This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/what-the-berenstain-bears-taught-me-about-adam-and-eve
Love it. I’ve read those books many times through the years, but never really thought about them as written for a certain perspective.
I especially liked Brad’s statement,“We should let the truth of the story convict us, call us out of our shame and hiding, and inspire us. That’s what God’s true stories do.” So often we try to make the story say what we want it to say, rather than letting ourselves be open to where the story leads.
Actually, this line was written by @Christy. She and I corresponded about this article and I shamelessly stole some lines from her emails.
Thanks for the feedback, @jpm. If anybody else has thoughts or questions, I’d be glad to respond to them. Let the conversation begin!
She writes good, to.
I also love this piece, since I have been trying (and failing) to put similar ideas into words for a while. Now I can simply link this, and be done. I would add the obvious point that a similar approach should be taken for a great deal of the Old Testament. I especially love your comment about truth. Yes, Genesis is true, which doesnt mean that every statement in it is objectively correct. Bravo.
I do not think that it helps much. the parables of Jesus are better, but still not right as a parallel.
Adam and Eve as the story of the original sin is clearly meant to be a real event. Yes, it probably did not happen exactly as depicted. Indeed if we had been there we might have known something has happened, but not what it was.
The story depicts the spiritual significance of what happened so we can understand it. The problem is that we do not understand what happened, we do not understand original sin, so we misunderstand what is sin.
The Bible uses events to depict ineffable ideas. We need to learn and appreciable this profound language.
One might conclude that the writers of the O.T. job did their job too well.
- Samson is a story about a man with magical hair.
- Numbers 22:21-39 features Balaam’s talking donkey.
- 2 Kings 6:1-7 discusses Elisha’s axe head that could float in water.
- Let’s not forget the part of Exodus where Moses turns a staff into a snake. The surprise here is not so much
that Moses could do this - - the surprise is that the practitioners of Pharaoh could do such a thing! Do we really
think Pharaoh’s wise men could really do it?
But I think the most relevant example of magic in the Bible, that also relates to Evolutionary theory, is this one some commentators call “Jacob get’s Laban’s Goats!”:
’What shall I give you?’ [Laban] asked.
‘Don’t give me anything,’ Jacob replied. 'But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages."
“And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.’”
‘Agreed,’ said Laban. ‘Let it be as you have said.’
That same day [Laban] removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs. . . . Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks. [To avoid mixing any of Jacob’s colored goats with Laban’s stock.]
Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink.
“When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.”
*So… is this God “humoring” Jacob? Did God use miraculous powers to give Jacob a robust flock? Or was the reader really supposed to believe that using sticks in this way would compel" goats to produce colored offspring?
Thanks for highlighting how crucial it is not to read our provincial perspectives into a millennia-old text. Bernstein Bears is a good-natured way of making that point, though the challenge of using a children’s cartoon as metaphor for engaging scripture from the perspective of its intended audience - beside the fact that start with the assumption that there is zero reliable historical content in animated, children’s fictions - is that we’ve all been children (so have some resonant understanding of what the listeners might be hearing), but none of us have been ancient Israelites. Thus we must do our historical and exegetical homework very carefully and sympathetically. Unfortunately, Greenblatt has been widely criticized by both literary scholars and historians for failure to do just that. E.g. Marilynne Robinson’s NYT review: “The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve is an ambitious attempt at an important cultural history. It is cursory, and, to the degree that its treatment of these influential texts and movements is uninformed, it is not a help in understanding them.”
or here’s another:
Thanks for reading, @JeffSchloss. I agree with everything you say here. Ken Ham recently tweeted something to the effect of “Genesis is easy to understood when read naturally.” The more I think about Genesis, the more I wonder if he’s got it exactly backwards. In other words, maybe the first step to understanding Genesis is assuming that our natural reading is almost certain to be wrong. Speaking for myself, this was a significant breakthrough while studying the text in seminary. Of course, I’m not trying to make a broad statement here. I do believe in perspicuity, just not in the same way that I once did.
Greenwood’s book is an interesting read. I agree with the negative reviews, but my primary criticism is not about his treatment of historical subjects, but rather his weird schizophrenia about whether ancient myths have any truth value. He cannot bring himself to say either “no” or “yes” to this question, and his closest attempts are quickly overwritten by spasms of Enlightenment liturgy that almost seem self-directed. It’s like he’s on the cusp of some sort of mental and spiritual breakthrough but can’t quite get there.
Have you read it?