Week 3: The Fall

Reading

Genesis 2–3 (The Creation of Eve, and the Garden of Eden)

Questions

How does the Garden of Eden narrative contribute to Western ideas about gender?

What is “sin”?

Was the Fall of Man all part of God’s Plan? It rhymes, but it’s also kind of disturbing.

The entire chapter brings to mind larger questions about being, judging and seeing. In Genesis 1, God saw that things He made were good, which both made them good, and judged them good. In Genesis 3 we encounter the first “sin” (according to later Christian interpreters, such as St. Augustine). It’s the first thing in the universe that is not good. Does that mean, though, that it’s evil? Or is that just centuries of Christian theologians whispering in our ears?

Recall, especially, that the Hebrew word for good in Genesis 1 refers not to a moral status, but to the idea that something is well-crafted, well-made…

Some notes from our discussion:

  • When Yahweh worries about Adam and Eve becoming one of us, who is “us”?
    • The Mesopotamian pantheon?
    • The royal “we”?
  • How did Adam and Eve think they could hid[e] themselves from the presence of Yahweh? This goes against what many of us were taught about an all-knowing, loving, all-seeing God—the Elohistic God, in many ways.
    • Side note: God is the one who first made garments for them out of animal skin, so—God is the OG fashion designer.
  • Azazel points out that the snake is an extremely potent symbol in the Ancient Near East; in the Epic of Gilgamesh, it is also a serpent who steals the forbidden fruit. The fruit, too, might point towards the prevalence of substance use in ancient religions.
  • Beelzebub, on the other hand, enjoys reading things as if this is all part of God’s Plan (his ineffable Plan, to quote Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman).
  • Can we, though, read Genesis 1–3 synthetically?
  • What does Yahweh/God really value? Moral righteousness, or adherence to the Law? Or are they one and the same?
    • As Metatron points out, the impurity/purity distinction doesn’t map neatly onto sin/virtue.
  • What does knowledge of good and evil really mean?
    • Gabriel: language, abstract concepts, the ability to interact with nonmaterial things…
    • Michael: good = “wellness,” evil = “woe,” in the original Hebrew. So, perhaps, pleasure and suffering?
    • Lucifer: Sex? Knowledge of death?
  • Belial mentions that the two humans are forbidden from eating the Tree of Life and living forever — does this mean that they could have knowledge of good and evil and be immortal?
    • Lucifer points out that we don’t actually know that the humans are immortal to begin with. If they will surely die upon eating the forbidden fruit, perhaps it’s that they will be sure of death, that they will know they will die. But, related to Michael’s point about wellness and woe—what is knowledge of death but knowledge of life, and how precious it is? How meaningful it can be?
    • Beelzebub takes this as possible evidence of a Plan, for God’s creation to be able to live a morally meaningful life.
    • Or: Obedience is only meaningful if disobedience is possible.
  • Gabriel: Are animals actually unaware of death? Or is that just something humans tell themselves to justify our treatment of animals as inferior?
  • We ended our discussion by tackling—however briefly—the misogynistic tropes that emerge from this story. As Belial notes, according to Genesis 2, Eve wasn’t even around when God forbade Adam from eating the fruit.

Image credit: Mosaic of the Garden of Eden at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Courtesy of Lawrence OP, Flickr.

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