Thursday, April 28, 2011

Without Changing the Story, Can You Picture the Serpent as the Hero?

This post concerns the story of Adam and Eve, and I will argue that the story of Adam and Eve represents the transition from a matriarchal society to a patriarchal society, and that the serpent was not evil, but the hero of the story.*  I will prove this by taking the story as it is written, without adding to the story, or taking anything out of the story--but by merely elaborating on what is written.  Traditionally, this story is viewed as the "Fall of Man" and is believed by Christians to be the reason why humans are "born sinners" and as it says in Romans, "the wages of that sin, is death."--but below you will find out otherwise.

For those unfamiliar with the story, according to the bible, Yahweh created the universe, the world, all the animals and plants, and Adam and Eve --the first two human beings--wandering naked in a garden. Yahweh is purported to be a god who is all knowing, all good, and all powerful by the Christians, but this was not always the case. Before Christianity, he was more like the god of the Greeks-- Zeus--a storm/war god. So this all knowing god then put a forbidden tree in the middle of the garden where Adam and Eve were living, knowing what was going to happen to them when he did. He told Adam and Eve they could have the fruit of any tree they chose except that one, for if they ate from the fruit of that tree, they would "die on the day they ate of it." He's such a manipulative trickster that god. As Adam and Eve had no knowledge, they were literally as innocent as babes in the woods, and what Yahweh did was akin to a human father leaving a 2 year old child alone with a poisoned box of chocolates. I don't have to be god to know what would happen in that case, and such a father would be considered negligent, and would be charged by the police.

So Eve went to the tree, and was met by a mysterious talking serpent. Eve told him that Yahweh said they would die on the day they ate the fruit from this tree, but the serpent knew better. The serpent said to her that she would not die on the day she ate that fruit, but would instead gain the knowledge of good and evil, and would therefore, be able to find the Tree of Life and become gods. So she decided to eat the fruit, and offered it to Adam, who also decided to eat the fruit--this is the so-called "sin" which Christians believe has led all of humanity to sin.  It is ironic that gaining "knowledge" is considered "sinful"--but then again, Yahweh did say he would "destroy the wisdom of the wise," 1 Corinthians 1:19  But I digress.

Adam and Eve then gained the knowledge the serpent told them they would. They also noticed they were naked, felt ashamed, and immediately went out and "sewed" some leaves together to cover themselves. (Where they got the needle and thread from, no one knows.) But why were they ashamed? This is a red herring--don't let it fool you. The original authors of this story, and theologians of the past and present would have you think the "shame of nakedness" and "original sin" were the focus of this story--but they are not. The real focus of this story is the transition from a matriarchal society to a patriarchal one, which allows the demonization of women, as traditionally, Eve is blamed for the "Fall of Man."

Continuing on with the story, after they had eaten the fruit and sewed their leaves together, the all-knowing Yahweh called out to them and asked "Where are you? ( as an all-knowing god, he should have known that), and when he finds them he asks if they have eaten the forbidden fruit!! (Again--he is supposed to already know the answer to that.) Yahweh was playing games.

Adam and Eve confessed to eating the fruit, which prompted Yahweh to punish them with "hard labour." (Adam in the fields and Eve giving birth) But Yahweh wasn't finished yet. He decided to punish everyone that comes after them for the "crime" of gaining the knowledge from the tree, which could have saved Adam and Eve from the tyranny of being ruled over by an egomaniacal god. He was in control, and he knew that if Adam and Eve found the Tree of Life--they would have become immortal gods like he is--and he couldn't have that. So he went to the other gods, and 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."(Genesis 3:22) Now, many Christians believe that Yahweh was speaking to Jesus and the Holy Ghost in this passage, but this is nonsensical. The Jews who wrote the Torah/Tanakh did not believe in Jesus, and still do not believe that Jesus is god. The Jews did however, believe in many gods. Jeremiah 11:13 states they had as many gods as towns in Judah, and the goddess Asherah was among them. There is also archeological evidence for Asherah being the consort of Yahweh, and she is represented by Asherah poles in the Old Testament, which further illustrates that the Jews worshiped various gods at one time or another in their history.

Think about this for a moment. No court of law would punish you for a crime your grandfather committed because that would be unjust. Why then do Christians feel is is just for their god to do just that?? This belief is grossly unfair and grossly unethical.

The serpent is not Satan, nor is he evil, as he told the truth and Adam and Eve did not die on the day they ate of it--but gained knowledge. Yahweh LIED, as they did not die on the day they ate of it. (They did not die a "spiritual death either, as the bible says no such thing.) Yahweh did not want them to have the knowledge of good and evil, as he did not want them to have the knowledge which would allow them to find the Tree of Life and become gods--like him. The Tree of Life is a representation of Yahweh's consort Asherah, and while most Christians believe Yahweh is the only god in the universe, there were many other gods and goddesses the Jews worshiped. (Every Jewish tribe had their own pantheons of gods and goddesses before Yahweh was made the only god.)

Actually, the story of Adam and Eve paints Yahweh as an egotistical, narcissistic deity, while the serpent did nothing but tell the truth in his attempt to help Adam and Eve reach the Tree of Life and become gods.  Yahweh had constructed a scenario where Adam and Eve could not become gods--which is why he hid the tree of life. He then goes on in the Old Testament to demand that he be the only god. So, after he uses the other gods to help him hide the tree of life, he then turns on them.

Yahweh planned out a scenario in which he knew the ignorant humans would fail so the world would be filled with humans who were subservient to him, and only him--which was his goal all along.

Not everything is as it seems......

* Based on Nietzsche's "The Antichrist" 48


nearenough said...

The Genesis story is prima facie unbelievable so there is no reason to even take up any meaning in the tale.
First, it says "In the beginning 'God' created the heavens and the earth."
This is false since in the beginning the big bang occurred which gave rise to neither the heavens NOR the earth. For the first 300,000 years, the universe was opaque, so there were no "heavens". The earth was nowhere near being "created" since it formed some 8 billion years later with the solar system.
Second, there are 2 contradictory Genesis stories, one having Adam and Eve created together in the same moment out of dust, and the other having Eve being created out of a pre-existent Adam from of one of his ribs. There are numerous other discrepancies, but I shall not belabor them here, as Genesis it totally unworthy of being read in the first place. Go on to some other book; almost anything will do.

A is for Atheist said...

@ nearenough

Thanks for your comment. However, whether or not a story is unbelievable or even false, does not mean that it does not have any meaning or that it cannot be analyzed. Quite the contrary. Such stories have influence. This story, just as the story of the Exodus, is a product of political ideology. In this case, it promoted the demonization of women, and the move from a matriarchal society to a patriarchal society.

By offering a different explanation for the story (and this is important,as this story is part of the foundation for Christianity), we can expose and debunk the story.

r said...

While I found your (and Nietzsche's) exposition charming, I think it's wrong to suggest that this story is not of immense value. To value it, we have to recognize it as a myth, i.e., as a set of symbols put into narrative play to allow us to explore ideas. What I get from it is the idea that consciousness (both rational and moral) does impose a kind of sorrow on our existences, and we do live with a sense of futility in the knowledge that death hangs ever over our heads, and with continuous battles in our conflicting desires of the personal and the collective. Where Christians go wrong is in insisting that this myth is a. literally true (I wonder what percentage believe that, I mean REALLY believe it); b. privileging it inordinately over a host of similarly instructive and engaging myths from around the world. c. that the miscast "literal" event threw a lever in the cosmos. Such an interpretation of course justifies all of your criticisms. And it would be one thing were this misinterpretation restricted to the Genesis story, but the problem is far more systemic in the Bible, in that its literalness is also assumed, e.g., in New Testament soteriology (1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.). Thanks again for your blog, I just found it, and look forward to reading more.

Criamon said...

I wish I had the cite for what I'm about to describe, but since I don't go ahead and take it with a grain of salt. In the late 80's my dad alerted me to an article in a science related magazine (probably Scientific American) that went deep into the Genesis story. It had something to do with a scholar going into the original language and also consulting with some people doing LandSat (sp?) photography. Apparently, the LandSat people, using new techniques, determined that the Persian Gulf used to be a fertile river valley jungle. The scholar, indicated that the story of Adam and Eve might best be understood as a tale of two tribes and the story of the spread of farming agriculture. The idea here is that the apple is the knowledge of how to farm and that once one tribe learned it, it spread to the other tribe. Once learned, they left the jungle, which was unsuitable for farming, and were both 'expelled' out of 'eden', farming on land just outside the jungle. His argument had a lot to do with homonyms and puns in the original language, and he was surprised that the LandSat work made what he figured out linguistically more plausible. He also made a point that the whole 'Eve from Adam's rib' thing is also a pun.

Wish I had the cite.

Shimon said...

Actually Adam and Eve were already eating from the Tree of Life before they ate from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil.

Also, YHVH never said they would die the day they ate from the tree. The translation is impossible to render in English perfectly that is why there are so many translations for that verse but as for no spiritual death I disagree:

Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

BUT when God made Adam before Adam wasn't just dust:

Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

God spoke as though the breath of life, his spirit, was no longer there.

As for Jeremiah 11 you are taking it out of its proper context he was speaking of FALSE gods
9 Then the LORD said to me, “There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. 10 They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. 11 Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. 12 The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes. 13 You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.’

That said you are right YHVH was not speaking to Jesus and the Holy Spirit because that would still be talking to Himself according to what the NT teaches. Us and Our cannot be explained in that way either.

Also, for the record I do not believe in original sin but see it as a parable of God told us not to do something we didn't listen and did it anyways and that is why we are sinners not because Adam and Eve were.

Again I have to point out God did not hide the tree of life in the story and it is likely they already were eating from it.

wandering crow said...

Theres no bronze age sky fairy...and that's that. Tom clancy writes better fiction. I'll tell you why, because Genesis was written by a mental genocidal manic named moses, who took "The epic of creation" book and some how turned it into 76 pages of utter jibberish. I have read the epic of creation, it took two years not 5 mins. and if Eve was made from Adams rib that would make her his half sister so incest to make their kids, no wonder they came out messed up and murdering each other. And one final clarification , Adam was not a man, its pronounced "The Adamu" or beginning of man.....

anyone else.

A is for Atheist said...

@ wandering crow

I agree--the story is nonsense. I am just offering a better interpretation of it based on Nietzsche...:)

Anonymous said...

Why in cultures that have never come in contact with the bible/Christianity are male figures dominant in society?


@wandering crow... a creation story that takes two years to read... that is epic. which one?


I would suggest that the original author (Moses) didn't write Gen1-3 to introduce a patriarchal society. In fact, the fact that YHWH approaches Adam first (3:9) shows that he was responsible for Eve's actions. The text suggests that Adam was with Eve when she ate the fruit (3:6). Why did he not step up and take control of the situation? Adam was given the task of guarding the garden (2:15) so why was the snake there in the first place? All this happened prior to Eve taking the fruit.

In this narrative, it's pretty obvious that man was primarily responsible. Why would it be written this way if the author's intent was to promote a patriarchal society? (the problem does not lay within the authorship or intent, but the men who interpret the scripture and apply it for their own gain, which I have no doubt has happened a lot)

Dr. L Trevaskis; G. Wenham; and A. Ross; all show that men who 'Lord it over' and dominate women is a bi-product of culture and society influences and/or poor bible teaching.


and as for Israel worshipping other Gods, your 100% right, they did it heaps. Many different Jews, worshipping many different Gods, both made up, and Gods of other nations. In all circumstances it is wrong and forbidden.

A is for Atheist said...

@ th Dirtyword--If you are at all familiar with the Wellhausen hypothesis you would be aware that many, if not most scholars now agree that Moses did NOT author the Pentateuch--but a redacted collection with multiple UNKNOWN authors.

Your god, (who is said to control all) PUT the snake in garden, just like he put the tree in the garden--he set them up to fail so they could not become "gods" like him. Now, as for women, women are not individuals, but created FROM man (technically, women would be transexuals then) AND as you go on to say,"HE (Adam) was responsible for Eve's actions!!--i.e. PATRIARCHY.

Furthermore, Eve somehow "deceives" Adam, thereby making her and all women the scapegoats for "sins" of men, and they are supposedly punished with "blood" (menstruation) Afterwords, the Bible states that men are the "head" of women, as the order is God the father, Jesus the son, and then MEN. It is also implied that men have "reason" whereas the women act on fear and emotion--which is why men are to be head of the households making all important decisions. Women are to "keep silent in church" and men ALWAYS have the final say so.

Now the Bible goes on to state that women are basically property to be bought and sold--whether it be marriage or slavery. Note that men can be sold into slavery for 7 years and then freed--but women were enslaved for life. If a woman was killed , the main concern was her replacement in monetary value to her father or husband or other male relative.

As I noted in my post, the mother goddess (Tree of Life) is first hidden, and then she is eliminated entirely. This is also patriarchal.

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