I just read this piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that really yanked my chain. For a lot of the reasons discussions of gender and religion yank my chain. People are completely oblivious of the assumptions and atextual contributions they bring to biblical study. Which is, most of the time, fine and natural and understandable. But when scholars are equally blind to their intextual interferences? It pisses me off. It shouldn’t, really. When I studied Religion, I was often called brilliant for insights free of Christian cultural interpolations, so I should be grateful for scholarly Christian blindness. But I’m not. I may in fact be brilliant, but I want that to be recognized because of my insights and contributions, not because other people can’t see around their cultural accretions.
Anyway. This piece in the Chronicle. Retelling Eden. Through gender switching. It might have been pretty cool, except for the fact that it completely overinterprets what Genesis reports to have happened between the fruit-eater and the serpent. Here’s where it goes wrong:
One day a serpent came along and said, “Hey, Adam, look here. I’ve got this fabulous idea for you. If you eat a piece of this apple, you’ll look at Eve in an entirely different way. You’ll experience a very pleasant urge that will enhance that useless protuberance of yours and make you want to put it to work rolling around in the grass with Eve. What do you say?”
Do you see it? Go ahead, double check, the part in question is Genesis 3:3-7. Here’s the NIV translation:
3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
See it now? Knowledge. Wisdom. Culture. Sex? No. No sex. No sexuality. No frolicking with protuberances. That’s all Christian add-on, coming much later.
Here’s how to re-read it. Eve was a little bored with mindless frolicking. She was adventuresome. Wisdom sounded good to her. She wanted it. She reached out and took it, and handed to her friend, who also partook of wisdom. Without challenge, qualm, or question. And then the first thing they did was get crafty and make some clothes. (clothes=culture).
And then God got upset that his plans to keep his pets innocent, protected, and bored. Really really upset. I want to say it was because everyone kept passing the blame, but he also punished the serpent, who simply pointed out that the fruit would make life more interesting. He didn’t deceive Eve at all. He didn’t slip her some fruit like a frat boy at a party. He told her straight. She knew what she was getting into.
God was maybe a little unreasonable. He did not like losing his pets. His reaction kind of makes me want to hand him an apple and tell him to chill.
But maybe God was right to be pissed. Woman and Beast and Man, living together, with access to knowledge and all of the bountiful resources of this planet? Had no need for a God like that. He had to crush and smash them, make them weak and broken and pained. Or else he would have had to deal with companions of grace and equality.
I say Go, Eve! you did good girl!