25 January 2015

Genesis 3 (why I distrust St Paul)

This might be the worst idea I’ve ever had for a weblog post: Today I will give my opinion about a biblical story. Before talking about Genesis chapter 3, however, I want to summarize a few events from chapter 2 – I’ll do this in the next paragraph. But first, here’s a pillar of fire that fell on its side:

After planting a garden called paradise, the god Yahweh sculpts a statue out of mud: a self-portrait. He breathes into this sculpture, causing it to come alive, and then he augments the sculpture to make a second living human. Now these humans see two trees: one that is named after wisdom, and one that is named after life. Yahweh warns the humans: Never eat from the tree of wisdom. He claims that wisdom’s fruit will cause them to die.

At the beginning of the 3rd chapter of Genesis, a snake appears. This snake tells the humans that Yahweh misinformed them about the tree. Wisdom’s fruit will not make you die, says the snake – on the contrary, it will cause you humans to become as wise as Yahweh.

So the humans end up eating from the tree of wisdom.

Now, which character spoke the truth – Yahweh or the snake? If Yahweh was right, the humans should die on the day that they eat the fruit; whereas, if the snake was right, the humans should become wise like Yahweh.

In Genesis 3:22, Yahweh himself admits that the humans have gained divine wisdom, as the snake predicted. And apparently the snake was also right to hint that Yahweh’s warning was a lie: for the humans did not die when they ate the fruit.

Seeing that the humans have acquired divine wisdom, Yahweh banishes them from paradise. Why? Because (as he admits in the same verse above) if the enlightened humans remain in paradise, they might live forever by eating from the tree of life.

In short, Yahweh evicts the humans from paradise in order to bar them from enjoying immortality.

This is one of the many reasons that I do not accept Saint Paul’s theory of salvation. He says that God sacrificed his son so that we humans might live forever. But, in this lovely chapter of the very first biblical book, Paul’s own God admits that the whole reason he banished us from paradise was to deny us access to eternal life.

According to Genesis, the only humans that Yahweh is willing to tolerate are those who lack wisdom. And the only way that I can reconcile this holy scripture with Pauline theory is if “faith in Paul’s Christ” means “surrendering one’s wisdom” – in other words: Repent from all that is divine about your thoughts; for the gates of paradise will readmit only the ignorant.


Anonymous said...

Well, you do get a person to read and ponder Genesis 1-3. Does knowledge of good and evil have to equate with wisdom? Does the idea of eating the fruit and dying have to mean dying that very day? Could it mean dying later?

Anonymous said...

Love the pillar of fire on its side!

Tertius Radnitsky said...

Hello, I thank you for the polite response and questions! When I write bible-themed posts, I’m always worried that I’ll receive rude comebacks, so I appreciate that your tone is conversational rather than argumentative.

First, re: “Well, you do get a person to read and ponder Genesis 1-3.”

That’s the best possible news, because my most sincere wish is that people would read these books and ponder them. And I just want to mention that I take the first chapter of Genesis as a very different composition than the second chapter. I see Genesis 1 and 2 as probably written by entirely different authors – they seem like incompatibly different creation accounts that just got edited into the same book. If one starts to read Genesis at 2:4 instead of 1:1, it gives a much different impression. This is just a personal opinion that I never tire of repeating; now I'll answer your real questions!

Re: “Does knowledge of good and evil have to equate with wisdom?”

No, my opinion is that ‘knowledge of good and evil’ does not have to equate with ‘wisdom’ – I just substituted the word ‘wisdom’ for the longer phrase, because I honestly think that it's the most understandable equivalent, yet mercifully briefer. If you know of a better equivalent, I'll happily consider using it in the future; because, again, I wouldn’t say that the phrase absolutely must be translated as ‘wisdom’. I take ‘knowledge of good and evil’ to mean ‘knowledge of all things’ or ‘supreme consciousness’ or 'divine enlightenment' or something like that. From what I understand, the phrase is a Hebrew idiom that doesn't smoothly translate into English. The most important thing about its meaning is that, in the verse that I mentioned (3:22), Yahweh God says the humans have become “AS ONE OF US, to know good and evil”. So, whatever term or phrase that we use, it has to be something that Yahweh and his fellow deities possessed before humans acquired it from the forbidden fruit.

Lastly, re: “Does the idea of eating the fruit and dying have to mean dying that very day? Could it mean dying later?”

In Genesis 2:17, Yahweh says “...in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” I cannot see how this could mean that the eater will live very long after partaking of the fruit. I don’t know if dying “in the day” means dying “exactly that very day”, but I don't think that Yahweh is saying anything less drastic than that the eater will die pretty soon after eating. If, as an experiment, we say that the phrase “thou shalt surely die” means “thou shalt be changed from immortal beings to mortal beings”, it clashes with what is written; because, again, in 3:22 (that very special verse!), Yahweh himself gives the reason for banishing Man from paradise as “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”. If the fruit had only stripped humans of immortality, so that now they will die someday but not necessarily THIS day, then Yahweh would have no reason to worry about the humans using the other tree to remain alive "for ever".

Again, I appreciate the questions! I hope that what I said is fairly clear. I’ll gladly re-explain anything that seems obscure.

Tertius Radnitsky said...

Thanks! I'm editing a proof copy of a book that I plan to publish soon, and this pillar of fire is actually the bookmark that I'm using to keep my place. The numbers running along the bottom refer to all of the passages that still require editing. And the sideways "387" is the torn page's name.


More from Bryan Ray