Thanks to Erich Striessnig for drawing my attention to this story with a Facebook posting. According to the Old Testament version of the story, God created the earth, the waters, animals, birds and everything else in it, in the first 5 days of creation. And on the 6th day, he created man and woman, Adam and Eve. They were left to live in innocent delight in the garden of Eden. They could eat and drink all they wanted. The birds and the beasts of the earth, as well as the fruit of every tree were at their disposal. Except of course, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The well known story goes on to narrate that the evil serpent first approaches the “gullible” or “more easily corruptible” woman (words in quotes are my own interpretations of what the Old Testament text implies) and tempts her to eat the apple. Adam joins in the feast out of a sense of solidarity. The scales of innocence drop from their eyes. Adam and Eve realise they are naked and cover their bodies with aprons sewn of fig leaves. God finds out. God, of course, is angry. In the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, Adam comes across as a snitch and weak character. He immediately blames the woman, “the woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Whereupon, God turns to the woman and asks, “what is this that THOU hast done?” Thereby laying the blame for mankind’s ills squarely in the lap of womanhood for all time.
Historians of the Bible were always convinced that the story of Adam and Eve was based on other, older legends about creation. However, until recently, there was apparently no written or historical evidence to prove it. The so-called Ugaritic clay tablets were found in Syria in 1929 and partially translated in the 1970s. Ugaritic is a northwestern Semitic language and the clay tablets were discovered by French archaeologists in Ugarit (modern day Ras Samara, Syria) in 1929. American scholar Cyrus Gordon Herzl calls Ugaritic “the greatest literary discovery from antiquity since the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform”. In their recently published book: Adam, Eve and the Devil, two scholars from the Protestant Theological University of Amsterdam have re-interpreted the texts in their Biblical context. These cuneiform writings are around 800 years older than the Biblical texts (i.e. from 400 BC).
In the Ugaritic version, Adam is portrayed as a (good) God who has to fight against an evil one. This evil God disguises himself as a serpent and poisons the tree of life, thereby depriving the first couple of immortality when they eat its fruit. The Sun Goddess consoles Adam and the good woman by his side (Eve). They will nevertheless achieve a kind of eternal life through natural reproduction. This older version of the story seems much more logical and sensible to me and, importantly, does not make one half of humanity less worthy than their male counterparts. This small shift in perception will, I’m convinced, go a long way to curing many of the ills in the world today, two millenia after these stories were written.
Adam, Eve and the Devil: a new beginning (Hebrew Bible Monographs)
Marjo C.a. Korpel, Johannes C. de Moor
Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014, 346 pages