A nominee for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short, and a beautiful little film. h/t Jordan Bloom.
It’s been some time since I’ve written on the Fall. Partly, I got a bit burned out on the topic after the many, many posts I did. Another factor was that I changed my mind on some aspects of the issue. Finally, after fifty-four posts, I concluded that I didn’t have a conclusion yet. I still don’t, quite. However, in the process of surfing about the Internet, I ran across some articles discussing just this issue–to wit, how does one square modern knowledge of human origins with the (apparent) Biblical requirement that all humans descend from a single priaml couple–and I thought it worthwhile to point them out and briefly discuss them.
It’s interestingly appropriate, given the content and image for today’s Rubá’í of the Day. Since I schedule the Rubá’í of the Day posts months ahead of time, I rarely remember what the specific verse for the day is or what image I selected for it until it posts. I was thinking about this post last night, and when I decided to write it today, lo and behold: there were Adam and Eve in today’s rubá’í! I certainly can’t ignore such a synchronicity, so on we go!
This past summer came news of possible interbreeding between early Homo sapiens (modern humans) and other groups, possibly of different but related species. This is in addition to the possible and much-disputed hybridization with Neanderthal Man. Admittedly I’m a little late on this–I was deep into “Legends of the Fall” at the time, and somehow overlooked this fascinating news, which I should have incorporated at the time. Oh, well–better late than never.
The first story indicates a possibility of mixing between modern humans and the so-called Denisovan hominin. Denisovans were discovered only four years ago, and the remains are still fragmentary. Nevertheless, DNA analysis indicates the Denisovans to be distinct both from modern humans and from Neanderthals, though they seem more closely related to the latter. This analysis also indicated Denisovan DNA exists in modern populations, too, especially Melanesians and Australian Aborigines. This would indicate some interbreeding between early modern humans and Denisovans.
The second story indicates hybridization between early modern humans and one or more unknown species or subspecies in Africa. In this case there are no physical remains such as bones; rather, patterns of DNA unlike any other human (or Neanderthal) DNA have turned up in some African populations. This is interpreted as indicated hybridization with some other unknown group or groups–quite likely, given the large number of early hominids in Africa. What is surprising is the relative recentness of this interbreeding–as recently as 20,000 years ago, long after other populations had already left Africa.
This is still more evidence that while all humans today have common ancestors in the relatively recent past, there were nevertheless many different groups that contributed to the human genome, and not all original populations necessarily had a single origin. More and more we see the need to rethink traditional theology in regard to the Fall and the origin of humanity.
Part of the series Legends of the Fall.
Also part of the series Polygenism Revisited.
When I began this series over five months, forty posts, and (conservatively) 30,000 words ago, it seemed as if it would be a short, straightforward series. It seemed to me that the Genesis narrative of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Fall of Man, given our knowledge of biology, archaeology, anthropology, and so on was obviously mythical. It also seemed to me that conservatives who insisted on the literal, historical accuracy of the account were being hysterical and over-the-top when they argued that not just abstruse points of theology but Christianity itself hung on the account being really historical, and not mythical. The argument was that if you reduce the story of the Fall to myth, all the rest of Christian theology unravels, as when one pulls a bit of yarn from a sweater. I still think the Genesis account is mythical. However, I have changed my mind on the second issue. I have decided that the conservative critics of a mythical genus are actually correct. Christian theology as we know it–as it has traditionally been understood–actually does depend on a more or less literal Adam/Eve/Fall narrative. They were right; I was wrong.
Now there are two things this does not mean. It does not mean that I have embraced Biblical literalism. Far from it–the more I study the relevant areas, the less likely it seems possible to understand large parts of the Bible–particularly Genesis–in anything like a literal fashion. If anything, I have reduced the number of things I’m willing to take (or which I think it necessary to take) literally to one–the Resurrection. I’ve discussed that at much greater length in “The Pretty Good Book“. On the other hand, all this also does not mean that I have lost faith, rejected Christianity, or even tossed out all concepts of a Fall (of some sort) and Atonement. I think that the traditional theology on these issues cannot be maintained; therefore, I think we need to adopt a new theology. I don’t see this happening in official venues any time soon; but that’s no reason not to put in some small effort in that direction here.
Some Theories of Atonement, or Love, not Honor or Substitution This post, by Father Nathan O’Halloran, S. J., is reblogged from Vox Nova. I’ve touched on the idea of the Atonement in the course of this series insofar as it has implications for the concept of the Fall and the interpretations of the Fall which I have been discussing. Thus I’m adding this as a sort of guest post that goes into more detail on that particular aspect of the issues I’ve been dealing with here. Update: Since I originally reblogged this, Vox Nova has moved to Patheos; thus, the reblogged link no longer works. I’ve deleted the reblogged post from this blog, and put the link to the original post by Fr. O’Halloran at the new Patheos site in the link above. Thus, clicking there will take you to Patheos, not to my blog.
Atonement Theology This post was reblogged from the blog Triangulations, and gives an excellent summary of various schools of thought on the Atonement.