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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 459)...

    I was wondering why in your telling of the Adam and Eve story, you left out the serpent, the creature the teller of the story condemns to a life on its belly. Could it be that the serpent stands for Adam's worst instincts and that the crawling on the belly part means that after the fall, man is condemned to lead a life without grace?

    ...and the response:

    The tale of the Fall can't be read as if it were Metaphysical poetry. It's a folk tale. The authors might have said, "Eve was tempted by the following thoughts . . .," but that's not very dramatically interesting. So they created a tempter, which had to be the lowest, nastiest creature they could think of . . . a serpent. In my opinion, the serpent is just a narrative device and doesn't "stand for" anything. Unlike God, Adam, and Eve, who are the principals of the story, the serpent appears only in this one episode and then disappears forever. If the serpent "meant" something, it would have had a history before and after this episode; the fact that it doesn't confirms that it's merely a device (and as such doesn''t need to be dealt with as if it were one of the principals).


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