The serpent deceives Eve. (Gen 3.1-5)
|Was there really a talking snake that deceived Eve in the garden of Eden?
‘I’m a Christian, but the Bible’s all stories1 … ’. As I write this article, that is not only the title of the lead article on Creation Ministries International website, but unfortunately it’s a sentiment shared by far too many devoted, well meaning, but dead wrong Christians; as well as by most Bible skeptics. I lay a good portion of the blame for the many misguided Christians in this area at the feet of Bible teaches and pastors who get in front of congregations or Bible classes every week, and talk about Bible “stories” (stories being typically understood as make believe) instead of Bible “accounts” (accounts being typically understood as a recounting of something factual that happened). You may think the difference is a minor thing – but the way an idea is labeled is critically important. Why else do companies pay so much attention to branding (a form of labeling) and spend millions to promote their own brand as well as protect it? Why else are there battles over how various issues are labeled?
Why do those who support liberal border policies prefer the term “Undocumented immigrants” over the more accurate “Illegal aliens?”
Why do so many in the LGBT community insist on calling those who support one man, one women marriage not “traditional marriage supporters” but rather “homophobic” or “haters”?
Because they know how you label an idea is critical to how it will be perceived. And they want to frame how people think about those issues without even discussing it. The church has handed the adversary an easy victory on that front by allowing the historic events of the bible to be labeled as “stories” – without raising an objection. (Please note my objection!) But terminology is just the tip of the iceberg. The root of the problem lies much deeper. And it’s tied up with why so many in the church still call Bible accounts “stories.” The reason: because unfortunately, for many Christians – as the CMI article points out – that is precisely what they are to such Christians: just stories. Not historic accounts, but stories – not to be taken literally. Not to be understood as actual history.
But as Bible and Hebrew scholars2 will tell you, the Genesis accounts (and biblical narratives in general) are presented not as fictional stories, but as straight forward narrative history, and are intended to be understood as such. What then are we do with things like a 6 day creation, and a talking snake?
The reason most people no longer believe in a 6 day creation is they need to squeeze in billions of years because they have embraced the godless theories of the big bang and neo-Darwinian evolution which require billions of years. I have already devoted a number of articles3 to exposing the numerous flaws of those godless theories so I will spend no time here. Instead, we turn to the objection of a talking serpent.
Some people reason that since snakes neither talk, nor even have the physical capability to do so (no vocal chords, etc.) the “serpent” referred to in the account of the fall in Genesis cannot be a real snake, and thus they reason, the account cannot be a true and accurate account. But like a murder mystery that seems obvious who-done-it at the beginning, you don’t come to the correct conclusion until you consider all the evidence; and the key pieces are not given until the end. So let’s take a step back, broaden our view and consider more evidence and determine if the “it can’t be true” position is a premature jumping to conclusions before all the evidence is in.
Who or what is the serpent?
Let’s start with a review of the biblical text: Gen 3.1-4
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”
4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.
There would be no question that the serpent is Satan, or the devil, except for the few who deny that, claiming the serpent is never identified as Satan in scripture4. Perhaps the serpent is not identified as Satan in this small section, but it is simply not true that the serpent is not identified in scripture. Jesus appears to be referencing the serpent when speaking of the devil in John 8.44; and he clearly does so in his revelation to John:
The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.
Only those who don’t know their bible well or are actively trying to deny the connection can miss this clear identification of the serpent as Satan. But that’s the easy identification. Let’s press on to the deeper questions:
You may wonder what’s the difference between a snake and the serpent? Let me suggest that the term “the serpent” acts as a technical term, a code word that in many place in scripture refers specifically to Satan. We see the key to the code in Rev 12.9 (above) – the serpent=Satan (as does the dragon=Satan)5. Now let’s go back and re-read the passage in light of that understanding – that “the serpent” refers to “Satan”.
v1. Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals
Indeed the serpent – Satan – is much more crafty than any animal. (He’s crafter than humans as well – which is one of the reasons why we’re forbidden from dealing with him. Deut 18.10-12; 1 Cor 10.21) This point (Satan more crafty) is highlighted by a Hebrew scholar and Genesis commentator I had the pleasure of studying under, John Sailhammer:
“The net effect of reading the min [“min” expresses the idea of separation – translated above as “more…than” – DC] as a partitive is to suggest that the serpent was not in every respect an ordinary animal. He was not “craftier than” the other beasts of the field. Rather, he was crafty ‘and the wild animals were not’.”6
Thus we see this verse is an understatement. Satan – the serpent – was clearly superior in intelligence and craftiness to all the wild animals because he is qualitatively different from all the wild animals. Though qualitatively different from the animals he is still well described as a serpent -because he is by nature a serpent – a liar, deceiver and murderer. (John 8.44) Thus “serpent” becomes a preferred code word for referring to the liar and adversary known as Satan.
This explains why Eve could speak to the serpent – the serpent was no mere snake – and it also makes better sense of God’s judgment of the serpent:
14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
Many wonder why God judges the snake if Satan – the serpent – was actually the culprit. If we understand that God is speaking directly to Satan – calling him by his code name – the judgment makes perfect sense. Satan’s punishment is to be far worse that the curse put on the rest of the earth (Gen 3.17) and wild animals (Gen 3.14). As the mastermind of inciting rebellion against God, that makes perfect sense.
How did Satan appear to Eve?
Yet still there is a lingering question. So Eve was speaking to Satan. But the question inquiring minds want to know is, how did Satan appear to her? There are two common theories on that:
1. Satan transformed himself into a snake – in accordance with what we know about his abilities:
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
2 Cor 11:14
2. Satan possessed a snake and used it as an instrument to do his will.
This is also in accordance of a number of scriptures that speak of demon possession of both humans and animals. (Matt 12.22, Mark 5.1-15; Acts 16.16-18, etc.)
“In light of later Scripture truths, we are justified in concluding that the serpent was a specifically chosen instrument of Satan for this test.”9
Clearly modern commentators favor the Satan-used-a-snake hypothesis. But I suspect they have not considered a large body of evidence – common in these modern times – that also involves one of Satan’s common modes of operation. There’s a large amount of testimonies concerning Aliens from space coming to earth in UFO’s and speaking with people. And without getting into that whole large topic, let me just give you the conclusion of many Christians and UFO researchers: Satan is behind the appearances of UFOs and aliens, using the same powers he uses to “masquerade as an angel of light.” As one UFO researcher put it:
“The Devil and his demons can, according to the literature, manifest themselves in almost any form and can physically imitate anything from angels to horrifying monsters with glowing eyes. Strange objects and entities materialize and dematerialize in these stories, just as the UFOs and their splendid occupants appear and disappear, walk through walls, and perform other supernatural feats.”10
So I don’t think we should be so quick to assume that Satan necessary used the instrument of a snake. Perhaps the elder commentators were right – perhaps Satan did then with a snake motif, what he’s doing now with the alien motif – posing in a different form to deceive those who don’t know better and thus alienate them from God. The m.o. is very similar. And it gives greater meaning to the fact of Eve being deceived: not only was she deceived by the lie the serpent told, she was deceived by the Serpent not presenting himself in his true form – he disguised himself and presented himself in what was likely the only form God would allow at the time since it was in accordance with his nature – a snake.
Next I suspect people are asking: “Okay it’s a possibility. So which one is it?” Before answering, first consider:
– What kind of fish swallowed Jonah?
– How many wisemen visited Jesus in at the time of his birth in Bethlehem?
– What are the names of the false Egyptian gods that God mocked when he brought the plagues on Egypt at the time of the exodus and showed He had control over all nature, life and death – not the false Egyptian gods as the Egyptians believed.
The scriptural accounts don’t tell us the details on the above, probably because they are irrelevant to the point God is making. Likewise with how Satan appeared to Eve. Did he possess a snake? Did he transform himself? You can make a case for either, but does how he did it change the narrative? No. In both cases Eve sees and speaks with a talking snake. I lean toward the explanation of the earlier generations – Satan transformed himself for these reasons:
1. It make better sense of the fall account, and much better sense of the curse on the serpent.
2. It makes sense of the alien visitation/abduction testimonies we hear of today. Those do not appear to be cases of possession – they appear to be cases of Satan “masquerading” – not as an angel of light, but as an alien.
3. It shows the depth of the deception: Not only did he deceive by his lies, he deceived by disguising himself – again masquerading, in the garden not as an “angel of light” but as a common, natural snake.
So part of the deception to which Eve succumbed is that she was not speaking to a mere snake, she was unwittingly speaking directly to Satan, the prince of darkness himself.11 Do we need to know a magician’s secrets to appreciate the illusion? No. Since God is not clear on how Satan manifested himself to Eve – whether by transforming himself (as we know he does); or taking possession of a living creature (as we also know he does), how he actually did it is, in the final analysis, irrelevant. What we do know is this:
a) Satan is by nature a lying, murderous serpent (that is to say nothing of his form!)
b) Satan deceived Eve in the garden by appearing as a snake. (How he applied the snake motif – whether through possession of a snake or through self transformation is not disclosed, and is not as important as the fact that he did accomplish the illusion.)
c) Satan further deceived Eve by lying to her.
d) God pronounced judgment on the serpent – Satan. And those who are deceived, and believe his lies will likewise suffer his same judgment. (Matt 25.41)
e) Satan continues to deceive people, transforming himself using the space alien/UFO motif in these latter days.
There is only one hope to overcome the condemnation brought on by Satan and his deceptions: the truth that Jesus both is and proclaims. It is not without reason scripture says:
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Looking for the truth? A way out of deception? Try Jesus.
3 A couple of good reference articles on the problems with the two theories:
The big bang:
Duane Caldwell, Which theory has the fatal flaw? Big Bang or Creation?, 7/27/2015
Duane Caldwell, Evolution falsified – again, 2/14/2015
4 Such as Marvin Meyer, Dept. of Religion, Chapman University
Decoding the Past episode Mysteries of the Garden of Eden,History Channel Documentary, 2007
5 As always with Biblical Hermeneutics – one most be careful about mechanically applying a rule such as this to every appearance of the word. The primary rule of hermeneutics is “context determines meaning” and the context sometimes dictates that serpent means a literal serpent, not Satan, for example Gen 49.17, Amos 9.3
6. John H. Sailhammer, Genesis in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2 (Genesis-Numbers) Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990, p. 50 (Note)
Matthew Henry in his commentary writes:
“Here observe, I. The tempter, and that was the devil, in the shape and likeness of a serpent.”
Matthew Henry’s Commentary On the Whole Bible In One Volume,
(1706) Edited by Dr. Leslie F. Church, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960, p.8
“It is therefore proper for us to conclude that Satan appropriated and used the body of a specific serpent on this occasion”
Russell M. Griegg Who was the Serpent?, CMI, 9/1991, http://creation.com/who-was-the-serpent
“In this case, … the talking serpent was a vessel enabled for another being to use or speak through—Satan, in the case of
Bodie Hodge, Talking Snakes and Magical Trees, AIG, 5/22/2009,
“In the case of the serpent, serving as Satan’s mouthpiece…”
Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982, p. 74
“Although it was the serpent speaking, it was Satan who engineered the temptation.”…
“Satan, through the serpent…”
Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, Revised and Expanded, Chicago: Moody Publishers 1989, 2008 (Kindle edition) Loc 620
9 The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Charles F. Pfeiffer, Everett F. Harrison editors, Chicago: Moody Press 1962 p. 7
10 John Keel, Operation Trojan Horse, Illuminet Press, 1996 edition, p.192.
ref from Gary Bates, Alien Abductions & UFOs – Exposed! CMI DVD, 2009
11 Some have wondered why Eve would listen to a snake. But as others have pointed out, in context she was only just born yesterday (or thereabouts) – literally. It’s not like she’s this experienced woman of the world. What she should have done is obey God’s command. We’ve all failed to do that. And the passage points out when we fail to obey God – who has given us all we need – we fall for dumb things that get us in trouble – like the lies from talking snakes (and in today’s context), lies from flashy aliens.
Image – The serpent beguiles Eve