Does the Bible really say that?

We had a great time at the Perkins Youth School of Theology’s annual Spring Forum last Saturday.  Dr. Roy Heller presented, a couple of Young Scholars presented responses, and all of us followed with good discussion.

Dr. Heller’s presentation was on the story of “The Human, the Woman, the Snake, and the Tree(s).”  If that is not clear enough, the story in Genesis 2:4b-3:24.  The main point behind our investigation and discussion of this story in the Bible was to begin to see how our reading of this and other stories is often as dependent upon things we’ve heard about the story as the story itself.

For example: who does the serpent in the story of Genesis 3 represent?

Most of us would answer Satan.

The Bible doesn’t say this!

If the Bible doesn’t actually identify the serpent in the garden as Satan, but most of us have come to “know” the story that way, doesn’t it make you wonder what other things we’ve been told the Bible says, though it might not?

8 thoughts on “Does the Bible really say that?

  1. “appears to connect” it may, but the Romans passage isn’t so clear that everyone in our society would almost immediately identify the snake with Satan.

    • I wasn’t there, but my guess is that he’s treating ‘Adam’ not as a personal name but as the Hebrew word for “human.” Or maybe he was trying to provoke Dorothy Sayers.

      Whether the Serpent equals Satan or not, the serpent certainly seems to be playing a satanic, i.e., adversarial role in the text. Some famous fellow once said, “By their fruits you will know them,” so perhaps the demand for explicit reference might be expressive of a reluctance to employ intertextuality.

  2. haha, thanks Audie. My upcoming comment is extraneous (as many of my comments seem to be, but I will continue skipping around in lala land, nobody can stop me):

    In the “old days”, we used gendered language like “man” for “humanity” … it seems to me to be an ironic result of changing the language to be gender-neutral, that now what was once likely translated “man” is now “human”, which in this instance sets up “woman” to be something “other than human.”

    I always took Biblical references to “brother”, “son”, “man”, etc. to mean all people anyway. When gender-neutral language was first proposed (for such projects as the hymnal), I didn’t like it just on principle that I don’t like change and didn’t deem it necessary. However, the changes have been less intrusive than I anticipated, and I guess I was making the “gender-neutral translation” in my own head anyway. However, I think it is interesting that in this case, it doesn’t work so well.

  3. great point Kim. Actually the word for Adam is a shortened version of Adamah which means ‘dry ground’ in Hebrew. So really what we know as the name ‘Adam’ isn’t a name so much as a literal naming of what he was. Taken from the dust of the ground. Since Dusty is a name in our culture, I actually refer to him sometimes as Dusty.
    Anyway, you are correct that the PC of today with non gender specific language makes this title twisted and distorted. We have to be careful and measured in how we use language. While not at all opposed to gender neutral language, I do not believe we need to be forced into twisting and distorting the plain meaning of things for that one principle alone.

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