This is a good point... if we look at the Book of Revelation, a prophecy of the future, there is little there that we would dare to interpret literally and Fathers who left commentaries on the Book of Revelations sought hidden/symbolic meaning in the images presented in the book. If we apply the same principle to the Book of Genesis (1-2) and view it through the eyes of the Fathers, we will see that all of them either interpreted it literally or did not deny literal interpretation.
I, too, believe in a literal Genesis (Yuri converted me by describing the beauty hidden under the letter!!) but I am not a Creationist by any stretch of the imagination: to me trying to understand humanity or God by using proofs from creation (whether evolutionary or ‘creation-ary’) is a simple denial of the Spirit of life. God fundamentally has not given us inspired books (although these exist), but He has given us His Spirit …
St Jerome has written the following:
A firmament is constructed between heaven and earth, and to this is allotted the name heaven, … and the waters which are above the heavens are parted from the others to the praise of God. Wherefore also in the vision of the prophet Ezekiel there is seen above the cherubim a crystal stretched forth,(Ezek. i. 22.) that is, the compressed and denser waters. …
In Eden a garden is planted, and a fountain in the midst of it parts into four heads.(Gen. ii. 8, 10.) This is the same fountain which Ezekiel later on describes as issuing out of the temple and flowing towards the rising of the sun, until it heals the bitter waters and quickens those that are dead.(Ezek. xlvii. 1, 8.)
When the world falls into sin nothing but a flood of waters can cleanse it again. But as soon as the foul bird of wickedness is driven away, the dove of the Holy Spirit comes to Noah(Gen. viii. 8, 11.) as it came afterwards to Christ in the Jordan,(Matt. iii. 16.) and, carrying in its beak a branch betokening restoration and light, brings tidings of peace to the whole world.
I do view Genesis as real, and as real as the book of Revelation. However, I can not help but get the feeling that someone turned Genesis from reading like an apocalypse into a text reading like a story. As can be seen from the above, Jerome also believes in Genesis, but his Genesis is a world which we now know as visions. Our physical world is merely a poor reflection of the world of the Visions: the world of Visions is the original world created very good by God (my current guess is that this is the world and universe before the big bang).
Fr Seraphim Rose in his big book on Genesis is quite adamant that Genesis 1-11 be interpreted realistically, even though symbolic interpretations can also be used. However, in his commentary on Revelation 22:1 ("he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.") he can only give symbolic interpretations, "This symbolically depicts the grace of the Life-giving Spirit". At the end of the chapter he notes that this is the same river as that mentioned by Ezekiel 47:12 - which Jerome above believes is the very same river as that in Eden! ("The Apocalypse", Archbishop Averky & Fr Seraphim Rose, p. 277 & 283)
I think there is a fundamentally flawed approach to both Genesis and Revelation: Genesis must be adhered to literally, Revelation must be adhered to symbolically. Yet St Jerome links the river mentioned in both as being the same.
So for a breath of fresh air, as Revelation can be interpreted as referring to historical events (e.g. the Jewish War of 66-70AD and Rev. 12:6, p. 180), I would like to give below my ideas of how a sizeable portion of Genesis 1-11 is actually a ‘story-fied’ version of ancient Jewish history. Genesis seems to me to be one big ‘what went wrong’ story, with elements of the original creation and Fall and Flood, and elements of Israelite history, the lapse into idolatry, the destruction of the temple, the rebuilding of the temple, etc. Genesis has indeed been ‘story-fied’ hiding a double history!
Before judging me too harshly, ask this: how many coincidences does it take to go beyond a coincidence?
As ever, I have been profoundly impressed by the approach of Dr Margaret Barker (http://www.margaretbarker.com).