This story is worth comparing to Prometheus.
Introduction (needs brushing up a bit)
When God had finished making the world and had rested – which by the way he did on Saturday – he brought all the animals to Adam to name. Whatsoever name Adam called a particular animal, that would be its name always.
Some few days after he had named all the animals, Adam felt lonely, and he told God this. I need someone to talk to, he said. How so, said God, you can talk to the parrots. It’s not the same said Adam. They seem to answer, but they don’t really, and they don’t understand what I say to them, they only pretend.
Leave it to me, said God, I'll see what I can come up with.
So God made Eve.
Adam loves Eve and Eve loves Adam, and they have an idyllic life in the Garden of Eden which God has made for them. (The Garden of Eden was also known as Paradise - which incidentally means, in Persian I think - walled garden.) They have all the fruit, vegetables and nuts that they could wish for. And they don’t need to cultivate, everything just grows all the time, and there are no weeds. They don’t eat meat, in fact no animals eat meat, the lion lies down with the lamb.
There was only one rule in Paradise, and it related to a particular tree in the middle of the garden. This was called the Tree of Knowledge. And the rule was that Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat its fruit. God was quite definite on this point. Anything else was OK, but not that.
Now it chanced one afternoon that while Adam was asleep, Eve went wandering. She liked the idea of exploring the garden without Adam at her side because much as she loved him she liked sometimes to do her own thing in her own way. The garden had orchards with every sort of fruit tree, vegetable patches, copses of nut trees, and open parkland where the animals could roam. A mighty river watered the garden and there were tinkling streams too, and secluded ponds.
On the afternoon we are talking of, Eve wandered into the middle of the garden to her favourite place, a grove with two trees perpetually covered in blossom. And yet despite the blossom they also had fruit. That’s something you never see nowadays. One of these was the Tree of Knowledge. She loved contemplating the Tree of Knowledge, especially when she was alone.
But lo and behold, under the Tree of Knowledge was sitting the Serpent, and he was munching an apple. Now at this time I should mention that the Serpent had legs. He had a wise look about him and he started to speak. He was in fact the Devil, but Eve had no reason to suspect this. She didn't even know there was a Devil. She had noticed the Serpent’s wise look before, and wasn’t entirely surprised to find that he could speak.
And this is what the Serpent said.
Eve, he said, this is a very fine apple that I've picked off this tree, shall I pick one for you?
The Tree of Knowledge! said Eve. Indeed not. It's forbidden! God told us it’s the one tree we must not eat the fruit of.
But it will make you wise like me said the Serpent.
No! said Eve. God is so good to us. I don’t want to!
You would know the difference between Good and Evil said the Serpent. You would know Right from Wrong. Why would God not want you to know those things? Surely you must be mistaken.
This conversation went on for two long hours, and the sun began to get low in the sky. Every time Eve said no, the Serpent came up with new reasons why it would be a good idea to eat the apple. He just about persuaded Eve that deep down God actually wanted her to eat it. She didn’t understand the Good and Evil stuff that the Serpent kept on about, yet she felt herself wanting to understand.
At last, she ate one of the forbidden apples. The Serpent gave it to her and she ate it. It was deliciously sharp, bitter almost.
Eve sat down under the tree. The Serpent had disappeared. She felt this was odd. She wanted to continue her talk with the Serpent; some of the things he said were beginning to make sense.
Eve felt she had done wrong. An hour beforehand she hadn't actually understood what the Serpent meant by right and wrong.
But now it began to dawn on Eve that there was a difference.
And the thing she had done was wrong. WRONG. She KNEW she had done wrong. She looked down and saw she was naked. She must have been naked all the time, but now she KNEW it. Hastily she tore down some fig leaves and used the stalks to weave them into an apron. A feeling crept up on her which was new and which she didn’t like. The feeling was misery. She didn’t want to KNOW she was naked, nor did she want to KNOW that she had done wrong. But she did know. She tried to forget these things. But try as she might, she couldn't forget.
Before the apple I was happy thought Eve. Now I'm unhappy.
Happy, unhappy. Strange to tell, before the apple, Eve didn’t actually know either of these words.
She thought of Adam, and as she did so her misery grew. I must run away and never see Adam again she thought. Or maybe I should explain to Adam what I've done and then go away. Or maybe he will eat a forbidden apple and if we've both eaten one it won't be so bad.
She plucked one of the forbidden apples and went looking for Adam. She found him picking strawberries. Adam was startled at Eve’s appearance. What are the fig leaves for, he asked? I was naked said Eve, and so are you. What’s naked said Adam? Eat this and you’ll know said Eve, offering the apple.
That’s from the Tree of Knowledge, said Adam. We mustn’t eat that, throw it away, quick!
Eve stood with her arm outstretched and the forbidden apple, saying nothing. And from that nothing Adam understood what she had done.
It was the cool of the day and Adam knew God would soon be walking in the garden. He knew too that when God found what Eve had done, something very bad would happen. He couldn't guess what, but in the pit of his stomach he felt he would never be allowed to see Eve again.
Give me the apple, he said. And he ate it. Like Eve, he first realised he had done WRONG, then he understood he was naked and understood why Eve had made the apron of leaves. Eve was already gathering fig leaves for Adam and he put on the apron she made for him. Then like Eve before him he felt miserable.
Adam and Eve heard God walking nearby. They hid behind a thicket of bushes. Where are you, said God. Come and show yourselves. And they stood before him, wearing their aprons of fig leaves, and feeling foolish.
Why are you wearing those fig leaves, asked God. He knew, of course, but he asked anyway.
We were naked said Eve. And we were ashamed said Adam.
Who told you, you were naked? asked God. You have eaten the forbidden fruit!
The Serpent told me to eat it! said Eve.
Eve told me to eat it! said Adam. He wished he hadn't said that. But he said it.
God was angry. But was he disappointed? Did he know all the time that this would happen?
First God turned to the Serpent. You! he said, for this thing you have done, you will creep on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the children of Eve. They will crush your head, and you will bite their heel.
Next God turned to Eve. You! he said to Eve, for this thing you have done, you will bear children in pain. To grow crops you will toil and sweat.
Last, God turned to Adam. You! he said to Adam, for this thing you have done, thistles and nettles will grow in the fields. To eat your bread, you will labour all the days of your life to cultivate the soil.
To Adam and Eve he said: and after your days of toil, when you are old and worn out, both of you will die.
And you, said God to the Serpent, you too will die. All living things will die. You will die and return to the soil. For dust you are, and to dust you will return.
An angel flew down and whispered in God’s ear. Remember the Tree of Life said the angel.
Did I mention that two magical trees grew in the middle of the Garden of Eden? One was the Tree of Knowledge, the forbidden tree that was the cause of all the trouble. The other was the Tree of Life.
When God first created Adam and Eve, he was happy for them to live for ever, just so long as they were ignorant of good and evil. But now that they had eaten the forbidden fruit, and knew good and evil, God feared that they would become gods like him. This he could now allow. Which is why he handed out such severe punishments.
And why now he said: so that you shall die, you must not taste the Tree of Life. Therefore you must leave the Garden. An angel with a flaming sword will guard the entrance. You can never return.
The sun had set in the western sky and dusk was falling. The world would never be the same again. Adam and Eve held hands as they walked through the gate, past the angel with the flaming sword, out of the Garden, into a new life of toil and hardship. Some say that they had quarrelled after eating the forbidden fruit, each blaming the other for what had happened. But if so, now they were reconciled again.
For a brief moment, God felt sorry for them. Before they left he sewed them warm clothes made from the skins of beasts, to protect them in the cold harsh world they were about to enter.