Ktismatics

9 October 2007

Dead Man Walking

Filed under: Genesis 1 — ktismatics @ 4:36 pm

Hey, I did say I might post a fleeting thought from time to time… Here’s something I realized today when writing a comment about the Fall on another blog:

In Genesis 2 God tells Adam that on the day he eats the forbidden fruit he will die. The Serpent says it ain’t so, that Adam and Eve won’t die on that day. Genesis 5 informs us that Adam didn’t die until hundreds of years later. It would seem that the Serpent was right, and God either lied or made a mistake. Let’s presume, though, that Yahweh was a God of his word. Man died on that day, but he didn’t literally die — he became mortal, he realized he was mortal, he forfeited his claim to eternal life, he suffered a deathlike separation from God, he died spiritually, etc. The text demands that the reader take God’s word figuratively.

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17 Comments »

  1. I agree. The text demands it IF we respect what the text is trying to tell us, as opposed to whatever schema we want it to fit into, or to fit it into.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 10 October 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  2. The other option, I suppose, is that one hold that God issued a consequence, “On the day you eat of it thou shalt surely die,” and then backed off when mankind did, in fact, eat of the tree. This would fit within the “God changed his mind” motif we find scattered throughout the OT.

    I prefer your interpretation, though, John. I think there was a figurative sense. Being as they were still new people, do you think that Adam and Eve had the capacity to understand figurative language???

    And do you think that your conclusions warrant any interesting philosophical or theological considerations?

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    Comment by Erdman — 11 October 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  3. “Being as they were still new people, do you think that Adam and Eve had the capacity to understand figurative language???”

    Put it this way: I wasn’t born yesterday and I wouldn’t have understood that God’s threat wasn’t meant to be taken literally. It’s almost as if, instead of Adam dying, God died. Up until this point God was walking around, talking with Adam, etc. Pretty soon afterward God seems to disappear, never actually showing himself in bodily form except occasionally in disguise. And whatever happened to Eden? Is it still there someplace in the Tigris-Euphrates region? Is that what the Iraq war is about — to find the lost paradise?

    “And do you think that your conclusions warrant any interesting philosophical or theological considerations?”

    All my conclusions warrant philosophical and theological considerations. This one here, though… I have to say it’s just tough to take too literally any story that says snakes have no legs because of some sort of moral dispute with God.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 October 2007 @ 9:59 pm

  4. There’s a parallel that I make in becoming responsible for youngsters. Once they’re ready to become adults, youngsters loose their dependency on their parents and it’s like a separation, an end to childhood.

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    Comment by Odile — 12 October 2007 @ 1:44 am

  5. Ktismatics: It’s almost as if, instead of Adam dying, God died. Up until this point God was walking around, talking with Adam, etc. Pretty soon afterward God seems to disappear, never actually showing himself in bodily form except occasionally in disguise.

    Do you privilege presence over absence?

    K: All my conclusions warrant philosophical and theological considerations.

    Indeed!

    K: This one here, though… I have to say it’s just tough to take too literally any story that says snakes have no legs because of some sort of moral dispute with God.

    If you did take the story literally, then what difference would that make for you?

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    Comment by Erdman — 12 October 2007 @ 10:58 am

  6. I sort of recanted. Here’s my latest musing at OST:

    The text in Gen. 2:17 & 3:4 uses an infinitive form of “to die” preceding the verb “you will die.” Here’s what Marks & Rogers, one of my Hebrew grammars from seminary, says about this construction: With verbs of the same root, the infinitive absolute immediately preceding the verb serves to strengthen the verbal idea. E.g., Deut. 7:18 — “remebering you shall remember,” i.e. “you shall surely remember;” Gen. 2:17 — “dying you shall die,” i.e. “you shall surely die.” The Deuteronomy passage is illustrative here. God is talking to the Jews in the desert during the exodus from Egypt to Israel, telling them they shall wipe out the other nations who occupy the promised land. If they should become fearful, God tells them they shall “well remember” (remembering they shall remember) what God did to Pharaoh and Egypt. Really remember it, says God. I would think the parallel for Genesis 2 is that Adam will be “really dead” if he eats the fruit.

    Sam points out that Adam and Eve immediately become self-conscious about their nakedness and how they will be perceived by others. This self-awareness is characteristic of a fully sentient being, but it’s also a mental awareness of one’s physicality. This awareness is presented in the context of Yahweh also being a corporeal being, walking through the Garden looking for Adam and Eve. John also points out the corporeality of God’s curses: the man’s sweaty physical labor, the woman’s pain in the labor of childbirth, the imminent return to dust.

    What about this: Before eating the fruit Adam and Eve didn’t just have immortal bodies; they had living bodies, bodies that didn’t feel pain or exertion, godlike bodies. Immediately after eating the fruit they found themselves trapped in dead bodies.

    The writer of Ecclesiastes presents a commentary of sorts on the creation and fall narrative:

    Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:… Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Eccles. 12:1-2,7)

    Maybe the Fall resulted in the immediate death of the living body, leading to this sorry sort of body-spirit dualism that the writer of Ecclesiastes subsumes under his angsty “all is vanity” discourse. So the death is immediate — it’s the death of the godlike body and its replacement by the zombie-like body we’re all saddled with now.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 12 October 2007 @ 1:23 pm

  7. Both body and soul died and we died to God and God died to us and we even died to each other. A sorry state indeed is this fallenness!

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    Comment by samlcarr — 13 October 2007 @ 3:34 am

  8. I might take a moment to link to a new book by Eisenbrauns that we are in the process of publishing, to be released in November. It is The Eden Narrative by Tryggve Mettinger. From what I have read, the book is quite interesting. I don’t know that it answers all questions being raised here at this post, but here is the description from our website:

    The Eden Narrative transforms our understanding of the story of Eden and the fall in Genesis 2–3, a text of cardinal importance in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Using the tools of literary and religiohistorical analysis, Mettinger demonstrates that this is a well-integrated text about the divine testing of the first two human beings. The author goes on to show that the ontological boundary between the divine and human realms was a theme known to other ancient Near Eastern cultures as well. He proceeds by means of step-by-step analysis, with discussions of narratology, theme, genre, and the tradition-history of the biblical text; he includes significant sidelights from Mesopotamian literature.

    This book is ideal for courses on creation, primeval history, the Bible and literature, and the Bible and the ancient Near East.

    Tryggve N. D. Mettinger is Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Bible at Lund University, Sweden. He is the author of a number of monographs on topics such as kingship, divine names, aniconism, and the dying god. He has served as visiting professor at a number of institutions in Europe, Israel, South Africa, and the U.S. He is a member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, Stockholm, and an Honorary Member of the (British) Society of Old Testament Studies

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    Comment by Erdman — 13 October 2007 @ 7:20 am

  9. Well I’m sure that since this guy is a Professor and a member in various societies and his book is going to be published, we might as well stop our investigations right now and wait for him to tell us. He “transforms our understanding”? And he even “proceeds by means of step-by-step analysis”? Do you think we’re qualified to buy a copy?

    Anyhow, I’ve recanted on my recant. If you read from a Christian perspective then you have to decide that Paul’s interpretations of Eden trump other perspectives. In I Cor. 15 Paul says that the first Adam’s body is earthy while the second Adam’s body is spiritual. So Paul presumes that Adam’s body didn’t change during the Fall. Which puts me back to a figurative reading of “you shall surely die.”

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    Comment by ktismatics — 13 October 2007 @ 9:38 am

  10. While there are positive reasons for me to stop writing a blog, there are also negative ones. One of the negatives I mentioned before was my discouragement that my blog didn’t draw attention to my Genesis 1 book. Now, on this little post-mortem post, having to hear about somebody else’s Genesis 2-3 book, with Erdman saying without a hint of irony that “I don’t know that it answers all questions being raised here at this post,” and then providing a link to his own publishing-house employer’s website no less — well, I’d just as soon avoid the aggravation.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 13 October 2007 @ 10:33 am

  11. I apologize for promoting a book that may be of interest to this particular discussion. I had forgotten that we are supposed to be an island unto ourselves.

    K: Maybe the Fall resulted in the immediate death of the living body, leading to this sorry sort of body-spirit dualism that the writer of Ecclesiastes subsumes under his angsty “all is vanity” discourse. So the death is immediate — it’s the death of the godlike body and its replacement by the zombie-like body we’re all saddled with now.

    I never liked the recant version, anyway.

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    Comment by Erdman — 13 October 2007 @ 10:35 am

  12. Sarcasm too? Fuck off (winky smiley). You never liked the recant version anyway? Thanks for sharing, brother.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 13 October 2007 @ 10:41 am

  13. Oh and by the way, how is this resource supposed to help this particular blog discussion when the book doesn’t even come out until next month? You’ve got an advance copy — why not read the bit about “you shall surely die” and write a substantive comment about what the guy has to say? Better yet: post it on your blog and put a link to it on my blog.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 13 October 2007 @ 10:48 am

  14. Seriously Jon, pointing us at a book that is not yet available! Forget the book, just get out yr bible and dig into ‘die dying’/’dying die’ and tell us what you think.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 14 October 2007 @ 10:52 am

  15. Okay fine, maybe “fuck off” was a bit harsh, even with the winky smiley to soften the blow. Fortunately this blog is dead, so it doesn’t matter any more if my offensive remarks cause the commenters to go away.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 14 October 2007 @ 11:24 am

  16. It will take more than a “fuck off” with a winky smiley to drive me away!

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    Comment by Erdman — 15 October 2007 @ 8:34 am

  17. I should certainly hope so. And just a reminder, thoughts pending on both Genesis and Ecclesiastes!!!

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    Comment by samlcarr — 15 October 2007 @ 1:45 pm


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