Falling Forward & Keeping East of Eden (Genesis 3-4)

Monday, January 10, 2022


Big thank you to our super star transcriber, Heather B. for creating this text!

Elise: Welcome back everyone! We have missed you so much and are so glad you are here. Before we get started on this week’s episode we want to give a big, super big heartfelt thank you to all of our new Patreon members. We see you and we love you. Also to the people who have left us really positive iTunes reviews: we see you and we love you. And a big, big thank you to Heather B who has been working on our transcripts out of the loving labor and service of her heart. So big thanks all around before we start out the episode. 

As you probably know, this week we are discussing Genesis 3-4, Moses 4-5, for the dates January 10 through 16th. And in this episode we are talking all about the Fall of Eve and Adam from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3 and then we’re also going to look in Genesis 4 and talk about the story of Cain and Abel.

Channing: [00:02:11] In preparation for this episode, we really discussed a lot of potential avenues for exploration of these two stories. And one thing that Elise and I have constantly been saying to each other is “Ugh, we wish the manual took more time here! I wish that it's slowed down a little bit.” There is so much goodness to explore, especially in these iconic and well-known stories. We really wish we had the opportunity to discuss everything, but due to the limitations and nature of the podcast, we can’t. We understand that whatever we choose to focus on means the exclusion of something else that is equally worthy of exploration.

[00:02:50] So in light of that, we encourage our listeners to continue their exploration of the text and understand that we are one source among many. We’re definitely going to miss things. We can’t cover everything, but that doesn't mean that we don't value it or hold it to be true or otherwise. We share this reminder and this perspective as encouraging because we are reminded that it’s not possible for one person or one partnership to know everything. And we feel like that's really hopeful.

 So we hope you’ll take this understanding and run with it. Check in with other sources. Our friends, Brother Knox and Brother Jones, at Beyond the Block podcast and Serena and Katie at the wHoly Human Podcast are fantastic sources that will offer a flavor on these chapters that is just as nourishing and yummy as what we do. We also have a reading list on our website that offers up more avenues of exploration and interpretation. And maybe something we share today will pique your interest. However it happens is just right for you. Follow your inspiration and discover where it leads you.

[00:03:56] So last week we spent a lot of time really digging into the creation of the earth and the creation of human beings. And right at the end of Genesis chapter two we encountered this story of Eve and we encountered her creation and her marriage to Adam, and then the chapter, kind of, just ended. And then Genesis three really begins to launch us right into the story of the fall.

[00:04:28] So we wanted to take a little bit of, I don't know, like, in between time- between Genesis two and Genesis three- to talk about different elements that we feel like contribute to the story or offer an interesting background to the story of the fall. And one of these topics, or one of these backgrounds is the necessity of the death nature.

The Necessity of the Death Nature

[00:04:52] So generally we really don't like to talk about death. Not only is it a large and ever-looming reality for all of us, but it's often painful to remember all that we have lost to it. But I want to move from death in the human realm and zoom out just a little bit and look at the important role that death plays in the nature realm

[00:05:16] In nature, death is an essential part of the life cycle. When plants die, they fall to the earth and begin to decompose. Nature has many helpers which assist this process of decay. Insects, worms, and fungus and mushrooms process the decaying material and, with time, the dead plant becomes soil, rich in nutrients and ready to nourish new life. So when seeds fall into or are planted into soil like this, soil which contains death, they grow and thrive. They fruit and flower and multiply and replenish and beautify the earth. However, on the other hand, when seeds fall into or are planted into soil that is void of death, that is sanitized from all appearance of decay, those seeds either do not sprout, do not live long after, or do not flower or fruit.

Elise: [00:06:13] In her book “Women Who Run With the Wolves”, Clarissa Pinkola Estes who’s a Jungian psychologist, writes, “In much of western culture, the original character of the Death nature has been covered over until it has been split off from its other half, Life. We have been taught that Death has always been followed by more Death. It is simply not so. Death is always in the process of incubating new life. Rather than seeing the archetypes of Death and Life as opposites, they must be held together as the left and right side of a single thought.”

And, I think, while this certainly applies in, like, the sphere of nature, if we circle back again to our own lives, our own experience, the necessity of the Death nature is no less important. Death plays an important role in our lives. We often celebrate beginnings in our culture. For example, we just celebrated one, with the advent of the new year on January 1st. And among the midnight kisses and obnoxious party horns welcoming in the birth of a new year, the old year quietly slips away into memory. 

[00:07:18] And, kind of in a subtle way, the celebration of new life is also a gratitude and celebration or acknowledgement of the death of the old, the worn, the composted way-that-was-before, which graciously gives way to new life. So with this context, I just wanted to ask Channing, have you, in what ways have you experienced this death cycle or death nature in your own life?

Channing: [00:07:42] I think that's a really good question because I think that we experience this death nature frequently in our own personal lives. When I think about me, I think about the time that I first became a mom and that death cycle felt really pronounced. When my first child was born I definitely welcomed in new life, but in doing so, I also left behind aspects of myself and my life that will never be resurrected. What died at my daughter's birth was a portion of my freedom, a certain innocence of the world, a certain relationship with my partner. This isn't to say that the birth of my daughter was an entire loss because it wasn't. What her birth gave me was also hope, a renewed sense of purpose, a joy, and a sense of wonder at the delicate beauty of life.

[00:08:35] And I really think about this death nature, really nourishes life in all aspects of our experience - from the earth that nurtures and feeds us, to our relationships, to our inner selves and experiences. The death nature has shown up in so many instances for me: death was a part of my faith transition, my feminist awakening, my children attending school.

[00:08:58] And so I think from these experiences, what I wanted to show is that death is so woven into my life at the deepest levels that I now understand it to be an essential part of my lived experience. It has not always been so, especially growing up LDS because I really believed that death was to be avoided at all costs. 

[00:09:19]There was such a focus on the resurrection, life after death, so much language about “overcoming” and “defeating” death that I came to understand that death was something to avoid, ignore, and fear, just like sin was. I really understood my life as linear: that I was born once, reborn once more at baptism, and died at the end of my life just real quick before I was alive again forever.

But I see things differently now. As my attention shifted to checking off boxes at church and instead to paying attention to being present, to staying with the moment, to honoring the experiences and sensations and wisdom of my body, I began to notice that life does not move in a linear fashion. It moves in circles. It moves in cycles, or in spirals. And once I realized this, I realized that I was dying and being born all the time. That the Death nature was always quietly doing her sacred work within me, composting old beliefs, old ways, old selves into revelations and change. At some point Death became something I didn’t fear, but I learned to welcome with a measure of peace and acceptance. So for me, understanding the necessity of the death nature has been really, really important and really impactful for my life. Not just in the way that I understand like my outward experiences, but it's also really deeply entwined with what I understand my spirituality to be as well.

Elise: [00:10:58] I love that so much. And I think that we've spent a decent amount of time exploring what the death nature is and how it shows up in our own lives. But all this talk about Death might seem really out of place when we discuss Genesis 3, which focuses on the fall of Adam and Eve, but just hang in there, hang in there listeners. We wanted to gently illuminate the beauty of the death nature because we believe it is an essential, although maybe subtle, part of the fall from Eden story.

The absence of the Death Nature in Eden

As we move to the text and to the Garden of Eden, we immediately understand that among the perfect garden is the absence of death. Everything grew, everything flowered easily and brought forth fruit. There wasn't a whole lot of work that was required to obtain goodness from the garden. Even Adam could eat freely from every fruit in the garden, including the fruit of the tree of life. And Death was present only in one space- Death showed up in the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. 

[00:11:55] Gen 2:16-17, it reads, “And the Lord God commanded the man saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

So, from our reading of the text, we understand that with the exception of this tree, the death nature was not at play in the Garden. 


Channing: [00:12:20] Now that we have a background understanding of death, its place and necessity in the life cycle, and its absence in the Garden of Eden, we are ready to turn our focus to Eve.

So, in last week’s episode, we covered the creation of Eve’s body in the Genesis account in chapter 2. Some of the things we covered in that episode was the creation of Eve and her subsequent creation from Adam’s rib, this potentially being a derivative work created only in the framework of consideration of Adam. We also provided a critique of complementarianism, which is the idea that Adam and Eve, and men and women, are equal but necessarily different, in that they each provide something that the other is missing and therefore complete one another.

[00:13:08] But something we didn't discuss last week, but it's something that I noticed and I made a little sticky note, like, “oh, I want to talk this next week,” is that I noticed when I was reading the text that God never gives the commandment to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil to Eve. If we read the text linearly and literally, God only gives the commandment to Adam. It is implied in Genesis 3 that Eve also received the commandment, but it is never explicitly given to her. We assume that she receives it through word of mouth from Adam, and not directly from God. While this interpretation is not explicit, we can understand that the failure to communicate this commandment directly to Eve possibly indicates that God relates to Eve through Adam instead of face-to-face with her. If this is the case (and it at least appears that way to me from the text) Eve is denied the same intimate relationship with God that Adam has. From a feminist view, this is indicative of a heirarchy in place in the Garden of God-to-man and man-to-woman. 

There appears to be no direct link between Eve and God in the text. The reader does not receive the same detail and treatment of her creation as they did of Adam - we read that she was made of rib instead of clar and there is no explicit mention of God-breath to animate her.

Elise: [00:14:37] If we jump over to Genesis chapter three, now we begin to hear from Eve and see her acting and moving within the text, which is really exciting! But before we dive into her story, we want to preface this by saying that there are countless interpretations of the character of Eve and the story of the Fall from Eden from feminist theologians, from traditional Christian narratives, traditional Jewish tellings, traditional LDS narratives. There are so many good interpretations and fantastic stories about Eve and the fall from Eden. But in today's episode, we’re sharing our interpretation of the character of Eve, in the iteration of her that feels most liberating and loving to us in this moment, and our interpretation of her story that feels true and sacred right now to us. 

Eve Mirrored in the Myth of Psyche

For us, this means that the story of Eve is a nested story, an embedded story, or in other words, a story within a story. So today, while we are sharing the tale of Eve, we will also be sharing other myths and other tales and that may not be straight from the King James version text of Genesis, but stories that occur alongside in time or alongside in theme to the story of Eve.

The first of these is a story we might’ve told in other places, but I'm not sure if we've ever shared this story in its entirety on the podcast. 

[00:15:59] And this is one of Elise and I’s, like, favorite, most formative myths. It is like a huge part of our friendship and a big part of the language that we use when we talk to each other. So, we're very excited to share it with you because we see strong correlations between this story and the story of Eve.

[00:16:19] So this is the story of Psyche. This is a Greek myth. You can find lots of tellings of this myth if you just do a quick Google search of “myth of Cupid and Psyche,” but we will share it here for you today because it's just so good. How could we not?

Elise: [00:16:35] Long ago, Psyche was this beautiful mortal woman whose beauty was said to rival that of the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite didn't really like being compared to a mortal, obviously, because she's a goddess, and so she sends her son Cupid to punish Psyche by making her fall in love with the ugliest man in the world. Unfortunately though, when Cupid sees Psyche, he falls in love with her. Some say that he was accidentally pricked by his own arrow, but what ends up happening is that Psyche was married to Cupid in secret.

[00:17:07] In fact, it was so secret that she herself did not even know who her husband was. Cupid carried her off to his castle in the sky to live where everything was perfect. Ghost-like hands prepared and served her delightful meals, made her clothes and dressed her in them every morning. These same ghost-like hands kept up this beautiful home in which Psyche had everything one could ever wish for - except someone to share it with.

Channing: [00:17:33] Part of their secret marriage agreement was that Cupid made Psyche promise that she would never try to discover his identity.

[00:17:41] She agreed, and so it was for that some time. Every day Psyche would live in this idyllic castle alone, and every night she would be visited under cover of darkness by her husband. And so just like a quick pause here, like, for me already in this story, I see a ton of similarities between Eve and Psyche. I see this kind of utopian living circumstance, a love or a presence that is unknown to her, a restrictive commandment, a certain kind of innocence. So for me, I'm like, I cannot not see the connection. 

Elise: [00:18:15] Right. And also it happens that Psyche has two sisters who really love her so much. And they're worried about her. They want to see her, but she's spending all of her time in this far away castle or something like that. And they never get to see her.

[00:18:29] So Psyche invites them over to her home, the castle, and they start asking questions.  “Psyche, how is it that you do not know who your lover is? Why, he could be anyone! A thief, an ugly man, a dishonorable man! Worse, he may not be a man at all! What if he is a monster, who is keeping you until the day he decides to devour you?” 

Her sisters recognize that Psyche’s ignorance is not only dangerous, but unsustainable. The dangers are exaggerated into forms of dangerous beastly monsters, but there is a recognition that whatever this marriage arrangement is, it is not based on love. 

Channing: [00:19:06] So Psyche kind of just brushes her sister's concerns away. She's like, “oh, whatever. There's nothing to worry about.” But they insist on leaving her with a single candle before they go. Psyche returns back to her perfect life in the castle but after her conversation with her sisters, she can't help but notice how strange it really is that ghostly hands prepare and serve her food, how strange it really is that everything needed to sustain her happens to appear out of nowhere. She notices how her curiosity of who her lover-husband is grows and grows with each nightly visitation - how she is no longer satisfied with the mystery of piecing together his face, his body, his love in the dark. Somehow his promises seem empty - I love you, Psyche, he says, but she wonders, you may love me, but do I love you? I don’t even know who you are!

And so it happens that one night when the breath of her lover becomes steady and rhythmic and his body is relaxed, Psyche's curiosity becomes too much to bear and she tiptoes over to her candle and lights it.

[00:20:16] She holds the flame close to her chest in her cupped hand, as she returns to the bedside. And as her hand moves and reveals the light of the flame, she sees her lover for the first time. As she notices the curves of his body, the softness of his face, the rise and fall of his chest as he rests, she knows love perhaps for the first time as she takes in the sight of her lover.

[00:20:41] She does not notice the drip-drip-drip of the candle. And so it happens that three drops of wax from the candle of knowledge fall on the body of Cupid, and he awakens. In anger and embarrassment and betrayal, he leaves Psyche, the castle crumbles, and she is left in the woodland naked and abandoned.

The story doesn't end here, but it ends here for the podcast. But we can't help but see so, so, so many similarities here between Psyche’s story and Eve’s story.

[00:21:13] We see a conversation being had, we see a curiosity or an inner knowing, an act, a perceived betrayal, a change of circumstances. And so it's kind of this, I don't know, these stories almost kind of mirror each other, I think. I also wanted to mention just like really quickly, in stories there's something called motifs.

[00:21:34] It's, like, certain characters or appearances or circumstances. And the motifs in the Eve and the Psyche story also appear in other myths as well. Some of them, you might recognize the stories of “Beauty and the Beast” is one. The story of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” and the story of “Pandora's Box” all share strong similarities with the story of Eve. And I find that so, so fascinating. 

The Story of Lilith

Elise: [00:22:03] So I think as we sit with the idea of Psyche as Eve and Eve as Psyche, we also want to explore another myth that has some really beautiful potential here, and that is the myth of a Lilith.

Channing: So excited about this.

Who is Lilith?

Elise: The character of Lilith has evolved throughout many, many years.

[00:22:18] She kind of began as this demon who is common to many middle Eastern cultures and also appeared in the book of Isaiah, the Babylonian Talmud and incantation bowls from ancient Iraq and Iran. She was described as a demon who kind of threatened the sexual and reproductive aspects of life, especially during childbirth.

[00:22:37] Also, according to a Jewish medieval text called the Alphabet of Ben Sira, this text describes Lilith as Adam's first wife who disobeys Adam and God, and tries to assert her equality to Adam.

From the book, “The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets” by Barbara G. Walker: “Lilith was said to be Adam’s first wife, but when she refused to lie beneath him during intercourse, because missionary was purported to be the best positon as it is a male-superior position, she cursed Adam and flew away to make her home by the Red Sea. God sent angels to fetch Lilith back but she cursed them too, ignored God’s command, and spent her time coupling with “demons” (whose lovemaking evidently pleased her better) and giving birth to a hundred children every day. So Gad had to produce Eve as Lilith’s more docile replacement.”

Channing: [00:23:25] Oh, I love this story. 

Elise: It's so wild because unless you go searching for these myths, especially in the way that the Come Follow Me manual prepares the text and the way that we study the text in our Sunday School classes and with our families- Lilith doesn't show up here, Lilith isn't included in this!

In 1972, Judith Plaskow, who's a feminist theologian and Religious Studies professor, wrote a beautiful midrash (commentary, retelling, imagining), “The Coming of Lilith.” Thus midrash re-imagines a version of the story where Eve also escapes from the garden as well, and she joins Lilith in the wilderness as a companion. For Plaskow, Eve has heard of Lilith only as a demon, but when she sees that Lilith is a woman, she’s suddenly drawn to her. Eve then escapes Eden to find this other woman who welcomed her as a peer. Plaskow writes:

“And they sat and spoke together of the past and then of the future. They talked for many hours, not once, but many times. They taught each other many things, and told each other stories, and laughed together, and cried, over and over, till the bond of sisterhood grew between them.”

And from there, Eve leaves permanently, she leaves the garden and she leaves Adam. Plaskow writes, “And God and Adam were expectant and afraid the day Eve and Lilith returned to the garden, bursting with possibilities, ready to rebuild it together.”

Channing: [00:24:52] So good.

Elise: It is so good! And so I appreciate this very, very, like, summarized and condensed retelling of Lilith, where we meet her and we see her as someone who knows that she's equal to the other people around her and knows that she's equal to men. And so, when Adam says, “Let me get on top of you and have sex with you,” Lilith is like, “What are you talking about? We were both made from the earth. You're not above me or superior to me.” And she leaves on her own accord. She takes control of her destiny and in this very self-determined way, she also takes control of her sexuality. And so I like that version of femininity showing up here.

Channing: [00:25:33] Also, I just want to note something really interesting that often happens in stories about irreverent or disobedient women.

[00:25:42] It happens really frequently in myths and stories, especially as they evolve over time, especially in, like, a patriarchal culture. Oftentimes women who don't follow the expected standard of femininity are often demonized. And we can see that happening quite literally here in the case of Lilith where either this iteration of femininity is, like, so beyond the imagination of the authors, or they're trying to discourage it to the point where they're like, “this isn't even a woman!”

[00:26:15] Like, “If you can't act like a woman, you're not even a woman, you're a demon.” And so, I just, I wanted to share that because I think sometimes women can feel really uncomfortable with like, “Ooh, this feminist icon is a demon? Like, what the heck? Um, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that.” I like how Judith Plaskow kind of says like, “oh, once Eve discovers that she's not a demon, but a woman just like her.”

[00:26:39] I think that that framework, especially when we're talking about the myth of Lilith can be really helpful to understand that the demonization of Lilith isn't necessarily inherent in her being, but again is applied to her by the tellers of this story. 

Elise: [00:26:56] That's right. That's right. And also if we lean a little bit closer into the story of Lilith, I think it opens up a door of possibilities for lesbian and queer relations between Eve and Lilith, and there’s a great poem I found by Jacquline Lapidus’ titled “Eden,” and I just want to read it here:

ever since I discovered

Lilith, things

have been different around here.

the first time we met

by accident she

came back one night

for a seashell she’d forgotten to pack

Adam was asleep

and I, restless, strolling

in the orchard

climbed the apple tree

for exercise and heard her

singing in its branches

touch me, she said, see

how my flesh fits

the folds and hollows

of your body smell

the flower between my legs

feel my muscles

listen to the life

in my womb

oh, she was beautiful!

I thought I had never seen

anyone quite like her

before next morning, though

bathing in the waves

her image came dancing to me

like sunlight, reflecting


now I go looking

for Lilith everywhere

inventing with her names

for swallow quartz anemone

learning to breathe like

dolphins, laughing as our bellies grow

round as the moon


notices but says nothing

this knowledge of our power

sticks in his throat

Channing: [00:28:37] Snap snap snap snap snaps.

Elise: And I think in both the story of Psyche and Lilith and Eve, what we see here is this, kind of, thread of knowledge as being a threat to power. To know something or see something, or be recognized truly for who you are, that is a threat to the systems that try to keep us small.

Channing: [00:28:36] Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Elise, I loved that poem you shared so much. And I think what we're really trying to show by sharing these poems and chain, these stories and sharing just the myth of Lilith is we really wanted to illuminate what we feel is her strong connection to the earth and to herself. And in this way, we really see like a strong resonance or a mythic embodiment of what Clarissa Pinkola Estes- we heard from her earlier- of what she would call the wild nature. In her book she writes: 

“The word “wild” here does not mean “out of control,” but means “to live a natural life, one in which the creature has instinctive intuition, innate integrity, healthy boundaries. It is the wise and knowing nature. The wild nature carries the bundles for healing; she carries everything a woman needs to be and know. She carries the medicine for all things. She sees, not through two eyes, but through the eyes of intuition, which is many-eyed. She carries stories and dreams and words and songs and signs and symbols. She is the health of women.”

And so this wild nature is really strongly embodied in the figure of Lilith. She's someone who knows what she knows, just like Elise said, and she's not afraid to know it.

[00:30:05] She sees what she sees and is not afraid to see it. She feels what she feels, and again is not afraid to feel it. And I also like to think that Lilith has this instinctive sense about the cycles and the spirals and the circles of the world. I imagine that Lilith knows the necessity of death and the cycle of life.

[00:30:28] I imagine her as a wise and wild woman.

What role might Lilith play in the story of the Fall?

Elise: [00:30:32] One of the ideas that we enjoy playing with is the idea that Lilith and Eve met sometime in the garden of Eden. Some stories imagine a queer relationship, like we said earlier, between Eve and Lilith and we also really appreciate that. And if we return to the story of Psyche, we're kind of particularly enchanted by imagining Lilith in the role of Psyche's sisters saying, Isn’t it strange, the way things are? That fruit and plants just pop out of nowhere? That you don’t really know God, but are just commanded by God all the same? 

[00:31:04] We like imagining Lilith as bringing awareness, asking questions, sharing with Eve about the death nature, about what it means to be a person who sees, knows, and feels. We like the idea of Lilith sharing with Eve what it means to experience pleasure,which is exactly what author and psychologist Carol describes as the joy of being fully and authentically seen and known in relationship with self and others.

The Tipping Point

[00:31:30] We move from the story of Lilith into the text. Genesis 3 begins with, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field. And he (the snake) said unto the woman (Eve), Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the Garden? 2: And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the Garden, but of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden (which is implied to be the tree of knowledge) God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die… And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing Good and Evil.”

And I think it's really interesting to note here that some artists have also rendered the snake in the narrative with the head of Lilith, including Michaelangelo, however the KJV of Genesis says that the snake is Lucifer.  Whatever and whoever the snake is, in Genesis 3:6 it says, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (see), and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired (feel) to make one wise (know), she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.”

[00:32:48] Eve eats the fruit. Psyche lights the candle. Pandora opens the box. This is the tipping point in the narrative. And from this point, there is no return. 

Channing: [00:33:01] Again, we want to reiterate here that there are countless interpretations as to why Eve ate the fruit. Current LDS rhetoric says that eating the fruit was a part of Eve’s foreordained purpose.  And that her act of partaking was a brave fulfillment of her divine nature and that her doing so paved the way for humankind to be born and the plan of salvation be initiated. It’s true that this is one of the more generous interpretations of Eve’s story. And for sure, this is a point of pride for many LDS members, LDS feminists included. Other traditions and schools of thought assert that Eve's choice to eat the fruit indicated an inherent nature of disobedience and betrayal of God, as well as a weakness to resist temptation and sin, and that God’s punishment of pain in childbirth and ejection from the Garden was evidence of God’s displeasure with Eve. Drawing from this, it is assumed that all womankind embody this betrayal/disobedience/weakness as well.

Our Interpretation of Eve’s Transgression

[00:34:15] The interpretation that we want to offer on the podcast today is one that we've been working with as we've been studying this text but also as we've been really familiar with Eve story, pretty much our entire lives. First, our interpretation is that Eve did not sin and potentially did not even transgress the commandment because there was no commandment given to her. She may have stepped outside of the role that someone else set for her. But my question is, is it possible to break a commandment that you have not been given?

[00:34:35] Either way, Eve’s transgression may have been inspired by two things: First, her knowledge of the necessity of the death nature, which was absent in the Garden of Eden and second, her desire for full recognition by God, a desire for her full personhood to be recognized and respected by God through a direct relationship of accountability and face-to-face interaction, as opposed to a top-down-then-sideways hierarchy, or an implied relationship, or a relationship of translation through Adam. Eve desired to be recognized as an equal not only by Adam, but to Adam, as equally deserving of an intimate relationship with God.

In either case, her transgression was daring. Her actions demand accountability for her creation. Her creation was not founded on autonomy and full personhood, but instead on a masculine-centric assumption of her passive ignorance which relied on a continual state of denial of her not seeing, not feeling and not knowing in order for her presence to function as intended in her creation.

[00:35:48] In this context, I imagine Eve, again, as Psyche, understanding that she cannot love a God who will not speak to her face to face, who will not show God’s self to her, who will not trust her with Themself. I imagine Eve recognizing herself as deserving of a relationship which honors her personhood fully.

[00:36:10] I also don’t imagine her to have all the answers. I don’t imagine that she knows exactly what is going to happen when she eats the fruit. But I do imagine that she intuits that Eden is not the place for her. It was not created with a space to accommodate her fullness. Knowing this, she may not know where she wants to go, but she knows that she can’t stay here.

[00:36:34] And on a larger scale, Eve’s choice illuminated a fundamental flaw in the Garden of Eden with the absence of the Death Nature. I’m unsure if it would have been possible to perpetually exist in the Garden. I wonder if it was never meant to be a permanent state. Eve’s eating of the fruit brought the necessary presence of the Death Nature into the world.

Elise: [00:36:58] Returning to the text, we now want to focus on the word “beguiled,” in Gen 3:13 which reads, “The woman said, the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

Beverly Campbell, author of the book “Eve and the Choice Made in Eden” wrote the following in a 1993 speech that she gave, which was then published in her book, about the word beguiled.

[00:37:21] She says, “I came to sense that some of that word’s true meaning must have been lost in the translations. The Hebrew word used in the Genesis story that has come to be interpreted as “beguiled” is a rare verb form of unusual depth and richness. As it is a form no longer in use, it is almost impossible to translate. It is safe to say that it indicates an intense multilevel experience which evokes great emotional, psychological and/or spiritual trauma.

Eve is caused to step back, reevaluate, reassess, and ponder the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We are given some insight into Eve’s thought process in the biblical text, which indicates that this [experience] has evoked in Eve a vision of the total range of the human experience. Eve recognizes that the gifts offered by the symbolic fruit were essential gifts of mortal life.”

[00:38:25] Campbell also illustrates that an unknown amount of time passed between the beguilement and Eve’s actual eating of the fruit. It could have been that Eve took great care in her decision.

I think that popular narratives about Eve’s choice put her in the same category as Pandora and Psyche - this, like, impulsive, disobedient, curious creature who did the thing without thinking about it. Well, we don’t think that is true in any of those cases, but it appears to be especially untrue in the case of Eve.

Consequences of the Story of Eve on the Lived Experience of Women

Channing: [00:38:47] In any case, the story of Eve’s choice in Eden has been used as another point of justification in the oppression of women. Rosemary Radford Ruether writes in her book “Gaia and God”, “Both the Jewish and the Greek traditions contributed to the compounded Christian scapegoating of women for both sin and death, the source of both impurity and finitude. Limitless victimization of women is justified by attributing the origins of sin and death to feminine insubordination.”

For me, I kind of feel like we don’t need to list all of the ways this shows up in women's everyday lived experience. We’d be here all day if we tried to do that. I do think that it's easier to say that it is likely a common experience that somewhere, sometime a woman has likely brought up an injustice against her and her concern was waved away with a reference to Eve. It's not necessarily that Eve’s story is the only one of its kind. We’ve mentioned other stories today that contain similar, if not identical motifs.

[00:40:03] But again, this story is not benign. Our language is not benign. But even knowing that the story of the fall from Eden and the story of Eve's choice has contributed to the victimization of women, we also understand that the story that we tell about the fall does not have to be the one that we've always known. It doesn't even have to be the one that we've read from the text. There have been times on the podcast where we've critiqued and condemned the text for failing to honor love, liberation, and life.

[00:40:22] And though that's not necessarily what we want to do with this story or what's happening right now, we are reminded that there are more options than just critique and abandonment, more than celebration and acceptance. A valid approach to the text can also include imagination, a breaking and then re-membering of the pieces of that story into something new, something that does honor love and liberation and life.

[00:40:49] And I think for us and the story of the fall, this creative kind of contemplative or reinterpretive approach is the one that feels most right and most sacred and most compelling for us. 

Falling Forward Into the Sacred, Life/Death/Rebirth nature

Elise: [00:41:01] Along the same lines of this re-imagining or maybe a more liberating understanding of Eve, I really love this line from Mary Daly in her book “Beyond God the Father.” She writes, “Rather than a Fall from the sacred, the Fall now initiated by women becomes a Fall into the sacred and therefore into freedom.” [00:41:21] I love this line and Daly will go on to continue talking about how Eve's decision to partake of the fruit brings her closer to her full potential, to her possibility of becoming a psychically whole being, than that wouldn't have been possible in the garden had she not made that decision.

Channing: [00:41:40] I'm really enchanted by seeing her this way and by this language of falling forward or falling forward into sacredness. I think that in this way, Eve boldly launches herself, Adam, and God into a new world. She disrupts the utopia of Eden, which was an illusion not only destined to fail because it did not allow for the necessity of the Death nature, but the utopia of Eden which failed her - failed Eve - in denying her personhood and ultimately, an authentic, intimate relationship with God of their own.

[00:42:23]Perhaps Eve saw, or understood, that Eden, in its perfection, was complete. Complete in the sense that because of it, there was no way forward, no avenue for progression for anyone in this space, because it was already full in its fullness. Eden was empty. It was empty of potential because the completion was stagnant. There was no death in Eden. There was no decay, no composting, so no new thing could grow. Eden was a still image that carried its own kind of death in the form of an eternal impotence.

Perhaps Eve recognized that she was capable of more than simply being a companion. Perhaps she understood that the story of Creation need not end in Eden, that the life force in and around her begged to be reborn. I like to think of Eve sinking her teeth into the possibility of a new world, a clean slate, a space of equal footings, a brand new beginning in which possibilities were endless. East of Eden is a new world, on new terms. It's not Eden 2.0 or Eden on Eve’s terms. It is a world entirely unprecedented. The rules are different - for everyone.

[00:43:35] And in this story, Creation is incomplete until Eve’s Fall Forward. Her bravery initiated the world into cyclical, moving, and self-renewing world. 

And finally, we speak of the Fall of Adam and Eve from Eden as if it is the only story in the text which initiates a death cycle. But this is simply not true. We see the world die again and again in order to give birth to something new throughout the Biblical text and throughout history. Adam and Eve are not the end-all-be-all of the world. They are simply a beginning.

[00:44:24] So as we move from this telling or this reimagination of the story of the fall from Eden, we also wanted to note here that we recognize that we did not finish out Genesis chapter three, that there is more that happened in that text that we did not discuss here. And again, just like we mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, sometimes we recognize that when we choose to focus on something, it means that we won't have the opportunity to discuss everything.

[00:44:45] So by no means is this interpretation of the story complete, but it is the one that we felt most excited to share with you. So, knowing that, we are moving on now to Genesis four and the story of Cain and Abel. 

Introducing Cain & Abel

Elise: [00:45:10] So, in Genesis chapter four, a little bit of a review for Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel are Eve and Adam's children. Cain is the oldest son and he’s a tiller of the ground while Abel is a keeper of the sheep. And one day Cain brings an offering of fruit to God while Abel brings the firstlings of his flock and the fat from the flock as an offering or a sacrifice.

4:4 “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering” 4:5 “But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” The text doesn’t give us very many clues about why Cain’s offering was disregarded. 

[00:45:37] So in the first few verses the text, doesn't give us very many clues about why Cain's offering was disregarded in the first place. But perhaps some interpretations that have been offered here address Cain's own desire to be accepted by God. Cain wants to be seen as good and valuable and worthy. And I can also sense in him, some of that, kind of, first child first-born pressure to be the best and do the best and maybe, you know, his family, and his brother have a lot of expectations for him that he's trying to live up to. 

Channing:[00:46:09] And again, this story isn't very long and it moves quite quickly. So we get five verses in and we already get a little taste of life outside Eden. In the article “Care and Keeping East of Eden” author Kristin M. Swenson writes: “It’s an imperfect world with injustice, ambiguity, and disappointment.”

Figuring out Life and Roles East of Eden

Elise: [00:46:32] If we continue into verse six, it says, “And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen?” Swenson, of the article that Channing just spoke of, Swenson encourages us to think about what it might be like if we consideredGod as a character in this story and not as this, like, omniscient, all-knowing, all-powerful God but just another character. What if God is really and truly asking, “Cain, what’s the matter? Why are you so upset?”

To this Swenson writes: “Is it possible that because God is new at this human being business, God cannot understand Cain's reaction to God's capricious favor? We cannot hear the tone of God's question. Is God being sarcastic? Does God assume that Cain knows why he's angry and asks the question in order to suggest that Cain should not be angry? Maybe, on the other hand, God is simply trying gently to suggest to Cain that he should not be angry, embarrassed, or sad—that that's just the way it goes some times. Whatever the case, God advises Cain that under the circumstances he needs to be careful how he handles himself” as followed in the rest of the verse “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him”

Channing: [00:47:55] As the story continues, the next couple of verses addresses with basically no detail, the murder of Abel. This happens where Cain talks with Abel in a field, and then suddenly Cain “rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” In verse nine we read, “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Elise: [00:48:22] If we continue with the framework that maybe the life outside of Eden is really everyone’s first go-around at it, then perhaps Cain’s question is not sarcastic or belligerent, but sincere. Like, could life outside of Eden be Cain and Abel's- it's their first, like, attempt at being human beings in a world where no other human beings have existed! And does this also mean that maybe this is God's first go around too, where God is dealing and trying to build relationship and have experienced with human beings outside of Eden. So maybe everyone's just trying to figure things out. And if that's the case, then perhaps Cain’s question, “am I, my brother's keeper” is not, like, sarcastic or belligerent, but it's sincere.

Something like, “Wait, God, I thought I was supposed to be keeping and caring for the land. I’m a tiller of the ground. Am I also supposed to be my brother’s keeper? Am I supposed to engage in such caretaking of people in the same way as I’m supposed to be caretaking the land?”

[00:49:23] And this has really big implications too, because if we, as readers, rhetorically answer to Cain's question, “yes, Cain, you ought to have taken care of your brother Abel.” Then, as Swenson reminds us that that means that there is thus “a two part mandate for human beings that guarding the welfare of Eden’s garden is inseparable from guarding the welfare of others, even (perhaps especially) in the rough land east of Eden…Cain’s is a fractured world of “real life,” with disappointments, limited understanding, and inequity. Cain learns that even in such conditions, service to and protection of his place is inseparable from service to and protection of others.”

Ecofeminist Implications in Genesis 4

Channing: [00:50:08] So, so beautiful. And from here one could really offer a really lovely ecofeminist reading of the land/ground/earth as she also plays an active role and cries, curses, opens her mouth, and testifies against Cain, 

[00:50:25] In Genesis 4:10-11 the text says, “And he [God] said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.”And here we see an intimate, inseparable connection between caring for the land and caring for each other. Not only is Cain’s relationship with his brother and community broken in his murdering of Abel, but so is his relationship to the earth.

Author A. A. Boesak, whose career has included ministry, anti-apartheid activism and politics in South Africa writes, “the earth can no longer bear fruit for [Cain]. The earth mourns. The earth chokes in blood, and cannot respond to Cain. The earth can no longer converse with him. The earth can no longer return anything to him. Cain’s relationship to the land is ruptured.”

Swenson also writes: “Yet the web of relationships does not stop there. Cain also learns that damaging the welfare of others damages his relationship to the greater earth and perverts his experience of God. Cain finds, and we as readers discover with him, that right relationship to both others and the land affords the desirable experience of the presence of God. 

Cain’s Consequences

Elise: [00:51:50] And so all of this, okay, just a little bit of background here. The same thing happens to me. And I think maybe also Channing too. We think that we know the stories that show up in scripture, and then we sit down and read them and we sit down and study them and they take on this whole new depth of meaning and they, like, rock our world for an entire week before we are forced to move on. 


Elise: And so with all of this new reading of Cain, his response is really quite sad to me because after he learns of the broken relationship and the consequences of murdering his brother, not only is he driven out, but he hides his face from God.

[00:52:30] He becomes a vagabond and everyone in his community will want to kill him after they learn what he has done. And with all of these consequences laid out before him, he cries out to God, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.”

And so, all of this is really interesting to me because it's actually not God that's, like, doling out punishment to Cain, these are natural consequences of Cain's own actions. So God's not acting in a vengeful way here, from what I can tell or from my interpretation. But from what we read, God is simply stating to Cain that because of his own actions, Cain will have to suffer the consequences. It's not God who drives Cain out of the land.

[00:53:09] It's not God who hides their face from Cain, but instead it's Cain who offers understanding of his punishment in that way. Cain hides his face. Cain recognizes that he's going to have to leave his community and be a vagabond. 

Channing: [00:53:25] And of course, and this isn't like the, “of course: because this is exactly what we expected to happen”, but this is like, “of course” in the sense of like, “oh my gosh, like, our understanding…” 

[00:53:38] Like, classic God move that we could never have expected, but of course that is God: the unexpected!

Channing: [00:53:45] Yes, exactly. Like, of course, God surprises us again here! And we see God show up in a surprisingly… I keep saying surprised, but that's really what it is. This incredibly loving response to Cain and the community. In their essay titled “Cain and Abel: Reimagining Stories of Violence” author  Jen Dresser makes the argument that by sending Cain away from the community, God is saving both Cain’s life and the community’s life by stopping the cycle of violence. Even though Cain may feel this consequence is too much to bear, the mark of protection that God places on Cain offers him redemption and possibility for new life, even if it means he has to wander and work for it.

Dresser writes: “God’s allegiance seems to be with anyone who is outside the community or at risk in some way. This allegiance has shifted from Abel, to the earth and now includes Cain.”

One of the things that we both really loved from this essay was the statement that it appears that God is always on the side of the vulnerable and that was really compelling and new to me.

Elise: I'm really struck by this interpretation because it pushes me to think bigger and better about love and justice. Because I think we read it in a very, binary way: Cain is bad and Abel is good. And what would be fair would be for Cain to be murdered or it's fair that Cain gets kicked out of the community, as if that's what fairness is, but somehow God sides with the most vulnerable, even after Cain is the murderer, God knows that the community will come after Cain and kill him. And so in this surprising way, God, both offers love to the community by removing Cain , but also offers love and compassion to Cain by removing him from the community, as opposed to, like, just killing him straight off.

[00:55:45] And I really appreciate these new interpretations of the story because it makes me stop and ask those questions. What's fair? What's merciful? And what's just? In what ways do I expect God to intervene or withhold their action and when? If God or the community kill Cain, would this be fair? But is that not just? 

[00:56:07] From here, I mean, the rest of the story goes that Cain goes on to marry. So he leaves the community. He goes on to marry and have kids and he establishes a city and creates a life that honestly is probably very different than what he expected his life to be. 

Dresser writes: “It is important to remember that Cain is cut off from his community and spends his life forming new relationships and new community. He must struggle with his memory of violence as he attempts to re-member himself so he can heal himself and thus be able to trust others enough to form new relationships. Since his relationship to the earth is damaged, Cain is no longer able to till the land for produce and instead must rely on his own strength instead of the earth’s to provide for him. This is the life of someone who will live with the consequences of violence, even as he attempts to create a different life for himself.”

We recognize that these interpretations of Cain and Abel, we moved through them quite quickly. So perhaps in your own study, you might consider some of the following questions.

[00:57:04] What if we read the story of Cain and Abel, and really the whole experience east of Eden, as humans and God's first attempts at being in a worldly relationship. How do we care for one another, the earth and God, east of Eden, where things are really complex and emotions are big and work is laborious? How can God see us as beings capable of good and bad?

[00:57:29] And finally, in what ways are consequences also invitations to new life?

Channing: [00:57:35] This is such a lovely interpretation of the story of Cain and Abel, because it asks us to approach the story in a new way. Again, instead of that binary of, like, Cain bad, Abel good. It asks us again to look at ourselves in the mirror and look at this story, you know, look at ourselves in the mirror through the lens of this story and ask what does it mean for me to be in relationship, to keep and care for all of the people in my community.

[00:58:09] So I'm really thankful for this interpretation that we came across and this interpretation of the text, because I do find that it's really loving and offers up new potentials that I didn't see before.

Elise: [00:58:30] Friends, thank you so much for joining us today for another episode of The Faithful Feminists Podcast. We know your time and space is sacred and we are so grateful to have spent ours with you. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be so happy if you left us a loving rating on iTunes and Spotify so other seekers can find us.

Channing: [00:58:48] Financial donations support the many hours of research, work, and devotion to each episode, as well as the everyday cost of creating and publishing the podcast. You can support us on Patreon or through a simple Venmo donation and help us create a world where creators, artists, activists, and beauty makers are valued and paid for their labor. Find us on those platforms and on Instagram as The Faithful Feminists. We're deeply grateful for your kindness and encouragement. We love you so much, and we hope to spend more time with you again soon. Bye friends.

Works Cited

Powered by Blogger.