Friday, August 22, 2008

Theology From a Single Word

I was reading through Genesis this morning, and got stuck on a word, or lack thereof, in 3:1. The ESV says, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made." This translation might offer substantiation to the claim that the serpent was just another animal and therefore lead to speculation that the creation account is either myth or that it had to do only with speaking about an animal. The word "other" essentially equates the serpent with the animals of the field. Yet in the Hebrew, see here, there is no possibility of using the word "other" to equate the serpent with the beasts of the field. Here the KJV, NIV, and NASB get it right. The NIV says, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made." A closer translation may be the serpent was more crafty than any living [of/in] the land which God had made.

This understanding allows for and even substantiates reading the serpent as a different sort of creature, including an implicit understanding of the serpent as supernatural. In this way, there is no stretch whatsoever in seeing this creature as "the Devil," or Satan. We must also see, however, that this creature was made by God, especially in light of both the Hebrew understanding of God as source of all creation and the New Testament. John 1:1-3 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." Therefore, we must also say that Satan is created and is not an equal opposite to God. This negates a Gnostic or dichotomous view of two equal opposites, good and evil, or a yin and yang, vying for control of creation.

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