The talking "serpent" in Genesis 3:1-5 -- fact or fiction?

Just how did it became possible for "the serpent" in Genesis 3:1-5 to talk to Eve? Literary rather than theological answer preferred. (No exact answer expected; just the nearest to be the best. I will select, with brief detail.)

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  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    The Hebrew for serpent is Nachash. It means divinator. It's also the root for copper.

    In Judaism, it is acceptable to accept the simple answer which is it was a talking nachash. Accepting that, one can learn the lesson from that. The nachash never lied to trick Eve into eating from the tree. Any untruths were in the form of a question with plausible deniabity.

    However, there is a bigger question that may be best answered by looking forward. Whenever Jewish people accepted guidance from others instead of the Torah they got themselves in trouble. G-d had only given one command. Don't eat from the tree. So they took advice from the nachash and ate from the tree.

    That's taking the situation outside and somewhat blames others.

    Personally, I like to internalize lessons in the Torah. There is a part of each one of us that is symbolized by the characters in the Torah.

    There is a part of us that wants to question the Torah. We subtly change the question so it's not the original commandment. Using these questions, we trick ourselves into sinning.

    In Judaism, there are 4 levels of interpretation of Torah.

    1. Pshat - or the simple meaning of what is said. The events that happened in the Torah should be remembered only as a framework for teaching us a lesson. Some believe they happened exactly as stated. Some don't. It really doesn't matter. I choose to accept they happened exactly as stated. It doesn't mean they did, but it's not worth delving into. It is said that those who stay at this level will always end up fighting about Torah.

    2. Remes - this word means hint. It uses similar words and passages to hint that one passage might be related to another and it takes the combination of the two passages to determine the complete meaning.

    3. Drosh - the word means to inquire or to delve into the deeper meanings. It can also mean a lesson that is given from the passage even though it's not what the passage actually intended. It is supported by other passages so it is true.

    4. Sod - the mystery of the passage.

    For instance the passage on Noah's ark can be interpreted entirely differently. The word for ark, or tevel means "word" in Aramaic. The ark was created with 3 levels. Asiah - the level we can see. Yetzirah - the words that were spoken. Bara - the original intent for why the words were spoken. The word for flood or mabul can also mean confused.

    Zohar is the word for the window and can also mean to illuminate.

    It could be interpreted as the entire world was mabul (confused) about Torah and Noach (which means to give comfort to) brought his family into the teva (the word) and zohared (illuminated) it on 3 levels.

    The animals have other analogies to different types of people.

    I think this explanation is in Netivot Shalom as well as other places.

    A more direct answer to your question: In Aesop's fables, the frog who jumped in the well taught us to "Look before we leap." Was there actually a talking frog? Probably not. It doesn't matter. Regardless of the answer the lesson to plan out our actions is still true. We could debate the frog all day, but we'd miss the lesson.

    We can use the lesson of the nachash to question anyone who tries to raise doubt about the Torah through question. Paul says "Is there death under the law?" He goes on to say certainly not. But many christians are left with the belief that there is.

    We see this often in yahoo answers. Is it true that (some group) tends to beat their children?

    Onlookers think it is true even though they don't delve into it. And that group is left to defend itself against the lie. Personally, I ignore such questions.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The serpent is Satan.

    Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan,

    The Hebrew word for Serpent used in Genesis is "nakhash" and it means a splendour or a shining. The etymology of the word comes from the brilliance that bronze or iron reflected when seen with the sun shining on it.

    The serpent is the same as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is Satan and is not a talking snake. However, the word was translated as snake into the English language.

    Source(s): How to Enjoy the Bible http://philologos.org/__eb-htetb/
  • Linda
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    In the Hebrew Bible (the Tanach) of Judaism, the serpent (Hebrew nahash נחש) in the Garden of Eden lured Eve with the promise of forbidden knowledge, and denying her mortality would be a result. Though not initially identified with Satan (adversary) in the Book of Genesis, the serpent is later cursed as an adversary of Eve's offspring. "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made," Genesis 3:1 reminded its readers. "Cunning" is a sound-alike pun on the word for "Naked." Nor is there any indication in Genesis that the Serpent was a deity in its own right, aside from the fact that there are only two cases of animals that talk in the Pentateuch. (Balaams` *** being the other) Although the identity of the Serpent as Satan is made explicit the Christian Book of Revelation,in Genesis the Serpent is merely portrayed as a deceptive creature or trickster, promoting as good what God had directly forbidden, and particularly cunning in its deception. (cf. Gen. 3:4-5 and 3:22)

    Source(s): This verse lends support to the view that of the serpent being Satan himself, which helps to explain, as well, why Eve was not surprised to be spoken to by the serpent -- it was not a talking snake, but a beautiful and intelligent (yet evil) angelic being.
  • 1 decade ago

    People assume that the serpent was Satan, however the people that wrote Genesis (and there were several), tended to believe that Satan was a angel that helped God by testing or enlightening humans through tribulations. The belief that Satan had opposed God developed later. Thus the talking snake was not Satan (or influenced by him), it simply was this talking snake that eventually went extinct. It should be noted that snakes do not have the muscle and bone structure needed to be able to produce anything remotely similar to speech.

    All this aside, there is absolutely no evidence that indicates that the Eden story might be correct and large amounts that it is not.

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  • 1 decade ago

    You don't want a theological answer to a theological question?

    I wasn't there, so I don't know for sure. The serpent could have communicated telepathically. Eve didn't think a talking serpent was such a big deal, so that hints that the Garden of Eden was full of animals that could communicate freely.

    Talking snakes is a minor problem. Evolving snakes is a BIG one.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    She talked to the angel Lucifer. he is called the serpent but it was not a talking snake she talked to Satan himself in his glorious form.That is why it is hinted he was a shrewd and clever creature.She could not have listened to a snake talking about God and her being like god, it's just not feasible,she had to be talking to a creature apparently or in juxtaposition greater than herself and tempted by his power(s) to show that he had spoke the truth or that God was hiding something from Eve(according to his ruse anyway)

    Talking snake is the imagery used not to confound readers. Besides the snake is the symbol of cunning and deceit which Satan was par excellence .Satan was talking to Eve and that is why at the end when punishment is metted out he is told by God that Eve's children will crush his head and he will sting their heel.This is a metaphor for Jesus son of man/son of God would be wounded by satan (in death) but would ultimately be victorious at the resurrection.

    Source(s): Logic
  • 1 decade ago

    The sign of the snake around the tree was god Enki's sign ,second in charge, first was Enlil, these are the gods of the Sumerians, These are the first gods of man, later god Enlil became El god of Abraham. They claimed that Enki and his spouse created modern man from gene splicing and then inter-marrying, like it says in the OT in Genesis, when the sons of the gods had children with the earthly women, they claimed that they were living gods. They called them the Anunnaki, space travelers! I have some more detailed information on my web site "TheAsender.com" on google or yahoo

  • 1 decade ago

    Satan has certain powers, though they are limited, are enough to defile man. So using these powers he might have talked to Eve. It is the fact and certainly not fiction. This incident had changed man's life style. In the garden of Eden, he had not to till the ground, sweat or even to bother to wear clothes. But sin has sent him out to till the cursed ground and to be pricked by thorns and thistles, wearing the coat of animal skin which God had given him. The woman had to bring forth children with pain, grief. Today our lives are struggle and struggle and struggle because of this fact.

    May God Bless you

    Source(s): Christian Believer
  • 1 decade ago

    The Hebrew word translated into English as "serpent" means "shining one" or "bright deceiver". We find out in the closing chapters of the Bible that this being was the Devil.

    Revelation 12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    A a** or donkey also was found to talk in the scriptures

    II Peter/ 16 the dumb *** speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.

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