Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Snake as a Symbol

"Was the Snake in the Garden of Eden Satan?" It is potentially a very interesting story in terms of symbolism and the underpinning philosophical stances that early Judaism and other ancient religions may have taken. There are a variety of ways the storyline itself can be interpreted and then there are the individual components that can further be scrutinized.

Personally, I see only two meaningful interpretations coming from the overall story. In one view it clearly shows what an incompetent "father" the God of scripture is. If you put God in the role of father and Adam and Eve in the role of toddlers (having been recently created but showing the tentative ambulatory and curiosity level just beyond an infants) then most of the story that follows should horrify any responsible parent. The garden of Eden is essentially a "play-pen". Rather than making it safe God creates an environment that is rife with all sorts of potential hazards. He also changes the rules without any rhyme or reason. Not a smart thing to do with any child let alone toddlers. If you don't recall (or never read it to begin with) God initially tells the pair that they can eat anything they want, then amends it that they can eat all but the fruit of one particular tree, and then adds the fruit of a second tree as off limits. So when the snake show up they probably already had some doubts about what to go by. Think about the situation. Why not remove the trees if you thought they would cause problems? Also think about what the trees are suppose to represent. One of them was a source of "knowledge of good and evil." If these toddlers had no knowledge of right or wrong why would you put them in a situation where they would need such knowledge to make the proper decision? And how'd the snake get in, anyway? Bad parenting!

Then there is the snake itself. If it is Satan that would lead to a couple of questions right up front. Is Satan and independent agent with his/its own will and power or is he/it simply an errand boy doing God's dirty work? In the case of either answer it does not bode well for the God of Scripture or the believers who favor this version of the God concept. If independent then this cannot be viewed in monotheistic terms. You have essentially created two gods. God would not necessarily be all that mighty if he can be thwarted by an outside force. If an agent of God then there isn't much reason to be that concerned with Satan. it also makes God look pretty bad. He would be little better than a toddler prone to temper tantrums. God created the setting and rules that Adam and Eve had to operate within and then blamed them when there was no way they could mature successfully. God needlessly causes problems (sin) that would later need to be "solved" (people still "sin" so it really didn't work) in an equally disturbing way (Jesus crucifiction) later. So in terms of the symbolic story God is not only incompetent, God is also vindictive and sadistic.

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