Was the serpent in Genesis Satan or just some mischievous animal?


#1

Was the serpent in Genesis Satan or just some mischievous animal? I'm probably going overboard with this creature, but these are my notes:

  1. Gen 3:1 mentions the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals Christ has made, and Satan is not an animal but spirit. I believe earlier theology saw this as a creature rather than Satan. Later theology thought of it as Satan because it mentions Eve’s offspring (Christ) will crush his head (Gen 3:15). Serpent's offspring and hers (Gen 3:15) – does Satan have offspring? Thus it might not be referring to Eve’s offspring: Jesus Christ, but that men have dominance over serpents. “He will strike at your head” – He – Either Jesus or man. If Jesus, it’s God’s first promise of a redeemer for mankind. a. Online Views i. The serpent lived 'up' in the branches of the tree. Where man reached up for food. The serpent no longer lives up in the branches of the tree but lives down on the ground. ii. Dragon depiction; So he lost the legs and the wings, so has to crawl on the ground. Side note: If so, this might demonstrate how creation and evolution are both done, 1) creation by God first, then 2) natural selection after, rather than either-or debates.

#2

The text never mentions Satan explicitly, but let me ask you – from whom does temptation come? From whom does the suggestion to disobey God come? Satan, the Father of Lies, is certainly implicated in this story, especially in the ‘crush your head’ prediction!

Gen 3:1 mentions the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals Christ has made

… that God made, not Christ, right? :wink:

and Satan is not an animal but spirit.

True, but let’s not forget the way in which this story expresses the truth. God is seen as ‘walking’ in the Garden, and asking Adam “where are you?”. There’s a certain anthromorphism in this tale; with that in mind, characterizing evil (that is, Satan) as a serpent isn’t too great a stretch, is it?

Serpent’s offspring and hers (Gen 3:15) – does Satan have offspring?

Right: here, the metaphor the story’s using (i.e., ‘serpent’ as standing for ‘Satan’) is starting to break down… but you’re still following what the human author is trying to get at, aren’t you?

Thus it might not be referring to Eve’s offspring: Jesus Christ, but that men have dominance over serpents. “He will strike at your head” – He – Either Jesus or man. If Jesus, it’s God’s first promise of a redeemer for mankind.

And this is the interpretation that Christians have been drawing upon for millennia: the Protoevangelium is already predicting for us – at the very fall of mankind – that Jesus will come and will redeem us. Jesus is the ‘offspring’ of Eve who was promised to our earliest ancestors…!


#3

An article says that St. Augustine of Hippo thought it was a snake controlled by the devil.

St. Augustine states: “This serpent, however, could be called the wisest of all the beasts not by reason of its irrational soul but rather because of another spirit – that of the Devil – dwelling in it.” Thus, the Saint proposes that the snake was made to speak through the possession of Satan, who used the snake as an instrument through which he spoke.


#4

Well, it's no question that this was written to share a point, which is more important. However, in scripture it says "the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals Christ has made". Okay, so it's definitely an animal. And we know Satan is not an animal. The animal couldn't have been possessed because it says it was by default 'cunning'. I know the point is more important than the historical accuracy of it all, and so their point is that Satan is the serpent deceiving Adam & Eve, and that God would crush it. It still doesn't make sense because of the "serpent's offspring" meaning obviously more serpents. It still sounds like an animal. I guess another question is if Jews took these early writings as literal or more focused on points they wanted to teach. Coming from a Protestant background, they often took it literally.

But I can see that the serpent might have been more of a metaphor in the tree. The bigger 'but' is it's forced to crawl on its belly instead of the tree now and eat dirt. If taken in a literal sense, snakes wouldn't live on if all they did was eat dirt. So confused! But I agree it's probably a metaphor, and then not something to take literally, only of the points being shared.

I guess it's like fundamentalists saying Christ made the earth in 7 days, no questions asked, but it wasn't meant to be taken literally, but probably expressed in the first story of creation that God rested on the 7th day - their sabbath in the Jewish religion. The second story doesn't have 7 days laid out, and it's an older writing. So my guess is they wrote the newer one to teach the Sabbath. Just my conspiracy theory.


#5

[quote="philv, post:4, topic:314454"]
However, in scripture it says "the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals Christ has made".

[/quote]

'God', not 'Christ'.

I guess another question is if Jews took these early writings as literal or more focused on points they wanted to teach. Coming from a Protestant background, they often took it literally.

Perhaps those in your background did take it literally. Let me ask you, though: God is pure spirit. Do you think he literally "walked in the Garden in the breezy part of the day"? Do you think that Adam & Eve literally had the power to "hide from God" in the Garden? Do you think that God literally feared that humans would "live forever" (v22)?

If your answer to (any of) these is 'no', then why would you require that all the characterizations -- and characters -- in Genesis 3 require a literal interpretation?


#6

And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Revelations 12:9


#7

[quote="Jordan_Rizk, post:6, topic:314454"]
And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Revelations 12:9

[/quote]

Yep.


#8

How would early Jews take Genesis? I’m assuming symbolic with teachings?


#9

[quote="philv, post:8, topic:314454"]
How would early Jews take Genesis? I'm assuming symbolic with teachings?

[/quote]

I don't think so. It is a rather modern understanding to not consider that Genesis was an actual description of how the world began. Jews do not tend to make the connection between the serpent and spiritual evil, or even between Satan and spiritual evil, but in terms of an actual description of the creation of the world, Adam being the first man, and woman being drawn from the man, the ages of all the early humans, and so on, Genesis was considered to be real in a physical sense.

Of course, the importance of Genesis was in the understanding of the nature of God and man, and theological considerations. That is the same then as it is now, for both Christian and Jew.


#10

Satan.

Revelation 12:7

7 Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back,

8 but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

9 The huge dragon,*** the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, ***who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.

On an off day he can be a mischievous animal. Usually he's worse though.


#11

If it's modern theology that it didn't happen, then I wouldn't trust that. There's a lot of scriptures referring to Adam & Eve and other stories in Genesis, so I believe these oral traditions were passed down over time and eventually written. It's also possible there were symbolic points put in as well over time. I see that the serpent is Satan though now, which was the subject. Thanks for that verse in Revelations! That cleared it up. Thanks for the discussion.


#12

[quote="philv, post:1, topic:314454"]
Was the serpent in Genesis Satan or just some mischievous animal? I'm probably going overboard with this creature, but these are my notes:

  1. Gen 3:1 mentions the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals Christ has made, and Satan is not an animal but spirit. I believe earlier theology saw this as a creature rather than Satan. Later theology thought of it as Satan because it mentions Eve’s offspring (Christ) will crush his head (Gen 3:15). Serpent's offspring and hers (Gen 3:15) – does Satan have offspring? Thus it might not be referring to Eve’s offspring: Jesus Christ, but that men have dominance over serpents. “He will strike at your head” – He – Either Jesus or man. If Jesus, it’s God’s first promise of a redeemer for mankind. a. Online Views i. The serpent lived 'up' in the branches of the tree. Where man reached up for food. The serpent no longer lives up in the branches of the tree but lives down on the ground. ii. Dragon depiction; So he lost the legs and the wings, so has to crawl on the ground. Side note: If so, this might demonstrate how creation and evolution are both done, 1) creation by God first, then 2) natural selection after, rather than either-or debates.

[/quote]

Oooooh, fascinating question! rubs hands with glee
An interesting point:

One of God's curses upon the serpent was that it should eat dust (Gen 3:14). Then God tells Adam (and Eve) that they are dust and to dust shall they return (Gen 3:19).

So essentially, God is establishing that the serpent shall prey upon mankind, feeding.

If the serpent is merely an animal, then it is the only animal given license to eat humans. However, everything from sharks to tigers can feed on human flesh. Why should a serpent be any different? What is so special about this specific curse?

I propose that the serpent and God's curses are simplistic, poetic place-holders for something outside of humankind's ability to name at the time. God's curse which takes the wings or legs of the serpent effectively means that God has bound some kind of creature to the earth. It doesn't rule out that the creature may have had the ability to leave the earth at one point and time. The serpent's plan could have been to trick the hapless pair and then flee the earth to watch the aftereffects while nibbling on popcorn at some concession stand in space.

It also doesn't rule out that the serpent could have been a spiritual being which took the form of a created creature so as to take advantage of man's trust. God's curse could have been that the spirit must remain upon the earth so as to feed upon the destruction and misery caused by mankind. The spirit, then, had to endure the aftereffects in some way, if only in loss of dignity. Crawling on one's belly in dirt and mud is pretty undignified, especially for a clever creature which knows it's disgraceful. What is disgraceful to a spirit, I wonder...

Maybe I'm just rambling....:shrug:


#13

I lean towards the interpretation of some of the Church Fathers that is was a snake-like animal, and the Devil was using it to deceive Adam and Eve. The Devil basically possessed the snake and actually made it speak. As one Church Father points out, that the snake was given a curse of no legs, it actually did no harm to the animal but was given that unique appearance and way of traveling as a sign for every generation after, so that when we see the snake we are reminded of the Fall of mankind.


#14

Consider what Satan's Ultimate Goal is as denoted through Issiah. So, from this, we know it is his purpose to imitate God in an effort to replace him. Now, the Christian is empowered by the working of the Holy Spirit in him. In Satan's imitation he must work through an intermediary; you see this amply displayed in the workings of the occult. So, what you have in the Garden of Eden is that Satan is employing an intermediary device by working through the Serpent. Hope this clarifies your views.


#15

[quote="Bossilla, post:12, topic:314454"]
. . . One of God's curses upon the serpent was that it should eat dust (Gen 3:14). Then God tells Adam (and Eve) that they are dust and to dust shall they return (Gen 3:19).

So essentially, God is establishing that the serpent shall prey upon mankind, feeding . . . God's curse could have been that the spirit must remain upon the earth so as to feed upon the destruction and misery caused by mankind. The spirit, then, had to endure the aftereffects in some way, if only in loss of dignity. Crawling on one's belly in dirt and mud . . .

[/quote]

very interesting

evil feeds on death
Tyrants wield their power through it,
but they will ultimately be eaten by it
this how Satan rules,
in the dirt, creating nothing that is good, lasting or worthwhile
the curse of sin

not the most pleasant of subjects
but thanks for your post


#16

[quote="Bossilla, post:12, topic:314454"]
Oooooh, fascinating question! rubs hands with glee
An interesting point:

One of God's curses upon the serpent was that it should eat dust (Gen 3:14). Then God tells Adam (and Eve) that they are dust and to dust shall they return (Gen 3:19).

So essentially, God is establishing that the serpent shall prey upon mankind, feeding.

If the serpent is merely an animal, then it is the only animal given license to eat humans. However, everything from sharks to tigers can feed on human flesh. Why should a serpent be any different? What is so special about this specific curse?

I propose that the serpent and God's curses are simplistic, poetic place-holders for something outside of humankind's ability to name at the time. God's curse which takes the wings or legs of the serpent effectively means that God has bound some kind of creature to the earth. It doesn't rule out that the creature may have had the ability to leave the earth at one point and time. The serpent's plan could have been to trick the hapless pair and then flee the earth to watch the aftereffects while nibbling on popcorn at some concession stand in space.

It also doesn't rule out that the serpent could have been a spiritual being which took the form of a created creature so as to take advantage of man's trust. God's curse could have been that the spirit must remain upon the earth so as to feed upon the destruction and misery caused by mankind. The spirit, then, had to endure the aftereffects in some way, if only in loss of dignity. Crawling on one's belly in dirt and mud is pretty undignified, especially for a clever creature which knows it's disgraceful. What is disgraceful to a spirit, I wonder...

Maybe I'm just rambling....:shrug:

[/quote]

Maybe.
I think that you may really be on to something in the dual references to dust though. When it comes to repetition of the same word in Genesis especially, there are no coincidences.
There is always a reason that those words are used.


#17

“The serpent was the most cunning of all the animals”…I believe this metaphorical language indicating the serpent was indeed possessed by Satan, the father of lies. God did not create animals with ability to reason, so Satan must have entered this particular serpent in order to tempt Eve. Could this have been a lesser demon that posed the serpent? I suppose, but I tend to think that, since Satan “took a third of the angels with him” and “…created his own kingdom”, I believe it was probably Satan who tempted Eve.
As far as punishing the serpent, I think this was God’s way of making an impression of the seriousness of their disobedience, not as an actual punishment of the serpent, which can’t reason.


#18

The problem is, for us to even have the ability to exercise and use our free will…there must be ‘an alternative’ to God, (for there to be a a choice, there must be at least 2 options to choose from).

Satan IS this other choice, and I have long wondered if Satan is just playing the role God intended for him, when you think about it, the ‘fall’ was crucial to us having free will. What would ‘free will’ look like if the fall had never happened?


#19

Satan.


#20

Revelation:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.


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