But the serpent said . . .

Another reason to see the story of the Garden of Eden as a story about the rise (and not the fall) of humankind has to do with what the snake says to the woman at the beginning of Genesis 3. The snake predicts three things for the humans: 1) they will not die; 2) their eyes will be opened; and 3) they will be like divine beings who know good and evil. Do all three come true? Let’s start with the third. At the end of chapter 3 (verse 22), Yahweh says, “Look, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Oh, what if he reaches out and takes something from the Tree of Life, too, and eats it and lives forever,” the fairly clear implication being that this would be a catastrophe that must be avoided at all costs. The first part of the statement, though, confirms the veracity of the snake’s third prediction. Yahweh himself has to admit that the man and the woman have become like “us”—divine beings—because they now know about good and evil. They have moved from the status of ignorant, naked, animal-like creatures to the status of being “like” divine beings. They do not become fully divine in the story but like divine. In other words, they achieve human status. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, after Enkidu becomes civilized, he is told, “You have become wise, Enkidu; you have become like a god.” He, too, had become human. What about the snake’s other two predictions? Stay tuned.

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