The Fall of Eve
Virtually everyone is familiar with the story of the Garden of Eden.
It is impressed on us
in Sunday school, celebrated in art and song, and has been re-told, elaborated, and interpreted in
countless ways over the millennia.
Man is created to tend the garden of God, home to the tree of
life and the tree of knowledge of good and bad, and is told that he will die if he eats from the tree
To keep the man company, God creates animals and birds, but no fitting partner
for the man emerges from these creations. So God removes one of Adam’s ribs and creates
They are naked and innocent until the serpent, shrewdest of all the animals, tells the
woman that eating from the tree of knowledge of good and bad will not lead to death, but rather
to a state of divinity.
She eats the fruit of the forbidden tree, shares it with Adam, and their eyes
They use leaves to cover their nudity.
God discovers their transgression and
punishes the serpent, the woman, and Adam.
Adam names his wife Eve, and God makes clothes
for them and then expels them from his garden.
This is a story about primary relationships: between man and woman, between God and
It is a story about the creation of humankind and our appropriation of the divine
power of wisdom.
It is about the dawn of morality and our loss of innocence.
It gives a reason for
mortality. It explains why snakes don’t have legs, why women have pain in childbirth and are to
be subordinated to their husbands, and why men have to work to bring food from the ground.
This story has been interpreted in countless ways.
In Christian theology, the story is about
the Devil, disguised as a serpent, who tempts humans to disobey their Creator.
In contrast, the
Gnostics thought that the Creator-god who forbad humans the acquisition of knowledge was the
Bible scholars have interpreted this story as everything from a polemic against
Canaanite fertility rites
to a narrative about the acceptance of social and family relationships.
We are so familiar with this story that it is easier to draw new and different interpretations
than it is to stop, back away from it, and approach it as if for the first time.
As children hearing
the story we accept it in all of its strangeness: the talking snake, the magical trees, the
See J. A. Soggin,
The Fall of Man in the Third Chapter of Genesis
, BibOr 29, Rome: Pontifical
Biblical Institute, 1975, pp. 169-178.
A. Piskorowski, “In Search of her Father: A Lacanian Approach to Genesis 2-3,” in
A Walk in
the Garden: Biblical, Iconographical and Literary Images of Eden
, P. Morris and D. Sawyer,
JSOT Supp, 1992.