Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
I have wondered for some time how to properly understand the story told in Genesis 2-3 of Adam and Eve's disobedience. While I still don't completely grasp it, I felt moved to share some recent thoughts on its meaning.
Although I have heard the story taken as an account of the creation of humankind, I believe it is too inconsistent with our knowledge of archaeology and paleontology to be a literally true record. Rather, I see it as an allegory or parable that portrays a truth about the human condition.
Another way the story could be interpreted is as an indictment of human curiosity. It might appear that God is forbidding Adam and Eve to seek after knowledge at all. Since history shows that most of human progress comes from our drive to explore and understand our world, this might seem to say that such progress is the result of disobedience--a troubling idea at best.
I believe the key to the story is the serpent's promise: "Of course you will not die...your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing both good and evil." (Genesis 3: 4-5) By these words, the serpent tempts Eve to believe that she can take an action (eating the forbidden fruit) that will let her take control of her own life, instead of trusting it to God. She herself, so the temptation says, will have open eyes and a knowledge of all things. Instead, the immediate result of the disobedience was to be cast out from the Garden of Eden.
Many passages in the Bible show that Christians are not called to live in ignorance. "You shall know the truth," said Jesus, "and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32). It seems to me that Eve's sin was not seeking knowledge as such, but listening to the serpent's promises and rejecting God as Lord over His creation. This is a struggle each of us encounters in our own lives and circumstances, and its stakes are clearly shown by the Genesis allegory.
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