The story of Adam and Eve is one of the most familiar stories in all of Scripture. God makes man and woman and places them in the Garden of Eden. In the center of this paradise were two trees: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. God only gave the man and woman one rule: Do NOT eat from the Tree of Knowledge. But the serpent enters the garden and tempts the humans to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and thus paradise is lost.
As I said, the story is familiar. In fact, it is so familiar that we can forget how shocking it actually is.
Many years ago, Dr. Scott Hahn put forth a different image of this story than we may have in our minds. He pointed out that the Hebrew word (“nahash”) that gets translated into English as “serpent” or “snake” can also be translated as “dragon.” On this view, Dr. Hahn posits that the story is not about a subtle snake seducing the woman into sin. Instead, it is the story of a large, scary monster who intimidates the woman into looking towards the Tree of Knowledge. One of the most telling lines is Genesis 3:6, where it says, “So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Up until this point, Genesis 3 recounted the dialogue between the nahash and the woman. And then suddenly Adam appears.
Where the heck was Adam this whole time?
The Bible is not clear on this point, but it is possible that he was standing there the whole time, letting his wife be bullied by this dragon. If that is the case, that puts a new spin on the story where it is primarily about Adam’s failure.
I want to be clear that I am not giving my 100% endorsement to Dr. Hahn’s interpretation. But there are some very interesting reflections that come about when you view the story this way. Dr. Hahn frames the story of the Fall as a marriage test. God is testing Adam’s worthiness as a husband. One of the most important roles of a husband is that of loving protector.
I ask my female students what would happen if they were on a date with their boyfriend and some random guys started shouting obscenities at her. Most of them say that they would expect their boyfriend to stand up for them. This is not to say that these young ladies could not stand up for themselves. But there is an expectation that the man in the relationship come to the defense of his lady.
On Dr. Hahn’s view, Adam should have stood up to the nahash. But what would happen if a simple, naked man with no weapons fought a giant, hulking dragon?
He would die, of course.
And that is the point of the story: Adam the groom should become a corpse.
There is no way that the man should overpower the dragon. Instead, the dragon will kill him. And in that man would finally discover what true love really is.
Up until this point, Adam and Eve share affection, friendship, and romance. There is something beautiful about how he says, “Here at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:23) He sounds like Jerry McGuire saying to his wife, “You, complete me.” And we see reflected in this love those many sentiments of deep emotion we hear on the radio. This is the stuff of love songs.
But it is still missing the deepest of loves.
Beyond affection, friendship, and romance, there is the type of love that is represented by the Greek word “agape.” This represents a completely selfless, unconditional love. This is the type of love that offers itself completely without seeking anything in return. This is the love that would pay any price, not for any gain, but only for the good of the beloved.
This is the love where I would give my life for you.
Adam has not yet experienced this love. But he has the opportunity to live this true meaning of love by standing up to the nahash and laying down his life for his wife. But wouldn’t that be bad that Adam dies? Yes, but there is a solution: the Tree of Life.
What should happen is that Adam should die for his wife and then she should feed him from the Tree of Life and he should be brought back, now fulfilling his vocation of agape for his wife.
But he fails.
That is why we need Christ.
St. Augustine once pointed out that God could have saved all of us simply by saying, “You are all saved.” So why did Christ have to die so horribly on the cross? Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that if Christ did not go to the cross, we would never really know what love is. And thus, we would never really know who God is, since God is love.
Christ looked at us and loved us so much that He decided He would rather die than be without us. He embodied agape not just in His words, but with His life and death. On the cross, He let Himself be killed by the power of the nahash, taking upon Himself the sins of the world. And just as Adam’s bride came from his side, so too did Christ’s bride. They pierced His side and blood and water flowed out, representing Baptism and Eucharist. This shows us that from His side, God has made the Bride of Christ: the Church.
And Christ loved His Church so much that he laid down His life. We now know what real love is. And we seek to lay down our lives for God and for each other every day. I can never doubt the love of God because He let Himself be turned into a corpse for my sake.
And we, the Bride of Christ, have life because of the Corpse Groom.
Copyright 2020, WL Grayson