Myth of Adam and Eve
Christian Church and most Christians read the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible as a true account of man’s origin. They have done this for nearly 2000 years. When Darwin suggested that man has evolved from other animals the church called him a liar. Some orthodox Christian folks still refuse to deviate from the old interpretation of the Adam and Eve story. People of other religions have often felt amused by the crudity of this tale. One Japanese Buddhist scholar on reading the Bible said, “Man against God, God against man and animal, man and God against nature. Funny religion.”
The fact is that the story of Adam and Eve is a myth of another culture that was sneaked into the Bible by its compilers. Like all myths it is a metaphor and its meaning is not in the words but behind them. Read in its proper cultural context it makes perfect sense.
When agriculture began ten thousand years ago on the banks of river Tigris, most people of the hunting and gathering tradition refused to have anything to do with it. They believed that man belonged in the God’s forest together with the other animals. All of them had the right to the fruits and other food they could gather and flesh of animals they managed to hunt. Humans were one species among thousands and had the same right as all the rest. No species, including the humans, had the right to deny food and other bounties of nature to any other. When some people cut the forest, ploughed the land, planted their favorite wheat and barley, and began to defend it by setting up a fence around it, the wise men of the old tradition were horrified. They knew that all beings created by The Great Spirit had an important role in the proper functioning of the web of life. Only the Great Animator had enough wisdom to decide who lives and who dies. By starting agriculture man in effect was saying that he was going to conquer nature by controlling his food supply, and eventually all food and then rule the creation.
Read from this perspective the creation myth of Adam and Eve makes sense. They were forbidden the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Life and Death, for it was inappropriate for any animal species and belonged in the realm of the Animator, or God. If humans ate that fruit and foolishly attempted to kill other species by denying them food, the delicate balance of nature would be disturbed. Human species would have more food for some time and increase in number, but then it too, would die in a hot desert.
The agriculturists were bloated with pride in their new discovery. They believed that humans were superior to all other animals and so clever that they could rule the earth better than Mother Nature. They must therefore ensure their own food supply at all costs. Food needs of other animals were secondary and their survival unimportant. It was man’s destiny to rule the earth and decide the fate of ‘lower’ animals.
The forest dwellers distanced themselves from the agriculturists. The myth of Adam and Eve was created to warn the forest destroyers of the consequences of their action. But they heard it as a nice story and failed to grasp its message. Eight millennia later one of the compilers of the Bible apparently liked the story enough to make room for it in the great book. Obviously they had no idea of its real meaning.
August 19, 2007