It is known that many Catholics believe that Adam and Eve is a story better left to the metaphorical imagination, rather than literal interpretation (though other denominations may feel differently). Going off of this belief, wouldn't that imply that since it is just a metaphor, and not literal, that it never really happened, and if it never really happened, then there is no REAL original sin?

If it is a metaphor and there is no original sin, then why did Jesus come to earth? Why did he have to repent us of this non-existent sin?

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    – fгedsbend
    Sep 9, 2014 at 0:13
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    Down-voted because this question has a false premise. Catholics cannot believe in a "metaphorical Adam and Eve". See my answer below.
    – Geremia
    Sep 9, 2014 at 2:08
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    Please don't close this question as it now concerns the "Metaphorical interpretation of scripture" as opposed to the "literal interpretation of scripture" which are completely different things.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 9, 2014 at 3:48
  • The real question is not "Why did he have to repent us of this non-existent sin?" but why would anyone think that the sin God cares about is two people eating an apple thousands of years ago rather than your personal sins? That's why Jesus came, not because two doofuses ate an apple, but because we all sin in our own lives. Sep 9, 2014 at 4:27
  • @Geremia Downvoting because of a false premise makes no sense. Many questions come from misunderstanding, which is something an answer should address. By downvoting in this fashion you are discouraging legitimate questions. Then you answered anyway. You actions appear duplicitous.
    – fгedsbend
    Sep 9, 2014 at 5:43

2 Answers 2


Catholics cannot believe in a "metaphorical Adam and Eve" for at least these reasons:

  1. The Fathers of the Church all taught that Adam and Eve were two, real people, the first parents of the entire human race (monogenism, contra polygenism, which says humanity has more than two first parents), and Catholics must interpret scripture according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers (cf. Council of Trent Session IV, the Decree concerning the Canonical Scriptures, or the First Vatican Council's Dei Filius).
  2. The 1909 Pontifical Biblical Commission decided:

The first three Chapters of Genesis contain the stories of events which really happened, i.e., which correspond with objective reality and historical truth (rerum vere gestarum narrationes quae scilicet obiectivae realitati et historicae veritati respondeant); no myths, no mere allegories or symbols of religious truths, no legends. D 2122.

  • It seems as if the Catholics that I have talked to on this matter do not have the correct doctrine. I figured this was possible. Thank you for the clarification. Sep 9, 2014 at 2:10
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    How does the Church apply paragraph 2(c) (specifically the first sentence, "It is not necessary to understand all individual words and sentences in a literal sense") to Genesis 3? Sep 9, 2014 at 3:06
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    @joey I'm not sure this tells the entire picture. It's correct, but doesn't concern what it means to be human. I think there has to be more to the story than this and I'll try and dig up a more complete answer.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 9, 2014 at 3:47
  • @MattGutting: What specifically about Genesis 3?
    – Geremia
    Sep 9, 2014 at 18:12
  • Here we're discussing the extent to which Catholics are required to believe that not only was there a literal fall, but a literal Adam and Eve, and perhaps a literal serpent, and literal trees, and so on. Does the Church teach that all of these beliefs are required in order to believe the central teaching of Genesis 3, that of the Fall? Sep 9, 2014 at 18:27

This question is based on a confusion about the term "original sin." There are at least two concepts to which this term can refer, and they don't imply each other. From the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

Original sin may be taken to mean: (1) the sin that Adam committed; (2) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam.

From the earliest times the latter sense of the word was more common, as may be seen by St. Augustine's statement: "the deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin" (De nupt. et concup., II, xxvi, 43). It is the hereditary stain that is dealt with here. As to the sin of Adam we have not to examine the circumstances in which it was committed nor make the exegesis of the third chapter of Genesis.

Your question assumes that both meanings are tied to each other, which is a position that Catholicism does not hold.

Catholics which do not hold to a literal Adam and Eve would also not hold to a literal original sin in the first sense mentioned in the encyclopedia above.

  • I'm not sure this is correct. Catholics do believe that original sin in your sense (2) is the consequence of the original sin in sense (1); in what sense then is it true that Catholicism does not hold that the two senses are connected? Additionally... Sep 9, 2014 at 23:32
  • ...it appears from the encyclical Humani Generis that Catholics are required to believe in a literal Adam and Eve. Sep 9, 2014 at 23:34
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    @MattGutting: Catholics are not required to believe in a literal 7-day creation, or that Genesis 1-3 are literal, so requiring a belief in a literal Adam seems a bit odd.
    – Flimzy
    Sep 10, 2014 at 12:27
  • see here and here. Sep 10, 2014 at 12:59

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