Reflecting with a group Sunday evening, I remembered my study of the serpent in Genesis 3. Sunday’s focus was the Gospel writer Mark’s version of Yeshua’s (Jesus) baptism, wilderness experience, and proclamation of his ministry. (Mark 1:9-15) When one brother in our circle objected to how we tend to view wilderness experiences, that we should embrace rather than avoid them, I looked up the Greek meaning of “satan” in Mark 1:13. It means either accuser or condemner. Traditionally we’ve considered the serpent to represent Satan, the same tempting entity of Mark 1. And traditionally we’ve considered this kind of wilderness experience filled with accusations and temptations to be a bad thing, something to be avoided whenever possible.
What if it means something else? What if we think about it differently? What if facing an . . .
Accuser is not so bad.
Accuse me. Let me defend myself. Let me understand who I am and how I need to articulate that to the world. Until I do, I am only who others say I am.
Confronted by and conversing with Satan – a good thing.
So what about the serpent in Genesis 3?
Let’s consider this creature differently as well.
First of all, that this Genesis story is about the fall of humankind and original sin is only one interpretation of a highly symbolic, hidden-meaning laden text. A more likely explanation of this tale’s origin is that once upon a time a student asked his teacher to explain responsibility. The rabbi weaves a long-held community tale of the consequences of blaming others for our own decisions and actions.
Secondly, the serpent is not the evil one. The serpent is an oracle, a being who delivers wise and revelatory information. What the serpent tells Eve is proven to be correct. Of the three (Eve, Adam & serpent), only the serpent is cursed by G~d in the text, probably for revealing the truth too soon – not necessarily evil, just out-of-line, over-stepping . . . disobedient.
Let’s see what options open up when we consider alternative views of a thing . . .
- The wilderness with its accusations and temptations is a mere chapter in the book of our lives that is a type of proving ground, a rite of passage that is to be embraced, settled into for as long as it lasts – even enjoyed. The accuser (satan) in this season is not an enemy; rather, it is simply an opponent – or an obstacle . . . a resistant energy to overcome.
- Relieving ourselves of the nagging burden of original sin, falling from perfection, etc. makes space for us to think about another point to the tale – taking responsibility for our own actions. This point implies that we have more authority than traditionally we may believe about ourselves as humans. With this greater sense of authority, we can live more fully into the goodness of our created ontology. We are able to grasp and utilize our own abilities to create . . . and to destroy. So as we’re faced with all the things we want to improve in this world and we ask where G~d is, we can change our outlook and our question. We can begin to ask where we are, confident in our own G~d-given abilities to right wrongs and to make life better for everyone.
- Our lives and decisions and experiences are liberated from the fear of one who tells the truth. Maybe it’s at the wrong time and maybe it’s delivered in a crafty way. So what? We are in the very image of G~d! Rise up! Let’s not eschew our cunning (clever) capabilities. Redemption, second chances, and flipping the script are also present and available. Our (re)creative authority is at hand – let’s take hold of it and do something with it!
How can your life and experiences be different if you reconfigure your understanding of key textual foundations of your faith?
I find great freedom and joy in the reconfigurations of my faith. Life, as a result, is deeper, richer and more robust!
The best is ahead of us ;-)!
Serpent and the tree source: http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/garden-of-eden-and-the-trees-of-lebanon/.
(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc