If one takes the stories of creation from the book of Genesis to be the description of real facts, there is the danger for the misunderstanding of the situation of women and their status in society. Eve is seen in Genesis chapter 2 as a derived human being coming from man and in a way being subservient to him. For this reason, in the majority of Christian churches women aren’t allowed to preach and they aren’t equal with men in the service of God. This is what the text of the Bible says about the creation of woman:
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“21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman,* for out of Man* this one was taken.’ (Genesis 2; 21-23 NRSV)
This biblical text generates much confusion in theology. There are different opinions about the status of the women in the Christian churches based on the Apostle’s Paul epistles. Some of these epistles are considered to be authored by Paul but others are seen as inauthentic, using only Paul’s name. For example, Paul says in Romans that:
“10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (Romans 10; 10 NRSV)
On the other side, 1 Timothy requires for women to give birth to children as a condition of their salvation.
“11 Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.” (1Timothy 2; 15 NRSV)
All assertions are wrong in the quoted text. According to the book of Genesis, chapter 1, man and woman were created simultaneously on the sixth day of creation. At the same time, Adam and Eve were both deceived because they didn’t know the difference between good and evil before eating from the tree, according to the same book, chapter 2. In order to reach salvation, a woman must bear children, but that principle is on a collision course with Paul’s doctrine of salvation which, according to him, comes through faith and faith alone. In point of fact, is very hard to accept such an inconsistency in Paul’s epistles.
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In 1 Timothy chapter 2 women are directed to give birth to children in order to be saved. Moreover, these children must be faithful if their mothers aspire to be saved. Conditioning the salvation of a woman by the faith of her children is contrary to the principle of individual responsibility and salvation through individual faith. A mother cannot be totally responsible for her children who are independent persons and have their free choice of faith.
In another epistle, Paul recommended to the virgins not to marry, and it is hard to reconcile the two texts:
“25 Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that, in view of the impending* crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” (1 Corinthians 7; 25-27 NRSV)
A woman will be saved through childbearing, but a virgin is better if she remains as she is. Is the virgin not of the same gender as a woman? If women truly can be saved only through childbearing, all women must be married, including virgins.
Apostle Paul himself overcame, in some of his undisputed epistles, the differences between male and female, in matters of faith.
“28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3; 28-29 NRSV)
If there isn’t any difference between male and female, why are the females conditioned for their salvation by the birth of children, but the fathers are not? Paul continuously attached a decisive importance to faith for salvation and this conditionality on deeds, on childbearing, doesn’t seem to be Paul’s at all.
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It is very important to notice that the alleged facticity of the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis reflected on the way women were seen in the Judeo-Christian traditions, hence in the societies in which these religious traditions were and still are influential. Many inequities against women during millennia have to be explained by the story of Adam and Eve in which Eve is seen as second in importance to man.
“7 For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection* of God; but woman is the reflection* of man. 8 Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. 10 For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of* authority on her head,* because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. 12 For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God.” (1 Corinthians 11; 7-12 NRSV)
In any case if men come through women in the same way women come through men, it is hard to see why only man is the image and reflection of God. Who came first, man or woman? The Bible says that man came first but the sciences cannot say if the first individual in the human species had been male or female.
Man is said to be the image and reflection of God but woman is considered to be the reflection of man. This assertion contradicts sharply the text from Genesis chapter 1 which says that both man and woman were created by God in His image.
“27 So God created humankind* in his image, in the image of God he created them;* male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1; 27 NRSV)
This biblical verse contradicts the entire theology concerning the relationship of men and women found in some of Paul’s epistles or in other biblical texts. The first chapter of the book of Genesis doesn’t make any differentiation or hierarchy between man and woman but the second chapter does. From my point of view, to say that man is the reflection of God but woman isn’t also His reflection, is complete absurdity because women are half of humankind.
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Genesis chapter 1, verse 27, says clearly that humankind, women and men, were created in the image of God, not only men. The notion of humankind circumscribes men but also women in an equal proportion. Not only that women are His image but even more, Jesus the Son of God who is considered to be true God biologically, was the image of a woman, Virgin Mary. Without this double reflection, God and human beings cannot reach the spiritual closeness recommended by the N.T. This fundamental contradiction between Genesis, chapter 1, and Genesis, chapter 2, renders any opinion about a so-called differentiation of status between men and women totally valueless.
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Evil didn’t enter into the world at a certain time; evil as much as good is inscribed in the nature of existence per se. Humankind has learned to discern between good and evil during its history and the process isn’t finished. Many things seemed to be good for many people but they proved in the end to be evil. The knowledge of good and evil didn’t come to human beings suddenly after they ate from a tree, and the entire human history is the evidence for that.
The myth of a tree of the knowledge of good and evil is generated by an authentic human concern. What is good and what is evil for humankind in a long-term perspective? Humankind had tried many possibilities in politics and economics only to discover what is good and what is evil for them, and sometimes paid a high price for this knowledge. The myth according to which by eating from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil one could have gained this discernment and become wise is an absurdity. The entire human experience aspires to find good and to identify evil. One persuasive proof that the story with the tree of knowledge is only a legend is the fact that humankind didn’t receive, from the moment of eating its fruit, the ability to discern between good and evil.
If Adam and Eve had really become wise by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so many historical errors of humankind would have been avoided, but this isn’t the case.
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Humankind never had this incredible experience of eating from such a tree and consequently didn’t become able to miraculously discern good from evil. If they had such an experience they would have known the difference between good and evil, but all the subsequent human history shows that the opposite is right.
The world history is the proof that humankind never ate from the tree of the knowledge and never knew the difference between good and evil before experiencing it in practical situations in their lives. If humankind had discerned from the beginning of its civilisation the difference between good and evil, it wouldn’t have had so many experiences which could have endangered its own existence. They would have behaved much more wisely, being able to always separate the good from the evil.
As a matter of fact, so many wars and social experiences prove that humankind didn’t miraculously receive the ability to discern between good and evil and that the conclusions were drawn post-factum. This isn’t about the evil nature of one political leader or another; this is about human nature in general which has displayed along the course of history an incredible penchant for evil. This has nothing to do with Adam and Eve but with the fight for existence.
Gulags, concentration camps, religious fanaticism, mass murders, ethnic cleansings, racism and so on could have been avoided if Adam and Eve had been real personages and if they had eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Knowing in reality the difference between good and evil would have permitted the avoidance of many evils in the world.
The evil in the world cannot be explained by a so-called Fall of Adam and Eve because no-one can prove that in this world human nature was ever better than it is today. A so-called worsening of human nature in time cannot be identified in the human history. The ancient civilizations were as brutal as the modern ones and human nature was always the same. If real, Adam and Eve would have had a flawed nature and the proof is their disobedience to God. They yielded to an exterior temptation hence they had a sinful nature from the beginning of their existence. If human beings hadn’t had a sinful nature from the beginning of their creation they would have rejected the temptation of the serpent, but the inclination toward disobedience was innate in them.
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Placing all responsibility on the serpent for the temptation of human beings is one of the most absurd doctrines proposed by commentators, and even the texts of the Bible contradict such a possibility. According to the book of Genesis, human beings would have been punished for their disobedience therefore they would have been responsible for their Fall.
If God is good why does He accept so much evil in the world? Either He accepts the evil and therefore He is not that good, or He doesn’t accept it but He cannot do anything against it, consequently He doesn’t have so much power as is usually thought. If God accepted the evil deliberately He wouldn’t be as generous and merciful as He is said to be. In the first case God’s character is put in question and in the second case His power is in doubt. Which is the truth about the relation between God and evil? Does He accept human suffering or He cannot do anything against it? The explanation given by the book of Genesis is that the fault for the existence of evil in the world belongs to the serpent and to humankind and that God doesn’t have any fault because He is perfect. This interpretation exonerates God from any responsibility; He is good but humankind didn’t understand Him.
Such an interpretation loses sight of God as the author of both Satan and humankind. God took enormous risks, therefore responsibility, when He created both Satan and humankind. Adam and Eve didn’t have any freedom of will because they didn’t know the difference between good and evil. Without knowledge of good and evil the freedom of will is an illusion. Again, it is a reversal of the order in the process of creation which proves naivety on the part of the authors of the book of Genesis. First humankind was given the right to choose and only afterwards they received the moral tools for their choice.
Adam and Eve had been asked to obey God blindly and they hadn’t been prepared to resist evil and temptation from the serpent because they didn’t have the knowledge of good and evil before the temptation. The evil hadn’t been brought into the world by Adam and Eve; it was already there in the Garden of Eden and for this reason the Garden couldn’t have been a real Paradise. If Adam and Eve had obeyed God they would have spent their eternity not only with Him but also with the serpent which was present in the Garden. What Paradise would have been a place in which Satan would also have been present? It is a nonsensical proposition.
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It is true that the first human beings preferred to listen to the serpent rather than to God but whose fault was it that they valued knowledge and science above authority and blind obedience? From the beginning, human nature would have been as it is today, very curious and interested in acquiring all possible knowledge.
In another perspective, the serpent wouldn’t have been humankind’s enemy but the one who brought the light of knowledge to human beings. The choice to obey or to disobey God wouldn’t have been a moral choice. A choice between good and evil made before knowing good and evil couldn’t have been reasonable. Adam and Eve wouldn’t have known if disobedience to God was good or evil, hence they didn’t choose between the two moral alternatives but they chose between knowledge and blind obedience.
At the same time, Adam and Eve couldn’t have understood what dying means if death, according to many commentators, wouldn’t have been present in Paradise before their Fall. There hadn’t been any deaths to which Adam and Eve could have referred in their understanding about what death could be. Again, we encounter in this account the confusion of the usual order of things. Adam and Eve had been threatened with death but dying had come into the world only after the threat. How could God warn someone against something which didn’t exist at the moment of the warning? It is the description of an absurd situation and Adam and Eve, if they had existed in real life, couldn’t have understood such a warning.
The book of Genesis is commonly interpreted in the sense that blind obedience to God was a good thing and knowledge of good and evil was a bad thing for Adam and Eve. Is blind obedience a good thing? Blind obedience is a bad thing when someone needs to make an informed decision. The non-value of blind obedience promoted by God has proven to be the weapon with which the serpent entered into the world of Adam and Eve. The serpent used a temptation which functioned only because Adam and Eve weren’t prepared to make an informed decision.
The authoritarian system imposed by God on Adam and Eve would have generated their failure because the alleged first human beings would have been educated to obey rather than to discern between good and evil with their minds.
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They weren’t responsible for their decision because they weren’t allowed by God to make an informed choice, knowing the difference between good and evil. Keeping for Himself the knowledge of good and evil, God also kept the entire responsibility for all evil which would have come through Adam’s and Eve’s choices including that of eating from the tree of the knowledge.
Who is responsible for evil in the world? In real terms nature uses instincts through which biological beings are able to survive, to feed and to multiply. Are lions bad or good when they eat a deer? They are neither bad nor good, they act according to their nature. To say that their nature had been initially good but it had been transformed by Adam and Eve’s disobedience toward God is complete absurdity. Likewise, human nature follows the biological nature of all living beings. It is much ameliorated by education and culture but can become evil when fundamental instincts are in question. For this reason, dramatic events such as wars bring to the surface the darkest side of humankind. In wars people fight for their survival using their innate instincts and the world becomes an evil place. The evil in the world can be explained much better when one adopts an evolutionary view about the universe and humankind. In the creationist view with a generous God controlling everything in the world, so much evil in the human societies cannot be realistically explained by the Fall of two fictitious personages, who are Adam and Eve.
When one realises that Adam and Eve are the personages of a fiction, the question reappears with even stronger acuity. How can we explain the evil in the world if Adam and Eve aren’t guilty of the human Fall? If God exists and if He controls everything only He can be responsible for the evil in the world. How about Satan, is he responsible for the evil? If the book of Genesis isn’t accurate regarding Adam and Eve why would we give it credit for the veracity of the stories which involve Satan? We shouldn’t do that. If there are forces of evil together with powers of good it is very difficult to discern them from a human perspective. Whoever tries to impose an absolute authority on humankind must be understood as conflicting with human aspiration to freedom.
God the Father cannot lead humankind other than from the inside of human consciousness, convincing people of the importance of certain values. Trying to enforce principles including blind obedience trough a superior force is something which humankind rejected many times in its history.
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For this reason, good and evil have to be seen in the context of human freedom. Where there are minds there are different opinions, no matter if we refer to human beings or angels. Democracy is a necessity where there are thinking entities and cannot be successfully replaced by autocracy. The choice for God cannot be but freely assumed by every particular human being. Satan would be a force which tries to enslave human beings to his rules and his authority.
What would have been the human nature before Adam and Eve’s Fall? The book of Genesis doesn’t directly say anything about that. Allegedly, they didn’t need to kill in order to eat but they disobeyed God. In their nature they experienced the need for knowledge so their nature was created in such a way that they had to keep a certain distance from God in order to be able to perceive all things with their minds.
The religious intoxication which tries to induce the idea that Adam and Eve would have had free will at the moment of their choices to obey or disobey God is unacceptable. Without the knowledge of good and evil there isn’t free will. Adam and Eve would have gained free will with the price of their eternal lives. Children aren’t considered to have free will until they become mature and gain the full ability to discern between good and evil. Adam and Eve had been driven by their instincts and one such instinct was the need for knowledge.
In the context of the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve couldn’t have been responsible for their own nature if their nature had been created by God. They couldn’t have acted against their nature because they didn’t have consciousness based on the knowledge of good and evil. They would have acted according to their nature, which was the only possible alternative for them at that moment.
All of human history has demonstrated that knowledge of good and evil is a need for human beings; it wasn’t only a sinful endeavour. Why would God have tried to prevent the fulfilment of this need? According to the book of Genesis God would have created the need for knowledge but He would have tested humankind against their nature. It doesn’t make any sense. The story about the temptation of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis is a myth and is similar to the Greek story of Prometheus:
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“Prometheus and Epimetheus were spared imprisonment in Tartarus because they had not fought with their fellow Titans during the war with the Olympians. They were given the task of creating man. Prometheus shaped man out of mud, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure. Prometheus had assigned Epimetheus the task of giving the creatures of the earth their various qualities, such as swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, and wings. Unfortunately, by the time he got to man Epimetheus had given all the good qualities out and there were none left for man. So Prometheus decided to make man stand upright as the gods did and to give him fire.”
In my view, the legend of Prometheus is very similar to the legend of the serpent from the book of Genesis. Both Prometheus and the serpent are legendary figures with the same goal of emancipating humankind. Prometheus shaped man out of mud, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure. In the book of Genesis God is the Creator and the serpent is His opponent but in Greek mythology Prometheus is the creator of man but also his supporter. The opposition for Greeks was between Prometheus and other deities.
A similar idea can be found in the book of Genesis. God in the Bible shaped man from dust and had given him the breath of life. Some legends had circulated in the ancient world and we can find traces of them in many civilizations. Prometheus, similar to the serpent, had been a friend of humankind.
What did the serpent from the book of Genesis do wrong from a moral point of view? Did the serpent incite humankind not to obey God or did he want to give to human beings the ability to think for themselves and to build their consciousness? Humankind’s capability to think on the basis of knowledge of good and evil would have been detrimental not only for God but also for Satan if the serpent had been the devil’s personification. Knowing the difference between good and evil, human beings would have identified Satan as the agent of evil and many would have become his adversaries.
Most importantly, in a mythical way the serpent apparently understood that the real revolt against God would have appeared when human beings knew the difference between good and evil. In other words, humankind wouldn’t have obeyed God any more if they understood that His command based on blind obedience couldn’t have been something good.
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The serpent calculation wasn’t entirely right. Some people continued to obey God in spite of the consummation of the forbidden fruit which would have given the capability of knowing the difference between good and evil to all human beings.
The presumption which is inherent in the biblical text that knowing the difference between good and evil would prompt humankind to choose evil is wrong. Choosing the knowledge of good and evil against blind obedience doesn’t signify a choice for evil. The book of Genesis gives the impression that God would have had something to hide from humankind.
This is of course a myth which wouldn’t have been inspired by God with this message unfavourable to Him. In any case, there still are many people who don’t know the difference between good and evil in spite of the alleged eating from the tree of knowledge by Adam and Eve.
The craftiest animal had opposed God’s decision on behalf of humankind, trying to give them what they needed, and that was knowledge. From a human perspective, the serpent is the friend and also the ally of humankind, helping in their aspiration for acquiring knowledge and improving their lives.
The book of Genesis shows us a conflict between God and the human beings but this tension is blurred by the simplistic dualism between good and evil promoted by organised religion. God is one hundred percent good and the serpent is one hundred percent bad. The book of Genesis doesn’t say that. Adam and Eve had been punished by God but this doesn’t mean that they had been in the wrong. They disobeyed Him but for good reasons. As a matter of fact, Adam and Eve would have been right when they tried to know the difference between good and evil and they made a choice with moral consequences which would have allowed them to become moral beings. They preferred disobeying God and quitting their statute rather than living in ignorance.
Humankind couldn’t have possessed at the same time the knowledge of good and evil and live forever, hence when eating from the tree of knowledge they would have died.
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The two would have been incompatible, but why? According to the Bible, at the end of the history on Earth people knowing good and evil will be saved and they will live forever. God will accept that human beings live forever in spite of them knowing good and evil, therefore that knowledge isn’t incompatible with eternal life as the book of Genesis implies.
Why then, are the sufferings caused by a long history on Earth? Couldn’t the knowledge of good and evil have been accepted from the beginning without human beings passing through the turmoil? The real incompatibility seems to be between peace and happiness and the knowledge of evil. Humankind couldn’t have known the evil without knowing sufferance because they are inextricably linked. According to the book of Genesis evil was known only theoretically in the universe before Adam and Eve’s Fall.
In the myth, Adam and Eve had preferred to jeopardise their existence for the sake of knowledge and that is what makes human greatness, but they were punished for that. Nevertheless, that endeavour was interpreted by the organised religion as a very bad thing, the substance of the original sin.
In the course of human history many human beings have risked their lives for the sake of truth and knowledge. Was there anything wrong with that? The promoted “value” of blind obedience to God isn’t a moral value. In the book of Genesis, God would have asked human beings to obey blindly His command without knowing the difference between good and evil, and the alternative to that would have been the acquisition of moral knowledge for humankind and also death. Adam and Eve made a choice which was morally right when choosing to be able to understand the sense of their lives in the light of moral knowledge.
Why should Adam and Eve have obeyed God’s command? If they had chosen to obey God blindly they would have been recompensed by Him with eternal life. What understanding could Adam and Eve have had of eternity if they didn’t have any references about death? None would have died in the earthly Paradise yet. Eternal life is the opposite of mortal life therefore without the understanding of death the eternal life in Paradise wouldn’t have had any meaning. Adam and Eve wouldn’t have wanted something which didn’t make any sense to them.
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What meaning would eternal life have had without the knowledge of good and evil? Eternal life without the knowledge of good and evil would have meant eternal ignorance. It should be remembered that the discussion is about a myth, not about some real facts, but it is important to know what the moral meanings of such a myth could be. It is true that in this myth humankind had chosen to suffer and to die, paying a price for their endeavour to find knowledge. None is entitled to blame humankind for a choice which was courageous and moral. All choices for moral awareness cannot be other than good choices.
In a gnostic Christian view the Demiurge had created humankind without the approval of the Supreme God, and the serpent had tried to warn human beings about this situation and directed them towards the tree of knowledge.
The book of Genesis has a different interpretation in an orthodox perspective than in a gnostic one. In an orthodox view, God created humankind who rebelled against Him, being tempted by the serpent. In the Gnostic view the Demiurge, a lesser divinity than the Supreme God, had created humankind and asked for blind obedience on their part. The serpent in this case is similar to Prometheus because it tried to help the human beings to overcome this absurd situation in which they didn’t have the knowledge of what was really good and evil, including in the Demiurge’s character. Quoting several texts from the O.T., the Gnostics tried to demonstrate that God of the O.T. is the Demiurge and has an evil character, and that the serpent is a positive personage supporting humankind in its need for knowledge.
The Demiurge couldn’t have had such a huge power necessary for the creation of the whole universe but could have intervened in the process of the apparition of humankind using genetic engineering. The Demiurge could be the representative of an extra-terrestrial civilization who had intervened in the process of transforming primates into human beings. The intervention wouldn’t have been appreciated by the Supreme God who preferred a natural process of evolution against an external intervention. These “sons of God” were like gods for humankind, the latter being in its first stage of evolution.
What is the origin of evil? For the orthodox Christians evil is generated by Satan’s revolt but in the context of the book of Genesis the serpent, who was later equated with Satan, is a positive and not a negative personage.
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For this reason, the Gnostic interpretation seems to be closer to the texts of the book of Genesis than the orthodox one.
The mythology of the book of Genesis supports the idea of a lesser or confused God, the Demiurge, who created the world in a chaotic way, when one looks at the contradictions contained by the Bible. The serpent in the book of Genesis seems like a reasonable personage, truthful in his assertions and aiming for humankind’s welfare even if through a painful process. At the same time, we should bear in mind all the time that we analyse a myth and not real facts so describing God as good or bad on the basis of imaginary stories doesn’t say anything about reality.
We cannot know God when we read the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis because the texts are not faithful to His reality as we know it from the Christian teachings based on other biblical texts, and from an individual experience with Him. In other words, paradoxically, one has to choose between the image according to which God is love and has a profound understanding for humankind, and the image given by the book of Genesis, because they are contradictory.
Taking the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis as parables, the image of God is rather negative and in this the Gnostics are right. This doesn’t mean that the eternal Reality which we name God corresponds to the portrayal made by the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis. In order to become a Gnostic, one has to attach some valid spiritual message to the texts discussed here and even to recognise that the texts are inspired by God. In my view, God didn’t inspire the contradictory and absurd messages which are found at the beginning at the book of Genesis, therefore they don’t say anything about Him. The first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis aren’t a revelation, on the contrary they hide God.
The book of Genesis represents mythology which can be interpreted in more than one way. The Gnostic interpretation of the texts is more coherent as far as we cannot find any lie told by the serpent. At the same time, the texts told us in Genesis chapter 1 that God would have created humankind in His likeness, but in chapter 2 that He didn’t want human beings to become like Him, knowing the difference between good and evil, and that is inconsistent. Again, the Bible says that God cannot lie but He wasn’t truthful when He says that the human beings would die on the day they ate from the tree of knowledge.
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They didn’t die either physically or spiritually, hence it wasn’t God who made that prediction.
If the world didn’t start as the book of Genesis says, it is likely that it will not end as the book of Revelation says. The common thread between the book of Genesis and the book of Revelation is Satan. The serpent is presented as a universal deceiver but if Adam and Eve are fictitious personages the serpent also is mythology and not reality, he is as imaginary as the first two human beings.
Is Satan deceiving people today? It is impossible to affirm anything positive about someone who in the book of Genesis is only a legendary personage, or to add anything else besides what the context of that myth permits. One thing is sure; there is a deceiving aspect to any mythology when metaphorical symbols are taken to be literally real. This is also the problem with Satan from the Bible. Who is Satan in the real world? In the book of Genesis, he isn’t the expression of any realities. The prime cause for the evil in the world isn’t Satan but it is the cosmic dynamic which entails the continuous transformations of the fundamental existence.
If we take the book of Genesis as a parable with some spiritual significance it would be difficult to choose who is good and who is evil. It is possible that human beings still need spiritual discernment of good and evil.
In one interpretation Jesus would be understood as the Person represented symbolically by the serpent, craftier than anyone else, who came into the world to give to humankind the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Jesus had been sent by the Father in order to change the plans of Satan for humankind. Jesus would be the serpent and He was metaphorically announced by the book of Genesis, and anyone who pays attention to Jesus’ teachings gains a real knowledge of good and evil in the spiritual realm. Nevertheless, none can take this interpretation to have any spiritual value if the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis aren’t inspired by God but are the product of human imagination.
In the real world, God didn’t and couldn’t have created the world as it is written in the book of Genesis in two conflicting accounts, but rather the world had been generated in a very different way. “Didn’t create” and “couldn’t have created” are two very different propositions. Why couldn’t He have created the world in this way?
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The narratives of creation from the book of Genesis present two stories which contradict all natural laws and all rationality. These are enough reasons to consider that God wouldn’t have chosen this path for His creation if He really created the laws of nature and if He is Logos.
More plausibly, the world was created as the modern cosmology and Darwin maintained but not necessarily without God’s contribution. All observations made of nature confirm that modern cosmology and Darwinian evolution correspond to the laws of nature. At the same time, Jesus could have come to Earth to tell us the truth and to give us the knowledge of good and evil and the access to the tree of life. No law of nature would have prohibited that event.
The problem of evil isn’t sorted out either by the Orthodox interpretations of the biblical accounts or by the Gnostic ones. In the first hypothesis God is responsible for the evil in the universe because He had created Satan in such a way that evil had been a possibility. God Himself probably knew evil before the revolt of Satan and even the book of Genesis says that He knows the difference between good and evil. God probably knows good and evil from eternity if He is Omniscient, He didn’t learn it with the occasion of Satan’s revolt.
For the Gnostics, another deity than the Father created our universe and that deity is responsible for the existence of evil. This idea comes when one sees the O.T. as a display of God’s anger on humankind. Starting with the Flood and continuing with God’s war against the people of Canaan, we can witness an angry God. We expect God to love all people, even His enemies according to Jesus’ teachings, and not only the people with whom He had a covenant. After all, according to the book of Genesis, He created human beings.
God’s anger can be better explained in a theistic evolutionist view in which He didn’t directly create humankind and it would have appeared through the evolution of the species.
In my perspective evil is intrinsic to the evolution of nature. Good and evil are two sides of the evolutionary process and no creation process could have avoided it. I reckon that this opinion is close to the theistic evolution view. Steve Lemke remarks in his article:
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“These theodicies or defenses to the problem of evil, however, normally presuppose the standard view of divine creation. Were one to propose creation by means of theistic evolution, some of the presuppositions for these responses to the problem of evil no longer function. Therefore, advocating some form of theistic evolution poses problems for standard explanations of the problem of evil.”
The Fall of humankind is only a legend, and human beings evolved from other beings developing their moral sense gradually. The history of human ethics shows that countless experiences brought humankind to the understanding of human rights. There aren’t such things as moral laws which can be imposed on human beings by God. In the O.T., based on their human nature, the Jewish people fought hard against such an imposed morality. Even if the laws were sometimes respected in their exterior forms something essential was lost from their inner moral substance. Apostle Paul said that given the spiritual nature of God’s Law, it cannot be respected by someone being exclusively in his or her human nature.
“3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin,* he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8; 3-4 NRSV)
The only chance for human beings to respect in its essence God’s moral law is by changing their nature through the process of new birth. (John 3; 3-6)
The O.T. is the history of a great failure, that of God, who wasn’t able to impose His laws on humankind. He was angry about Jewish people’s stubbornness most of the time. As a matter of fact, such an attempt would have failed anyway, being hindered by human nature which is structured differently to how those laws would have required. In the epistle toward Romans Apostle Paul says that unequivocally:
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“14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin.* 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7; 14-15 NRSV)
In the context of the book of Genesis the human nature is “flesh” and it had been always “flesh” because Adam and Eve wouldn’t have been born only as spiritual beings, but they were material human beings as well, and Adam was taken from the dust of the earth. If Adam and Eve in the logic of the Bible were born from the Spirit, their failure would have been unconceivable. Whoever is born from God doesn’t sin any more. (1 John 5; 18)
Even if Adam and Eve would have had free will, which isn’t the case in the context of the book of Genesis, their choice remains problematic. Why did Adam and Eve choose to listen to the serpent and not to God? It was precisely because they were “flesh” looking for enlightenment and not spiritual beings already enlightened. In this case, the principle of free will on which so much is loaded, is again under questioning because Adam and Eve weren’t free but were determined by their “flesh” and their ignorance of good and evil. A spiritual being would have known the difference between good and evil without eating from the tree of knowledge if God had dwelled in him or her.
In the classical theism, the Fall of humankind is considered to have had a decisive function in the change in nature both of human beings and also on other natural beings. The following quotation explains this point:
“First of all, it is incumbent upon a good God to produce an optimally good world. We could not necessarily expect an evil or morally mixed God to produce a good world, but we have every reason to expect a good and beneficent God (Matt. 5:48; 1 John 1:5, 4:7-8) to produce the “best of all possible worlds” (given human freewill). In the biblical account, therefore, the evil and suffering we witness in nature and in human experience is not accountable to God because of a defective process in creation, but rather it is a result of the moral Fall of the first humans and subsequent sin by their descendents.”
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In my view, there isn’t such a thing as human beings falling from grace and I reckon this is consistent with a theistic evolution perspective. The evil is accounted for through the way God had created the world. Why did God create a world in which predators kill animals to ensure their existence? Human beings also are kept in this survival combat, and they kill animals also. According to the book of Genesis such things wouldn’t have taken place until the Flood when humankind was allowed to eat meat. This dietary change would have produced animal destruction which hadn’t been seen previously on Earth. This is inconsistent with the idea that the Fall of humankind had determined the change in human and animal nature, because if that would have been a fact, the meat consumption would have started immediately after the Fall.
If the Fall had motivated such a change in nature why would this change have shown its effects only after the Flood when animals started to kill one another, and not immediately after the Fall? In other words, if the animal nature became suddenly worse after the Fall why didn’t this change produce its effects immediately? The animal nature getting worse only after a long period of time after the Fall doesn’t make sense if the Fall of humankind had been real and not a legend.
The nature of human beings hadn’t been changed after the imaginary Fall, firstly because such a Fall wasn’t real and secondly because humankind’s behaviour was determined by their nature and not their nature by their behaviour. First comes the nature and second comes the attitude, but many interpreters of the book of Genesis inaptly reverse the rational order when affirming that the Fall had changed human nature.
After the Fall, Adam and Eve continued to have the same spiritual contact with God as before the Fall. God continued to be involved in the same manner in their lives. He had made garments for them, had received or rejected their offerings, had surveyed their lives, restricted Cain’s punishment for his crime, and separated the languages of human beings. Along the entirety of human history, God observed and influenced human fate, according to the Bible.
What is believed by creationists is that the human sin stopped a good fellowship between God and the human races. The following quotation summarises this view:
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“One of the immediate effects of the Fall was that mankind was separated from God. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had perfect communion and fellowship with God. When they rebelled against Him, that fellowship was broken. They became aware of their sin and were ashamed before Him. They hid from Him (Genesis 3:8-10), and man has been hiding from God ever since. Only through Christ can that fellowship be restored, because in Him we are made as righteous and sinless in God’s eyes as Adam and Eve were before they sinned. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).”
God and humankind never had perfect communion and fellowship because there never was a Garden of Eden or Adam and Eve. Even if Adam and Eve had been real they couldn’t have had perfect communion and fellowship with God because they couldn’t have understood Him well due to the lack of knowledge of good and evil. How could God have transmitted His teachings to Adam and Eve if they hadn’t been allowed to eat from the tree of knowledge? How can parents teach their children if they don’t understand the difference between good and evil? This “perfect communion and fellowship” is a pure invention because in the legends of creation from the Bible there are impassable frontiers between God and the human beings.
The serpent suffered important modifications between Genesis and Revelation and became the worse being in the universe. The symbol of the serpent was used by the book of Revelation but in some other way than what the context of the book of Genesis would have permitted. Who is the ancient serpent if the first 11 chapters from the book of Genesis are only a collection of fables? The book of Revelation speaks about a dragon who is supposed to be the serpent from the book of Genesis. In my opinion, the two serpents shouldn’t be equated with one another because they don’t have the same function. The serpent from the book of Genesis, who is a legendary personage, can be taken as a negative character as the orthodox interpretation does it, or as a positive one as the Gnostics believe it, but in the book of Revelation the serpent is mainly the personification of evil.
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If the book of Genesis isn’t a factual account of creation of our universe the ancient serpent also loses his significance. What is the place for Satan in our world if the book of Genesis isn’t the real description of how our world came into being? Without Adam and Eve to be tempted where is the place of the tempter? The place is nowhere to be found. If the story of Adam and Eve was a myth in which we are informed that there are malign cosmic forces beside the positive ones, we have to identify those forces in spite that they never used a serpent for their actions. The existence of the ancient serpent talking to a human being is a story mythological in character.
The serpent never deceived Adam and Eve because Adam and Eve never existed on Earth. As a matter of fact, even if we take it as a parable the serpent didn’t deceive Adam and Eve but he told the truth to the first human beings. They didn’t die, neither physically nor spiritually, on the same day when they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, as the book of Genesis states that God would have said.
Adam and Eve hadn’t been punished with death by God, they were mortal because they didn’t have the time to eat from the tree of life. Following their alleged Fall, they hadn’t been rewarded with eternal life. Consequently, death isn’t a punishment for any human being because is the natural way in which Adam and Eve had been created and the eternal life is a reward gained by few for their faithfulness.
This is only an imaginary story and not the truth. In point of fact, human beings appeared through evolution from other biological beings which all were mortal and they haven’t been tempted by Satan in order to know good and evil and to become like God. Good and evil represents phenomena that humankind defines as such, and which are deemed to be connected with its survival and progress. For the Jews, the difference between good and evil is found in the O.T. From the point of view of Christianity, good and evil is defined by Jesus’ teachings. For other religions, good and evil are expressed in their fundamental texts.
Humankind hadn’t been created by God in His physical likeness but human beings have the same physical characteristics as the animals from which they come.
Two ears, nose with two nostrils, two eyes, two arms and two legs similar to the animals’ four legs, is the image that human beings and most evolved animals have in common. If God had created human beings in His physical likeness and the animals in the likeness of the human beings, then animals also would be in God’s physical likeness. God is Spirit according to what Jesus has revealed to us, so the human beings cannot be physically in His likeness because they are also matter.
Why would God have created human beings so similar to other animals including their genetic code if they are so special and different from them? There wouldn’t have been any reason for that if God created man from dust much different than other biological beings. If God had created humankind in His physical likeness He wouldn’t have created them in animals’ likeness as they are in fact.
Physically the human beings look like other animals and this situation pleads for the evolution of humankind from other biological beings, but psychologically our evolution went very far towards the understanding of God. We have in common with God the Logos, meaning beside other understandings, word and rationality. The Logos took on a human body and revealed to us the way in which we can become the children of God. The Supreme Rationality can dwell in every human being who accepts the Logos to reside in him or her.
The knowledge of good and evil and knowledge in general permits humankind to become like God, knowing even the secret of eternal life in the future. The book of Genesis can be interpreted to contain a discouraging spiritual message which says that God wouldn’t want human beings to be like Him, knowing good and evil, and this in spite of Genesis chapter 1 which says that He had created humankind in His likeness. This is a contradictory and confusing message.
Knowledge is inherent to humankind, the essence of what differentiate human beings from other beings. Without knowledge which includes the knowledge of good and evil, and without the permanent thirst for it, there isn’t any determining element to make human what they are. Humans are more than other animals precisely because they have a moral consciousness through knowing the difference between good and evil. This is a historical and cultural achievement. Without this knowledge, human beings would have been just another kind of animal, morally undeveloped. In other words, the knowledge of good and evil is paramount to what humankind is.
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Remaining in the mythological context, in lack of eating from the tree of good and evil human beings wouldn’t have been human at all. God would have created a human form from dust but prohibiting the knowledge of good and evil He wouldn’t have created a complete human being with consciousness, in spite of what the book of Genesis tries to say, but He would have created only a biological robot.
In the real world, the search for knowledge hadn’t been induced from outside of human nature by a serpent, but this curiosity has created humankind and extracted it from the ranks of animals.
At a spiritual level, Jesus brought the knowledge of good and evil. As a matter of fact, Jesus, not the serpent, brought to human beings teachings which contain the difference between good and evil at the highest spiritual level. Why was the serpent guilty if he proposed to humankind the same thing as Jesus did, which is the knowledge of good and evil? If the first 11 chapters from the book of Genesis had any spiritual meaning the real serpent is Jesus because He brought the real knowledge about the difference between good and evil to humankind. According to the N.T. the knowledge of good and evil came to us through Jesus Christ and not through Adam and Eve, and that contradicts the book of Genesis.
Why was the serpent considered to be guilty if the human beings became knowledgeable and are human? This story is an anachronistic view on humankind and doesn’t have anything to do with reality. No Adam and Eve and no talking serpent had been present in the history of humankind, but only a tendency for knowledge coming from inside human nature and favoured by the challenge posed by the environment.
The book of Genesis doesn’t say anything about real knowledge given by God to humankind except the first clothes they wore. According to chapter 2 of the book of Genesis God would have created a world in which some beings would have strived to ascend their animal status, learning from failures and great sufferings what is good and what is evil, in this way being able to become what humankind is today. The evil isn’t primarily a problem of a fight between cosmic forces of good and of evil, but is a question of human reason dominating absurdity which is always evil.
Adam and Eve are seen many times as some etheric or idealised human beings situated above rationality at a level where the difference between good and evil isn’t important.
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There isn’t and never was such a spiritual level and even God as a spiritual Reality was eternally conscious about both good and evil. The level implied by the book of Genesis as being the initial stage of Adam and Eve, is a subhuman level, not a high spiritual stage, and for this reason they needed to get to a superior stage through the knowledge of good and evil in order to become human.
The main causes of evil in our world are ignorance and injustice and also religious and political fanaticism. If Satan had helped humankind to gain knowledge he wouldn’t have done an evil thing, but neither the serpent nor the first human beings were real. Recommending the tree of knowledge to them, Satan had helped humankind to be able to discern what is good from what is bad and in this way helped them to become moral beings. Who then was the friend of humankind, according to the book of Genesis? It was God who wanted for humankind to remain in the quasi animal stage without the ability to discern between good and evil, or it was the serpent that pushed humankind toward knowledge? The book of Genesis gives a confused message, placing God in a situation in which He seemed to push for absurd things, but this isn’t the description of real facts therefore it isn’t the right image of God.
On the other side, the theistic evolution perspective completely exonerates God of His responsibility for evil because evil is in the nature of things and a necessary condition of evolution. The indirect creation of humankind couldn’t have been realised without the contribution of evil, meaning death and countless sufferance which is an important part of the process of attaining a higher level of evolution. For this reason, the theistic evolution view offers the most favourable image of God contrary to the creationist perspective which generates the worst possible image of Him, loaded with the full responsibility for evil in the world.
Notwithstanding, both interpretations, the classical theistic one and the gnostic one being both based on a legend, raises the same problem of the conformity between the legend and reality. In order to give them any credit and real sense we have to admit that the stories of the creation had been inspired by God as parables in order to transmit to humankind a spiritual message, and this message isn’t affected at all by the numerous contradictions of the biblical account.
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Gnosticism mirrors the classic theism in the sense that the former sees as positive that which the latter sees as profoundly negative. For the Gnostics, the creator God is a bad divinity, egotistic and ready to kill human beings. The serpent is the saviour of humankind from this divinity. For the classical theists, God is a good and generous divinity and the serpent is the principle of evil.
“On the other hand, Gnostics see the Serpent Lucifer as a saviour, someone who came to save man, a Messenger of the True God. This Serpent of Enlightenment which brought Gnosis, Gnostic truth which allows the authentic and true nature of things to be seen in this world of confusion, came to liberate man. Lucifer is the true liberator of man. He came to liberate man from the tyranny of Yahve, from the tyranny of the creator god. He brought the real knowledge that in itself can free man and help him to escape from this satanic world and return to the world from which he came.”
I don’t want to favour an interpretation against the other but I am simply saying that the book of Genesis creates a confusing theology with at least two very different lines of interpretation. Even if the serpent had been a hero for humankind, bringing the light of knowledge to them, his fate is dramatic because he is hated by many human beings. God in the book of Genesis had sown hatred between human races and the serpent. In the Christian classical theistic doctrines and dogmas, the serpent is equated with Satan and is hated, being considered the enemy of humankind. At the same time, Jesus who brought us spiritual light and allowed us to be like God by knowing good and evil is loved by His followers.
When we consider the book of Genesis the conveyor of some spiritual messages, both the creationist view and the gnostic view have legitimate claims but interpreting the texts in opposite directions. For Gnosticism, Jesus was sent by the Father to show us the way toward Him and to liberate us from the domination of the Demiurge which uses our material side in order to keep us as His prisoners. The Demiurge would be the God from the O.T. whose image doesn’t correspond with what Jesus told us about the Father.
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Many stories from the O.T. would be a description of the Demiurge and they aren’t an authentic description of the Father. The question is to determine how many stories from the O.T. are precise descriptions of facts and how many are only fantasies imagined by the redactors of the texts in order to serve one theological purpose or another.
The solution to the problem of evil is different for classical theism, Gnosticism and theistic evolution. At the same time the narratives of creation can be seen either as a meaningless legend or as inspired parables without any scientific value, but containing a hidden spiritual message. For me it is obvious that the book of Genesis isn’t the expression of scientific realities or the reflection of something that really happened on Earth. At the same time, I find it hard to believe that the narratives from the book of Genesis convey a hidden spiritual message because I consider that they weren’t inspired by God.
In order to have spiritual content the narratives from the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis would have needed to be inspired by God, but they contradict each other and are very confused. God’s revelation needs to have a higher degree of coherence than those narratives from the book of Genesis, and we know that from the revelation coming through Jesus.
At the same time, having so many symbols in common with other mythologies, some stories from the book of Genesis can tell us about the first steps of humankind on Earth under the guidance of an extra-terrestrial civilization. For example, the texts about the “sons of God” or the construction of a tower can be related to the presence on Earth of a much more developed civilization from a technological point of view than humankind, but the creation of the universe in six days doesn’t have anything to do with reality.
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