If Adam and Eve aren’t real personages but legendary ones none can be condemned eternally to suffer a punishment in hell because he or she doesn’t believe the factuality of the stories of creation from the Bible. It is unacceptable for someone to be punished for rejecting the alleged facticity of a lie. From the point of view of historical facts, a myth isn’t the truth and everyone has the right to know through science how things really were.
The classical theism maintains that we should believe that Adam and Eve were historical personages and we should also believe all religious consequences of this assertion. We should believe that Adam and Eve had disobeyed God’s command and for this reason they would have been punished with death. We can believe in the cross for its moral value based on the sacrificial love even if we don’t believe in the need to be redeemed for the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sins.
We are sometimes told that if we don’t believe what organised religion considers the truth we can be damned forever. This doesn’t seem to be right and the reason is that we shouldn’t be forced to believe that a legend is a true story. Nobody should be forced to believe a doctrine or dogma based on a literal interpretation of the creation myths from the book of Genesis.
Regarding the texts of the O.T. we are facing two possibilities. Either we consider many of the stories from the O.T. the results of human imagination in which God is depicted in a misleading way, or the O.T is the authentic image of God. In the O.T. God is presented other than the way in which He was described by Jesus. One finds in the narratives of the N.T. that Jesus revealed the Father as being the personification of unconditional love, but according to some texts of the O.T., He did many things which don’t express such love.
If the real image of God is the one which can be found in the N.T. and if God is perfect and He loves even His enemies as Jesus has said, then in the O.T. we cannot find Him. God in the O.T. hates His enemies and seeks their destruction. The story with Joshua and Jericho is relevant to this issue.
“21 Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.” (Joshua 6; 21 NRSV)
Another example is the story which maintains that Saul had been sent to destroy an entire nation, even the animals, and that couldn’t have been an action commanded by God who loves His enemies.
In the times of the O.T. God didn’t practice genocide only once with the occasion of the Flood, but several times. The excuse found by some religious devotees is that all those nations had been constituted of sinners. We shouldn’t forget that all the so-called sinners were people like anyone else in that age. God didn’t announce His Law amongst those people and He didn’t perform miracles in their midst so He couldn’t have had any pretension for purity from them.
“21 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” (Mathew 11; 21 NRSV)
God didn’t perform those miracles in Tyre and Sidon therefore He didn’t have any basis to expect repentance from them. In spite of that, Tyre was a target for God and it suffered numerous disastrous events.
“The oracle concerning Tyre. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for your fortress is destroyed.* When they came in from Cyprus they learned of it.” (Isaiah 23; 1 NRSV)
Some devotees would say that only the Jewish people had been chosen by God and had a covenant with Him, and all the other nations of the world didn’t.
Even if the Jewish people had a covenant with God they were nevertheless disobedient to Him many times, probably not much less than other human beings.
The whole story is based on the presumption of the existence in reality of Adam and Eve who, being disobedient to God, have given Him the right to judge and condemn everyone, including any nation. God could have decided to destroy a certain nation on the basis that the alleged first human beings would have sinned and through them all human beings were sinners. According to the Bible the price for sin is death. (Romans 6; 23)
If we admit the real existence of Adam and Eve there are strong theological consequences and one of them is that all human beings deserve to die in God’s eyes. If they deserve to die there is only one more step toward the admission of eternal hell.
If God didn’t create Adam and Eve He isn’t responsible for the human condition but He can, if He wants to, grant eternal life to anyone He wills. God doesn’t need to do anything for humankind’s salvation because He didn’t create human beings, but He can elect some people for eternal life. The people who will not be elect will die because human beings are mortal, but there isn’t any need for them to suffer for eternity in hell.
In the O.T. God doesn’t express Himself as love on too many occasions. God is seen as a disciplinarian that uses tough methods against many people.
Anyone who reads the following text or many other texts about what God had asked Jewish people to do will be very puzzled about His character and His unconditional love.
“6 Cut down old men, young men and young women, little children and women, but touch no one who has the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were in front of the house. 7 Then he said to them, ‘Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain. Go!’ So they went out and killed in the city. 8 While they were killing, and I was left alone, I fell prostrate on my face and cried out, ‘Ah Lord GOD! will you destroy all who remain of Israel as you pour out your wrath upon Jerusalem?’ 9 He said to me, ‘The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city full of perversity; for they say, “The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see.” 10 As for me, my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity, but I will bring down their deeds upon their heads.’” (Ezekiel 9; 6-10 NRSV)
Probably “the land was full with bloodshed and the city was full of perversity” but we expect from God not to add to such bloodshed. God could have done that but this doesn’t have anything to do with a loving Father who loves His enemies. It isn’t about punishing the personal guilt of some individuals but it is about indiscriminate killing. What guilt could the little children have had? They could have had none. There isn’t any justification for the killing of little children and if God had ordered such a thing this would cast doubt on His righteousness. I am persuaded that God didn’t do that and that He is love, and my conviction goes against what the Bible says in Ezekiel chapter 9. In order to believe that God is love one has to evade many texts from the O.T. My conviction is based on how Jesus described God. The text in Ezekiel 9; 6-10, is in contradiction with the following text:
“20 The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.” (Ezekiel 18; 20 NRSV)
The biblical texts are very confusing and sometimes children respond for the sins of their parents and sometimes don’t. There are many such examples in the O.T. which would legitimate the idea that God in the O.T. and in the N.T. are two different Persons. In the N.T. we have many texts about God’s loving character, so much so that He is identified with love:
“8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4; 8 NRSV)
If God can be known by a human being who loves another human being, such an individual finds it hard to understand how God being a Person who loves and moreover who is love, can kill so indiscriminately so many human beings. It is true that one cannot know which part of the Bible presents the real God and if it is the O.T. or the N.T. For the Christians, the N.T. and its image of God are paramount but for the Jews the O.T. is the most important.
At the same time the two parts of the Bible contradict each other greatly about how God is.
One can either choose to have a Gnostic view on the O.T. or to disregard many stories from it, considering them human inventions having the purpose to justify the fate of the Jewish people through supernatural means. That would be similar to finding supernatural explanations to natural things in other cases, for example in the domain of cosmology.