Tuesday, February 14, 2012

'Did Adam and Eve Really Exist' - Book Review

John Collins has produced a useful book, that while clearly achieving it's primary theological purpose, also has some interesting nuggets about how to approach Biblical texts along the way. His thesis is encapsulated in the subtitle: Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who they were and why you should care. When it comes to Genesis 1 to 11 I'm a fan of Blocher's framework approach with sympathies for Tolkein's idea of capital M, Myth. But what tends to happen is the importance of Adam and Eve is lost in the flurry of debates about the relationship between science and religion and the debate about how to exactly interpret Genesis.  In Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Collins focuses on Adam and Eve and finds a non-negoitable 'red-line' to borrow Middle Eastern negotiating parlance. In a short space he marshals both philosophical and exegetical evidence to show that Biblically we are to understand that Adam and Eve were real people, who one afternoon ushered sin and evil into the world. Collins argues that Genesis presents itself as history, a genre that is first and foremost concerned with truth, these things really happened. However he is open to events being described in shorthand or with a poetic structure. Although he warns that we are to be aware of our modern philosophical milieu which emphasises an undetermined beginning and chaotic development of the world. The primary theological evidence for Adam and Eve's reality is Original Sin, which seems vague and cursory if they're aren't real people. He cites Romans 5:18-19, Acts 17:26 and Hebrews 11:4-7 as important texts in this regard. Finally I enjoyed his observations about the role of the narrator in Hebrew narrative and the way in which Old Testament narrative focuses on showing rather than telling.