So… eep… we’re diving into two things today: the Old Testament Jewish story about the Garden of Eden, universal creation, and the meaning behind it.
Summary: It’s a story about how farming is evil.
It’s not really a surprise that stories are about “how we got here.” And the best stories reinforce the culture that you live in. In the case of the lives of the tribes of Israel, it was pastoralism.
The written stuff also reflects a social technology that the Israelites invented. Specifically a technique that allows them to culturally survive inclusion in a hostile society. This technique can loosely be called “The Universe loves us and when we get home, Our God will be waiting for us.”
It helps to know that there are many names for God in the Bible. Some refer to the Universe. Others refer to the specific God of Israel (yes, there is a difference). Some refer to God’s kids (plural). Some refer to a concept-in-motion, which can come from the universe or God.
The Universe created the heaven and the earth and all the fiddly bits and the God of Israel. The God of Israel created people in his image to fill his world (everything meaningful to them). This was primarily noted in their ability to -plan- (long-term). Which made them different from other animals.
Folks don’t widely talk about this because there is some linguistic drift. In some versions of the Bible, names are swapped out (Universe, God, etc.). Mainly because storytellers are imprecise and their audience could have cared less. Because their audience already knew the context.
Planning makes humans the guardians of Eden but it goes deeper than that. They represent, metaphorically, a couple of things. Man — Adam specifically — represents the soil, the rich red clay from which things can grow (Adam means “red clay”). And that’s essential to life, which makes him the caretaker of the land. But he is only sustainable with LIFE (Eve means “life”). Without both of them, the world is motionless.
There’s only two things the Universe didn’t want for them.
First, immortality, because death is a part of life and needed for everything to grow and maintain. Death is a fine thing, as long as life is well-lived, which is what the rest of the Old Testament is about: the successes and failures which show you how to live in that part of the planet.
Second, the plant that gives you knowledge of good and evil. Now, this is somewhat different than people think. Consider this: Is the hunter who kills the lion evil? Is the lion who kills the infant evil? Can a plague be evil? Is stealing to feed the hungry good?
That’s a burden not a gift.
Remember, humans have planning already. They can do plenty of stuff. They aren’t expected to see the results of their decisions 1000 years in the future. That’s what God is for. Making the hard calls.
We know what the plant is that causes this, thanks to the Yadzidi sect. It’s wheat. Given what was going on at the time, here’s the narrative.
“Somehow, Life was poisoned (snake) by being convinced that eating wheat was a good idea. And with farming, the garden is gone. Everything is harder. Your kid (Cain) raises up and kills his brother for no good reason (except that God prefers gardens and herding over farming and was trying to prod Cain to stop farming). Please don’t be like those assholes in the city over there (Nod). Just… keep herding, okay?”
Seen in this light, the entire thing is “why are cities so horrible and why should we avoid them?”
But let’s also talk about Satan for a second.
Satan popped up most prominently in Job. It’s the answer to “why do bad things happen to good people?”
The answer is–and this is textual–sometimes the Universe has things it must do that are evil to some. But if you have faith in God (the God of Israel), then -ultimately- you has persevere through even the hard times.
There’s still stuff unanswered by the above. And that bit goes to Christianity.
Saul of Tarsus was a Roman who was tasked with persecuting Christians, a small apocalyptic sect that believed their savior (of which there were a few at the times, as highlighted in the beloved Life of Brian 😈 ) would free Judea from the yoke of the Empire.
Roman culture was based on foundation that it was superior to everyone and took to rampant cultural theft, including this idea that everyone else in the world were just idiots who were worshiping / following a thinly veiled version of their Truth.
So they’d spend a lot of time going “Odin = Jupiter. Your Sky God = Jupiter. Zeus = … well, we don’t talk about that. Greeks were assholes but also our cousins. Druids… you believe in what? Okay. Genocide for you.”
Their Empire was still crumbling though, despite their mythical SkyDaddy Jupiter being in control of ALL THE WORLD (Pax Romana).
So Saul made a complicated grab. He grabbed the social technology that worked for the Jews (the Universe likes us. The God of Israel will show us the way home) and just loosely grafted Roman ideology on top of it.
One god. One Truth. All-loving, because what pater doesn’t love his familia? He even took Jesus’ admonission to the tribes of Israel to keep the faith and let the Empire crumble to create a Church vs State situation, where the two were uncoupled.
Newly named Paul, politically savvy Paul, clever Roman Paul — he’s the source of your questions and the answer is:
God the Father is all-loving and all-knowing. He has a plan that you peons will NEVER figure out because you are sinful, horrible cogs in the Machinery of Divinity.
Once everything marches to the beat of one drum, then God the Father will be able to orchestrate his will unhindered by your terrible, evil, awful, shortsighted things.
And this will likely happen through the flames of War. Because that is the true and full nature of Empire. What is cannot consume, it will destroy.
And thus, Paul decreed, all is good and holy.
Christianity is, without exception, the best example of why cultural “appropriation” (theft) can lead to unanticipated and horrific and nonsensical consequences.
From Paul’s attempt to make an eternal Empire for a reconstructed Rome to the Doctrine of Discovery to American exceptionalism and white supremacy to the nuclear abomination.
Hell of a horrible ride.
But you can’t say the God of Israel, in it’s tiny corner of the planet, didn’t give a heads up to his people, Day 1: Be careful of the person with the poisonous tongue. He may promise you riches beyond your imagination, but the cost will also be beyond your capacity for horror.
A side note to Christians of good faith: You are a marvel of humanity in that the good you do defies the origin of your beliefs and for that I thank you for the grace you show to the world.
It comes from a very human place.