Adam and Eve eating the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden on a stained glass window in the cathedral of Brussels. This window was created more than 100 years ago/DepostPhoto.

In Defense of a Literal Bible Interpretation Part 3: The Literal Interpretation of Adam and Eve

By Cassy Benefield

I take, by faith, the story of Adam and Eve as something that literally happened in the past. I understand this goes against much of what is taught in science classes today, but I believe my faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God demands this of me. I will explain why using several aspects of the literal method of interpretation, which I write about in part two of this series.

In reading the first chapters of Genesis, which is traditionally believed to have been authored by Moses (and is what I believe), we find the story of Adam and Eve in simple enough terms as to be understood that God created mankind, male and female, in his image.

The book of Genesis is considered a historical biblical book, and as such, this classification represents the genre portion of the literal interpretation. So, because it’s categorized as history, and not, say, poetry, I take the words of the whole book, including the first 11 chapters, at face value as literal history and not an allegory of the past.

The context of this passage is that it is part of the beginnings account, and it represents the first bookend to the whole of the Scripture narrative (the Book of Revelation, the end of the world or the culmination of days, being the other bookend). The creation story in Genesis 1 and 2 shows what God’s original intent was for the world before sin entered in, and foundational teachings about sex, marriage, family life, and more can be gleaned from this account, if taken as a literal history.

The doctrine lens of literal interpretation highlights what I think is most noteworthy in defending the belief that Adam and Eve were actually the first humans to walk the earth. This lens is used to harmonize the creation account in Genesis with other scriptures on this topic.

For instance, Jesus believed in the history of the Old Testament, and in this particular case, the writings of Moses (John 5:46-47), when he compared the veracity of his words and his teachings to that of Moses’ writings.

On top of that, in two other Gospel accounts, we actually read Jesus talking about Adam and Eve after the Pharisees asked him if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason. In his response, he refers to Adam and Eve as historical fact. He said when God created humankind, he made them male and female, with the intent that the man shall leave his father and mother and become one flesh with his wife, thereby setting up the standard of marriage prior to the fall (see Matthew 19:3-6 and Mark 10:2-9).

One more interesting passage of Scripture that speaks on the fact Adam was the first human is found in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23-37 (which is the genealogy through his mother Mary compared with the genealogy through his father Joseph, which is found in Matthew 1:1-17).

Specifically in Luke 3:38, we read, “the son of Enosh (Enoch), the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” To my mind, this is one of those “wow” passages because I believe the Bible to be true. I think it is amazing to see God as the very first father in a genealogy. All this to say, this is another passage that confirms my view that Adam was literally the first created human.

How I apply this to my life today is that I don’t think it would be intellectually honest of me to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and not believe in the genealogies through which he came into the world.

Final Thoughts

I hope this series promoted a better understanding of what I mean, as well as what many others mean, when I say I interpret the Bible literally. While that’s a simple concept overall, it is actually a multi-faceted approach to scripture that I’m continuing to learn how to apply.

I have come to understand over the years, that because we are human, we are going to have differences of opinion, even if those differences are arrived at within the literal interpretive framework. And that’s OK. My job is to be true to my walk with God, just as it is another Christian’s job to be true to their own.

I go back to one of my favorite verses that help me have peace here, even though I will be using it a bit out of context. In John 16:13, Jesus said to 11 of his apostles (Judas, the betrayer, had left by this time), “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

This was in context of what would eventually be taught to the apostles who were then going to teach others in what we know as the New Testament. I also apply the principle behind this passage to myself, though, in that while I may not understand all things clearly now, the Holy Spirit will eventually guide me into all truth. Even if much of that truth will be known to me when I pass from this life into the next.

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