I was listening to my audio Bible in the car today, and I had a thought in passing that I would like to share with you all. Please note, this is mostly based on speculation. Please do not take my thoughts and interpretation as Law or Inspired. They are not.
First, There are a few things we must establish up-front before any discussion is made on the book of Genesis. 1) We have all that we need. In order to find the point of the narrative that is contained in the book, we don’t need any more information. The rest of what happens is up for conjecture 2) We don’t have all the information. It’s clear that the story which we have does not represent each and every event, conversation, birth, or whatever else that occurred during this time period. 3) It’s ok to wonder and speculate. As long as our core, foundational beliefs remain firmly rooted in Scripture, we have the freedom to guess at and study the finer points and the less clear portions of the story of the Bible.
Now, let’s get into it.
3:1 Now1 the serpent was more shrewd than any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?” 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard; 3:3 but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’” 3:4 The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, 3:5 for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.”
It has long been noted that Eve got God’s command wrong. He said “don’t eat, you’ll die.” She said “don’t touch, we’ll die.” Clearly something had been lost in that conversation. Typically, the interpretation has been that Eve didn’t clearly understand what God had commanded. This would have led to an improper understanding of what God’s intentions, meanings, repercussions would be. I would agree that if you don’t have the same starting point in a dialog, you will definitely have a different finish line. But there may be more at work in this story. Let’s look back a chapter:
2:15 The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. 2:16 Then the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, 2:17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.”
From this passage, it would appear that Eve wasn’t instructed not to eat from the tree by God (that doesn’t mean she wasn’t, it just means that we don’t know for sure). She wasn’t even around by this point in the story. It seems to me that the command from God was probably handed down by Adam to Eve. He was an intermediary between the two of them.
There are so many different things that I learned this past semester from Dr. Billy W. Jones. One of them, “Mankind always develops law.” An innate part of being a human is that we seek to establish a law of some kind. We even have a tendency to take law to extremes. As we see in Judaism (as portrayed in the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures), people have a tendency to build a “hedge” around known law. The Jewish people in the first and preceding centuries tried to make a bunch of extra laws to protect people from breaking the known, God-given Law. This hedge kept people from breaking the Law by keeping them far from even coming close to breaking it.
Adam may have tried the same thing for Eve. If (big if) he was the one to relate the command from God to Eve, he may have tried to protect her from even coming close. I image that he may have said something like “Baby, we aren’t allowed to eat the fruit from that tree. God said ‘When you do, you will die.’ In fact, you’d better not even touch it, just to be on the safe side.” How many times to men try to make things easier on the women-folk by deception (don’t answer that)? How many times does it blow up in our face (too often)? Really, it becomes a dicey call, Bub.
How often, in the Church, do we do that? We take all the grey areas of the Bible (alcohol, dating, gambling, drugs, the list goes on) and we make up our own rules. We think that if God is less than clear on something, we’d better be extra-safe. Let’s keep people from possibly offending God by making up rules to make it impossible for them to even try to break what God may have been getting at.
We are shutting the church doors for those who are interested because their “activities” are sinful. We are crippling those who are coming to know Christ. We are saddling them with unfair, unnecessary rules. We are “looking out for their best interest,” but in-so-doing we are preventing them from examining the Scriptures to make up their own mind. In modern Christianity we have such a hedge around all the “taboo” topics. We have built our own rules and codes that speak on issues which are largely absent from Scripture. This cannot last. The Church will not survive another generation of operating in this way.
I love one of the sayings from the early Restoration (Stone-Campbell) Movement: “Where the Bible speaks; we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent.” Let’s go back to preaching the Bible. Let’s go back to telling people what it actually says. Let’s ditch this stigma of being a “good, conservative, Republican Christian.” Let’s ditch our own rules and practice what the Bible tells us to practice.
If we don’t get our act together, we’ll find ourselves trapped in a hedge-maze that we can’t find our way out of.