In the modern Protestant world, much of the discussion on Genesis 1 and 2 is limited to whether or not it is to be read literally. For the Orthodox Church, whether or not the Genesis creation stories are read literally, they offer to us the understanding of what it is to be human. They are thus more about each of us and who we are as humans than about merely relating the story of the first human beings. Adam and Eve are a type of us all and we learn about who we are through their story.
The Orthodox Church has a long history of making use of scriptural texts for all manners of wisdom, spiritual teachings and insight into the very nature of the Word of God.
“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Rather than use the above quote for the dubious purpose of proving that scripture must be read literally, the Orthodox have woven scriptural texts and images into their large collection of hymns to teach, reprove, correct, train and equip. Take for example the IKOS hymn from Matins for the Holy Apostle Philip (November 14). Note that the hymn gives clear reference to the creation of the world, but then ties it in to our daily lives. The text is not seen mostly as ancient factual history, but a treasury to inspire us in our daily lives. The Genesis 1-2 creation text is not so much science or history as a spiritual treasury to help us live as God’s children in His world.
Lord, as You created the nature of water,
grant me a flood of teaching!
Strengthen my heart, Compassionate One, as You established the earth by Your word.
Enlighten my mind, as You are covered with light as with a garment,
that I may speak and chant what is fitting to praise Your friend, MOST MERCIFUL CHRIST!