The book of Genesis tells us that Eve had been tempted by a serpent to eat from the tree of knowledge. What was the reason for humankind’s Fall? It was the curiosity, the thirst for knowledge. Why is the curiosity, the knowledge, something wrong? How can anyone know God’s moral nature if he or she doesn’t know what is good and what is evil? Knowing God, according to the Bible, and knowing His moral nature, is the sense of the eternal life. (John 17; 3) How can anyone know God and establish if He is good or if He is evil if that person doesn’t know the difference between good and evil? To be in the likeness of God means firstly to have a moral nature like Him, but that is impossible unless one has a good knowledge of what good and evil mean.
About the knowledge of the good and evil there is a big contradiction when comparing Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2. In Genesis chapter 1 mankind was made in the likeness of God but in chapter 2 the aspiration of humankind to be like God, knowing good and evil, was harshly punished. The text in Genesis chapter 1 sets forth:
“26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ 27 So God created humankind* in his image, in the image of God he created them;* male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1; 26-27 NRSV)
Contrary to the declaration found in Genesis chapter 1, in Genesis chapter 3, verse 22, man became like God following the acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil and not from the beginning of his creation. According to the book of Genesis humankind would have been created in a blissful ignorance, a situation similar to that of the children who depend totally on their parents. At the same time, children don’t always remain in that stage of development, they turn into mature human beings and in this way they become like their parents. A similar process would have happened with Adam and Eve; they would have followed the natural stages of human development in their way to become like God, their divine Parent. What is strange in the biblical texts is that God would have tried to stop this natural process of human development, preventing the first human beings becoming like Him. No good parent does such a thing and this divine intervention in the course of human history according to the book of Genesis would have generated a colossal drama.
God didn’t offer the knowledge of good and evil freely to humankind and the price for the possibility to acquire this knowledge was their eternal lives. If they wanted to be like God they had to die because living eternally and being like Him would have been an unwanted competition against Him.
“22 Then the LORD God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’— 23 therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.” (Genesis 3; 22-23 NRSV)
The texts from Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis chapter 3 contradict each other. Humankind was made either in God’s likeness from the beginning of their creation or they became like Him against His will after eating from the tree of good and evil. Both statements don’t go together.
In the continuation of the story, Eve was allegedly deceived by a serpent but that animal was telling the truth and truth can never be deceiving. Everything said by the serpent happened in practice. After eating from the tree Adam and Eve really became like God, knowing good and evil as the serpent said, and that was confirmed by God.
Man did not die on the same day, as God said in Genesis chapter 2, neither physically nor spiritually, but he lived for many centuries ahead.
“15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2; 15-17 NRSV)
In Genesis chapter 3 the reader is informed how Eve has been deceived by the serpent:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ 2 The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ‘ 4 But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,* knowing good and evil.’ 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” (Genesis 3; 1-7 NRSV)
Many commentators maintain the opinion that man and woman died spiritually the same day after eating from the tree, but this is contradicted by the Bible which says that the Spirit of God dwelled in the human beings long after the Fall. (Genesis 6; 3) It is obvious that when the Spirit of God dwells in some persons those persons cannot be dead spiritually.
Was woman informed about the command given by God, asking man and woman not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Woman has known the command and repeated it to the serpent. She understood that she should not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the Garden nor shall she touch it or she shall die.
Did woman understand death? If death entered into the creation only after human beings’ Fall nothing was there to prepare her to understand death, and unless she would have known what the command meant in its essence, it didn’t have any meaning for her. Woman couldn’t have known if death was something good or something evil because she couldn’t have known the difference between good and evil. God had asked human beings to understand the difference between good and evil before they could have known what the good and the evil meant. Again, we are confronted in the book of Genesis with a reversed order.
Was blind obedience to God something good or something evil? How could mankind have done that kind of moral evaluation if they didn’t know what good and evil was? Blind obedience is usually wrong. Did God create human beings with the curiosity for knowledge in their nature or with the tendency toward blind obedience? Adam and Eve have chosen knowledge and not blind obedience. They have reacted according to their inbuilt nature created by God.
The principle of freedom of choice wouldn’t have had any meaning for Adam and Eve if they didn’t know the difference between good and evil.
The only guiding principle would have been their natural curiosity. Real choice cannot be made if one isn’t able to choose between the good and the evil, and there isn’t any freedom in lack of moral choice.
What was the wrongdoing done by the serpent? The serpent is obviously a mythological personage because only in the myths a serpent can talk. Did Eve notice that animals don’t talk or was she very naïve and considered a talking serpent a normal thing? A talking animal would have been a very surprising thing for a normal human being. If a lion or another animal would have started to talk, would that have been unsurprising for Eve? In a natural reality, an animal which could talk would have been an extraordinary thing even for Eve, but that is possible only in a mythological narrative. Not only that a serpent cannot talk, not having the necessary vocal apparatus in order to utter the words, but it cannot think such a complex plan as the deception of human race. Those two aspects are downplayed by incredible explanations offered by some commentators:
“Because there is no other place in Scripture that reveals Satan or demons can cause animals to speak, it makes more sense that the serpent could make the sounds capable of speech and Satan used this to his advantage. In essence, Satan likely used this feature that the original serpent had and caused it to say what he wanted. Although this may sound farfetched, there should be caution about limiting what God did or didn’t do in the perfect Garden. There is a possibility that many other animals had the ability to “speak” before the Curse. Many animals have types of sound-based or mimickry forms of communication today.”
A perfect Garden is just another euphemistic expression for a world in which Satan could have acted unhindered. The Garden couldn’t have been perfect if within its limits Satan was able to make operational his plan. A place where the evil would have been present wasn’t a perfect place.
In order to be able to use words, human beings have evolved for a very long period of time and this evolution has involved mainly the morphology of the language apparatus.
The presumption that before Adam and Eve’s Fall many animals would have been able to utter words but they lost this ability after the Fall, is contradicted by the fact that long after the alleged Fall parrots can mimic human language. They didn’t lose their ability following the alleged human Fall. At the same time, they are an exception in the world of animals. It seems that their vocal apparatus exceptionally permits such a feat, but if it would have been a Fall, parrots also would have lost their ability to utter words. In any case the alleged Fall couldn’t have had the power to change God’s creation by generating new species of animals. An animal which can talk is very different from an animal which cannot talk. The animals cannot talk but if they could that would have influenced their evolution. The use of language has changed the human condition dramatically and would have done the same thing with other species also if it would have been a reality.
Many commentators identify the serpent with Satan who would have taken the body of a serpent and would have spoken to humans. In another opinion, Satan would have spoken with a human voice in the presence of Eve and of the serpent and that could have created the illusion that the animal speaks, but the animal couldn’t have had any active involvement in the story. If the serpent was used only as a screen it wasn’t any reason to punish it. Why don’t serpents speak any more? That is because serpents don’t possess the morphological apparatus for this activity.
Beside the Fall of Adam and Eve another incredible explanation is that in connection with the curse addressed to the serpent by God:
“Of course today, serpents don’t speak, but the Curse in Genesis 3:14 probably had something to do with this. Recall the physical changes in Genesis 3. Perhaps this is the reason the particular kind of serpent that deceived the Woman did not pass along the ability to speak or may have even become extinct since the Fall.”
If not all serpents had the ability to speak why were all serpents cursed to move on their belly? It doesn’t make sense. A serpent with legs isn’t a serpent and the extinction of the kind of serpent which would have tempted Eve contradicts God’s curse regarding that serpent.
“14 The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’ (Genesis 3; 14-15 NRSV)
What enmity could there have been between the offspring of the serpent and a woman’s offspring, if that kind of serpent was extinct? The answer is obviously a negative one.
Usually humans are afraid and very suspicious of serpents but Eve had been very courageous and engaged in conversation with the animal in an unusual way. It seems that before going on their bellies serpents could have walked, so the serpent which deceived Eve would have been different from what we understand today by the name serpent. The problem is that such an animal would have been very different because we name by the word serpent those animals which usually go on their bellies. A serpent with four feet or other kind of walking members would have been a kind of crocodile or alligator. Such an animal would have generated repulsion in Eve, taking also into consideration that it would have been a wild and not a domestic animal. The book of Genesis says that “the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made.” Being a wild animal the serpent would have been avoided by humankind.
The serpent promised knowledge to Eve and she rightly understood knowledge of good and evil as a desirable thing. As a matter of fact, knowledge of good and evil is what gives humankind their humanity and separates them from animals. The serpent did not lie to Eve but for Satan that is an extraordinary thing. He said that humankind wouldn’t die if they ate from the knowledge of good and evil, and that the knowledge itself was something good and would have allowed humankind to be like Good. Everything which the serpent spoke would have happened exactly as the serpent said. Humankind didn’t die according to God’s words and human beings became like Him and He declared it.
Before jumping to the conclusion that the serpent was one and the same personage with Satan, one should analyse the serpent as a mythological character in other Near-Eastern mythologies where the serpent is not connected with the biblical Satan. What was in the mind of the author of Genesis chapter 2 when writing about the serpent? Did he understand the serpent as a mythological character, an animal able to speak, or as Satan the enemy of God? The serpent doesn’t look like a negative personage in Genesis chapter 2 but more like a positive one. Bringing knowledge is a positive thing by any standards.
Adam and Eve did not die after eating from the tree, not even spiritually, because they remained in contact with God. Spiritual death means separation from God but this wasn’t the case of Adam and Eve after their Fall. As a matter of fact, eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the reason for a moral and spiritual rebirth rather than for spiritual death. Spirituality without morality, the knowledge of good and evil, is the most absurd proposition. The hope of eternal life did not die either, even if access to the tree of life was blocked.
The serpent brought the knowledge to humankind and that was the most important moment in their existence. Without knowledge humankind wouldn’t have been complete conscious beings.
At this point the only problem caused by the serpent was that he determined human beings to become like God, but seemingly He did not want them to be like Him. According to Genesis chapter 2, God had preferred man and woman to remain in a state of ignorance, not knowing the good and the evil. God wanted to keep man and woman in a sort of childish innocence retaining the knowledge of good and evil only for Him. God created a man and a woman but He wanted to prevent them from discerning what is good from what is evil. Why? Human beings without the ability to discern what is good from what is evil would have been no more than some evolved animals without consciousness.
What danger would have emerged for God if humankind possessed the knowledge of good and evil? The Bible gives us a very strange story. It implies the well-known principle that information is power and God did not want to give knowledge to people. Knowledge is power and God wanted humankind to be entirely dependent on Him.
If this is true the idea that God gave humankind free will is absurd because free will without the knowledge of good and evil doesn’t mean anything. According to Genesis chapter 2 God had created man and woman who were destined to blindly obey all commands, but the serpent changed this plan and invited humankind to modify their status and to know what is good and what is evil through their actions.
God had interdicted any contact with the tree of knowledge for humankind but, at the same time, He placed the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden. If God wanted to prevent humankind eating from the tree He could have left that tree out of the Garden of Eden. The presence of the tree would have been a continuous temptation for humankind even if the Bible says that God doesn’t tempt anyone.
“13 No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1; 13 NRSV)
James wasn’t right saying that God doesn’t tempt anyone because the book of Genesis maintains that He had tempted Adam and Eve by placing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the Garden of Eden. The Bible also says that the knowledge of good and evil was a real temptation for the human beings, therefore this is an instant in which God would have tempted someone.
God had created humankind with a certain nature visible also today and He tested them using that nature. God made curious human beings on Earth and He expected them not to be inquisitive and thirsty for knowledge.
The value of such a test would have been very much diminished because the persons who were tested wouldn’t have had any preparation for it. The human nature is hostile to blind obedience.
The serpent offered to human beings exactly the same thing which Genesis chapter 1 declares was already done, the likeness of God, but He would have interdicted them reaching this standard in Genesis chapter 2.
In Genesis chapter 1 God would have created humankind in His likeness, therefore the offer to be like Him couldn’t have raised any suspicions to human beings.
Genesis chapter 3 implies that God would have tested humankind by prohibiting them from His likeness which would have come by eating from the tree of knowledge. In such a case, blind obedience would have determined human beings to remain forever inferior entities, never being like God and never knowing good and the evil.
In the context of the book of Genesis the desire of human beings to reach the full potential created by God in them, which was His likeness, was legitimate and its condemnation is nonsensical. The command not to eat from the tree of knowledge was against this potential. Obedience to God when the command was contrary to what God created in human beings, His likeness, would have been a negative attitude. In other words, Adam and Eve obeying God about the tree of knowledge would have meant at the same time contradicting the manner in which He created them. This is another contradiction in the book of Genesis working between the manner of creation of humankind in Genesis chapter 1 and the interdiction to eat from the tree of knowledge in Genesis chapter 2. Eating from the tree of knowledge would have made human beings like God but that was exactly the manner in which humankind was created in chapter 1. Why interdict that which was already granted? It is nonsensical.
Let’s us accept for the moment that eating from the tree of knowledge was only a test. Once this test was passed successfully God would have allowed humankind to eat freely from that tree. This solution has a flaw because the knowledge of good and evil would come logically before the test and not after it. Any test presupposes the ability to choose between two or more possibilities but for a successful outcome the knowledge of good and evil was a necessary element. People who cannot tell the difference between good and evil must not be asked to do any test.
Freedom presupposes the ability to differentiate between many choices on the basis of moral criteria also. Adam and Eve weren’t moral persons if they didn’t know the difference between good and evil, they were somewhere far from ethics. At the same time the freedom of choice is individual by definition. Adam and Eve’s obedience to God wouldn’t have been a guarantee that all their offspring would have chosen the same attitude toward Him. In other words, Adam and Eve’s choice to obey or to disobey God regarding the knowledge of good and evil would have been their personal choice and not necessarily the option of each human being living on Earth.
If one assumes that what Adam and Eve did was the only reasonable path for all human beings this mean that it was an inevitable choice determined by human nature, therefore the first human beings couldn’t have been blamed for it.
In lack of a real choice between good and evil Adam and Eve would have disobeyed God as a result of their human nature, and that would mean that human nature is disobedient by definition. It is obvious that blind obedience isn’t in human nature and as the story of Adam and Eve shows, it wasn’t in that nature before the Fall either. The question is to know if Adam and Eve had a real choice between obeying and disobeying God, or if disobedience was the only choice given human nature as it was created by God. Was human nature different before the Fall than after the Fall? What basis do we have to infer that human nature was different before the Fall, than it is today? We don’t have any foundation for such a judgement. Being Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, we can infer that human nature would have always been inclined towards rejection of blind disobedience.
In my opinion, Adam and Eve didn’t have a real choice to obey or disobey God. Because of their nature inclined toward disobedience and scientific curiosity and due to their inability to separate what was good from what was evil, Adam and Eve didn’t have a real freedom to select another alternative than the one they did. They wouldn’t have understood the concept of death and they went for knowledge as their prime choice. That would have been the most suitable alternative because only through knowledge one can find solutions to any problem.
Between trust in authority and personal research of truth it seemed to Adam and Eve that the latter was more desirable. This wasn’t a choice made in full consciousness but the intuition of what they had to do in order to realise the potential set by God in them. Adam and Eve would have chosen what they considered to be good for them and wouldn’t have known what was good for God. They reckoned that God would understand their desire to be like Him. Why would God ask us to trust Him blindly rather than to know Him? In my opinion and contrary to what the book of Genesis states, God didn’t want our blind obedience to Him but He wants us to choose the good following the knowledge of good and evil.
At the same time, the knowledge of good and evil didn’t come after Adam and Eve ate of the tree but it is the result of a long historical development. Every one of us can choose the good over the evil and overall is what human societies do. In human history we can see a battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil and after a long experience with confrontations and disasters humankind have chosen to strive for peace and cooperation rather than for wars and destruction.
Was the command given by God to Adam and Eve good for humankind? Living forever in ignorance couldn’t have been a good thing for the human beings. The story of Adam and Eve which is only a fable is the narrative of failing authority against scientific curiosity and that was and still is the underlying dispute within human civilization.
In the legend from the book of Genesis chapter 2 God had tempted mankind into disobedience when He placed the tree in the Garden. They follow the temptation and disobeyed Him but this was the only way in which they could have gained free will. Only by knowing the difference between good and evil could mankind have reached a certain level of intellectual maturity and gained access to free will.
Free will presupposes also the ability to choose between good and evil in a certain situation. Humankind couldn’t have known if obeying God was good or evil, they didn’t exercise their free will when choosing what the serpent had proposed to them. Their curiosity was the only criterion when humankind had chosen to listen to the serpent. Again, we find in the book of Genesis a reversed order of things. First comes free will and after that comes the knowledge of good and evil. The right order is first the knowledge of good and evil and only after that, the free will.
According to Genesis chapter 2, God had asked humankind for unconditional obedience which replaced the personal discernment of every one of them. Man and woman didn’t have the right to listen to their own desires, to their own choices, but they were limited by God in the free manifestation of their will. A choice followed by a punishment it isn’t a free choice.
Without the knowledge of good and evil man and woman were not in a situation to appreciate or to discern the value of obedience to God and they wouldn’t have known anything about the war which would have happened in the heavens. They were like children, without responsibility, unable to discern good and evil, and they weren’t fit to stand judgement or to be punished for anything. A person without discernment, not knowing the value of good and evil, cannot be punished and will not be punished for his or her behaviour.
God asking man and woman to obey unconditionally, without having the capacity to discern between good and evil, is a very strange thing. If a father knows that his son is immature and unable to discern this, he will not set a sort of trap in his way, a danger which, in his innocence, out of curiosity, his son could reach. God, according to the book of Genesis, didn’t follow this rule. He planted, in the Garden of Eden, a tree, which was dangerous for His children and which could be reached by them, out of curiosity. God created living beings endowed with curiosity but would have blamed those beings for that curiosity.
Scientific curiosity of men and women makes human society what it is today, a developed technological world, so curiosity cannot be that bad. Referring to the Fall of humankind, the story from the book of Genesis chapter 2 tells us that the only thing which separates us from God is the knowledge of good and evil. When we have this knowledge, we are like God. (Genesis 3; 22) The only thing to which we still do not have access is the tree of life. The Bible tells us that through knowledge, man can be like God, therefore evolution of scientific knowledge following a long progress will propel man into a similar situation to that of God. The book of Genesis chapter 2 says that God is what He is, because He is more knowledgeable than us, because He knows the reality more deeply than us, and can better discern between good and evil. Nevertheless, we now are like God in an essential way because we know good and evil, according to the book of Genesis.
God told Adam that eating from the tree of good and evil would attract death for the wrongdoer. Any threat was without significance for someone in the situation of man and woman in the Garden of Eden. They didn’t know what good and evil was and consequently, didn’t know if death was something good or something evil.
Man and woman didn’t have any experience with the death of others and they couldn’t have had the ability to understand what death could have been. They were not afraid of death, because for someone who doesn’t understand life properly, the understanding of death would be even more difficult.
For the first human beings, the balance oscillated between the desire to progress by knowledge and the threat of death. Before their Fall none would have died in the created world, according to many commentators, and the thought of death couldn’t have provoked Adam and Eve in any way. If death meant anything for Adam and Eve this has to be interpreted as death being a tangible presence in the world before the Fall. Another contradiction in the book of Genesis is between the threat of death addressed to Adam by God and the idyllic world depicted by the texts in which animal death wouldn’t have been present.
Nevertheless, fear of death never stopped human beings from taking risks in their enterprises for knowledge and progress during the entirety of human history.
All human progress was and is possible only through knowledge. What kind of being did God want to develop from the man He created from dust? Did God want to realise a passive, undeveloped human being or an intellectually evolved person, able to understand Him? Christianity tells us that the sense of eternal life is the knowledge of God, but the knowledge of God is precisely the knowledge of good as opposed to evil.
Good and evil could be known from two different perspectives, God’s perspective and humankind’s point of view. It is not always the same thing. Is it sure that what God wants for humankind is exactly what human beings also expect from their future? The assumption in Genesis chapter 2 is that not all that is good for humankind’s progress is also good for God. The serpent had another understanding. Man and woman had to know good and evil in order to be like God. Was Satan condemned by God because he also wanted to know good and evil? We cannot know that with precision because we don’t really know why Satan would have revolted against God. The much-used motive of Satan’s pride for his revolt is too general to give us any concrete reason why the fallen angel would have rebelled against God. This of course is the study of a legend, not of certain real facts.
The good thing can be qualified as more valuable only in comparison and in opposition to the evil thing, and without knowing anything about evil none can know why something good deserves this name. To define the goodness of something, that something must be differentiated from evil by some characteristics. The knowledge of God is in fact the knowledge of good and evil, and nobody can really appreciate the goodness of God if he or she doesn’t compare it with the malice of the evil. The lack of knowledge of good and evil could have been a serious motive for a revolt in the “heavens” because not knowing evil, some angels couldn’t have appreciated God’s goodness. At the same time, one can expect that the love of the created beings for God surpasses the lack of knowledge of good and evil, but the alleged revolt in the “heavens” contradicts this expectation.
Why would God have condemned the knowledge of good and evil? The whole idea of the religion is the moral ability to choose, with the help of God, between good and evil. What merits has anyone who follows the good, only because he or she doesn’t know about evil or he or she is determined by someone else to act like that? One third of the angels in heaven followed the good until they encountered evil, then they went after evil. At the same time, two thirds of the angels followed the good even when they encountered evil and their choice was an informed one. At the same time, Satan left traces of doubt in their minds and this process would have triggered God’s entire plan of the creation and salvation of humankind.
Man and woman hadn’t been tested in the book of Genesis for their inclination toward good or evil but for their attitude toward ignorance and knowledge. The story of creation from Genesis chapter 2 is irrational and meaningless because it asserts that humankind could have known God without the knowledge of good and evil. Without knowing Him it would have been impossible to establish a perfect relationship with Him.
The suspicion engendered by human knowledge was present all the time, in the history of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The book of Genesis promotes the idea that knowledge separates us from God. This principle looks clear to me because after human beings ate from the tree of knowledge even God admitted that humankind had become like Him, knowing good and evil.
Choosing between two possibilities offered by God wasn’t a sin but exercising of the right to choose. Human beings could have obeyed God and lived eternally in ignorance or they could have disobeyed Him, become knowledgeable, but be confronted with death. God would have given human beings a choice between eternal life and death but neither of these choices would have been an offence against Him.
God would have asked man not to eat from the tree of knowledge not because eating was an offence to Him, but because knowing good and evil was incompatible with eternal life.
“22 Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’—” (Genesis 3; 22 NRSV)
Human beings at the time wouldn’t have done anything other than eat from the tree of knowledge and that was enough to consider them inapt for eternal life. This is also a contradiction because in the context of the N.T. the knowledge of good and evil isn’t an obstacle to eternal life any more, if someone chooses the good and rejects the evil. Adam and Eve were condemned before having the chance to choose the good and turn down evil, after knowing them. This condemnation is in contradiction with morality.
What did Adam and Eve do wrong? There are two possible answers which give two theologies. First, they disobeyed God and that is their guilt, no matter what the object of God’s command for them would have been. Disobedience per se was wrong and would have been punished with the interdiction of eternal life. Second, disobedience per se wasn’t important because it didn’t in any way affect God, but determined only humankind’s fate. God would have offered a choice to Adam and Eve and choosing either way wasn’t guilt, no matter in what direction the choice would have gone. The problem wasn’t disobedience because both choices would have been open to humankind; the issue was the knowledge of good and evil which would have given humankind the possibility to be like God.
God’s command not to eat from the tree of knowledge was only advice, not an absolute interdiction, because the first human beings wouldn’t have been prepared to face the responsibility of obeying an order which would have determined their lives.
If one knows the good and the evil he or she has to show clearly his or her preference for the good before being allowed to live eternally. Adam and Eve would have needed their entire life in order to express unequivocally their choice for the good. In my opinion, the second theology is what is contained in the book of Genesis chapter 2.
The first theology which is propagated by the official doctrines of the Christian denominations, isn’t the right one and demonises all human beings for alleged sins committed by the mythological personages Adam and Eve. All human beings can live eternally if they choose the good rather than the evil, no matter if they believe in the existence of Adam and Eve or not.
God would have ordered man not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and told him the consequences that act would have entailed. At the same time, Adam and Eve’s disobedience didn’t produce the effects anticipated by God therefore the entire story is in doubt. Adam and Eve didn’t die because they ate from the tree of knowledge but because they couldn’t have reached the tree of life, and they didn’t have the time and occasion to prove their commitment toward the good.
Disobedience to God wasn’t a sin but a legitimate alternative generated by Him. Two different ways toward God were opened to humankind – a short one through obedience and a more complicated but much more fulfilling path through personal experience and acquiring of knowledge. Both ways were equally legitimised by God and none of them was sinful. Nevertheless, whoever wants to go on his or her own in life cannot have eternal life unless he or she is faithful to God’s values. This commitment is based on a voluntary attachment to certain moral values and not on a blind submission to authority. The faithful people know well the difference between good and evil and they choose the good over the evil in complete consciousness.
What would Adam and Eve have had to regret? Did they have to regret that they chose the evil against the good? They didn’t make such a choice hence they didn’t need to regret it.
Did Adam and Eve need to display remorse because they chose the path of knowledge against the avenue of blind obedience and ignorance? They didn’t need to express such remorse because without the knowledge of good and evil human beings wouldn’t be the developed conscious beings that they are today. Repentance for choosing knowledge against ignorance doesn’t make any sense, hence Adam and Eve wouldn’t have needed to repent for their choice regarding the tree of knowledge. Only repentance for choosing evil over good makes sense.
God did not abandon humankind after their disobedience but only tried to stop man and woman reaching the tree of life. The first human beings weren’t ready to eat from the tree of life but they also weren’t prepared to not eat from the tree of knowledge.
Only when humankind knows everything that God knows and when we are eternal beings, we will be like Him. Eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge wasn’t enough for humankind to be like God in spite of what the book of Genesis states. Being like God necessarily means knowledge of eternal life. Eating only from the tree of knowledge of good and evil but not from the tree of life isn’t enough to become like God, because one of His essential characteristics is eternity.
How did God know that man ate from the tree? He did not find that directly but indirectly through a logical deduction. The human beings became aware that they were naked. They realised suddenly that being naked is something wrong in God’s eyes. Did God create human beings naked or wearing clothes? How did the first human beings know that there was another possibility beside nakedness if they were created naked? What was wrong with nakedness? If it was wrong why did God accepted nakedness from the beginning? Was human nakedness something shameful? What is the logic of people becoming shameful of their nakedness? If being naked was something shameful the conclusion would be that God created a shameful thing, namely human nakedness, and until the Fall man and woman were in a shameful situation but without knowing it. This is the conclusion proposed by the book of Genesis; it is implicit in its texts. In a Garden where man and his wife were alone, nakedness shouldn’t have been a problem, hence their shame is nonsensical. Only when human beings multiplied on Earth would nakedness in public have been a problem, being contrary to social norms.
This story is a cultural understanding coming from the period of time when wearing clothes was the norm and nakedness was considered to be shameful. If the story was true, how can the nakedness of many African tribes be explained? Are they not ashamed to be naked in the same way Adam and Eve would have been ashamed in the Garden of Eden? Aren’t those Africans also the offspring of Adam and Eve? Didn’t the Africans also open their eyes as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience? The story contained by the book of Genesis is only a fairy tale. All the details of the story regarding Adam and Eve are inconsistent from a rational point of view.
The story is a mythological explanation of how people started to wear clothes at a certain moment in their history. If nakedness was shameful God would have clothed man from the moment of his creation. God didn’t take it to be shameful and without the imaginary Fall of humankind they would have been naked for eternity. Not knowing the good and the evil and being naked for eternity is the image of a primitive or tribal human being.
In the perspective of the book of Genesis nakedness was shameful only if one had known that it was shameful, but this is a moral relativism which is not expected from God. Why was humankind unhappy with their nakedness? The book of Genesis says that they opened their eyes after their Fall. This is a very strange statement and presumes that until the Fall they had their eyes closed morally, but that is a contradiction to their alleged state of moral purity before the Fall. To be in a bad situation without realising it isn’t proof of a high morality. If the human beings had their moral eyes closed, as the book of Genesis sets forth, they couldn’t have been responsible for their response to Satan’s temptation, hence they shouldn’t have been punished. With their moral eyes closed they wouldn’t have properly recognised the reality which they had to face.
For unknown reasons the crafty serpent didn’t think that tempting humankind to eat first from the tree of life would have created much bigger problems for God than eating first from the tree of knowledge. As a matter of fact, Satan wasn’t a very good strategist. Eating from the tree of life first would have given man and woman an indefinite time to accede to the tree of knowledge. Access to the tree of life was free from the beginning and was blocked only after the Fall.
In the real world, the serpent if it were the craftiest of all animals would have tempted Eve to eat first from the tree of life and only after that it would have pointed toward the tree of knowledge of good and evil. At the same time, the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis don’t describe the real world but only a legendary one.
The creation story from Genesis chapter 2 starts from the human condition. The narrative points to the fact that man and woman were not eternal but they should have eaten from the tree of life in order to live forever. The book of Genesis chapter 2 presents two heroes, Adam and Eve. They have been very courageous and the increase of their knowledge was very important for them, even more than their lives. They were willing to take great risks in order to acquire knowledge and nothing could be more dignifying than that.
Knowledge of good and evil and all kinds of other knowledge are inseparable. In the history of Christianity many scientists had to sacrifice their lives in their search for knowledge. Allegorically everything started when Adam and Eve accepted death as the price for their thirst for knowledge. Unfortunately, the Church through its representatives didn’t take that story only as an allegory but rather as an historical fact which would sometimes have justified its hostile attitude toward scientific knowledge. After all, God punished the research for knowledge of good and evil, according to the book of Genesis, therefore His religious representatives would have been entitled to do the same thing, chastising any inquest for scientific knowledge.
What interest would the serpent have had to open human eyes? Did he want to start a revolution of knowledge? Was the serpent the precursor of modern scientists? The history of the sciences at its beginnings was a struggle between religious authority and honest research for knowledge. Those authorities were many times against the human pursuit for knowledge unhindered by imposition of authoritative rules.
What general conclusion, with moral consequences, can be extracted from the text of Genesis chapter 2? God had wanted to hide some information from man, because knowledge could have awakened humankind, causing them to ask uncomfortable questions. The alternative to knowledge would have been blind obedience to God.
In the logic of Genesis chapter 2 the knowledge of good and evil was a barrier set by God in His interest, not for humankind’s benefit, because it wouldn’t have been any advantage for humankind to not know the difference between good and evil.
Through this barrier, God protected Himself from human beings who were His potential rival. Without the knowledge of good and evil Adam would have remained an uneducated man used only for the work in the Garden of Eden, and Eve would also have lacked education. There isn’t any indication in the book of Genesis chapter 2 that Adam was treated as the child of God, he was established only to till the ground in the Garden. This isn’t what happened in the real world, this is what the story of Adam and Eve’s Fall depicts would have happened.
Does the story of humankind’s Fall make any metaphoric sense? God created a man and a woman, who could have become His potential rivals, in the case that they wouldn’t have submitted totally to Him. At a certain moment in time they didn’t obey God and were considered a potential threat for Him if they were to become able to live forever. These creatures could have threatened the privileged position of God as the only one who knows the good and the evil and for this reason they were driven out from the Garden of Eden. This legend speaks about humankind confronting God and being punished for that. Of course, such a situation would have been highly improbable in the real world because God isn’t a man to envy humankind, even if He had been portrayed as a man by the book of Genesis chapter 2.
There is a stark contradiction between the dogma of God knowing the future and God’s love for humankind which is a fundamental teaching in Christianity. God knows the future, He knows everything beforehand, and He would have known the unavoidability of the Fall of humankind before that happening. God not only knew previously the possibility of the Fall but He also knew in advance that humankind wasn’t prepared to pass the test, therefore He was aware of the unavoidability of humankind’s failure. Adam and Eve were doomed to fail from the moment of their creation because their nature would have been stronger than their immature minds. In this situation, an eternal punishment for so many human beings contradicts drastically the principle of God generously loving the entirety of humankind.
Adam and Eve’s immaturity is demonstrated by the motivation of their decision:
"It was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3; 6 NRSV)
They didn’t take into consideration any negative consequences of their choice. They didn’t have any arguments against God’s command not to eat from the tree. They didn’t analyse and balance the positive with the negative side of their choice. The most serious of the arguments was “that the tree was to be desired to make one wise”. Nevertheless, the desire for wisdom couldn’t have been other than good and the first human beings left everything aside for it.
The woman was struck by the appearances of the fruit in the first place in the same way children are impressed by what they see. In the second place, she sensed her need for wisdom. Paradoxically, even if they hadn’t been wise, intuitively they made a wise choice. Human beings wanted to complete their personalities and to become whole persons.
The first human beings didn’t live in an important city but in a garden. They were the creation of God with no preparation for life whatsoever, without the knowledge of good and evil and with no wisdom. Why did God create human beings knowing that they would fall from grace and that they would suffer and die, and most importantly that the majority of them would be tortured in hell forever, if He really is love? The lack of a reasonable answer to this question dissolves completely any value or credibility of the story regarding Adam and Eve because such an attitude cannot be characterised as love. Love for few and hatred for many gives an unbalanced equation of God’s dealings with humankind because hatred is much more extended than love.
God is presented by the Judeo-Christian tradition as bearing a huge responsibility for the creation of an environment for pain and tragedy on our planet. Knowing the future, God would have known also that the man and woman created by Him would not have been prepared to resist the devil’s temptation, but in spite of that He planted the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.
Why were the first human beings unprepared to resist the temptation? Mankind did not have free will or discernment before knowing good and evil and their eyes were opened morally only after they had eaten from the tree of knowledge. It is absurd to maintain that humankind would have been alive from a spiritual point of view before the Fall and that they would have died spiritually after it. What kind of spiritual life previous to the Fall would have been that in which their eyes were closed morally? Being closed morally, their eyes would have been closed spiritually also because spiritual life without moral consciousness is an antagonism.
Who was responsible for the creation of the serpent? God created the serpent together with all other animals knowing that the serpent would become the vehicle of the devil. With huge power comes a big responsibility also. Knowing that the serpent would be used by Satan, God could have taken measures to avoid that situation but He didn’t. God would have created the serpent as an instrument to be used by Satan, and no other purposes for its creation can be envisaged unless he had been a part of an ecosystem, but before the Fall there wouldn’t have been an ecosystem on Earth, according to the book of Genesis.
God would have created all necessary conditions for the Fall. He created Satan, the Garden of Eden, the serpent and the tree of knowledge. All ingredients were carefully set in place waiting for humankind to fail.
By creating the serpent God would have empowered Satan with what he needed to follow his strategy. In law, someone who provides the means for the action to the author of an illegal action is an accomplice. God would have been an accomplice to the deceit of humankind according to what the book of Genesis implies. This doesn’t mean that God would have proceeded in that manner in the real world; it only means that the story of Adam and Eve leads to absurd logical consequences and this is another reason for which it cannot be real. God couldn’t have deliberately generated all the conditions for humankind’s Fall because He would have protected His creation, therefore the entire story of Adam and Eve is a myth without a rational base.
Man and woman were threatened with death, but the death didn’t come on the day of their Fall, as God said. The serpent promised to Eve that she and Adam would not die in the day they ate from the tree of knowledge, as God said, and he was truthful with that information. After eating from that tree Adam and Eve didn’t die straight away, as the book of Genesis declares that God said:
“… 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die’.” (Genesis 2; 17 NRSV)
The text presents God addressing to man a threat which didn’t materialise. At the same time, the serpent was truthful when offering a guarantee for humankind’s lives following the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Adam and Eve didn’t die on the day of their disobedience, hence the serpent was right and God was wrong. They didn’t die either physically or spiritually. If Adam and Eve had died on the day they ate from the tree of knowledge, much drama would have been spared to humankind. If God had kept His promise as He should, that would have prevented billions of human beings going to hell and suffering for eternity, but He broke His promise with tragic consequences.
God could have created another man and another woman who had a new chance to obey Him but He preferred to keep Adam and Eve alive and to allow them to give birth to countless candidates for eternal hell. Why would He have done that? Probably, because any human being that God created in the same conditions would have disobeyed Him. In this context, any replacement of Adam and Eve with other human beings would have given the same result. If God was sure that any created human being would have disobeyed Him before knowing the difference between good and evil, why would He have asked blind obedience of humankind? Blind obedience without the discernment between good and evil doesn’t bear any moral value. The story of the book of Genesis doesn’t make sense and the reality of humankind’s origin is very different from what the Bible says.
In the real world, God would have allowed human beings to know the difference between good and evil before asking them to make any choice.
As a matter of fact, God does exactly that and He doesn’t condemn anyone for unbelief in the story of Adam and Eve but He judges how everyone chooses between the good and the evil, after he or she becomes able to make the distinction between these two.
It is true that the book of Genesis says that Abel was a righteous man even if his human parents, Adam and Eve, were sinful. The difference between Adam and Eve and Abel is that the latter knew the difference between good and evil, and his parents didn’t understand that distinction. If one knows the difference between good and evil he or she can choose the good not the evil conscientiously, but the lack of this knowledge prevents a true choice.
This is the only reasonable conclusion. This conclusion strengthens the opinion that Adam and Eve’s disobedience would have been inescapable within the logic of the biblical narratives.
The serpent also spoke the truth when asserting that:
‘4 But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,* knowing good and evil.’ (Genesis 3; 4-5 NRSV)
The serpent was right and after eating from the tree of knowledge Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened:
“7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” (Genesis 3; 7 NRSV)
Did Adam and Eve die spiritually even if they didn’t die materially on the day they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Spiritual death would mean the end of spiritual life. Adam and Eve didn’t have any spiritual life before their Fall if their eyes were closed morally because they didn’t know the difference between good and evil. Their spiritual side was the breath of life received from God but not only for them but animals also. God didn’t retract the breath of life from them on the day they sinned. Even after their disobedience God didn’t abandon them and Abel and Cain made offerings to God. People making sacrifices to God would have been proof that they weren’t spiritually dead.
If by spiritual life one would understand the presence of God in their lives, such presence continued after their Fall. For example, God had a dialogue with Cain after Adam and Eve’s Fall meaning that His presence among humankind wasn’t retracted after the disobedience of the first human beings.
At the same time God said that His Spirit will not dwell forever in man and that people will live only 120 years. Nevertheless, for 120 years God’s Spirit was dwelling in the human beings therefore people weren’t spiritually dead. Before this declaration was made, the Spirit of God was present in humankind for a long period of time, meaning that He didn’t leave human beings after their Fall therefore they didn’t die, neither physically nor spiritually, on the day they ate from the tree of knowledge.
“3 Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not abide* in mortals for ever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ (Genesis 6; 3 NRSV)
If humankind had an authentic spiritual life before the Fall, experiencing God’s love, that would have been a strong motivation not to disobey Him, but they were disobedient and this is a clear basis from which the quality of their spiritual life can be deemed.
What was man’s punishment for his disobedience? From the Garden of Eden, man was removed, in order to till the ground outside of it. In the Garden of Eden man was settled in order to till the ground, meaning to prepare it for the raising of crops, by ploughing or harrowing. It is hard to imagine and it is in contradiction with Genesis chapter 1, a situation according to which in the Garden there wouldn’t have been weeds, and they would have appeared on Earth only after the Fall. If the weeds had appeared only after mankind’s Fall, Genesis chapter 1 is wrong in affirming that all plants were created on day three.
After the Fall man changed the place of work but not the nature of his activity. From tilling of the ground in the Garden, man had to toil the same ground outside of it, but there wasn’t any important difference, between the two kinds of work. Any ground was always filled with weeds and the river from the Garden watered the inside but also the outside of it.
If there hadn’t been any significant difference in the nature of man’s activity after the Fall what was his punishment in connection with his lifestyle? As a matter of fact, man hadn’t really been punished for his disobedience with the change of his lifestyle because this change referred only to the place of his activity, not to its characteristics.
What was different in the Garden of Eden than outside? According to Genesis chapter 1 the entire earth was the same with no notable differences between the areas situated on similar geographical coordinates. Edible fruit trees were everywhere, not only in the Garden, and the ground had a similar consistency all over the world. The story of the removal from the Garden of Eden is a fable with no reasonable consequences.
Fertile ground was all over the world, not only in the Garden of Eden. The allegation from Genesis chapter 1 that after mankind’s Fall God transformed all ground to be infertile cannot be right. The argument that such a thing didn’t happen is that many places on Earth in the past were endowed with very fertile ground, for example the valley of the Nile. Moreover, the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates did not disappear after mankind’s Fall and their valleys remained a fertile ground until today. What would have disappeared was the Garden of Eden, or rather it wouldn’t have been there at all.
The place of the Garden of Eden is the area where past civilizations had developed and those areas have been inhabited by humankind from ancient times to the present. God would have driven humankind out from the Garden after their Fall but they weren’t exiled in the middle of a desert and Abel became a sheep keeper and Cain a farmer. For this reason it is reasonable to consider that Adam and Eve together with their offspring would have lived next to the Garden of Eden on the banks of the river which flowed out of Eden to water the Garden. In that area, the quality of the ground would have been similar to the one from the Garden. Even if the first 11 chapters from the book of Genesis give as little detail as they can, the texts abound in contradictions.
What caused the temptation of the woman? It was the serpent. The serpent wanted to give knowledge to man and woman in spite of God’s intention to keep man and woman in ignorance. Which is better, knowledge or ignorance? This is a fundamental question approached intuitively, not explicitly, by the Bible.
The solution of the book of Genesis is that ignorance is bliss. To me this is a false solution because knowledge increases the quality of human life but ignorance is the cause of all evil. Knowledge is always better than ignorance if someone wants to confront realistically daily problems. The book of Genesis doesn’t explain in a meaningful way the Fall of humankind. The entire story is contradictory and absurd.
Was the ignorance a way to preserve a kind of natural innocence of humankind and was knowledge of good and evil a way of losing innocence? For how long would God have wanted to keep man apart from the knowledge of good and evil? Was it forever? Man and woman living happily in ignorance, tilling the ground in the Garden of Eden but ignoring the vast reality of the universe, is an idyllic situation but not necessarily a meaningful one.
The knowledge of evil doesn’t mean the option for evil or the support of it. This observation is contrary to the philosophy of Genesis chapter 2 in which the pursuit of knowledge of good and evil is considered to be the root of all evil on Earth. In point of fact, good and evil have interfered from the beginning of God’s creation in an intricate dialectic and the only way to avoid evil is to know about its damaging effects. The existence of carnivorous animals together with herbivores from the beginning of creation is an example of how good and evil work together in the creation. Their concerting actions generate an equilibrated natural environment, in other words an ecosystem.
What would Satan’s fate have been if woman and man had resisted his temptation? Would he have given up with his temptations immediately after the refusal? Probably, Satan wouldn’t have given up the temptation of humankind and some of Adam and Eve’s offspring, not knowing the difference between good and evil, would have fallen unavoidably sooner or later into his traps.
The work of the devil didn’t start with humankind. A perception of a certain imperfection of God’s love drove one third of the angels to distance themselves from Him. How can anyone revolt against a perfect love? The value of love as a principle is in question. According to the Bible this revolt wouldn’t have been an accident or an isolated event because one third of all angels in heaven followed Satan and rebelled against God’s authority.
The situation was recorded by the Bible but not the motives of the separation in details. The entire story is very strange and presents an unlikely situation.
I always wondered what arguments Satan would have used, in his debate with God. How could Satan have persuaded one third of the angels to turn against God? The angels of the sky were created by God, they knew God through a direct experience with Him, they felt His love for them but despite all this they were persuaded by Satan to follow him. This is the core of the understanding of the Bible, the fight between good and evil. To explain everything through Satan’s pride is much too simplistic. Could Satan’s pride infringe on God’s love in the minds of a third of all angels? The explanation of how this would have happened in reality is a huge problem.
What arguments can anyone use to convince someone else, who experienced the goodness and beauty of God, to change that for something else? God is love, according to the texts of the Bible, and who would trade love for hatred, and most importantly on what grounds? This situation questions the relationship between God and His creation. This alleged inability of God to retain the love of a part of His created angels contradicts the biblical assertion that He is love. The story of Satan’s fall from the sky is very blurred in the Bible.
Without witnesses of the debate between God and Satan we don’t really know the object of the controversy, but we can speculate on the basis of the presumption that God represents good and Satan represents evil. If this presumption is too simplistic and good and evil aren’t so clearly separated one can modify the presumption and draw other conclusions. One thing is undisputable and this is that good and evil influence each other and each evil action generates a reaction which sometimes may also look evil.
What arguments did Satan use to convince the angels that he was right? How could Satan be so persuasive with the angels who saw God directly and experienced His perfect love? God’s love was not enough for the angels? Did they want something other than love, for example knowledge? Is love not the supreme value of the Kingdom of God? Was this love not plain enough for the fallen angels? God’s love for them didn’t mean happiness for all angels? This is inconceivable by any standards. For a fallen angel to renounce God’s grace and to be convinced by some illusory promises made by Satan to follow him in his revolt is something improbable.
If the story of the fallen angels was real there would be some secret elements about which the Bible says nothing. Maybe God’s love wasn’t that visible or was understood by the angels as constraint. Is the story about Satan’s revolt a narrative of how love can fail when used as supreme argument in cosmic administration? An important number of angels had chosen knowledge of good and evil against God’s love, obtaining in this way a feeling of freedom, a real or a false one.
Following Satan’s revolt God considered necessary a demonstration for the loyal angels, He wanted to show that He is good and the devil is bad. Even if Satan did not attract all angels on his side he sowed doubt in all angels’ minds, both loyal and rebelled. Nevertheless, no new demonstration of God’s love could have been made if man and woman hadn’t fallen from grace. If Adam and Eve hadn’t fallen Jesus wouldn’t have come to Earth and He wouldn’t have died on the cross, and the project of salvation couldn’t have happened. In other words, Adam and Eve’s Fall has been a necessary element for God’s plan to demonstrate once more His love to the angels. God wanted to definitively conquer the loyal angels whose minds had been corrupted by doubt following Satan’s revolt, and to this end He needed the Cross.
God is love, says the cross of Calvary, even if the fallen angels won’t agree to that. For them God represented an authority from which they tried to escape. At the same time they entered under Satan’s authority which is not at all desirable, as I see it.
Either God didn’t forecast Satan’s revolt or He was aware of it but He accepted it. Being Omniscient, God would have anticipated the consequences of the creation of Satan but He also could have used him for His ends. If He created the devil regardless of his future revolt God is responsible also for the existence of the evil in the world. Either God is Omniscient and He knew about Satan’s revolt or this rebellion came as a surprise and He isn’t Omniscient.
The Omniscient God who knows the future and is above His creation couldn’t have been challenged by one of His created beings. Knowing the future and creating Satan who determined in the end the death of Christ on the cross, is an inconsistency which shadows the biblical narratives. If God knows the future He allowed that future to happen for unknown reasons but with visible effects. What could God have achieved through Satan’s revolt? A demonstration of His might.
This is another contradiction between the two stories of the creation. In Genesis chapter 1 we are informed that God’s entire creation was very good but in Genesis chapter 2 we can see that the serpent, part of God’s creation, was evil. The serpent wasn’t very good from the beginning of the creation because unlike other animals he could serve as an instrument for evil. Satan, as a revolted angel, wasn’t very good either because in him was found the seed of evil. They both had been created before God declaring His creation to be very good, according to the book of Genesis.
Regardless of when Satan had revolted the roots of his opposition had to be imbedded in God’s creation. It is wrong to lay all responsibility for evil on Satan’s shoulder. The devil was only a created being, he was not responsible for the way in which he was created. Satan needed reasons for his revolt and without arguments he couldn’t have convinced so many angels about his cause. Even if Satan misinterpreted certain facts or elements of God’s authority he needed a number of coherent arguments in order to be credible. What were those arguments? The Bible doesn’t say anything about what had happened in heaven when Satan revolted against God but we can guess that it was a battle between authority and the pursuit of knowledge.
In Genesis chapter 1 God rested immediately after the creation of mankind, on day seven, and He wouldn’t have done that if a revolt was troubling the horizon. The satanic revolt in heaven would have happened either during the six days of creation or immediately after the sixth day of creation, but before the temptation of humankind by the serpent. It could have happened on the seventh day during God’s rest. Nevertheless, all elements of evil would have existed before the end of the sequence of the six days of creation.
When Satan would have revolted against God is a question to which commentators try to find an answer. Robert L. Odom cites Ellen G. White with a text which refers to this aspect:
“Satan was once an honoured angel in heaven, next to Christ. . . . But when God said to His Son, “Let us make man in our image,” Satan was jealous of Jesus. He wished to be consulted concerning the formation of man, and because he was not, he was filled with envy, jealousy, and hatred. He desired to receive the highest honors in heaven next to God. Until this time all heaven had been in order, harmony, and perfect subjection to the government of God.—Early Writings, p. 145.”
This interpretation places Satan’s revolt after the creation of man but not necessarily after the creation of woman. That revolt would have happened immediately after the creation of man, during the period of six days of creation. Notwithstanding, God would have declared that the creation was very good.
If man hadn’t been created as the Bible says, Satan couldn’t have been unhappy that he wasn’t asked by God regarding that creation. That couldn’t have been the reason for Satan’s revolt, if that revolt happened in reality.
Placing Satan, without any biblical arguments or any kind of other argumentation, in the situation of being God’s counsellor, is wrong. No angels would have counselled God about what to do in His activity in any case. For this reason, Satan couldn’t have expected to be consulted in connection with the creation of humankind. Probably no angels would have been asked about anything regarding the governance of the universe. That we can know for sure from the Bible:
“11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance,* having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1; 11-12 NRSV)
God who accomplishes all things according to His counsel wouldn’t have asked for Satan’s counsel. Did God consult Satan’s opinion when He had created the universe? Of course He didn’t because Satan wouldn’t yet have been created. We don’t know when Satan would have been created by God but he couldn’t counsel God about the creation of angels, including of course his own creation. To place Satan near Christ in importance is an absurd thesis because He is eternal but Satan is a creation.
If asked to have an opinion on the problems of the governance of the universe, Satan would have been part of a democratic system in the “heavens”.
Being prevented from exercising his right to opinion, Satan would have had a legitimate claim against God. At the same time, one should bear in mind that the Kingdom of God isn’t seen by the Bible as a democratic but it is understood as an autocratic system.
God had taken a decision without consulting the created beings in connection with the creation of man. Did Satan want to be consulted about this decision? That would have been a fight for democracy in the Kingdom of God.
The lack of democracy would have been the motive of Satan’s revolt in the “heavens” in which he attracted a third of all angels. It is clear from the Bible that God rules on the basis of His own principles without asking counsel from any of His creatures. A monotheistic religion is usually based on the duality between good and evil in which the good is promoted by God.
God’s existence without the existence of an agent of evil would place the entire responsibility for the evil in the world on His shoulders. Nevertheless, God knows both the good and the evil and one can ask how He discovered the evil if He is entirely good. Did God learn about the evil from Satan? It is difficult to accept that Satan would have taught God anything. The eternal God wouldn’t have waited until the creation of Satan before understanding what evil means. The Bible says that God knows both good and evil, it doesn’t maintain that God didn’t know what evil means. If God is Omniscient He didn’t learn what evil means from Satan.
The good and the evil are both in God and He had to make a choice between them as human beings do. God had to choose the good rather than the evil when He created the universe. Creation or construction is good, senseless destruction is evil.
Satan could have asked for a more democratic way of governing the universe but he couldn’t have tried to replace God as the Sovereign. None can compare with God, not an angel and none else if He is the uncreated energies who created all that is as theologians believe. If there isn’t a possible comparison there isn’t also the chance for confrontation between God and Satan. They belong to two different dimensions of reality, the infinite and the finite dimensions. In order to be envied by Satan, God of the Bible has to be a Being in the same ontological category as him, for example, as two human beings envy one another.
Writing about the text in Isaiah 14; 12- 15 Troy Lacey states:
“It is obvious from the text that Satan’s sin was pride. He was so beautiful, so wise, and so powerful as an angel that he began to covet God’s position and authority. He chafed at having to serve God and grew angry and rebellious. He did not want to serve, he wanted to be served; he, as a creature, wanted to be worshipped. How starkly contrasted to our savior Jesus Christ, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).”
I am very suspicious of this type of reasoning which is so widespread because it doesn’t explain at all why so many angels would have supported Satan’s movement against God. If Satan’s pride when comparing himself with God is nonsensical, the pride of ordinary angels who revolted against Him is absurd. The fallen angels would have had their own motivation in rebelling against God and that motivation cannot be explained only by their fidelity to Satan. Their motivation couldn’t have been generated by their wish to be like God.
In the book of Genesis we have a classical story about a fight for power between two leaders of comparable means. This cannot be the description of the Almighty God who cannot be compared with anyone else therefore cannot be challenged by anybody. This fight for power reproduces in another form the classical war between gods found in other mythologies but doesn’t open the understanding of the unique God.
The commentators emphasise a close relation between Satan’s revolt and humankind’s sin. The same author, Troy Lacey, writes in connection to that subject:
“They didn’t just ignorantly decide to eat the fruit, nor did they eat it because “the Devil made them do it.” Satan’s outright lies and cunning half-truths brought something to the surface of Eve’s mind that fateful day. She realized that to “be like gods” meant not having to serve God, it meant being equal to God. It meant that she felt as if God had deliberately kept her and Adam in the dark regarding their “divine potential.” Why should they tend God’s garden in Eden when they could be as gods themselves? Why should they have to obey God if they were also gods? The quickness with which Adam acquiesced to Eve’s offer of the fruit may possibly show that he too harboured these same feelings, or it may mean that Adam, though knowing Eve had sinned willfully decided to throw his lot in with her by deliberately eating from the fruit. Eve had been deceived, Adam had not. In any event, we know that it was Adam’s sin that was responsible for the Fall and the Curse (Rom. 5:12). The sin of pride that led to Satan’s fall had now infected the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve, and the result was the same: shame, loss of wisdom, ruin and death.”
Not having to serve God and being equal to Him are two artificial arguments used in the article. God is a serving divinity and this is determined by His love. We can see that clearly in the life of Jesus therefore to be like God means automatically to serve. Where did Satan see and envy the situation of being served by others? Seeing the service made to God by His creatures, Satan would have been impressed and he would have wanted the same treatment applied to him. There is a contradiction between the understanding of God as love and the idea that He is a Supreme Leader worshiped by everyone. From this contradiction starts the principle of Satan’s revolt.
Seeing service as a one-way road coming only from God’s creation is a very bad theology which generates spiritual damage. God was the first who gave service to humankind. At the same time, none can be equal to God no matter how much he or she wants it. This is an ontological problem. If God is the origin of all things this origin cannot be erased and replaced with a creature. God is an irreplaceable Reality or He isn’t God the Almighty. For this reason, God is unique and cannot be equated with any being. This is another fundamental contradiction of the Bible; either God is the unique source of life and He cannot be equalled by anyone, or He is a Ruler who can be envied and who is susceptible to be contended by someone else.
In my opinion, in the context of the Bible, humankind would have been created after Satan’s fall and as a result of his rebellion.
Human beings were needed to allow God to demonstrate once again His love for His creation, and that was done at the Cross of Calvary. Without human beings on Earth Christ couldn’t have taken a human body and couldn’t have died on the Cross. Was the Cross important for the angels also? The Bible says that at the Cross God defeated Satan, therefore without the Cross one cannot speak about Satan’s failure. If the Cross never happened Satan wouldn’t have been completely defeated by God.
Some commentators remark that Satan is not a match for God who is All-powerful; he couldn’t have been in a real battle with Him. There is a contradiction between two principles, on one side God who is considered All-powerful and on the other side Satan who could have won a battle against Him. Winning a small battle against God would have made the description “All-powerful” unsuitable. This contradiction is emphasised in an article which can be found on a site named precious-testimonies.com under the title “How Jesus defeated Satan at the Cross”.
At the same time, the book of Genesis maintains that Satan won a battle against God when he succeeded in deceiving Adam and Eve. Following this deceit Satan would have attracted the eternal condemnation to hell of billions of human beings and that is a huge victory against a loving God. This win would have raised questions about God being All-powerful if the story of Adam and Eve was real and not only a myth. The book of Genesis contradicts the image of God being All-powerful.
The creation of humankind would have been a necessary step for God to show His love for His creation at the Cross. Without humankind and their Fall that event couldn’t have happened. The creation of humankind and the embodiment of His Son as a human being was the price that God had to pay in order to assure His victory against Satan. Incomparable as He is, God wasn’t indifferent to angels’ opinions and that is based on His love. God didn’t crush the rebellion against Him but He adjusted His attitude toward the created world. These aren’t facts, it is what the Bible maintains and it is a profound contradiction.
The world will never be the same as the one existing before Satan’s rebellion against God. Good and evil influence each other and in these stories we can see not only how good influences evil but also the way in which evil determines changes in the good.
This dialectic between good and evil is reduced simplistically by many commentators.
It is unclear if the author of Genesis chapter 2 understood the serpent as a personification of a force of evil acting behind him, or just as an allegoric figure in its own right. Most probably, the latter option is the proper one.
We have references to Satan in Isaiah chapter 14 and Ezekiel chapter 28 but the texts are obscure. Satan is a complex figure with influences from Persian mythology:
“The Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions are monotheistic faiths, which means their followers believe there is only one God. That God has a powerful adversary known as Satan, or the Devil. Satan’s role changed over time, as the three religions developed. At first he was a creature under God’s control with the task of testing people’s faith. In time, however, Satan came to be seen as the prince of darkness, ruler of all evil spirits, enemy of both God and humankind, and source of treachery and wickedness. The name Satan comes from a Hebrew word meaning “adversary.” It first appears in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament. In the book of Job, God allows this adversary—sometimes called Samael in Jewish literature—to heap misfortunes on Job to see whether Job will turn against God. Judaism was influenced by the dualistic Persian religion in which good and evil struggle with each other for control of the universe and for power over human hearts and minds. The Jewish Satan took on some characteristics of Ahriman, the Persian god of evil and ruler of demons.”
Satan revolted against God and would have attracted a number of angels as his followers. God had thrown them from heaven but after Satan’s revolt He would have allowed the devil to take the body of a serpent, to enter the Garden of Eden and tempt the human beings. God had known that Satan cannot be trusted, but regardless of that He would have allowed him to enter the Garden. Even if the Garden of Eden could have been protected against any intrusion by cherubim, it wasn’t guarded against Satan.
The temptation of humankind was a necessary step in the complex plan of God’s creation. It seems that the Fall was a necessity which allowed God to demonstrate His love for His creation. God’s Son, Jesus, wouldn’t have died for the redemption of humankind without the Fall. The necessity to demonstrate God’s love shows a lack of evidence of it because what is obvious and visible for all doesn’t need demonstration. It is a fundamental dogma that the cross of Calvary was needed to show God’s love for His creation.
In the book of Genesis God was able to throw Satan from heaven but wasn’t capable or willing to stop him entering the Garden of Eden. If God was able to ban Satan from the Garden of Eden why didn’t He do it? The conclusion is that God allowed the temptation of humankind in spite of what the Bible is saying, that He doesn’t tempt anyone to sin. (James 1; 13) It is true that God didn’t directly tempt humankind but He set in place all elements for that temptation.
The Bible is confused about the location of Satan’s revolt. Was it in heaven or in the Garden of Eden? A biblical text places the location of the revolt in the Garden of Eden. As we know the Garden of Eden was on Earth and not in heaven.
“11 Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: 12 Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: You were the signet of perfection,* full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire,* turquoise, and emerald; and worked in gold were your settings and your engravings.* On the day that you were created they were prepared.” (Ezekiel 28; 11-13 NRSV)
According to the most widespread interpretation, Satan, and not the King of Tyre, would have been in Eden, the Garden of God, and the devil is presented in his glory and not as a fallen angel. We know that the King of Tyre couldn’t have been in the Garden of Eden because he didn’t belong to the same generation as Adam and Eve.
Was Satan in the Garden of Eden personified as a serpent or an angel full of wisdom and perfect in beauty, or both? This of course is a contradiction because once in the Garden of Eden Satan would have already been thrown from the “heavens”, losing his prerogatives and his spectacular outfit.
“18 He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” (Luke 10; 18 NRSV)
How did Satan fall from the “heavens” if he was on Earth in the Garden as a glorious angel? In Eden, the Garden of God which was situated on Earth, Satan would have been covered with many precious stones, but Jesus saw him being thrown from heaven. Either Satan was thrown out from the “heavens” and fell like a flash of lightening or he was a signet of perfection in t/span>he Garden of Eden. These are two different versions which don’t harmonize with one another and shadow the truthfulness of the biblical texts regarding Satan.
Man was also in the Garden, which was planted after his creation. Did man and woman not know about Satan’s revolt if they all were in the Garden? The Garden, in Genesis chapter 2, was planted by God after the creation of man, hence Satan’s revolt would have started after man’s creation according to Ezekiel 28.
We don’t have any argument which would plead for the thesis that there would have been duplicate of the Garden in the “heavens”. Moreover, the Garden of Eden described in connection with Satan was a material, not a spiritual realm, with precious stones and gold.
Why would there have been a Garden of Eden in the “heavens” if man was only on Earth? The Garden would have been planted only after man’s creation and man had to till it and keep it. We don’t have any biblical or rational argument to support such an idea. The Garden of Eden would have been placed only on Earth and that Garden was the region where God spent some of His time, according to Genesis chapter 2.
The future paradise will be also installed on the new earth and not in the heavens, and that strengthens the idea that the old paradise was the Garden of Eden which was situated on Earth.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21; 1-2 NRSV)
If the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven on the new earth, that means that the paradise would be on that earth, hence we don’t have any reason based on biblical texts to believe that there will be a paradise in the “heavens” also, and that place will host human beings.
The New Jerusalem isn’t a heavenly Garden, a celestial Eden, it is a city, it is the place where God will dwell together with human beings. This is the most important element of the paradise, the presence of God in the same place with the elect human beings. Nevertheless, there are connections between the Garden of Eden from the book of Genesis and the New Jerusalem. According to the book of Revelation, inside the New Jerusalem will also be the tree of life.
There are also differences between the Garden of Eden and the New Jerusalem. In the Garden, Adam had to toil the ground but in the city the streets are made from gold. The city will be surrounded with a great wall and twelve gates and that is unspecific for a garden.
Why would the New Jerusalem need a great wall and twelve gates if there will be nothing on the new earth to threaten the security of the saved human beings? Some people will be saved for eternal life and others will go into the lake of fire. None other than God, His Son, the elected human beings and the faithful angels will be on the new earth. God would regain an undisputed authority over the entire universe following Satan’s defeat. No walls or gates to protect the eternal city, New Jerusalem, will be needed. The images from the book of Revelation generate a confusion comparing the future eternal city with an ancient fortress.
“15 The angel* who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, fifteen hundred miles;* its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, one hundred and forty-four cubits* by human measurement, which the angel was using.” (Revelation 21; 15-17 NRSV)
If none will threaten the security of the New Jerusalem on the new earth, the high walls of the city will be useless. Even if the gates of the city will never be shut the situation doesn’t change the conundrum because the gates will be guarded by angels.
At the same time if Satan was such an important personage in the Garden of Eden, Eve would have heard about him and about his intentions. Did Eve not identify Satan’s voice when she heard the serpent talking to her? She had to know that Satan was God’s enemy if the entire revolt had happened in the Garden of Eden. The book of Genesis didn’t tell us that Adam and Eve would have been implicated in the events generated by Satan’s revolt or that they knew about them, but if that event was real the first human beings would have been necessarily aware of them and would have known the difference between good and evil before eating from the tree of knowledge. The book of Genesis implies that Adam and Eve didn’t know about Satan’s rebellion but in Ezekiel is written that the revolt happened in the same Garden.
It is hard to equate the serpent from Genesis chapter 3 with Satan from other texts of the Bible; they look like two different personages. In Genesis chapter 3 the serpent was an animal living in the Garden of Eden and not a spiritual being. It was a special animal and not a banal one, because unlike other animals, the serpent could speak. According to the book of Genesis one may assume that the serpent was an animal, which initially had legs. That is a logical conclusion because after the temptation of woman, the serpent was doomed to go onto its belly. For the serpent, going onto its belly was a consequence of the curse and not an innate natural characteristic of that animal. One may ask if all species of serpents were condemned to go onto their belly, after the temptation of woman, or only the individual which perpetrated the temptation of Eve. Snakes are elongated, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpents that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears.
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica serpents are one of the species which go upon their belly, and I quote:
“Snake (suborder Serpents), also called serpent, any of about 2,900 species of reptiles distinguished by their limbless condition and greatly elongated body and tail. Classified with lizards in the order Squamata, snakes represent a lizard that, over the course of evolution, has undergone structural reduction, simplification, and loss as well as specialization. All snakes lack external limbs, but not all legless reptiles are snakes.”
Did all reptiles become legless after the temptation of woman or only the suborder of the serpents? Lizards, as well as other reptiles, are limbless, but they are not serpents and consequently they shouldn’t have been affected by the curse of the serpent, which tempted woman. Why do lizards move on their bellies if they weren’t responsible for woman’s temptation? It is clear that the entire story with the temptation of Adam and Eve is a fable and doesn’t have anything to do with real facts. All reptiles go on their belly, at least this is the norm, and they were created within the six days, according to Genesis chapter 1. If they had been created before humankind the reptiles wouldn’t have been recreated as new species after humankind’s Fall. The reptiles go upon their belly not because one of them has tempted Eve but because this is the characteristic of their kind.
According to the book of Genesis God didn’t punish one individual serpent for its behaviour but He condemned many species of serpents to go on their belly. If the “Squamata” is a new order emerged after the temptation of woman, the creation was not finished in six days and the text in Genesis chapter 1 is wrong when it maintains that the process of creation would have ended when the sixth day of creation expired. Adam and Eve couldn’t have been tempted by the serpent and failing during the six days of creation, and at the same time at the end of them the creation being declared very good.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.” (Genesis 2, 1-2 NRSV)
If the order of “Squamata” in which the serpent is included had certain limbs before the human Fall, and as a result of the Fall and of God’s curse moved on the belly, He recreated a certain part of the animal regnum after the sixth day of creation, but this is in contradiction with Genesis chapter 1 which professes that the entire creation was finished in six days. To admit that an entire species of animals were condemned to go onto their belly because one individual tempted Eve is preposterous. This assertion would be even more absurd if we accept that Satan, not the serpent, was the real tempter. Satan was an angel, not a serpent, and he would have used the animal for his ends. Satan hid himself under the guise of a serpent. In such circumstances the animal was a victim, not a perpetrator, and there wouldn’t have been any reason to curse all species of serpents for that. Of course, that is a fable and doesn’t have any sense taken as real facts.
According to Genesis chapter 2, the snake from the Garden of Eden not only spoke unlike other snakes but also had legs which were lost after the temptation of Eve and God’s curse. In the real world, probably, snakes do not resent as a curse going upon their belly, they are very well adapted to this kind of movement which does not generate any inconvenience for them.
“14 The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’ (Genesis 3; 14-15 NRSV)
The point is that serpents could not have legs and also be serpents. If the serpents went onto their bellies after God’s curse and as a consequence of the curse, how did they move before the curse? If the serpents moved with legs they were not serpents at all but other species of animals. The allegory with the serpent invalidates the whole story of the Fall of humankind as a factual account.
The story from Genesis chapter 2 is not accurate and it cannot be trusted as a scientific fact. God’s curse of the serpent is a mythological and also an inconsistent story. At the same time, serpents, of course, don’t feed with dust, as the text from the book of Genesis says. Genesis chapter 2 is an allegory about creation which doesn’t have anything to do with what really happened in the human history.
According to the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis adopted by many believers, the devil entered a serpent and realised the temptation of woman. The animal serpent was not responsible for tempting Eve but Satan was, nevertheless the animal was cursed and punished. The animal was cursed to go upon the belly and not Satan. It is unfair to punish an animal for something for which it isn’t responsible. Punishment does not apply for whichever cannot bear a responsibility. God can do what He wants but He is just and He doesn’t punish anyone who is innocent. This is one of the columns of the Kingdom of God.
The text doesn’t allow us to make the shift from the animal to a spiritual power. It is about an animal, not a spirit, an animal which moves on its belly. In mythologies serpents can talk but of course they cannot do that in reality. The mythological symbolism of the serpent was so complex, in the ancient world, that to limit it only to the biblical interpretation is a form of unwarranted reductionism.
In the O.T. the serpent is in conflict with God, but not with man and woman. He is seen as a bringer of light of the knowledge, something similar to Prometheus, the Greek hero, who brought light to humankind. In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan, a figure who is credited with the creation of man from clay and who defies the gods and gives fire to humanity. The theft of fire is an act that enabled progress and civilization. He is known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind and in many ways, he is similar to the serpent from the book of Genesis.
The figure of serpent, in the book of Genesis, cannot at all be understood to be isolated from the whole mythological environment, in which the book of Genesis was written.
“The serpent, or snake, is one of the oldest and most widespread mythological symbols. Snakes have been associated with some of the oldest rituals known to humankind and represent dual expression of good and evil.In some cultures snakes were fertility symbols. In other cultures snakes symbolized the umbilical cord, joining all humans to Mother Earth. The Great Goddess often had snakes as her familiars - sometimes twining around her sacred staff, as in ancient Crete - and they were worshiped as guardians of her mysteries of birth and regeneration. Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing.”
What is the function of the serpent, in the book of Genesis chapter 2? It is an ally of man and woman, an opponent to God, he is on humans’ side. In Genesis chapter 2 not only the serpent but humankind also is an opponent to God. In mythology gods were seen sometimes as positive and sometimes as negative figures. In the Judeo-Christian traditions, God is presumed to be a positive figure, even if He, in the O.T. almost destroyed the human race, through the Flood, killed all first-born children of the Egyptians, and their army, destroyed many ancient civilizations, in order to offer to Israel the promised land. In the O.T. God was presented as a positive figure for anyone who obeyed His laws but very destructive for His human enemies. In the N.T. God is presumed to love His enemies and not to destroy them.
The snake, in the book of Genesis, wanted to open the gates of knowledge for humankind, to show them God’s reasons and strategies, in His dealings with humankind. Of course, the mythological figure, the snake, could be suspected of having its own agenda but this is not necessarily contrary to human interests.
In the Christian tradition we are asked to take sides, to be either on God’s side or against Him, meaning to be on the side of the devil. What would it mean to be just on the human side, to try to understand the universal confrontation between good and evil, from a human perspective? What were God’s reasons, depicted by the Bible, and what were the devil’s motives, according to the same book? What was the issue of the debate between God and Satan and what were the arguments of both sides? The Bible does not give all these answers.
The struggle for power between God and Satan in the Judeo-Christian tradition looks like a battle between a human King and His vassal. It is not the relationship between the infinite God, the Creator of all things, and one of His creatures, no matter how special this created being was. No creature can replace God and if any created being can do it He is not how the Judeo-Christian traditions describe Him. In those traditions God is Almighty, Omniscient and Omnipresent and most importantly the source of all life. God is unique and He is irreplaceable and His situation is incomparable with anyone else’s. This is a dilemma. If God could have been replaced by Satan following his revolt, all His attributes taught by the Christian doctrines and dogmas are false. At the same time, Satan is described as a very intelligent angel and if this is true he would have understood from the beginning that he couldn’t have won a battle against God. Either Satan is not that intelligent or God is not the unique source of life and can be replaced by one of His creatures.
In the understanding of Christian theology God is not only a King who can be dethroned. He is the existence of all existent things. Such incomparable Reality is degraded by the way in which it is seen by most interpretations of the Bible, mainly those which take literally its texts. If God could be eliminated by a creature He is not infinite but only a finite Reality because an infinite and Omnipresent Reality cannot be eliminated or subdued. This is another inconsistence of the book of Genesis.
At the same time, God couldn’t have been troubled by man who endeavoured to know good and evil. This is the expression of a mythological human understanding of God who cannot be treated as a possible competitor in a universal fight. The infinite God cannot be challenged by the attitude of human beings in their natural request for knowledge. The conflict is not between God and science but it is between a limited understanding of God by many commentators of the Bible and the human knowledge which cannot and should not accept limitations. God doesn’t prevent human beings from knowing Him; the eternal life means an infinite knowledge of Him.
The idea of Satan being the enemy of God in the way presented by the classical theism renders incredible the entire plot of the Bible.
In a gnostic view things become relatively different with the Demiurge who wouldn’t have tried to replace the Father in His unique situation as the essence of the entire existence, but who tries to become a lesser god dominating humankind.
The indubitable conclusion of many interpretations of the O.T and N.T., is that Satan is an adversary or accuser. In the New Testament, it is interchangeable with “Diabolos”, or devil, and is so used more than thirty times. “He is also called “the dragon,” “the old serpent” (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30); “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2); “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); “the spirit that now work in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). The distinct personality of Satan and his activity among men are thus obviously recognized. He tempted our Lord in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). He is “Beelzebub, the prince of the devils” (Matt. 12:24). He is the constant enemy of God, of Christ, of the divine kingdom, of the followers of Christ, and of all truth; full of falsehood and all malice, and exciting and seducing to evil in every possible way. His power is very great in the world. He is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Men are said to be “taken captive by him” (2 Tim. 2:26). Christians are warned against his “devices” (2 Cor. 2:11), and called on to resist him (James 4:7). Christ redeems his people from him that. (Heb. 2:14).
One of the most quoted biblical texts about Satan is the following:
“12 How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon;* 14 I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.” (Isaiah 14; 12-15 NRSV)
Parallels are drawn to the passage in Isaiah 14; 4-17 that mentions the morning star that had “fallen from heaven” and was “cast down to the earth”. In verse 12 of this passage, the Hebrew word that referred to the morning star was translated into Latin as Lucifer. With the application to the devil of the morning star story, “Lucifer” was also applied to him as a proper name.
The Jewish Encyclopaedia states that the myth concerning the morning star was transferred to Satan by the first century before the Common Era, citing in support of this view the Life of Adam and Eve and the Slavonic Book of Enoch 29:4, 31:4, where Satan-Sataniel is described as having been one of the archangels.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, the quoted biblical passage refers more to the king of Babylon than to a spiritual power and that is obvious when reading the whole of chapter 14 of the book of Isaiah. Being in heaven before being cast down to the earth, Satan couldn’t have “laid the nations low” because he couldn’t influence the nations without God’s approval. Angels don’t “lay the nations low”, only a human king or God can do that.
Apparently, Satan’s functions in the Kingdom of God would have been linked with guarding God’s throne, not with leading nations on Earth. At the same time, metaphorically, the text of the Bible could have paralleled the king of Babylon with Day Star. Moreover, the king of Babylon would have been in a situation to “lay the nations low” and he probably did that. A powerful earthly king could have dreamt to become a kind of false god and to be like the Most High, and history recorded many rulers who behaved as gods over their nations or over other occupied nations.
If the Day Star is the same personage as Satan, not only did he say in his heart that he will ascend to heaven, but it was already in heaven if it had fallen from it.
Another passage worth quoting concerning Satan’s identity is found in Ezekiel. This time the quotation is extensive in order to comprise all relevant elements:
“11 Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: 12 Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: You were the signet of perfection,* full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire,* turquoise, and emerald; and worked in gold were your settings and your engravings.*On the day that you were created they were prepared. 4 With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you;* you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the stones of fire. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. 16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from among the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctuaries. So I brought out fire from within you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. 19 All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more for ever.” (Ezekiel 28; 11-19 NRSV)
The text looks like it points towards the king of Tyre. If the text refers to Satan, the serpent from the Garden of Eden, the description of Satan, in the book of Ezekiel, contradicts the depiction of the serpent, in the book of Genesis. Verse 13, from the book of Ezekiel chapter 28, speaks in such terms about the serpent, which categorically contradicts the book of Genesis; hence it isn’t about the same personage. In the Garden of Eden Satan would have taken the form of a serpent or hid behind such an animal, according to Genesis chapter 1, but in Ezekiel 28, in Eden, the garden of God, every precious stone was the devil’s covering.
If Satan was in the Garden of Eden, covered in precious stones, he was not a serpent, an animal, because no animals are covered in precious stones. A special angel covered in precious stones was a material creation, not only a spiritual power hiding behind an animal, in this case a serpent.
What trade could the serpent have done, as an animal, in the Garden of Eden? The serpent didn’t do any trade in the Garden of Eden and that place wouldn’t have been destined for trade. Satan also, if different from the serpent, wouldn’t have done any trade in the Garden of Eden and the king of Tyre who could have done plenty of trade, couldn’t have lived in the Garden.
The two descriptions of Eden and of Satan from Ezekiel and Genesis are incompatible with one another.
The idea of making trade in the Garden of Eden occupied by only two human beings, Adam and Eve, is an absurd one. Nothing is adding up in the story of Satan and of the Garden of Eden.
In the book of Ezekiel, Satan would have been destroyed in the sight of all who saw him, but in other texts of the Bible the devil will endure until the end of the world. Which one is true out of the two different visions about Satan? Probably nothing is true because serpents don’t talk and aren’t covered in precious stones, and Satan didn’t do any trade in the Garden of Eden. Ezekiel 28, 11-19, doesn’t refer to Satan but can metaphorically speak about a rich king who tried to suppress other neighbouring nations.
In Genesis chapter 3 and Ezekiel chapter 28, Satan was punished twice. In the former he was condemned to go onto the belly and to eat dust, and in the latter he was turned to ashes. Obviously the serpent from Genesis 3 and Satan from Ezekiel chapter 28 are two very different personages. Being consumed by the fire, the personage from the book of Ezekiel cannot be Satan because the devil will be thrown in the lake of fire at the end of the days, hence he has not been consumed by the fire yet. The proposition from Ezekiel chapter 28, verse 18, “so I brought out fire from within you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you”, speaks of a past event but Satan is still alive.
One may say that the text in Ezekiel addresses two different questions at the same time. One question would be the fate of the king of Tyre and the second one, Satan’s revolt. In my opinion the text can be taken as referring only to the king of Tyre because nothing in Ezekiel 28 is such that it cannot be connected to that king. The signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty, covered by every precious stone, placed with an anointed cherub as guardian and walking among the stones of fire, could very well be a metaphorical description of the king of Tyre if he was a rich person.
In any case, the text from Ezekiel 28 brings forward a metaphor which doesn’t really say anything about Satan’s revolt against God. Another text of the Bible has to be quoted to complete the image of humankind’s Fall in connection with Satan’s fall:
“3 Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule* all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. 7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (Revelation 12; 3-9 NRSV)
As we can see, the text equates Satan with the serpent as being one and the same personage. Taking this observation into consideration, all contradictions between Genesis and the other biblical texts about Satan’s Fall are even better demonstrated. The description of Satan is very different between Genesis and Ezekiel, or between the former and the book of Revelation.
On the other side, if God is perfect in His character, as we are led to believe, what appearance of a fault or pretext could have been used by Satan against Him? What formal accusations could have been brought against Him by the devil in front of all the angels? God’s perfection should exclude and render derisory any accusation against Him. Either God is perfect, and that was obvious for the angels, or He is not perfect, having some apparent imperfections and Satan has used them. Nobody can revolt against perfection, because there is nothing to argue against it. If, nevertheless, someone would have done that, none would have followed and the contender would have remained alone. Not so with Satan’s revolt. He not only was followed by a third of the angels, but also the other two thirds remained with doubts and God would have considered it necessary to develop a very complex plan, in order to dispel their incertitude.
This is the understanding of many Christians. God had created man and woman, in order for Satan to have a stage on which he could demonstrate “in vivo” his theories about freedom and rights.
The earth was created as a laboratory for the devil’s works in which he was doomed to fail in his attempt to demonstrate a better order than God’s. The faithful angels couldn’t have imagined fully Satan’s promises for another type of government and they needed to see those propositions happening under their eyes on Earth. Without the social experiences made on Earth the faithful angels would have kept in their minds some of Satan’s words and the effects of his revolt would have reverberated forever in God’s Kingdom. Satan’s experiences on Earth would have had, as a result, the conclusion that total independence from God isn’t good because it leads to chaos and destruction.
In reality such demonstration couldn’t have been conclusive because democracy is proven to be better than any authoritarian system, the former bringing personal achievements for much more individual human beings than the latter. At the same time religion didn’t help too much in bringing peace and stability in the world and the name of God was used many times for justifying despicable atrocities. On the other side, mortal life and eternal life are two very different things and it is difficult to judge the value of an order based on eternal life after what happens in a mortal life. When changing the coordinates from eternal to mortal or from mortal to eternal, the mentalities of the conscious living beings would have changed radically.
The fundamental problem is the birth of evil in the world. God could have avoided the apparition of evil in His creation. Evil has a cause and cannot be reduced to one person or one angel. One third of all angels in the heavens followed the evil and rebelled against God. The cause of evil is considered to be pride, the effect of having beauty and personal power. Satan would have been proud and he would have forgotten his place in the creation, and he would have wanted to be like God. Nevertheless, this seems to be an inconsistent interpretation of the fight between good and evil in the Bible. God knows everything beforehand therefore He would have known Satan’s future before the development of the events. Satan’s revolt couldn’t have happened as a surprise for God if He really knows everything.
If God doesn’t know the future and He didn’t know ante factum that Satan would revolt against Him, He isn’t the Almighty presented by the doctrines and dogmas. God could have known at least that an excess of beauty and power can bring someone to pride.
The creation of Satan as a special angel, as a defender of God’s throne, couldn’t have had any reasonable motive because He didn’t need to be defended from anyone before the revolt. Either God doesn’t know the future and Satan’s revolt wasn’t predicted by Him, or He knows it and He willingly created Satan as a potential agent of evil. The reason could have been the realisation of a complex plan in which humankind also has a place. If God created Satan knowing his potential for evil He is the source of evil in the world.
Many possible scenarios can only try to make sense of an unbelievable story, that of the battle between good and evil from the Bible. It is hard to believe because it contains many illogical elements. One is the revolt of a creature against the Creator and the pretention of that creature to win such a battle against an infinite Reality. Another discrepancy just mentioned is the creation of Satan as a potential factor for the generation of evil. The entire story doesn’t make too much sense and can be inscribed in the mythological genre. If the battle between God and Satan is real, there are many components totally unknown to humankind; hence the Bible doesn’t present authentic revelation in this regard in order to make sense of the story of Adam and Eve.
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