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Who was the Snake in the garden? So, you know, theologically, Theologians debate about this, in Christianity, they are sort of fond of looking at the snake as a Satan with horns and a pitchfork and all that. But, you know, as portrayed in the bible, the Snake is just an animal. And let’s just look at him as an animal and go from there and see what we will make of it.
What we will make of the Snake? Are there any strange aspects of what it is the snake does or how he acts or what he represents? Think about that for a minute and come back to me with what you think and I will share with you some of my thoughts.
What questions should we be asking about the primal snake?
What about him seems a little odd?
So, one of the most obvious and strange things about the snake is this, the snake talks. When was the last time you met a talking animal? And that sort of sets the tone and makes it seem almost fairy tallish when you think about the story. Because, you know, when was the last time anybody of us has met a talking animal? In the bible, we don’t meet talking animal. We do! There is one talking animal. There is Balaam’s donkey out in the middle of the Book of Numbers.
But there, the fact that the donkey talks is actually meant to be surprising, you are supposed to be surprise when the donkey talks; it actually comes across as a miracle in that case. And over here it’s just like the snake is just talking, that is just the way it is, the snake is a snake that talks. You are not even supposed to be surprise by the fact that there is a snake that talks. And that itself is, I would say, surprising.
So, one aspect of this that we want to just keep in mind is that the snake is not just any ordinary snake, the snake actually talks. What else about the snake makes it distinct or in a way not very snake-like, what else about him? Well, take a look at the verses. How does the snake get around, right? What is his mode of mobility? We don’t have any direct evidence except for the end, the end, when God gets angry with everybody for eating from the Tree of Knowledge, He also gets angry at the snake and the snake is cursed. Let’s take at this verse here: ‘on your belly you shall crawl, and dust you shall eat, all the days of your life.’ That seems like the way we have snakes now, snakes crawl on their belly; which suggested before that, they sort of walk upright, they didn’t crawl around on their belly; which brings us to the next interesting part about the snake. He walks; seemingly, there we got a walking, talking snake.
Now that we have a talking, walking snake, let’s talk about the snake intelligence level. We’ve got this verse. When the snake is introduced to us, we are told that ‘the serpent was the most cunning’, he is a roam, a roam over here is a strange word, we will talk a little bit about more later, but it seems to mean cunning, tricky. So, ‘the snake was more tricky, more cunning than all the wild beast of the field that God has made. And the serpent went and asked the woman….’ Well, if you are cunning, you’ve got to be pretty intelligent. He was the smartest animal, the most intelligent animal there was.
So, we’ve got a walking, talking snake that is very smart. Let’s talk about the snake diet, what does the snake eat? Again, no direct evidence, except for the fact that if you look at the verses which talks about the curses, the snake is cursed in that he eats dusts, which suggest that he eats yaki stuffs, and before that, he could dine on good stuffs.
So, the snake was someone who might have enjoyed relatively good food, not dust. And the picture, I don’t know about you, but the picture you are getting about the snake here as snake that walks, that talks, he is smart, he doesn’t like dust, he likes eating better things than that, so we don’t know if it is actually delicacies, but, you know, something. Um, what about the snake, what does he sort of remind you of?
Well, if you think about a walking, talking being that is smart and that enjoys good food, do you think of a snake or do you think of a person? It is almost like the snake is human-like, he walks, talks. And it is almost like when you are thinking about the snake, you are asking yourself, what makes him a snake and not a person?
What makes this snake a snake?
Is there anything animal-like about him?
Right, we are always going back to this list? This list kind of confounds the way most of us even think about the dividing line between animals and humans. If we put a little, you know, lying down the page and we put animals over here and we put human over here, and of course, it is not so easy to tell the difference between animals and human, but historically, people have tried to do this, kind of along this access over here. Sometimes people say, well, humans’ talks; well, not only humans’ talk, these animal talks too. Human walks and uphold all force, that is what makes us distinct; well, this animal also walks in all force. What if you know an animal who was very, very smart, a very animal being entitled to human rights, would they will be able to vote? Here is a snake that is very smart. And is it our ability to enjoy nice esthetic, so the snake has his opinion about that too. So, like in all of this ways, this snake makes it.
If the snake passes the “human” test on all these levels, can we still call him a snake?
Is the snake a human being? It doesn’t seem to be. It still describes it as a snake. So, it’s almost like what the Torah is doing, it’s almost like provoking a crises in us, trying to figure out what makes a snake a snake and not a human. In a way the snake is forcing us to ask; what is it that makes any human a human being? Where does our essential humanity come from? We know it in the sense that we are not snake, but in what sense are we not snakes? We’ve got to figure that one out.
There are more problems here in the story with snake, but I’ve just began to touch on some of them. But I want you to go back and read the text. What else about the snake and his behavior is very, very odd? Read through the snake’s temptation, read through the conversation that the snake has with eve and try to see if there is anything here that also doesn’t seem to add up. We will come back and talk about that next.
1. The Lullaby Effect
2. Kinds of Questions
3. The Mystery of the Pre-Tree World
4. The Tale of Two Trees
5. Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle
6. The Primal Serpent
7. A Perplexing Temptation
8. A Naked Paradox
9. A Snake in the Garden
10. Beasts of the Field
11. Beauty and the Beast
12. What Does It Mean to Know?
13. A World of Broccoli and Pizza
14. Are All Dilemmas Created Equal?
15. The Phantom Boxer
16. The I of the Beholder
17. The Filter of Desire
18. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Disc Jockey
19. Epilogue: God as Knower of Good and Evil (Premium)
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