Adam and Eve and When It All Went Wrong

Well, it’s been a while since we dropped in on our friends Adam and Eve in the garden. So I figured I might as well make it a week of weird and tell y’all what I’ve been thinking/figuring out about them.

For those of you who don’t know, I have a wee bit of an obsession with the creation stories and the story of the fall. In fact, if it were possible to make money off meditating on them, I would be writing this from a beach in Fuji instead of on a computer with vacuum tubes in a spare bedroom that looks it hasn’t been cleaned in 2 months (because it hasn’t).

The reason I am so obsessed with these stories is because they seem to hold the key to understanding what is wrong with our relationships with each other, God and creation. Once you stop reading them as either the worst history book ever written or a fairy tale just-so story and taking them seriously, you discover that they are a lot like a puzzle. And I’m one of those people who plays soduku to relax. I like puzzles.

Anyhow, last spring I wrote a short series about a vision/dreamy sort of thingy I was given about what happened at the fall. Which if you may want to check out. The big take-away from the whole thing was that the fall wasn’t actually our fault. It was more like the world’s worse act of abuse against a couple of kids. If you think I’m full of it or want to know more, you can go read the posts on the subject. They’re short, we can wait:

What Was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Doing in the Garden?

The Fall Wasn’t Our Fault

Does God Sit Around Monitoring Our Thoughts? And Other Pertinent Questions

So What Happened to Adam and Eve Anyhow?

Now if I haven’t scared you off, today I want to discuss the relationship between Adam and Eve. As I’ve said before (and as Ireneus and a few other early church fathers said), Adam and Eve were children. Little children.

Adam was made first. Adam is the Hebrew word for man or mankind. It’s used thousands of times in the Hebrew OT to mean man or mankind. So when we talk about Adam, we are talking about a character who represents mankind as a whole, not necessarily about one specific individual. (Remember, mankind is one.)

Eve is formed later as a subset of mankind. Still a part of mankind, but defined by her gender. Eve is like a little sister to Adam. Consider that it is Adam who named the animals, received instructions from God, went looking for a partner, etc. Adam even got to name Eve.

So Adam would have been much like a big brother, showing his little sister around, telling her what things were called, explaining the rules, etc. Anyone who has ever seen a preschooler with a toddler sibling knows exactly what I am talking about here. A little kid enjoying being in charge and showing off what he knows for an admiring younger sibling.

I’ve written before about a small detail from the story of the fall which is normally overlooked, but I think is important. When Adam and Eve were standing by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the snake approaches them, Eve says something untrue. She tells the serpent that not only can they not eat the fruit of the tree, but they are not even allowed to touch it. It’s a little detail that points to the fact that perfection, as we think of perfection, did not exist even before the fall. Which makes sense; God had declared the earth “good” and Adam and Eve “very good”. We’re the ones who made up this idea that it was perfect.

So, where did Eve get this idea that they weren’t allowed to touch the tree? Perhaps she made it up and was just lying. Or perhaps it was what her big brother Adam had told her. It’s totally the sort of thing a big brother would do. (I once had my little sister convinced that clouds moving across the sky showed how fast the earth was turning. Because I wanted to impress her with my great understanding of the workings of the earth, of course.)

God had given Adam one little rule to follow. It’s very easy to imagine that as a big brother, earnestly taking his responsibilities very seriously and feeling very important, he had instructed Eve, “see that fruit over there? God says we can’t eat it or we will die. We can’t even touch the tree it’s so dangerous!” He exaggerated a bit. Who doesn’t exaggerate from time to time? (My computer does not have vacuum tubes, by the way.) Especially when we’re trying to impress someone?

So Adam and Eve are standing by the tree. Maybe Adam’s showing off how brave he is to get so close to the dangerous tree. And the snake, who knows damn well that he has no business messing with them comes by to chat. And let’s just say that perhaps, as they are talking a breeze goes by and a branch moves and a bit of fruit brushes against Eve. Who doesn’t die.

And the snake says, “You will not certainly die. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Eve at this point is perhaps aware that her brother may have been doing what big brothers do and scared her in order to impress her. She didn’t die from touching the fruit. Perhaps eating it wasn’t so scary either. It was pretty. What little girl doesn’t like pretty things? And God had given the garden to them to eat from. Plus, the fruit was useful for gaining wisdom. If she was wise, then she wouldn’t be the little kid her brother could trick.

Adam is standing there silently. Perhaps he heard Eve repeat his harmless lie and had some idea that he had made a mistake in telling her they couldn’t touch the fruit. Perhaps he had some vague awareness that he had been caught; that Eve knew he had lied to her. But I have had a child tell me “I didn’t stand on the coffee table” while they were standing on the coffee table. Little kids aren’t exactly know for their willingness to admit that they did something wrong.

So Eve eats the fruit and hands it to Adam. Adam has just watched his Eve, who God made just for him, who would be the mother of all adam, sign her own death sentence. All he had meant was to keep Eve safe and maybe impress her a bit. He was the big brother and being a big brother comes with responsibilities. So Adam does just what a good man would do in that situation and bravely took a bite of the fruit Eve handed him. If she was going to die, he would go with her.

 

The Fall Wasn’t Our Fault

So yesterday, we left young Adam and Eve standing next to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As I explained, I was told/shown that the tree was to Adam and Eve what the adult world is to a child. Rather than being a temptation or even a danger, it was a good thing which let them know that there is more to life than their childish existence. God told them not to eat from that tree because the experiences of the adult world are not for children to have – adult experiences being the fruit they were not to eat. Under normal circumstances, the existence and close proximity of the adult world does not pose a threat to children, nor is it particularly tempting. Unless one of the adults does something to bring a child into the adult world inappropriately. Enter the serpent.

It has often been pointed out that the serpent isn’t specifically identified with the character of Satan in this story. However, the serpent was indeed Satan (whatever or whomever Satan is in reality). The connection between the serpent and Satan is made in several places in scripture – particularly in Revelation 12 and Revelation 22. But even more damning is that both the serpent and the character of Satan work in the same way. Satan is a Hebrew word meaning accuser or adversary. In Revelation 12:11, the serpent is described as “the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night”.

Satan’s job is to serve as an adversary. He does this through accusations. Which is to say that Satan calls the goodness of God, creation and humanity into question by offering alternative explanations for what is going on. So at the opening of the book of Job, we get the accusation that Job isn’t faithful because he loves God, but because God has protected him. When Job remains faithful after losing everything, Satan claims it is only because Job has not suffered physical harm himself. This is what Satan does – looks for any explanation possible to explain away what is good, true, faithful and loving. When Satan tempts Jesus at the end of his 40 days in the wilderness, he uses scriptures to argue that things which are forbidden – grasping power, testing God, etc – are in fact scripturally sanctioned. He offers an alternative vision of reality which Jesus rejects.

The thing is that Satan had a legitimate role in God’s kingdom. One of the ways to view the existence of the material world is that it is God exploring and expressing the reality of himself through this physical creation. I’m probably going to flub this explanation, but outside of the created world, God exists as whole, complete and unchanging. Within the created world, God can unpack all of that and share himself with us, his creation. One of the ways which we can know and understand something is by seeing how it is and isn’t like something else. God is light – in him there is no darkness. But without darkness, how can the light be known? If there is only undifferentiated light, nothing can be seen or observed. And this is the purpose which Satan serves. He introduces the dark by which the light can become known. Continue reading