I've been spending much time, recently, reading the Christian Bible. Most recently, the book of Genesis.
In previous readings of that section, I always thought of it as a history. A little bit of background; a remembrance of the ancient roots of the faith.
This time around, I keep noticing the relational aspect of the narrative.
The narrative starts with God as all-powerful Creator. He speaks, and the world springs into existence.* First there is a bright explosion of energy, then the Earth and Heavens are separated. Night and day are separated, then land and sea. Plants, trees, animals, birds, fish, insects, etc., are all made by Him.**
Yet instead of God being a distant observer, the narrative has God wanting to relate to His creation.
Man and woman were created to live in a peaceful garden in a childlike state. At times, they had the opportunity to commune with God in the garden.
The garden had many pleasant things. Yet there was a temptation to gain some forbidden knowledge, and enter into a more-adult situation.*** A tempter speaks, the sin is engaged in, and the created people felt shame.
They hide from God when He wants to commune with them. God knows, gets the man what happened. The man points to the woman, who confesses and reveals the source of temptation. Then God speaks a punishment over the tempter, the woman, and the man.
This whole sequence can be thought of as a coming-of-age story with a tragic ending.
Many of the troubles of human life are mentioned in the curses. Humanity and the Tempter will always be at odds. The pains of childbirth, the push and pull of desire and authority between man and wife, and the hard work of subsistence farming are all mentioned.
Yet embedded in the curse is a promise. The struggle between Tempter and humanity will one day end, and the Tempter will be the loser.
The main characters leave a childlike, protected state and have to go forth into a harsher environment. They don clothes for the first time. (The fig leaves must have seemed a good idea at first; don't they know that fresh fig leaves have irritating oils? God upgraded them to fur coats...er, animal skins.) They begin the work of producing food and raising children.
I can't help but wonder: was the forbidden fruit the reason for the expulsion from Eden? Or was the desire to hide sin the reason for expulsion?
I notice that there is no resolution to the tension between sinful humans and Creator. The relationship is harmed, but not destroyed.
It's a beginning that is both simple and profound.
*An alternate, if simplistic rendering of the "Big Bang" theory is that God said "Let it be!". And with a big "Bang!", it was.
Perhaps this isn't as non-scientific as it first appears.
I think one of the core elements of the modern Big Bang theory is that there is no scientific way to explore what preceded the moment of beginning.
**As a thought experiment, compare the list of created items in the first chapter of Genesis to the panoply of deities and deity-symbols in ancient Egypt.
Assuming Moses edited the final form of this story for use by the Israelites, recently departed from Egypt. Is it any surprise that the Creation narrative mentions the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, and every kind of living thing as created, subsidiary beings?
***Was the sin eating a fruit that had been forbidden? Or is forbidden fruit an image of something that is hard to describe in human language?
This feels odd to ask, but I wonder. I also wonder if the core meaning of the story is harmed by that question.