In Genesis 3:1, the serpent said, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

In the whole history of recorded thought the small phrase uttered by the serpent “did God actually say” is surely the most consequential. Hidden within this seemingly innocent question was a Pandora’s box full of blasphemous errors and destructive evil. “Did God actually say” conveys a host of assumptions motivated by envy, mutiny, and cynicism. The audacity and arrogance implicit in this question are difficult to imagine.

With this inquiry the snake got his proverbial “foot in the door” within Adam and Eve’s mind and heart. He inserted just enough doubt and confusion to suggest the idea that God could and should be questioned. The serpent insinuated that the creator’s perspective was skewed and in dire need of correction. Subtly, he positioned Adam and Eve to judge between himself and Yahweh Elōhîm. He asked them to heed his words instead of God’s.

The snake’s declaration: “You will not surely die” was also a blatant contradiction of God’s words in 2:17. In effect, he accused God of lying. Yahweh Elōhîm was holding back on them, the serpent argued, and withholding his greatest blessing, specifically a kind of knowing that would make them “like God.”

In addition, by utilizing the language from Gen 1:26-28 of image and likeness (“like God”) the snake urged them to re-imagine themselves apart from their creator. The serpent redefined them within his worldview by stripping the concept of the divine image from its setting in Eden. He inspired them to align themselves as the imago Satanas (image of Satan), rather than the imago Dei (image of God).

How true, then, is Paul’s depiction of mankind’s mental state: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4).

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