People don’t always know what to make of me, and I think it has something to do with my stance on Satan. I mean, his place in our culture notwithstanding, he’s really not a bad guy.
Satan pops up in the Bible only twice. Well, in the Hebrew Bible, at least. Or as I like to call it, The Original Series. I mean, sure, he’s referred to in Isaiah and Ezekiel, at least as far as later Biblical scholars – and I use the term loosely – are concerned. But he’s really only in the stories themselves twice. Well, once, if you want to be strict about it.
You see, the Christian viewpoint is that the serpent in the Garden of Eden is really Satan in disguise, slithering into Paradise to fuck it all up for God, because he’s pissed about having been flung out of Heaven and cast into Hell. (You can read all about that in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and about Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the follow up, Paradise Regained). But as far as Judaism is concerned, the serpent is just a serpent, the craftiest of all the animals, destined to crawl, legless in the dirt, just as Eve, and thanks to her all women to follow, is destined to go through travails in childbirth (it never seemed fair to me that she got punished. But I digress…).
But just for the hell of it, let’s bring the two traditions together and allow that the serpent is indeed Satan, and have a closer look at what really happened in The Garden of Eden.
What does Satan really do to Adam and Eve? He tells them the truth, doesn’t he? But God… lies. Now, you may, as true believers in the Lord, allow that there was perhaps method to His madness, that God, in all His wisdom, had His reasons for lying to His first two children. But I digress (I do that a lot).
But fundamentally, God lied and Satan told the truth.
Here’s how it played out.
“Hey, Eve. Why don’t you have one of those fruit? They look delicious, don’t they? Here, I’ll split one with ya.”
“Because God said we’re not supposed to eat those, or we’ll die.”
Satan sneers with laughter. “Is that what He told you? And you believed Him? Listen, He created you. He’s not gonna kill you. Just have a fruit. I promise nothing’ll happen to you.
“Wellll… Okay. But just one.”
Let me just take a second at this juncture to remind you, gentle reader, that Eve has been conversing with a mysterious talking snake this whole time. So whatever she might have told her husband, her account of what really went on is as unreliable as Mary’s account as to how she got pregnant in the first place. But I digress (See? I told you.).
So, Eve picks a nice, big, plump, juicy apple or orange or banana or whatever it was… FROM THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL! DID YOU CATCH THAT? THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE, FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD!
Aaaaand nothing happened. Not right away, anyway. Eve gives Adam a bite of the fruit while Satan – or the snake – slips away, pretty satisfied with himself, muttering “Well, my work is done here.” Then, according to scripture, Adam and Eve suddenly realize that they’re both naked.
So, God comes in looking for Adam, and I’m pretty sure He knows something’s up.
“Adam!” He says. “Where are you?”
“Um… I’m over here, Lord.” Adam answers.
“What are you doing?”
“Why are you hiding?”
“Because,” Adam responds sheepishly. “I’m naked,” he whispers.
“What?? How the hell do you know you’re—Wait a minute! Did you eat the fruit from the tree that I told you not to eat from lest you die? I told you ‘Don’t eat that lest you die.’ Now look what you’ve done!”
Then Adam, setting the stage for many a marriage to come, stammers “Uh, well, I, uh… It’s my wife’s fault! She made me do it.”
So now God’s in a bit of a pickle. He said they’d die. But then, rethinking His grand plan, He says, to no one in particular, “The man has become like one of us…” I don’t know who God thought He was talking to, I don’t know who “us” was, but I think that gets explained later in The Book of Job when there’s a big meeting in Heaven, a meeting that includes Satan.
So, anyway, clearly He can’t kill Adam and Eve. But He can’t let this transgression go unpunished. This will not stand, He might say if he was The Dude. Or the first President Bush. So He invents labour pains and farming, and kicks Adam and Eve out of Paradise.
What took place after that between God and Satan is a matter of conjecture, but I’m fairly sure the conversation went something like this:
“Dammit all to Hell, Lucifer, why do you always have to fuck things up for me?”
“Me?! What the heck did I do? I was just trick-or-treating in the new neighbourhood. Thought I’d try out my new serpent costume. I told you that whole free will thing was going to be a problem. But did you listen? Noooo. Hell, I’m not even under your command, anymore. You kicked me out, remember?”
“I supposed you want to come back to Heaven?”
“Shyeah, right! Not a chance. Remember what Khan said in Episode 22 of Trek?”
“I’m pretty sure he was quoting someone else.”
“Whatever. Nice trick with the fruit, by the way.”
“Thanks. I’m pretty proud of that.”
And then they walk off together into the mist like Claude Raines and Humphrey Bogart at the end of Casablanca.
“So,” Satan says. “What else ya got up your sleeve?”