The following contains brief excerpts from a forthcoming article in Testamentum Imperium.
We have all heard the same story, about a garden, about a woman that leads the world into sin, and God curses humanity with sin, which leads to death (Genesis 2 & 3). These are the rules, as put forth by centuries of Christian tradition, for discussing the nature of evil, sin, and the devil as it is called. Perhaps another way to look at the origins of sin is look for the moment when God promises salvation available for all nations and the events that lead up to God taking that action. For many Christians, the covenant that God makes to Abraham is that promise for redemption.
I submit that the Genesis (1-11:8) accounts are microcosmic stories used to tell us of macrocosmic events (true myths). Rather than having sin be passed biologically (obviously through the mother, right?), I believe that human beings are brought into a sinful world through a network of complex relationships and discourses; that is to say that human wickedness is passed down interpersonally through dialogue and practices.
I believe a more adequate account of human brokenness, in light of multi-narratival nature of the canon which was formed under the auspices of Jewish diasporic existence, is to be found from Genesis 1 through 11:8 (right before the genealogy of Abram). After Adam and Eve are banished from God’s sanctuary, Eden, their sons are involved in a tragic murder incident, for which Cain is sent into exile. Humanity later becomes so unrighteous that God floods the known worlds, and then God enters into an eternal covenant with all of creation, promising never to destroy the world as God did in those days (Genesis 9:11 NIV).
This blessing of a cursed earth is a sign of God displaying humility, an attribute that reveals itself in the Bible regularly. Unfortunately, humankind refused to participate in God’s power of self-giving, and instead built up for itself a tower to reach the heavens; such a construction project was quite easy with everyone speaking the same language and all (Genesis 11:1, 6). YHWH, in God’s wisdom, saved human beings from centralized, authoritarian tyranny and hegemonic social structures by “confusing” all the languages of the world (11:9, NIV).
It is because of our fallenness, that human beings define power in terms of the will to coerce, the building up of military strength, and uninhibited economic and social desires. German contextual theologian Karl Barth understood rightly that sin was a “power,” a sovereign entity that ruled over humanity, and that death is the power of sin made visible (see Barth’s Epistle to the Romans, 6th edition, page 167). The very personification of our cultures of death is what postcolonial thinkers call “postcolonial empire,” whereby instead of countries settling other nations through war or “cultural influence,” imperial control happens through soft power (money) perhaps like oil revenue sharing agreements with countries in the Middle East that we just happened to
liberate conquer such as Iraq.
What of the devil or demons? I have already argued elsewhere that satan (and I guess we can include it’s minions as well, an impersonal luring voice(s) or entity(ies) in the world (no power but lying) attempting to keep humans trapped in arrogance, sin, and death, apart from the One True Self-Humiliating God.
- Did Abel Deserve To Die?: Mosala’s Postcolonial Reading of Genesis 4:1-16 (politicaljesus.com)
- Questions in Genesis Series: So far (politicaljesus.com)