Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lecture 2: Adam and Eve

Lecture 2: Adam and Eve

This story of Eden is never mentioned again in the Old Testament/Tanakh (its next canonical appearances are the Old Testament Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical writings).  How then, if at all, does the story affect interpretations of later texts (e.g., the man speaks of leaving home to cleave to his wife; do most male characters do this)?
I think first and foremost, the story of Eden provides a basis for us to understand who we are.  We are created by God in God’s image.  I think that would certainly affect the interpretations of later texts.  For example, Psalm 139 – “he knit us together” – created by God.  Job has many references to the idea of God as the one who set the world in motion.  The Adam and Eve story create a reference for the rest of scripture that God expects obedience, and there are (perhaps even self-inflicted) consequences of disobedience.  The Adam and Eve story sets up the idea that we have been expelled from paradise and we cannot return.  It establishes the idea that we have the freedom to choose.  And the expulsion story sets up the idea of family – a unit working together.
 How closely do later retellings (Milton’s Paradise Lost, the film The Bible, popular cultural renditions) adhere to the text?
We have a tendency in the retelling of any biblical story to homogenize the story – for example, the first chapter of Genesis combined with the second chapter into one homogeneous story.  We also have a tendency to stamp the story with our own cultural interpretation.  We have an impression that Eve tempted Adam to eat the fruit, when he was standing right there as the snake tempted her.  
 Is Eden a desirable place?  A return to childhood?  A prison?
I would think that for it to be considered a prison, the occupants would have to lack free will – no ability to make their own choices – and they would desire to leave.  Neither one of those are true.  In some ways, one could consider it a place of child-like life and faith.  Before the fall, the occupants were innocent and were in close relationship to God (as one would be with a parent).  I imagine they found it to be a desirable place, and were sorry to be made to leave.  Do I think heaven is like Eden?  No, not really.  We don’t have the innocence that Adam and Eve shared – even in our salvation, we are not like them in that way.  We are called to a more child-like faith in God, and the day to day walk with God is a frightening but desirable relationship.

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