|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”. Continue Reading