Over the centuries, there have been innumerable interpretations of the story of Adam and Eve. This week on the Daily, Stephen Greenblatt, the author of The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve, retells some of these legends in modern idiom, and invents a few of his own.
It was the day of creation, and Adam and Eve were only beginning to find their way around the garden when Eve came across the tree whose fruit they had been commanded not to eat. They were both hungry; the fruit looked appetizing; they ate. It was the first time that they had eaten anything. (William Pynchon, 1664)
When Adam related to Eve what God had commanded him—“But from the tree of knowledge, good, and evil, you shall not eat, for on the day you eat from it, you are doomed to die”—Adam had an idea. He reasoned that by intensifying the terms of the commandment, he could protect Eve, and thereby protect himself, from even the possibility of transgressing. Why should they have needed protection? Because if the tree were that dangerous, then any contact with it must be risky; and because if one held a piece of fruit in one’s hands, then it was always possible to put it in one’s mouth. “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it,” he therefore reported the interdict to have ordained, “lest ye die.” “Neither shall ye touch it”—as anxious parents tell their children not to go near the stove—was, it seemed to him, a brilliant stroke. It would, in effect, create a buffer between the tree and any human who might be drawn toward it. But it turned out to be a disastrous strategy. For the first thing the serpent—the most cunning of all the beasts of the field—did when he found himself alone with Eve was not to offer her a piece of the fruit but simply to wrap himself tightly around the tree. Eve was astonished and horrified to see him do so, but he smiled and pointed out that he was still very much alive. And Eve, for the first time, felt she had been lied to. Read More