Thanks for the affirmation, Sir. It’s good to be challenged intelligently, because that way arguments are clarified, reasons are sharpened and, we hope, we all end up as better servants of Christ.
Forgive me if my reply is ponderous - I want to “show my working” since your question opens up all kinds of interesting implications. First, I don’t think that Jesus’s reply depends at all on a literalistic (or any specific) interpretation - rather, his stress is on Scriptural authority (which accords with the “Tyndale” definition of “literal sense” I gave above, that “It means what God intended it to mean in that context and genre”).
Let us start by assuming Emily’s axiom: “Jesus is who he said he was”, and therefore that Jesus’ teaching is authoritative. So far, then, we’re wearing the “W.W.J.D.” wristband. We have no access to exactly how Jesus understood the literality of the details of the “rib” episode - but we don’t actually need to.
In crude terms his methodology is this:
*This is what torah teaches.
*Therefore it bears my Father’s prescriptive authority.
*Therefore is bears my own authority.
That in itself is food for thought, since Peter teaches that the Scriptures were the result of “the Spirit of Christ” working in the authors: so does Jesus speak as a torah obedient Jew, or as a divine author? Or maybe, as both God and man, he speaks as both.
But that aside, he doesn’t actually simply say, “The Bible says…”. Instead, he says, “This is how God ordered things ‘in the beginning’”, and quotes Gen 2.24 as proof. But that’s interesting, because in Genesis (a) God does the rib thing, whatever it was, (b) Adam says, “Hey - my wife is my other half! How cool is that!” and © It’s the narrator who glosses the prescriptive meaning that Jesus quotes as if it were God’s own words. This places the divine authority in the text, and not just in God’s part in events described, whatever they were, which is interesting to consider.
Now to return to your suggestion that this commits us to the “surgical option”, I answer that it doesn’t at all, though of course it doesn’t preclude it. John Walton, for example, sees in the “deep sleep” the marker of a visionary experience (we tend to see “general anaesthesia”, but that is absurdly anachronistic, as well as suggesting that the Creator God used surgery). Walton suggests that God showed Adam the ontological unity he had with his (existing) wife, thus establishing a new, spiritual, model of family. An interpretation like that would fit perfectly well with Jesus’s use of Genesis.
Similarly, those who suggest that the Eden story represents God’s self-revelation to a particular tribe, or even the whole human race at a particular time, who presumably interpret the “rib” episode as some kind of revelatory experience, should have no problem saying “Amen” to Jesus’s argument. And so on for many interpretations more or less figurative, given only that they accept Scripture as “God’s words”, because that’s the basis of their authority, as far as Jesus is concerned.
The one necessity, it seems to me, is that there be some basis in history for the Genesis account, whether in an individual’s life, an act of creation, or something else definite. Because Jesus makes his case by saying, “This is how it was ‘in the beginning’, so that’s how it ought to be now.” That requires some conception of what “the beginning” means, and seems to me to preclude purely allegorical, timeless, interpretations of Gen 2-3, such as “It merely shows that we all sin” - because Jesus talks of an original intended pattern for marriage which, if it never existed, or was never known about by anybody “in the beginning”, would be a lie.
Likewise, for the same reason I have trouble fitting Jesus’s teaching into scenarios in which sin is somehow our inevitable evolutionary heritage - that we were, in effect, created sinful by the blind (or wicked) evolutionary Demiurge. If that were the case, although Jesus is not directly addressing that issue, he’s talking about an ideal of marriage that never was “in the begiining” either when mankind emerged as a species or when God revealed himself to some or all humans, but only in some later time when, perhaps, the human race matures into godliness.
Then Jesus would be really screwing up, criticising divorce-on-demand as an aberration from an orginal pattern, when in fact he’s introducing an ideal for the future. So, to address your words specifically:
…could “for this reason” not mean, more abstractly, “because they were created for this very kind of unity together”? But then haven’t we done away with the need for a historical Adam in this circumstance?
To be “created for that kind of unity” means it happened (in the beginning) until something intervened to disrupt the created order. That “something” can’t be evolution unless evolution is seen as an interference with creation, rather than “the means by which God created” (a phrase that’s full of holes theologically, but which is OK enough in this context).
So that leaves us with a Fall into sin. Personally I see no reason to preclude an individual “Adam” within history, and I think that’s the most parsimonious explanation, but if one has some other version of a Fall, it preserves what Jesus appears to me to assume in the teaching we’ve been discussing.
Now, coffee time.