Q: What did the serpent promise Eve she would get if she ate the forbidden fruit?

A: Pregnant.

Ask a stupid question, get a stupid (is it?) answer. I believe the answer I was expecting was “knowledge,” or possibly “as much knowledge as God.” I’m very interested in ideas about the potency of knowledge in the Bible and in later literature, and also in the discussion of God’s rivals and God’s concern that man not become another rival. Evidently my students are not interested in those issues. My mistake was that verb “get,” though. “Get knowledge” is not a phrase that leaps to mind; “get pregnant” certainly is.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Tree of Knowledge

But there’s a lot that mystifies students about the Book of Genesis, or about expressing its story. God’s punishment of Eve, for instance:

Q: How did God punish Eve?

A. She will have children and be very painful.

Notice how Satan’s promise becomes God’s punishment. Phrased another way, and a little closer to the expected answer, “Eve was punished by having to experience child labor pain.” (Two stock phrases collide! —unless the writer actually was thinking about the Industrial Age as one result of The Fall from Grace, and the pain a mother must experience watching her child go off to work in the mine or the mill….)

Adam and Eve got what they asked for, though. They had been warned, and in most biblical language, too: “They were told ‘eateth thee all the fruits in the garden…don’t eateth of the tree of knowledge.'”

I like the way one student summed up the whole thing. Since this was the first sentence of a paragraph that developed in perfect seriousness, I believe it’s intended as a “topic sentence,” not a weary observation or a bon mot. Regardless of intention, it’s a great truth:

“In Adam and Eve this is the first time man and woman have been together and right away there is trouble.”

About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

4 responses to “Q: What did the serpent promise Eve she would get if she ate the forbidden fruit?

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