The woman saw
that the tree was good for eating
and that it was a delight for the eyes,
and the tree was desirable to contemplate.
She took from its fruit and ate
and gave it also to her husband beside her,
and he ate.
The eyes of the two of them were opened
and they knew then
that they were nude.
They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
– Genesis 3:6-7 (Everett Fox translation)
* * *
When this passage hits the word “loincloths,” a shock runs backward through the tree itself. Suddenly the couple – note the use of “husband” here, implying a connubial bliss – is no longer in its full glory. Indeed, the tree appears more delightful than they are. So they cover themselves with leaves, just like the tree. Or at least cover their sexual organs.
There’s even a degree of comedy, which you catch if you’ve ever examined a fig leaf – surely a needle and thread will rip it. (And just where do they get a needle and thread? Who will teach them? Instead, the storyteller slyly moves on.)
* * *
The Godwrestling approach to Scripture brings all of our senses – mind, body, emotions, and spirit – to the encounter. Just what does the text at hand mean? How are each of the individuals in the scene implicated? A child, for example, remarks that God really did want Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit: Why else would he put the tree “in the middle of the garden” and then tell them not to touch it! Yes, that cuts past the layers imposed centuries later by Paul and Augustine.
For me, Godwrestling is active and overcomes many of the very dilemmas involved in translation across time and culture. It’s anything but traditional legalism.
Me, I wouldn’t mind being stretched out beside Eve here on a sunny afternoon (yes, I’m going beyond the text to flesh out the story, but that’s part of the practice as well). And soon I’ll be reminded all knowledge comes at a price, especially when it comes to good and evil.
* * *
And by this their innocent Life, I needs must acknowledge, I felt my own Conscience powerfully reached for some Time, before my Judgment was fully satisfied. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)