This will probably not rock anyone's world or seem very scandalous except to those of a very conservative background, but....after careful prayer, research, and consideration...I don't think Genesis 1-3 should be taken literally. Most are looking at the computer screen in shock....that people even considered it to be true in this day and age. But I did. I thought that the text demanded to be read literally and anything else was dishonest. I think it's true, I just don't think it's literal. I think the point of the text is to establish God as Creator and man as sinful. As was brought to my attention by my friend Matt (a Duke Divinity student), the same truths can be gathered from the Exodus story (which I still take to be factual). God has providence and man turns away from Him. Here are a few of the reasons I don't think Gen. 1-3 is literal:
1. The Bible is a theological text, not a scientific text This seems obvious. Again, I doubt this will really scandalize too many people. But, for the last year or so I've become very uncomfortable with theology informing science. It just doesn't seem proper to me. The other side is that I'm not comfortable with science informing theology. To me, it just doesn't matter if yom is a literal, 24 hour day, or gazillions of years (yes, gazillions). The point is still that God is Creator and man is sinful. I get that no matter what kind of science you put into it. If you want to believe in a 6,000 year old earth, fine....do so on scientific reasons. If you want to believe in a gazillion year old earth, fine...do so on scientific reasons. I don't think God thought to Himself, "Well now, I'm going to teach them a bit about cosmology and origins in this little bit. How convenient."
2. This isn't history like most of the Pentateuch I believe in Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. I do not think the Wellhausen theory accounts for the evidence and there are really compelling arguments against his theory. That said, I'm not an expert on the Old Testament (or anything, for that matter), so I may one day change my mind if I find evidence that is compelling. Okay...on with my reason. When I read in Exodus about the exodus out of Egypt, that's a particular kind of history. That's history that was lived-out by the author (I also believe the exodus occured during the reign of Thutmoses IV, not Rameses....I'm a giant fundamentalist, I know). But, the account of Adam and Eve isn't the same kind of history. Even if God gave the words of Genesis to Moses, it's not the same as when Moses himself lived it out. And that leads me to my next point:
3. It doesn't have to be literal to be true Yet another "duh" for most of my readers, but...remind yourself, I just started this Biblical studies bit about 3 years ago. At any rate, I agree with Aquinas, Calvin, etc when they say that God has to talk down to us. God has to use stories, parables, and all that other jazz to get ideas across that are beyond our capabilities. Was Jesus really a door? A light? A vine? Can you imagine the art that would've come out of Europe if people interpreted those sayings literally? I'll grant you that those are different from Genesis 1-3 in a sense, but my point is: If you believe Jesus is God and has always been God, then who's to say His perpensity to use parables began with His earthly life?
So, here's what I believe: God is Creator, He created the world from nothing, He created the creatures that live on the earth, He created man, man turned away from God. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know if the earth is literally 6,000 years old, created in literal 24 hour days. It doesn't really concern me. In fact, I think if you read Genesis 1-3 and the first thing you do is go out and research origins and cosmology and everything else...you've missed the point.