The claim is often made by individuals with specific objectives and interests that, the Bible is outdated and no longer useful. It is also believed that, there is nothing profound or worth learning from a book that many others consider to be the revealed will of God. It is possible that, the Bible falls short of expectations for many such individuals. The record of Genesis, like the rest of the narrative is, not a reservoir of complex mathematical equations, hidden scientific findings, or even the eloquent musings of philosophy. It is in its entirety, quite the opposite. It is disappointingly simple, plain, and unsophisticated. That is also what has come to be expected of the kind of people who believe its contents.
The survival of this simple, plain, unsophisticated book through the millennia and the power of its message teach us something about the entirety of humans on the earth. The vast majority prefer simplicity, and the Author of the Divine message must know it. The book does increase in complexity, and parts of it are to this day inscrutable. From the immaturity of childhood to the experience of old age, there is this message that can bind people around the world. This amazing accomplishment has happened despite the barrier of language! One such simple lesson is contained in the account of Satan talking with Eve.
Rather than debating the actual existence of Satan or Eve, it is better to see if there is a relevant lesson for us even today.
The presence of the Lord was unmistakable for the first couple. That however, was not the case with Satan. Nothing in the narrative of Genesis suggests that Eve knew who she was actually speaking with, other than it was really a snake that appeared to talk intelligently. The speaker asked an absurd question: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Disregarding what Eve said in reply, how would you have answered this question then? More importantly, on issues of black-and-white clarity, how would you answer such a question today?
The words of the Devil are illogical at a basic level, and the childlike mind of Eve does not see at all the intention behind the words. The one asking the question though, knows what to ask. They were intellectually at two entirely different levels! She is moved by the instinct to correct the statement. In it she reveals, her special awareness of the tree in the middle of the garden. She knew the command of forbiddance and the consequences. Her later disobedience shows, she did not fear or respect enough the One who laid the command. Despite the Lord’s power to create the garden, animals, trees, and everything in existence, there wasn’t reason in His words, manner, and interactions for Eve to have a morbid fear of her Maker.
The entire account shows a minimal exchange of words. What were the first humans like? How much did they know of God, and of His mind? Could they understand what human death meant for them and their children, or even if they understood death to be gradual? Their knowledge is most basic, and their carefree manner of life resembles that of a child. It does not mean, this was their entire ability to think and process information; we only have a record of the most important information – life-and-death determining – transmitted from the Lord to the couple. And yet, even today, in its purest form what appeals to humans of all ages is simplicity. We want moral truth to have simplicity, thereby leaving no confusion in the minds of even the youngest members of society. Despite the great strides in intellect and debate, simplicity still wins practically in the very end!
There are questions specific to Eve that remain after reading the account. Should Eve have been suspicious? Should her innocence have been coupled with a sense of caution? Should she have questioned the one speaking with her? Should he not have simply disregarded the words of the talking serpent and waited to consult with Adam? In the narrative and what we understand from it, Genesis gives us a picture of peace, security, freedom, and plenty. The only possibility of “negative” ever coming into the human existence was from the Lord Himself when, he put the condition on eating the forbidden fruit lest the one eating die. It could have, should have, and would have unmistakably alerted the first humans to the the only thing that would have brought them lasting harm.
The limited communication from the Divine One shows He wanted Eve, Adam, and us by extension to come to our own conclusions based on observations, introspections, and examinations. The dignity of the message is in its brevity!
The words spoken by Eve in response are minimal; as the account continues: The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’” No, those words do not show any presence of doubt. The effect of the Devil’s direct contradiction of God’s words was, Eve believed the Devil instead of believing God. Her later actions show that she did not fear for her death, or the death of Adam. In this, she was completely deceived. Adam wasn’t.
The story tells us so little, and every commentary is basically a speculation as to what Eve and Adam might have thought or discussed. Everything in the narrative is very brief, very quick, very black-and-white. To remember this is extremely important in view of the complexity of human interactions today, and considering the seemingly limitless ability of the human mind for thought and examination. We cannot seek to replicate the same swiftness in our judgment, for we do not have the insight, power, or authority. From the time of childhood to the the time of old age, the foundations of belief are typically attempted to be kept in simple understanding of matters. That simplicity is lost now, as mankind appears to be advancing toward maturity, but not all are maturing together. A complete abandonment of foundations without regard of implications is not maturity, for this is precisely what Eve and Adam became guilty of.
We can perhaps surmise, that the narrative has the purpose of conveying the most basic realities of humans in the divine arrangement, how humans relate to each other in the most basic family unit, and the dangers of breaking those arrangements. To alter these arrangements is to alter something at a most fundamental level of existence. Yes, we have already moved very far from those basic, fundamental realities. The consequences are somehow inescapable at many levels, and those consequences do not present themselves immediately.
What of today
We are left with an account where the divine action is swift, and discussions are as easy as a conversation. Today, we are far away from swift divine action or conversations. To have an account of what happened long ago in history feels less than relevant in the age of impatience.
Mankind finds itself in a time when, there feels the need to lay down new foundations and leave the old; while at the same time there are those who adamantly hold to the old, and resist anything new that seeks to oppose the old.
Upon that we are confronted by the achievements of a world that defied the early writings of the Bible or Genesis. Any human words or actions are insufficient, for those whose hopes and expectations rest upon those simple writings. At present, the complications that have entered human life and relationships, it seems the simplicity of the Bible is incapable of addressing. In my own experience, the Bible cannot answer questions that can be asked from within its own system of belief. Some of these questions are important and raise questions about who God is, and why He acts a certain way. For instance: Jesus speaks of “our Father in heaven” who knows of even a sparrow falling to the ground, and yet that same God was caught unawares by the disobedience when only 2 humans existed in the garden of Eden! How is God omniscient then? The possible answer to reconcile the two statements has to go beyond a simple, yes or no. God is then not omniscient, but capable of full knowledge beyond deception to whatever and whoever He turns His attention to.
We avoid sparing a thought to consider that, the existing complexities are proof of what happens when the simple words of this old account in Genesis are considered irrelevant and meaningless. Somewhere, we do desire that simplicity in the most difficult of times. The fact that our minds have become trained to be obsessed with details and complexities, and those kinds of thinking also give us a sense of pride; we feel that it is beneath us to look to such old stories. Then we find the words of Proverbs coming true:
30 Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.