Tag Archives: genesis 2

Who Was the Serpent in the Garden of Eden?

IndiancobraThe temptation of Eve is one of the most well-known stories of the bible. Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, she shares a bite with Adam, and they realize their nakedness. God discovers their futile efforts to cover their private parts and curses them to a hard life of toil and pain outside the Garden. If the bible is the story of mankind’s tumultuous relationship with God, then that tumult starts right here with mankind’s first ever exercise of free will and the first time that he defied his maker.

But who was that mysterious serpent that started the wheels of rebellion turning? Jews and Christians approach this bible story differently. Christians at least have a clear answer to this question: the serpent was Satan who has snuck into the Garden to lead God’s new creation astray. But for Jews, the answer is less easy. Was the serpent a metaphor? A talking animal? Something else?

This post will explore the ways that Jews and Christians have come to understand the bible’s first antagonist. The serpent is a slippery beast so read on for more!

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The Demoness Lillith in the Bible

As we celebrate the increasingly “secular” holiday of Halloween, young and old embrace the spooky and the macabre and perhaps score some candy in the process. Since Halloween is about as far from the Bible as you can get, I want to turn instead to something that is both biblical and spooky: demons. Although demons are only directly mentioned in the New Testament, Jewish legends had demons playing a greater part in the Old Testament/Hebrew bible than our received text would indicate. The first and most well known of these demons is actually a demoness, Lillith.

If pop culture is any judge, Lillith is one of the most famous biblical figures to never actually appear in the bible. Whether she’s Adam’s first wife, a demon, a feminist symbol, or a combination of all three; she is a force to be reckoned with. She has been the namesake of a music festival, at least three comic book characters, several songs and films, the subject of paintings, astrology, and even a villainess on Doctor Who. There’s even an early personal computer named for her, though I’m not quite sure I see her appeal as a company mascot.

Who was Lillith? And where did this legend begin? Those questions are tough, but the answer starts in the bible– not with a capital-L Lillith, but with a type of demon, lowercase-L lilliths. In this post, I’ll follow the story of Lillith as it appears in the bible, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and eventually blossoms into her first incarnation as a feminist symbol in the Talmud. The full legend of Lillith as Adam’s wife is an 8th century invention of Jewish mysticism and outside the scope of this blog, but all of her roots are here. Read on… if you dare.

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Found Link – Philo’s Rejection of Six-Day Creationism

As I was surfing today, I stumbled on Daniel Streett’s (for me un-spell-able and un-pronounceable) blog on Koine Greek and the New Testament. While I have to admit that most of the blog is… er… Latin to me, all my rereading of the early chapters of Genesis primed me for this post: Philo’s Rejection of Six-Day Creationism.

In short, Daniel reports that Philo believed that the six-day creation cycle described in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 referred not to six physical days, but rather logical days. God, of course, did it all instantaneously. Philo also looks at the separate stories for the creation of women in Genesis 1:27 and 2:18.  It’s well worth a read.

While I don’t need a reminder that philosophers and theologians have been practicing biblical textual criticism for thousands of years, it’s fascinating to read sort of a Jewish-Hellenistic approach to the challenges of the text. I’ve been spending too much time with the Dead Sea Scrolls! Now, I need to buy myself one of these:

 

Marriage in the Bible – Part 1: Genesis and the Creation Story

Today is my first wedding anniversary! Married life is wonderful, and I have a wonderful person to share it with. In part because of my anniversary, I have been pondering marriage in the bible. (Why? It’s better than laundry.) As I reread, I am struck again and again about how much marriage in the bible sucks, especially if you happen to be a woman. The Torah might as well be Sharia Law(*) for its depiction of the rights of women. Even the New Testament isn’t much better: in 1 Corinthians, Paul recommends that if you aren’t married, you should stay that way. Jesus is at least known to have attended a wedding…

In honor of my anniversary, I’m going to do something different. Over the next week, I will be positing my thoughts on a different aspect of biblical marriage, one post every day. For simplicity, I’m limiting myself to the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible. Next year, I hope to be able to move forward into the later books and possibly even the New Testament.

Read on for Part 1: Marriage in Genesis, in which we discover that woman was created for man… or sometimes also his brother.

(*) Note: I know next to nothing about Sharia Law, except by reputation. My suspicion is that its reputation is tainted by the Judeo-Christian sources that report on such things. I have a distinct suspicion that it’s probably not that far off of early Jewish teaching.

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Bereishit – Adam and Eve

In Chapter 2 of Genesis, we have possibly the only scene in the Bible that is not only funny, but funny at God’s expense. Picture this: God has created the very first man and he (the man) is already hard at work tilling and tending the fields of the Garden of Eden. (And work he did. Genesis 2:15 is quite clear that Adam was to work, although presumably this wasn’t difficult work yet.) But God realizes, “Hey! This guy needs a helper.” And so God creates and brings to Adam all of the animals of the world (or at least the “wild beasts and birds of the sky”), one after the other, to see if one of them would be a fitting companion. You can just imagine Adam, sitting bored (but hopeful) under a tree while God leads an ill-behaved elephant up to him on a leash. “How about this one?”

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Bereishit – The Creation Stories and the Documentary Hypothesis

With something as big and complex and beautiful as the Bible, it’s difficult to know where to start talking about it. Just jumping in “In the beginning” hardly seems suitable because there is so much that goes into those works, into even the first several verses, that it’s awe-inspiring. And yet to talk about it, to digest it and dissect it in a way does it a disservice. And yet, I sit here with keyboard in hand and try to wrap my head around the best way to begin.

Of the books of the Torah, Genesis may be the most complex. One of the ways that Genesis is complex is through its pattern of repeating stories, or parts of stories, in different ways. This is evident immediately as we are presented with two separate creation stories: one from Genesis 1:1 to the middle of 2:4 and a second one from Genesis 2:4 to 2:24. The first story is the one that we are most familiar: “In the beginning…” (Though of course this is translated in a dozen different ways. The JPS offers the, probably more accurate but less poetic “When God began to create heaven and earth…”) In this story, God creates the universe in six days and rests on the seventh. In verse 1:27, on the sixth day, he created man: “And God created man in His image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” In the second story, God creates man again and this is the story that we are familiar: He creates Adam first, Adam needs a companion, Even is created from Adam’s rib, etc. This second story differs from the first not only that man and woman were not created at the same time, but also in other details. For example, man here was created “when no shrub of the field was yet on earth” because “God had not sent rain upon the earth” but in the preceding story that was on the third day, not the sixth.

This is not to nit-pick the Bible, that is not my intention. But I find this duality fascinating and it happens over and over in Genesis: a bit in the Noah story, in the Abraham story, etc.

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