The creation stories in Genesis are my two favorite stories in the entire Bible.
The amount of truth contained in these stories is endless and infinite. I find hope and love and movement and God buried in every conceivable nook and cranny. The stories impact me in profound ways that I cannot always explain.
And yet, in them I also find great sorrow and pain because of the way we have treated these stories in our Christian tradition.
These stories have been used by Christians to argue that humans are infinitely more valuable than the rest of creation. They have been used to justify the exploitation of resources and the subjugation of animals as less than. They have been used as proof that men have dominion over women, used to reinforce the false hierarchy of gender.
These stories have been used to blame Eve, and by extension all women, for the fall of humanity and for the shaky concept of original sin. Countless theologies, books, movies, and songs have used this story to argue that women are the root of all evil because of their role in the garden.
It is this last one that bothers me the most. Because I believe that what Eve did was not sinful, but rather brave. Let me explain.
If I were to ask you what makes us human, what would your answer be? What allows us to be more than just animals who survive?
I would assume your answer would have to do with our brains. It would have to do with the fact that we have cognitive thought. We are different from animals because we can think and feel in ways that animals simply cannot do.
Our knowledge makes us human. Our ability to make moral and ethical decisions makes us human.
When humans were first created by God, we lacked this type of knowledge. Adam and Eve were, in some respects, just animals.
They did not yet know the difference between right and wrong. They did not have the ability to make moral and ethical decisions. They had not yet eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, and so they did not yet really know.
I would argue that we had not yet become fully human. We were missing something. We were missing true knowledge.
And then God conveniently lets Adam know that there was a tree that would give him knowledge, but that he was not to eat from it. I imagine God said this with a sort of wink wink in the tone of her voice.
If we are really being honest with ourselves, Adam and Eve needed to eat from the Tree of Knowledge in order to realize their full humanity.
And let’s not kid ourselves – if Adam and Eve had yet to eat from this tree, which would teach them the difference between right and wrong, then how would they know that disobeying God’s order was actually wrong? They didn’t yet know what was good or bad. How could we expect them to make the “right” decision, when right and wrong were concepts they knew nothing about?
So when Eve took the fruit and ate it, what she was doing couldn’t have been wrong. In fact, I believe that what she was doing was right. She was giving humanity the knowledge and the truth that makes us human.
Eve could have chosen not to eat that fruit (but could she really have made a cognitive choice knowing that she didn’t really know yet?) and humans could have stayed in the garden with God. But would that really have been all that God had planned for us? For us to not have true knowledge but merely live in blissful ignorance?
I cannot answer these questions specifically for you, but I would challenge you to critically think about the things you have always been taught. “The Fall” has always been a prominent part of our Christian theology, but was it really a fall at all? Or was it a leap into humanity? Was Eve really the downfall of humanity? Or was she the woman who bravely took humanity where it needed to go?
I will leave you with a poem I wrote on this exact subject, and hope that it speaks to you in the way that it spoke to me as I imagined it.
She reaches and we think
We think no and yes
Every emotion screams out
But calm finds company
Fruit is meant to be eaten
Even this fruit
he sits in silence
Real is on the horizon
This God who made us
But will not leave us
Not like this
And so God stands with her
Reaches with her
Reaches for her
And so he sits while she stands
Stands for us
And we are made whole
There is no abandonment
A journey begins
Calling for more
Love follows and guides
There is hope
There is life