Whoever wrote the Adam and Eve story in Genesis was “clearly inviting” his readers to understand it as a metaphor.
[The names Adam and Eve] literally are ‘Humanity’ and ‘Life’. Few readers of the English Bible are aware of this connection, and thus they fail to realize how the text itself invites them to see these characters less as historical figures and more as metaphorical representations of the human race. Once one understands the driving metaphor we are expelled from paradise, however, suddenly the remainder of Genesis and even our own lives make much more sense.
The creation and Adam and Eve narratives are often said to be nice moral tales that convey spiritual truths. Being myth does not disqualify them from containing meaningful messages for modern readers.
So at wedding ceremonies and in Sunday school classes bible-believers are regaled with the “beautiful story” of the God practising a bit of psychic surgery as his hand penetrates Adam’s side to pull out a rib which he used to create Eve. And since this story is not something that has been uncovered in modern times among cuneiform tablets alongside myths of sea-monsters and sky-gods, but is one we have been as familiar with as our soft pillows and teddy bear toys since childhood, we call it a “beautiful metaphor” of the marriage relationship.
And I suspect many theologians would prefer to keep it that way. Meaningful myth or symbol is sophisticated. Literal images of God taking the penis bone from Adam and using it to create Eve, thus explaining both marriage and the reason males of humans alone (almost) lack this bit of anatomy would probably go a long way to discrediting not only a “beautiful and meaningful story”, but opening up a few more people’s minds to the irrelevance of the Bible in an enlightened age.
The story is isolated. Not a single prophet, psalm or narrator makes any reference to this story of their creation and Fall (von Rad)
Later biblical narratives stress the value of atonement. Sin is a matter of momentary transgressions of the Law. It is as if the narrative of the Fall, and its messages for the nature of mankind and sin, are unknown to the rest of the OT. (Eichrodt)
I have been partial to the argument that the Jewish Scriptures as we have them originated from Persian times (albeit our version of course dates from the Masoretic Text, post 70 c.e.). I suspect many of the pre-Abraham stories were scarcely matters of interest or knowledge among the various scribal schools of the province of Jehud.
I am reminded of another suggestion that the story of the scattering of peoples through language confusion at Babel first surfaced some time in Hellenistic era. As it stands, it informs readers that Babylon was left deserted and unfinished. Every reader who comes to that point must deep down, even if only for a nanosecond, wonder how that fits with the later power of Babylon waging a war of conquest against the Kingdom of Judah. But if the author of that story knew only the Babylon of the third-century b.c.e. after it had been to a very large extent deserted, he could have been forgiven for thinking he was composing a “just so” etiological tale of how it came to be that way.