I have been a bit startled lately when reading the bible in larger groups and discussing it. I guess I find myself trying to stay as true to the text as possible, shielding my reading as much as possible from preconceptions or theologies or simply things I have picked up regarding a passage along the way. And yet, just in the past couple weeks, it has struck me just how much our theologies creep into our readings. It has almost gotten to the point where it is hard to tell whether we are actually reading the bible or just our commentary regarding it. For example, let’s look at the fall of human beings while not supplementing it with what we have come to regard as the story.
My first observation is that the text never says the serpent is the devil or the tempter. It simply read that ‘the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made’ (3:1). The serpent then poses the question, ‘Did God say, You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’ Well, to be completely honest, if we look back to chapter 2, the woman was not even around when God spoke this command. Maybe Eve should have claimed ignorance. (Was her name even Eve at this point?) The command says that ‘in the day that you eat of it you shall die’ (2:17). But upon returning to chapter three, we see that God does not kill them on the day that they eat of it, which is actually what the serpent said. Thus, if anybody is the liar in this passage, it is God, not the serpent as we commonly believe. My professor mk also has pointed out another interesting point. The serpent tells the woman that if she eats of the tree that she ‘will be like God’ (3:5). Isn’t that what we are striving after? To become more like God, to know the difference between good and evil (3:5)?? But it sures turns out to be quite a downer for the woman, who then drags the man into the disobedience.
This was simply a few verses we looked at. But I bet that if you asked just about anybody to retell the creation story, it would sound something like the devil, the father of all lies, tempted Eve to eat from the tree that God told them specifically not to eat from and she did and Adam did to because they were prideful and did not realize how wonderful God was . . . their pride and lack of love for God got in the way somewhere in these early days. But if you read the actual story in the bible, you might come to realize that it’s starting to become a folktale. Maybe we should actually go back and let the text speak for itself without us sinful humans always interjecting with our two cents.