Two Stories: One is the Gospel tale as it was told in the second and third centuries (as best I can tell it). The second is the Gospel tale, or one version of it, as it is taught in the U.S. today.
I changed the first line of story #1. Apparently, any suggestion that the Garden of Eden might be a parable makes story #1 unreadable. Story #1 does not require the Garden of Eden to be a myth.
Whether it is historical or not, the Garden of Eden is an explanation of our reality. Though humans could simply obey God and live in joyful relationship and prosperity with him, they consistently choose to determine right and wrong for themselves. Walking away from God, the only source of true life, they received the result of their choice: spiritual death. No longer attached to God, spiritual forces of wickedness took them over (Eph. 2:1-3). Humans cannot free themselves from this slavery, nor can they see it despite all the wickedness that surrounds us (2 Cor. 4:4).
God is and always has been a merciful God, quick to forgive everyone except those who stubbornly persist in their evil ways (Ex. 34:6-7; Ezek. 18:20-30). God chose his own nation through whom he would show his love and his remarkable way of life to the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, that nation, too, chose to persist in its evil ways. No matter how hard God tried and whether he showed kindness or anger, they persisted in evil (Rom. 2-3). While this was no surprise to God, it was and continues to be a surprise to humans (Rom. 7). That long period of forbearing evil (Rom. 3:25) and winking at sin (Acts 17:30) was not so God could find out we are slaves to sin. God always knew, but humans needed long example to convince us that we are slaves. God was always hoping, and asking, that we humans would reject our self-rule and return to joyful relationship with him (Isa. 1:16-20; Jer. 7:21-24; Micah 6:8).
God’s nation kept rejecting all his messengers and messages, so the world did not get to hear of the mercy of God (Eph. 2:12). Finally, God sent his Son. His Son came to the earth, lived the way a human should live, in fellowship with God (John 5:19), then gave his life as a ransom for the human race, buying their freedom from spiritual wickedness and slavery to sin with his own life, his own blood (Matt. 10:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6).
Of course, the spirits of wickedness knew they could simply enslave mankind again, and they rejoiced at the capture of God’s only-begotten Son, through whom God had created the earth in the beginning. What they did not realize is that the Son of God would tear apart the shackles of death, “bind the strong man,” and plunder the domain of wickedness (Mark 3:27; 1 Cor. 2:8).
Having risen from the dead, he offers to all who will come to him the freedom that he bought and fought for. Once again, through the Son, we can have fellowship and friendship with both God and his Son, resulting in everlasting life (Jn. 17:3; 2 Cor. 5:14-21).
This new relationship with God is not as easy as it was for Adam and Eve. We are not in the garden, but we in are a world enslaved to sin because many still reject both the Son and fellowship with the Father. Because the followers of the Son are in fellowship with God and are more powerful than the spirits of wickedness, they fight off the attempts to enslave them. Because God is love, they love, and they fight to bring others under the dominion of the Son who sets humans free.
They will continue to do so until the time of opportunity is ended. Then all who have made their way into the kingdom of the Son will shine forever, while all who rejected him and chose disobedience to God will be destroyed along with the spirits of wickedness who kept them captive.
The story of Adam and Eve is history. God told Adam not to eat from the tree of good and evil, but the devil tricked Eve into talking Adam into eating it. God, worried that Adam and Eve might eat from the tree of life and become immortal, barred the passage to the garden they lived in. Now it is no longer visible or maybe even submerged under the earth.
God cannot bear any disobedience at all. He never forgives anyone even the slightest sin because he is too holy and just. Anyone who disobeys in any way must die (Hab. 2:13? James 2:10? Ezek. 18:20, but note vv. 21-30). God does not want to kill humans. Even though he must kill humans because he is so holy and just that he cannot forgive sins, he really wants to forgive sins, so he allows humans to kill animals so they don’t have to be killed. In fact, when Adam and Eve sinned, God killed animals in their place and gave them the animal skins as clothes.
Even then, God is not really accepting their sacrifice, nor is he simply showing mercy when the Old Testament says he shows mercy. Instead, he is looking forward to the eventual death of his Son in the place of all humans because that is what actually allows him to forgive. This must be why King David said God doesn’t want sacrifices but a repentant heart (Ps. 51:16) and why God desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6, a verse Jesus quoted in Matthew 9:13)
Humans continued to sin, and God kept allowing them to kill animals in their place. Adam’s son, Cain, did not understand this, so he offered grains to God as a sacrifice. Plant life can’t atone for human life, so God rejected Cain’s sacrifice. Cain got mad and killed his brother because his brother offered an animal sacrifice. God let Cain go anyway. He even stamped Cain with a stamp on his forehead so that people would not kill him.*
* The real story is that Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because he was evil, and Abel’s was accepted because he was righteous (Gen. 4:7; 1 Jn. 3:12).
God eventually took for himself a nation, and though they had sacrifices to cover their sins, they were so evil God overthrew them despite their sacrifices. Then, finally, when the time was right (Gal 4:4), God sent his Son, through whom he created the universe, to be the ultimate sacrifice. The Son never committed a sin, and he was divine, and therefore he was qualified to be the one great sacrifice that would allow God to forgive all the sins of mankind once and forever.
After paying for all sins with his life, the Son rose from the grave, and everyone who believes that he died for their sins will have their sins forgiven no matter what they do.
Which story do you think is more biblical?