Man has been forever in search of Shangri-La, or paradise as most people think of it. The Bible’s rendering of the Garden of Eden story was not the first written story on the subject – far from it. Hundreds of years earlier, the ancient Sumerians wrote The Epic of Gilgamesh which is considered by some scholars to be the first great work of literature, as well as an influence on the Bible and the epic works of Homer (the Iliad and the Odyssey).
However, the Bible story is the one that most everyone knows and loves. It centers around a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. Interestingly enough, they were both referred to as adam, since adam was not a name but rather a designation for mankind (see Genesis 5:2). Adam was created first and Eve was created (cloned, as it were) afterwards out of Adam, even though Adam was a man and Eve was a woman. No doubt, the author of Genesis had little to no understanding of genetics.
The Tree of Knowledge
At first, God gave every tree to man (Genesis 1:29) but later put one tree, the Tree of Knowledge, off-limits. The change of heart was not exactly what you would expect from an omniscient being. However, the Bible later reveals God’s concern. That is, in Genesis 3:22, we learn: “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.” So, God was afraid that man, who was created in his own image and likeness, would become exactly like him, a god. Is that even possible? There’s really only two ways to slice it; either man was created with the potential to be a god or the god of Genesis was not really God (the prime creator). Take your pick.
Aside: According to the Bible, the serpent confirmed that God was afraid of man partaking of the Tree of Knowledge, as follows: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5).”
An interesting part of the story is that God told Eve, under no uncertain circumstances, that they would die if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge. When God found out that they had eaten the fruit of the tree, he punished them for their disobedience even though, at that point, they could not have comprehended the difference between right and wrong.
Aside: Where’s the morality in that?
Good guys and bad guys
Further, God also punished the serpent for telling the truth (as opposed to God who lied about dying if one ate from the tree). Every story has to have a bad guy and in this case the serpent was so honored. After all, if there was evil in the world, someone else other than God had to be blamed. Never mind that an all-knowing God created both man and the serpent. So, obviously, the god of Genesis was the source of evil no matter how you look at it. Besides, as it says in the Bible, “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it (Amos 3:6)?”
In the mythologies of cultures around the world, the serpent/snake/dragon has been revered and even considered sacred. In Greek mythology, which predated the writing of Genesis, Ladon was the serpent-like dragon that was coiled around the tree in the garden of the Hesperides protecting the divine golden apples. Sound familiar?
Aside: Jesus, himself, said that men should be as wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16).
Upon further reflection, the worst dude in Genesis is hardly Cain. Rather, it’s God himself. If you don’t believe me, let’s recap:
- God promised man all the trees in Creation, and then reneged concerning The Tree of Knowledge.
- God lied about dying if man ate from The Tree of Knowledge.
- God punished Adam and Eve unfairly for what they unknowingly did.
The clincher is that when God saw that man had “become evil”, he wiped out almost his entire Creation from the face of the earth.
Aside: So, I’m pretty sure that when Moses received the Ten Commandments from God that Moses might have asked God about why man should have to keep commandments which God, himself, violated and God probably replied, “Do as I say and not as I do.”
Why did God kick man out of the Garden, anyway? It couldn’t be because of eating the apple since that story was a complete subterfuge. After all, what kind of a god would have expected that man would know the difference between good and evil even though he was denied access to The Tree of Knowledge? The real answer as to why man was banished from the Garden of Eden was to deny him access to the other “tree”, The Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22). You wouldn’t want your creation to live forever just like you, would you?
Obviously, being all-knowing, God knew in advance that the entire affair would unfold exactly the way it did. Actually, he knew even before he created mankind. Yet, he created man anyway, promised him paradise and then took it all away. That’s the real story of the adams’ family, a talking snake and how paradise was lost. John Milton would have been proud.