Lent 1 – Genesis 2:15–17, 3:1–7
Today we get to tackle a wonderful and complex story of voices and choices that has been spectacularly misinterpreted over the years. I’ll start by stating categorically that this is not a historical story of the first two humans. Anyone who tries to make you believe that is wilfully trying to mislead you or is woefully misinformed. That being said, it is a profoundly true story – it is an archetypal story about all humans. You and I are Adam and Eve. It’s our story.
Jewish and Christian scholars have analyzed this for millennia and the utterly overwhelming consensus is that the story was crafted, probably during the Babylonian Exile, to try to give a Jewish answer to the questions that humanity invariably asks about its origins – How did we get here? What’s our relationship with the Sacred or the Holy? Why do things work the way they do? Genesis tackles those questions.
It may shock you that I think the biggest problem people have with this story isn’t that they take it literally it’s that they don’t take it literally enough! I don’t mean historically, or factually – again, it’s pure fiction, always was, always will be – I mean literarily. People have tended to read it poorly. All sorts of nasty business has been based on the story of Adam and Eve, and all sorts of terrible theology has come from weak and fundamentally flawed interpretations – because people haven’t read it literally enough, or closely enough.
Problems with our environment, gender inequality, shame in sexuality, and guilt- and fear-based religion all have their theological seeds in mis-readings of this short passage. Let’s see if we can clear some of this stuff up. read on