with the help of bikes and cameras.” I assume Dave takes pictures along the way as part of contemplating the meaning of life and a way to remember the journeys he has taken. I would suggest that considering the meaning of Genesis serves much the same purpose. These stories are snapshots full of detail and depth and by looking closely we realize there is so very much to see.

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