“Has God said…?”: Ethics of the Interpretive Tradition

“Has God said…?”: Ethics of the Interpretive Tradition

?”Has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?…”

             “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!…” (Gen.3:1-4)

Thus we are told the origin of man’s original exile from God’s Divine Presence. Spawned by the “forked tongue” of the serpent, Eve succumbs to the temptation of eating the forbidden fruit. She then gives the forbidden delicacy to the man.

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In normative Christian theology, this is explained as the act which constitutes the Original Sin, or Fall of Man. In Jewish tradition it is often explained as discovered carnality and the beginning of exile. (Judaism does not teach the doctrine of Original Sin).

Perhaps there is a deeper, more profound way to look at this story of origins than just the introduction of base sexuality or a simple explanation of how humanity fell from “grace”.

The serpent knows the words of God, but the story progresses when he interprets, suggesting his interpretation. Interestingly, Moses does the same in the Torah (as we will see). Can we learn something by comparing Moses to the serpent in the Garden? Yes, I believe we can: a very important aspect of biblical interpretive tradition that, when misunderstood, is at the root of nearly all false teaching and division within the body of Messiah.

It is easy to see how the serpent twists and manipulates God’s words of instruction to Eve. Why is it easy? Because we know that the result of the encounter is disaster. Therefore, we also assume that he is misquoting God’s words. But is he?

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