Did the Serpent really speak in the garden of Eden?

Our local Priest who originally was not Catholic said during Mass , the Serpent never spoke and it’s more of a example of metaphor.

I’ve always believed the Serpent did speak. Perhaps I am in the wrong or naive ?

We are free to take the first 11 Chapters of Genesis, up until Abraham, literally or figuratively.


Thank you for clearing that up.

So really it’s a personal thing .


Considering that the serpent was Satan, it certainly could have spoke. It wasn’t a normal snake. Famed exorcist Fr. Chad Ripperger says that that should have tipped off Eve to begin with.

“Woah…animals can’t talk. Maybe I shouldn’t listen to this dude.”


There are a lot of people in the church, priests included, that have this idea that scripture is just a story to illustrate something to us. If questioned further, you may find out that they don’t believe that Jesus fed the 5,000, that everyone just pulled out their lunches. Jesus did feed the 5,000, Jesus did heal the blind and the sick. Jesus raised the dead.

Comments like this during a homily, that the serpent never spoke, plants seeds of doubt into the listeners. That the scriptures are just stories in a book. A comment like that is not faith building. What ever point he wished to make, he could have made it without this comment.

This is how it is today. We hear from the pulpit and from the cathedrals, that this line in scripture never happened. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. In a way he just illustrated how the serpent can speak today, in English, to a congregation of faithful, with the authority of the collar.

Is that a harsh statement? The church has seen a lot of counterfeit gospels over the centuries. Be aware, be smart. Continue on with what is yours to take care of. St Michael the Archangel prayer every day.


Let’s be fair, though: the Church does teach that Genesis 3 is a ‘figurative’ narrative. It’s not really fair to say “well… all of Scripture is figurative,” nor is it fair to castigate folks who are mistaken on this issue.

Hopefully, he pointed out that the Church teaches that this narrative is figurative. Not all of the Bible; this story.

And perhaps, one of them is “no, there really was a snake, and he really talked”… :thinking: :wink:



390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man .264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265

264 Cf. GS 13 § 1.
265 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513; Pius XII: DS 3897; Paul VI: AAS 58 (1966), 654.
GS = Gaudium et spes
DS = Denzinger-Schonmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum (1965)
AAS = Acta Apostolicae Sedis

1 Like

In cases of demonic possession the evil spirit takes control of the body and can use the organs to move, speak etc. So that being the case, for Satan to take possession of the body of a snake and speak through it would not be difficult. Satan is a Spirit so does not have a physical body. He has an angelic intellect and will. Whether the snake spoke audibly or not is not the point. The point is that Satan desired to cause Eve to doubt God’s goodness by his lies and he managed to accomplish this. How he actually accomplished this is really not that important.

I could show you another priest who is also a convert to Catholicism who would say that the serpent did indeed speak.

As you noted, it’s a personal thing; people are free to believe either way.

It would be nice if priests would not present their personal opinions on this sort of literal/ figurative issue from the pulpit and instead would speak objectively, but priests aren’t perfect, so we just need to pray for them.

Unfortunately there are people in the Catholic Church, including clergy and religious, who are very hung up on the idea of either not taking Genesis literally or definitely taking Genesis literally, and always have to be pushing whatever their view is. They confuse more people than they help.


In general, yes – but the Church does teach that Genesis 3 is a figurative narrative (take a look at @Vico’s post, in which he quotes the catechism).

So, here’s the thing: if he were talking about the creation narratives, then I’d see your point. It would be preferable if the priest would preach “I think this, but the Church allows us to believe that, too”. However, in the narrative of the fall of Adam, we’re taught that it’s figurative. Full stop. No opinions present. :man_shrugging:

The Church may teach that, but there is no requirement that the priest I mention needs to abandon his belief that the serpent actually spoke.

The Church does not compel anyone to believe that Genesis 3 is figurative.

So, here’s the thing: if he were talking about the creation narratives, then I’d see your point. It would be preferable if the priest would preach “I think this , but the Church allows us to believe that , too”. However, in the narrative of the fall of Adam, we’re taught that it’s figurative. Full stop. No opinions present. :man_shrugging:

Disagree. This is another case of someone insisting that a teaching is dogma or infallible when it frankly, isn’t.
I myself couldn’t care less how somebody interprets Genesis 3 but from my standpoint, both interpretations, literal and figurative, are perfectly reasonable.

Muting thread now as the subject is closed as far as I am concerned.


Right: the Church doesn’t ask Catholics to believe what she teaches.

Not seeing where the claim of ‘infallibility’ is being made. Authoritative teaching? Yes. And that should be sufficient.

Yep. After all, once you decide that your opinion trumps the Church’s teaching, that kinda closes the subject for you, doesn’t it? :wink:

I’ve heard it said that pride wasn’t the only motivator for Adam’s sin; fear was also a factor. Adam was given dominion over all the creatures. Perhaps Adam was intimidated that he had no dominion over the serpent and this serpent challenged Adam, something the other creatures could not do…

What about numbers 22?
Did the donkey speak?
I wonder whether this priest believes the donkey spoke or not.


1 Like

Personally, I think in the context of Christian teaching it doesn’t matter. And there isn’t really anything that Christians believe that suggests the serpent couldn’t have spoken, nor does the other option necessarily contradict the literal reading of other supernatural occurances.

Just recently I came across something interesting. Someone who knows Hebrew said that the story in the Garden was written in poetic fashion.

As noted, the Church does not require that the whole of the story be taken literally; and if it is indeed poetry, that doe not mean that it is irrelevant; but may imply that it is not as literal as a news report on television.

Depends how one defines poetry.
Certainly the style is not as poetic as the psalms but it probably sounds poetic to the modern Hebrew ear and maybe even to the ear of people in Jesus times. The thing is the Hebrew has changed through the times.

As with any question about the literal meaning of scripture: What did the inspired author(s) intend? I think our takeaway is:

  1. The meaning conveyed by the words, “Did God really say…?” entered the mind of our primeval parents as doubt about God’s goodness; and

  2. Satan was/is the source of that primal temptation.

A beagle was cleaning a suite of offices early morning. A new employee came in and was quite shocked to see a beagle cleaning. The beagle was also singing along to a tune while he worked. The employee said, this is amazing, and does anyone know you can speak.

The beagle replied, Please don’t tell my boss, he will make me answer the phones as well.

I have BHS here, I will see what its commentary is on this.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.