Either the Garden of Eden Test Was a Sham or a Myth

In a previous post of mine I argued that the "supposed" test in the Garden of Eden was a sham. Then along comes my friend Dr. Dan Lambert who argued that we atheists have it wrong because "The Garden story is a myth invented to explain why people sin. Simple. End of story." At least Dan understands it for what it is. But if he's correct then how does this save his faith from refutation? Whether it's a sham test or a myth it doesn't matter. Why should any intelligent person base his faith on ancient myths? And there are lots of them in the Bible.

46 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Hey, here's an exercise for someone. List the stories in the Bible which are mythical in origin. Or maybe something easier, list the stories that actually represent the facts. ;-)

shane said...

If Dan is correct, then there could be no telling what is mythical or factual in the bible.
Therefore, the bible has no foundation or authority to stand on.

Brad said...

I still don't understand how the Garden story is sham (according to John's logic). If I possess free will and I'm then told of a new law that I'm fully capable of obeying, is it the government's fault should I break that law merely because they had the "audacity" for giving it to me?

And so in the Garden's case, do I also then get to blame my Creator for making me "defective," for giving me the freedom to choose for or against his command? I don't understand how this freedom to choose is somehow supposed to be an inherent defect, particularly when it's one of the things most highly prized by societies today.

delinquentminer said...

In your (or anyone's) opinion, does being a myth necessarily preclude a story from having any underlying truth to be told or followed? It a myth necessarily without fact and without authority?

Larian LeQuella said...

@Brad,

How are you supposed to take this test if you have no knowledge between good and bad. If you are so innocent as to have no idea what it means to dissobey, let alone know that there may be consequences for disobeying.

That particular myth has us set up to fail because this supposedly omniscient being can't see the logical falacy of setting up the initial conditions in such a way that failure is guranteed.

What a cocksucking bastard this mythical figure ended up being! :)

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Dr. Lambert says that the historicity of the gardent account is not held by serious scholars. Well I agree that it shouldn't be but alas it is. Most evangelicals take it as literal. But even if its not, the fact still remains that Paul and Jesus took it literally. Shouldn't they have known better? especially since Jesus was supposed to be God himself and Paul was supposed to be writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, even if one today wants to just understand it as a myth, they still need to explain what the myth is supposed to mean. It seems to me that even as a myth, it would teach that God was unfair in the test he gave to Adam and Eve. I would like to know from Dr. Lambert what we are supposed to gather from the myth?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Good post John,

This discussion indicates to me that the folks who wrote down the oral legends were not all that bright. The myths they created may have had utility in binding primitive social structures but, fail to be anything but confusing in our modern age. Trying to see how they apply to an advanced and evolved society is akin to intellectual suicide.

Thanks for pointing out the moral incoherence one must subscrive to if one chooses to embrace fantastic supernaturalism.

James F. McGrath said...

I think it is important to be clear whether myth is being used in its popular sense of something untrue, or in its specific sense as describing a genre that discusses origins, or aspects of human existence which are difficult to get a handle on by other means, by way of a narrative that makes much use of symbolism.

If we're asking why the latter are useful, the answer is...because people still find them useful. We all use stories and symbols to frame our thinking and our outlook on life.

That doesn't mean that myths of this sort, whether ancient or modern, in the Bible or outside, should be read uncritically. But there is no obvious reason why they cease to be useful to any greater extent than myths in general are useful.

zenmite said...

I think these myths are so tenacious because many of them reveal aspects of our deeper psyche. The garden of eden myth can be understood as symbolizing primitive man becoming more conscious of himself as a distinct being.

In the beginning man was enmeshed in nature, living from hand to mouth with no real idea of mortality. Though in reality, this existence was brutish in it's own way, we tend to romanticize the primitive conditon. This was 'paradise' or eden. As we became more intelligent the realization dawned that we were subject to death. This existential fear was projected as guilt. It must have been some horrible thing we did that caused us to come to this horrible state...having to farm (work) and die. So the myth of eating forbidden fruit and being expelled from eden can be read as symbolizing our evolution from animal to civilized human.

Even the concept of god can be viewed as a projection of our unconscious self guiding us. Read in this way, even Star Wars may be viewed as a powerful psychological myth...a view put forth by Joseph Campbell. Suggesting that some myths may symbolize inner or psychological 'truths' in no way means they should be taken as literal history.

Brad said...

Hi Larian,


"How are you supposed to take this test if you have no knowledge between good and bad. If you are so innocent as to have no idea what it means to dissobey, let alone know that there may be consequences for disobeying."

This test wasn't like asking someone to scale Mt. Everest in the buff. It was simply: Eat any fruit you like, just don't eat from that tree..if you eat from that tree you will die. I don't think that their lack of intrinsic knowledge of what the felt consequences would be for disobedience demands that we rule this a faulty test - particularly when everything else was stacked in couple's favor.

Chuck O'Connor said...

James,

You said, "But there is no obvious reason why they cease to be useful to any greater extent than myths in general are useful."

Ummmm . . . well according to this myth I'd say that the implications of "might makes right" and the inability for self-determination therein would indicate the Genesis creation myth as one endorsing freedom-limiting ideas.

Marcus McElhaney said...

Eden was not a myth. Sure would like to see proof other wise

Chuck O'Connor said...

Marcus,

argumentum ad ignorantiam

magnumdb said...

Brad,

Your answer is ROTTEN.

You evaded the question, I'm not surprised. Larian asked you how you're supposed to take the test if you have NO KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND BAD.

Read it again. "NO knowledge of good and bad."

He isn't asking about what "grade level" in the school of good and bad Adam and Eve were in. There's no reason to try to compare any of this to something as absurd as climbing Mount Everest nude.

We are talking about the fact that they have NO understanding of the concept of right and wrong, NONE, ZERO.

What meaning does the threat of death have to people who have never witnessed death, who have no knowledge of death, who don't have the kind of conscience that would make them have emotions about death? If they were given knowledge of it before, the Bible misses out on telling us that. And until we see some documentation, we're stuck with what we have - which is that they didn't understand the concept of right and wrong, obedience, or death.

-------

Marcus,

When you get to heaven, you'll meet a monkey riding a chocolate train. That's not a myth. I sure would like to see proof other wise.

I do like your use of ancient arguments dressed up differently though.

Brad said...

Mag,

"You evaded the question, I'm not surprised."

Not at all. Obviously, I just didn't answer it to your satisfaction and all because you presume things about the text that aren't there. Cheers.

shane said...

Brad.

When the text says- "Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil".(NLT) version.

What are we supposed to presume?

It seems obvious Adam and Eve did not know what evil was before eating the forbidden fruit.....therefore i believe Larians question still stands!

busterggi said...

Bottom line - if the Garden of Eden story is a myth (which I think it is) then there was no fall, no original sin & no need for a redeemer i.e.: Jesus.

The first myth begat the second by default.

P.Coyle said...

Ken Pulliam writes,

Moreover, even if one today wants to just understand it as a myth, they still need to explain what the myth is supposed to mean. It seems to me that even as a myth, it would teach that God was unfair in the test he gave to Adam and Eve.

In the myth, God is a liar. He says that Adam and Eve will die if they eat the forbidden fruit. The serpent correctly points out to Eve that this is not true. In addition, God apparently does not want Adam and Eve to be able to know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong (this, again, the serpent correclty points out). And God expels Adam and Eve from Eden because he doesn't want them to live forever, which they will do if they eat from the fruit of the Tree of Life.

This God seems to be the precise opposite of what Christians say he is. I would think they would want to run away from the myth as far and as fast as they possible could.

Tim said...

I agree with P.Coyle: God told them in Genesis 2:17(KJV) "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." God told the lie and the supposed "father of all lies" told the truth. They did not die. Some apologize that he meant spiritual death. If they died spiritually, they would not have a living spirit to experience burning in hell. Only if they get "born again" to become spiritually alive, and then reject God again should they have a living spirit capable of experiencing anything.

Lenoxus said...

I think the myth has some great moral resonance if the serpent is to be understood as its Promethean hero. Perhaps that the way its "original version" (if one can say such a thing for something so fuzzy as oral tradition) went, and only later, when Yahweh had become El had become Elohim had become all-good, did the interpretation change. "Original sin" (as something humans need "saving" from) was, of course, a much, much later invention still.

As far as I'm concerned, the treating of myths as useful but false is simply not religion; it's comparative mythology. And there's nothing wrong with comparative mythology! I myself draw strength and insights from such sources as the Illiad, Aesop's fables, and Doctor Who. I'm sorry, was my comparing the Bible to fiction somehow insulting? Because it's exactly what the Dan Lambert treatment is.

Or is the Bible more like a sort of magic-realist novel by God? If so, why does it contain no advisory as such? No alert that its contents are merely symbolic and not literally true?

Because the thing is, when people are lead to understand a text as having been in some sense authored by the Creator of the Universe, the God of All Humankind Himself, they're going to expect some profound literal truths, ones beyond the ken of human creation. Before opeing the cover, their first instinct, naturally, is not going to be "Since it is God-breathed, I'm sure this is just a collection of Canaanite and Roman myths with some good and bad lessons for us all." Why didn't God anticipate that "superficial literalism" would happen to His Book? And why didn't he bother to distinguish His Book from other sctripures?

One popular answer to that is that all scriptures from all religions are in some sense authored by God. Gee, he's amazing, innee? Now, I happen to worship a Goddess who is indirectly responsible for all newspapers and news broadcasts. Wouldn't you say She has a better track record than the ancient scriptures? And amazingly, by my new definition, you can't be and atheist and read or watch the news, or otherwise find news valuable. If you do so, you've automatically joined my sect. Sorry.

Tristan D. Vick said...

I'm always more concerned about the divine reversal periscopes in the Bible. The talking snake being a great example.

Shouldn't the snake be crucified for mankind's "original sin" as punishment for his meddling? I think Thomas Paine was right in observing that the garden serpent should be nailed to the cross, not some Jewish dude.

It's strange that the snake gets off scott free while God incarnate, comes in the flesh, and in human form, as his own son (?), must punish himself, for the initial meddling of a talking snake (which he himself supposedly created) who duped two teenagers playing 'hide the snake in the garden patch' into doing something they were told not to.

Moreover, it often gets overlooked that the snake was telling the truth. I mean, they didn't "surely" die. Terrifying kids with "surely" is certainly not metaphorical language. It's language of certainty, not ambiguous allegory. Metaphor and allegory are rarely ever "certain."

And why would the Creator create a talking snake he knew was going to act badly to begin with? Either the all knowing creator made a blunder, or he deliberately used the snake as a tool, and blackmailed them poor kids in the garden. If it's a true story, it's dumb. If it's a myth, it's not much better.

And that brings me back to my first divine reversal question. If you were all knowing, then why oh why, would you design a dubious talking snake to deceive Adam and Eve, knowing the predestined events ahead of time, and using all forms of subterfuge to trick them into sinning, knowing this is the serpents purpose and design, only to then shift the blame onto your son (which is supposedly you?) for doing something you initiated in the first place?

Wouldn't it have simply been easier not to create a talking snake?

Just saying.

Breckmin said...

I would argue that the Genesis account of Adam and Eve may not be "perfect" BUT it is a recollection by the prophet Moses (along with Aaron/Josuah) under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit to communicate important truth regarding the first Man and Woman God created (uniquely) and the account of original sin. There are plenty of other stories which corroborate the Genesis account.

Here's the problem. Universal common descent theory in science. Sure, I used to be T.E. because it was "believable." I also used to buy all of the nonsense of Documentary Hypothesis and various other historical inductions(clearly open for error).
But it is actually universal common descent theory which becomes the second greatest lie (which has been build up by scientists using 10's of thousands of inductions open to error for the last 151 years or more).
It is the second greatest lie ever told.

Samphire said...

Or maybe something easier, list the stories that actually represent the facts. ;-)

Finished. Here they are:



Do I get a prize?

P.Coyle said...

Tristan D. Dick writes,

It's strange that the snake gets off scott free....

Actually, he doesn't:

"So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

While the myth isn't comletely clear, I infer that the serpent originally had legs, and that God punished him and all his descendants by taking away their legs. Thus the myth "explains" among other things, why snakes have no legs.

P.Coyle said...

Lenoxus writes,

I think the myth has some great moral resonance if the serpent is to be understood as its Promethean hero.

I like that reading.

shane said...

Breckmin.

You said that the Genesis account of Eden may not be perfect but it was a recollection by the prophet Moses?

From what i understand, it is almost universally accepted by historians and even biblical scholars, that Moses was not the author of the pentateuch (first five books of the old testament).

Also, im confused why you would say that the Genesis account was not perfect if you are a christian who believes that the bible is the infallible, inspired word of God? (Assuming you are).

Chuck O'Connor said...

Breck,

How can a recollection dictated by God in the form of the Holy Spirit be imperfect?

I will withhold acceptance of your estimation on evolutionary theory until you tidy up that logical contradiction.

The certainty of this type of incoherence by religious adherents (supported by conspiracy theories and a persecution complex) is one of the reasons why I don't trust them.

zenmite said...

Before the arrival of the Israelites, snake cults were well established in Canaan in the Bronze Age, for archaeologists have uncovered serpent cult objects in Bronze Age strata at several pre-Israelite cities in Canaan.

It is common for any new religion to turn the old gods into devils. When yahweh worship began to dominate snake worship it would've been natural to demonize the older, 'false' religion.

Christianity did this to the pagan religions of Europe. Wicca became devil worship by ugly hags. The generic word for ‘god’ in Sanskrit is deva, which becomes daeva in Avestan, and Zoroaster transformed all the devas into evil beings, the servants of Angra Mainya, so that in his language daeva means ‘devil,’ a foul fiend whose worship must be suppressed.

So it is about suppressing prior religions. The snake may have originally been worshipped as a source of wisdom and light. But being a jealous god and all....

Brad said...

Hi Shane,

By experience, all the first couple could have known was good, as there was no corresponding evil to separate that which they "experientially knew" and that which was completely outside their world. Yet to suggest that they didn’t know the definitions of good and evil or the definition of die and what that meant is unreasonable. To further suggest that you have to experience something to know it is equally unreasonable. I’ve never traveled into space or taken a space walk, but should I ever have the privilege, I know that heeding the warning to keep my spacesuit on is a very good idea. Though through experience I’ve never had my skin exposed to space, and I’ve never heard of an account of someone dying in space because they removed their suit, I still nevertheless trust the warning: “If you remove your spacesuit while in space you will surely die.”

shane said...

Brad.

The scripture does not imply that Adam and Eve needed to experience evil to know what it was, it implies that they didn't even know the difference of good and evil.

Your right, you know something about outer space so you dont need to go there and take off your space suit to experience first hand what the effects would be!
But if you knew nothing at all about outer space then you would NOT know that it would kill you to take off the suit!

On one hand, if they did NOT know the difference, then God unjustly punished them.
or
If your example is right, then they DID know the difference and the scripture "man has become like us, knowing both good and evil"....is a false scripture!
You cant have it both ways.

Brad said...

"But if you knew nothing at all about outer space then you would NOT know that it would kill you to take off the suit!"

What I "know" about dying in space, has been told to me. What the first couple "knew" about dying from disobedience was told to them. Eve's reply to the snake makes it pretty clear that she understood that death was an undesirable thing...if nothing else consider the snake's objection. And as for the false dilemma at the end of your statement, I'm going to ask you to consider that there's a difference between knowing mere facts and knowing by experience.

shane said...

Brad.

Yes i have considered what you wrote about knowing something by fact and knowing it by experience.

What your saying is that Adam and Eve knew what evil was by fact because God told them.....but they did not know evil in experience until they ate the fruit and their eye's were opened.

But i think your digging a deeper hole here and i'll tell you why.

The scripture clearly says "man has become LIKE US KNOWING BOTH GOOD AND EVIL"
If this refers to experienced knowledge instead of factual knowledge, then God must know by EXPERIENCE what its like to commit evil because Adam and Eve became like HIM! at this point.
or
Its like I said already, they did not even know what evil was even by fact until they ate the fruit and therefore God unjustly punished them!

shane said...

Brad.

I agree that Eve's conversation with the serpent indicates that she new the difference of right and wrong before she ate the fruit.
But as you see, that would contradict "Man has become like us knowing both good and evil" as i already stated!

And if you are saying that Eve only knew evil by FACT before she ate the fruit and that the scripture above implies she knew by EXPERIENCE after eating it, this still doesn't work for reasons i mentioned in my last post!

It does not add up eitherway.

Breckmin said...

"From what i understand, it is almost universally accepted by historians and even biblical scholars, that Moses was not the author of the pentateuch (first five books of the old testament)."

What did the ancient Hebrews believe? Their orthodoxy trumps
all those who would later come along and try to rewrite history.

FTR, most conservative biblical scholars reject Documentary Hypothesis (and they are correct to do so).

Moses may not have written the end of Deuteronomy, but the rest of the Torah was written under Moses' direction.

Breckmin said...

Also, im confused why you would say that the Genesis account was not perfect if you are a christian who believes that the bible is the infallible, inspired word of God? (Assuming you are)."

Imperfection is logically everywhere. This is what many people do not understand. Our languages are developed by people who are "learning." We don't have a perfect language which addresses atemporal/transcendent concepts NOR do we have a perfect text of anything - so "why" would the originals need to be perfect either?

The problem is a complicated one. It is the difference between the "bible" (which bible?) being the Perfect Word of God verses the bible "containing" the Perfect Logos/Word/Reason of God in an imperfect medium of human languages.

When you say "the bible IS the Word of God" you are defaming perfection and God's Holy Word and reducing it to languages of the flesh. While it is true that the languages of the flesh can communicate (in meaning)the Word of God and it can be translated into any imperfect language (with an attempt at dynamic equivalence),
until we have a Perfect Language (such as a heavenly angelic language)it is illogical to believe that Paleo Hebrew or koine Greek are anything other than an imperfect medium.

There is much much more anthropomorphism throughout the scriptures than most conservative theologians realize. We use logic to interpret the bible and logic itself is the greatest hermeneutic we have.

Here is the key: Because the bible "contains" the Perfect Holy Word of God..it is the Holy Spirit of God Who convicts the Christian that the bible is "true" (basically true in what it is seeking to communicate - but perhaps minor error in the details which are meaningless). Because of this.. those who accept biblical inerrancy and read and study it continually are filling their minds up with the Word of God.

For this reason...even if inerrancy itself is logically flawed...still those who believe it actually end up being the ones that are being led to truth.

In fact, the fascinating thing to me is that the conservative evangelical Christian is probably the one with the most accurate theology..EVEN though they have an inaccurate view of scripture (verbal plenary inspiration).

It is the irony of simplicity and trust. The means to get to truth may not be exact...but the truth itself is the end result because of WHAT is being communicated in the imperfect medium.

Question everything.

There are no authorities among humans who don't make minor errors.. There are too many inexactisms in scripture to get
consumed with the details...

Another end result: Those who look for contradictions on the details will find it...those who seek truth and trust God will find it through the guidance and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Breckmin said...

"How can a recollection dictated by God in the form of the Holy Spirit be imperfect?"

It is actually the language itself that is imperfect...BUT we have equivocation on this English word "imperfect." Why? Because the bible is perfectly what it is supposed to be according to the sovereign will of God and His infinite decree. So in a cosmic sense = "The bible IS perfect" even with all of its imperfections... Question everything.

The Holy Spirit of God reveals to the prophet of God His Word and the prophet records it. An apostle of Christ under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit records his testimonies and writes letters(epistles). They are sovereignly the exact communication that God wants to be in the canon of scripture...but that doesn't mean their can't be logical imperfections that we can identify.

It is why prayer is sine qua non for our protection from deception.
The Holy Spirit of God opens our eyes up to the Truth of the Word of God by His grace.

Praying for protection is logical.

Breckmin said...

"They are sovereignly the exact communication that God wants to be in the canon of scripture."

This is an imperfect statement, btw. Why? Because I over defined
with "exact communication" and the
English word "wants."

It would have been better to say "They are sovereignly the writings of the apostles and prophets that God allowed/together-
acted-with/infinitely decreed to be
the canons of scripture."

The irony is that I just over-defined again.

Breckmin said...

"Also, im confused why you would say that the Genesis account was not perfect if you are a christian who believes that the bible is the infallible, inspired word of God? (Assuming you are)."

The science of textual criticism allows us to logically identify the errors. They are minor and have very LITTLE to do with theology.

There is nothing I can think of that I somehow "disagree with" in the bible..rather I would explain it (rather than explaining it away...what is the difference?). Christianity is logical and philosophically consistent once you learn certain cosmological principles.

shane said...

Breckmin.

Firstly, neither you or i was around in Moses time to know if he had any part in writting the Pentateuch so you cant say you know.
But from what i have read on the subject, there is money mentioned in the Pentateuch which was not coined in Moses time, and there are cities mentioned which were not around in Moses time.
Also, the end of Deuteronomy shows it was not written by Moses, so what reason do we have to believe that Moses had any part in the rest of its authorship?
It is only by tradition that Moses is said to be the author, nobody really knows, but the evidence would seem he did not.

Second, we dont need a heavenly or perfect language to explain true and logical events.
We just need the uncontradictory truth.

third, You talked about the simplicity and trust which is the end result to truth, and there are too many inexactisms in scripture to get consumed!
My question then- why the bible?......Why would an omniscient God choose to spread the information we need for the salvation of our souls through such an inexact book?.....Why do we even need the bible if it is the holy spirit who convicts and leads us to the truth?

Especially since the bible took almost 1500 years to even reach North America, and millions have died before the gospel reached them

Tristan D. Vick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tristan D. Vick said...

@P.Coyle

You infer the snake might have had legs?

I infer that, and also, that the snake also had wings, a rocket pack, an eye-patch, and telepathy.

I mean, we can infer almost anything we want to.

The bottom line is, the snake in evolutionary terms (at least at the time the story would have been passed down orally), already slithered on its belly.

So punishing a creature which already slithered on its belly to spend the rest of its days crawling on its belly is not a punishment--it's a redundancy. A sign of oral story telling myth, probably told around a camp fire.

So basically the snake gets off scott free since his punishment is literally to keep doing what he's already been doing his whole slithering existence.

Tristan D. Vick said...

Also I don't see the myth as trying to explain why the snake doesn't have legs. Lots of things don't have legs. Snails don't have legs. Slugs don't have legs. Earth worms don't have legs.

Crabs, centipedes, and octopuses have too many legs.

I mean, the idea is that God was a Creator and made the animals that way to begin with. Only the talking snake gets punished.

So I agree with Lenoxus 'Prometheus' argument, but I think it goes beyond that if you consider that Yahweh defeated the serpent, making it his pet, and keeping it in the mystical garden to protect it--just as the serpent is viewed in many cultures to be the guardian of truth, wisdom, and knowledge. Norse, Greek, Hindu, and even Buddhist traditions have guardian snakes all related to trees of knowledge or else directly tied to the chief deities.

However, I think the Garden of Eden myth is a watered down version of a likely much more potent earlier form of the myth, when Judaism was still a polytheistic faith.

As for serpent myths, Wikipedia lists the readily known ones:

In many myths the chthonic serpent (sometimes a pair) lives in or is coiled around a Tree of Life situated in a divine garden. In the Genesis story of the Torah and Biblical Old Testament the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is situated in the Garden of Eden together with the tree of immortality.

In Greek mythology Ladon is coiled around the tree in the garden of the Hesperides protecting the entheogenic golden apples. Similarly Níðhöggr the dragon of Norse mythology gnaws the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree.

Under yet another Tree (the Bodhi tree of Enlightenment), the Buddha sat in ecstatic meditation. When a storm arose, the mighty serpent king Mucalinda rose up from his place beneath the earth and enveloped the Buddha in seven coils for seven days, not to break his ecstatic state.

shane said...

Triston.

So what your saying is that the Eden story is just one version of a very common and ancient concept?

P.Coyle said...

Tristan D. Vick writes,

You infer the snake might have had legs...? The bottom line is, the snake in evolutionary terms (at least at the time the story would have been passed down orally), already slithered on its belly. So punishing a creature which already slithered on its belly to spend the rest of its days crawling on its belly is not a punishment--it's a redundancy. A sign of oral story telling myth, probably told around a camp fire.

Your interpretation that the snake had legs all along actually doesn't make much sense. As you say, "punishing a creature which already slithered on its belly to spend the rest of its days crawling on its belly is not a punishment--it's a redundancy." The God of the opening chapters of Genesis appears to be a bit of a nitwit, but even he's not dumb enough to toss around redundant curses.

You might want to check out how R. Crumb depicts the serpent in his illustrated version of Genesis. You can see what he looks like here: http://www.joenolan.com/2009/09/hollow-can-you-go.html. It's about halfway down the page.

The blogger comments, "The most striking detail in Crumb's Genesis is his representation of the serpent in the garden as a scaly lizard man walking upright on two legs. I was taken aback by this until I remembered my own catholic upbringing in which we learned that the serpent doesn't crawl on its belly until God curses him to do so as punishment for interfering with eve and encouraging her to eat the fruit. Most Bibles don't say so explicitly, but the implication, one that is backed up by most theologians, is that the serpent walked like a man before he was cursed."

Lenoxus said...

All you have to do for the Eden story to make sense is add the sub-textual assumption, "There is nothing evil, in and of itself, about disobeying Elohim". (Also, "Elohim" is sometimes one and sometimes many gods.) Only later did Elohim become consistently singular and omnimax, thus leading to weirdness in the story's language and logic ("become like us").

Anyway, you know what would be pretty cool? If any person could pick up any copy of the Bible and read it in a wording that makes perfectly clear sense to them. Does that sound like too high standards, somehow? Does the idea make you cringe with its "fundamentalism"? Than you're going to have to stop insisting that God is all-powerful. As it is, there is nothing that distinguishes the Bible as any more the word of God than the Koran. My idea is just one of hundreds of hypotheticals (such as the book appearing in multiple ancient places simultaneously).


Samphire: Finished. Here they are: Do I get a prize?

Well, to be fair, it's a little more than that. We know that there certainly were Israelite tribes who worshiped the God the Tanakh so conflictingly describes, though none of the listed names (Abraham, Jacob, Moses) are certain historical figures. Also, most of the other nations the Bible mentions did/do exist, although they probably didn't endure as much mass death and suffering as the Bible loves telling us they did. Likewise, there was a Roman Judea and it was governed at one point by a Herod and a Pontius Pilate.

That's all I can think of, though. None of the major, well-known stories are known to also be true historical events, as far as I know; Jericho didn't even have walls to knock down in the first place.

(It's because of this that literalists love going crazy for any archeological evidence for any of it, such as the Flood or the Exodus. Even Jesus's possible historical existence is treated like a huge deal by many Christians, as though it lends the slightest bit of credulity to the mythical claims about him. (Ever heard of Uri Geller, for example? He definitely exists.) Even if there were a global flood, that wouldn't prove the Bible one bit — it would simply have been a historical event the Bible recorded. I could write a story right now about how 9/11 was caused by fairies, and if people in the distant future, having forgotten about our history, discover the records of the 9/11 attacks, that won't mean my version of the events is remotely believable.)

So, um, never mind; it's not a little more than that.

Lenoxus said...

Breckmin on UCD: (which has been build up by scientists using 10's of thousands of inductions open to error for the last 151 years or more).

This is a gem. Apparently, UCD is suspect because it is supported by so many inductions, which are here treated like links in a chain, only as strong as the weakest one. I wish I could be on trial by these standards. "People of the jury, one of the two hundred security cameras which caught the defendant committing the crime has turned out to be faulty. Clearly, reasonable doubt has been met and exceeded."

zenmite: Before the arrival of the Israelites, snake cults were well established in Canaan in the Bronze Age, for archaeologists have uncovered serpent cult objects in Bronze Age strata at several pre-Israelite cities in Canaan.

This passage from Numbers might be a holdover from that:

21:8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
21:9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

Ah, good ol'sympathetic magic. Even if it does violate the second commandment. Should have done the wood version instead!