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Sethian Gnostic interpretation of Genesis (An Exegesis).

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posted on Apr, 26 2011 @ 06:49 PM
I wrote this paper for my diversity in Early Christianity class. It's an exegesis on Genesis from the perspective of a Sethian Gnostic. I've been told that I should have used the Harper Collins Study Bible or the Oxford Annotated Bible rather than the CEV version. Please read and tell me what you think. (Note, I am not a Sethian Gnostic, so don't make this personal, but if you'd like, I'll try to expound on any of my points).

Exegesis on Genesis 3:1-14
Today, I will address the issue of Genesis. I will discuss the problem of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden after their defiance of God by eating from the tree of knowledge. Some would have you believe that the expulsion was a result of humanity’s rejection of God’s word, resulting in a just punishment for their disobedience. I will say, however, that their expulsion was not a just punishment, but the jealous reaction of a false god who recognized a spiritual element in humanity that this false god did not have within himself.
This spiritual element exists today in all of humankind, but is often seen as a curse handed down from the first man and woman. Seeing this element as a curse is to deny the gift that we were given by the true God, and his offspring, Sophia. We should not deny this gift, but embrace it as who we truly are as people, and deny the false interpretations that have been taught to us by those ignorant of the gift’s real meaning. We should embrace our true teacher, and deny the misguided lessons of tradition. We’ll begin with the temptation of the serpent in the garden.

Genesis 3:1- “The snake was sneakier than any of the other wild animals that the LORD God had made. One day it came to the woman and asked, "Did God tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?"”

Who was this snake? Our old teachers would have us believe that he was an opponent of God. They teach us that he is a liar and that he is deceptive. They teach us that Eve should not have trusted him in the garden. But if he did not belong in the garden, then where did he come from? If the god that created the garden was truly all powerful, then he should have known what the snake was capable of and never created him, or at least never given him the power to speak and deceive. Genesis says that the snake was sneakier than any of the other wild animals that the Lord God had made. That suggests that the Lord God did not, in fact, make this creature, but that he was the product of another being. And, if he is the product of another being, then that being must have had a power greater than God, since the snake was able to easily defy God’s word.
In our text, On the Origin of the World (OoW), the snake is described as a divine instructor, produced from Zoe, Eve of Life . He holds the divine light inside of him, and is truly a product of a greater god than that which created the garden where Adam and Eve live. He is said to be the wisest of all creatures, rather than the sneakiest. So it is true, he is wiser than all creatures that the god of the garden created, but only because the god of the garden could never produce anything as wise as the offspring of the divine light.
The Hypostasis of the Archons (HoA) describes the snake similarly. However, the body of the snake was created by the Archon who created the garden, but only acted as a vessel for the female spiritual element, Sophia, to teach Eve the true nature of her abilities . The spiritual element came and left the body of the snake as needed, and only to benefit humanity. Once the spirit left, the snake returned to its form as a product of the Archons who created the garden. The Archons were ignorant of this, and as such, were less powerful than the snake who possessed the divine light, and anything else that would subsequently possess it.

Genesis 3:2 “The woman answered, ‘God said we could eat fruit from any tree in the garden, 3 except the one in the middle, He told us not to eat fruit from that tree or even to touch it. If we do, we will die.’”

Those of us who know the story know that Adam and Eve in fact did not die by eating fruit from the tree. If that is true, then why would God tell them that they would? God is not a liar. God is truth. So why would God lie to keep humanity away from this tree? What is it about this tree that the being that Eve believes is God so fearful of?
Both OoW and HoA tell us that Eve, while still possessing the divine spirit, cast that spirit into a tree to prevent it from being corrupted by the Archons that came to defile her. She left her body behind and her divine essence lived on in the tree of knowledge. Those Archons feared that tree henceforth, for it contained an essence that they did not have. The Archons went on to defile Eve’s body, even though it did not have a spirit. Eve’s body remained without this spirit, as did Adam, until the moment they would eat the fruit of the tree. The Archons knew this, and knew that they must do everything they could to prevent humanity from regaining that spirit. But what exactly was it about the divine spirit of Eve that the Archons feared so much? Genesis tells us the answer to this question, but we, as intelligent readers, must tease it out of the following passage.

Genesis 3:4 “’No, you won't!’ the snake replied. 5 ‘God understands what will happen on the day you eat fruit from that tree. You will see what you have done, and you will know the difference between right and wrong, just as God does.’”

We were taught that knowing right from wrong is meant only for God, and that we are only meant to follow commands and the law. But if we born from the divine, shouldn’t we also possess that knowledge? And why would God want us to not know right from wrong? Any god that would keep us from knowledge is a god that does not want us to know the truth. Therefore, we can assume that the god of the garden is afraid of humanity knowing the truth. OoW says “Indeed, it was jealousy that he said this to you”. The jealousy spoken of is the jealousy of humanity’s capability to see the truth about good and evil, where the Archons cannot. They exist without the spirit of wisdom and knowledge, so they remain ignorant, while we are capable of true gnosis.

Genesis 3:6- “The woman stared at the fruit. It looked beautiful and tasty. She wanted the wisdom that it would give her, and she ate some of the fruit. Her husband was there with her, so she gave some to him, and he ate it too.”

The fruit looked beautiful and tasty. What was truly beautiful was the wisdom that existed in the fruit. The spirit inside is true beauty, and Eve desired it. The Eve who held the fruit was not the original Eve. She was just a shadow. In the fruit, she may have seen what she was capable of being, and felt the need to rejoin with the greater truth that was the one true God, and his spiritual offspring, Sophia. Although even touching the tree was forbidden, it wasn’t her goal to defy God, but to eagerly ingest the spiritual essence that was a part of the true God.
But for the Archons, for Eve to know good, evil and the spiritual essence that was a part of God was to know that they were not God. That was the true fear of the god of the garden. How could he command a being that knew that it was divine, and that he was corrupt? At that moment, humanity became more powerful than the gods that created their physical form. And so, their eyes began to open up to the truth.

Genesis 3:7- “Right away they saw what they had done, and they realized they were naked. Then they sewed fig leaves together to make something to cover themselves.”

We were taught that Adam and Eve’s shame lived in their physical nakedness. Why should this be shameful? No, it was not their physical nakedness that brought them shame, but that they were “naked of knowledge” . The HoA called them “naked of the spiritual element” . Adam and Eve, for the first time, recognized that they had lived their life without a spirit or the ability to obtain true gnosis. Now, they had that ability, but had no way to utilize it. Their ignorance was the shameful thing, not their physical bodies.

Genesis 3:8 “Late in the afternoon a breeze began to blow, and the man and woman heard the LORD God walking in the garden. They were frightened and hid behind some trees. 9 The LORD called out to the man and asked, ‘Where are you?’ 10 The man answered, ‘I was naked, and when I heard you walking through the garden, I was frightened and hid!’”

In common interpretations of Genesis, we are taught that Adam and Eve hid because they knew that they had defied God and that they were wrong for doing so. They feared his wrath and were shameful of their naked bodies. Again, our teachers told us this in the hopes that we would remain fearful of God, and never attempt to defy him again. But, again, why would God be angered by humanity’s attempt to know him better?
OoW tells us that as the Archons came into the garden, earthquakes and great threatening accompanied them . Frightened of their presence, Adam and Eve hid away under the trees of paradise. The Archons then asked them why they were fearful and shamed. In this moment the Archons show everyone in the garden that they truly are not God. If they were, they would be omniscient and know what Adam and Eve did. OoW says, “’Who told you about the shame with which you clothed yourself’ [The Chief Arcon] said to him ignorantly.” These Archons are ignorant of the spiritual knowledge necessary to be God.
Adam must also have felt some fear at the understanding that this being that he thought was God was spiritless and truly a beast. This would have been the first time that Adam would have known good and evil and seen this Archon as evil. Adam’s fear was not in defying what he had previously considered God, but in knowing evil for the first time, and seeing it face to face. It was the fear of this evil, and the shame of once worshiping it as God is what made Adam hide from the god of the garden, not any fear of repercussion for his divine act.

Genesis 3:11 “’How did you know you were naked?’ God asked. ‘Did you eat any fruit from that tree in the middle of the garden?’ 12 ‘It was the woman you put here with me,’ the man said. ‘She gave me some of the fruit, and I ate it.’”

It is clear that the responsibility for Adam’s disobedience is to be placed ith the woman, but is it blame, or is Adam giving credit to Eve for helping him open his eyes? Genesis, OoW and HoA All agree that Adam tells the god of the garden that it was Eve who gave him the fruit, but it does not tell us whether Adam actually regretted eating it. Knowing what we know now, how could one regret rejoining with the spiritual element that connects a person with God? I say it is more likely that Adam told the god of the garden the truth, in this regard, and that he was not ashamed of it.
OoW tells the story of Adam’s first moment of life. Zoe, as Eve, took pity upon Adam and said to him “Adam! Become Alive! Arise upon the earth!” Then he arose and said to her, “You shall be called ‘Mother of the Living’. For it is you who have given me life.” There we see that Adam gives credit to Eve for bringing life to him. In Genesis 3:12, Adam once again has life, both physical and spiritual, and he once again gives credit to the woman, Eve, for giving it to him. Here we do not see Adam passing blame to Eve, but standing strong with Eve in the face of an unjust and jealous Archon, confident in their newfound spirit.

Genesis 3:13 “The LORD God then asked the woman, ‘What have you done?’ ‘The snake tricked me,’ she answered. ‘And I ate some of that fruit.’ 14 So the LORD God said to the snake: ‘Because of what you have done, you will be the only animal to suffer this curse-- For as long as you live, you will crawl on your stomach and eat dirt.’”

The popular interpretation of this that Eve, Like Adam, did not want to take the blame for the disobedience, so instead, she passed the blame on to the trickster snake. The punishment of the snake by God is deserved, according to many. I say that this is another example of a united front of those who possess the eternal spirit against those who would claim falsely to be the divine God. In this, Eve uses the word “tricked”, but I don’t believe it was a trick, but rather a helping hand in realizing her potential, which is supported by the OoW interpretation.
In OoW, Eve’s words are “It is the instructor who urged me on, and I ate.” She was not tricked, but taught by an instructor of divine knowledge in the methods of regaining her divine essence. This divine essence was a threat to the Archons who ruled the garden, so the Chief Archon was dispatched to set things back to his preferred order. Upon realizing that he was powerless to change what had been done, he set about trying to punish those who committed the offense against the spiritless Archons.
Genesis tells us that the god of the garden punished the snake by forever condemning him to crawl on his stomach. This etiological explanation of the descendents of the snake is not sufficient for our purposes. Instead, we must seek to better understand what the Archon wanted to do, and what it was actually capable of doing. OoW suggests that they cursed the instructor, but were powerless. “Their eyes became misty because of him, and they could not do anything to him.” In OoW, the snake was not a product of the Archons, so they had no power over him. This is just one more example of how the false gods of the garden are incompetent when dealing with matters of the spirit.
HoA has a slightly different take on the story, though. In it, the snake is described as a creature physically made by the Archons, but whose body was used by the female spiritual principle as a vessel to teach Eve the good that would come from eating the fruit from the tree. Once the lesson was taught, the spiritual principle left the body of the snake, and left behind only the body that the Archons had created. Ignorantly, the Archons cursed the body that remained, but had no effect on the spirit that passed through it. Once again, we see that the Archons are truly foolish and incompetent, not worthy of our worship.
This tale, when interpreted falsely, describes humanity as disobedient and careless. Humankind is made out to be inherently flawed, and eternally damned for the mistakes of our first human father and mother. We are taught that we must forever try to appease this god of the garden, in order to make up for the insult that Adam and Eve gave to him. It tells us that our punishment is just and that we must forever think of our lives, lived in turmoil, as deserving of the pain and anguish that we must suffer through. This, my friends, is an insult to the divine spirit that we inherited from our first human mother and father.
Instead, I say that we must recognize that the false god that created this flawed material world only serves his own ego. He will try to hold us back by cursing that which he created, our bodies and the world around us. But we are more than just our bodies. We hold within us the divine spirit that was given to us by Sophia, and we must recognize that as our true selves. Luminous beings, we are, not this crude matter. “All things they had created, they cursed. They have no blessings. Good cannot result from evil.” Deny these false gods, these Archons. All suffering comes from them, while all blessing comes from the divine and great invisible spirit. It is good, and we are a part of it, therefore we are good.

• Layton, Bentley. The Gnostic Scriptures. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc, 1987.
• Hans-Gebhard Bethge and Bentley Layton, trans. On the Origin of the World, The Nag Hammadi Library. revised edition. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1990.
• The Holy Bible, Contemporary English Version. American Bible Society , 1995.

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