To understand our current plight as Christians we must have an understanding of the origins of not only ourselves, but of our adversaries. After the creation of Adam and his placement in the garden of Eden there was to be found a tree of knowledge of good and evil. Many understand this tree to be literal. Some understand it to be symbolic, but what is the symbolism?
It is evident in numerous places all throughout the prophets and the New Testament that trees, vines and other plant life symbolize people, families, nations and races. We will now establish this idiom (particularly as pertaining to nations and races) with a few examples from Scripture.
Here the prophet Jeremiah speaks of the fornication of Israel in mingling with the other nations:
“20For of old thou hast broken thy yoke, and plucked asunder thy bands; and thou has said, I will not serve thee, but will go upon every high hill, and under every shady tree, there will I indulge in my fornication.
21Yet I planted thee a fruitful vine, entirely of the right sort: how art thou a strange vine turned to bitterness!
22Though thou shouldest wash thyself with nitre, and multiply to thyself soap, still thou art stained by thine iniquities before me, saith the Lord.”
Here the prophet Ezekiel describes Assyria as a tall and proud tree:
“3Behold, Assyria was a cypress in Libanus, and was fair in shoots, and high in stature: his top reached to the midst of the clouds.
4The water nourished him, the depth made him grow tall; she led her rivers round about his plants, and she sent forth her streams to all the trees of the field.“
Here the prophet Isaiah relates God’s promise to renew and replenish the nation of Israel:
“5I will be as dew to Israel: he shall bloom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Libanus.
6His branches shall spread, and he shall be as a fruitful olive, and his smell shall be as the smell of Libanus.
7They shall return, and dwell under his shadow: they shall live and be satisfied with corn, and he shall flower as a vine: his memorial shall be to Ephraim as the wine of Libanus.
8What has he to do any more with idols? I have afflicted him, and I will strengthen him: I am as a leafy juniper tree. From me is thy fruit found.“
Here John the Baptist refers to the Edomites among the Pharisees as a race of vipers and promises that this wicked race, represented as a tree not bearing good fruit, is to be hewn down:
“7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O offspring of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.“
There is another idiom which must be established if we are to understand the events in the garden and the fall of Adamic man. Here we will provide a witness from Scripture that the act of eating, particularly of eating what is forbidden, is symbolic of sexual intercourse.
“20This is the way of an adulteress:
she eats and wipes her mouth
and says, “I have done no wrong.”“
Twice in the Song of Solomon fruit is used as an expression refering to people’s intimate parts. I hope my readers will comprehend without further elaboration.
“3 As the apple among the trees of the wood, so is my kinsman among the sons. I desired his shadow, and sat down, and his fruit was sweet in my throat.“
-Song of Solomon 2
“8 I said: I will go up into the palm tree, and will take hold of the fruit thereof: and thy breasts shall be as the clusters of the vine: and the odour of thy mouth like apples.“
-Song of Solomon 7
While it is only an apocryphal book, 4 Maccabees also illuminates another facet of this matter, indicating to us that the author of 4 Maccabees understood the sexual nature of the temptation of Eve.
“7 And the righteous mother of the seven children spake also as follows to her offspring: I was a pure virgin, and went not beyond my father’s house; but I took care of the built-up rib [Adam’s rib]. 8 No destroyer of the desert, or ravisher of the plain, injured me; nor did the destructive, deceitful snake, make spoil of my chaste virginity; and I remained with my husband during the period of my prime.”
-4 Maccabees 18
The notion that Eve lay with the serpent was certainly known to Christians in the past. The Protovengelion is an an apocryphal Christian text of the 2nd century AD and in it we see that the author clearly understood the sexual nature of Eve’s transgression.
“1 And when her sixth month was come, Joseph returned from his building houses abroad, which was his trade, and entering into the house, found the Virgin grown big: 2 Then smiting upon his face, he said, With what face can I look up to the Lord my God? or, what shall I say concerning this young woman? 3 For I received her a Virgin out of the temple of the Lord my God! and have not preserved her such! 4 Who has thus deceived me? Who has committed this evil in my house, and seducing the Virgin from me, hath defiled her? 5 Is not the history of Adam exactly accomplished in me? 6 For in the very instant of his glory, the serpent came and found Eve alone, and seduced her. 7 Just after the same manner it has happened to me. 8 Then Joseph arising from the ground, called her, and said, O thou who hast been so much favoured by God, why hast thou done this? 9 Why hast thou thus debased thy soul, who wast educated in the Holy of Holies, and received thy food from the hand of angels? 10 But she, with a flood of tears, replied, I am innocent, and have known no man.”
-The Protevangelion of James 10
Another Christian text of the Celtic Church also testifies to the sexual nature of Eve’s seduction by the serpent. This testimony comes from an 8th century Irish text which contains a question and answer liturgy.
“Who died but was never born? (Adam).
Who gave but did not receive? (Eve, milk).
Who was born but did not die? (Elias and Enoch).
Who was born twice and died once? (Jonas the prophet, who for three days and three nights prayed in the belly of the whale. He neither saw the heavens nor touched the earth).
How many languages are there? (Seventy-two).
Who spoke with a dog? (St. Peter).
Who spoke with an ass? (Balaam the prophet).
Who was the first woman to commit adultery? (Eve with the serpent).
How were the Apostles baptized? (The Saviour washed their feet).”
-Ms. 908, The Ioca Monachorum, R. E. McNally, The Bible in the Early Middle Ages, Wipf and Stock pp. 38-39
One may reasonably dispute the authenticity of the Protevangelion and even perhaps the validity of the contents of ms. 908, but one may not reasonably dispute the fact that two geographically unconnected Christian assemblies centuries apart both understood that Eve committed adultery with the serpent.
Now that we have begun to see these idioms in Scripture and apocryphal biblical literature we will look to the profane literature of Mesopotamia so that we may further establish the nature of these ancient Shemitic idioms.
In the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh (a Shemitic text extant in the time of Moses) the wild beast-man Enkidu is seduced by a harlot for the purpose of captivating and taming him:
“Go, my hunter, take with thee a harlot-lass.
When he waters the beasts at the watering-place,
She shall pull off her clothing, laying bare her ripeness.
As soon as he sees her, he will draw near to her.
Reject him will his beasts that grew up on his steppe!”
-The Epic of Gilgamesh, tablet 1, part 3, lines 40-45
Notice that the sexual appeal of the harlot is described as ripeness, a characteristic of fruit. Now we will see as the harlot comes to Enkidu what comes of such seduction:
“The lass freed her breasts, bared her bosom,
And he possessed her ripeness.
She was not bashful as she welcomed his ardor.
She laid aside her cloth and he rested upon her.
She treated him, the savage, to a woman’s task,
As his love was drawn unto her.
For six days and seven nights Enkidu comes forth,
Mating with the lass.
After he had (his) fill of her charms,
He set his face toward his wild beasts.
On seeing him, Enkidu, the gazelles ran off,
The wild beasts of the steppe drew away from his body.
Startled was Enkidu, as his body became taut,
His knees were motionless – for his wild beasts had gone.
Enkidu had to slacken his pace – it was not as before;
But now he had [wi]sdom, [br]oader understanding.
Returning, he sits at the feet of the harlot.
He looks up at the face of the harlot,
His ears attentive, as the harlot speaks;
[The harlot] says to him, to Enkidu:
‘Thou art [wi]se, Enkidu, art become like a god!
Why with the wild creatures dost thou roam over the
Come, let me lead thee [to] ramparted Uruk,
To the holy temple, abode of Anu and Ishtar,
Where lives Gilgamesh, accomplished in strength,
And like a wild ox lords it over the folk.’”
-The Epic of Gilgamesh, tablet 1, part 4, lines 16-39
Notice that after lying with the harlot that Enkidu “had wisdom, broader understanding”, and that his seductress tells him he had “become like a god” just as we see in Genesis:
“5For God knew that in whatever day ye should eat of it your eyes would be opened, and ye would be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes to look upon and beautiful to contemplate, and having taken of its fruit she ate, and she gave to her husband also with her, and they ate. 7And the eyes of both were opened, and they perceived that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons to go round them.“
Observe that Adam and Eve are now ashamed of their nudity and conceal it, showing clearly the sexual nature of their shame.
As elsewhere in the Scriptures the serpent is Satan or one of his brood and it is clear that he and his ilk were cast down to earth where they and their brood are known as the serpent and it’s seed aka a “race of vipers” or a “brood of vipers” (Genesis 3.15, John 8.44, Luke 3.7, Matthew 23.33 et al.).
“18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”
“7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Many will point to the opening verse of Genesis 4 as evidence that Adam sired Cain, however this verse is the only verse in the Bible which one could possibly interpret as attributing Cain’s origin to Adam. This verse is conspicuously absent from the only scroll of Genesis 4 in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q2) and there are varied inconsistent ancient readings of the verse in Origen’s Hexapla. Thus this verse stands as a single imperfect witness to the narrative it contains. As we shall soon see, there are a number of other Scriptures which contradict the common and most simplistic interpretation, but this verse can be interpreted in a way which does not conflict with the rest of Scripture.
“And Adam knew Eve his wife [already pregnant with Cain by the serpent]; and she conceived [Abel by Adam] and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord [an excuse for Cain’s strange flesh]. And she again bare his brother Abel [the twin half-brother of Cain]. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.”
Upon birthing Cain Eve says “I have gotten a man from the Lord”, but we should not take the claim of the first sinner at face value. It is hardly a rare occurence that a man lies with his wife only for her to conceive by another man and of course twins need not share a father. The process by which two or more ova from the same cycle are fertilized by sperm from separate acts of sexual intercourse with two different fathers is known as superfecundation. While this is a relatively rare occurrence, there is good reason to believe that this was the case with Cain and Abel.
Note that after the birth of Cain, it never says that Adam knew Eve again before birthing Abel. Yet later on when Seth is conceived we read that Adam knew Eve (Genesis 4.25). Why should we not find that Adam lay with Eve again to conceive Abel? Because Cain and Abel were twins.
While great care is taken to record genealogies in Scripture, never once is Cain listed as a descendant of Adam. Cain’s descendants have their own genealogies in Genesis 4, separate from those of Adam’s descendants listed in Genesis 5. Genesis 5 begins with “This is the book of the generation of Adam”, yet the Kenites are nowhere to be found there.
Seth was the replacement for Abel, while Cain was overlooked (Gen 4.25), something that would’ve been unneccessary if Cain were legitimate seed of Adam. Enoch was seventh from Adam (Jude 1.14) and his six predecessors were Abel, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel and Jared. This also excludes Cain from Adamic lineage.
Noah was the eighth proclaimer of righteousness (2 Peter 2.5). Counting patriarchs up to Noah we find Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah amounting to 10 patriarchs. Abel is not to be counted because he was never a patriarch as Cain murdered him in his youth.
Enoch and Lamech were both outlived by their fathers and so neither of them were ever to be counted as head patriarchs. Thus we can conclude that there were only eight patriarchs counting up to Noah. Cain was discounted because, though he was the Kenite patriarch, he was not a son of Adam, nor was he righteous.
It can be demonstrated that the 1st century Judean opponents of Christ were mongrels who either had remote Kenite ancestry or direct Kenite descent. In John 8.38-44 Christ tells this race in no uncertain terms that they are descended from the Devil and that their father was “a murderer from the beginning”. This phrase of course can only describe Cain. According to John (1 John 3.12) Cain was of “that wicked one”. Of course this phrase does not describe Adam.