Genesis 3:22-24

Here is Alter’s translation of these final verses in the narrative:

“And the LORD God said, Now that the human has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he may reach out and take as well from the tree of life and live forever.” And the LORD God sent him from the garden of Eden to till the soil from which he had been taken. And he drove out the human and set up east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the flame of the whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Here is the NIV translation:

“And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Some thoughts:

1. First of all, I don’t know who designed the reading schedule and left so much material to cram into the final week. They should have planned ahead better.

2. “And the LORD God said . . . ” If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time in this narrative that God addresses a heavenly “us” not identified in the story. We get such a move in 1:26, but nowhere else in chapters 2 or 3. How this “us” gets read and identified will, I think, profoundly inflect one’s interpretation of the rest of the story. An “us” referring to heavenly parents (both genders!) is a very different context from a “royal” we or a heavenly council of angels or a Holy Trinity. But the “us” is left undefined. (The New Interpreter’s Bible commentary refers to this, of course, as “inner-divine communication.”)

3. “The man has become like one of us . . . ” Is the “man” here to be understood as a proper name, as a general name (human) referring to Adam in particular, as a general name referring to both Adam and Eve, or as a general name referring to all human beings? If it just refers to Adam, why? Why does Eve get left aside?

Is Adam (a single person) here becoming like some ONE else (another single person)? Or is Adam (a single person) here becoming a like an “us” (i.e., a plurality of persons)? Has Adam himself been split and multiplied by the acquisition of knowledge? Knowledge itself certainly requires the ability to adopt multiple points of view which aren’t necessary compatible in any simple way with one another. (Rosalynde knows about this one: ask her :)

4. “. . . has become . . .” Is the verb here the most important part of the sentence? Meaning: is the most important thing here not that the man has become X, but that the man has just plain started to become? Of course, this observation touches a major nerve in the Western philosophical tradition, much of which is structured around Plato’s distinction between Being (good!) vs. Becoming (bad!). It’s not entirely clear, I would argue, in the Mormon tradition which side we take in the debate: is time real (and, hence, Becoming is real) or is time an illusion (and, hence, only Being is real)? Does a positive Mormon evaluation of temporality have a lot to do with a positive evaluation of what happens as a result of the fall?

5. ” . . . has become like one of us . . .” The way in which we’ve become “like” whoever the “us” is is specified: “like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Though, again, the “like” at work in this verse touches another major nerve in the history of Christian theology: what exactly is the nature of this analogical relationship? Or, more generally, there is the philosophical problem of deciding even what an analogy is or how analogies function. How one answers this question will depend on how one treats “universals” or “categories” or “classes” and on how one treats their construction and population. It’s not clear me that we have anything like a Mormon position on these kinds of questions. Which, in some ways, is nice. Because it means we’re free to experiment for ourselves with different metaphysical platforms and see what happens. The nature of the “like” is crucial.

6. he may reach out and take as well from the tree of life and live forever . . .” There is an important difference here between Alter’s translation and the NIV. Where Alter translates all of vs. 22 as a single sentence, the NIV breaks it into two. The effect, in the former case is that there is a causal link between the first part (“man has become like one of us:) and the second part (“so he may now reach out and partake of the tree of life”). The connection, if legitimate, is obscured by the NIV’s version that splits the construction in two.

If there is a connection, what is it? Why is it that only now, after knowing good and evil, that the man might reach out and eat the fruit of the tree of life? Is the claim that the man couldn’t have done it before now? Or is the claim that it only matters whether he eats it or not now after he knows the difference and death has entered the picture? (We’d already noted the possibility that until now they may have already been eating of the fruit of the tree of life. Though that seems less likely, I think, in light of these verses.)

If the tree of life is read symbolically, then what kind of reading would we give of it? If there was no actual fruit for the man to risk eating, then what is the X to which the fruit refers? What is God protecting us from? What X in our daily recapitulation of this story is guarded from us by way of the flaming sword? What’s the flaming sword? It seems much easier to give a naturalized existential/developmental reading of what happens with the fruit of TTOK than of the fruit of TTOL.

7.  “. . . banished from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken . . .” Does the “take” in vs. 22 echo in any meaningful the “take” in 23 (it’s the same word in Hebrew)? Are they intertwined, contrasted? Is there irony at work here? Is it ironic (or not?) that the man, by way of his banishment, will be able now to fulfill the purpose originally given to him?

Banished may actually be a little strong of a translation for the Hebrew here that Alter, showing more restraint, translates simply as “sent.” Adam here is one who is “sent” out into the world. This word, of course, also has serious resonances for Christians in that an “apostle” is literally one who is sent. Should Adam here be associated with an apostle/angel insofar as he is “sent by God himself out into the world”?

8. “. . . at the east of the Garden of Eden . . .” Why does only the east side of the Garden need guarded? Can’t you get in from any of the other three sides?

9. I wish I had something cool to say about cherubim or flaming swords, but I really don’t. But I’d love to here something about it. Consider yourselves tasked!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Genesis 3:20-21

Alter renders these two verses as follows:

20 And the human called his woman’s name Eve, for she was the mother of all that lives. 21 And the Lord God made skin coats for the human and his woman, and he clothed them.

The NIV reads like this:

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

These verses initiate the narrative’s falling action. After the torrential downpour of the climatic verses that preceded them (with God’s voice thundering poetically throughout), the pacing has shifted and we’ve tapered off to a light rain. In fact, it’s hard not to read the “and” that marks the beginning of vs. 20 without vocalizing it with a sigh, releasing a deep breath we’d forgotten we were holding.

Some thoughts about the verses themselves:

1. “And the human called his woman’s name Eve . . .”

Eve is, at last, named. What should we make of this naming’s postponement? Should this naming have been postponed until after the fruit had been eaten? Did it have to be postponed until Adam knew more than he previously did? All the other animals had already been named. Why not Eve? The other animals were named in connection with Adam’s fruitless search for a companion. Is there a connection, in that respect, with Eve’s not being named until now? If so, what?

Or is it something else? Eve did, in fact, already have a name: woman. In effect, Eve is given here a new name, a second name. Here, rather than her giving it to Adam, Adam gives it to her. Also, note that, in this respect, Adam does not get a new name. Adam is still just the man/human. As is obvious in relation to the various translations (see Alter’s vs. the NIV above), Adam’s name just slips imperceptibly from a common noun to a proper name. The point at which this transition occurs isn’t clear: hence the variation in the translations. But perhaps the point at which it would be most appropriate to switch (though Alter’s translation, in fact, never does switch from “human” to “Adam” until all the way at 4:25, keeping “human” even at 4:1!) would be when it finally gets paired with Eve as a proper name.

Why doesn’t Adam get a proper name? Why doesn’t Adam get a new name?

2. The New Interpreter Bible (NIB) commentary argues that this naming of Eve feels a bit out of rhythm with the narrative but, as a result, views it as “a positive development in the midst of the judgment, anticipating that life will still go on (a negative assessment of this verse incorrectly associates naming with subordination).” Do you agree with this? I’m not sure what the reasoning is (no explanation is given) for why this naming couldn’t have a tinge of subordination to it – it does with the names of animals right? And frequently elsewhere, right?

At any right, I like seeing it as a positive development, as a way for Adam to reach out, after all that’s happened, and draw Eve to him.

3. “. . . for she was the mother of all that lives.”

There is a little homophony going on here between Eve (hawah) and the verbal root “to live” (hayah). But it appears to be phonic rather than semantic. Does it matter that the connection is bridged formally rather than semantically? That is, in poetry rather than prose?

However the gap is bridged, it functions to define a role for Eve: as the mother of all living, such that this role becomes synonymous with her own proper name. Adam, on the other hand, never receives such a name or definition? Or does he already have such a role-defining name as a tiller of the “adamah”?

Also, note that we get here a strident affirmation of life and it’s continuation immediately following God’s description of how Adam will shortly return to the dust from which he came.

God says: work everyday with the dirt until you die! And the first words out of Adam’s mouth then are: And Eve is the mother of all living!

The other interesting thing here has to do with the verb tense. Alter renders it as past tense (“she WAS the mother of all that lives”) while the NIV renders it as “she would BECOME the mother of all living” The NIB claims “the NIV future tense seems correct (since the perfect verb expresses certainty).” But the ambiguity is fun, nonetheless. What if Eve were already the mother of all living? Meaning that there were already children in the garden? How would this change the story?

4. “And the Lord God made skin coats for the human and his woman, and He clothed them.”

God as tailor. Why replace the clothing the humans made for themselves? Is it important for no other reason than that it allows God to make an initial gesture of reconciliation following the “spelling out of consequences” just concluded?

It strikes me as an immensely tender gesture: measuring, cutting, and sewing. Plus, especially tender, is the description of God not just making the clothes and delivering them to Adam and Eve, but personally clothing them in what he had made.

Also, why the shift from plant-based clothes to animal-based clothes? Why specify that these clothes were made of “skin”?

Also the significance, in relation to other kinds of divinely invested clothing throughout the OT and NT and D&C shouldn’t be overlooked. But, for now, I don’t have anything in particular to say about that.

From here, I commend what else may be said about these verses to your care.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Genesis 3:16-19

KJV:  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.

NET Translation:  To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your labor pains;
with pain you will give birth to children.
You will want to control your husband,
but he will dominate you.

NRSV: To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”


This verse presents several translation conundrums and interesting interpretive possibilities.

First, what kind of “desire” is envisioned here?  Sexual desire?  (If so, why would this be a consequence of eating the fruit?)  Desire for protection (as a pregnant woman and/or mother)?  A desire to be dominated?  It has also been read as saying that Eve must eliminate her own desires and instead be subject to Adam’s desires.  How can we determine the best reading here?

Next, what is the relationship between Eve’s desire and Adam’s rule?  Does her desire cause his rule?  (That is, does he ‘lord it over her?’)

Why are labor pains relevant here?  Why is that a consequence of eating the fruit?  Is it related to having one’s eyes opened and/or dying?

I’m thinking about the idea of “increased” labor pains.  Increased relative to what?  Was it possible for her to have children before the Fall, but now it will be (more) painful?  If she hadn’t eaten of the fruit, would it have been given to her later, but without the nasty side-effect of painful child birth?

There are also translation complications with the idea of “multiplying sorrow and conception.”  Some have taken it to mean that Eve will have lots of children (that is, the number of conceptions will be multiplied), perhaps because so many of her children will die.  That reading, at least, makes some sense of the relationship of the consequence to the introduction of death into the world.  Otherwise, it seems hard to understand what Eve’s childbearing has to do with eating the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Why are these things even related?

Another translation problem:  I’ve also seen it suggested that in “he shall rule over you,” “he” does not refer to Adam, but to Eve’s desire.  That is, her desire will rule over her.  (There are good verbal parallels to the Cain story’s use of this word here.) (Perhaps meaning that her sexual desire for Adam will rule over her, causing her to continue to have sex with him, despite the painful births that follow.)

Is there a link between the pain and the relationship to the husband?  One way to tie all of the strands together would be to read it thusly:  you will sexually desire your husband, but that desire will result in repeated, painful child births and open up room for your husband to dominate you (because of your sexual desire for him and/or your vulnerability/dependence as a pregnant woman and mother of small children).  However, this seems odd–why would sexual desire be a consequence of the fall?  And why emphasize Eve’s sexual desire for Adam as opposed to his for her?  (And does it imply that sexual desire is a condition of the Fall?  That it is unique to women?)  In a previous comment, Rosalynde pointed out that the first instance of the “male gaze” was actually Eve’s “lust” for the tree.  Now, in what seems to be the first reference to sexual desire, it is a woman’s!

Another translation conundrum:  the final lines can describe a situation where both Adam and Eve are trying to dominate each other, without the verse speculating on who the “winner” is.

This verse feels crucially important to our understanding of women’s experience of mortality, but, ultimately, I feel that our efforts to make sense of it are frustrated by an inability to understand what the verse is saying.  But even if you felt confident in your translation and interpretation, there’s another obstacle:  is this verse describing the ideal conditions of a mortal woman?  Or are they conditions that she should strive to overcome?  When anesthesia was introduced for child birth, there were some Christian theologians who argued that its use was unbiblical, since women were, according to this verse, supposed to have pain in child birth and it was therefore wrong for humans to attempt to circumvent it.  I don’t know that that position has many adherents today, but there are a fair number of people arguing, based on this verse, that husbands should rule over wives.

KJV:    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;

NET:  But to Adam he said,

“Because you obeyed your wife

and ate from the tree about which I commanded you,

‘You must not eat from it,’

cursed is the ground thanks to you;

in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your lifeNRSV 3:17 And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;


Note the logic of the verse:  the ground is being cursed because Adam obeyed his wife.  (Note also how this verse requires us to read into the story something that wasn’t narrated–namely, Eve commanding Adam to eat.)  Why would it make sense for the ground to be cursed because of something Adam did?

Note that the verse assumes that it was wrong for Adam to listen to his wife.  Why might this have been?  Did Adam know it was wrong to listen to her?

Why do you think the command and its violation are reiterated in this verse, but not in Eve’s situation in the previous verse?

Note the theme of eating:  they ate of forbidden fruit; now what they eat will only come as the result of painful toil.  And the serpent will eat dirt.

Note the parallelism between Adam and Eve’s consequences:  she will sorrow in pain to produce children; Adam will sorrow in pain to produce food.  What can we learn from these parallels?   In what ways are their consequences different, and in what ways might those differences be significant to our understanding of gender roles today?

18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat 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.

NRSV thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

I’m curious about the “for dust . . .” statement here.  Is it explaining why he will return to the ground?  If so, how does this relate to “the Fall”?  Which is to say, he’s always been created out of the dust, so why would eating of the fruit impact his relationship to it?  Also, isn’t it correct to say that Eve, too, will return to the dust, so why limit this to just Adam?  Why give an explanatory comment here, but no explanatory comment for Eve?

General thoughts on this passage:

(1) Is it significant that the consequences are presented in this order:  serpent, then woman, then man?  If so, what is the significance of the order?

(2) We casually talk about these consequences as “curses,” but note that the ground is the only thing that is cursed (and the serpent as well)–Adam is not cursed, Eve is not cursed.  And, in fact, the ground is cursed “for thy sake,” suggesting that the cursing of the ground in some way is a benefit to Adam.  If these aren’t curses, what are they?  The natural consequences (to use the language of modern parenting practice) for having eaten the fruit?  Is this a “heads up” from God as to what they should expect?

(3) How does this account differ from Moses 5 and from the temple ceremony and what should we make of the differences?

(4) From my files; statements from various LDS thinkers and leaders about this passage:

Hugh Nibley:

“Now a curse [sic] was placed on Eve, and it looked as if she would have to pay a high price for taking the initiative in the search for knowledge. To our surprise the identical curse [sic] was placed on Adam also. For Eve, God ‘will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children.’ (Gen. 3:16.) The key is the word for sorrow, atsav, meaning to labor, to toil, to sweat, to do something very hard. To multiply does not mean to add or increase but to repeat over and over again; the word in the Septuagint is plethynomai, as in the multiplying of words in the repetitious prayers of the ancients. Both the conception and the labor of Eve will be multiple; she will have many children. Then the Lord says to Adam, ‘In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life’ (that is, the bread that his labor must bring forth from the earth). The identical word is used in both cases; the root meaning is to work hard at cutting or digging; both the man and the woman must sorrow and both must labor. (The Septuagint word is lype, meaning bodily or mental strain, discomfort, or affliction.) It means not to be sorry, but to have a hard time. If Eve must labor to bring forth, so too must Adam labor (Gen. 3:17; Moses 4:23) to quicken the earth so it shall bring forth. Both of them bring forth life with sweat and tears, and Adam is not the favored party. If his labor is not as severe as hers, it is more protracted. For Eve’s life will be spared long after her childbearing—‘nevertheless thy life shall be spared’—while Adam’s toil must go on to the end of his days: ‘In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of the life!’ Even retirement is no escape from that sorrow.”
–Hugh Nibley, “Patriarchy and Matriarchy,” Old Testament and Related Studies, page 92f.

“There is no patriarchy or matriarchy in the Garden; the two supervise each other.  Adam is given no arbitrary power; Eve is to heed him only insofar as he obeys their Father—and who decides that?  She must keep check on him as much as he does on her.  It is, if you will, a system of checks and balances in which each party is as distinct and independent in its sphere as are the departments of government under the Constitution—and just as dependent on each other.”
–Hugh Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies, page 92f.

President Kimball:

“As He concludes this statement he says, ‘and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.; (Gen. 3:16.) I have a question about the word rule. It gives the wrong impression. I would prefer to use the word preside because that’s what he does. A righteous husband presides over his wife and family. . . . No woman has ever been asked by the Church authorities to follow her husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him as he follows and obeys the Savior of the world, but in deciding this, she should always be sure she is fair.”
–President Spencer W. Kimball, “The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, March 1976, page 70f.

President Hinckley:

“[I] call attention to the statement in the scriptures that Adam should rule over Eve. (See Gen. 3:16.) . . . I regrettably recognize that some men have used this through centuries of time as justification for abusing and demeaning women. But I am confident also that in so doing they have demeaned themselves and offended the Father of us all, who, I am confident, loves His daughters just as He loves His sons. I sat with President David O. McKay on one occasion when he talked about that statement in Genesis. His eyes flashed with anger as he spoke of despotic husbands and stated that they would have to make an accounting of their evil actions when they stand to be judged by the Lord. He indicated that the very essence of the spirit of the gospel demands that any governance in the home must be done only in righteousness. My own interpretation of that sentence is that the husband shall have a governing responsibility to provide for, to protect, to strengthen and shield the wife. Any man who belittles or abuses or terrorizes, or who rules in unrighteousness, will deserve and, I believe, receive the reprimand of a just God who is the Eternal Father of both His sons and daughters. No man who engages in such evil and unbecoming behavior is worthy of the priesthood of God. No man who so conducts himself is worthy of the privileges of the house of the Lord. I regret that there are some men undeserving of the love of their wives and children. There are children who fear their fathers, and wives who fear their husbands. If there be any such men within the hearing of my voice, as a servant of the Lord I rebuke you and call you to repentance. Discipline yourselves. Master your temper. Most of the things that make you angry are of very small consequence. And what a terrible price you are paying for your anger. Ask the Lord to forgive you. Ask your wife to forgive you. Apologize to your children.”
–President Gordon. B. Hinckley, “Daughters of God,” Ensign, November 1991, page 97.

(5) What is set out in these verses is the condition of Adam and Eve post-Fall.  So, to the extent that we want to read these verses as normative for human life (side note:  should we be doing that?  We are very comfortable reading Adam and Eve as the template for male-female relations but would surely balk at reading Cain and Abel as the template for sibling relations; why?), do we read things as Eve’s desire for her husband as “natural,” or something that is part of the fallen world and that should be overcome?  In other words, how much of this section is “the way things are [and perhaps you should try to change them]” or “the way things should be”?

(6) D &C 61:17 reads:  “And, as I, the Lord, in the beginning cursed the land, even so in the last days have I blessed it, in its time, for the use of my saints, that they may partake the fatness thereof.”  Does this verse impact how we interpret the curse on the land in Genesis?

(7) Eve was created from Adam; her consequence has to do with her relationship to Adam.  Adam was created from the ground; his consequence has to do with his relationship to the ground.  V19 seems to emphasize this idea of the relationship between creation and consequence.  Some scholars have pointed out that for each person (snake, Eve, Adam), the consequence/curse involves two parts:  a personal function and a relationship.

(8) Presumably, Eve and Adam lacked knowledge of good and evil before they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  If this is the case, then how can they be accountable for their action of eating the fruit?

(9) Maybe it’s just me, but I find it hard to read this story as being about anything other than gender.

(10)  Is the Fall in some sense analogous to the sealing covenant—both are necessary in order that the command to multiply and replenish the earth be kept?

(11) Purely speculative, but do you think that YHWH would have offered the fruit to them at some future point?  In other words, is this a story about timing and/or initiative?

(12) Why is this story the centerpiece of the temple endowment?

(13) Were Adam and Eve given contradictory commandments?  (If so, does that happen now, or was it a one-time thing?)

(14) Some modern translations, including the NET Bible, format v14-19 as poetry.  If you read it that way, does it change your impression of what is happening here?

(15) Is there anything in the consequences enumerated in this section that helps us better understand what it means to say (a) that eating the fruit would cause their eyes to be opened and/or that (b) eating the fruit would cause them to die?

Are these consequences negative or positive?  Are they good things?  Bad things?

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Genesis 3:14-15

These verses transition into what became, in the text’s Christian afterlife, one of the most important passages of Genesis: the curses and consequences. But to begin with, let’s look at them apart from their Pauline afterlife and see what they have to say on their own.

The curses are rendered in verse, as was Adam’s rhapsody on the creation of the woman.  Here the Lord is not rhapsodizing but cursing; nevertheless the verse form has the effect of setting apart, lending emphasis to what follows. It moves the Lord’s voice into a new register, to take up again the notion of heteroglossia. Yahweh’s voice has always been authoritative, but heretofore it has been an oddly improvisatory, limited, negotiated authority: Yahweh failed comically in his early attempts at creating a companion for the human, his instructions are flouted by his own creatures, and the limits of his knowledge are highlighted by his questioning of Adam and Eve.

At the beginning of verse 14, however, Yahweh begins to speak with a new formality, gravity and design, qualities lent to his discourse by the verse form.  The absent King has returned to restore order to a world upside down, but true to the logic of carnival the re-ordered world is changed and enriched by the powerful creative chaos that temporarily reigned. The trickster serpent introduced figurative speech, dialogue, dramatic irony and trope into the garden, and this new richness and energy of language is incorporated into Yahweh’s discourse, even as it reasserts authority. In his lines directed at the serpent we find metaphor (“dust shall you eat,” “seed”), metonymy (“boot” and “heel,” in Alter’s translation), contrast, image – a new richness of language and expression.

What of the curse itself? There appear to be two parts: the serpent will now move on his belly, debased in relation to other creatures and despised by them; and there will be special enmity set between the serpent and the woman. Why does Yahweh specify that the woman will be particularly alienated from the serpent? It was the woman who engaged verbally with the serpent, who was open to dialogue and persuasion, who learned from the serpent desire and possession. So perhaps the curse recognizes and condemns that particular connection between the serpent and the woman.

But perhaps this curse also finalizes and formalizes humanity’s definitive split from the animal world.  (What follows owes a lot to Alter’s note on this point.) Until this point, the woman was a sibling of the serpent and all the other beasts, who were after all created in the attempt to make a suitable companion for the man. The woman was just the last, best attempt.  I’m reminded again of cave paintings and myths that depict strange human-animal hybrids, as if early hominids could sense evolution occurring as they split off and differentiated from the beasts.  Here, in Yahweh’s curse, we see at last a definitive boundary between “civilized” humans — who use technologies, wear clothing, experience self-consciousness and shame – and beasts. I suppose this is the primal moment of “Othering”, the first instance of humanity’s alienation from “nature.”

It should be noted that this text is key in Paul’s formulation of Christianity. (I’m assuming so, anyway – I’m not an expert in this. Help in the comments would be appreciated.) I understand “it [the serpent] shall bruise thy head, and thou [humanity, or the seed of Eve, or Christ] shalt bruise his heel” to have been interpreted as a type of Jesus’s victory over Satan, death and sin. As we’ve talked about before, that interpretation isn’t privileged by the text itself, but it has undeniably been centrally formative to historical Christianity.

Let’s jump into discussion.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Guilt and Interrogation

I apologize for only providing notes.

Verse 8: “In the cool of the day” = “in the breath / wind of the day.” I wonder whether this has any connection to God breathing the breath of life into Man: he has breathed life into Man, now coming in the breath of the day, God will condemn Man to death.

Hearing the voice of the Lord is used throughout the Pentateuch to mean “obeying God.” Its use here is surely ironic: having disobeyed, they hear the voice of God.

The term translated “walking” is used in other places in reference to God’s presence in the Tabernacle: Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 23:14; 2 Samuel 7:6.

Verse 9: Those involved are questioned in the opposite order in which they took part: the order of the temptation is snake, woman, man; here the order is man, woman, snake; when the consequences are pronounced it will be snake, woman, man again.

God asks Man rhetorically “Where are you?” but Man responds as if he’d been asked “Why are you hiding?” God’s question has traditionally been read as a reproof: “Do you know where you’ve put yourself in relation to me?” Note that in these verses, from 8 through 13, God only asks questions.

Thou is singular, but since adam can refer to the man and the woman as a couple, as in Genesis 1:26, I assume that might also be the case here.

Verse 10: Man acknowledges that he knows he is naked, but says nothing about how he came to that knowledge.

Verse 12: Man blames Woman and, indirectly God. As Ephrem the Syrian says, “Instead of confessing what he had done . . . he related what had been done to him.”

Traditionally, beginning with Paul (1 Timothy 2:14), the interpretation has been that Man’s sin was not as great as Woman’s because he was not deceived by the serpent.

Verse 13: God doesn’t challenge Man’s accusation of Woman—nor of himself. He asks Woman what / why she has done. She, too, shifts blame: the serpent tricked / deceived me.

Since I’m a Walter Brueggemann fan, let me end with something I found in his book on Genesis:

The situation moves from the forming by God (2:7, 22) to the driving out by God (3:23–24). Between there is the hiding of humankind (3:8–10) and the walking of God (3:8). The human creatures, in or out of the garden, still finally must live on God’s terms.

     The story is not explained. It is simply left there with the listening community free to take what can be heard. There is, of course, talk here of sin and evil and death. But it is understated talk. The stakes are too high for reduction to propositions. The story does not want to aid our theologizing. It wants, rather, to catch us in our living. It will permit no escape into theology.

(Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, 50 [Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1982])

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Genesis 3:6-7, The Moment (Part 2)

Some further notes, on verse 7.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Genesis 3:6-7, The Moment (part 1)

This section is really the lynchpin of our whole text; setting aside our large question about the meaning (or lack thereof) of a “Fall” in the Old Testament, these two verses are the axis around which all else in the narrative revolves. Everything before has been stage-setting, everything after represents the fallout.  And yet, there’s not a lot that happens. “Two people eat some fruit” is not exactly a plot description on which to hang or sell a theological drama. (Perhaps in Norway?) Or, as Boromir says, “Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing!”  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments