Adam as “Everyman” | The BioLogos Forum


(system) #1
Homo ex Humo [man from the dirt], illustration by Johann Melchior Füssli and engraving by Jakob Andreas Fridrich the Elder, from Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, Physica Sacra (1731-35), where it accompanies Gen. 1:26-27. A true polymath who held professorships in mathematics and physics, the Swiss physician Scheuchzer wrote lavishly illustrated treatises in many different scientific fields. Physica sacra (Sacred Physics) was devoted to natural history, which he interpreted in a highly literalistic biblical framework—as most other natural philosophers at the time also did—making it essentially a work of natural theology. Many of the other illustrations were based on rare specimens from his own “cabinet,” or those of other collectors.

Introduction (by Ted Davis)

Original sin and the Fall of Adam and Eve pose major challenges to proponents of Evolutionary Creation, both at the level of theology and also at the level of biblical interpretation. BioLogos does not endorse any one response to those challenges: our view is that the church deserves a serious, pluralistic conversation about evolution and original sin. In an effort to help foster that conversation, we already provide numerous resources, among them these:

Further resources are being developed by some recipients of The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution & Christian Faith program.

This series offers yet another perspective, as we serialize a paper by philosopher Robin Collins, entitled “Evolution and Original Sin.” In the previous installment, we presented the lion’s share of Collins’ study of early Genesis, ending with comments about evolution and the human tendency to do evil things. Today, Collins concludes the section on Genesis by focusing on the heart of the matter: Adam, Eve, and the Fall. He gets right down to business, so buckle up for the ride!

Genesis 1-4 (continued):

Finally, it is important to note that the word “Adam” is “the common noun in Hebrew for ‘humankind’.” Only in Genesis 1-5 and 1 Chronicles 1:1, when used without the article, does it function as a proper name (The Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 10). Thus, the word “Adam” can represent human beings in general or a particular human being. This has suggested to many people that Adam in Genesis 1 is a figure that is representative of human beings in general, and thus is a story about the “fall” of every human being as we come to self-awareness. To understand this interpretation, one could imagine substituting every occurrence of Adam in Genesis 1-4 with the word “everyman.”

Although I think this interpretation captures an important representative role of Adam, I would suggest that “Adam” should also be understood as having an historical reference, as also representing what could be called the “stem-father” of the human race. In evolutionary terms, such a “stem-father” would be the first group of evolving hominids that gained moral and spiritual awareness. This idea of Adam representing the “stem-father” fits better with Paul’s use of “Adam” in Romans 5 than merely viewing “Adam” as representing human beings in general. Moreover, it fits better with the fact that there is a continuous saga connecting Genesis 1-4 and the later chapters of Genesis which recount the call of Abraham and the formation of Israel and clearly purport to be historical. Given this, and given that the early chapters of Genesis should not be read as literal history, as I mentioned above, I suggest that a plausible interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis is to regard them as a theological commentary on and partially symbolic reconstruction of primal history using the concepts and re-renderings of the various stories around at the time, such as the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic. In this way, it is sort of prophecy in reverse: just as prophecy, in the popular sense of prediction, uses images and concepts of the time to theologically comment on the future, Genesis 1-11 does the same for the past. [Here Collins has a footnote: For a fuller development of this view and discussion of others, such as Karl Barth, who held a similar view of Genesis, see Bernard Ramm, Offense to Reason: A Theology of Sin, chapter 4. Of course, this interpretation does not exhaust the theological purpose of these texts. For example, these texts also functioned as commentaries on the surrounding nations and as theological alternatives to their myths.]

Indeed, I suggest, chapters 1-11 should be considered an extended theological commentary on the “fall” of the human race, beginning with the various first humans represented by Adam and Eve, and then continuing with the story of Cain and Abel, the flood, and the Tower of Babel. Up until the time of Abraham, the initiatives that God takes are all negative and ultimately ineffective, simply means of temporarily slowing down the tide of evil; immediately after the flood, for instance, sin and evil began all over again. One theological message here is that our bondage to sin is so deep that it cannot be cured simply by wiping out the bad people. Rather, only a positive initiative on God’s part can solve the problem of human sin. Thus, just as Paul’s account of the Fall in Romans 1:18-32 is a prelude to his discussion of salvation through faith in Christ, Genesis 1-11 becomes a fitting theological prelude to the story of the call of Abraham, in which God makes the first positive initiative to solve the problem of human evil, an initiative that from a Christian perspective foreshadows the work of Christ.

Finally, the following analogy might help those who still feel uncomfortable with reading the early chapters of Genesis symbolically or “mythically,” as I have suggested. Imagine God inspiring Hollywood. What would God do? Would God make Hollywood only write true stories? No. God would probably inspire them to write more edifying fiction, not override the kind of writing that they are already doing. So, if, as scholars tell us, writing origin stories was a common practice in the ancient world (much as futuristic science fiction is a common practice today), it makes sense that God would inspire an author or community to write an inspired version of such a story using the concepts and myths around at the time as raw materials. Further, such a story could convey theological truth in a much more powerful, imaginative way than any mere prose could, and finally, the text itself seems to almost cry out that it is not literally history, being loaded with symbolism.

Colorized version of Christopher Switzer’s frontispiece from John Parkinson, Paradisi in Sole Paradisus terrestris (1629), showing Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. An English botanist, Parkinson’s name as the author is coded in Latin as the top line of the writing in the medallion: “Paradisi in Sole” literally means, “park-in-Sun.” The actual title of the book (Earthly Paradise) is on the next line. Collins believes that “the anthropomorphism of God’s walking around in the garden” (not depicted by Switzer), indicates that the Genesis story should be read symbolically.

At least part of the continuing resistance to reading the early chapters of Genesis in a non-literal, symbolic way, I believe, is motivated by two factors. First, unlike parables or “once upon a time …” stories, we are not familiar with the genre of literature to which I am suggesting Genesis 1-11 belongs: namely, a theological commentary on and partially symbolic reconstruction of primal history using the concepts and stories of the time as raw materials. Many readers thus tend to overlook the literary markers—such as the anthropomorphism of God’s walking around in the garden—that indicate it is a symbolic story. Consequently, they are tempted to read it literally, as has been done traditionally. Nonetheless, there do exist some analogies. One analogy to this sort of literature is the historical novel, which attempts to provide a generally accurate, though non-literal account of some period in history. (Further, such novels attempt to link their fictional characters with actual historical characters and events. In a similar way, Genesis links its theological reconstruction, such as the genealogies in chapters 1-11, with the historical figures such as Abraham.) Another analogy is certain plays of Shakespeare, such as Othello, which reworked older stories in order to provide a profound commentary on human existence. Similarly, Genesis 1-11 can be understood as a reworking of older stories and myths to provide a theological commentary on the origin and nature of human evil.

Second, I suggest, among many contemporary Christians, the desire to read Genesis as literal “scientific” history is often motivated by a latent form of scientism, in which one holds that the most legitimate and informative form of discourse is the type that occurs in science, thereby relegating other more imaginative forms of discourse to an inferior status as far as helping us understand the nature of reality. Thus, in their own way, many advocates of a literal reading of Genesis fall into a similar trap as those who let the purported findings of science drive their theologizing.

Looking Ahead

At this point, Collins has laid out fully his own interpretations of the most important biblical texts touching on the “Fall” and original sin. When we return in about two weeks, he will start to compare his “Historical/Ideal” interpretive scheme with other schemes, starting with the traditional, “Historical/Literal” interpretation. Be sure to join us again for that illuminating exercise.

References and Credits

Robin Collins’ chapter from Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, ed. Keith B. Miller (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), is reproduced by kind permission of the author and the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. We gratefully acknowledge their cooperation in bringing this material to our readers.

All Scripture quotations in this paper are from the NRSV translation.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blog/adam-as-everyman

(Dr. Ted Davis) #4

Even though this series features Robin Collins, I am happy to respond to thoughtful comments and questions about this post or any of the ideas in this series.


(Brad Kramer) #5

I moved 3 posts to a new topic: The “Great Leap Forward”


#6

Concerning the historical novel analogy: In my teaching OT and seeking to address the various uses of “historical,” I have found it useful to use the analogy of modern movies (I use this when addressing, e.g., the historicity of Job). On one end of the spectrum is the documentary; on the other end is pure fiction. But between these poles we have movies “based on a true story” and those “inspired by a true story.” This helps introductory students start to get the point of a continuum rather than an either/or option.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #7

The Hebrew Bible was not written in a vacuum. The Hebrew were Semites who already had a rich culture at the time of Abraham.

In my view the best way to understand Genesis is the historical model. The Hebrews were trying to understand their past and the past of their world. They, like all good historians, started with the documents available to them, which were pagan myths and stories. The problem with these myths and stories was that they were pagan.

Thus they had to be reworked and revised until they had represented the YHWHist point of view. This occurred during the time of judges. These revised Genesis narratives were collected and edited during the time of the Empire.

Genesis was intended as history, although not as history as we know it. YHWH worked through these human tools, ancient stories, YHWHist story tellers, and Davidic scholars and the Holy Spirit to produce the history of Genesis.


(Preston Garrison) #8

If Adam is taken as everyman, it raises the question of whether there an"everyman fall." If every line of biological humans that were alive in pre-historic time reached a point where they became morally and spiritually aware (the timing could have been different for different groups or individuals), were they each then faced with the kind of test described in Genesis where they knew there was a divine command, which they broke before long? A fall for everyone. Or, was there a representative couple who experienced what is described in Genesis and their actions led to everyone one becoming fallen? Or, was there no fall - did people simply become responsible for continuing to follow their animal inclinations of self preservation and aggrandizement without much awareness of what was happening? I could express my inclinations about these options, but instead I just want to make the point that neither science nor the Bible is going to settle this for those of us who think the traditional view of Adam and Eve as the unique ancestors of all people doesn’t appear to be compatible with well supported current genetics. We are going to have to agree to disagree, or just express our uncertainty on the matter without passing judgement on those who disagree with us. It’s an opportunity to see if Christians can disagree amicably because we agree on far more important matters.


(Alan Fox) #9

Seems reasonable to me.


(Alan Fox) #10

Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden for eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If they didn’t know good from evil until after eating the fruit, then they were punished for doing something they didn’t know was evil. Does this make sense to you? If so, why?

I participate at another blog and another contributor asked the above question. Does this present a difficulty fort theists?

link


#11

I wonder how the author of this article would feel if I suggested that he not be taken literally. Instead, we should understand that even though he uses the word “stem father”, he really means an undetermined number of different groups of human-like beings who varied in their interpretation and application of moral awareness, and who began to create a god in their own image. Instead of taking a “prophecy in reverse” literally, we should understand that the author or editor really meant that there was not really a prophecy, but merely an accomodation to pagan stories. I find it really hard to take this author literally, and because of that, I also find it hard to take this author seriously.

To suggest that the use of a metaphor or anthropomorphism means an entire story or chapter or book should be taken symbolically is intellectually dishonest. Were the ten commandments symbolic? Was Sodom and Gomorrah symbolic? Was Jesus baptism or Paul’s conversion symbolic, just because the spirit descended like a dove, or Paul saw Jesus? The selective ecclecticism gives me a stomach ache.


#12

Doing evil and understanding it in comparison to good, are not the same thing.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #13

First of all the original couple knew that whet they did was wrong, that is against the wishes of God.

Second they believe the lies of the serpent who led them to believe for no reason that God had betrayed their trust and was deceiving them.

Third they thought that if they went their own way they could become equal to God.

Thus they betrayed God’s trust and rebelled against God’s truth.

What they did not know was the yoke of sin. They knew evil as a possibility. When they rebelled against God, they experienced it as a reality.

When mom told us not to touch the stove because it was hot and would hurt and burn us, those were just words until we touched it and experienced what they meant.

After we suffered from a burn, we acknowledged Mom’s wisdom. Adam and Eve did not.


(Jim Lock) #14

@johnZ

I think you’ve hit on a very valuable point that we should all consider. Essentially, we should acknowledge the risks in taking any interpretation or hermeneutical tool to far. Just because we CAN take a passage metaphorically does it mean we SHOULD take the remaining passages as metaphor? I’m assuming that most people here would emphatically argue ‘no,’ However, at the same time I don’t believe that anyone would, or could, argue that only one hermeneutical tool is applicable to the entire Bible.

It seems to me that your criticism gets to the root of the struggle that pulls all of together on the blog. How do we understand this? If God’s Creation is infallible and God’s Word are infallible then our understanding of one, the other, or both must be flawed. We are all on different points in this journey and I would caution you to consider that before writing off Robin Collins for suggesting a possible framework.

To your 2nd paragraph, I agree that suggesting

However, it seems to me that the metaphor and literal truth can intertwine themselves in a story. Historical fiction is a genre that, when well written, seamlessly moves between truth and fiction. In fact, many times there is no transition as truth and fiction inhabit the same space. Jack Aubrey is a fictional character based on a historical figure in a historical ship in a historical environment while simultaneously participating in fictional adventures. The point I am trying to get at here is that is metaphor and Truth can POSSIBLY inhabit the same Biblical space and I believe that we should find grace as people attempt to tease out these subtleties. Thank you for your time and participation here. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments and thoughts elsewhere in this forum.

Jim


(Jim Lock) #15

@Relates I had two thoughts after reading your post stemming from a book I’m attempting to work through. Currently I am SLOWLY working through Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil by Nicola Creegan. It is hopelessly out of my league but I’m pushing through. :slight_smile: Are you familiar with the book?

I need to go get ready for work so I’ll follow up this post later today.


#16

It seems that we find it easy to assume metaphors or anthropomorphisms are being used. Scripture says God became angry or was happy and I’ve heard people say those are anthropomorphisms because God doesn’t change… he is unchangeable and therefore does not have emotions. Our idea of an anthropomorphism is based on our perception of what is possible and what is not. (ie.God is spirit.) I say that God walked around in the garden, because He can. He can walk around the garden in spirit, or He could walk around the garden in a visible form, as he passed by Moses on the mountain. Or in whatever form He desires. So it seems a poor excuse to use to allegorize the entire passage on this basis.

If a book was written as a historical fiction, then yes, fiction is imbedded in history or vice versa. But in the case of scripture, there is no attempt to indicate this is historical fiction, and the rest of scripture validates the historicity. It is absurd to base principles on fictional characters or events. Historical fiction is written for entertainment, or for understanding the times. A fictional character could never change the course of history, nor could a fictional Jack Aubrey be the great grandfather of a USA president. While metaphors can be used, they are descriptors of truth, and not descriptors of fiction. They do not equate to fictional characters. That would be allegory or parable which is different. Anthropomorphisms are actually just descriptive devices to describe truth, giving apparently human characteristics to non-human entities… ie. if we say a plant bows to the sun, we understand that it leans towards the sun, and does not in reality pay homage. However, when we fail to distinguish between truth and fiction in essential items, we have a problem.

Of course, we should be gracious… but what criteria does one use to decide whether to take Collins article literally? And if we take it figuratively, can we attribute whatever meaning we want to it? What rules or guidelines do we use to decide literal vs figurative? How does that compare to reading scripture?


(Jim Lock) #17

@johnZ It appears to me that our key difference here is over where one draws the line between literal and figurative readings of scripture. I’m also confidant that we can agree just because one passage was intended as metaphor does NOT mean that we should then assume that the entire Bible is metaphor. I would also agree that we can not and should not take this decision lightly. Which is why I see such value in these conversations. They keep us grounded and humble. Now, to the meat…

I agree that modern historical fiction is generally written solely for entertainment. However, I strongly disagree that you could not base principles on fictional characters or events. For example, there is very good reason to believe that Esther and/or Job fit into the historical fiction genre. Does that undermine their value as Biblical texts? Or that that would undermine the inherent Truth of Scripture? I don’t think so. In the same vein, I do not find that Adam as ‘Everyman’ undermines the very real Truth that Creation needs salvation. I find a great deal of comfort in that Truth that life does not have to be this way and someday Christ will reconcile all of these differences!

I do want to note that I am not nor will I argue that Esther and Job are definitely historical fiction and MUST be read as such. Merely that there are some elements within those texts that raise the possibility and that I am okay if that turns out to be the case and I’m okay if they turn out to be literally true.

Given that, I do not have a solid set of criteria for your last set of questions. For the sake of conversation I will put some thoughts out there.

We use the author’s intent. He is unable to answer direct questions. However, we are close enough in time to make some very reasonable assumptions given that we have a very similar set of cultural mores and stories. We can relate very easily with him. This is what makes the first 11 chapters of Genesis so difficult. Moses saw, understood, and communicated about the world in very different ways than us. The poetical organization of days 1-6 come to mind. Now, I think we can agree that said organization does not necessarily demand a non literal reading of those passages. However, I do believe that it opens the door to the possibility.

No, we cannot and should not assign meaning because it is convenient or because it fits our modern values better. I don’t think that anybody on these forums is making the argument that we can. I really believe that we are here because we are trying to understand the Truth of God’s creation. And so we have these arguments and friendly debates as part of our journey. We will get some things wrong and luckily God’s grace will cover that. Just so long as we don’t take it to far.

I don’t have a solid answer for you here. I think that as soon as we try to nail down something concrete we will start running into exceptions. However, I do think there is value in considering the mustard seed. Jesus described it as physically the smallest seed. We now understand that as fiction. What do we do? ‘Count it all as lost?’ -to paraphrase. Or, do we acknowledge that perhaps we should extend the tool we use to understand the parable to the example He used to set up the parable?

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Thank you for conversation!

Jim


(Jim Lock) #18

@Relates Okay, a few thoughts on evil that I pulled from Creegan.

  1. Its interesting that when we talk about the Fall we tend to emphasize the sin part and gloss over the part where Adam and Eve gain knowledge of good. Creegan presents the idea of ketosis…kenosis? (My copy of the book is at home). I do not understand that idea but one bit jumped out. Perhaps we still eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We explore why seeds and gradually learn to farm. This allows us to specialize in art and poetry and music. Simultaneously, life spans drop, we work harder, and are collectively less healthy. I find this particularly interesting as Adam and Eve immediately take up farming. Their children are a farmer and herder and eventually Cain starts building cities. In this way, we find ourselves relating to Adam and Eve on an entirely new level. Not sure if that’s the case or even theologically tenable. But definitely thought provoking.

  2. The crux of Kreegan’s thesis is the parable of the wheat and the tares. Basically, evil and good and so intertwined that only at the harvest will we see a true separation. It seems plausible to me, that like Eve we struggle to differentiate what the serpent whispers from what God actually says. We struggle to understand that the serpent isn’t a ‘good’ part of creation. Thoughts?

Jim


#19

You asked whether Job fits into historical fiction, and whether that undermines the value of that book. If it is fiction, then yes it is undermined. When it says that God spoke, that becomes conjecture, and therefore not reliable. What God says in Job might be true (it might be something God would say), but we will only know that if a rliable non-fiction source sustains it. I would say in fact it is not historical fiction for the precise reason that it does not have an easily determined context; in otherwords, there is no history around it, no well-known nations, or battles, or kings, or prophets. No easily determined time. So if it is fiction, the apparent prophecies in Job lose their validity as prophecies. Esther on the other hand, has a very good historical context with identifiable kings, countries, and nations. But if it is fiction, then it loses value as an example, since it is easy to be a hero in theory, but not so easy in practice. It is the real heros, such as the real martyrs who speak loudest, not those like the apostle Peter before Christ’s death said he would die with Jesus, but instead denied him. In the end, Peter also spoke loudly, because his own death and martyrdom was real, not fictional.

You say that we take Collins article literally because we are close in time and we can relate. Now imagine we are reading his article 4000 years from now, or our descendants are. Does this mean they can legitimately decide not to take his article literally because they are far away in time, or because their culture has changed from his?

The smallest mustard seed example is frequently used by atheists to discredit the accuracy of scripture. But, consider the context…, the intent is obviously a parable as clearly stated. A parable is told in terms of understandable intent. Secondly, the mustard seed may very well have been the smallest seed that a farmer would sow in his field, thus meeting the criteria for comparison to all the other crops. In addition, we know that mustard is not a tree, yet it grows larger than some small shrubs, up to six or eight feet tall, as some Sinapsis nigra mustard is up to 10 or 15 feet tall. We know that “tree” is an hyperbole, but yet an accurate hyperbole. So certainly none of this was fiction, other than the fact that it was intended to be a parable. Even if Jesus had used the example of the smallest possible seed on earth, it still would have been fiction, from the perspective that it was a parable. But of course such would have been a strange truth, since no one would have been seeding it in the field, and so that would have been the fiction part. I think this example falls completely flat as an attempt to somehow justify explaining as allegory several chapters of the bible that were not identified as parable, and were not telling a moral story, nor a story of encouragement, nor a generic story of individual faith or involvement applicable to all, chapters which used the normal language of historical narrative similar to that used in Deuteronomy and Joshua and also in the last half of Genesis. Hope this helps.


#20

We literally don’t have to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad… even Adam and Eve didn’t have to keep eating to have the knowledge. And yes, good and bad are intertwined, but that is not the point of the parable. The parable intends to show why the wicked are judged at the end of harvest, rather than halfway through, so that the destruction of the evil ones will not harm the growth of the righteous (righteous in Christ).


(Jim Lock) #21

There are two things about Job and Esther before moving on because I don’t want us to get distracted from the main point. I am not sure if one or both of those books could fall into that genre. I’ve studied Esther enough to know that there are some historical issues that don’t quite match up with the Biblical account. I have also heard that there are reasons to believe Job may not be a solely historical account. However, I am not going to draw a hard line on their historicity. The second thing I want to say on this subject is while I don’t need them to be completely historical to impart Biblical lessons about God and Creation, I completely acknowledge that you, and others, may may need to read them as such. And I believe that is okay. Please do not misunderstand this as some kind of relativistic post-modern world view. I do not believe us both to be right on that issue or that no Truth on the issue exists. Merely a recognition that we are both fallible and that some day all of our differences will be reconciled. Can we come together on that Good News?

Now, to the matter at hand. I think you brought up two issues that are key to understanding where Collins is coming from in writing this article, context and intent. You asked if our 4000 years from now descendants…

I would say it depends LARGELY on the context. If, for some crazy reason, this article is included in Holy Canon then I imagine that yes, they will be having a debate very similar to ours. If, however, the context of this article remains solely as a part of academia. Then no, they will quickly see the context and understand it in as a literal theory.

I agree largely with your comments about the mustard seed parable. We quickly deduce that Jesus’ intent was to tell a parable. Thus, we are faith does not crumble when we read this passage and then read in biology class that the orchid is the smallest seed. All I was attempting to do in bringing up the example was illustrate that the tool Collins suggests we should use to read Genesis 1-11 is a tool we already use elsewhere. Furthermore, while I agree that Genesis 1-11 does not fall into the parable genre I respectfully disagree with your remaining examples. I find it hard to believe that Moses never intended a moral lesson in Adam and Eve’s pride or Cain’s anger. If we are to read the Bible as a whole then surely we have to acknowledge to intention to include encouragement in Genesis? How do you read that woman’s son will crush the Serpent’s head with his heel and not read that as intentionally included encouragement? In fact, you seem to indicate that you believe Genesis should be read strictly as a historical narrative similar to Deut. and Joshua. If that is the case, and nothing else was intended, then Genesis becomes nothing more than a generic story.

If I misunderstand you, then I humbly beg forgiveness here. If I do misunderstand you, then it brings us back to my original point. That historical narrative, moral lesson, encouragement, and even fiction can co-exist in the same set of passages without detracting from the inherent Truth. If you still cannot understand at least where I am coming from, then perhaps we should call this conversation and move on to other parts of the forum.


(Dr. Ted Davis) #22

The issue of the historicity of Job is apropos. I’ve long viewed Job as (roughly) the Hebrew equivalent of Shakespearean drama, complete with soliloquies on the part of several individual characters. Even if it has an historical kernel, like many of Shakespeare’s plays, I don’t think we should read it as straightforwardly historical in its intent. This just jumps out at me (if not to others) in the final main section of the book (just prior to the epilogue, where Job is given some relief from his unmerited suffering. This is IMO the single most theologically profound passage in all of Scripture. There, when Job confronts God with honest questions, God responds by pulling rank on him, tossing unanswerable questions back at him with gusto: where were you, you miserable little insect, when I laid the foundations of the earth (using the Ted Davis version)? All of this appears (to my poor eyes, which aren’t trained in Hebrew letters) to take place in the Hebrew equivalent of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. Just as Richard III or Macbeth or Julius Caesar didn’t literally say what Shakespeare has them say, so I doubt that Job and God literally said what they say to each other here. Nor do I see how that has any bearing on the divine inspiration–and tremendous power–of this passage. It makes no difference at all to me, whether or not Job even existed (though perhaps he did), or whether all of his travails actually happened as described (though perhaps they did). I find it hard to understand what is added, if this all actually happened, or what is lost, if it didn’t.

Genesis of course is a different part of scripture, and I don’t think one can automatically transfer either an historical or a non-historical reading of Job onto early Genesis.