Genesis 1-4 The fall and curse of Mankind

Because I have spent a lot of time in the Christian world, and I’ve studied a lot of the Bible fairly intently, I am finding the OT an interesting place to start this journey because rather than approaching it fresh I’m really looking at some of the questions that sent me away from the church a half dozen years ago.

I do love seeing the whole plan for salvation laid out so simply in Genesis 3:15

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

And between your offspring and her offspring;

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise his heel.

I know, from reading this with Skye, that the plan isn’t laid clear to every reader, I seem to have some interpretations that she hadn’t heard before, which will make further reading interesting. But to me, the plan is clear there. The serpent (“you” in that passage) is Satan and the enmity is that it is through the offspring of woman (Jesus) that Satan will be conquered. Jesus must die (his heel bruised), but in his resurrection, Satan is eventually defeated (his head bruised).

That’s a passage that I always enjoyed when I was a believer, seeing that God had a plan from the moment of the fall, a sacrifice was made (later in that chapter God makes for Adam and Eve cloths of skin, requiring the death of an animal aka the first sacrifice), and a plan laid for the ultimate salvation of man.

Now…I still appreciate seeing the plan, but this particular section brings up so many other questions for me, that I struggle with seeing the flow of it all.

God tells Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17) and then creates Eve (Gen 2:21-22) and yet it is Eve who is blamed for the fall by Adam (Gen 3:12), God (Gen 3:16-17), and then the church. I struggle with why she is held responsible for information that we don’t see her receive. It’s so important to the rest of the story, that, as a writer, I would never leave it out.

My other huge question here is about the creation of mankind. We see the creation of one man (Gen 2:7) and one woman (Gen 2:21-22), but we also see man referred to in the plural in the creation story (Gen 1:26-27)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of sea…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

(emphasis mine) which when combined with questions over where the wives of Cain and Seth come from, is a confusing conundrum for me. I’ll definitely be spending some time in the next few weeks thinking more about the creation story and where mankind comes from, according to Genesis.

And, in tune with questions about the creation story, Genesis 1 and 2 seem to have a slightly different order of creation and I have spent a lot of time over the years trying to unravel why there are two creation stories presented. In Gen 1 God creates light, water, land, plants, sun/moon/stars, birds and fish, livestock, and then man. In Gen 2:5-7 God creates man before vegetation

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet spring up-for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was doing up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground-then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Those two patterns seem contradictory to me and I can’t understand the duality of it.

I will try to approach this with an open mind and to ponder the questions that arise without judgement, but I am very aware of what I’m seeing as contradictions and trying to fathom how they work together which is not exactly closing me off to the experience, but it’s definitely making me look at it on a different level than I expected when I began.

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2 thoughts on “Genesis 1-4 The fall and curse of Mankind

  1. There are many such passages in the Old Testament where a story is told twice in different ways. The crossing of the Red Sea is another such example. It makes a lot more sense when you look at it from an academic/historical perspective rather than religious one. According to linguistic researchers, the oldest part of the OT is not Genesis but Samuel. It’s the story of the rise of Israel’s greatest king and almost-emperor, David. In fact, we can archaeologically verify most of the Old Testament from roughly David onward, but not before.

    The general consensus, as I understand is, is that the OT / Hebrew bible from Samuel onward was written generally a little after the events depicted in it, over the course of several hundred years, and then ret-conned together into a single story. Parts older than David, however, were written by stitching together folklore and legends and adding a fair bit of “nation building”; literally trying to create a shared mytho-history in order to hold a people together. Since informal fairy tails tend to have different versions they in some cases decided not to pick one or another, just go with both so as to not annoy any larger constituency because “their” preferred version wasn’t included.

    Religion makes a lot more sense when you look at it archaeologically rather than religiously. 🙂

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  2. Quick thoughts on your first questions. We do have evidence that Eve knows about the Tree and the restrictions, because she tells the Serpent, “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.'” (Gen. 3:3). So the writer did ensure that we know that Eve knows the rule before she makes a choice. We may not know exactly when she was told, but we know it was before her conversation with the Serpent. To your second point, yes Adam blames her, but she in turn blames someone else (“The Serpent deceived me, and I ate…” Gen. 3:13. ) By this, the writer is showing that it’s human nature to pass the blame, for both of them. God, in return, doles out consequences to all three of them with no different treatment for Eve. The Serpent gets two verses of punishment (Gen. 3:14-15), Eve gets only one verse (Gen. 3:16), and Adam gets the most with three verses (Gen. 3:17-19). As far as the Church singling out and only blaming Eve, there is no evidence of that theology in the Bible. Anyone who taught that is personally doing it and not reflecting the biblical example that three were equally to blame.

    The answers to the second question take a little bit more, but they start by realizing that they are three completely different stories with completely different focus and themes. The first story (Gen 1:1 – 2:3) is a big picture story, and is as much about organization as it is about creation, with the focus on divine authority. The creation of man is included, but it has no different focus than any of the other parts. The writing style and text of this section is vastly different from the rest of the book of Genesis, which further series it from the later stories.

    The second story (Gen. 2:4-25) is about the creation of man and woman and their relationship with each other and the rest of the animal kingdom. It is clearly differentiated from the previous story by the line, “This is the account…”, a line which appears ten times in Genesis and is used to indicate the beginning of a new story. The order of events is not an important part of this story, and so the focus is not on order of events but on the relationship between each interaction. It is also setting up details for the next story.
    The third story (Gen. 3) is not at all about creation, but rather the fall of man and the introduction of sin to the world.

    Your further questions about numbers of people have a lot of ways to go, and is a very complex discussion. Some quick pointers, though, since we have no time frame, it’s possible that the wives we simply other children of Adam and Eve. Nowhere does it say Cain and Abel were the only children at that time. Also, nowhere does it say Adam and Eve were the only people created by God, simply the first. But mostly it comes down to viewing the stories from a proper context: these are myths, probably based on true events, verbally passed down from generation to generation for hundreds or thousands of years which are designed not to impart scientific or historical fact but rather to teach truths about God and the nature of God.

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