Comparing two biblical commentaries on Adam and Eve

John Wesley’s explanatory notes on Genesis-3 throws light on the intricacies of the relationship between Adam and Eve. At the outset, the choice of Serpent as the incarnation of devil is explained. The serpent is a sly creature that can operate with subtly in capturing its prey. Since the serpent can strike a fatal blow, its choice as the agent of Satan is apt. The first few stanzas of Genesis-3 also states how reason and speech are deceptive and can lead humans on the path of immorality. Adam and Eve, our first parents, were thus deceived by the serpent’s persuasive discourse of words. Eve, having thus been seduced by the power of reason, bit into the forbidden fruit, thereby condemning all further generations of humankind as bearers of that sin. Wesley’s interpretation is elaborate, in that, he lays out the methods of logic employed by the serpent. For example, the serpent spoke the following falsities in convincing Eve to commit the original sin:

“He questions whether it were a sin or no, Genesis 3:1,2. He denies that there was any danger in it, Genesis 3:4. 3. He suggests much advantage by it, Genesis 3:5. And these are his common topics. As to the advantage, he suits the temptation to the pure state they were now in, proposing to them not any carnal pleasure, but intellectual delights.” (Wesley)

As Wesley further deliberates, the serpent combines sound logic to the lure of false promises. It goes on to say to Eve, how by biting the forbidden fruit, her “eyes shall be opened” and that she “shall be as gods”. (Genesis 3:3) These claims and promises are outright lies propagated by the earthly manifestation of Satan that the serpent represents.

In comparison to Wesley’s account, Matthew Henry’s commentary is more pronounced on the ‘fatality’ of the induced sin. The temptation by the agent of Satan is said to be the most vicious plan. Accordingly, the serpent approaches Eve when she is alone and vulnerable. The utter cunning of Satan is revealed herein, when “It is his policy to send temptations by hands we do not suspect, and by those that have most influence upon us.” (Henry) But Henry too captures the vein of misogyny evident in the original Biblical passage. The female gender is shown to be inherently weak and more so when she is alone. It is upon this susceptibility that Satan had preyed on: “It was Eve’s weakness to enter into this talk with the serpent: she might have perceived by his question, that he had no good design, and should therefore have started back. Satan teaches men first to doubt, and then to deny.” (Henry)

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