This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary along with a headline from world news:
HOLLANDE IN INFIDELITY SCANDAL
New English Translation (NET)
3 Now the serpent was more shrewd than any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard; 3 but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, 5 for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the orchard. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 The man replied, “I heard you moving about in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” 11 And the Lord God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” 13 So the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman replied, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all the wild beasts
and all the living creatures of the field!
On your belly you will crawl
and dust you will eat all the days of your life.
15 And I will put hostility between you and the woman
and between your offspring and her offspring;
her offspring will attack your head,
and you will attack her offspring’s heel.”
16 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.”
17 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 life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
but you will eat the grain of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat food
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
20 The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God expelled him from the orchard in Eden to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken. 24 When he drove the man out, he placed on the eastern side of the orchard in Eden angelic sentries who used the flame of a whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life.
In chapter 1 of Genesis, God creates a good world. In chapter 2 a slightly inexperienced God is shown creating first of all a man from dust and then a woman from the man’s rib, after making the mistake of giving the man no mate. Still, its a splendid world, a garden, in which there is only one prohibition. From the outset the reader knows that this forbidden fruit means trouble, but meantime there’s a serious question: how did the good world God created become the world we know.
Chapter 3 tells us that the answer to that question is also the answer to another, “How did the serpent lose its legs?”
Of course the serpent is only the outward symbol of the natural curiosity and arrogant desire of human beings. What is the irresistible temptation? It’s the desire to know everything.(“Good and evil” in this story mean all good things, all bad things and everything in between, A to Z), a desire which is also the engine of human progress. The threat of death is not real because it is not immediate. The human beings want to be like God forgetting that they are already made in the image and likeness of God. They want life on their own terms, and they get it.
The serpent loses its legs, (inventive desire is bound to the dust), the woman loses pain- free childbirth, the couple lose their equality, the earth loses its fruitfulness, the man loses his leisure and gains sweated labour, human beings lose their immortality and return to the dust in death. In other words, welcome to the real world, suckers!
This real world is introduced therefore, as “God’s” plan B, implemented because to some extent he has been outmanoeuvred by his creatures. He is wise enough to detect what has happened and to learn from it, expelling them before they steal from the tree of life, which is mentioned here for the first time, perhaps as a sign that after all the super-smart humans went for the wrong tree. But who is this “God”? He’s a kind of cartoon deity, a decent enough, patient enough, creator who does his best. Is he however, the same “God” as the one who says, “Let there be light”?
Only people with tin ears could listen to this marvellous, ironic story and think it’s to be taken at face value, or worse, made into historical fact. A story-telling genius, drawing perhaps on many generations of story-tellers, is facing up to the fact that the world we know is imperfect. His theory is that the creator has made creatures that are too wilful to control and too arrogant to foresee the misery they will bring upon themselves. The rest of Genesis chapters 4-11 sets out the tragicomedy of human existence which culminates in the creator finally losing patience and wiping out the whole shebang except the ark, and then regretting his wrath.
The “God” in this story is not the true God but rather a comic caricature who shows up the problems of believing in a God at all. Those who think this is a blasphemous way of thinking might care to reflect that the Son of God once told a story in which God is like a daft, indulgent, father who gives his younger son an unwise amount of money and freedom to waste it.