Now that the stage for the second creation story is set, we get narrative. The pair of humans make a choice. It takes the risk despite the warning of God Jahweh. It’s an old myth, this one, with greater truths than modern wisdom.
Unlearn enough to relearn the story. The snake misconstrues to the woman the warning as a prohibition of any tree fruit eating. The woman narrows it more, but adds ‘touch’, as a choice which draws the consequence of mortality.
The snake denies that mortality will be the consequence of choosing and knowing. Rather, snake claims that seeing as God Jahweh will be the outcome. The woman reviews motives, and makes the decision to eat. The man just eats.
Pause on the motives, with the first woman. The tree is nourishing, a creation feeding a creature. It is beautiful, feeding the human soul and spirit. It gives wisdom, feeding mind and heart. Nope, she’s not just seeking genital sex acts.
In a garden, given enough, what are out appetites? Do we satisfy them and share the things that feed our full humanity: body, soul, spirit, mind and heart? Is knowledge, and concomitant mortality, simply a curse – or a blessing?
The first consequence is self-awareness. Those naked and unashamed now ‘sew fig leaves’ in a futile cover-up. They then dissemble to God, passing blame to each other, the snake, even God, about the gap between what was or is.
The ancient myth of an endearing Jahweh God walking in the garden need not assume the voice of doom. Perhaps a concerned parent is closer, inviting a child to accept agency and its consequences: ‘I did it’ – and it had effects!
God declares consequences for the snake, cursed and condemned to enmity with humans. The snake is demeaned to its belly – and to be an exception to the benign relationships between humans and other creatures.
The consequence for the woman is not called a curse. Labour in childbirth (and early mortality risks) will result from her appetite for co-creation and being less incomplete. Would she have had fully human children if immortal?
The consequence for the may is not called a curse. The ground is cursed, less fertile to feed the humans than in the garden. Labour in agriculture is required for the desired harvest from dust and clay, to which we return.
Yes, it reads from one gendered culture to another, proposing distinctive appetites and roles, and inevitable tensions between and among us. How rigid and constricting are those identities in the text? Who narrowed them?
That the woman is the mother of all who lived is a good thing. That the futility of fig leaves is replaced by the comfort and protection of skins is a good thing. The humans have knowledge of good and evil: a divine, now also human thing.
God acknowledges the way in which the humans are now more like the divine. Warning of consequences of eating from one tree had not deterred the human. There is another tree, the tree of life, which God now denies the mortals.
We live East of Eden, with the gates to the garden guarded from living mortals. Can we return to the garden, individually or collectively? Keep reading – labour construct a world to feed human appetites of body, soul, spirit, mind and heart!