BPotW Adam & Eve are bad, bad people. Or are they? (do I even need to put the chapter reference here? Genesis 2:4-3:24)

Welcome to Wondercafe2!

A community where we discuss, share, and have some fun together. Join today and become a part of it!

Bible Passage of the Week

Mendalla

Fully vaccinated ape
Joined
May 2, 2014
Messages
34,892
Location
The Forest City
Yeah, I went there. One of the seminal stories of the Christian tradition is original sin. But is it really what generations of doctrine and theology have said it is? I know some thinkers on the progressive side have different readings of it. And Jews don't view it the same way as Christians. So how do you read this story?


We open with the second version of Creation. There is a brief version of God creating the Earth, then a description of the geography of Eden. God puts Adam in the garden to tend it and tells him that he can eat freely of any tree but the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Then God clues in that Adam might be lonely. First he creates other animals, and lets Adam name them (contradicting Genesis 1 which had animals come first). But none of these could really serve as a "partner". So God the created the first woman, using one of Adam's ribs (some kind of genetic engineering??).

Then that crafty serpent comes along and convinces the woman (note that the name Eve comes after the temptation) to try eating from the tree. She does, then gets Adam to try it. God finds out and is pissed. He lobs punishments at all involved (serpent, woman, man). Then, apparently fearing that they might also eat from the Tree of Life and become immortal, God boot them out of the garden and puts a cherubim and a flaming sword to guard it and keep them from returning.

Good story. Lots of drama. But what does it really mean? Is this really a cosmic level event (as I have seen alleged) that contaminated the whole of creation? One that affects only humanity? Merely the first of many times that humans disobey God in the Jewish scriptures?
 

Mendalla

Fully vaccinated ape
Joined
May 2, 2014
Messages
34,892
Location
The Forest City
After reading over this for the umpteenth time and after reading some of the later stories from the Jewish scriptures that we have discussed, I wonder if this is really about an "original sin" or more the first of many stories about humans falling out with God due to the selfish side of our nature. It is pretty clearly mythological in nature, rather than historical, so the question is not "did this happen" but "what does the story mean or tell us." And I think it tells us that our penchant for willfully going our own way rather than following God's commandments, or doing what is right or best for all in secular terms, goes back to the beginning. In other words, the events of this story didn't cause us to be sinful, but are a story suggesting that it is in our nature to go beyond the boundaries, to give in to our wild, selfish side, and face the consequences. We are not condemned by Adam & Eve's actions, but we are condemned when we give in to that part of our nature as they did.

The serpent is a mythological trickster figure. Such figures are not necessarily "evil" but they test us and try to draw out the selfish side of our nature. Temptation can be both internal and external. A figure like the serpent, or Satan with whom the serpent is often associated, symbolizes both. The devil on one shoulder whispering in our ear is, of course, another version of it.

PS. In Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett have the serpent be a lesser demon named Crowley who isn't really that good at being evil while the cherubim is a somewhat bumbling angel (he loses the flaming sword) named Aziraphale. They become best friends over the millennia and end up saving the world. Book is widely available in libraries and stores, TV series is on Amazon Prime.
 
Last edited:

Luce NDs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
49,668
Thus the myth carries on ... by the Carters ... teamster's union? The weals continue to roll as time grinds ...

CS Lewis, Northrup Frye, others?
 

Redbaron

The Legend Continues
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
11,669
Location
Ontario
Interesting to note that in the first Creation story, Gen.1:1-2:3, 'God' behaves like an emperor, saying "Let there be!" and it happens. In this second story, the 'LORD God' actually got their hands dirty, forming human and animals from the dust of the ground. Not only is the order of creation different, but also the mode, and even the name of the Creator. This Creator walks in the garden with the created people. Hard to imagine the Creator of Genesis 1 doing that...
 

Mendalla

Fully vaccinated ape
Joined
May 2, 2014
Messages
34,892
Location
The Forest City
Interesting to note that in the first Creation story, Gen.1:1-2:3, 'God' behaves like an emperor, saying "Let there be!" and it happens. In this second story, the 'LORD God' actually got their hands dirty, forming human and animals from the dust of the ground. Not only is the order of creation different, but also the mode, and even the name of the Creator. This Creator walks in the garden with the created people. Hard to imagine the Creator of Genesis 1 doing that...
Interesting point. The God of 1 is more the classical "old guy in the sky" notion. In 2, God seem more like open/relational theologies' vision, with a focus on God present in and interacting with the world and people.
 

jimkenney12

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
527
The second story is a very old story going back at least a thousand years before the first story. The first story provides a framework for Jewish customs like the Sabbath. The second story as it came to be included in the Book of J combines several elements. While Genesis recognizes the presence of other people in the world, it establishes the Jewish people as having a special relationship with God. While the concern by God they might eat of the Tree of Life is named, being disobedient was a sign they were ready to go into the real world to learn about being human. Having children, working for their food and shelter, and so on. Taking an approach similar to Daniel Quinn in "Ishmael", it is a story about the transition from living as hunter gatherers to herders and farmers. Confining the story to being about original sin deprives us of most of the richness it has to offer.
 

BetteTheRed

Resident Heretic
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
20,456
One thing I love about this story is the predictability of human behaviour when faced with temptation.

If God was any sort of parent at all, God would know that saying "Don't touch X", then "leaving the room" might as well be a clear direction to "touch X"...
 

revjohn

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 26, 2014
Messages
7,405
Location
Outer Cove, NL
Yeah, I went there. One of the seminal stories of the Christian tradition is original sin. But is it really what generations of doctrine and theology have said it is? I know some thinkers on the progressive side have different readings of it. And Jews don't view it the same way as Christians. So how do you read this story?
No real "we" at play here is there? I mean as far as a unified understanding goes.
Good story. Lots of drama. But what does it really mean? Is this really a cosmic level event (as I have seen alleged) that contaminated the whole of creation? One that affects only humanity? Merely the first of many times that humans disobey God in the Jewish scriptures?

Theologically I have always understood the doctrine of original sin to point to the first instance of sin (disobedience in this case) and the stain of that sin in human history.

It is not a short form for "originally sinful" that is a gross and lazy read of the actual text.

Because of that first sin, the original sin, all that comes from Adam and Eve is twisted, not evil per se but neither is it flawless. Instead of perfect mirrors reflecting the image of God we are now more funhouse mirrors where there are distortions at play. On an individual scale, each of us has an original sin moment where we do violence to a relationship or relationship(s) and that isn't even limited to our dealings with the divine. We don't perfectly honour or respect the rest of humanity or those specific humans we claim to love. And that maims those relationships forever in large and small ways we may not always notice or appreciate.

The scorekeeping impulse of counting sins is something I really haven't found a satisfactory way to explain other than the pass the buck mentality outline in the Fall account. Of the three people who can "sin," Adam points the finger at everybody other than himself. I suspect scorekeeping functions as a distraction to keep us from dwelling on our own failures and doing something about them.

Something I am finding more and more prevalent with the Canadian response to Residential Schools. Which sucks. And some Canadians appear willing to go way out of their way to make it worse.

Preventing access to the tree of life pushes us to see God's love differently.

What would life be like if there were absolutely no consequences of any kind? Sure it hurts to have a benevolent loved one taken away. How much does it hurt that a malevolent other couldn't be taken away? Again, generations of our Indigenous cousins have a perspective that our privilege has shielded us from. Systemic racism shows what happens when we aren't subjected to evil but are beneficiaries of it. We resist change that would end the suffering of others. That suffering only matters when it can be politicized otherwise it is beneath our notice. So many of my UCCAN friends and colleagues critical of the Roman Catholics for not apologizing forget the Denominational discussion of '97 (some year after our first apology of '86) when we were preparing to defend ourselves against Willie Blackwater in court much the same way the current federal government is defending themselves in court.

Yeah, we have a lot to say about the sins of others except we rarely note how exactly it resembles our own.

So the story of the Fall doesn't come across as surprising in anyway.
 

Luce NDs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
49,668
Imagine in the dirty games of counting sins that the chaos ... consequence of the alternate's sin ... causes problems in our own BS!

The the dirt of the earthy gods is kicked up ...
 

Mystic

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2014
Messages
1,186
The most famous Protestant theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth, was once challenged by a conservative student during a public lecture with this question: "Dr. Barth, was there literally a snake in the Garden of Eden or wasn't there?" He dryly replied, "It's not important whether a snake was there; what's important is what the snake said!"

For me, the story is not just the story of "the Fall," but primarily the story of the birth of conscience. The snake told a half-truth: its promise that A & E would never die was of course a lie, but its dual claim that they would (1) "become godlike" and therefore (2) learn the difference between good and evil proved true (see 3:22). Are we to believe that God wouldn't want humanity to become "godlike?" I mean, aren't we created "in God's image?" And doesn't God want us to learn the difference between good and evil? Isn't this world a realm for soul-making and spiritual development? God always wanted both of these outcomes of the Fall. So the story needs to be understood as the birth of conscience: Thus, God asks A & E, "Who told you that you were naked?", etc.
 

Luce NDs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
49,668
The most famous Protestant theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth, was once challenged by a conservative student during a public lecture with this question: "Dr. Barth, was there literally a snake in the Garden of Eden or wasn't there?" He dryly replied, "It's not important whether a snake was there; what's important is what the snake said!"

For me, the story is not just the story of "the Fall," but primarily the story of the birth of conscience. The snake told a half-truth: its promise that A & E would never die was of course a lie, but its dual claim that they would (1) "become godlike" and therefore (2) learn the difference between good and evil proved true (see 3:22). Are we to believe that God wouldn't want humanity to become "godlike?" I mean, aren't we created "in God's image?" And doesn't God want us to learn the difference between good and evil? Isn't this world a realm for soul-making and spiritual development? God always wanted both of these outcomes of the Fall. So the story needs to be understood as the birth of conscience: Thus, God asks A & E, "Who told you that you were naked?", etc.

And on top of that would swamp-bound gods have an un appreciated sense of anyone with conscience? It could go against the hierarchy of divine beans ...
 

BetteTheRed

Resident Heretic
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
20,456
but primarily the story of the birth of conscience.

An interesting implication of this statement is that no other animals have a conscience. Which is clearly untrue.

A Jewish belief is that this story represents humanity's development of "self-consciousness". OTOH, humans are clearly not the only animals who are self-conscious.

It seems odd to me that monotheism seems to put humans at odds with nature, compared to the more earth friendly indigenous beliefs.
 

Luce NDs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
49,668
An interesting implication of this statement is that no other animals have a conscience. Which is clearly untrue.

A Jewish belief is that this story represents humanity's development of "self-consciousness". OTOH, humans are clearly not the only animals who are self-conscious.

It seems odd to me that monotheism seems to put humans at odds with nature, compared to the more earth friendly indigenous beliefs.

Bean at odds with nature could result in some sort of collapse of the dude ... yet the superman would deny it! Thus flight ...
 

Mendalla

Fully vaccinated ape
Joined
May 2, 2014
Messages
34,892
Location
The Forest City
An interesting implication of this statement is that no other animals have a conscience. Which is clearly untrue.

A Jewish belief is that this story represents humanity's development of "self-consciousness". OTOH, humans are clearly not the only animals who are self-conscious.
But many early cultures did not attribute consciousness to animals. It was hardly unique to the Jews. In fact, in Western culture, it is largely a modern discovery and remains controversial for some, even in the scientific community. So I'm not sure that it is all that unusual to have this represented in the Bible.

Of course, when self-consciousness emerged in primates, including our genus, is still a subject of research. Not all primates, or even all apes, have been clearly demonstrated to possess it so when it emerged and whether it emerged once or there were multiple convergent emergences is still up for debate. Humans, meaning the genus homo, are particularly problematic since we can only study one species behaviourally. All other species under our genus are extinct.

So I think the Jewish idea holds water in historical context and I'm inclined to think it's part of the meaning of the story.
 

BetteTheRed

Resident Heretic
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
20,456
Crows, for instance, have a rather unforgiving "conscience". If a murder of crows has made an enemy, they will teach their offspring about this enemy.
 

Mystic

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2014
Messages
1,186
An interesting implication of this statement is that no other animals have a conscience. Which is clearly untrue.

A Jewish belief is that this story represents humanity's development of "self-consciousness". OTOH, humans are clearly not the only animals who are self-conscious.

It seems odd to me that monotheism seems to put humans at odds with nature, compared to the more earth friendly indigenous beliefs.
You first overlook the implication of resulting "godlikeness" then confuse animal and survival instincts with conscience and it accompanying awareness of right and wrong--something animals don't have. God's Question: "Who told you that you were naked?" Answer: "conscience." Animals have no awareness of their nakedness, inner or outer, and thus feel no need to cover themselves, physically or mentally!
 

BetteTheRed

Resident Heretic
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
20,456
And why is nakedness bad?

Conscience is displayed in many animals. Crows are conscious of enemies over generations. Elephants mourn death.
 
Last edited:

Mystic

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2014
Messages
1,186
And why is nakedness bad?
You lack poetic sense and thus the distinction between nudity and nakedness eludes you. Nakedness here is a poetic symbol of the need to conceal one's , sexual parts, yes, but also one's WRONG conduct.
Conscience is displayed in many animals. Crows are conscious of enemies over generations. Elephants mourn death.
Once again, you confuse consciousness (e. g. of threats and loss) with conscience.
 

BetteTheRed

Resident Heretic
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
20,456
Many animals know when they have mis-behaved according to the rules of the critters they live with. An awareness of "bad behaviour" is conscience.

I don't confuse them at all, although they are related concepts. If you are not self-conscious, you are unlikely to have a conscience. I refuse to eat octopi (and I transfer that unwillingness to squid and cuttlefish). I really resist consuming anything that might be smarter than me.

Finally, I would invite you to a virtual tour of my home. I have a lot of nudity on display, largely in my bedroom. My artistic differentiation between nudity and nakedness is quite clear, but I'm totally aware of my comfort with both.
 
Top