Taking a Look at the Fall (Part 2)

Now we’ll take a closer look at the structure of the passages we’ll examine:

Outline of Genesis 1-3

Gen. 1: 1-26- God creates out of the void
Gen. 1:26- man as image and likeness =Kingship!

Gen. 2:4-15: God creates man and places him in the garden
2:16-God’s prohibition
2:18: Eve created as helper to Adam, Adam has primacy by creation order
2:19: Adam exercises dominion over animals by naming them
2:23-25: Unity among the sexes

Gen. 3:1: Introduction of the serpent
3:2-10: The temptation
3:11-24: Punishments for all those involved (hope for restoration is alluded to)

Literary Analysis
Scholars are divided on what genre the creation account in Genesis belongs to. Is it a literal narrative or is it allegory? Is it historical or merely symbolic? Some take it as myth; others say it is true myth (C. S. Lewis). It can potentially inhibit our comprehension of the text if we attempt to force it into the Procrustean bed of just one discrete genre.

Genesis 3 has features of several literary genres, the most obvious being historical narrative and poetry. The notion that it is historical narrative is based upon the witness to the historicity of Adam from the Gospel of Luke (Lk. 3:38), and the Apostle Paul (Romans 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; 1Tim. 2:13-14). According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus is shown to have quoted Genesis 2:24 (cf. Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8). In these passages Jesus appeals to the original created design for marriage, an institution grounded in real space-time history. In doing this, Jesus merely shares the common first century Jewish belief that the creation account, including the existence of our first parents, was a factual and historical reality and not an allegorical tale.

Linguistic Analysis
In 1:26, the Hebrew words tseleh (image), and dmuth (likeness) are used to convey that man was made in God’s image and likeness. Tseleh is used 17 times in the Old Testament; 5 times in Genesis (1:26, twice in 27; 5:3; 9:6). Outside of Genesis tseleh is usually used to denote a physical representation, e.g., idols (Num 33:52), models of tumors (1 Sam 6:5), or pictures of men (Ezek 16:17). The origin of this word is uncertain. This means that its meaning may have been indistinct. There is no such ambiguity of meaning with dmuth. It is a noun that is clearly related to the verb meaning “to be like, resemble”. There are various theories of whether these words have discrete meanings, or are interchangeable. In the absence of contextual evidence of distinct meanings, and in light of the apparently functionally equivalent way these terms are used in Gen. 5:3, “likeness” seems to contextually nuance “image”.

Genesis does not explicitly state that the serpent is being used or embodied by the devil. Christians who believe in the unity of scripture (i.e. both Testaments form one theological and literary whole) do not have a problem with this. In the Septuagint the Hebrew word that is translated serpent is rendered by the Greek word ophis. In the New Testament book of Revelation, ophis is used to identify the serpent as Satan (cf. Rev. 12:9, 20:2). It is widely accepted in Christian theology that the devil either took the form of a serpent or embodied an actual specimen to mislead Eve.

Theological Interpretation
The snake is described as cunning, or shrewd in the KJV. This Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament to denote both vice and virtue. In this context, it is clearly referring to the serpent’s ability in using clever reasoning with intent to deceive. In Hebrew narrative, it is not common to state the character traits of a participant in the story. When it is done, it is to solicit careful attention on the part of the reader (or listener). The narrator may be warning us as to whether the serpent is speaking the truth, and thus directing us not to accept the words of the serpent as uncritically as Eve.

The serpent deceptively leads Eve toward rejection of God’s Word as the final authority. Instead of complete trust in her Creator’s pronouncement, she is coaxed into weighing the serpent’s pronouncements against what God has said. The serpent’s lack of a covenantal relationship with God is displayed by his practice of using God (Elohim) as the designation for the Creator in lieu of addressing him as the Lord God (Yahweh). The switch of words is crucial, in describing God simply as God instead of as the Lord God, which is characteristic of the rest of Gen 2-3, there is a suggestion of the serpent’s distance from God. God is just the remote creator. Not Yahweh, Israel’s covenant partner. (Word Biblical Commentary, Genesis. Volume 1, p. 73) By deciding whose directions she should follow, Eve posits herself as the ultimate arbiter of what is right and good. This is at first shown by her appropriation of the serpent’s practice of using God instead of the Lord God (Yahweh). She had decided that God was no longer her Lord.

This repudiation of God’s divine right over the whole creation is demonstrated by how she responds to the serpent’s deceptive inquiry in 3:1, “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Eve includes an added ban on touching the tree not mentioned in the original prohibition in 2:17. This modification may insinuate that God is oppressive. His Lordship is rejected, and now his generosity is questioned. This narrative clearly illustrates the self-centeredness that characterizes sin.

There is a certain ambiguity found in the 3:6. It is not transparently clear whether Adam was present during the dialogue between the serpent and Eve. It is commonly assumed that Adam was not present during the interchange between the snake and the woman. No less an exegete than John Calvin held this view. Other scholars hold that Adam was indeed with Eve during the whole dialogue.

If Adam was there, then he failed in his kingly duty to have dominion over the serpent and leadership in his relationship with Eve. This culminates in his refusal to reject the offer based on God’s authoritative prohibition. If he was not there, this shows that the serpent, being crafty, did not go about his task through the ordained lines of authority. Instead of addressing the man, he deceived the woman, turning the divinely-mandated authority structure on its head.

In either case, the serpent displays utter disdain for God’s hierarchical design. By directing his words to Eve, as opposed to Adam, it certainly seems as if serpent was working towards a precise reversal of the created order. The creation was good, thus the rejection of God’s order is tantamount to a repudiation of his Lordship. The serpent calculatingly led God’s royal image bearers in their rebellion by directing them to replace faith in God’s Word with faith in creaturely autonomy. In the heart of man, the summum bonum (i.e. highest good) was exchanged. Man now lived for his glory alone. Later in verses 14-19, we are shown God’s punishment for their transgression, as well as a promise of hope to come.

The theological implications of this passage are vast. Man, by his sinful self-interest ushered corruption into the created order. Christian theology cannot be understood apart from the Fall. Suffering and evil originate here. Intuitively man knows that all is not well with the world. Genesis 3 affirms this universal notion, and explains its origin. The divinely decreed hierarchical structure had been inverted, and the effects linger.

In answering for their transgression, Adam directly blames Eve and indirectly implicates God; Eve likewise blames the serpent for her disobedience (Gen. 3:12-13). The Lord first punishes the serpent. God does not question it as he does Adam and Eve. The serpent is demoted to the position of a writhing creature that is from thereafter conceived of as a symbol of deception. The second part of the serpent’s penalty is quite interesting.

Gen 3:15: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

The first punishment clearly refers to the animal; the second is believed to include the actual source of the manipulation, Satan. Most conservative scholarship has understood this as an allusion to the eventual defeat of Satan accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After pronouncing the serpent’s punishment, God, then states the penalties meted out for man’s transgression.

In starting with Eve, God is following the anti-creational inversion in the Fall. In Gen. 1:28, God blesses man with the decree to be fruitful and multiply. In the curse, women will only be able to conceive in pain. Interestingly, the next aspect of the curse regards the women vis-a-vis the man. Just as in the second punishment of the serpent related to the woman, the second part of her penalty is in direct relation to man. The curse seems to have had a dysfunctional effect on the woman’s desire for her husband as well as on her subordination to him. Some commentators locate in this verse the origin of the oppressive treatment of women that has characterized most patriarchal societies.

Adam’s punishment is covered in three verses, 3:17-19. Each verse unfolds the curses that await Adam. First, in v. 17 God explains why Adam is now cursed. Rather than heed the word of God concerning judgment, he listened to the word of his wife (turning the lines of creaturely authority on their head). Second (v. 18), the creation over which Adam has been given dominion over is still his responsibility, but now it will reject his rule. Third, both life and work will be marked by pain and difficulty, followed ultimately by death. In effect, the curse of v. 19 is “life will be hard, and then you die.” Man was to rule over the world as vice regent, but just as he rejected God’s authority, the earth now yields to him only through much work and hardship. Death and corruption then entered the whole of creation resulting from man’s rebellion.

Next we’ll summarize and conclude…

–David R. Torres


Posted on June 23, 2007, in Adam, Sin. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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