Melodic_Antelope6490 OP t1_iwm0dot wrote

I think several things are going on here.

  1. I do believe the split is the product of our culture, of a scientific process being hypertrophied into an epistemological worldview thus 'literalising' the world into the true and the subjective, through postmodernity when the scientism of modernity that brought this about has been dropped by most people and we are left with absurd debates such as "I feel like a woman on the inside vs you're a man because of your body", or "a fetus is a life objectively" vs "it counts as a life based on my choice".

  2. We also have forms of knowledge from science itself (e.g. evolution, archaeology etc) that cause us to actually have to ask questions about what kinds of text we are dealing with directly, so as you pointed out, Paul wrote to people who took the Torah as authoritative so was just not interested in arguing about creation or Eden as symbolic or literal and did not have to, no one would question his taking it symbolically because they accept it as true. The poet T. S. Eliot said about poetry that "the surface reading of a poem is like meat thrown to a guard dog by a burglar" in other words, the distraction that allows the real work to be done. This is in some sense true of just taking a text as 'literal', it allows a door into its meanings without you having to first deal with this question of is it true and then ok what kind of truth is it, is it literal, is it arbitrary and subjective, etc etc.

If you're really bored or that way inclined I did write an essay series on this:


Melodic_Antelope6490 OP t1_iwlv95z wrote

Paul's use of Adam in the NT is about his theological relationship to Christ, not say, where the garden of Eden is located or how if you travel there you can still see an angel with a flaming sword. As in, his argument hinges on symbolism not "I can prove it, travel to so and so and you'll see where it was".

It's really hard to make this explanation short but the true/false distinction in a text is a product of a separation of language into the 'literal' and the 'metaphorical' where the literal is objectively factual and the metaphorical is subjective and arbitrary which is illustrated by you saying at the start "You can interpret the story in a way that appeals to you, but that's not the same as it being true." Clearly Paul takes the old testament stories and 'interprets' Adam's typological relationship to Christ. That doesn't mean that he is exactly making an argument for Eden or Adam as literal in that context, but I don't think at the time he was writing this split was exactly conscious, in other words to use the text symbolically did not mean it had to first be separated as non-literal, partly because other explanations (e.g. darwinism) didn't really exist.

Your point about Christ however is true, I think clearly the early church were staking something on Jesus resurrection as a literal event, and there is no avoiding that. This would be where you get to Lewis and Tolkien's discussion of a 'true myth' in terms of the meeting of history and symbolism.


Melodic_Antelope6490 OP t1_iwlqi8k wrote

Sorry to be clear about the latter part - I'm not arguing Eden was seen as "just a myth" by bible authors, I also didn't say or don't think Paul didn't believe it was a real place. Simply that's its fundamental role is theological rather than literal. In such a time the distinction beyond that simply didn't exist.


Melodic_Antelope6490 OP t1_ivzx5od wrote

Hi, thanks for the response. Sorry it's taken me a week to read it, I've found a lot of these replies to be someone who's read the first paragraph and rushed back to tell me I'm a moron, which may be true, but still. Anyway, thanks yours is actually helpful and maybe I threw that abortion bit in without enough context.

You're perhaps right abortion isn't the best example, but the point is to reflect that it is a debate between an absurd dichotomy of a person deciding arbitrarily if a life is a life, and a person insisting a life is objectively a life at a point of conception because of a religious 'fact', and that this mirrors say, the gender squabble between the "I feel like a woman on the inside therefore I am a woman and it's morally wrong to say otherwise" and "woman is a female nothing else matters". Unfortunately, these debates really are that absurd. All the points you've raised illustrate that its a broad ethical issue with both outcomes and "values" that might not be agreed on, but it's literally framed in the public sphere as black/white subjective/objective.

So my point in saying the problem is that we don't read enough poetry is perhaps the other way around, we don't read poetry because we can't deal with metaphorical language without a facile insistence on reducing it to objective claims. 'Gender', however you look at it, is a metaphor. A literal man cannot literally be a woman, but masculinity and femininity are metaphors and abstractions, and if you accept that both have kinds of truth, but not the same kinds of truth, you can actually have a discussion. The point is that it's akin to Dawkins arguing about evolution with a seven day creationist. They're trying to argue the same things but putting together two language systems that aren't accessing truth in the same way, genesis one might be 'true', but it isn't an objective scientific theory.

If that makes any sense.


Melodic_Antelope6490 OP t1_iuyfj14 wrote

To clarify here - A simile is a subcategory of a metaphor, it's just stated differently. So all similes are metaphors but not all metaphors are similes. It's arguable there are only two tropes - metaphor and symbol, with metonymy and synecdoche essentially being kinds of metaphors. But Traffic flowed like a river is a verbal way of referencing an underlying metaphor 'traffic is a river', just like 'we got off to a bumpy start' references an underlying metaphor 'a relationship is a journey', or 'they really swallowed that' the metaphor 'ideas are food'. In other words metaphors can be referenced indirectly.