Friday, July 10, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- What's it all about?

The Gan Eden episode is not “about” agriculture.  It is about the death penalty.
The keyword is mot tamut, the phrase that invokes the death penalty if due process is carried out.
Look at the sequence of events.
·         Gd gives a commandment not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
·         Chavvah and then Adam eat of the tree.
·         Gd asks Chavvah what she did.  She blames the serpent but admits she ate.
·         Gd asks Adam what he did.  He blames Chavvah but admits he ate.
·         Neither one of them dies.
Why not?
You know from long ago on this blog that when the death penalty is involved, there have to be two witnesses who warned the attempted criminal, who agreed to accept the penalty and then committed the crime.
Who warned Adam and Chavvah?
Not the serpent.  He promoted the crime.  He’s an invalid witness.
Not Chavvah and besides, she’s Adam’s relative so she can’t testify against him.  She’s also her own relative so she can’t testify against herself.  She admits that she ate but it’s inadmissible evidence.
Not Adam.  He’s Chavvah’s relative, and he’s his own relative, so he can’t testify against her or against himself.  His admission that he ate is not admissible evidence.

Not Gd.  He’s the judge in the case.
The keyword mot tamut (OK, it’s a key phrase) tipped off the audience to watch for violations of due process.  When Gd obeyed the laws that they believed He had established for them to follow, it satisfied them that this story took the proper course.  It was reassuring that even in the most ancient of times when there were only two people, the laws still held.
You’re going to say, but the requirement for warning developed late in Jewish history.
Go back to where  I cited Samuel II, 14:6-7.  In David’s reign, after he had control of all the Jews, but before Shlomo was born, a case came up where the community wanted to execute a man for murder, without interfering in the crime.  He got mad and forbade them to perform an illegal execution.
So define “late.”  The Gan Eden episode makes sense culturally as early as 900 BCE.  But as I go along, you might realize that “early” and “late” mean different things to Jewish history than they do to western scholars, whose urban legends are what we are destroying after all.

But now Gd has a dilemma and that's for next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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