NEO-NEOCON over at her consistently excellent and astute blog posts;
In it she states, “It’s about choice; eating the apple symbolized the dawning of human consciousness”
Here’s my response. I must however, warn the reader that while it is unapologetically Christian in its bias, it is decidedly non-dogmatic in its assertions. No offense is intended but no apology is made for a sincere attempt at a deeper understanding. Nor am I asserting this to be ‘the truth’, merely and of necessity, a hypothesis.
I would agree that the eating of the apple symbolizes the dawning of awareness (consciousness) of right and wrong but…and this is important, without the complementary ability to always discern between the two. Resulting in the road to hell being paved with good intentions…
IMO, Genesis is an Allegory (noun: a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.) And like any good allegory, it can be interpreted, strictly by the clues it contains. IMO, that has yet to be done, as I am unaware of any logically consistent explanation for the profound questions that Genesis implies but that are not directly answered.
Those profoundly important but unanswered questions give rise to much of the disbelief regarding whether there actually is a God, at least as the Judeo/Christian tradition presents him.
Jesus reportedly said, “I and the Father are One”. He also reportedly said that, the best way to think of God is, as a “loving Father”. Now Jesus either knows what he’s talking about or is either lying or deluded. Operating on the circumstantial evidence (what he said, did and how he died), arguably he knew whereof he spoke.
Looking at the Genesis story while taking Jesus at his word, one must ask; how could a loving God , a loving parent… in placing the tree of knowledge in the garden, effectively leave the equivalent of a loaded gun with the safety off on the coffee table in the living room? While only taking the ‘precaution’ of a stern warning, with what amounts to innocent three-year olds?
An even more basic question is why would a loving God have created the serpent in the first place? And how can a loving God, a loving parent… allow the serpent in the Garden, in the second place?
And once those innocents have disobeyed, what kind of loving parent places all the blame on a very young child and then, banishes them from their home forever? Talk about ‘cruel and unusual punishment’! Could the punishment be any more disproportionate to the offense?
Given all of this, is it any wonder that Judeo/Christian dogma has centered upon a stern, law giving martinet of a God whose mercy can only be attained by essentially acquiescing to the divine demand that it’s HIS way or the highway?
These are the questions, contained within the Genesis story, that may have led to so many rejecting religion and the very existence of a God.
I maintain that all of these questions arise out of a flawed understanding of the Genesis allegory.
Here’s my interpretation of Genesis and the supporting rationale for that explanation. Note: Again, I’m not stating this to be the truth. I am suggesting this to be logically consistent with both Genesis, Jesus’ assertions as to the nature of God and is an ‘hypothesis’ that is internally consistent.
First; God creates the heavens and the physical universe. We’ve learned through scientific observation that the operative laws of this universe are dualistic, in that to have physical form, something is here but not there. Objects have physical definition.
Therefore, by the operative laws of the universe that he’s created, God’s presence in the physical universe has to simultaneously create his opposite.
Thus, the serpent is simply God’s shadow. It’s part of the residue of his presence. The old “for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction”.
I strongly suspect that this is why he only appears to Adam and Eve in the twilight hours, when the sun is below the horizon and its light throws no shadows. God, by his own ‘rules’ can’t completely eliminate the creation of his opposite (evil) but he can minimize it as much as possible. That’s why he unwillingly but unavoidably ‘creates’ the serpent and that’s why it appears in the garden, it’s simply an inescapable consequence of God manifesting in the physical universe.
As for the ‘loaded gun’ metaphor of the ‘fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil’…it’s in the garden because it has to be, as it’s necessary to God’s purpose in creating mankind. Remember, in Genesis it states that all things in the Garden that God purposely created were good. Yet he tells Adam and Eve that if they eat of the tree, they will surely die. At first glance that appears to be a contradiction but if God is in fact good, there must be a logical explanation and, IMO there is one.
Remember that God is dealing with the equivalent of very young children’s awareness, so he doesn’t offer a long explanation, he just says don’t do it. And just as you don’t hand a loaded gun to a three-year old, it’s perfectly OK, with proper instruction to hand it to a mature adult. Just so with the ‘apple’. Adam and Eve aren’t ready for the apple, aren’t ready for the knowledge. But at some point, since everything in the garden is good, mankind will be allowed to eat the apple because it will then be appropriate for them. Just as it’s inappropriate for children to have sex but perfectly appropriate for adults to “be fruitful and multiply”.
Now enters the serpent, God’s opposite and having ‘cunning’ (twisted reasoning) the serpent perceives an essential truth about Adam and Eve. Being the only two people, they must manifest fundamental aspects of God’s creation, specifically order (Adam) and the creative impulse (Eve). The serpent seduces Eve with the argument that “you will not surely die. It’s the same argument that the lottery uses to seduce billions. Sure the odds are astronomical that you’ll win but… you might win. And in Eve’s case, the reward is to ‘be as a God’. Which is about as great a prize as can be imagined.
In mathematics there are rational and irrational numbers. Adam represents rationality and order. Eve represents the ‘irrationality’ of creation. After all, who would have imagined that 1+1=3? But billions of couples have discovered, willingly or unwillingly, that it can and often does. Eve isn’t weak, she’s adventuresome and a risk taker. So was Columbus, BTW.
Another thing, call me a romantic but IMO Adam knows exactly what he’s doing when he eats the apple. He eats the apple because he knows Eve has already eaten it and his love for her won’t allow him to be separated from her. He eats it knowing the consequence.
OK so they’ve eaten the apple and then God gets really, really mad and kicks then out of their home…forever?
No, the answer is in Genesis 3:22
King James Bible translation of Genesis 3:22
“And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”
Setting aside, for the moment, the use of the plural in the passage above, God says, ‘oops now that they’ve eaten the apple, if we let them stay, they’ll also eat of the OTHER tree in the garden, the tree of IMMORTALITY’… and if Adan & Eve eat of that tree…what you have are immortal human beings with the ability to learn all that God knows but without the ability to discern right from wrong. Which by the way is exactly the case with the spoiled brats of whom the Greek and Roman ‘Gods’ consisted. Not a good thing… at all.
The serpent, God’s opposite has found exactly the key to disrupting God’s plan. The serpent “wants to see the world burn” because that’s his nature. So, what’s a loving Father to do? The kids can’t stay in the garden because if they do, all is lost. So they’ve got to go. God doesn’t drive Adam & Eve out of the garden in anger but in great sorrow, just as any loving Father would who understood that no other choice remained.
Which leads to the final big question in Genesis; original sin. How is that fair? Well first, we don’t live in a universe of fair, we live in a universe of consequence. Original sin my friends is, to use a good metaphor, the original virus. Using a computer metaphor is illuminating. A perfectly good computer that becomes infested with a malicious virus may easily become an expensive door stop. But here’s what is important to understand about a badly infested computer. A computer consists of hardware and software. It’s the software that the virus disrupts… NOT the hardware. A dead computer’s hardware may be non-operative but it is still perfect. It just can’t operate properly. Sound familiar? Our brains appear to be organic computers. Ones that our soul and spirit operate in the physical universe.
And logically, the original sin virus is transmitted through the father, which is why God uses what scientists call parthenogenesis (a form of a sexual reproduction in which growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization, thus no father) to allow Mary to give birth to Jesus without a human father. It’s a special case and necessary that Jesus be born without original sin… if he’s to have a realistic chance at completing his mission. So boys, the women may have eaten the apple but it’s us guys who pass it on.
Human beings are a bit more complex, our virus infected software has disrupted our DNA so the human race has developed over the eons, with a host of maladies. But it is the software that is our problem. Clean that up and I suspect that our bodies would, over generations return to their original state. How do we ‘clean’ our software up? Ah, that’s what a Jewish carpenter came to demonstrate 2000 years ago.
But before I get to Jesus, there’s one other aspect of the Bible that leads many people, through their misunderstanding to reject God. Namely, the Israelites being commanded by God to wipe out the indigenous tribes that are already residing in Israel. According to Judaism we’re all God’s children. But these children are infected with a cultural disease, they are ‘unclean’ in the profoundest of ways and the Israeli tribes cannot withstand exposure to them. God choose Israel, not because they were more worthy but because, at that time their particular cultural make-up was the most optimum for God to work with in preparing a culture open to Jesus’ future message, mission and demonstration.
Pick up your cross and follow me he said and, no man enters into the kingdom of heaven unless he attains the innocence (trust) of a child. It’s our distrust of God that is our single greatest barrier to re-connection with the Divine. That is what Jesus’ trial in the garden of Gethsemane is all about. He had to place utter trust in God, knowing what would happen if he did. OH Lord, take this cup from me if it be your will, indeed. Jesus is the “way shower”, the first to reconnect with God and he calls all of us to follow him through “the door”. That each of us might become the prodigal son who returns to the Father.