Friday, October 15, 2010

Eve Didn't Know What She Was Doing

Many members have taken the stance recently that Eve knew what she was doing when she partook of the forbidden fruit - that her action was noble and enlightened. However, the idea that Eve acted knowing that she was furthering God's plan and doing the right thing isn’t supported in either the text or the temple.

I believe this for three reasons:

1) Her own words state that she was beguiled. ("The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." - Genesis 3:13) "Beguiled" means "tricked, misled, deluded" - NOT knowledgeable and insightful. She says she was tricked; I believe her - at least, I would if I took the story literally.

2) 2 Nephi 2:18 makes a direct connection from Lucifer's status as "the father of all lies" and what he said to Eve. Thus, his statement to Eve was a lie - and she bought it, acting as she did because she believed a lie.

3) It appears to me that Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden less for partaking of the fruit than for doing so at the behest of Lucifer. In other words, they were punished for placing their trust in the devil instead of their God. God knew Lucifer would try to get them to disobey Him, so he set up a scenario that would test them. According to their own account and God's subsequent words and actions, I believe they failed the test.

In fact, I would argue that it isn't clear that Eve actually was "doing the right thing" by partaking. I agree completely that leaving the Garden of Eden ("falling from the presence of God") was a necessary part of the plan (that "Adam fell that man might be"), but there is nothing in the text or the temple that indicates Eve knew what she was doing.

I think the Fall narrative teaches the danger of trying to take shortcuts in becoming like God and introduces a reason for the struggle and temptations of mortality.

Interestingly, there is nothing to indicate whether or not God had an alternate way for them to leave the Garden of Eden if they stood firm and refused to partake of the fruit - if they could have "fallen" and still faced mortal temptation with their progeny without buying Lucifer's lie in the Garden of Eden.

Fundamentally, I don't believe this was a literal event, so that last possibility doesn't bother me at all. I believe it is allegorical and figurative, so the "you will be punished if you reject your God and follow another god" theme rings true for me - especially given the ebb and flow of the OT record. I don't read the narrative as a victory of any kind. I read it as teaching, "If you don't follow my commandments and resist temptation to take shortcuts, you will lose the blessing of my influence. I will provide a way to return, but it will be painful - and you will have to work hard for it to happen."

Frankly, I think Eve ate the fruit in the story because the story was written by men in order to explain the social, political, gender-influenced structure in which they lived. I believe it is an inspired narrative in many ways, and I believe it is an amazingly practical narrative, but I believe it is a figurative narrative just the same. I believe in a literal first man and first woman, but not in the literalness of the Biblical Fall narrative.

14 comments:

michelle said...

I dunno, friend. I don't think it's that simple. I think there are elements of both the temple and the text and our doctrine that could hint at something different or at least not quite so black and white as you make it here.

For one, yes, the serpent had his moments with her, but so did God. She did have knowledge of some sort, and commandments to sort through and consider. It wasn't as though he just showed up and dominated the show.

I think the real beguiling came in the idea that she would never die. She was beguiled there, but was everything he said a lie? I am not sure it was, and thus I'm not sure that it's as easy as saying she was duped.

I also don't think a la 2 Ne 2 that it really could have been an act of agency if Lucifer's was the only influence in her decision.

Just some thoughts. I have others that I'm not as comfy sharing here, but these are a few.

Thomas Parkin said...

I think there is tension in the fact that God commands against something he knows is going to be necessary. Mostly, we want to explain this away, or in some way fail to confront the fact that we are meant to sin. (The old distinction between transgression and sin seems like an evasion, to me. A failure to understand that sin is an essential feature of the reality of redemption.) But if we let this tension work on us it can yield really great insights.

Like Paul says, basically, does this mean that we should sin? Of course not. But we do sin. Eve did not only a necessary thing, consciously or not, but an inevitable thing.

Papa D said...

michelle, I never said Lucifer was the only influence - only that the text and temple don't support Eve making a "knowledgable" decision. I understand what you are saying and don't disagree - and, remember, I don't view the Garden narrative as literal, so I am open to multiple possibilities concerning the symbolism.

"Mostly, we want to explain this away, or in some way fail to confront the fact that we are meant to sin."

You nailed my feelings, Thomas. The idea of inevitability is one of the foundations of how I read this account.

Papa D said...

Oh, and Michell, I hope you feel comfortable sharing pretty much anything here - even if you have to do so anonymously in order to be ok doing it.

SilverRain said...

I think Michelle's point is that some things are better left to Celestial Room discussion.

I think it was both: that Eve was both knowledgeable and beguiled.

Like most lies, there was a good bit of truth in what Satan told her. He used the truth that Eve knew to convince her of the lies.

Next time you go to the temple, keep that in mind when you listen to the dialogue. It is interesting, anyways.

I can tell you I've gained a new perspective on that whole thing since becoming MUCH more educated on liars . . . which is different than those who tell lies.

Papa D said...

I agree with that distinction, SR - both that some things are appropriate only for the Celestial Room (although I believe those things are less numerous than most most members asume) and the use of truth to present lies.

I believe firmly that the Garden narrative and temple presentation also is about not following deceptively-worded and sophisticated mixtures of truth and error just because there is some truth included. That is true of nearly ALL good arguments - that they contain elements of truth AND error, so we need to be really careful to try to understand the error in anything we hear even as we strive to understand the truth of it, as well

SilverRain said...

Exactly, Ray. :D

I would also add that there are some things that may be fine to talk about outside the Celestial Room that I'd certainly not discuss on a public blog. Or in almost any written media, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Hypothetically...If someone asks if there are options to a particular course of action, and are accurately told there are not, and then follows through with that action, they (at least on some level) know what they are doing.

Papa D said...

SR, I agree with you about the difference between private conversations and public discussions - but I still think there is more that can be discussed publicly than many members believe. *grin*

Anonymous, hypothetically, I agree that someone in that situation would know what they were doing - but there is absolutely nothing in the canonical record that says there was no other way, except Lucifer's word on it. I find it interesting to consider the punishment Lucifer received for his actions - and even more interesting to consider his response when told about that punishment. I'm not going to elaborate further about that last point, since I do agree that some things are not meant to be discussed on a public blog.

Last Lemming said...

Here's a fourth reason--it was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Having not eaten of its fruit, Eve could not have known whether what she was doing was good or bad. If she was already wise, what was the point of forbidding her and Adam from partaking? Why was the Tree of Life not already guarded? To me, her actions (and Adam's) were those of a mental 7-year old--capable of obeying, but subject to beguiling and not yet accountable. As a result of the fall, she and Adam turned 8, so to speak, and became accountable.

michelle said...

I think it was both: that Eve was both knowledgeable and beguiled.

That sort of sums up what I was trying to say.

Papa D said...

"I think it was both: that Eve was both knowledgeable and beguiled."

I can accept that - especially since it contains a great lesson about not letting our current level of knowledge (or confidence in our knowledge) allow us to be beguiled more easily.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing guys,but as someone who understands scarcely any of my temple experience,I can't tell you how frustrating it is when others feel unable to discuss what they understand.I so want to understand.Is it because we tend to disagree do you think?

I am interested in hearing whatever you have to say,so thanks again.

Papa D said...

As I mentioned, I believe much more can be discussed outside the temple than many members think. It's just on an open forum like this that can attract anti-Mormon activists that I am more uncomfortable talking about specific quotes from the endowment.

E-mail me at the address at the bottom of the blog's main page. It might take a few days for me to get back to you right now, but I'd be happy to talk with you about it.