Friday, June 01, 2018

The serpent and the Goddess?

Eden, the Tree of Life and the Wisdom of the Serpent

The essential plot can be understood, not as a struggle between God and the Devil, but as a conflict involving the dynamic, royal, masculine God of the heavens and the primordial Mother Goddess who for millennia had been worshipped as the Mistress of the earth. To be sure, the story is told from the point of view of the former. The serpent is reduced to being the subtlest of the creatures that the Lord God had made. The Goddess is not even mentioned by name, though she is there, as the tree of life, for that is how she was so often depicted among the ancient Canaanites. Indeed, because she was represented in tree form, it is not surprising that Yahweh declared that the tree and its fruit were taboo.

By Jay Williams
Professor Emeritus
Hamilton College
May 2018
Well, maybe. As I read this essay I was thinking about the author's comment early on:
The problem, however, is that the story has too many loose ends, too many confusing subtleties to be so easily unraveled and explained. If it is to be understood as an account of why humans are all sinful, why does the word “sin” never appear in the story?
I think the same objection applies to the author's thesis. If the Goddess is so important in this story, why is she never mentioned directly?

Be that as it may, it's an interesting reading. Toward the end, the essay seems to turn into a manifesto for the revival of Goddess worship. Perhaps that could work for some circles in the twenty-first century.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.