By Vexen Crabtree 2013
Genesis contains a creation story of the Earth and the first 2 people, Adam and Eve, and their incestuous (and murderous) family. It describes a version of the ancient Flood story where God, or the Gods, flood the Earth or at least a large portion of it, drowning all living creatures including all animals, men, women, children, infants, but saving Noah and his immediate family. Another period of incestuous family relations afterwards ensues. Genesis then tells the story of the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, each of which acted sometimes as immoral tyrant and sometimes as holy spokesperson. They all end up, according to these stories, in Egypt, although historical evidence is clear that most Hebrews continued to live in their homeland. Genesis was written and edited by various authors from between the 10th and 6th century BCE, and some scholars believe it wasn't completely written until as late as the 2nd century BCE1.
BibleSummary.Info: The serpent deceived the woman; she and Adam ate from the tree. The earth became cursed, and God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden..2
Brad Warden: The serpent deceived Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden; God curses the earth; Adam and Eve sent out of the garden of Eden..3
Vexen Crabtree: Adam, Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of EdenGenesis 3 continues the story of Adam and Eve. After warning Adam not to eat from the Tree of Life, but forgetting to warn Eve, God allows the serpent, which many say is Satan, to roam the Garden of Eden and talk to Eve. It convinces her to eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as, without that knowledge and without having been warned by God, Eve cannot understand that the Serpent is evilly tricking her. Next to Eve is her "husband by her side", but he gives no objections, and simply accepts the fruit when she gives him one. It is a quite confusing story with some dubious morals (Adam and Eve are horribly punished forever, along with all their non-guilty descendents), but the story makes more sense once you explore the historical myths surrounding the serpent. Read on.
|1||Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?||And the serpent hath been subtile above every beast of the field which Jehovah God hath made, and he saith unto the woman, `Is it true that God hath said, Ye do not eat of every tree of the garden?'|
Christian misogyny and subjection of women was justified for many hundreds of years on scriptural grounds, often deriving from the story of Adam and Eve. In the story, both Adam and then God blame Eve for the turn of events (3:12-13). Eve was blamed for the fall of mankind and this was said to be evidence that all of womankind was inferior, naturally inclined to sin, and was not to be allowed to lead men any more - a sentiment that was asserted in the New Testament specifically because "it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner" and not Adam, therefore mankind has authority over women (1 Timothy 2:11-14). All because it was she who was convinced by the serpent to eat the fruit. Despite this, there are serious arguments that it is man who is the morally weaker. These arguments are presented below, after the table showing the verses.
|2||And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:||And the woman saith unto the serpent, `Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we do eat,|
|3||But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.||and of the fruit of the tree which `is' in the midst of the garden God hath said, Ye do not eat of it, nor touch it, lest ye die.'|
|4||And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:||And the serpent saith unto the woman, `Dying, ye do not die,|
|5||For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.||for God doth know that in the day of your eating of it -- your eyes have been opened, and ye have been as God, knowing good and evil.'|
|6||And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.||And the woman seeth that the tree `is' good for food, and that it `is' pleasant to the eyes, and the tree is desirable to make `one' wise, and she taketh of its fruit and eateth, and giveth also to her husband with her, and he doth eat;|
Christian tradition always blamed the woman for being weaker, it seems the case that the opposite is true:
God gave the commandment not to eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to Adam alone, before Eve was created (Genesis 2:15-18). Adam proved himself a worthless leader by not communicating this instruction to Eve. Based on this, it should be woman who heads up the household, not man!
Adam ate the fruit because Eve gave it to him, convinced therefore, by a mere human being. But Eve was beguiled by the formidable powers of Satan itself (Genesis 3:1-6), in the guise of a serpent. Man must be far weaker than woman. Some Christians have argued this point, such as the Catholic Richard Carpenter4.
“Then the woman ... takes of the fruit; and all this time Adam standing beside her interposes no word of objection. 'Her husband with her' are the words of v.6. Had he been the representative of the divinely appointed head in married life, he assuredly would have taken upon himself the burden of the discussion with the serpent, but no, he is silent in this crisis of their fate. [...] He interposes no word of warning or remonstrance, but takes the fruit from the hand of his wife without a protest. It takes six verses to describe the 'fall' of woman, the fall of man is contemptuously dismissed in a line and a half. [...] The subsequent conduct of Adam was to the last degree dastardly. When the awful time of reckoning comes, and the Jehovah God appears to demand why his command has been disobeyed, Adam endeavors to shield himself behind the gentle being he has declared to be so dear. 'The woman thou gavest to be with me, she gave me and I did eat,' he whines-- trying to shield himself at his wife's expense!”
|7||And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.||and the eyes of them both are opened, and they know that they `are' naked, and they sew fig-leaves, and make to themselves girdles.|
“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.”
Genesis 3:7 [NIV]
There are philosophical difficulties with Genesis 3:7. Adam and Eve realize that they naked because they gained the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So, they covered themselves up and hid from God (3:10). This means that nakedness must be bad - if it was good, there would be no need to hide themselves. But if nakedness was bad, then, why did God create them naked? And why would nakedness be bad, between a pair who are as if husband and wife? This single verse alone hints that Genesis is telling a creation myth, rather than instructing us is anything important about what we should believe.
|8||And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.||And they hear the sound of Jehovah God walking up and down in the garden at the breeze of the day, and the man and his wife hide themselves from the face of Jehovah God in the midst of the trees of the garden.|
God appears to not know where Adam is in Genesis 3:8-9, and, to not know if they have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (3:11). Either that, or God is deceiving them by making them think that it doesn't know, by asking them questions. If Adam and Eve knew God, though, surely they would know that God is all-knowing. Therefore the proceedings here do not seem to make much sense.
Genesis 3:8-9 is mentioned on Can God Lie? Is God Always Truthful in the Christian Bible?: 1. Verses from the Bible in More Detail
Some comments on Genesis 3:10 are on Christian Mythology: Adam and Eve, and the Serpent, in the Garden of Eden: 2.3. Genesis 3:7 - Adam and Eve Realize that they are Naked
Genesis 3:10 commented on above: 3.0. Genesis 3:7 - Adam and Eve Realize that they are Naked
|9||And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?||And Jehovah God calleth unto the man, and saith to him, `Where `art' thou?'|
|10||And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.||and he saith, `Thy sound I have heard in the garden, and I am afraid, for I am naked, and I hide myself.'|
|11||And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?||And He saith, `Who hath declared to thee that thou `art' naked? of the tree of which I have commanded thee not to eat, hast thou eaten?'|
|12||And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.||and the man saith, `The woman whom Thou didst place with me -- she hath given to me of the tree -- and I do eat.'|
This shocking act receives no admonishment from God, who, in the next verse apparently takes Adam's word for it. See the section above on misogyny
Genesis 3:12-13 is referenced on Christian Mythology: Adam and Eve, and the Serpent, in the Garden of Eden: 2.7. Misogyny in Genesis 3
Genesis 3:12-13 commented on above: 3.0. Genesis 3:1-6 - The Snake Convinces Eve to Eat, and Eve Gives to Her Husband (Misogyny and Christianity)
Genesis 3:12 commented on above: 3.0. Genesis 3:1-6 - The Snake Convinces Eve to Eat, and Eve Gives to Her Husband (Misogyny and Christianity)
|13||And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.||And Jehovah God saith to the woman, `What `is' this thou hast done?' and the woman saith, `The serpent hath caused me to forget -- and I do eat.'|
|14||And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:||And Jehovah God saith unto the serpent, `Because thou hast done this, cursed `art' thou above all the cattle, and above every beast of the field: on thy belly dost thou go, and dust thou dost eat, all days of thy life;|
The Original Sin is the reason Christians say that Human Beings experience suffering - as a result of Adam and Eve's actions. Humankind was created in, and was supposed to exist in, a state of immortal paradise. But as a result of Adam and Eve's original sin, we have all been punished with our earthly existence, completely with suffering, pain and death (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21). Genesis 3:14-19 describes some of the punishments in more detail. The reason there is any death at all is because Adam and Eve disobeyed God.
Before Augustine coined the phrase original sin it was known simply as ancestral sin. It is a feature of Christianity that been much criticized. Famed antagonist Richard Dawkins asks "What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every child, even before it is born, to inherit the sin of a remote ancestor?"7.
For more on Genesis 3:14-19 see The Problem of Evil: Why Would a Good God Create Suffering?: 2. The Inhumane Effects of the Justifications of Evil
Genesis 3:14-19 appears on Is Free Will the Reason God Allows Evil and Suffering?: 3. Adam and Eve
Genesis 3:16 is mentioned on The Problem of Evil: Why Would a Good God Create Suffering?: 2. The Inhumane Effects of the Justifications of Evil
|15||And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.||and enmity I put between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he doth bruise thee -- the head, and thou dost bruise him -- the heel.'|
|16||Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.||Unto the woman He said, `Multiplying I multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow dost thou bear children, and toward thy husband `is' thy desire, and he doth rule over thee.'|
|17||And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;||And to the man He said, `Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and dost eat of the tree concerning which I have charged thee, saying, Thou dost not eat of it, cursed `is' the ground on thine account; in sorrow thou dost eat of it all days of thy life,|
|18||Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;||and thorn and bramble it doth bring forth to thee, and thou hast eaten the herb of the field;|
|19||In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.||by the sweat of thy face thou dost eat bread till thy return unto the ground, for out of it hast thou been taken, for dust thou `art', and unto dust thou turnest back.'|
|20||And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.||And the man calleth his wife's name Eve: for she hath been mother of all living.|
|21||Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.||And Jehovah God doth make to the man and to his wife coats of skin, and doth clothe them.|
|22||And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:||And Jehovah God saith, `Lo, the man was as one of Us, as to the knowledge of good and evil; and now, lest he send forth his hand, and have taken also of the tree of life, and eaten, and lived to the age,' --|
|23||Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.||Jehovah God sendeth him forth from the garden of Eden to serve the ground from which he hath been taken;|
|24||So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.||yea, he casteth out the man, and causeth to dwell at the east of the garden of Eden the cherubs and the flame of the sword which is turning itself round to guard the way of the tree of life.|
“Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Adam and Eve did not know of good and evil. They were innocent. They did not know of deceit, anger, lust or evil. The serpent lied to them but they would not have known that the serpent's intents were not good. Mistrust is only a thing that is learnt once evil and sin are experienced. There was not yet any sin, so they couldn't have mistrusted the serpent - so they believed what the serpent said. This isn't Adam and Eve's fault. Immanuel Kant in 1785CE eloquently wrote that "Innocence is indeed a glorious thing; only, on the other hand, it is very sad that it cannot well maintain itself and is easily seduced"8. It is only possible to detect lying and deceit once you know what good and evil is! God would have known that Adam and Eve did not understand deception could not have mistrusted the serpent. So why did God not stop the serpent? God itself could easily have picked the serpent up and thrown it out of the Garden of Eden. It is easily seen that to punish Adam and Eve, or anyone, for wrongdoing is only moral if they have the required understanding. In other words, Adam and Eve were not making a "moral decision" when they believed the snake, because they didn't have basic knowledge about the nature of the serpent, and couldn't understand the moral situation.
In short: It makes no logical sense to claim that the Adam and Eve story is a true explanation of morality, evil or mankind's imperfection. Mankind is not perfect. If God exists, God created mankind as not perfect. The Adam and Eve story was a failed attempt by us to explain why we are not perfect.
The Adam and Eve theodicy fails as an explanation for why we choose evil sometimes, original sin is not a valid explanation for why God created evil. Also it is an immoral story, for God punishes people who chose an action without knowing that such a choice was bad.
Punishment for disobedience
God makes a command known, but makes a death threat as a punishment. A death threat is not a suitable punishment for eating from the tree of knowledge. A death threat should only be issued under serious circumstances, not as a punishment for curiosity or disobedience. This story demonstrates God's wrath and anger and shows us that God is not forgiving. If we use this story as an example for ethical thinking, we can conclude that we can kill or shorten the lives of those who do not do as we say! During the Dark Ages, coincidentally, this is what the Christian Church did.
Conclusions on the morals of the Adam and Eve story:
Punishing one person for the actions of another is immoral. If we use the Adam and Eve story to explain evil, suffering and death then we are saying that God is immoral and not a forgiving God. Judging Adam and Eve even when they didn't know the difference between good and evil, when they didn't know it was wrong to disobey and couldn't understand that the serpent tricked them, is also immoral. The Adam and Eve story is not a suitable moral story for children nor is it a valid theodicy to explain evil.
The story fails to present any valid morals and instead proposes that (a) it is acceptable to punish people for the sins of others (original sin) and (b) that death is a suitable punishment for disobedience - ever wondered why so many oppressive governments were bedfellows with established religions? Also Adam and Eve's children must have slept with their own parents or siblings. It is an immoral story that we shouldn't suffer upon children until they are old enough to understand it as a religious myth. God is shown to be a bad parent, uncaring. The logic of the story is faulty. The story itself, in the same way as other religious texts formed, is a compilation and redaction of religious myths, and has no consistent single author.
“Author Paul Alan Laughlin, a liberal Christian, drew an analogy between the story of Genesis 3 and "a more modern scenario." The following parable is based on his tale:
by Paul Laughlin
A woman bakes a batch of cookies for a party. She warns her twins, aged 3, to not eat any. She explained to them, deceitfully, that if they did, then she would kill them. Not thinking things through carefully, she placed the cookies on a table, easily accessible to the twins. A brother who was older, wiser and more mature than the twins asked whether their mother had forbidden them to eat anything in the house. The girl twin, Edna, said that mother had only forbidden them to eat the cookies -- on pain of death. The older brother chuckled and told his sister that parents did that a lot. He said: "Of course she wouldn't kill you. She simply wants to deny you the pleasure of munching on the cookies. She doesn't want to share the cookies. She wants to keep them all to herself." Edna does exactly what any adult could predict: she eats one. Then, she persuades her twin brother Albert to eat another.
The mother returns, not aware of the twin's disobedience. She notices crumbs on the table and on the twins' lips. She correctly concludes that the twins have eaten cookies. She flies into a rage, beats them, and throws them out of the house to fend for themselves. She cuts them out of her will. She does all she can to make the lives of any future descendents of the twins miserable.”
By OCRT, "GENESIS 3: The fall/rise of humanity"
Any parent who acts like this lacks love, compassion, intelligence or morals, yet this is exactly how God acts in the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. A possible Christian defence, in order to try and keep God as the good guy, would be that God then rectified the situation by sending his son out to retrieve his children. But this could all have been averted if God was simply a better parent in the first place!
By allowing the serpent to act, by not giving Adam and Eve the knowledge of good and evil that they needed to resist the serpent, and, by punishing them all (and all their descendants) with such disproportionate punishments, God in Genesis chapter 3 is shown to be immoral, and a very poor parent. The story seems like a simple creation myth created by people who didn't care for logical analysis or even for moralizing and as a result, the story contains both highly illogical aspects and immoral teachings. (1) It is not right to punish descendants for the sins of their parents, (2) it is not right to punish those who transgress when they're too innocent and naive to know otherwise, and, (3) if you have the power to stop an action being taken that will cause severe side-effects, then, it is the right thing to do to step in and stop it. God in the story of Adam and Eve and the Serpent, however, goes in the opposite direction in all those three points.
The Serpent couldn't have been Evil because God didn't throw it out of Paradise, which is a place with no sin (Revelations 2:7 says that the tree is in Paradise).
God couldn't have created the serpent to test Adam and Eve for two reasons. (1) In Genesis 3:14-15 it punishes the serpent for its actions, which means that its actions were against God's wishes. And (2) it cannot have been a "test" because God (being all-knowing) would have already known the result.
Why did God let the serpent stay in the garden? By stopping the serpent and stopping the fall of man, God would have prevented all suffering and death. It only makes sense if the story is an excuse for why there is suffering and death in the world - a primitive cultural explanation rather than the worked-out scheme of an all-knowing God.
The Historical Sources of the Serpent:
It is not a story without precedent, of course. "In the old legends", notes Historian William Draper, "the Evil Spirit was said to have sent a serpent to ruin the paradise which the Good Spirit had made. These legends became known to the Jews during their Babylonian captivity"11. This made much more sense in a belief system where a good and evil spirit were pretty much equally powerful, and neither were all-powerful nor all-knowing, so could both resort to tricks and disguises to fool the other.
Serpents did not feature only in dualistic modes of thought. In general fertility-goddess mythology, snakes and serpents were sometimes given divine and holy attributes, and sometimes given evil and menacing ones. Hava (Eve, in Hebrew, means 'mother of the living') was already the name of a snake goddess amongst the Canaanites, before she was personified in the story of Adam and Eve as found in the Bible. It is a story that was frequently told, with all kinds of variations and differences, and which has a long and varied history.12
Once you know the history of these types of myths, the Adam and Eve story makes much more sense, but, hardly makes it a trustworthy chapter worthy of being placed within the holy text of Jews and Christians! But such oddities are what make religious history interesting, even if they are troublesome for those who actually place spiritual value in the texts.
A young adult remembers his carefree youth where his all-powerful and all-knowing parents looked out for him and sometimes punished him. This motif seems to inform human mythology the world over, but, as adults we sometimes conceptualize these feelings in a story. And sometimes, those stories catch on and are told by others. Karen Armstrong iterates through some of the archetypes in these familiar myths:
“In every culture, we find the myth of a lost paradise, in which humans lived in close and daily contact with the divine. They were immortal, and lived in harmony with one another, with animals and with nature. At the centre of the world there was a tree, a mountain, or a pole, linking earth and heaven, which people could easily climb to reach the realm of the gods. Then there was a catastrophe: the mountain collapsed, the tree was cut down, and it became more difficult to reach heaven. The story of the Golden Age, a very early and almost universal myth, was never intended to be historical. It springs from a strong experience of the sacred that is natural to human beings, and expresses their tantalising sense of a reality that is almost tangible and only just out of reach. Most of the religions and mythologies of archaic societies are imbued with longing for the lost paradise.”
The Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance have noted that many features of the Adam and Eve story are mirrored in more ancient Hindu myths - down to some pretty specific details. If in doubt about the true origins of the creation narrative, it seems that the Bible contains only a distorted copy of the original story.
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.
Kant, Immanuel. (1724-1804) German philosopher.
(1785) Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals. Amazon Kindle digital edition prepared by David J. Cole prepared by Matthew Stapleton. Translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (1829-1913). An e-book.
(2004, Ed.) Jealous Gods & Chosen People: The Mythology of the Middle East. Published by Oxford University Press. A hardback book.