I have a question about the creation account of Adam and Eve. I read some at your website and also your book “Is there a God” ( and while I can’t explain everything that I understand from these sources, if I may draw a short conclusion it is that you believe based on faith that humans were a special creation and not part of the evolution.  You also conclude that some parts of Genesis are metaphorical.  The other day I was in a discussion which led into a debate about how we can be so lenient in our interpretation of Genesis when scientific evidence seems to contradict it, for example the seven days (why not translated as 7 ages if “yom” can be translated in various ways), Eve created from Adam’s rib (why not translated “tsela” as side rather than ribs if the purpose is to convey the equality of men and women), how according to the Bible Adam and Eve were clearly created and didn’t evolve (your point of view which of course is one amongst different interpretation), etc.  Someone even added to the argument against the Bible that this is the reason why the Bible is not a good book to read as it triggers more questions than the answers it provides. To be fair, he also argues this doesn’t only apply to the Bible but any other religious books which he thinks no longer relevant today.   This happened on Facebook and I’m a type of person who dislikes long comments on social media which will only attract more debates which leads to no reconciliation. So I ended it with a simple “lets agree to disagree”.  What is your opinion regarding the creation account and his criteria of what a good book should be? Of course different people have different criteria, but I’m curious how I can properly answer these types of arguments in the future.  Thanks and kind regards.


One of the amazing things about the Bible is that its content can be metaphorical/symbolic at the same time that it is also historical.  The life of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Ishmael and Hagar are all metaphorical and symbolic, as is shown by Galatians 4:21-31.  The symbolic nature of the relationship between Isaac and Ishmael, as well as between Sarah and Hagar is inescapable, yet these people really did live these lives and their lives were recorded nearly two thousand years before the symbolic meaning was revealed. In this case history is metaphor.  The symbolism in Genesis 22 of Abraham sacrificing his one and only son on Mount Moriah—the mountain on which Jerusalem is built, is also deeply symbolic, yet it was recorded by people who had no idea whatsoever of the symbolism.  It is no accident that Isaac carried the wood up the same mountain that Jesus carried his wooden crossbeam—both to be used for a sacrifice.  Again, an actual event is simultaneously a metaphor/symbol.

So, it is not a shock if the creation accounts in Genesis 1-3 have both a deep symbolic/metaphorical meaning and historical content at the same time.  This is the pattern throughout Genesis.  I would say that in each case, the metaphorical meaning is the most important, yet the historical nature of the events is also key.

I would apply this to Genesis chapters 1-3.  In this case, the relative weight of metaphor and history is not completely clear.  Is this almost completely metaphorical with no historical content at all, or is it a simple face-value description of literal events?  There will be a wider array of opinions on this and we will have to be willing to accept this, but I personally believe that there were two original people who carried the image of God, leading to all others who are also in His image.  We cannot physically investigate the ribs of these two and we were not there to watch the naming ceremonies of the animals.  Are these actual physical events that occurred at a specific time, or are they representative of what happened over time?  I do not know for sure and I do not need to know.  These are not part of the essentials of what is going on in Genesis 1-3, which is to present God to us, to present mankind to us, and to present our problem—which is rebellion and separation.  My faith does not rest on having to know exactly where the historicity of these event ends and where metaphor takes over.  I am content, even though I disagree, with people who take the events more metaphorically than I do, but I believe that the special creation of Adam and Eve and their fall actually happened.

The fact that the Bible raises many questions does not make it a bad book.  Who came up with this argument?  The best books ALWAYS raise more questions than they answer.  This is the nature of great literature.  However, clearly, the Bible provides more of the answers to what humans really want to know than any other book ever written.  There is no close second!  The Bible answers the greatest questions such as where we came from, our purpose, where we are going, the meaning of life, the nature of good and evil.  This criticism is a rather shallow one in my opinion.

By the way, I would note that I strongly disagree that any knowledge we have from science disagrees with Genesis properly interpreted.  Those who claim it does are making what I would call a straw man argument.  They are arguing against young earth creationism, of which I certainly am not a supporter.  They are arguing against a particular interpretation, not against the Bible.   The fact that there are varying interpretations of Genesis 1 does make it somewhat hard for us believers, but what can I say—that is the way it is.  We have to answer for the young earthers with whom we get lumped whether we like it or not.  All I can say about that is that this will require patience and wise discussions with your friends if they are willing to engage in such discussions.

On a side note, as far as I know, no translation uses age rather than day in Genesis 1 because this (day) is what the context demands.  After all, it does say morning and evening, the first day.  To translate this as morning and evening the first age would be an extremely forced translation.   Therefore, Bible translators who believe that these “days” represent ages are not willing to force this rather awkward translation (age) onto the text.  Nor should they do so.  They should translate in the most natural sense implied by the text and then let the readers decide for themselves.  It is not the job of a translator to put their spin on the text but to translate as close to literally as possible and then to let the reader do the interpreting.  Translating is not interpreting   Well… it always is to some extent, but it should be so as little as possible and I agree with translating yom as day in Genesis 1 despite how I interpret these days

John Oakes

Comments are closed.