Garden of the Gods

July 20, 2007 at 5:13 am 42 comments

From the Ghent altarpiece by Jan van Eyck And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, From the Ghent altarpiece by Jan van Eyckand brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. – Genesis 2:18-20 (NKJV)

I have always loved the creation stories in the Bible. They were probably among the first things that I read in Scripture, since I remember them from early childhood, and also they are in the front of the book! Christians have interpreted Genesis 2 and 3, the famous story of the Garden of Eden, to be the Fall of Man and the origin of Sin. Paul originates the Doctrine of Original Sin based on this story in Roman 5:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. – Roman 5:12-13 (NKJV)

Because the Doctrine of original sin is so crucial to Christianity, the Garden of Eden story as the literal portrayal of the Fall of Mankind is rarely challenged in conservative Christian circles. As I said, I have read the Garden of Eden story since childhood, and even as a boy I found several things that did not make sense:

  • God cursed the serpent to go on his belly. Did God make serpents with legs?
  • If it really was the Devil talking through the serpent, why did God curse the serpent and not the Devil?
  • Does the Devil crawl on his belly like the serpent?
  • Do serpents eat dust?
  • Why did God think animals would be good companions for Adam before he made women?
  • Does The Garden of Eden still exist, with cherubim and flaming swords and everything?

Some of these questions are silly and childish, but others are a little more profound for a youngster to catch. As I have gotten older, I have a few more questions that are perhaps more profound:

  • Our Christian traditions have equated the serpent with Satan. Yet, there is no mention of Satan or the Devil anywhere in this story. There is just the cunning serpent. Why should we assume the snake is Satan?
  • Genesis 3:15 is often cited as the first Messianic Prophecy. A portion of God’s curse to the serpent contains this phrase:

“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

  • Note how the NKJV capitalizes where it assumes a reference to Christ. It assumes this is the correct interpretation, placing the interpreters as inerrant writers of Scripture. But if this is a reference to Christ, it is so vague as to make little sense. Her Seed is assumed to be Christ. What does your seed refer to? The scribes and Pharisees (John 8:44)? When did Christ bruise the head of Satan? When did Satan bruise the heel of Christ? These are the vaguest of assumed prophecies that can mean absolutely anything the interpreter wishes, to meet whatever end desired. What do they really mean?
  • In the story, God tells Adam things that do not transpire, yet events turn out for Eve exactly as the snake predicted. The snake was telling the truth, God was not, or he was mistaken.

Genesis 3:22 confounded me for two reasons:Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—

  • Man was just cursed to die (For dust you are, and to dust you shall return). If they ate the fruit of he Tree of Life, would they have undone God’s curse and lived forever? God just said so. Was God powerless to affect the outcome of eating the fruit? Was God punishing mankind for disobedience, or did these trees have actual magical properties which God had no control over?
  • And lastly, when God said, “man has become like one of Us,” who was God talking to? Christians traditionally interpret this to mean communication between members of the Trinity. But how can we be sure this is the meaning without referring to our church creed? The concept of the Trinity is not even implied in this story. Invoking the Trinity is interpreting the Scriptures through the lens of a Church Creed in the attempt to keep them unified. We know the creed, and I think interpreting the Scriptures to force it into a creed is cheating. Is there any other meaning to this peculiar address of God?

After doing a lot of reading about the stories and myths of Genesis, I have become personally convinced that the evolution of ancient Judaism can be glimpsed as one progresses through the pages of the Old Testament. Part of that ancient tradition of Judaism, I am convinced, is a strong culture of polytheism that gradually becomes monotheistic with the worship of One God. Books like Margaret Barker’s The Great Angel – A Study of Israel’s Second God and more recently, David Penchansky’s Twilight of the Gods – Polytheism in the Hebrew Bible challenge at least 2500 years of monotheistic tradition on the Old Testament. I think they do so convincingly. The belief is growing among scholars that the Old Testament is filled with polytheism and monolatrism – if one just knows where to look.

Wait Wait!! Don’t click your browser window shut just yet. Let’s look at how this could apply to the Garden of Eden story. When following along in Genesis Chapter 2 and 3, remember that the Hebrew word YHVH is usually translated as LORD, and elohim translated as God. Thus, YHVH elohim comes out as LORD God in most Bibles. It is interesting to note that elohim is a plural form of the singular el, so it is literally gods. At least that is what most reference books will tell you, despite the Biblical translation of god singular. From here, I will just quote a few paragraphs of a portion of Penchansky’s interpretation of the Eden story out of his book. Why hack out a paraphrase, when he tells the story perfectly? I hope this is legal:

“In the Garden of Eden story, YHVH is called YHVH elohim. This phrase suggests a range of possible meanings. It might mean that YHVH is the leader of the band of elohim or else that YHVH is a god from the class of beings named elohim. This two-word title might also mean both of these things. In either case, the term elohim qualifies YHVH, indicating what category of being YHVH is.”

“YHVH places the two trees in the garden for the benefit of the elohim. I infer this because YHVH did not allow the humans to eat from them, and the trees impart qualities by which the gods are identified. Apparently, the elohim regularly consume the fruit provided by the two trees. YHVH intended neither for the humans. The tree of life imparted to the elohim eternal life or immortality. The other tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, imparted divine insight and gave the elohim their unique knowledge (see footnote). When humans eat the fruit from that tree, YHVH addresses his council with the problem: “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:22)

“The elohim therefore conspired to drive the humans out of the garden before they gained access to the tree of life. If, in addition to gaining divine knowledge they would live forever, then there would be nothing to distinguish the elohim from the humans. Such a prospect was unacceptable to YHVH elohim, there leader. As a result of human impudence, he drove the first couple from the garden and forced them to fend for themselves. Apparently, divine prerogatives must be preserved at all costs!”

“Two things about the elohim in the Garden of Eden story deserve our attention. First, when YHVH says, “See, the man has become like one of us,” the negative import of that line is powerful – the elohim are horrified at the prospect of sharing their realm with the humans. YHVH however, includes himself in the “us”. He is one of the elohim. Second, YHWH questions the elohim and consults with them about how to dispose of his creation. Therefore, they must have wisdom upon which YHVH depends.”

“I thus note the two chief characteristics that distinguish the elohim from other types of beings: divine life (immortality) and divine knowledge. The remainder of the human story following the expulsion from the garden might then be understood as an eternal, generation-by-generation quest to recover the tree of life, which is finally granted to the humans at the end of the age in both the Jewish and the Christian traditions.”

“footnote: Some have seen this tree as imparting moral knowledge, but more likely it indicates the scope of knowledge, the entirety of things that can be known. “From good to evil,” we might translate, as in English one might say “from A to Z”, or “from top to bottom”

I am convinced that this is at least closer to the original intent of the myth than the traditional Christian interpretation. It just makes more sense. The story flows better. In this light, the Tower of Babel story is very similar in theme – the gods feel threatened by humanity and must figure out a way to humble them. It ties together loose ends that I could never understand. For better or worse, here is what the polytheistic interpretation does to this long familiar Genesis story:

  • Let’s get this out of the way first: it destroys the idea that the ancient Hebrews have always been monotheistic.
  • I don’t think the Doctrine of Original Sin can be developed with the polytheistic interpretation of The Fall of Man. Mankind still disobeyed, but the image of God is radically altered.
  • The ambiguity of the purpose of Tree of Life that the traditional interpretation gives is removed. The polytheistic interpretation shows how the gods conspire to remove the Tree of Life from man, lest they become indistinguishable from gods, or reach godhood themselves. This also ties in nicely with the Tower of Babel story.
  • Much of the traditional Christian interpretation of Gen 3:17 is to include all disease, sickness, natural disasters, and all other human and animal suffering as part of this curse. However, this global view of suffering must be read into the text. The polytheistic interpretation limits the curse to be just what the text says it is, an explanation as to why man must work, till, labor, and remove thorns and thistles from the ground (cultivation) in order to live.
  • The curse of the woman (labor pains and submission to man) is left ambiguous. Were there to be no children in the Garden of Eden, or was the labor to be painless? Or is this just a general mythological story to explain the woman’s birthpains?
  • It removes the idea that the Serpent is a traditional Satan, devil, or some other form of evil; an idea that is never in the text anyway. Actually, it is still ambiguous as to who the Serpent is, or the meaning of the curse of Gen 3:15, and that is my one major complaint about this polytheistic interpretation. There is still no mention of the serpent. Is the serpent pictured as one of the elohim, conspiring to rid man from the Garden of the Gods? Who knows – that part of the story is never explained.
  • Most obviously, it explains who the LORD God (YHVH elohim) was talking to when referring to ‘us’ and ‘our’.

There are other implications to this interpretation, but I will leave it at this. From a strictly literary and mythological standpoint, this interpretation makes quite a bit of sense to me. It removes much of the ambiguity in our traditional Christian interpretation, as it may be closer to the original intent of the story.

Unfortunately, this is a big ticket item in Christianity. As a Christian, I knew that this story was necessary for Original Sin and the need for a Savior to be valid. Yet as a scientist, I knew that the beginning of humanity did not happen this way. Attempts at allegorizing this story to keep the theology and science both intact were futile to me. This is where I ended up. This makes the most sense to me.

What are your thoughts? Is it possible that ancient Judaism was polytheistic?

- HeIsSailing

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C.S. Lewis’ Trilemma – Liar, Lunatic or Divine? Ignorance is Bliss: The Origin of Languages?

42 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Guilty Secret  |  July 20, 2007 at 6:43 am

    Hi there,
    I was raised a Catholic but now consider myself an ‘absolute agnostic’ – I don’t just believe we cannot know whether there is a God, but I’m not sure we can truly know anything!
    I just stumbled across your blog and it seems really interesting. Have you seen the stand-up by Ricky Gervais on the creation stories? It’s very funny and you can find it on youtube.
    Thanks,
    GS

  • 2. Disbelief  |  July 20, 2007 at 7:52 am

    I would agree that that judaism started out very polytheistic. The jews had no problem with adopting gods of other nations when they lived in those areas. They also made images of gods all the time.
    I do find the reading from this book interesting and I too would agree that the implications are big, however the believers are going to go on believing as they always have and not much is going to change that. I think it is important that all freethinkers,atheist’s and agnositics realize this and stand up to these religious people that want to put their religion on us using our government and laws to do it.

  • 3. Brad  |  July 20, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Holy crap… so much to cover here. HIS, I love how you don’t just ask one challenging question, but bring up EVERY SINGLE ONE… lol.

    I haven’t taken Hebrew ye (this fall)t, but I’ll do what I can without it. I’ll try to pick out the bigger questions here…

    “Our Christian traditions have equated the serpent with Satan. Yet, there is no mention of Satan or the Devil anywhere in this story. There is just the cunning serpent. Why should we assume the snake is Satan?”
    – I think this distinction is made in Daniel (which I have admittedly not study at length) with Lucifer’s Fall from heaven. God “created the world, and it was good” (i.e. without sin), so the only explanation is that Lucifer was responsibe for bringing it into the world.

    “Invoking the Trinity is interpreting the Scriptures through the lens of a Church Creed in the attempt to keep them unified. We know the creed, and I think interpreting the Scriptures to force it into a creed is cheating. Is there any other meaning to this peculiar address of God?”
    – This is reinforced not by church creed, but by the plurality of “Elohim.” This is where the creeds draw their evidence from it. God also says “let us go down” to the tower of Babel and see what they have created. (more on this in a second)

    “Her Seed is assumed to be Christ. What does your seed refer to?”
    – The one who will destroy sin and remove the curse (the Messiah). Many interpreters actually read Genesis, and think that Eve thought Abel, and then Seth was going to be the one to do this and allow them to go back into the garden. This same word is used (I believe) when God makes a covenant with both Abraham and David. The one with David, in particular, is much clearer in referring to a coming messiah .

    “When did Christ bruise the head of Satan?” – The resurrection.

    “When did Satan bruise the heel of Christ?” – The crucifiction.
    Both of these utilize prophetic language, and i is widely agreed that they are to be interpreted symbolically.

    OK, now the huge issue of polytheism:
    1.) YHWH literally means “I am,” and is often translated “I am, who I am” (singular). Thus, “YWHW elohim” is literally translated “I am God.” This is why it is translated (in light of the co-text) in Exodus “I am The Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt…” etc.

    2.) The Hebrew tradition was OVERWHELMINGLY monotheistic. Their surrounding cultures were very polytheistic, yet throughout their oral tradition, their complete rejection of all idols (as if to make double sure they didn’t even come close to worshipping something else), scripture, and their entire culture, there is a strong monotheistic tradition. In the OT, when their God is referred to by other peoples, they still use “elohim,” but the definite article and other words are in SINGULAR agreement. The english equivalent would be to say, “Your God(s) is a good God(s) and he blesses you.” Does that make sense?

    3.) Trinitarian doctrine was derived from evidence such as this, but also with many other references in the OT and NT. It wasn’t so ambiguous or whimsical as it can appear. This is why it drives me nuts when denominations do not teach or preach OT, or they derive their individual church doctrine first and foremost from confessions or books of church order (one of our sister denominations just did this at their General Assembly and I wanted to choke them).

    That’s enough for now, and I’m sure it is plenty to respond to! These questions and inconsistencies are very good ones, and ones that indeed need to be explained in more detail. I wish I could speak more to it.

  • 4. Brad  |  July 20, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Also, with point #2, Elohim is also used with singular language (“He is our God(s) who loves us.” He, is, has, etc.). I hope I’m explaining this well….

  • 5. Heather  |  July 20, 2007 at 9:51 am

    Our Christian traditions have equated the serpent with Satan. Yet, there is no mention of Satan or the Devil anywhere in this story. There is just the cunning serpent. Why should we assume the snake is Satan?

    I think much of this has to do with Revelations using ‘that great serpent of old.’

    The problem for me comes from the OT itself. I don’t believe that Judaism associates the serpet with Satan — in fact, I think their idea of Satan is a lot different than Christianity’s, based on Job and such.

    God punishes the snake, and says it’s more accursed than all the cattle. Why punish serpents for something that Satan did? The serpent is also called more subtle than all the creatures that God made. Everything in this story points to the serpent being an animal (does it ever say that the serpent is the only creature gifted with speech?) Even more so when one considers how the idea of Satan evolved throughout the Bible. As the story stands, and even as the OT stands, I don’t think we can say the serpent was Satan. If there wasn’t the NT, we wouldn’t. If the serpent was in fact Satan, shouldn’t that be clearly stated in the Genesis story itself? Or at least be in the Judaic tradition?

    And lastly, when God said, “man has become like one of Us,” who was God talking to?

    Scholars (no, not all) hold to the royal ‘we’ or that God was addressing the heavenly courts, and it could also be a carry over from the polytheistic beliefs, or demonstrating the early polytheism.

    In matters of the polytheism — there are scholars out there who do hold that we can see in the BIble traces of polytheistic belief, that eventually becomes monotheistic. I haven’t read much on this, but part of this comes from having “no other gods before me” and such. I think it was somewhere around Isaiah when it was stated that the other gods simply didn’t exist?

  • 6. Brendan  |  July 20, 2007 at 10:26 am

    The serpent is the hero of the story and the villain. It is because of the serpent that Adam and Eve acquire self-awareness (knowledge of good and evil) by which they fragment the world into dualities. It is only by this means that they could recognize themselves as separate from God/The Garden. But, of course, parting is such sweet sorrow, as they are no longer one with God/The Garden because this knowledge of self requires them to know death, judge themselves and creation, and call forth blame thereby bringing condemnation into the perfect harmony of the Garden – now interrupted by these self-conscious creatures who have the all powerful logos at their disposal (“I am”).

    Thus, the serpent is Prometheus-type archetype. The serpent brings us the spark of life, fragmentation, judgment, knowledge of things, (duality) that makes a “relationship” with “God” possible, but that very spark is what separates us from “God” and for that he is punished. And here we are, each of us both God and Man, one in substance with God, but separated in form.

  • 7. HeIsSailing  |  July 20, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    I don’t have much time to fully reply, but here goes:

    Brad sez:

    - I think this distinction is made in Daniel (which I have admittedly not study at length) with Lucifer’s Fall from heaven. God “created the world, and it was good” (i.e. without sin), so the only explanation is that Lucifer was responsibe for bringing it into the world.

    Whoa Brad – this is the topic for another huge article! I think you are referring to Isaiah 14 here. Without getting into this too deeply and totally derailing the subject, let me just give you some quick teasers for the heresies that that future article will contain: I claimed in this article that portions of the Old Testament are loaded with polytheism if one just knows where to look. Try looking in Isaiah 14. ‘Lucifer’ as I am sure you know, is a Greek word. What is a Greek word doing in the Old Testament prophets? Why did the translators leave it in Greek from the Septuagint, while transliterating most every other proper noun back into Hebrew?

    Hhmmmmm……

    Brad:

    “When did Christ bruise the head of Satan?” – The resurrection. “When did Satan bruise the heel of Christ?” – The crucifiction.

    Brad, I know that this is taken symbolically, but it seems to me that equating bruising the head of Satan with rising from the dead is a stretch. If Jesus would have instead simply declared Satan to be defeated while on the Mount of Transfiguration, this verse would apply. When Jesus came to the Americas to preach to the Nephites, as Joseph Smith thinks, this verse would apply. It seems too easy to fit anything one wishes into it to fit any doctrinal creed one desires.

    If the story is mythology, I want to look deeper into the story to pull out what cultural artifacts that we can from it. Which brings this up:

    “Her Seed is assumed to be Christ. What does your seed refer to? ” The one who will destroy sin and remove the curse (the Messiah).

    Brad, I think you misunderstood the question posed in the article. Elohim is referring to the seed of the serpent here, not the woman. That just makes the story as interpreted into Christian theology to be more troublesome for me.

    I gotta get going – more later.

  • 8. karen  |  July 20, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    I’ve heard the polytheistic argument and it makes all kinds of sense to me, too. I had the same experience of “shrugging off” problems with the text when I was a Christian and then realizing there’s a much simpler explanation right there if I were to look at it objectively (rather than through the heavy filter of “proper interpretation”).

    I think the Occam’s Razor concept applies here.

    HIS:
    As a Christian, I knew that this story was necessary for Original Sin and the need for a Savior to be valid. Yet as a scientist, I knew that the beginning of humanity did not happen this way. Attempts at allegorizing this story to keep the theology and science both intact were futile to me.

    What kinds of attempts did you make, HIS, and how much did that reality of how life originated bother you in terms of trying to reconcile it with the Bible story? Did most of the others in your church believe Genesis to be literal truth?

  • 9. HeIsSailing  |  July 20, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Brad sez:

    YHWH literally means “I am,” and is often translated “I am, who I am” (singular).

    Maybe Joseph Blogs can chime in here, since I don’t know Hebrew. But the truth is, nobody really knows exactly what YHVH is translated into, but from what I understand, “I am” is almost definitely not correct. The pronunciation and vowel usage have been lost to antiquity since this word was never to be pronounced. Even the great pronouncement of God to Moses in Exodua 3:14, which goes “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” does not contain YHVH. “I am” is the Hebrew word ‘hayah’. “I am that I am” is just the same word repeated. So the exact meaning of YHVH is just not that clear. It could mean simply, “I exist” or as Karen Armstrong paraphrases Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am” is just another way of saying “Mind your own business”.

    Brad:

    The Hebrew tradition was OVERWHELMINGLY monotheistic.

    Yes, at least for the last 2500 years. Before then though? I think the oldest writings of the Old Testament present a real struggle of competing theologies. There are polytheistic ideas in there, that are re-interpreted in different ways to fit monotheism, which eventually won the day. Here are a couple of quick examples:

    Psalm 82, where Elohim judges the gods (again, Elohim) for not judging the nations wisely. The great proclamation is verse 6: “I said, “You are gods (elohim), And all of you are sons of the Most High (elyon).

    The song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:7ff describes ‘Elyon”, or God the Most High divides the nations back in the days of old. He divides the nations, and gives Israel to YHVH as his allotted portion. Which brings us to…

    In the OT, when their God is referred to by other peoples, they still use “elohim,” but the definite article and other words are in SINGULAR agreement.

    You are right about this. This is a kind of polytheism called monolatrism, that I think was practiced (again see Deut 32:7ff) and described blatantly in the Old Testament. Monolatrism is admitting that there are many gods, but only worshipping one, leaving the rest for the other nations or people. That is all over the old testament. It is even in the 10 commandments.

    the definite article and other words are in SINGULAR agreement. The english equivalent would be to say, “Your God(s) is a good God(s) and he blesses you.” Does that make sense?

    Again, you are correct. The definite articles do switch from singular to plural and back again.

    Trinitarian doctrine was derived from evidence such as this, but also with many other references in the OT and NT. It wasn’t so ambiguous or whimsical as it can appear.

    Brad, click on Heather’s name and check out her latest article on the Trinity. That woman knows how to dissect a topic! I have yet to comment on it because there is so much there, but you might enjoy it also. She also makes a comment that the ‘our’ statements and plurality of ‘elohim’ could be royal address. I have not considered that, but that is plausible also.

  • 10. Heather  |  July 20, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    HIS,

    “I am that I am” is just the same word repeated. So the exact meaning of YHVH is just not that clear. It could mean simply, “I exist” or as Karen Armstrong paraphrases Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am” is just another way of saying “Mind your own business”.

    I think this can also be translated as “I will be who I will be.” Or, as you also say, “Never you mind who I am” which is another way of saying “MInd your own business.”

    She also makes a comment that the ‘our’ statements and plurality of ‘elohim’ could be royal address. I have not considered that, but that is plausible also.

    I pulled this knowledge from a site called Outreach Judaism, which was started in reaction to Messianic Jews. So no one would argue that it’s the most non-biased site. But from what I’ve seen elsewhere, other scholars point to that or to the polytheistic roots. Only Trinitarian conservative Christians hold to the “us” in Genesis as proof of the Trinity.

    That woman knows how to dissect a topic! I have yet to comment on it because there is so much there,

    Why, thank you. :) The sad part is that I could’ve just kept going. Oddly enough, I’m quiet in real life.

    In the story, God tells Adam things that do not transpire, yet events turn out for Eve exactly as the snake predicted. The snake was telling the truth, God was not, or he was mistaken.

    I also wanted to comment on this — after reading the Garden of Eden story a few times, I had the same reaction. They did become as gods, and they didn’t ‘surely die.’ The spiritual death argument here never worked for me, because you can’t die spiritually, according to Christian theology. You can die physically, but once the body passes, the soul is either in heaven/hell for eternity.

    Plus, if the tree of life was the only thing that allowed them to live forever, then they were already dying before eating from the tree of knowledge.

  • 11. HeIsSailing  |  July 20, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    What kinds of attempts did you make, HIS, and how much did that reality of how life originated bother you in terms of trying to reconcile it with the Bible story? Did most of the others in your church believe Genesis to be literal truth?

    Oh gosh, there is another Huge Article that I need to get cracking on!! I wrote a bit about it in an earlier article, “When a scientist interprets scripture” if you want to check that out.

    With respect to the story in Genesis though, I knew enough about Evolution that a literal interpretation of a single man and woman being created from the earth by God could not be true. My field is astrophysics, so luckily we are not talking about Genesis 1 here – that chapter is just a nightmare to reconcile to our scientific understanding.

    Anyway, I felt I HAD to take the Adam and Eve story as literally as I possibly could because without the Original Sin doctrine, the need for the atonement of Jesus Christ just crumbles. I could see no way around that. Yet we also know that archeology alone reveals cultures much older than the Eden story. There is evidence that homo sapiens has been around for .. what 300k years? Then a progression of homonids going back further than that.

    I would ask myself what to do about these ancient people. How was sin transmitted if humanity was much older than the literal reading of Scripture said? So I tried allegorizing Scripture – reading stuff into the text to make it fit what I needed it to fit. I tried to make Evolution and Creation work hand-in-hand. But I just could not do it and keep all the Christian doctrines intact with scientific understanding.

    Calvary Chapel, the church I formally attended, taught a literal interpretation of Genesis 3, but allowed give and take on the young earth. My more recent churches never ever discussed these kinds of issues, but the folks in my home bible study certainly took it literally.

  • 12. HeIsSailing  |  July 20, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Heather sez:

    Plus, if the tree of life was the only thing that allowed them to live forever, then they were already dying before eating from the tree of knowledge.

    Yeah, the fact that the snake actually told the truth while YHVH is either lying or is mistaken is pretty clear when reading the story. The part of this story that bothered me the most as a Christian was the effect the fruit had on Adam and Eve, and how it seemed to beyond the control of YHVH. It just seemed inexplicable to me how the actions of almighty God were directed by the power of a seemingly magical tree. YHVH is depicted as banning the people from the Garden for fear that they would eat of the Tree of Life. Why was YHVH so afraid? I just love how Gen 3:23 is written:

    “Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—

    YHVH does not even finish the sentence, as if the implications of eating the fruit are just to awful for him to consider. He just goes on to ban them from the garden:

    “therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.”

    This is written such that the fruit has magical properties that are beyond the control of even YHVH. Fascinating – and the implication is that since Adam and Eve had the knowledge of the gods after eating from one tree, YHVH chases them out before they can eat of the other tree which will allow them to live forever. YHVH wants no competitors – again this very same theme is found in the Tower of Babel story, which also, oddly enough addresses God as ‘Us’. It is almost like they came from the same root story or tradition.

  • 13. Heather  |  July 20, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    HIS,

    It just seemed inexplicable to me how the actions of almighty God were directed by the power of a seemingly magical tree.

    Exactly. And apparently, one can only live forever through eating a piece of fruit.

    It’s also equating “knowledge” as a bad thing, and possibly even sin? Except not even sin is mentioned in this story. Nowhere does God say, “Now you are a sinner and have to leave.” No where in the story itself does it flatly say: “This is the birth of sin.” Even that is something that is inferred from this story.

    The knowing that they are naked is also interesting: why does the knowledge of evil making them ashamed of that fact? I’m not even sure that we can say the disobedience is what caused that or even made being naked a bad thing because eating the fruit opened their eyes, and the fruit contained that knowledge. That, and God asked who told them they were naked.

    YHVH does not even finish the sentence, as if the implications of eating the fruit are just to awful for him to consider. He just goes on to ban them from the garden

    I’m glad you mentioned the competion, because that’s exactly how it comes across. God here seems scared of them. And what would happen if they lived forever with the knowledge of good and evil?

    The other interesting part is the fact that God makes tunics of skins for Adam/Eve. Where did God get the tunics? Wouldn’t that require killing an animal? If so, it’s interesting that the first death is at the hand of God. (And I guess this means that God also drove out all the animals from the Garden?)

    Really, questions just abound with this story.

  • 14. Steelman  |  July 20, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    What a serendipitous post! I’m in the process of reading a diverse collection of creation stories to my 6yr old from Virginia Hamilton’s “In The Beginning”, and the Genesis story is next.

    Although I’ve recognized the monolatry of the early Hebrews in the Bible (the military forces of the Hebrew god pitted against those of other foreign gods), and read of the possibility of their early polytheism (Jehova and Yaweh), I never really looked at Genesis from the polytheistic perspective. On this view, the Genesis creation story seems quite similar to a number of others from different cultures.

    I’ve been wondering about the doctrine of Original Sin. How is it that God is justified in punishing Adam and Eve, not to mention all future human beings, for their wrong doing? Neither one of them was created with the knowledge of good nor evil, so, regardless of what God commanded them not to do, they couldn’t possibly have known that breaking the rules was wrong; they were incapable of telling right from wrong prior to eating the forbidden fruit. You might be able to make a case for an enlightened Eve knowing better, but I would counter that she encouraged Adam to eat in the confused state of her own earth shattering disillusionment (she hadn’t immediately dropped dead).

    Also, God doesn’t seem very omniscient in the Garden. In fact, he was downright absentminded; he had apparently forgotten that he’d earlier created a talking serpent with a propensity for mischief (reminiscent of a trickster god, like Loki of the Norse pantheon). Further, having created human beings, he would certainly have known what would happen when he put an attractive nuisance in the midst of innocents.

  • 15. Mehdi  |  July 20, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    GOD is just a dreams

  • 16. Brad  |  July 21, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Man… I have to say that I very much disagree here, and rather than commenting point-by-point, I think I am going to have to wait until I get a little hebrew under my belt and come back with a full counter-post. As HIS mentioned before, there is a lot more here than what one post (or one discussion) can hold. Entire books are written on this subject.

    Aaaaaaaaaand… Jesus Rocks.

    I’m done.

    Happy debating though!

  • 17. HeIsSailing  |  July 21, 2007 at 11:34 am

    I understand Brad. I brought up some seriously paradigm shifting ideas in this article. As I said earlier, the Adam and Eve story is a big ticket item in Christianity because of the Doctrine of Original Sin that it introduces. The whole atonement of Jesus Christ rests on that assumption. If it was not for that, I think most Christians would have forgotten about this story long ago, much like the hero Balaam has been pretty much assigned to the dustbin. But as it is, most Christians would not touch this story with a 10 foot pole.

    I am not much for debate, Brad. I just type some things that I have learned from the perspective of an ex-Christian. I typed this article, because even if I have the interpretation wrong, I still hoped to show that there is something seriously wrong with the standard Christian interpretation. I also wanted to show doubting or questioning Christians out there that there are many other ways to look at passages of Scripture that make sense, and the fallacy of interpreting Scripture to fit into a pre-conceived Church Creed. I hope someone out there in cyberspace will find these alternate views of Scripture useful.

  • 18. DEBRA DEW  |  July 21, 2007 at 11:43 am

    http://www.theseason.org read gen. 1 thru 6 answers all your questions god bless you

  • 19. HeIsSailing  |  July 21, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Steelman sez:

    I’ve been wondering about the doctrine of Original Sin. How is it that God is justified in punishing Adam and Eve, not to mention all future human beings, for their wrong doing?

    Well, we have all heard Paul’s opinion on that.

    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. – Roman 5:12-13

    and this:
    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Rom 6:23

    But whoever wrote Deuteronomy never heard of original sin.

    “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. – Deut 24:16

    Is Paul contradicting “Moses”? I dunno, sure looks like it to me.

  • 20. Heather  |  July 21, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    HIS,

    As I said earlier, the Adam and Eve story is a big ticket item in Christianity because of the Doctrine of Original Sin that it introduces. The whole atonement of Jesus Christ rests on that assumption.

    I’m not sure I agree with this phrasing, though. The story itself doesn’t introduce the concept, and this is seen in Judaism. Paul introduces the concept through his interpretation of the story, and from that, Augustine and how he interpreted Paul’s letters in terms of the Original Sin doctrine.

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Rom 6:23

    Here’s a fun fact about this quote, though — wouldn’t it go directly against the concept of an eternal hell? The opposites here are death/life. Sin pays out death, but God can give eternal life. Sin seems to lead to a permanent eradication, unless God gives eternal life. So unless God gives that life, how could anything of a person survive after death?

  • 21. HeIsSailing  |  July 21, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Heather hints:

    I’m not sure I agree with this phrasing, though.

    Egads! My biggest pet-peeve is interpreting Scripture to fit a church creed, and what do I go and do?? Heresy I say!!

    Old habits die hard. Maybe a better way to say that is,
    “As I said earlier, the Adam and Eve story is a big ticket item in Christianity because the Doctrine of Original Sin needs the story for a basis.”

  • 22. tribalchurch  |  July 21, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    HIS,

    Wonderful post. I love the creation story too.

    Our church has an interfaith study on Genesis with the synagogue, and when we explained to them the doctrine of original sin, they thought it was very strange. Evidently, in the Jewish tradition, this is a story about two people. Period.

    I would like to see Christianity shed the doctrine of original sin, or in my tradition, “total depravity.” I mean, I would never tell my child that she’s “totally depraved!” Would God want any less for us?

  • 23. tribalchurch  |  July 21, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Oh, I forgot to mention that there’s also a creation account in Proverbs 8. Have you read that one? Some feminist theologians have made a lot out of this, saying that wisdom is divine.

    I do know the Hebrew, and it doesn’t clear it up much!

  • 24. HeIsSailing  |  July 21, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    TribalChurch asks:
    Oh, I forgot to mention that there’s also a creation account in Proverbs 8. Have you read that one? Some feminist theologians have made a lot out of this, saying that wisdom is divine.

    Yes, Penchansky whom I cited in this article has a whole chapter devoted to ‘Hokmah’ as a female bringer of wisdom, and is present all through Proverbs. He also suggests that Hokmah may have been a contemporary idea as Sophia, or Greek Wisdom. Wisdom, or Hokmah is given human attributes in Proverbs 8 –

    I must confess though that Penchansky’s arguments are not as convincing to me reagrding Proverbs 8 and Hokmah. Is Wisdom a personality named Hokmah, who can give council to humanity? Or is poetic liscence given here, much in the same way that Love can hurt, Knowledge brings wisdom and .. .. Ignorance brings bliss?

    I lean toward the later, but truth be told I don’t know, but I think it is plausible either way.

  • 25. tribalchurch  |  July 21, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    I think of it as poetic too.

    But I like the poetry.

  • 26. Ignorance is Bliss « de-conversion  |  July 21, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    [...] 2007 Yesterday, I wrote an article which offered a radically different interpretation of the Adam and Eve story. I do love the stories of Genesis. They are obviously of timeless quality and influence. I was [...]

  • 27. Heather  |  July 21, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    HIS,

    As I said earlier, the Adam and Eve story is a big ticket item in Christianity because the Doctrine of Original Sin needs the story for a basis.”

    If it helps, I knew that you weren’t interpreting the story to fit a church creed, and that you meant how you re-phrased it above. :) I’ve just learned in my recent convos that the clarity in what I think I’ve said isn’t always apparent to those who read what I said, because they aren’t in my head.

    Tribalchurch,

    mean, I would never tell my child that she’s “totally depraved!” Would God want any less for us?

    Well stated. I tend to see it as humans can be immature, capable of good and bad actions. As we learn and experience more, we hopefully develop more maturity and learn from the bad mistakes to be better people. Much of the NT focuses on the concept of growth.

  • 28. Brad  |  July 22, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Man… I have to say one more thing though… HIS, I really feel like you are making a lot of very modern assumptions here. For example:

    “Is Paul contradicting “Moses”? I dunno, sure looks like it to me.”

    Where is your historical context for this? Where is your consideration of Paul’s background as a Pharisee who claimed to be totally righteous? There is NO WAY he contradicted Moses. The only reason this appears to be so in light of what you are talking about, is because you are reading the text through your own modern context and not the context or co-text in which it is situated (For the record: I am not saying it is even possible to do an objective reading, but some efforts must be made to understand the subjectivity in which it was written instead of the subjectivity in which we are reading it).

    Paul is actually talking about how the Law pointed out our sin, and imputed us with it. Basically, it’s like saying, sin was in the world, but it wasn’t REALLY un the world until the Law.

    Also, Heather,
    “Here’s a fun fact about this quote, though — wouldn’t it go directly against the concept of an eternal hell?”

    Not at all! The comparison that Paul is drawing in preceding and following chapters is that any life apart from God (Hell) is no life indeed. He is paraphrasing Genesis when God told Adam and Eve that they would surely die if they ate the fruit (which did happen, just not immediately).

    If we read scripture and do not take into consideration context (author, audience, agenda) and co-text (body of text it was drawn from), of COURSE it is going to look foolish and ignorant! How could it not?

    HIS:
    “I also wanted to show doubting or questioning Christians out there that there are many other ways to look at passages of Scripture that make sense, and the fallacy of interpreting Scripture to fit into a pre-conceived Church Creed.”

    HIS, my honest question to you, and I mean NO disrespect, is how much of this interpretation and writing is an attempt to fulfill your own agenda? You accuse others of interpreting scripture to fit into a pre-conceived church creed, yet whether intentionally or not (I’m very willing to give you the benefit of the doubt), you are interpreting it to fit your pre-conceived proof of fallacy. This is the difference between “eisegesis” and “exegesis.” How can you hope to glean the true meaning from scripture, when you do not consider, or you skim over, the historical context? What better or more effective way would there be to prove it a fallacy, than to do so within the full context of which the bible was written?

    I’m not saying I have all the right answers, or even most of them. But easily 75% of your original questions would be answered through basic exegesis and not beginning with our perspective. The other 25% are awesome, solid questions that may or may not have answers. I love debating with you guys, and it has been a blast. I mean no disrespect, and hope I am not coming off as such.

  • 29. HeIsSailing  |  July 22, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Brad, I don’t have all the answers either. But there *are* other legitimate readings of Scripture that I feel make much more sense than our traditional Christian interpretations. Insisting upon Scriptural inerrancy though is the same as strangling it. It never even claims inerrancy for itself. Scripture never even defines what Scripture is supposed to consist of. Yet I feel we have hijacked the Scriptures and turned them into something they were never intended to be.

    When the mosaic law says this:
    “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. – Deut 24:16

    And Paul says this:
    “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned – Romans 5:12

    When I read Deuteronomy, I jump to the conclusion that people will not be held accountable for the sins of their fathers. Because that is what it says. What is it about the historical or cultural context that makes it mean something other than what it says? There is no literary context here – this verse just stands on its own as a decree from God, much like the 10 commandments. And in this case, I think this is a fair and just law.

    If you can tell me how any historical or cultural context makes this mean something other than what it says, that would be great. Because it seems to me that when Paul claims we are all dead because of Adam, (Rom 5:12, 1 Cor 15:22), yet God says we are not to be held responsible for the sins of our fathers, I just assume they mean what they say. And I see two competing ideas about justice for sin. The Deuteronomy passage just negates any idea of original sin as far as I can see.

    Brad asks:

    Where is your consideration of Paul’s background as a Pharisee who claimed to be totally righteous?

    I am certain Paul knew the Torah far better than you or I ever could. But he was not infallible either. How do you think Paul would have interpreted Deut 24:16 after writing Romans 5, and considering historical context?

    Brad sez:

    He is paraphrasing Genesis when God told Adam and Eve that they would surely die if they ate the fruit (which did happen, just not immediately).

    This is the approach that Answers In Genesis takes – that death was introduced into the world, just as YHVH said – only Adam died 950 years later. This does not make sense to me because this implies that God originally created Adam to be physically immortal. Why then was God worried about Adam eating from the Tree of Life if Adam was immortal to begin with? Again, read Gen 3:23 – “Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— He won’t even consider the implications of man living forever! I can’t see how this can be reconciled if Adam was supposed to live forever in the first place. There are two other reasons – but I’ll just say that one to keep this reply short.

    If we read scripture and do not take into consideration context (author, audience, agenda) and co-text (body of text it was drawn from) –

    I do my best to do each of these. I quote long passages of scripture on this site (much to the chagrin of aA, I sometimes think), to keep the context intact. The deuteronomy passage stands alone, as many of the mosaic laws do. After considering the authors, audiences and agendas from these passages as best as I know how, these are the conclusions that have drawn. Again, I don’t know that I am right, but I at least want to show that there are legitimate alternatives.

    I’ll answer your other questions in a bit.

  • 30. HeIsSailing  |  July 22, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Brad asks:

    HIS, my honest question to you, and I mean NO disrespect, is how much of this interpretation and writing is an attempt to fulfill your own agenda? You accuse others of interpreting scripture to fit into a pre-conceived church creed, yet … you are interpreting it to fit your pre-conceived proof of fallacy.

    No, that is a fair question, and I sometimes ask myself what the heck I am doing here on this internet blog. I am not a computer geek by any means. I am a physicist who spends 75% of my time at work writing code, and the last thing I want to look at when I get home is a computer.

    So what is my agenda, and am I interpeting scripture to meet that agenda?

    You have asked questions on this one article alone that require their own separate articles, and this is one of them! But originally, I started an internet blog as a way to vent. I am 43 years old and have been a Christian for all that time until last year when I finally admitted that I did not believe anymore. Much of scripture, interpreted through the lens of my Fundamentalist background, no longer made any sense anymore. Much of my reading came through evangelical books too! The final straw was Warren’s ‘Purpose Driven Life’ which bastardizes Scripture so grossly that I had to look for myself to find more plausible interpretations of Scripture. I continued to attend church though, and I met with the pastors there several times. I continued my small group Bible studies in my home. I finally admitted to one the men from the Bible study, and in strictest confidence, what my serious doubts about Chistianity were. I watched him as he tried his best to contain his anger – I could not believe his reaction. It was like I personally insulted him. Anyway, I dissolved my Bible Study soon after that, but continued to attend church. But if I made one devout Christian react in such a way just by expressing serious doubt, how will the other folks in church react? So I never told anyone. Just my wife. I was a secret, but sincere doubter of Christianity.

    I felt alone like this. I started an internet blog because I had nobody to talk to who would understand. It is a hard thing to loose a belief that you have had for 40+ years. But I learned a lot, being on the internet. I found that there are some wacko crazy people, total idiots, and proselytizing boneheads who should be avoided at all costs. But I also found other highly intelligent Christians and believers who I could bounce ideas off of, and also many other doubting, or ex-Christians or people interesting in Christian religion who I could share experiences with. So many in fact, that I am left to wonder how many secret apostates there are sitting in the pews in church with me.

    I have left Christianity, but I am still searching – and that search may never end. I am at peace with that. So why am I still on the internet? Do I have an agenda? I suppose I do. I am on the internet, because I found a new hobby (I have to take a week off here and there, for I fear addiction), but more then that, I think I may have something to offer people who are looking for a possible alternate reading of Scripture. Something meaningful beyond Christianity. That there is hope without Christ. That there is no hell to fear after we die. That there are good, solid reasons not to believe that life is one long trial with God as judge and jury.

    I am not here to debate Christians, although sometimes I guess that is unavoidable. When debate does occur, I try not to let it drag on forever, because I am not interested in converting faithful Christians to my agenda. I AM interested in raising the same questions that I had as a doubting Christian; questions that many have never thought through fully, either because of fear of doubt, or smothering dogma. I AM interested in showing what I think is the fallacy of Biblical inerrancy – and what occurs when inerrancy is drawn to its logical conclusion.

    Brad asks:

    What better or more effective way would there be to prove it a fallacy, than to do so within the full context of which the bible was written?

    I am doing my best to do just that. If you can show where I have misinterpreted Scripture, show me where, and show me why. Show me what context I have been missing. That probably sounds sarcastic, but it is not – I have learned much from conservative scholars too (we have already discussed FF Bruce – there are several others I enjoy). So if you can show me where I am wrong do so – I welcome it.
    With that said, here is what I will not accept as exegesis: – interpreting the Bible as a monolithic whole. That is presuming that the entire Bible has one single, coherent message and theology and wholly inerrant before you have gotten past the first page. *Forcing* Deut 24:16 to fit with Rom 5:12, or any other competing passages of Scripture come hell or high water is not considering any historical or cultural context. Doing that is nothing but harmonization, which is not that tough – it just takes a fertile imagination. That is my preconception going into it, not a preconception where I must prove fallacy. Paul lived hundreds of years after whoever wrote Deut, and they wrote with different agendas, backgrounds, cultures and histories too. The Bible should be read as such, and I really do my best to interpret it with that lens. Scripture is now an intriguing and mysterious puzzle into lost cultures, yet it has shaped our Western World beyond measure. Reading it with a secular lens is one of the most fascinating things I have ever experienced – and being a physicist, that says a lot.

    Wow – long answer to a short question. But I hope that helps.

  • 31. Heather  |  July 22, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Brad,

    He is paraphrasing Genesis when God told Adam and Eve that they would surely die if they ate the fruit (which did happen, just not immediately).

    Herein lies the problem for me on this — if someone is told, “Don’t do this or you shall surely die,” the implication is that the death happens quickly. But it took 950 years. The other complication is that if the tree of life were what gave eternal life, then Adam/Eve were already dying way before ever eating it. And, as HIS says, the tree of life is involved in physical immortality alone. It had nothing to do with the spiritual status. Even in much of the early Old Testament: there was no concept of the afterlife as Christianity presents it today.

    Then, when that’s tied into “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (a paraphrase), even that is going along with the concept of physical immortality.

    Look, if the soul is in fact eternal, then the soul can’t die, because death means something stops. What dies is the physical shell — aka, the wages of sin is death. However, this is contrasted with God giving eternal life. But the eternal life clearly can’t relate to the physical shell, because even the most die-hard Christians lose that. So the “eternal life” is then used in connection with the soul.

    Except the ‘eternal life’ is still being contrasted with the wages of sin — so if eternal life is a spiritual matter, then the wages of sin has to be a spiritual death/end. At which point, this goes into the concept of an eternal hell. For the comparison to work, it has to be on equal footing, and deal with either physical or spiritual. Otherwise, it falls apart to me.

    The comparison that Paul is drawing in preceding and following chapters is that any life apart from God (Hell) is no life indeed.

    Even here — this comes across as saying that I can’t the text as it stands, or I can’t just read it to see what the authors are saying. Now, yes, the context of the historical period, and the author’s intent are important. But the phrase “eternal life” and in contrast, death, get used a lot in the Bible. ANd the way they are presented in aspects of Christianity is not straightforward. If Jesus comes to give eternal life, the conclusion woudl be that without Jesus, there’s just death. Except, no, there’s an eternal hell. But then that means eternal life, and death being the last enemy, and even saving from death suddenly don’t mean what they appear to mean, they mean something else. And that something else is determined by an outside perspective applied to the Bible. It’s like the second coming discussions we had earlier — I read it with Paul believing it would happen within his lifetime, and I see that as a straightforward concept.

    Now, I would be approached and told that those verses don’t mean what they seem to mean, they mean something else.

    And with the viewpoints that I hold — I have researched them, and I’m sure HIS has as well. There are those that support the second coming within Paul’s lifetime approach. There are others who don’t. There are those that don’t take the Bible as inerrant, and those who do. There are different atonement theories. There’s the New Perspective on Paul that’s going around, or those who say that Paul had distorted the Judaic concept of the law. Every single one has looked at the verses in context, has looked at the historical situation, has provided support for his/her position.

    I know you mean no disrespect, and I’m not trying to retaliate with this response. But much of Christian interpretation, or any interpretation in any religion, seems to come down to tradition. Some verses don’t mean what they come across as meaning, because they go against tradition. For something like this, if reaching a different conclusion, the person will be told that they are committing an eisegesis mistake. Why? Because it goes against traditional Christianty, never mind what the actual text says. At what point can we just tell someone the sentence means what it means?

    Even to take HIS questions on the Garden — do we take it from a Judaic perspective or a Christian one? Because we’ll reach a different conclusion depending on the perspective, and either perspective can be seen as eisegesis from the other.

  • 32. Heather  |  July 22, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Brad,

    Note, I am not saying I have all the answers. I’ll never have all the answers. ;) But sometimes matters such as these come down to choosing between what I see in a text based on evidence, and what others tell me the evidence should say.

  • [...] Garden of the Gods [...]

  • [...] is illustrated in some of the ways I’ve tried to defend a contextualized interpretation of Adam, Eve, and the Fall over at De-Conversion. Just last week, my Greek in exegesis professor was explaining that scripture [...]

  • 35. Yvonne  |  August 12, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    The Orthodox Church has recognised for the last 1500 years that the story of the Garden of Eden is a metaphor, a myth, an allegory. So, no conflict with science there!

    Re the question “was Judaism originally polytheistic?” – very likely – you may find Raphael Patai’s 1967 book “The Hebrew Goddess” interesting.

  • 36. Yvonne  |  August 12, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    @ comment 30 – taking the Bible completely literally is always going to lead to conflict. It’s a good idea to read holy texts from other traditions (the Tao Te Ching is the most succinct) together with a good commentary. That way you get to see what is universal across all the traditions and what is particular to Christianity.

    This article by Bishop Kallistos Ware on how to read the Bible is very interesting and addresses the question of historical context.

    http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/11/1/4.aspx

    I’d also recommend reading some Joseph Campbell, in particular Myth as Metaphor, Metaphor as Religion. One Campbell quote that I have always found helpful is that fixation on particular symbols (e.g. taking them literally) blocks access to the numinous / the Divine.

    The problem with fundamentalism is that by insistence on taking everything literally, it loses sight of the symbols and metaphors by which we can access the Divine, and actually blocks access to the Divine. Was the book of Revelations meant to be taken literally? I think not – it’s a set of coded symbols, probably intended for initiates. And makes no sense without some interpretation from the Tradition and an understanding of what the symbols mean.

  • [...] as I believe myself to be, I once believed God created humans 6,000 years ago and placed them in a garden where a talking snake, with legs, convinced Eve to disobey God. As a result, God cursed the snake [...]

  • 38. Ok! Ok! Maybe I never believed… « de-conversion  |  October 22, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    [...] example, there are certain concepts that I never recall preaching such as the rapture, hell, the Garden of Eden & curse of the woman, Noah’s flood & the origin of the rainbow, the Tower of Babel [...]

  • 39. bill  |  February 1, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Im not trying to be rude or anything, but I go to a baptist church I think that you need a kjv Bible. The nkjv takes out so many words and God anly made the one Bible and people making all the other bibles what they want them to say.

  • 40. Satan: The Greatest Bible Myth « de-conversion  |  April 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    [...] Biblical myths. HeIsSailing wrote on several myths of the Bible including the Leviathan, the creation story, the tower of Babel, and the origins of languages. I wrote an entry on the Exodus. However, I [...]

  • 41. virescentgirl  |  May 14, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Check out the story of Lilith in Judaic text – there she is the first woman… then eve. It also will help to understand why in one line of Genesis it says “created man and woman” then goes on to say that adam was created first then put to sleep to create woman. This latter tale is told after the line about created man and woman together.

    Just check it out. The Bible has to be looked at as a conglomeration of texts and stories – in order to understand what it is, you have to look seriously at where it came from and how it developed.

    Hope this helps.

  • 42. The myth of the virgin birth of Jesus « de-conversion  |  November 1, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    [...] Biblical myths. HeIsSailing wrote on several myths of the Bible including the Leviathan, the creation story, the tower of Babel, the origins of languages, and the Crucifixion story. I compiled an entry on [...]

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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