Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 11 of 16)

0063 What does the woman want?

Trees are all over the garden.  But, there are two notable botanical specimens.  There is the tree of life, somewhere in the periphery.  There is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, placed right in the center.  So, I already know what the woman wants.  She wants to be center stage.

0064 The tree in the center of the garden has not attracted Adam’s curiosity, so far.  He is happy with a tasty garden, attentive domesticates, and the rib-helper.  Wow, she is the most.

0065 Yes, the woman has desire.  Sure, the trees are good for food and beautiful to behold.  In Genesis 2:9, the author uses the word, “nechmad”, meaning desirable.

0066 Then, the woman enters into conversation with the serpent, who also has desires.  Its desire is to manipulate her desire.  He wants to pitch a sale.  Immediately before Eve seals the deal, Eve notices that the fruit is “ta’awah” (desire) to the eyes and “nechmad” (desirable) to make one wise.  Then, the serpent closes the pitch with a promise that the purchase will open her eyes.  She will be like the gods, knowing good and evil.

0067 Then, Adam joins in and the eyes of both are opened.

They realize that they are exposed.

0068 This word, “teshuqah” (desire), shows up again in Eve’s chastisement, as well as in the Song of Songs.  In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the same word gains creepier overtones.  The clay, within the human person, desires to return to dust.  This is an insight2V.

0069 But, what about the conditions2H?

Is Genesis 3 about human sin?

Or, is it about giving one’s sons and daughters a little hint about the nature of desire?

There is a difference between desirable and desire.  Plus, the serpent can close on both.


Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 12 of 16)

0070 In chapter five, Mark Smith asks, “When does the story of human sin begin in Genesis?”

0071 At this point, conditions further clarify.

The first audiences for the early stories of Genesis are children.  The first authors are their mothers, the daughters of Seth.  Eve is their great-great-…-great grandmother.  The stories convey to each child this lineage, a direct descent to this mother, who is center stage.  Eve is more than a foolish woman who talks to serpents.  Eve is your mother as well.

0072 What does it mean to be a mother, a woman, cursed under Eve’s indictment?

A Primer on the Family presents the family as a prototype of the corporation, the content level of the organization tier.  Eve, the woman, is the producer.  Her man is the management.  Her children are the service, or, in today’s terms, the human resources.  Eve does not change the centrality of the mother.  She magnifies it.

She offers a warning.

0073 The story of Eve’s temptation offers many lessons, including ones on the nature of desire.  As Smith points out, Genesis 3 portrays a deeply disturbing psychological narrative.  Don’t all good fairy tales?

Plus, I add, Eve’s narrative, along with other Genesis stories, captures the weirdness of the constellation of unconstrained social complexity during the Ubaid.  Adam and Eve are made in paradise, eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and are expelled.  Neither Genesis 2 nor 3 use the word, “sin”.  The label, “evil”, is only mentioned in the name of the infamous tree.

Afterwards, Eve bears two children, Cain and Abel.  Eve is the producer.

0074 “Sin” is mentioned in Genesis 4, along with the word for desire, “teshuqah”.  Desire appears in the temptation of Eve and in her rebuke, where God says, “Your desire will be for your man.”  Yes, the woman will desire her man to be her manager.  There is no sin in that.

So, where does the word, “sin”, first appear?

When Cain, the gardener, complains about God preferring burnt offerings of meat, God offers a revealing repost, saying (more or less), “If you do what is right, you can bear it.  If you do not do right, sin crouches at your door.  Its desire (teshuqah) is for you, but you can rule over it.”

The word, “sin”, appears for the first time.  It does so in conjunction with a desire that crouches, like a predator, at Cain’s threshold.  Cain can rule it.  Or, it can rule Cain.

We all know what happens next.

0075 The daughters of Seth do not pull punches.  This conjunction of “sin” and “desire” is so provocative that I wonder, what child would not remember it, later, as an adult?

Even more intriguing is how this conjunction exposes a disquieting reality within the Ubaid’s spiral towards unconstrained social complexity.  The idea of one brother killing the other is not out of the question.  Why?  Such killingis an artifact that validates what the murderous brother has been telling himself.

0076 In hand-speech talk, gesture-words picture or point to their referents.  So, the words cannot lie about what they refer to.

In speech-alone talk, spoken words do not picture or point to their referents.  Instead, we construct artifacts that validate our projection of meaning, presence and message.  We speak, and the world comes into creation.  Not just any creation.  Our creation.  Our imagination constructs artifacts that validate our spoken words.

0077 Oh, those damned artifacts.

When fatty portions are added to a fire, the fire jumps to life.

When cabbage is added to a fire, the fire smolders.

0078 One son does not talk to himself.  Instead, he praises God.

The other mutters under his breath.  He complains about God’s rejection of his artifacts.

0079 The children hear a fairy tale, telling them of dangers in their upcoming lives.

The mothers hear the tragedy of two sons, where one rules over his desires and the other does not.

0080 This is one of the poisonous fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree of speech-alone talk.  I can create my own world through my own symbolic actions that simultaneously do not honor God and open the door to the one whose desire is for my desire.

Sin crouches at Cain’s door.  It desires to speak to him.

Behold the fruits of the tree of death.


Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 13 of 16)

0081 Mark Smith points out other links between Genesis 3 and 4.

When God rebukes Adam, He curses the ground.

When God confronts Cain, He says, “…now you are cursed from the ground…”

God expels Adam and Eve from Eden.

Cain replies to God, saying, “…you have driven me out…”

Adam and Eve settle east of Eden.

Cain goes to live in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

0082 Genesis 4 does not elaborate on the crouching sin.  I suppose Abel’s murder is plain enough.

Smith notes that Abel’s offering is pleasing to the Lord.

Smith adds that God does not punish Cain for murdering Abel.

Smith does not say what happens next.  He is tracking two words, “sin” and “evil”.

0083 However, what happens next provides insight into the author-ity of Genesis 4.  After the murder, God gives Cain a mark, deterring others from killing Cain.  Cain founds a city.  Within a few generations, another murder occurs.  Lamech, who has two wives, murders a man with none.

0084 Here is a critique of the social conditions of the Ubaid.  Increasing labor and social specializations lead to greater wealth and power.  The haves learn to take from the have nots.


Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 14 of 16)

0085 In chapter six, Mark Smith asks, “Where does human evil begin in Genesis?”

In Genesis 3, Eve takes the fruit.

In Genesis 6, divine sons take beautiful daughters.

0086 Genesis 6:2 describes divine males commandeering human females.

What does this mean?

An extrapolation from Lamech offers an answer.  These men are “divine” in name only.  These wealthy and powerful “gods” have designs on women who attract their attention.

Does this sound vaguely contemporary?

0087 Then, there is the word for design, “yester”.

In Genesis 6:5, God admits that every design of the thoughts of civilized hearts is only evil, continually.

In Genesis 8:21, God, having let loose the civilization-destroying flood, regrets the act, but does not change the diagnosis.  The design (yester) of the human heart is to evil from its youth.

Its youth?

Think of the start of the Ubaid.

Unconstrained social complexity is a condiiton2H.

0088 Yes, evil in Genesis, associates to design.

The same word, “yester”, appears in Genesis 2:7, when God designs a man from earthen materials.

Smith notes that “yester”, design, typically applies to craftsmanship.  With the story of Noah, craftsmanship applies to thoughts.  So I ask, “What tool shapes thought?”  The answer is spoken words.  This is an insight2V.

0089 Various origin myths of the ancient Near East mention the Great Flood of Mesopotamia as a civilization-changing event.  By the time of the flood, evil and design are already joined.  Everyone knows it.

0090 As far as Mark Smith is concerned, by the end of chapter six, he covers the genesis of “evil”, “sin” and the fall(out).  He has only “good” and “original sin” left.


Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 15 of 16)

0091 In chapter seven, Mark Smith asks, “Are humans basically evil, according to Genesis?”

The question brings the reader back to the word, “good”, appearing in Genesis 1.

The question brings the reader forward to the term, “original sin”, a concept that swims right below the threshold of consciousness, after Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans.

0092 The condition of the early stories of Genesis is that of a family tradition, with enough continuity as to construct fairy tales about the thousands of years of increasing social complexity in the Ubaid and the Uruk, culminating in the Great Mesopotamian Flood, centuries before the start of the Sumerian Dynastic.  

These stories are fairy tales, told to children in Seth’s family tradition for thousands of years.  These stories are preserved by Sarah, who steps (along with Abraham) out of the Sumerian world, presumably during the tempestuous culmination of Ur III.

0093 There is something problematic about speech-alone talk.  It facilitates unconstrained social complexity.  It inclines humans towards sin and death.

Technically, if there is such a thing as original sin, then how could Abel and Enoch and Noah be good people from the start?

0094 What gives?

Original sin is all about the polarity between Adam’s greedy act and Jesus’s sacrifice.  It is a way to describe the economy of salvation.  Noah’s flood story says it all.  The design of the thoughts of human hearts is continually evil.  So, we sin.  Plus, we repent of our sins.  That is the nature of our current Lebenswelt.

0095 Smith proposes that the fairy tales of early Genesis are constructed backwards, within the Yahwist tradition, in order to provide a front end to the stories of Noah’s flood.

Such speculation seems viable when one is only looking at the Biblical text.

How easy it is to forget the oral traditions that leave no written trace.

How easy it is to erase such traces, for the ones who write the script.


Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 16 of 16)

0096 Does the name of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil say it all?

On one hand, since the time of Adam, knowledge continually increases, along with labor and social specializations.  Civilizations gain wealth and power.

On the other hand, since the time of Adam, evil designs the thoughts in our hearts, because its desire is for our desire.  These designs cohere to the traditional notion of original sin.  Civilizations corrupt from within.

0097 In Mark S. Smith’s book, the text ends in the middle of the bound volume.  Then, the endnotes begin.  This is the work of a scholar.  It does not step out of the closed loop of retrieval.

0098 Yet, this is precisely what happens in the fictional account of the first singularity, An Archaeology of the Fall (available at smashwords and other e-book vendors).   The first singularity is a scientific hypothesis, addressing the question, “Why is our current Lebenswelt not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?”

0099 When retrieving an author, both insights and conditions are valuable.  If indeed, the conditions are as proposed in this blog, then the insights allow a re-articulation of the concept of the Fall, and perhaps, of original sin.

There is more to Genesis 3 than meets the eye.

0100 My thanks to Mark S. Smith for his well-documented work.