Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Apostolic Christianity in the 21st Century

I was reading comments concerning a certain apostate, where many of this particular apostate's defenders wanted to include her into the camp of orthodox Christians. We all know how this goes. As long as someone can maintain the Apostle's Creed, they must be a Christian, right?

Here is the comment that got me thinking about something I think is important for our modern context.

What about the Triune God, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and the return of Christ? What are you going to do with all the Christians through history who have held to these, but not to your list? The church fathers did not see fit to include your list in the Creeds. Were they trampling underfoot the very Word of God?

What is interesting about this is that the Fathers didn't believe that you had to completely understand the doctrines above, but that you could not be in rebellion against them. They made room for people who were teachable but ignorant. And that should give us understanding of something that I think is often missed in these discussions: that being a Christian is evidenced in how you respond to biblical truths that conflict with your, or your culture's, own ideas.

In other words, it is more about humility and rebellion toward a biblical teaching than it is about the teaching itself. In Patristic times, Gnostic thought made up the cultural zeitgeist. Hence, one not born of the Spirit had major issues with the biblical teachings that conflicted with that zeitgeist. Yet, many biblical teachings, so long as they were in agreement with the zeitgeist, were acceptable. Hence, many Gnostics considered themselves to be Christians. But their rebellion toward those things that conflicted with their true lords, their earthly authorities of self and community, evidenced that their claim to being Christians was false.

In our day, however, these tenets only conflict if you follow our naturalistic/atheistic zeitgeist literally. For those who seek spirituality in this context, these tenets do not conflict. What does conflict are the biblical teachings that run counter to the zeitgeist concerning things like gender roles, homosexuality, hell, inclusivism, etc. Our zeitgeist fights against a God of wrath and will only accept a God of love/acceptance/permissiveness.

Hence, rebellion, and therefore, false Christianity, is not evidenced as much in a denial of the resurrection or deity of Christ, but in the repudiation of these unsavory teachings.

The Lord Himself uses all sorts of issues that aren't even doctrinally related in order to throw a light on the rebellion or humility of people (e.g., burying a father, telling them to eat his flesh and drink his blood, calling them dogs, vipers, children of the devil, etc.).

One must conclude that the Lord is doing this because that is the real issue at hand, not the specific doctrines He may teach.

If this is the case, then, actually, a denial of teachings that would get the goat of our contemporary culture might be one of the only ways to distinguish a real Christian from a false one these days. The Trinity might get my goat if I was an Arian, and the Incarnation of Christ might get my goat if I was a Gnostic; but since I am not, they don't. Instead, I'm a 21st Century American who has been heavily influenced by inclusivist, gender neutral, and sexually permissive rhetoric, and if rebellion is to rear its ugly head in my life, it is going to be when I am told to believe and practice something that conflicts with those.

In short, maybe these issues are the core of what can be understood as Christian in our day. Maybe they do make up the litmus test for us, since the test is about our dispositions toward God and His Word, not about how much we understand at any given moment on our journey toward God and His truth. Just putting it out there.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Procreation and the Tree of Life: A New Look at Genesis 1-3

The parallels between Genesis 1 and 2 have been noted many times before. Both texts begin with the primeval description of the chaotic state. In Genesis 1, the chaotic state consists of a world that cannot be inhabited by humans, is dark, and is covered by water. In Genesis 2, the chaotic state is described as the uncultivated wilderness that simply exists that way because there is no human to cultivate it. In both accounts, chaos exists because humans either cannot or have not inhabited the space over which those chaotic elements dominate.[i]
The solution provided in both texts is a full reversal of the chaotic state that calls for the deity to reorder the world in a way that is congenial to human existence, and finds its fulfillment in the formation of the world into a cosmic or localized temple, expressed in terms of all of the elements in Genesis 1 or simply localized as a garden in Genesis 2.[ii] In each of these cases, the final step of creation is to place the human image/clay figure into the sanctuary that has been made in order to have mastery over that particular sphere.[iii]
Correspondingly, the human male and female are created as the appropriate masters over the plants and animals in both accounts, equal to one another, but different from the animals with whom they would not be capable of carrying out the procreative command (cf. 1:27–31 with 2:18–25).

The Commands of Genesis 1 and 2
What has often been overlooked, however, is the parallel between the commands that suggest the means to carry out their rule over the whole of creation. In Genesis 1, the command to procreate is the means through which the image that represents God’s rule is spread over the whole earth. Thus, the man and woman become like an image of God through the act of procreation. Their rule stems from their subjection to the deity as His emissaries to all creation. As the image is multiplied through the earth, the world becomes filled with temples that duplicate the proto-sanctuary, representing God’s rule.[iv]
The fact that the procreative command is the means through which they will rule over the earth, and therefore, function in a role similar to that of the deity’s image in a temple, is seen in the progressive delineation of the command.[v]

ויברך אתם אלהים ויאמר להם אלהים פרו ורבו ומלאו את הארץ וכבשה ורדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובכל חיה הרמשׁת על הארץ

God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply in order to fill up the earth, [fill up the earth] in order to subdue it; [subdue it] in order to rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

The command to procreate and fill up the earth, then, is the means through which the subjection and rule of creation takes place. The more God’s image, as it were, is multiplied, the better His absolute rule over the world is represented.
In Genesis 2, chaos, the temple, and the couple are all present in the narrative, but where is the procreative command to complete the parallel? I would suggest that the command is, indeed, present in the form of the two trees that are contrasted, i.e., tree of life, representing the positive and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil representing the negative (an aspect of the command not pursued in Genesis 1, but now necessary to set the background of Genesis 3.[vi]
In fact, it should seem obvious that the ‘tree of life’ may in some way be connected to procreation rather than individual immortality, since the phrase that “it is not good for man to be alone” has to do with his inability to reproduce.[vii] Hence, the woman is created in order to become one flesh with the man for the purpose of reproduction. If individual immortality were strictly in view here, the creation of gender distinctions in the male-female relationship, paralleled to 1:27, would not seem as urgent as the text suggests. It may in fact be, therefore, that God was not offering the primeval couple something in the tree of life that would cause them to live forever as individuals, but rather that C( represents the fruitful sexual act (hence, the emphasis of partaking of the fruit from the tree) and the life that is produced through that sexual act refers to procreation.[viii]
Contrary to some of modern scholarship, it is likely that the contrast in Genesis 3 (i.e., that the man will die and return to dust) is sufficient enough to understand that the couple most likely already possessed the possibility of individual immortality, if in fact they subjected themselves to the command of procreation in their use of the sexual act.[ix]
In recent years, there has been a plethora of suggestions by scholars that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in some way refers to the human couple partaking in the sexual act.[x] However, it is the Tree of Life, not the Tree of Knowledge that represents the procreative sexual act that helps the reader understand the nature of the sexual offense that is symbolically described as the Tree of Knowledge. The implication that the parallel between to the two chapters suggests for this interpretation of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ is that it is at least a generalization that fails to describe what kind of sexual act is being performed, or at most a misidentification that fails to note the parallel between the procreative command and the tree (i.e., the sexual act) that produces life.[xi] It may be a misidentification in that the tree of life, that is, the command to partake of it, if paralleled to the command in Genesis 1, is the tree that represents the procreative sexual act, not the forbidden tree. It is a possible generalization in that the forbidden tree may in fact represent the sexual act, but one used for the human couple’s own purposes rather than a procreative one. Hence, the author presents the sin of the human couple as seeking equality with God, who is capable of experiencing order and chaos without losing His immortality. They soon discover that they are not capable of accomplishing this feat, and as soon as they partake of it, they are ashamed of the unproductive sexual act that they have committed. Hence, the couple is afraid of God due to the fact that they had committed a sexual act that did not accord with their creation as God’s representatives. In other words, their sexual act was performed in order to attain an understanding of something that was chaotic, something that did not run congruent with life, but rather countered it.[xii]
Hence, the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil” should really be seen in terms of creation, i.e., in terms of experiencing order and chaos.[xiii] If this is the case, then the contrast to the tree of life, that is most certainly to be taken as a parallel to the command in Genesis 1:28, is apparent. Partaking in the procreative sexual act flows with God’s creation, obeys His command, and completes humankind’s purpose of representing God as an image in a temple would represent the sovereignty of the creator deity over chaotic elements in the world. Contrary to this, however, the tree of the knowledge of order and chaos symbolizes self indulgent desire and by it the human couple seeks to become ‘like God’ rather than ‘like God’s image’, not through procreation, but through partaking in the sexual act in a chaos producing manner. The rest of the book will present both order and chaos (i.e., good and evil) as the lasting legacy of the primeval couple, the chaos stemming from the humans He created (e.g. 4:25; 6:13; 50:20a) and the order coming from God’s interventions in the world (e.g. 4:8; 6:17–18; 50:20b).[xiv]
Yet, even with the erotic language that is used throughout the narrative (e.g. the symbol of the snake as one of fertility, the tree perceived by the woman as good to taste and touch, the text explicit about the nakedness of the couple, the terminologies of trees bearing fruit in a garden setting that recalls ancient Near Eastern symbols of the sexual act, etc.) it is possible to reject that the forbidden tree represents participation in a sexual act per se. To this, I would say that it is at least important to note that whether the forbidden tree symbolizes a non-procreative sexual act or simply the shunning of that act through another, it should be observed that it is in contrast to the command concerning the tree (i.e., the sexual act) that produces life and places the human couple in subjection to God’s program representing His sovereignty over chaos.
Having acknowledged the possibility that the Tree of Knowledge may not be sexual in nature, it is important to point out that the ancient Near Eastern parallel found within the Gilgamesh Epic is explicitly concerned with Enkidu’s participation in the sexual act as a means to obtain the wisdom of a god. The text is as follows:

But as for him, Enkidu, born in the hills—
With the gazelles he feeds on grass,
With the wild beasts he drinks at the watering-place . . .
The lass beheld him, the savage man,
The barbarous fellow from the depths of the steppe:
“There he is, O lass! Free thy breasts,
Bare thy bosom that he may possess thy ripeness . . .
She laid aside her cloth and he rested upon her.
She treated him, the savage, to a woman’s task,
As his love was drawn unto her.
For six days and seven nights Enkidu comes forth,
Mating with the lass . . .
Enkidu had to slacked his pace—it was not as before;
But he now had [wi]sdom, [br]oader understanding . . .
The harlot says to him, to Enkidu:
“Thou art [wi]se, Enkidu, art become like a god![xv]

The idea that one becomes wise and like a god through sexuality is quite interesting. Enkidu is at first a wild man, but through the sexual act, obtains the wisdom of a god. The sexual act with a harlot, therefore, was not for the purpose of procreation, but practiced for the purpose of gaining pleasure, experience, and the power of understanding. Similarly, in Genesis, the human couple seeks the experience of order and chaos that only God can control. The sexual overtones of the passage, coupled with the parallel, suggest that this sort of deification was thought to be given by an individual’s control over the sexual act (i.e., the creation or hindrance of life itself, or the ‘opening and closing of the womb’). Whereas the human couple was meant to use the sexual act for God’s purposes of filling up the earth, they now sought to use it for their own purposes in obtaining power over life, i.e., the power to create or hinder life through their control of the sexual act.
Another example of this might be found in the flood narrative. After the deluge has ended, God restates man’s purpose as His image and gives the command to be fruitful and multiply. After this, Noah plants a vineyard, becomes drunk with wine (i.e., the fruit of the vine), and is naked. The images of garden, fruit, and nakedness are all reminiscent of the garden situation in Chapter 2; but the sexual symbols of the trees might also be observed in this story in the sense that Noah’s two good sons do not look upon his nakedness, treating sexuality within the appropriate boundaries in which it is purposed in Genesis. Ham, however, looks upon his father’s nakedness. Both Ham and Eve are said to ראה as a part of their transgression. Like YHWH in the garden, once Noah becomes aware of this transgression, he deals out a curse to the offending party.
The Tree of Knowledge, therefore, symbolizes the sexual act performed for this purpose, and the Tree of Life symbolizes the sexual act performed for God’s.
With this latter tree, therefore, the parallel between the two first chapters of Genesis is complete. In other words, the command given in the negative relates the idea that the human couple ought not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge because it is contrary to the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Life.
The humans will now become like gods, although still not gods, through the experience of order and chaos without the ability to sustain themselves from death/chaos, with the exception of when the procreation command is fulfilled through them. In other words, their only hope out of the death gained from the tree of the experience of both order and chaos is to obey God’s original command concerning procreation. It is through obedience to this command that the couple may yet find immortality, i.e., through their children. H, therefore, sets its sights on the reader, who although experiencing the same reality of order and chaos inherited from the primeval couple, may find immortality through the procreative use of the sexual act in service to God’s image and what the divine victory over chaos that it represents.

A Possible Objection
An objection might be found in the statement made by God after He has passes down His verdict upon the guilty parties in 3:22.

ויאמר יהוה אלהים הן האדם היה כאחד ממנו לדעת טוב ורע ועתה פן ישלח ידו ולקח גם מעץ החיים ואכל וחי לעלם 

And YHWH God said, “Behold the man has become like one of Us in order to experience order and chaos. So now, lest he stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life, eat, and live forever . . .

            It would seem on the surface that the tree of life is to be identified with the mythical tree in ancient Near Eastern thought that grants eternal life to the one who eats from it.[xvi] There is no doubt that this imagery is being employed here; but the issue is whether that symbolism has been transformed to meet the procreative concerns of the author. If we understand that the central concern of God in Genesis 1–3 has to do with expressing His victory over chaos in the world accurately (i.e., understanding "chaos" as a humanless world that does not support human life), then we will see how the reintroduction of that chaos, where God is no longer seen as the supreme ruler over it in His sanctuary, becomes a major issue in His pursuit to establish the appropriate order in the universe.
The terror expressed in the use of aposiopesis, therefore, would not be one expressing the idea that God merely fears the human couple’s pursuit of individual immortality.[xvii] Instead, God’s concern seems to be that the man and woman would reassert their dominance in the garden through procreation if in fact they then performed a procreative act and reproduced within it. In other words, the concern is with the humans desecrating themselves as God’s images, bringing chaos into the sanctuary through subsequent agents, and overturning the creation that God has made forever. God does not wish the couple to stay forever in this place, having now allowed chaos to enter into the human experience. In other words, to procreate in the garden now would only be to spread chaos throughout the sanctuary. The solution, therefore, is to send them out of the garden in order to cultivate the field instead, and for God to transform them back into His images, and subsequently the world, back into His purified sanctuary, which is a message that the rest of the Bible conveys. This same concern seems to be at play in the Tower of Babel incident, where the humans have exalted themselves within a temple, and again, through hubris and gathering together in one place, forgo the divine command to fill up the earth. The language there also mimics that found in 3:22. In any case, there seems to be a divine problem with humans accumulating divine power and procreating in  one place. Whether it is because this would set the sanctuary in disorder and ruin creation, or it is simply because humans must pursue life elsewhere now that the choice to experience both order and chaos has been made, H presents the need to expel the couple from the created order into the “uncreated” lands as an act that mimics that of the sexual mores of ancient Israelite society, since one is expelled from the holy and ordered camp for participating in sexual acts that threaten its productivity (Lev. 18). To do so is to partake in sexual relations for the purpose of becoming כאלהים “like God” rather than for the purpose of becoming wntwmdk ‘like Our [i.e., God’s] likeness’ and wnmlcb ‘as our [i.e., God’s] image’. In this sense, the fear that humans will procreate within the garden as a means to their own exaltation as gods, a horror too great to verbalize in v. 22, as chaos is something humans are incapable of controlling, rather than maintaining their intended roles as images within God’s sanctuary as a testimony to His mastery over chaos, becomes the primary catalyst for their swift exit from the garden.

The parallel between Genesis 1 and 2 is complete only when the reader also identifies the commands as parallel. Once this is done, the command to abstain from the tree that brings the experience of order and chaos, rather than just order, is a negative way of reasserting the procreative aspect of the male-female union of the sexual act by presenting its alternative as bringing death instead of life. Conversely, the tree of life has been employed by H in an effort to bolster this symbolism from the positive. The trees most likely both retain their basic ideas of individual immortality on the one hand and that attainment of special knowledge on the other; but the added nuance of the text causes the reader to imagine a second reference to sexual acts, expressed through vivid imagery intended to resonate with the ancient audience. This leads me to conclude that the fruit, the trees, and the garden itself, combined with the imagery of the male and female relationship in becoming one, have been employed to conjure images of the sexual act in the minds of the readers in an effort to make a connection between the procreative command of Genesis 1:28 and the command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as it is joined to the imagery of the tree producing life. We may, therefore, establish the corrected parallel as follows:[xviii]

Genesis 1
Genesis 2

Chaos exists because humans are not yet created (v. 2)

Chaos exists because humans are not yet created (v. 5)

Chaos is reversed when God orders the elements and constructs a temple (vv. 3–25)

Chaos is reversed when God orders the elements and constructs a temple (vv. 8a, 9–14)

Chaos finds its ultimate reversal in the creation of humankind, distinguishing genders for the purpose of sex, male and female, as His image bearers (vv. 26–27)

Chaos finds its ultimate reversal in the creation of humankind, distinguishing genders for the purpose of sex, male and female, as God’s clay image into which He must breathe, i.e., perform the opening of the mouth ritual (vv. 7–8, 15, 18–25)

God ensures the correct expression of His victory over chaos by commanding the human couple to procreate and fill up the earth with human life (vv. 28–31)

God ensures the correct expression of His victory over chaos by commanding the human couple not to eat of the tree that ultimately produces death, but instead to eat from the other trees, with the narrative specifically emphasizing the tree of life (vv. 9 and 16)

It is not until Chapter 3, of course, that there is need to remove the humans from the sanctuary in an effort to preserve the created order, and therefore, ironically, human life as well.[xix] Genesis 1 and 2, then, provide the basis for seeing the trees as relating to human sexuality, and their reflection of the author’s concern for appropriate sexual practices that seek to grow rather than decrease the size of the covenant community that is currently under a population threat created by the Babylonian exile, a concern rooted in the morality of the creation ethic upon which he bases his argument.[xx]

[i][1] It is clear, from both accounts, that the dominance of chaos is signified by the absence of humans. The phrase whbw wht refers to a place that is neither habitable or inhabited by humans (see the use of whb that suggests animals may live in a place that is wht and whb, but humans do not (Isa. 34:10–12). See also David Tsumura (Creation and Destruction: A Reappraisal of the Chaoskampf Theory in the Old Testament [Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2005], 9–35), who sees the terms as describing an “unproductive and uninhabited place.” Furthermore, not only is this state ultimately reversed when humans are created in 1:26–31, but the fact that human absence allows chaos to thrive over order and life is explicitly asserted in 2:5.
[ii][2] Jon D. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), as well as his "The Temple and the World" JR 64 (1984) 275–98; John H. Walton, “Equilibrium and the Sacred Compass: The Structure of Leviticus” BBR 11.2 (2001) 295, as well as his The Lost World of Genesis 1: Ancient Chronology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009); and M. Weinfeld, "Sabbath, Temple and the Enthronement of the Lord: The Problem of the Sitz im Leben of Genesis 1:1–2:3," in Mélanges bibliques et orientaux en l'honneur de M. Henri Cazelles (ed. A. Caquot and M. Delcor; AOAT 212; Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker / Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1981) 501–12. Gordon J. Wenham, “Sanctuary Symbolism in the Garden of Eden Story,” in The Proceedings of the Ninth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Division A: The Period of the Bible (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1986), 19–25, and reprinted in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura (ed.), I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1–11 (SBST 4; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994), 399404.
[iii][3] The ‘image’ symbolism is clear in both texts. In Genesis 1, the image is set within the cosmic temple when it is finished and as a precursor to the deity’s resting within it. In Genesis 2, the man is made out of clay and then breathed into by God, an act reminiscent of the “opening of the mouth” rituals found within a wide range of evidence from Egypt to Mesopotamia. The clay figure is then placed within the garden sanctuary. Furthermore, although the terminology of the human’s creation to לעבד את האדמה ‘to work the ground’ is characteristic of Mesopotamian anthropogonies, the clarifying description found in the phrase used when the human is then made describes the work of the priests in the sanctuary, i.e.,  לעבדה ולשמרה ‘to till and keep it’ (G. Wenham, “Sanctuary Symbolism,” 401–2), and we might suggest that the priests ordering of the temple could be related to the ordering of creation the cult image accomplishes for society.
[iv][4] This may also provide an answer as to why God is so concerned about the humans eating the tree of life and taking over the sanctuary after they choose to become god-like in their experience of both order and chaos.
[v][5] This “Imperative of Purpose” means that the preceding commands are each given in order to accomplish the subsequent commands (Williams, Hebrew Syntax: An Outline, 2d ed. [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978], p. 35). The imperative of the previous command is implied in each clause: Do V for the purpose of doing W, do W for the purpose of doing X, do X for the purpose of doing Y, do Y for the purpose of doing Z.
[vi][6] Although there has been a trend in modern scholarship to divide the trees as belonging to two distinct stratum (see, for instance, C. Westermann, Genesis 1–11: A Continental Commentary, trans. John J. Scullion (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), pp. 212–14), as Ellen van Wolde (Words Become Worlds: Semantic Studies of Genesis 1–11 [Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994], p. 32) points out that “the two trees occur side by side in 2:9 and in 3:22 they seem to be related from the point of view of content.”
[vii][7] One should also compare the similarities in language between wntwmdk wnmlcb and Myhl)k, as well as with the statement wnmm dj)k hyh Md)h.
[viii][8] As argued before from the Imperative of Purpose, it is possible to suggest that the two elements in 1:28 wbrw wrp ‘be fruitful and reproduce’ conveys this distinction between the sexual act and what it produces.
[ix][9] Here we also see a strong argument toward those scholars that suggest H as the identity of R rather than an earlier Priestly school. See, for instance, Bill T. Arnold, Genesis, The New Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 16–17; especially cf. Holiness School’s emphasis toward expanding the morality of the cult to the entire community (Israel Knohl, The Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah an dthe Holiness School [Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2007], pp. 175–98), a tendency that finds fulfillment in Genesis 1 and 2 with the universalizing of the temple to all of humanity’s purpose. HS is concerned with the procreative use of the sexual act, as is evident in Leviticus 18. Those concerns have taken center stage again in the Genesis narrative.
[x][10] E. van Wolde (Words Become Worlds, pp. 38–39) states her observation that the narrator points to the possibility of a sexual relation between the man and woman, but without what the knowledge of differentiation that she perceives the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents, that sexual cannot be realized. Such an interpretation flows contrary to the text, since this would make it necessary for the human couple to disobey God in order to obey Him. Certainly, the act that the woman’s childbearing is made more difficult by experiencing chaos (3:16), rather than becoming more successful in the acquisition of knowledge, is a possible wrench in her interpretation. For a similar interpretation, see Sam Dragga, “Genesis 2–3: A Story of Liberation” JSOT 55 (September 1992) 4–5, who also misidentifies the tree of knowledge as the experience and understanding of the procreative sexual act.
[xi][11] This interpretation would understand the construct as a Subjective Genitive (Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993], p. 9), specifically, a Genitive of Agency (BHS 9.5.1). It is possible also to take it as a Genitive of Purpose (GKC §128q; Joüon §129f), where the intended purpose of the tree is to produce life. Even if one is inclined to take the Genitive as attributive or qualitative, although it seems odd to suggest the author is merely communicating that the tree has life, this attributive or qualitative genitive must be seen in some way as characterizing the tree’s ability to produce life in relation to the humans who partake of it.
[xii][12] Although Walter Vogels (“‘Like One of Us, Knowing TÔB and RA( [Gen 3:22],’” in Daniel Patte, [ed.], Thinking in Signs: Semiotics and Biblical Studies . . .Thirty Years After [Semeia 81; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1998] p. 153) is correct in asserting that the common employment of ערומ is one of poverty and emptiness, it would seem, however, together with the rest of the terminology and subject matter in the context, that there is a hint toward the sexual act. In any case, the identification of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with a non-procreative sexual act is not important for this study. Whether the procreative act was shunned by another act of either a sexual or non-sexual nature is not vital to the author's argument.
[xiii][13] Ibid., 147–50. In fact, it could be argued that the two seeds, ‘planted’ by the serpent and the woman, represent the new world’s experience of order and chaos, the woman producing children of order (i.e., covenant children) and the serpent producing children of chaos. This is further represented in the Cain and Abel story. Also, the use of the term (rz ‘seed’ bears a semiotic connection to the production of trees, both botanical and familial.
[xiv][14] Although with some major reservations, I side mainly with F. Landy (Paradoxes of Paradise: Identity and Difference in the Song of Songs [Bible and Literature Series 7; Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 1983], p. 212), in seeing the contrast between the tree of life to be with the tree of death, against E. van Wolde (Words Become Worlds, pp. 34–36), who must join the aspect of knowledge to procreation in order to get her concept that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is necessary for the perpetuation of human life. Her use of the pun between Mwr( and Myr( is unconvincing, as most of the puns in Genesis are not meant to provide evidence of an overlapping semantic domain between the two terms. Although, cf. wht and Mwht in 1:2. However, if the two terms inform the intended nuance, then it must also work the other way, i.e., the serpent’s knowing must have something to do with his nakedness. Furthermore, the term is not about “knowing” per se, as much as it is about being aware of a weakness (cf. Prov 12:16, 23; 14:15, also cf. Job 5:12 and 15:5 that evidence the interpretation of the term by a work seeking to mimic much of the language of Genesis (I. Knohl, The Sanctuary of Silence, p. 167). In essence, van Wolde’s suggestion requires the serpent to reveal his shrewdness, but the text itself describes to the reader that the serpent used his shrewdness to deceive the woman, not to help her (Gen. 3:13).
[xv][15] ANET3, p. 75.
[xvi][16] Cf. the tree of immortality in the Gilgamesh Epic and that mentioned in the “The Great Cairo Hymn of Praise to Amun-Re” (COS 1:37).
[xvii][17] This may provide an answer as to why God does not wish the human couple to live forever in the state that they have acquired, i.e. because they are now chaotic agents in the world who must die lest their wickedness grow forever (cf. 6:3). It is not simply, then, that God is afraid of others obtaining His immortality, but of others forever destroying the world as chaotic agents. For an example of a scholar who takes the view that God seeks to withhold His immortality from humans out of self concern, see R. N. Whybray, “‘Shall Not the Judge of All of the Earth Do What Is Just?’: God’s Oppression of the Innocent in the Old Testament,” in David Penchansky and Paul L. Redditt (eds.), Shall Not the Judge of All of the Earth Do What Is Right?: Studies on the Nature of God in Tribute to James L. Crenshaw [Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns], 1–5). Whybray, of course, does not discuss the divine concern of humans multiplying within his sanctuary as chaotic agents, and H’s view of the repercussions this would have upon all of creation.
[xviii][18] Of course, the parallels between the two chapters far exceed the following chart; but I have provided a summary of those elements that best coincide with what I have attempted to argue here.
[xix][19] This creates a clear disconnect from the first account in that God is able to rest at the installment of His image in the temple, having subdued chaotic elements in the world; but in the second account He is not able to rest, and instead must remove the images from His sanctuary and deal with chaos once again attempting to take over the world.
[xx][20] It is clear that the threat is both verbal and non-verbal. It is non-verbal in that their situation provides the basis for many to hold off from having children. It is verbal in that it seems clear that H is concerned with the propaganda and practices found within the Atra-hasīs Epic. See, for instance, Bernard Batto, Slaying the Dragon: Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition (Louisville: Westminster, 1992), pp. 44–72; Tikva Frymer-Kensky, “The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1–9.” BA 40 (1977) pp. 147–55; Anne Kilmer, “The Mesopotamian Concept of Overpopulation and Its Solution as Reflected in Mythology.” Or 41 (1972), pp. 160–77; Isaac M. Kikawada and Arthur Quinn, Before Abraham Was (Nashville: Abingdon, 1985), pp. 36–53; G.Wenham, Genesis 1–15 (Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Thomas Nelson, 2002), pp. xxxix, xlvii-xlix.
Although I agree with Jacob Milgrom (Leviticus 1–16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary [ABC 3; New York: Doubleday, 1991], pp. 26–29) that the Biblical writings of HS draw to a close around the time of the Babylonian exile, the point here is not negated if one accepts I. Knohl’s belief that the Persian period is the setting of HS's final authoring/editing of texts (The Sanctuary of Silence, pp. 225–30). The point is that Israelite numbers have diminished through war and the hardship of exile. Whether they are still in that exile or simply recovering from it, the writings of HS serve to replenish the numbers of God’s covenant people. The point of H is to remind Israel that the original commands given to the covenant community, represented in the primeval couple, pertained to procreation, and the shunning of that responsibility brought about the same kind of divine rejection and expulsion that they have experienced in exile for their prior disobedience to YHWH God.