Are Adam and Eve real historical figures that lived 6000 years ago, or are they metaphorical representations? It is an interesting question and Alister McGrath recently chimed in on this issue:
There are those who would say that Adam and Eve designate specific historical figures. (Here’s a great example of the many arguments for holding to a historical and literal Adam and Eve - 10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam by Kevin DeYoung.) That makes some sense, as McGrath acknowledged in the above video, but it makes even more sense to say that Adam and Eve are stereotypical figures—representing the human potential and divine calling but also with the capacity to go wrong.
McGrath tossed out for consideration the idea that the story of Adam and Eve is the story of all of us—people with both the greatest intentions and the greatest of gifting—but still with the ability to fail. The Adam and Eve story tells us that this is not accidental—this is what it means to be human. I agree, and think we must read the beginning of Genesis with a more “theological interpretation” rather than a “literal interpretation”. Old Testament scholar, Tremper Longman chimes in on the issue as well:
The real question is: is there anything to be done about this human quandary? In the book of Romans, Paul writes that Christ is the second Adam, who offers a second chance for humanity – an offer of redemption and renewal. This is our story, we have gone wrong but there is something to be done about it. And that something is the transformation that is brought about by the life, death, and resurrection of the historical Jesus Christ. Biblical scholar, N.T. Wright, discusses the Apostle Paul’s use of the theological idea of “Adam” here:
Lastly, here’s another clip of N.T. Wright on the matter, making a case for how most of our inquiries are probably more cultural rather biblical:
Any of reader of Genesis needs to take into consideration ancient near-eastern writings, cultures, and concepts. When you compare the imagery, structure, and language of Genesis 1-3 with other writings from that era (ancient Egyptian, Ancient Mesopotamian, etc.) the similarities are vast which leads the rational reader to a theological reading and a non-literalistic approach. It’s imperative that we ask contextual questions about what the original authors would have been trying to convey through the text and not laying on the text questions it wasn’t meant to answer (e.g., creationism vs. evolution, literal or non-literal, etc.).
Some may see this as a radically liberal approach which necessarily leads one to the rejection of infallibility and inspiration of Scripture. Though I still have questions for both sides of the issue, I definitely believe that you can remain orthodox and conservative in your adherence and belief in the Scripture while holding onto what some may refer to as a “less-than-orthodox” interpretation of Genesis.