Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Genesis 3

Back for another rousing installment of "Days of Our Eden." Unfortunately, I have the feeling that this chapter will be the finale. How does it all play out for our lucky couple? Previously, on DoOE, when God looked through all the animals to find a helper for Adam, and ended up having to resort to creating a woman out of his rib. And of course admonished them with instant death should they eat of a certain tree...(that should all of course be read with a soothing voiceover tone!)

We are immediately introduced to the infamous serpent. I find it interesting that the serpent is described only as "more crafty" than the other animals. His main crime, it would appear, is being smart. The serpent tries to tempt Eve, but she dutifully lists off what God taught her. The serpent, interestingly enough, seems to know what God told them already, which is more omniscience than we've seen out of God so far. The serpent lets Eve know that the tree won't kill them, it will only let them be able to tell good and evil apart.

Now this is very interesting to me. In debating theists, I have often run up against the argument that good and evil are established by God in his omnipotence/omniscience. When examples are offered of some pretty terrible things God has done, the reply is almost invariably "We're just human, we cannot possibly judge actions as good or evil because it's beyond our capacity." But in this chapter, isn't it pretty clear that we actually do have this capacity, because we traded the paradise of Eden to have it?

So Adam and Eve eat the fruit. Yes, they both eat it. I have no idea why the Bible goes out of its way to show that the serpent was talking to Eve, because it says that "her husband...was with her." So basically Adam and Eve were hanging out together, the serpent comes over and talks to them, and it is Eve who stands up for what God told them, but then she and Adam both hear the serpent out and end up eating from the tree. All the "women are more evil because Eve ate the apple first" is pretty clearly sexist bullshit that's hardly even contextually supported. At least not in this chapter.

Also, if Adam and Eve didn't know the difference between good and evil before eating of the tree, how could they know it was evil to eat from the tree? They would know it was disobeying God, but how would they know disobedience is evil? So sin really is about disobeying God and not about doing something evil. Which is sad, I think.

Next we cut to "the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze," which sounds awfully anthropomorphic compared to the usual arguments. God's just a guy out for a stroll in his garden. It's cute. God then proceeds to call out for Adam because he can't find him, then ask him who told him he was naked, and then ask him if he ate from the tree. Going back to the last chapter, there is not a shred of evidence that God is omniscient here. Unless he's staging an elaborate theatrics show, which seems illogical and unnecessary.

God proceeds to issue his punishments. These are not the punishments he originally threatened. He takes the legs off the serpent, gives women childbearing pain, although a little hurt with a baby is no big deal compared to this nugget: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." God created sexism as a punishment for eating the tree! Then he tells Adam he has to toil for his crops because he "listened to the voice of [his] wife." So not only does this cement the above sexism (listening to one's wife is bad), it also doesn't make sense with the way the story was told. He was right there too, it wasn't Eve's fault! If anything, he listened to the voice of the serpent.

Which is another interesting thought. Why does the serpent have a voice? The other animals don't seem to be talking, but no one thinks it's odd that the serpent does. And nowhere does it mention the serpent is Satan. The serpent here is just someone too crafty for his own good, stirring up trouble in middle Eden. Very different from how this story is usually portrayed.

Now that God has handed out his eternal punishments, he gives the couple some hide garments. And then he says something interesting. "'See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.'" It doesn't say who God says this to, but the "one of us" line really stands out, doesn't it? I've vaguely heard ideas that Yahweh began as just one god of many (all ancient religions pretty much are polytheistic), and then later developed into monotheism. That definitely seems to fit with this verse. God doesn't seem to have a monopoly on anything, and he's worried that Adam is going to be godlike. He isn't claiming that Adam needs to be omniscient or omnipotent to be like one of "them," only that he needs to know about good and evil and live forever.

So Adam and Eve get the boot so that God doesn't feel threatened by them. He even leaves a cherubim to guard the entrance so that can't sneak back in. If this were a novel I'd just picked up, I'd be theorizing that God at some point was just a regular Joe who'd gone to Eden, eaten of the two trees, and then become godlike. And he wanted followers without them knowing the secret of what he'd done...so out they must go! It's very interesting, and the God that I feel like I'm coming to know in these first few chapters sounds nothing like the God I've been told about by countless Christians.

Until next time!

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