In the last several posts, I’ve discussed my view on various aspects of the story of the Garden of Eden. Given the resolution that the Pennsylvania House passed declaring 2012 to be the Year of the Bible, we ought to ask whether this story “teaches” (to use the resolution’s word) us anything. Actually, I think that’s a hard question to answer. Some would argue that it teaches us about original sin, the fall of humankind from grace, and where the basic problems of nature come from (pain in childbirth, difficulty growing crops). The story itself, however, doesn’t teach any of that. A particular reinterpretation of the story teaches that but not the story as it was originally told.
So, what does it teach? “Darned, if I know” is perhaps the most honest answer, but I’d like to suggest three things that might help with this question. First, the story shows us that not all biblical authors or Read More
The snake’s other two predictions also come true. He says that the man and the woman will not die and that their eyes will be opened. Genesis 3:7 confirms the latter: “Then the eyes of them both were opened.” What about the former — the bit about not dying? Well, clearly they don’t die, right? Some (even some well-known biblical scholars) argue for a metaphorical death or a death of innocence or a loss of immortality and so on. But there’s really no getting around Yahweh’s statement, “On the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” I could go into excruciatingly painful detail on this, but, given the way it’s worded in Hebrew, it has to mean immediate, physical death. And that is precisely what they DON’T experience. Thus, this prediction on the part of the snake also comes true.
I would say that the whole story about the Garden of Eden is really not a creation story, per se, but a story that’s much more like Kipling’s “How the Leopard Got His Spots” (Kipling called his stories like this “Just-So Stories”). The Garden of Eden story explains how humans came to be as they are now. They’re not animals (naked and ignorant), and they’re not gods (immortal). They are, instead “like” gods — that is, they have knowledge, especially the knowledge about what’s good and what’s evil (or, at least, that’s what the story’s claiming, despite how many folks we might know who don’t seem to know the difference between much of anything). Perhaps an appropriate title for the story would be “How the Humans Got Their Knowledge.”