Wednesday, July 26, 2006

genesis 3

i think i have been dreading dealing with this chapter from the day i got the idea to do this. one could probably spend a great deal of time studying the events/ideas of genesis 3 and not make a whole lot of progress. as i have thus far, i will just focus on a few aspects, this time, mostly questions.

first, the exchange between eve and the serpent really resembles a fable called, "why the snake slithers" or "why girls are scared of snakes" (girls, as well as myself). so who is this snake? and what was its means of self-transport before being cursed to slither (btw, "cursed to slither" would be a great name for an 80s hair metal album). and more importantly, where did the idea come from that the snake was really satan? i had not previously realized that there is no mention of satan in the text. matt f, in your extensive hell & satan studies, what do you make of the snake taking on the identity of satan? i realize that it is a pretty clear symbol, but i am just trying to let the text speak for itself. am i missing something here?

the next item of puzzlement for me relates to the trees. from the words of eve and, later, God's rebuke, the prohibition on eating the fruit seems pretty clear. what i don't really understand though, is what those two trees symbolize. for instance, the tree of knowledge of good and evil seemed to provide a sort of moral awakening to adam and eve, but only in the sense of, "oh crap, we're naked." and "oh crap, we shouldn't have eaten that." i guess it seems that the trade-off: knowing good from evil (when by most accounts you probably aren't even capable of conceiving an evil thought yet) versus death, or at least becoming mortal...well, it's a pretty bad deal that's all. now, that representation of sin makes a lot of sense to me. a compelling allure leading to a major letdown.
but what about the other tree? in verse 22, God tells the rest of Himself that now the risk of man eating of the tree of life (and thereby living eternally) is just too real, and they must be banished from the garden, and the gates must be guarded to prevent re-entry. why? i mean the preceding verses are this beautiful picture of God picking up and cleaning off the desheveled sinners...He even makes some clothes for them. i can't help seeing a loving father comforting his crying children who got hurt doing something they were explicitly warned not to do. but why not just let them eat of the tree of life? wouldn't that make everything right? why go through thousands of years of struggle leading to a coming savior who offers the same thing one little pomegranite could have provided back in the garden?

i love/fear this chapter, so i think i'll come back to this tomorrow. please share your thoughts.


sara and matt said...

Cory, you are not alone in struggling with this chapter. If you really want to learn about how the serpent came to be associated with Satan, read The Birth of Satan by Wray and Mobley. It's an excellent history of the doctrine of Satan.
As best I can make out (and I'm far from an expert), the serpent was not originally a Satan figure. One of my professors at Eastern Seminary said that the serpent represented wisdom in ancient semitic mythology because of its ability to shed its skin or something like that. In the N.T., many Hebrew Bible passages are reinterpreted and misinterpreted, including this one. Then folks like Milton come along and further the association to the point where it becomes inescapable in contemporary interpretation.
I'm by no means sure of this, but the interpretation that makes the most sense to me about this passage is that it's about the loss of innosence that the human race went through in leaving our primal, wild state and becoming civilized and self-conscious, striving for knowledge, wisdom, and eternal life. I don't know the finer points of this interpretation, but I just thought I'd throw it out there. Maybe it's a bunch of crap. Who knows?

cory said...

thanks matt. i just might check that book out. the whole story is just sort of odd, and i would really enjoy getting to the bottom of it, so to speak.