Two Trees of Eden

Serpentby Anniel  10/27/14
The Ten Commandments Symposium on the Sixth Commandment has led to a welter of thoughts and postings about the Garden of Eden, the fall of Adam and Eve, and the state of Cain as the murderer of his brother, Abel.

I have been stunned and flummoxed by some of the allegations against our first parents, Adam and Eve, and some of the conjecture about Eden and what went on there. In order to gain some better understanding I have been studying again the creation story in three different translations, the *King James Version (KJV), the **TANAKH, and the ***Peshitta from the Aramaic. (See Notes below.)

All three texts set out the days of creation, and say that on the 6th day:

. . . God created man in his OWN image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it . . . (Genesis 1:27-28, KJV)

What exactly does it mean to be created in God’s image? Do we look like Him, or are we meant to be like Him? Or is this mere symbolism?

On the 7th day, God rested from His labors and hallowed it as the sabbath. Then, confusingly, we are told:

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field BEFORE it was in the earth, and every herb of the field BEFORE it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there WAS NOT A MAN to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. (Ibid. 2:4-6, KJV)

This account of creation is essentially the same in all three translations. So we are first told all things were created, and in what order, but they apparently were not yet ON THE EARTH. Adam and Eve were also given instructions to be fruitful, multiply and replenish and subdue the earth BEFORE they were placed on it. To be chronologically and textually accurate, that is what we are told. Yes, there are people who read this ALL symbolically, and there are those who think several stories were mixed together, so the chronology we have in the story may be misunderstood. Nonetheless, this is the story we have from the texts.[pullquote]The Tree of Life is a potent symbol in all civilizations. Even atheists and Darwinian evolutionists have a version of it, if you so choose. They tout it as the “REAL AND SCIENTIFIC TREE OF LIFE,” no God or Intelligent Design needed.[/pullquote]

After His sabbath rest:

. . . the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Ibid. 2:7; KJV)

All three texts are the same as to the order of creation and when man actually became a living soul.

And the lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the TREE OF LIFE also in the midst of the garden, and the TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND
EVIL.
(Ibid. 2:8-9; KJV)

We now have TWO named trees, the Tree of Life, and, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil according to the KJV and the Peshitta, only the TANAKH gives the second tree the title Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. There seemed to be some disagreement in the postings on the 6th Commandment as to differences between the terms good and evil. They are essentially the same to me.

And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (TANAKH . . . To till it and tend it). And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayst freely eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Ibid. 2:15-17; KJV)

Adam is alone in the Garden at first, and he could freely eat of everything, including the Tree of Life. Now he is told that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is forbidden and will bring death if he partakes of it. So the trees represent opposite things to Adam, life and death. It seems that Adam truly does now have a choice before him.

Once again, the text is confusing about the creation of woman. The Lord says a mate needs to be made, or found, for the man, but then has Adam name the animals before causing a deep sleep to come upon him while a woman is formed from a rib taken from his side. God refers to Eve as a help meet (KJV), fitting (TANAKH), or equal (Peshitta) to the man. Adam later names the woman Eve “because she is the mother of all living.”

Adam and Eve are referred to as husband and wife, since the Lord is the one who placed them together. The TANAKH is the most poetic of how Adam speaks of Eve:

. . .”This one at last
Is bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh.
This one shall be called Woman,
For from man was she taken.”

Hence a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh. The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, yet they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:23-25, TANAKH)

No time frame is given for how long Adam and Eve lived in innocence in the garden. Adam dresses and tends the garden as instructed, Eve, we assume, helps him in that labor. All their needs are met, and they walk and talk with God. We are told of no children being born, they have food, and the animals are tame. Sounds like a perfect, and perfectly static, existence.

Someone once said that Eden was a polyester garden, always perfectly pressed, and not much exciting happens. But, in the middle of that garden, there were two opposing trees always before the eyes of the man and the woman.

Finally the serpent, the shrewdest (TANAKH), subtil (KJV), or subtle (Peshitta) of all the animals in the garden, entices Eve, with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He tells her one lie, “You are not going to die,” and one truth, as later verified by God Himself, “but God knows that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and bad.” (Genesis 3:4-5; TANAKH)

Eve partakes of the fruit and gives it to Adam, who also partakes of it, and their eyes are opened. They recognize their nakedness, and somehow make aprons of fig leaves. (Had the woman been taught to sew?) When God calls to them they hide themselves from Him in shame. After confronting them, God takes many actions in the wake of the Fall:

First, He curses the serpent to crawl on his belly and lick the dust of the earth. He puts enmity between the serpent and the seed of the woman, saying that the serpent will have power to bruise the heel of her seed, but her seed shall bruise the serpent’s head.

In the Douay-Rheims version of the bible, the cursing of the serpent says the seed of the woman shall have power to crush the serpent’s head. The serpent has been seen as symbolic of Satan, while the seed of the woman is the Savior, Jesus Christ, the only man who has had only one female mortal parent, His mother, Mary.

Second, God tells the woman that He shall greatly multiply her sorrow and her conception. The woman will bring forth children in sorrow, and her desire shall be to her husband, who will rule over her.

Do women bear children in sorrow? Yes, and no. After the pain and work of delivery, sorrow almost immediately turns to joy for most women. Have you ever wondered if Adam knew enough animal husbandry that he could help Eve when that first baby was born?

What about the woman being ruled over by the man? She was said to be created as meet, fitting or equal to him, so in what sense was he to rule over her? Or was he rather to lead or care for and oversee the first human family?

Third, to Adam God says:

“. . . cursed is the ground FOR THY SAKE; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, til thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:17-19; KJV)

The ground is cursed, for Adam’s sake. His life will not be easy. He will have trials and tribulation all the days of his life. How many curses or trials turn out to be the best things that ever happen to men and give them the most strength and growth? We should all know the growth that comes from real work. The Great God always refers to His own creations as His work.

Fourth,

Unto Adam and also his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21; KJV)

The killing of the animals and the shedding of their blood, are the first deaths after the fall, and are also necessary to clothe Adam and Eve. This action is thought by many to be symbolic of the Atonement which will be wrought through the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ. It can also be seen as the actions of a loving God to help teach and prepare His created children as He sends them out into a fallen world.

Fifth,

And the Lord God said, “Now that the man has BECOME LIKE ONE OF US, KNOWING GOOD AND BAD, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever!” So the Lord God banished him from the garden of Eden to till the soil from which he was taken. He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the flaming sword, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-23; TANAKH) The Peshitta says that the flaming sword TURNED EVERY WAY, to guard the path to the tree of life.

Now we reach the heart of the matter. The choice made by Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit and bring about a fallen world. The first death was a separation from God. By partaking of the fruit, Adam and Eve became fully human, and brought choice between good and evil to them and their children. The second death would be physical death, the return of men’s bodies to the dust of the earth.

Eve in particular has been demonized for her sin. But was man meant to remain in Eden? If so, why did God put cherubim and a flaming sword to guard or block the way to the Tree of Life, lest the man and woman eat of that fruit and live forever? Why would it be wrong now to partake of the tree? Was their banishment simply for punishment?

There are theologians who believe that time and humanness did not begin until the Fall, that Adam and Eve realized they could not bring about God’s purposes until they chose to take the burdens of mortality upon themselves and bring about physical death so they could return to God after proving themselves worthy. Some have written that they were our emissaries or representatives in freely bringing about an earth where man could become imperfect and live and die in freedom. Only if we have choice or free will do we have liberty, and they made that choice for mankind.

The anthropologist and philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss has said that all creation myths come down to existing imperfectly or not existing at all. (And yes, I do agree with that thought.)

One matter brought up in the 6th Commandment Symposium is that Cain, the first murderer, was poorly reared by the sinners, Adam and Eve. If, as alluded to above, they were intelligent and noble souls, chosen by the Great God, who knows all things, to be our first parents, should we make such a harsh judgment against them? Were Adam and his “fitting” wife, Eve, sinners? Of course, as are we all, but they may have raised their children lovingly and well. After all, Abel was righteous and made an acceptable sacrifice in the eyes of God. Seth also was righteous. Of those three children Cain alone became a murderer and is responsible for his own choices.

Not having been told why God allowed Cain to live, one can only speculate
about the mind of God concerning him.

THE GARDEN OF EDEN AND THE TWO TREES

The Tree of Life is a potent symbol in all civilizations. Even atheists and Darwinian evolutionists have a version of it, if you so choose. They tout it as the “REAL AND SCIENTIFIC TREE OF LIFE,” no God or Intelligent Design needed.

If you choose the story of Adam and Eve, our first parents, as reality or symbolism, or a mixture of both, what happened to Eden and the trees after Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden? Did they fall to rack and ruin? Were the two trees uprooted and taken to Heaven? Or do the Cherubim and flaming sword still guard the way to the Tree of Life so that we, as the heirs of Adam and Eve, cannot partake of it and live forever, much as we would like to? Is physical death a cursing or a blessing? Did our first parents have a glimpse of what heaven awaited them if they accepted the conditions of mortality, the Atonement and Resurrection?

As for further knowledge of the Tree of Life, the scriptures, all the way to the end, speak only of things that are like a tree of life, i.e., wisdom or kind words are like a tree of life. Then, in the book of Revelation, the last chapter, after a description of the Holy City and its beauties, we are told:

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, gushing out of the throne of God and the Lamb. In the midst of the great street of the city, and on either side of the river WAS THE TREE OF LIFE, which bore twelve kinds of fruits, and each month it yielded one of its fruits; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the people. Revelation 22:1-2; Peshitta.

I am Aleph and Tau, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right TO THE TREE OF LIFE, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:13-14; Peshitta.

Someday we may enter into the Holy city and be healed by having a right to the waters and Tree of Life.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Notes

*King James Version (KJV) of the bible. This was the bible I was around most in my youth. Some of my fundamentalist friends consider it to be the only true and inerrant translation they will accept.

** TANAKH as translated from the Hebrew by the Jewish Publication Society of America, contains only what is referred to as the “Old Testament.”

***The Holy Bible From the Ancient Eastern Text, George M. Lamsa’s Translation From the Aramaic of the Peshitta (Peshitta). Mr. Lamsa, a leader in the Eastern Orthodox Church in the U.S., and several other native Aramaic speakers worked on this translation, which their church says is in the same language used at the time of Christ for the Old Testament, and that the Books of the New Testament were originally also written in Aramaic. • (3613 views)

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83 Responses to Two Trees of Eden

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    An interesting essay, Annie. I don’t suppose it will end the controversy, but it’s more to chew on.

    Only if we have choice or free will do we have liberty, and they made that choice for mankind.

    I think that’s an apt description. And yet there’s a contradiction (and perhaps even a logic bomb that will make one’s head explode if you think about it too long) in the idea of not having had the opportunity to make the choice of free will for ourselves — that choice having been taken out of our hands by someone prior to us. So we have free will whether we choose to or not. And, of course, to even have a choice one has to first have free will.

    So I’m not sure how to describe exactly the state of affairs of Adam and Eve in regards to choice prior to eating of the apple. I think any fair reading is going to show two people who were anything but wise to the ways of the world and couldn’t have made a rational choice regarding the apple, any more than an infant can choose whether or not it is good to touch the heating element on the stove.

    So I take these stories as metaphors, at most, for man’s situation. I do think I agree with Claude Levi-Strauss that “all creation myths come down to existing imperfectly or not existing at all.” And if all such myths don’t come down to that (surely I can imagine there are some that don’t), it certainly seems to be the way the world is formulated.

    My main objection to the myth of the Garden of Eden is that the world would be an imperfect place whether or not man sinned. The idea of existing without sin and having choice — as well as living in the real world with all of its on-rushing complexity and contingency — would seem to make a sinless life out of the question for all but Gods. So the world is what it is, and I part ways for the most part on the idea of Original Sin. It would seem that life is just made for fruit-eating and listening to snakes from time to time. I mean, we do have Obama.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      An interesting take on the problem of good and evil can be found at the end of Anthony Boucher’s novelette “We Print the Truth”, in which a Catholic priest notes that you love your children even when they disobey you, but you don’t love the chessman who always does your precise bidding. Likewise, God loves the human who sometimes errs over the animal who behaves on instinct.

    • GHG says:

      Brad, to say “I think any fair reading is going to show two people who were anything but wise to the ways of the world and couldn’t have made a rational choice regarding the apple, any more than an infant can choose whether or not it is good to touch the heating element on the stove.” it to imply A&E did not comprehend God’s command to not eat the fruit of the forbidden tree which would implicate God to be capricious and unfair to hold them accountable for something they couldn’t control. The story makes no sense unless A&E chose by their own free will to disobey God’s command, and hence were held accountable for their disobedience.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        it to imply A&E did not comprehend God’s command to not eat the fruit of the forbidden tree which would implicate God to be capricious and unfair to hold them accountable for something they couldn’t control.

        They didn’t fully comprehend God’s command or it’s likely they wouldn’t have eaten of the apple. They were like so many people who see nothing more than the immediate perceived benefit before them. So they vote for Obama, or eat the apple, or have the illicit affair, take an extra cookie from the cookie jar, whatever.

        Adam and Eve had no experience with the kind of deception of the serpent. They were like the low-information voters who tune into Jon Stewart thinking they are getting real news.

        Adam and Eve seem child-like…certainly their innocence seems to have that quality. When they ate of the fruit (so conveniently put there for them, for surely God didn’t need it…truly the first instance of the proverbial “low-hanging fruit”) they become fully human and able to make choices, for good or for ill.

        If we’re actually talking about the first humans who knew no evil, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to comprehend free will, let alone the idea of consequences to their actions. Children don’t, and must slowly learn.

        • GHG says:

          I guess we can agree to disagree because (1) there must be a choice to be made for free will to have substance, and (2) God would not have given them the command to not eat and left it to chance whether they comprehended what he meant or not.

          The command was not complicated or “tricky”. Don’t eat the fruit from that tree. Period. I simply see nothing in the Genesis story that gives A&E an out without then also turning God into an unfair tyrant that would punish his creatures even when they didn’t comprehend the command. That would be unjust of Him.

          There is an all important element that is being missed here and that is that God is God. When He says don’t do something, it’s not our position to question Him. Our position is to follow His command. If we don’t follow His command then we will be punished.

          In terms of whether sin existed before the bite of the apple, or before Eve contemplated going against God’s command, the antagonist in the story had already sinned when he tried to be like God and was cast away. Not human sin, but sin nonetheless. Now whether that’s simply kicking the “where did sin originate?” can down the road or not, it’s not relevant to the A&E story because the serpent sinned when he lied to Eve and than Eve and Adam sinned. And the rest is HIStory.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            (2) God would not have given them the command to not eat and left it to chance whether they comprehended what he meant or not.

            In this story, God tells them, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

            That’s a pretty solid indication that were are talking allegory, not literal history. To have a tree called “The Knowledge of Good and Evil” says that fairly plainly.

            And surely the Serpent had his own motives, but perhaps his temptation was so powerful because he spoke truthfully, at least in part:

            “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

            Had the tree been called “The Ability to Stretch like Reed Richards of The Fantastic Four” I would think the expectation would be obvious. And by knowing good and evil, man thus becomes a moral creature able to make choices about such things. He may have had some free will before eating of the proverbial apple, but clearly he had more afterward.

            This story is an attempt to explain why life is so hard, why we die, and why there is evil. We see the same sort of transformation in our children — from garden to the world — although they don’t actually eat of a piece of fruit. Their worldliness comes in stages. But if the parents are fairly loving and provide for the child’s basic needs — although surely sometimes children can act like little monsters — children have the capacity of total innocence. Later they will learn that people cannot generally be fully trusted. They will stub their toes often enough to learn that world is not paradise.

            But they have not learned all those lessons yet when they are very young. And they gambol around the world without a care, finding the most mundane things breathtakingly fascinating and joyful.

            We lose that as we get older. And we need to to some extent, for man is a political animal, one who schemes. There are snakes all around us. We must be careful in the garden of life.

            This story and this commentary doesn’t solve the problem of evil. No one has. It remains a mystery. But the apple was always in the equation.

            • GHG says:

              Whether it’s an allegory or not is beside the point I was addressing. The point being that God gave a commend, the command was disobeyed, punishment ensued. There was no ambiguity. There was no confusion. There was nothing that provides A&E an “out”. There were no ifs, ands, or buts. God was not in any way responsible for the choice A&E made to disobey. God is not ambiguous and He’s not unfair.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Whether it’s an allegory or not is beside the point I was addressing. The point being that God gave a commend, the command was disobeyed, punishment ensued. There was no ambiguity.

                The vision I get is of Adam and Eve walking about blissfully ignorant in the garden of Eden…not even aware of their own nakedness, and certainly not savvy in the ways of Talking Snakes, let alone the ontological realities of Mystical Trees.

                So God plants a tree (a tree for which presumably he has no need) in the garden called “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” and tells them not to eat of it. Why have the tree there at all? If God is omniscient (or at least wise in the ways of a couple of humans who are functionally adolescent) he knows that tree is as attractive to Adam and Eve as a beer is to a teenager who is told he must not drink any at the frat party.

                Obeying our parents on every single thing — especially including mystical trees planted with the equivalent of a neon sign on them that says “This is Great Fruit” — is practically impossible. And this story with the allegorically named tree is very likely an allegory. I think it is clear that we are meant to draw a lesson from it. And I think that lesson is much deeper than one of simple blind obedience.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I have been stunned and flummoxed by some of the allegations against our first parents, Adam and Eve, and some of the conjecture about Eden and what went on there.

    Anniel,

    Please let us know what points stunned you in the original discussion? Thanks.

    I noted your comments on the question of Adam’s sin by eating the forbidden fruit, but I didn’t see anything else which addressed some of the specific ideas in the earlier string. Perhaps I am missing something and if so, would appreciate your clarification.

  3. Anniel says:

    Mr. Kung, my computer is failing. I’ve answered twice then had my effort swallowed. Will reboot and try again later

  4. Fascinating analysis, Anniel. I appreciate your scholarship. I’ll add one more small note to the symphony: Robert Frost’s sonnet “Never Again Would Birdsong be the Same.”

    He would declare and could himself believe
    That the birds there in all the garden round
    From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
    Had added to their own an oversound,
    Her tone of meaning but without the words.
    Admittedly an eloquence so soft
    Could only have had an influence on birds
    When call or laughter carried it aloft.
    Be that as may be, she was in their song.
    Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
    Had now persisted in the woods so long
    That probably it never would be lost.
    Never again would birds’ song be the same.
    And to do that to birds was why she came.

    Not that Frost is in any way a theologian, but his take here is worth remembering — Adam was so thoroughly in love with Eve that when given the choice between God+eternal life+Eden and the woman+death-Eden he chose the woman. He knew God could make him another wife, but he didn’t want another wife. He wanted Eve. The sonnet makes me realize that this story, besides being the saga of the beginning of sin, may also be the greatest love story ever told. Thanks for continuing this discussion. It’s well worth it, I think. dc

    • Timothy Lane says:

      That certainly is a very interesting take on the traditional story. I told Elizabeth (a Southern Baptist) about it, and she also found it interesting. (I’d love to get her to comment on some of these topics.)

  5. Anniel says:

    Mr. Kung, Here I go again. I had never heard before that the slaying of the animals was symbolic of the crucifixion of Christ. My son tells me that the idea is quite common in many sects. When Deanna said the skins were no doubt “still bloody,” I had this graphic vision in my mind of our first parents being tossed out of Eden with blood running down their bodies and no care being taken for their care and comfort, indeed, their very survival. That they received the law of blood sacrifice symbolic of the death of Christ is evidenced by righteous Abel’s offering of the first born of his flock. I have wondered if Cain’s offense was because his sacrifice was not of an animal, but that is just me.

    I went back and reread the exchanges between you and Jerry. Some of them I had missed because of many assumptions not in the text, and some of the criticism’s of Adam and Eve, particularly Eve. The idea that Cain had no concept of right and wrong
    and that somehow it’s teaching was “drastically neglected” was shocking, because the only ones who could have neglected it were his parents, even though even he makes the acquaintance of God at some point. And to think that his rebelliousness reflected Adam and Eve’s rebelliousness against God was an assumption I felt to be unwarranted.

    Then there is the matter of Eve being jealous of God and “lying” about what they were told. Really? I have always felt that blaming everything on Eve’s sin and Adam’s weakness has caused a disservice to both sexes, particularly when the cultural mistreatment of women, both by society and some men is considered.

    Did the Fall really “condemn countless others to suffer (through existence) and then death?” I’m not even sure we COULD be here if it were not for the Fall. As I asked in my article, is the curse of death really blessing we fail to understand?

    And just what was the role of the Tree of Life in this whole drama? I believe it is more important than we can now understand.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I have wondered if Cain’s offense was because his sacrifice was not of an animal, but that is just me.

      I believe it was Deana who mentioned that aspect. And as I had then said bouncing off her thought, if you see the offerings in this Hebrew context, that would make more sense, for it wouldn’t occur to me that an offering of fruits or nuts would have been a sleight. I’d actually prefer those to a side of beef. The nuts will keep while the meat has to be eaten pretty much right away.

      Also, nuts are lower in saturated fats…I think. And they’re much better on ice cream.

      The idea that Cain had no concept of right and wrong and that somehow it’s teaching was “drastically neglected” was shocking, because the only ones who could have neglected it were his parents, even though even he makes the acquaintance of God at some point. And for men to think that his rebelliousness reflected Adam and Eve’s rebelliousness against God was an assumption I felt to be unwarranted.

      Cain and Abel: perhaps the first and the perfect example of parents raising their kids in the same way and yet one of them turns out good and the other bad. That happens all the time.

      Then there is the matter of Eve being jealous of God and “lying” about what they were told. Really? I have always felt that blaming everything on Eve’s sin and Adam’s weakness has caused a disservice to both sexes, particularly when the cultural mistreatment of women, both by society and some men is considered.

      I’ve often read that both Islam and Christianity (if not also Judaism) have interpreted that in a way that showed women in a bad light and made her the temptress. But in many ways, she is a temptress. But in many ways, she’s just the the completion of our own desires. And for men to not recognize this aspect is to remain a juvenile.

      Islam is a religion/movement of stunted human growth. Instead of men taking responsibility for the sexual aspect of themselves, they blame it all on the women and thus cover them from head-to-toe. There are other reasons for the burka than that. But a large part of it indeed is the institutionalizing of a regressed or repressed social, psychological, and sexual development.

      Still, it might be possible that many women don’t understand how powerful sexuality is in a man. A typical topic of conversation these days on talk radio are these foolish and stupid young women who dress like the equivalent of hookers and then think it’s more than okay to walk down some dark street late at night. Although, in theory, they should be able to do that. In practice, it doesn’t take into account reality. And I wonder how many women — because of political correctness and other garbage — have little to no idea about how different men actually are from women.

      So, yeah, if some naked woman hands a guy a piece a fruit and says “eat,” he likely will.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I doubt the non-animal nature of Cain’s sacrifice was the problem; God in his comments implied that Cain’s sacrifice would be accepted if he behaved properly. Either his villainy was already foreshadowed by his behavior, or he stinted on his sacrifice by not offering his best fruits and nuts (sounds like a Californian).

        • GHG says:

          I agree it was not a matter of animal versus fruits/nuts. It states right at the beginning of the Cain and Abel story that Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain was a tiller of the ground. The point being made is that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable because he gave God his best – in other words he put God above himself by giving Him his best. Cain, on the other hand did not give his best to God and therefore did not honor God properly. The Bible is clear that it’s a matter of the heart, not the actual offering given. If a poor person gives his last dollar to the Lord while a rich person give a hundred dollars – which offering would honor the Lord the most?

          Cain saved the best fruits and nuts for himself and gave God something less – that’s why his offering fell short of God’s favor.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I seem to recall that Jesus made exactly that same point sometime when he and his disciples saw a poor woman and a rich man make their contributions.

          • Abel’s sacrifice demonstrated that he understood the necessity of the shedding of blood for atonement. Cain’s, on the other hand, showed that he was trying to please God with his own work as opposed to the “work” of the animal. This story, as with all biblical narratives, has to be understood in the context of the entire Bible. The pattern of blood atonement becomes clear through Abraham and Isaac and the provided ram, through the Levitical sacrifices, through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Here’s the text of the NIV version:

          Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

          It would seem that the Father was favoring one over the other. That did not justify Cain killing Abel. But most parents with several children are aware of the “fairness” game they must play in order to keep peace in the household. It would not occur to most parents to intentionally provoke one of their young ones by not putting their Crayon drawing of a dinosaur on the refrigerator while doing so for the sibling with a similar crappy drawing.

          The next line surely shows the moral lesson in all this:

          6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

          Basically God is saying to Cain, “Do not become one of those pansy-men you see at Occupy Wall Street who are eternally angry, unkempt, and looking to blame someone else. Life isn’t always fair. Grow the hell up.”

          Stuff like that sounds much better in the language of the King James Version. But I would say the moral lesson is much the same.

          And technically speaking (perhaps this is simply a matter of which translation one uses), “fruits and nuts” is a totally acceptable commodity. It is, by and large, the “nuts and flakes” that is not — a commodity that is typically from California.

          • GHG says:

            You seem to be attributing an unfairness to God in His relationship with Cain and Abel, that He arbitrarily favors Abel over Cain. I do not believe that nor do I find anything in the text to support that position. His favor toward Abel was because Abel offered his best (note: firstborn) and His disfavor toward Cain was because Cain did not offer the very best he could.

            Again, the only way to believe anything else MUST make God out to be unfair. God found Cain’s offering to be unacceptable – only two choices here – either Cain’s offering was unacceptable and God was just in calling out Cain for it, or God was unjust in His treatment toward Cain. It seems obvious which narrative the Bible is teaching.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              You seem to be attributing an unfairness to God in His relationship with Cain and Abel, that He arbitrarily favors Abel over Cain.

              Let’s just say that it was clear that, for whatever reason, God was pulling Cain’s chain. What Genesis 4 says is:

              Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.

              So if we take this story literally, in regards to who gave God the best offering, I would no more expect a farmer to offer meat pies than a rancher to offer apple strudel. The bible says Abel raised animals and Cain worked the soil. What did god expect from Cain, a rack of ribs? Ribs don’t grow in the soil. So what did he have to offer but the fruit of the soil?

              To me this just shows the abject strangeness of this story. It seems that God is messing with Abel. Indeed, maybe God was being unfair. Or maybe this story is meant to have many moral messages entwined in it.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I would say it was a matter of the quality of whatever was offered. Abel offered up his best, Cain didn’t.

              • I think we do the scripture a disservice if we assume that nothing else went on here except the bare-bones account we have in Genesis. We know that God had been talking with A&E in the Garden — we don’t know everything that was said there, but since it’s possible that A&E were in the Garden for say 1,000 years, we can assume that He told them a few things in those evening conversations. Likewise with C&A. A&E raised them and taught them what God had taught in the Garden. I see no reason to assume that they didn’t know which way was up.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Oh, there are plenty of California fruits — especially in San Francisco and Hollywood. But also lots of nuts and flakes, that is true.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            In due season Cain brought some of the fruits of the earth as an offering to the Lord, while Abel brought the choicest of the firstborn of his flock.

            This is from the Revised English Bible 1989 edition

            And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. And Abel brought of the first-born of his flock and of the fat portions.

            This is from the Amplified Bible 1965 edition

            I find the different translations interesting.

            Both try to show Abel’s offering was better by using the words, “first-born” and “choicest” in the Revised English Bible and adding “fat portions” in the Amplified.

            Thus while not directly saying Cain’s offering was of what would be called “irregulars” in the retail business, they might be implying it. It does not say agricultural goods are inferior to pastoral goods, so it seems unrewarding to go too far down that road.

            The only hint of that might be the term “fattest portions”. Throughout history, to be fat was to be prosperous. It is only in the half century or so that poverty equaled obesity and then only in developed countries.

            But if God was only interested in animal sacrifices, why did he let Cain become a farmer?

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              So is that like Charlie Brown getting a rock when out trick-or-treating? I guess that’s what “some of the fruits of the earth” must mean. Abel gave god a rock.

              There’s not a lot of detail in these stories….which is part of the reason one can read so much into them because such bare-bones stories practically demand that approach.

              I, for one, don’t think that the hardships of man are attributable to one choice made by Adam and Eve a long time ago in a mythical garden. Nor do I think God would be a worse parent than most earthly human parents. That is, I don’t suppose he would bust Abel’s chops for getting a few nuts and flakes rather than some fat lamb chops. After all, He’s God. He doesn’t need food, nor does he need material offerings. I take the offerings as a stand-in for the obedience to a moral law.

              Of course, the Hebrews of old made lots of animal sacrifices. We don’t do that anymore. We consider such things somewhat barbaric. In fact, perhaps animal sacrifices were never needed and it was just a matter of (once again) humans missing the implicit moral of the law by getting hung up in the metaphorical details. I don’t know. Maybe the Old Testament is full of laws and commandments about God requiring animal sacrifices.

              But I would think animal sacrifices themselves miss the point entirely. It’s turning animals into an idol and God into a lesser being. There are moral laws we need to abide to, and they can’t be gotten around via gimmicks.

              • GHG says:

                Again, you’re missing the point. The actual offering is insignificant. What is significant is the spirit with which the offering is given. In the case of Abel, he gave God his best. In the case of Cain, he did not give God his best. That’s the lesson to be learned.

            • There’s a difference between that which is offered in worship and that which is needed to survive. Later on Levitical offerings included grain offerings, but those were always secondary and of lesser importance.

  6. Anniel says:

    Deanna – kind of funny you would bring up Robert Frost’s poem. I had thought about using it in my article, but I was getting so long winded I decided not to. So thank you so much for putting it in, and I agree, this love story is the best.

  7. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Anniel,

    Thanks for your reply. I had also never heard some of the theories put forth. I take the whole story to be allegorical, not literal. The problem with allegory is that people will view the story from many different perspectives and come up with many different interpretations. Some people will even come up with interpretations which are not in any way inherent in the story.

    Whether one believes the story to be literal or allegorical, the actual text can take us only so far. In my opinion, the many different interpretations, especially the esoteric ones, while possibly interesting, tell us very little as to what it means to be a good Christian or Jew.

    As to the difference in the guilt of Adam and Eve; according to the story, Eve gave the fruit to Adam after she had eaten it so she was doubly wrong in doing so. Misery loves company and fear does too. But I do not read anywhere that Eve held a gun to Adam’s head and made him eat the fruit. Adam knew it was wrong to eat the fruit regardless of Eve’s actions. So he is responsible for his own sin.

    They both showed a serious lack of self-control i.e. they were very human.

  8. Anniel says:

    Mr. Kung, Thank you for your thought provoking analyses. I have to admit that I am somewhat of a literalist in regard to scripture, although from time to time I do recognize symbolism and allegory. God does seem to deal with us through all three methods and it can be difficult to tease meanings out of what is and is not said. Especially in an age so devoid of actual thought and when symbolism and allegory have lost meaning for most people.

  9. Anniel says:

    Brad- I recently had an almost knock-down argument about the matter of “rape” on college campuses. My daughter honestly did not understand how I could think women don’t have the right to say “no” at any time in an encounter. I told her I did think how a woman dresses or acts is a come-on and that many innocent (using the term loosely) young men get blamed the morning after, even if the girl seems to be a willing participant. She tells me that rape is the most under reported crime in the U.S., especially on college campuses, and wanted to know if I would blame one of my grand daughters for being raped. I told her it would depend on the circumstances. So now I’m uncaring about the plight of women. That’s how cultural conservatives are, war on women and all.

    Thanks for clarifying the cultural issues surrounding juvenile men and Islam.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Annie, I find it hard to believe that the paragon of Progressive kumbaya, political correctness, and the emasculated male is the new headquarters for rape — the college campus.

      I think what is most likely happening is that women, in trying to act as sexually promiscuous as men, are waking up the next day with a feeling of regret and assigning to that feeling “rape.” It’s the flip side of men not taking responsibility for their sexuality and instead demanding that women be clad from head to toe in a sack cloth.

      I suppose it’s ironic that feminism has actually made women weaker emotionally. But it seems to have done just that. Much like blacks, women are turning into a species that looks to blame everyone else first for their own mistakes.

  10. GHG says:

    Ran out of reply columns, so hitting reset button 🙂

    Brad said “I think it is clear that we are meant to draw a lesson from it. And I think that lesson is much deeper than one of simple blind obedience.”

    And here we disagree. I think, allegory or not, the lesson is as basic as blind obedience, not unlike blind faith. The acknowledgement that God is God and I’m not.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I think one can be clear on the point that a human isn’t God while still looking at these stories as allegorical. There are nursery rhymes that are clearer in terms of the bad stuff that can happen when you lie or disobey.

      But here we have metaphor coming out the ying-yang. We have a Devil in the guise of a talking snake. We have a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We have a First Man and First Woman. We have a Garden. And we have a God who walks with man in this garden and says “Do what you will, but don’t touch that tree.”

      Everything points to metaphor and to the need to eke out meaning from it. I’m giving these stories credit by not putting them on the same level of a mere nursery rhyme. I think there is a lot of potential depth here.

      And if the lesson is blind obedience, then that itself is a lesson inside a lesson, for it seems clear in this story that that fruit was going to get picked…if only to explain man’s situation inside of reality where he certainly is faced with the choice of good or evil. We will find snakes around every corner. We will give things to people who will not express gratitude (whether it was our best or not). We might even be tempted to kill another out of jealousy.

      The story of Genesis and the Garden of Eden could be construed as the story of man “self-actualizing,” to use a fancy word. He could have remained the obedient (and mindless) eternal adolescent walking about in ignorant bliss. Or he could be more than that, and suffer the consequences of having such things as morality, mortality, and knowledge itself thrust upon him.

      Many in our day and age (especially of the conservative persuasion) are more than happy to live with a little hardship if it means freedom. I tend to see the fig-leaf-less Adam and Eve as liberals who shrink from life and are more content with being ignorantly blissful while someone else makes all the big decisions for them.

      • GHG says:

        Brad said “To me this just shows the abject strangeness of this story. It seems that God is messing with Abel. Indeed, maybe God was being unfair. Or maybe this story is meant to have many moral messages entwined in it.”

        Brad, you make no bones that you are a true skeptic, open to all possibilities that are worthy of consideration. I appreciate that about you and it’s part of what makes this blog so enjoyable. However, I’m a lot less skeptical, or a better way to say it is that I have Christian faith. I don’t claim to have all the answers or know with certainty the exclusive meaning of every Bible passage. But I do have faith the God is a loving and just God. I have faith that He is incapable of “messing with Cain” or “being unfair”. Therefore I interpret Bible passages through that filter. This is perhaps why we take different exegetical paths.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Mr. Lesser, I don’t mean to be skeptical, per se. But any story that purports to explain why man’s existence is fraught with hardships, and includes a talking snake, is going to come across as a little strange if we take it literally.

          Whether God is capable or not of messing with Cain is readily answerable if we refer to the story of Job, who very much was messed with. I may sound like a skeptic, but I also come from the point of view that “words mean things.” I’m not trying to be clever, per se. But the Bible does talk about these things. It says what it says.

          And I also believe that sometimes words are meant to be taken metaphorically. Any story with talking snakes suggest this aspect strongly. And this is true whether one is a believer or not.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            The snake didn’t just talk. Presumably it didn’t crawl on the belly at the time (which came up in the Scopes trial when Darrow questioned Bryan about the Bible).

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Presumably it didn’t crawl on the belly at the time

              Almost from the beginning of this discussion, I have had a mental picture of the Geico Gecko as the snake.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Darrow asked Bryan if the snake had been bouncing on his tale like someone on a pogo stick.

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Again, you’re missing the point. The actual offering is insignificant. What is significant is the spirit with which the offering is given. In the case of Abel, he gave God his best. In the case of Cain, he did not give God his best. That’s the lesson to be learned.

    Mr. Lesser, I’ll start a new thread here. We’ve run out of room.

    I don’t think the Bible mentions the spirit of how the offerings by Cain and Abel were made. It says only:

    And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
    3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
    4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
    5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

    The above doesn’t say anything about the spirit with which the offering was made. Perhaps Cain’s offering was very humble — akin to Charlie Brown’s scrawny tree in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” — but presented with full spirit of obedience and gratitude. The story doesn’t say. It just says that God didn’t like it as well as Abel’s offering.

    Perhaps it was God stoking a little jealousy there for some Divine purpose. But I can’t see how we can tell whether Cain gave the best or worst that he had to offer, or something in between. Remember, it’s God “giving respect” or withholding it. It doesn’t sound as if Cain had a heck of a lot of control over that.

    • GHG says:

      The spirit with which the offerings were made is implied by the “loaded” term “firstborn”. “Firstborn” is used repeatedly through the Bible to mean “the best”. The term “firstborn” was used for Abel’s offering and not for Cain’s offereing. The implication is that Abel’s heart was in the right place – he had the right spirit of giving, and Cain did not.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I’m confused, then. Either Cain was supposed to run out and buy a lamb from someone (perhaps Abel) or he had to present an offering of the types of things that he grew. And “firstborn” is not applicable to nuts and flakes (Californian or otherwise). And maybe that is what Cain was supposed to do. I don’t know.

        Who is to say what lessons we are supposed to get from this text? You read it one way. I read it another…or at least find other aspects of it.

        Where Cain clearly erred is in killing his brother. And if this story is literally real, instead of egging Cain on by stoking resentment, he might have been a little more understanding. Who hardened whose heart in this exchange?

        Still, that does not relieve Cain of his guilt. Stick and stones, and all that. But I don’t find perfection in this story if taken literally. But metaphorically I think we can draw many lessons from it.

        • GHG says:

          I don’t think the lesson is different whether the story is allegorical or literal. The lesson is God must be put first, before ourselves, our interests, or anything else. Abel, the keeper of sheep, gave the best sheep he had. Cain, the tiller of the soil did not give God the best offering he could have.

          I feel very confident that most Bible scholars would agree that the crux of the issue was not sheep versus fruits of the ground, but rather the honor that Abel gave God by his offering was pleasing to God whereas the offering Cain gave to God was not pleasing because Cain didn’t honor God by offering his best.

          The notion that God should have coddled Cain rather than hold him to His exacting standards is nonsense. That is why I said God is God and you and I are not. Who are we to judge God? I, as a believer, know I am not worthy to judge God so that when God confronts Cain, He does so from a loving and just position. It’s correction. Cain could have and should have learned from it and done better the next time. But instead Cain went from pouting to killing his brother, which only serves to further indicate the state of Cain’s heart. Instead of humbling himself before the Lord and learning how to be better, he lashed out and blamed someone else for his failure.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37, RSV) This was always the greatest stumbling block for me, since there’s no way I was capable of that.

  12. Anniel says:

    One aspect just touched on here is the idea of “arguing” with God and the question of blind obedience. I confess to “arguing and pleading” with God, believing that somehow He will bring me answers and perhaps a degree of peace in my personal agony.

    One morning, after our daughter had been in and out of comas for 4 months and I had been at her bedside almost constantly, arguing with God all the while, my husband turned to me and said, “You and I are not the same people we were when this started.” No, we were not, and we both felt strongly that what was happening was for our good. Even ABRAHAM, the father of the faithful, argued with his friend, God.

    Someone once said, “We don’t have faith because we are blind, we have faith because we see.” Maybe that kind of faith only comes when, like Jacob, we “wrestle” with Angels.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Abraham didn’t just argue, he bargained with God so that it would only take 10 righteous men to save Sodom and Gomorrah. Too bad there weren’t that many.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I like what you said, Annie.

      One aspect just touched on here is the idea of “arguing” with God and the question of blind obedience. I confess to “arguing and pleading” with God, believing that somehow He will bring me answers and perhaps a degree of peace in my personal agony.

      I think these things are highly personal, even if ultimately we say everything derives from something very real and very objective.

      For me, it’s impossible to have “a relationship with God” without at least some swearing. For me (and just for me, perhaps), the idea of God as every perfect trait one can think of (all-knowing, all-loving, omniscient, omnipotent, a 300 bowler, scratch golfer, lottery winner…every single time, and homecoming king) doesn’t do much for me.

      The hardships of reality itself seem to go against such a belief. And if God really could be put in this neat, tidy box of perfection, there doesn’t seem much left for there to be an actual person (personality), let alone three persons of a purported trinity. He turns into a mere algorithm, always predictable, and little better than a blind force of nature.

      God dicking around with Job to prove a point with the Devil makes more sense then God as the uber-perfect being who never even has a hair out of place.

      For me, the mythical stories don’t add much, if anything, to my belief. But I am excited about more tangible things such as intelligent design, the Big Bang, and the fine-tuning of the universe. These things certainly do point to some kind of Creator. Nor am I particularly entranced by the idea that we can say what God must be and do in every particular instance because, after all, he could do no other thing since he is perfect.

      Such a view to me seems little different than Islam where God is not a being — let alone a Father — and is merely a tyrant, a force that requires nothing more than blind obedience. And if there is objective morality, then that means that by using human reason, we can hope to partake in it. And, more than that, if there is objective purpose to the universe, we can also use human reason to delve into the details, however tentatively. So I have a great deal of trouble taking any story or myth as-is, especially with overtones that to say any more about it is either beyond human capability or is somehow sacrilegious.

      God ought to be like an old used car. You should kick the tires and see what it’s all about. And if such a Creator can’t hold up to the barest scrutiny, then we’re likely not talking about a Creator but a projection of our own psychology.

      And that’s not an argument against faith or revelation, both of which I acknowledge are viable aspects of reality, including the idea of an Incarnated creator. But even so, it’s just not my method of doing things to absorb reality via myths and stories. I want to kick the tires and most likely will always be kicking the tires. And I have little to no problem with those who approach it differently.

      And yet I do think that if capital-T truth exists, God is going to be larger than our own thoughts. Psalm 46:10 does not say, “Believe literally in talking snakes and know that I am god.” Instead it says “Be still and know that I am God.” There’s an implicit idea here that all the noise rolling around in our own head, while perhaps useful, is not the same thing as an Ultimate.

  13. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I think we do the scripture a disservice if we assume that nothing else went on here except the bare-bones account we have in Genesis. We know that God had been talking with A&E in the Garden — we don’t know everything that was said there, but since it’s possible that A&E were in the Garden for say 1,000 years, we can assume that He told them a few things in those evening conversations. Likewise with C&A. A&E raised them and taught them what God had taught in the Garden. I see no reason to assume that they didn’t know which way was up

    Exactly, Deana!!!

    I made a similar point somewhere else. We cannot know what, if any, other discussions occurred between God and A&E. All we have is what is written.

    If one believes the story in Genesis to be literal, then honesty would require one to acknowledge that the material is limited and there is much that cannot be known. Therefore, a sober reading of the story might give much material for consideration, but little solid foundation upon which to build much theological certainty. In fact, flights of fancy would be discouraged.

    If the story is allegorical, then there is a much broader pallet on which to paint.

    As a tool to understand and develop a moral human being, I think the allegorical theory works better.

    • All we have is what is written — true, however, we have written a great deal more than just these 2 stories. Once we pull the lens back and look at the whole council of scripture patterns emerge that can be relied on as doctrine even if we take the stories has historical. The Bible is pretty clear when it means to be figurative and almost clinical when it’s recording history — i.e. the “begats,” the specific mention of kings and dynasties and battles. I tend to take it as history when there’s nothing in the passage to indicate otherwise.

  14. Anniel says:

    Deanna and Kung Fu – Oh, yes. Those evening walks and chats would be so enlightening. And, as allegory, we still have lots to learn. Adam and Eve in EDEN for 1,000 years is such a staggering possibility, for them, but not for God. Is there even time for where He is? Certainly not as we know it.

  15. Jerry Richardson says:

    Anniel,

    As always, I find your comments interesting and thoughtful. I have read them carefully, and hold them, and you, in respect. I did not wish to contribute to your flummoxing.

    I too am a bit flummoxed; but flummoxed at the amount of controversy I seem to have helped stir-up with comments that I thought I had clearly indicated were speculative. Evidently I didn’t indicate clearly enough. I will do better on that next time.

    As to the nature of all the comments in this on-going discussion; I consider that there are three different types of comments. First, there are factual comments: These are either quotes or paraphrases of scriptural text as it is actually found in respected versions of the Bible. Second, there are personal interpretations of scripture; and third, there are pure speculations.

    I differentiate between the notions of biblical interpretation and biblical speculation. Here’s an illustration of the difference as I see it, relative to comments I made:

    When I stated that I believe that Eve added to God’s command “don’t eat” the words “don’t touch”; I was proposing an interpretation (meaning or significance of something) of clearly existing scripture; likewise, when I offered my opinion on why God did not require the death penalty for Cain. There are obviously alternative interpretations; and of course they are open to challenge—that is to be expected in a discussion forum.

    However, when I suggested the proposition that Eve added “don’t touch” for some reason (any reason—I suggested resentment); I was clearly speculating (conjecture with no supporting evidence) because the biblical text does not, anywhere, mention or discuss the reason (Eve’s motive or otherwise) for the difference in reported statements; and I didn’t pretend that it did. If I was not clear enough about that, I plead guilty.

    The importance, to me, of the distinction between interpretation and speculation is that Biblical doctrine is, by necessity, always based upon interpretation (someone’s interpretation); and that is true whether the particular passage of scripture is viewed as allegorical or literal—and well as any of the other sub-types of scripture such as wisdom, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic, etc.

    As to the term allegorical (a type of extended metaphor), I prefer that to the term myth since the modern non-academic connotation of myth leans toward a meaning of untrue. I definitely believe the stories in Genesis contain and point to truth. I also believe that much of the Creation story is allegorical (as opposed to literal) which does not, in my opinion, mean it is untrue.

    But the text we have is what we have and its meaning must be subject to interpretation. And while Biblical doctrine (the beliefs we accept as authoritative) is based upon interpretation of the text; doctrine should not, in my opinion, be based upon speculation, mine or anyone elses.

    I am perfectly willing for any scriptural interpretations of mine to be challenged in light of what doctrinal relationship they have to the entirety of the Bible and what effect they have upon a Christian worldview. I make no such proposal for my speculations; and of course, I do not consider them to have any doctrinal significance whatsoever.

    There are some difficult passages in the Bible that are sometimes addressed with interpretation and contrarily sometimes with speculation.

    As an illustration: The age-old question of “Who was Cain’s wife; and where did she come from”? The Biblical text does not provide a direct answer to this question, but there is scripture that allows an interpretation that many people do not find palatable. The scripture is found in Genesis:

    Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters. —Genesis 5:4 NASB

    Based upon this single scripture, the interpretation could be that Cain’s wife was one of Adam’s unnamed daughters, or perhaps a niece. Many people don’t like this interpretation because in today’s English terminology that would be labeled incest.

    There is also scripture that prompts speculation. That scripture is also found in Genesis:

    “Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” —Genesis 4:14 NASB

    The speculation that this verse can generate is that people other than Adam’s descendants were living. Who were the “whoever”? The Bible provides us with no direct answer. So if we don’t choose the interpretation that the “whoever” were other children of Adam; we are left with the clearly speculative conclusion that God had created other people in addition to Adam—also not a well-liked conclusion by many.

    Any of these perplexing scriptures can easily be avoided or sidestepped by simply stating that we don’t know the answer, because the Bible doesn’t provide it. That however, is sort-of dodging difficult passages of scripture which doesn’t seem especially appropriate for a no-holds-barred website discussion. A different approach would be appropriate, I think, if any of us were holding-forth from a pulpit.

    Then there is the matter of Eve being jealous of God and “lying” about what they were told. Really? —Anniel

    My speculation concerning the reason why the Biblical text shows Eve adding to God’s statement is that she was resentful. Yes, pure speculation. I could have chosen the speculation that Adam embellished God’s statement when he relayed it to Eve. I could have chosen the speculation that God actually said “don’t touch” but it wasn’t recorded. I chose the speculation that I chose. It was not an interpretation (no scripture to back it up); and it certainly was not intended as a suggested idea for doctrine.

    I have always felt that blaming everything on Eve’s sin and Adam’s weakness has caused a disservice to both sexes, particularly when the cultural mistreatment of women, both by society and some men is considered.—Anniel

    I am interested in responsibility not blame. As to who I attribute the most responsibility to, it is to Adam and not Eve. This issue was addressed by Paul in his letter to the Romans:

    Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man, and death as the result of sin, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because all men sinned. [To be sure] sin was in the world before ever the Law was given, but sin is not charged to men’s account where there is no law [to transgress]. Yet death held sway from Adam to Moses [the Lawgiver], even over those who did not themselves transgress [a positive command] as Adam did. Adam was a type (prefigure) of the One Who was to come [in reverse, the former destructive, the Latter saving]. —Romans 5:12-14 AMP

    In the New Testament, the heaviest responsibility is placed upon Adam, “as sin came into the world through one man.” Here is one commentator’s viewpoint that I agree with:

    Eve failed to heed her husband and God’s warning regarding the tree of knowledge. As the temptation took root in her mind, grew and bore its corrupted fruit, she sought to be like God. Her actions started a chain of events which were to have a direct affect not only on herself, but also Adam and the entire creation. She, in a sense, assumed headship over her husband in that her decision directly affected him without giving him opportunity for input. (Assuming he wasn’t present)
    —-
    In the case of Adam, he had listened to his wife rather than God and joined her in rebellion. For this offense he was “saddled” with headship in both a physical and spiritual sense. This was not a reward, as some might believe, it was, and is, a heavy burden. Eve disobeyed God’s command, but Adam rejected God Himself. For this heinous offence, not only was Adam relegated to a life of toil and sorrow, his act was viewed as so severe that creation itself suffered and the sting of his sin was passed to all his progeny.
    —-
    …it is my conclusion that Adam could not have been present when Eve was tempted by the serpent. There is no evidence that he was snared by the Serpent’s deception, only that he responded to the entreaties of his wife Eve. There is also no account of her having deceived him as some might suppose. If he had been deceived, as was Eve, there would have been little difference in their respective culpability. Yet, there was a vast difference in God’s judgements against the two, which leads me to the conclusion that there must have been a vast difference in the nature of their sin.

    Adam and Eve’s sin

    By the way the above quoted passage in Romans 5:13 “[To be sure] sin was in the world before ever the Law was given, but sin is not charged to men’s account where there is no law [to transgress]” supports my interpretation that the reason that God did not require the death penalty for Cain for killing Able was because there was no law against it at the time

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      As to the term allegorical (a type of extended metaphor), I prefer that to the term myth since the modern non-academic connotation of myth leans toward a meaning of untrue. I definitely believe the stories in Genesis contain and point to truth. I also believe that much of the Creation story is allegorical (as opposed to literal) which does not, in my opinion, mean it is untrue.

      That all sound quite reasonable to me, Jerry.

  16. Anniel says:

    Jerry: Thank you for your explanation. I think all of this discussion has been enlightening and a learning experience for all of us, even when we disagree. Learning even one thing more about God and His purposes is a blessing.

    What I find most interesting in this whole matter concerns the Tree of Life because it seems to be such an integral part of the story of Eden. I am serious in asking what happened to Eden and the trees after the Fall. That truly was the whole point that came from my study of creation. So far no one has even acknowledged the promise of our part in the Tree of Life, as set forth in the last chapter of Revelation. Care to write an article on it?

    • Jerry Richardson says:

      Anniel,

      I’m thinking you might be the best one to write the article.
      How ’bout it?

    • GHG says:

      Yes, the discussion on the second tree – the Tree of Life, kind of got lost in the shuffle. I would like to explore that topic as well. As with so much in the Bible, passages that may not on the surface seem to be connected, often are. The “Root of Jesse” passages I think are tied into the Tree of Life. Plus the Revelation passage that describes the Tree of Life being on “either side” of the River of Life is interesting. A discussion on what it means for a tree to be on both sides of a river would be fun.

      • Anniel says:

        Mr. Lesser, I shall have to take a closer look at the Stem of Jesse in connection with the Tree of Life, thanks for the hint. Yes, the tree being on “either side” of the river conjures up almost a picture of a malformed root system. And I couldn’t get quite clear if there is to be just a single piece of fruit ripening each month but only the leaves are used for healing. Jerry may talk me into it yet, but I would love to hear from both of you.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Anniel,

        One of the things that interest me about the “tree of life” is again speculation: What is the meaning of :

        “…And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. —Genesis 3:22-23 KJV”

        • Anniel says:

          Jerry, A very good question. Last night I remembered a book I read a long time ago called “Tuck Everlasting,” published in 1975. I volunteered at my kid’s elementary school library and all of the 5th and 6th graders seemed to be reading it. It has hints of the tree of life in it and is about a family, mother, father and two sons who stop in a woods and accidentally drink the water of a spring which gives them “eternal” life and what that does to them. I seem to recall a not very good movie made of it, too. On Kindle it’s only $3.50, and it addresses some of these issues rather impressively. I wondered last night if lack of biblical knowledge would put the book beyond the reach of even older children today, or if it would cement over population and extreme environmentalism in their minds.

        • GHG says:

          Yes, that is rich with implications and possibilities and would be a wonderful topic for discussion, if not several discussions.

          • Anniel says:

            I’m still thinking. More study on this during the sabbath tomorrow. You guys could start the discussions, you probably know much more than I.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              I have always found it interesting how for many Christians the term sabbath is interchangeable with Sunday. I do not recall any biblical basis for this, but would be interested in hearing one if you know of it. Thanks.

              • GHG says:

                Genesis 2:2-3 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

                The Jewish tradition is Saturday (actually Friday at 6pm to Saturday at 6pm) so I don’t know how/why the Christian tradition was changed to Sunday. In most calendars, Sunday is the first day of the week, not the 7th.

              • Anniel says:

                I use the term sabbath because that’s what God calls the day of rest in the Ten Commandments. There are religions that base their whole theology on when the sabbath actually is. Maybe the issue of relevance to our day will be addressed when the symposium reaches that commandment. Christians generally believe that Christ rose again on Sunday, maybe that has something to do with it.

  17. Anniel says:

    Brad – I think God wants us to argue, even swear and scream at Him, as long as in the end we shut our mouths long enough to HEAR what He has to say. “Be still” is such a beautiful thought, and that’s where the “knowing” begins.

    BTW, I’ve been going to make a sampler of that verse from the Psalms. I’ll be sure to date it “Anno Dominie.” Thanks for the reminder.

  18. I’d like to say a heartfelt Thank You — to Brad for the site and to all of you for such wonderful, intelligent, open-minded discussions. Those are hard to find these days and this one was one of the best. Anniel — thanks for setting it off. dc

  19. Anniel says:

    Deanna, I still think the love story angle was the best, and I like only real and lasting love.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I can’t help but say, I find this is a particularly feminine perspective. What woman wouldn’t feel more than a little flattered (vain?) by the idea of a man choosing her and death over God and life? This really is classic Romanticism.

      Given that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind”; if Deana’s musing is correct, Adam should have been granted his death wish and vaporized immediately.

      • Anniel says:

        What a loss to romantics everywhere that would have been!

        On the serious side, I expect that putting love of God first also increases our love for others, including our romantic love, and that for our children.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I expect that putting love of God first also increases our love for others, including our romantic love, and that for our children

          It could be the case, but had Adam put God first we wouldn’t be in the present mess.

          • Anniel says:

            Mr. Kung, Would you really give up this mess we’re in? Don’t you see it as freedom in this opportunity to fight for truth? I know sometimes I would give the mess up, but then I read something like this, called an Ancient Prayer:

            From the cowardice that shrinks from new Truth,
            From the laziness that is content with half-truths,
            From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
            O God of Truth, deliver us.

            That makes me feel like a fighter in the battle and I’m so glad to be here.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think Deana should be writing Harlequin romances. She’s got the touch.

        • What a thought! I think I’ll pass on that one. 🙂 I do think it’s instructive and valid to ponder these ancient characters — regardless of the story — and mentally put some flesh on their bones. I love the Bible because it shows people in all their faults and failures and then shows them victorious, but it doesn’t give us a complete visual — it begs our imaginary response.

          • Anniel says:

            Sorry you’re going to pass, I wondered what wonderful first line you might have, you know, “It was a dark and stormy night in Eden.”

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            What keeps me going, Deana, is that I’ve read the other guy’s game-plan. I’ve read the Humanist playbook. Although I have many small problems with religion, I understand the truly huge problem that Humanism/Atheism has become. Not only is it a vapid and dangerous mindset, it’s an aesthetically displeasing one. It’s a velvet Elvis painting compared to the Pietà.

            Perhaps that’s a romantic notion indeed. I’m actually okay which such notions when they are the shadow, halo, or penumbra of a greater reality.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              It’s a velvet Elvis painting compared to the Pietà.

              And the photo does not do the real thing justice. To be able to go up and touch the real thing, see Christ’s veins raised on his arm, and the wounds from the Crucifixion…that is something.

              Unfortunately, it is behind a barrier now.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Two novels, neither of which is easy to read, but both I recommend: Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” and Irving Stone’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy.” The latter is a fictional depiction of Michelangelo but loaded with period detail and facts about his life. If one has any interest in art — or even if one doesn’t — it’s a way to creep further from the status of “low information voter.” You get art, religion, Italy, Western Civilization, and more.

                I guess going to church and singing “Hallelujah, Jesus” is good for some. But if one believes in God, one can certainly see the life of Michelangelo as a tool of the Creator — and of mankind sharing in that creative urge (one could say that we were not meant to be couch potatoes or low-information voters).

                If life can be a sort of sacrament, then his life was. It’s also worth noting how degraded art has become since atheism/humanism/materialism became the guiding influence. That’s not proof of god. But it’s certainly not a vote of confidence for “secularism.”

  20. David says:

    What a wonderfully artful essay! It’s been a long time since I’ve felt anyone in a public sphere such as this has woven such a beautiful tapestry. To so accurately describe the fall of Adam and Eve from the Christian perspective indicates deep contemplation and hard fought spiritual education.
    Thank you.

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