What are we to believe about creation, Adam and Eve, and the first few chapters of Genesis? Were Adam and Eve real people or were they merely representative of a number of “first parents” of the human race? Are we to take everything written in the first 3 chapters of Genesis as literal? What does the Church teach on this?
Well, the story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if it uses figurative language to convey it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “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” (CCC 390).
The answer to the question of whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (monogenism) or from multiple early human couples (polygenism), effects Church teaching on original sin, infant baptism and baptism in general.
In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).
With regards to the first three chapters of Genesis, the Catholic Dogma and teaching on creation can be found in a document issued by the Pontifical Biblical Commission and confirmed by Pope Pius X, in 1909. This document was a response to the errors of the Modernists that developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Modernists were denying the reality of Adam and Eve. Below are nine teachings of the Church regarding the first three chapters of Genesis.
1.) God created all things from nothing at the beginning of time (including time itself); (CCC#’s 296-299)
2) The special creation of man: (CCC#’s 355-359)
3) The creation of woman from man (The Church teaches that the woman [Eve] was created from man [Adam] in some manner, even if it were not from his rib); (CCC#371)
4) All of humanity descended from an original pair of human beings (Adam and Eve); (CCC#’s 54-55, 359-360, 375, 390-392, 402-405, 407, 416-417)
5) That Adam and Eve were created in the state of holiness, justice, and immortality; (CCC #’s 374-379, 384, 398, 415-416)
6) God demanded that man prove his obedience [ Even if it was not really a tree of fruit that Adam and Eve were not supposed to eat from, it was some command from God, laid upon man, to prove his obedience]; (CCC#’s 396-397, 399)
7) The breaking of the Divine command because of Satan’s prompting; (CCC#’s 379, 390-392, 394-395, 397-398, 413-415)
8) Because of the disobedience of our 1st parents, the loss of the state of holiness, justice, and immortality came about; (CCC #’s 379, 390, 399-400, 410)
9) The promise of a future Redeemer, a Savior – Gen 3:15; (CCC #’s 410-411)
There is a difference when it comes to reading Scripture from a literal or a literalist perspective. The literal reading of Scripture means to look at what the author intended to convey. On the other hand, a literalist reading of Scripture is, taking the words on the page at absolute face value (not taking into account literary genre, culture, idioms of speech, the authors intent, etc). For example, what if I said “that girl is ‘a fish out of water.’” The literalist would say that the girl is actually a fish, where as the literal view would say the girl seemed uncomfortable in the situation she finds herself in. The literal view is very Catholic and the literalist view very Fundamentalist.
Until next time, God bless.