(Note: This is another episode in my continuing exploration of the Bible. You can read my series introduction here. All Bible quote are NIV and cannot be used for commercial purposes. Read copyright information here.)
The Bible calls this chapter “The Fall.” In church I was told this was mankind’s fall from Grace; from the perfect, sinless presence of God Himself. My faith calls this “original sin.” I was also taught all humanity shares Adam and Eve’s punishment for this first disobedience against God, and therefore we are all destined to physically and spiritually die.
Genesis 3, as it was originally taught to me, filled me with a great, unsatisfied itch. The questions kept coming, but the scripture offered no apparent answers. What I was told versus what I read felt like a square peg being crammed into a star-shaped hole. Simply put, it seems to me that God set up Adam and Eve to fail. Why would he put these trees right in front of them and then tell them not to touch them? I’ve got kids, and if you put something that tempting in front of them every day, eventually they are going to touch it. I mean, just by the law of probability, its eventually going to happen. (I lost a Christmas tree that way once).
Probability. The word stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave. But more about that later, let’s wade into the Fall.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (NIV)
Here are a few questions I’m going to come back to later. 1) Why did the serpent ask Eve and not Adam? 2) What IS the serpent, and what does it get out of all this?
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (NIV)
The woman seems to react to a talking lizard as a perfectly normal occurrence, as if it’s trying to sell her car insurance. She casually recites God’s command not to eat of the tree “in the middle of the garden,” obviously referring to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (this part omits referencing the tree of life, which God did not expressly forbid them from eating, though there is no mention of them actually doing that.)
The serpent does a funny thing here - it presents a lie buried in the truth. “You will not certainly die.” (SPOILER ALERT – they die.) As for the second part, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” As we see later on, this is, well, almost exactly what God says.
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (NIV)
What part of “wisdom” made them ashamed of their nakedness? I’m not going to over-think this, other than to say they knew. They knew everything was different, including the consequences of their nudity. Pre-and post-puberty is a great analogy. Adam suddenly realized Eve had curvy, bumpy parts, and Eve quickly realized that Adam noticed she had curvy, bumpy parts. Enough said.
The fruit was tempting, all it took was a little lie to nudge her to doom. She wanted wisdom, so the woman might have already know what wisdom was (though she didn’t show any sign of it). It also states Adam was with her, therefore it’s easy to believe he saw the whole thing go down and did nothing to stop it. Hey, who exactly was wearing the pants in Eden, anyhow? (SPOILER ALERT: No one.)
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened…” They could see what they could not see before. And what was that? Literally ‘Good and Evil’. As I read it, good and evil already existed (and therefore sin existed) and wasn’t brought forth into the world just because humanity tasted the forbidden fruit. Until that moment, like children, humanity was simply incapable of recognizing it. At that moment they crossed a threshold of no return and attained a higher level of awareness. They evolved. Evolved – there is no better word for it. Adam and Eve gained awareness (maybe not necessarily wisdom – I’ve seen damn little of that in the history books), but perhaps they lost something even greater – innocence.
In the last episode, I speculated Eden might be somewhere in modern Turkey near the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates. Reading Genesis 3, I think that might be where the linage of Moses possibly originated, but I don’t think that was where Eden actually existed. Without innocence there can be no Eden. Paradise can only truly exist in the minds of children and fools; those whose minds are unable, or unwilling to see the truth. I believe the fruit of the tree of knowledge was actually a question, one that makes humans a sentient species, and one I believe we were not ready to ask. Mankind’s innocence vanished, and our relationship with our Creator forever changed, the moment a woman stretched out her hand to heaven and uttered one word.
Nor do I think it was an accident that it was Eve, not Adam, that first asked this most pivotal of all questions. Nor do I believe the serpent’s presence in the Garden was necessarily an act of evil. In fact, the snake belonged there every bit as much as the man, woman and the two trees.
Perhaps the serpent and the woman were God’s vital instruments to set his masterpiece called Creation in motion
Join me next week for Part Two of my exploration of Genesis 3.
Brian Braden is the author the book THE ILLUSION EXOTIC, the historical fantasy novel BLACK SEA GODS and several other exciting books.