Bible Study – Turning Over a New Fig Leaf

We had a good bible study last night at the LGBT group here at St Mary’s. I thought I’d post the basic questions here and see whether people wanted to have a go at answering them here too.

First of all we read most of Genesis Chapter 2. (You can find the text at the Oremus Bible Browser)

Then we had a go at these questions

  • What strikes you about the text?
  • Does the text tell us more about how people think about God or about how God thinks about us? Why?
  • What different patters of partnership can you think of from the Bible?

And then we had a look at this picture (Willem Vrelant, 1460s illuminator Flemish, died 1481—Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.)

Adam and Eve

And tried to answer these questions:

  • What strikes you about the picture?
  • What influence does this story have on you today?

I’d be interested to hear any responses on here. (Why can’t we do bible study on a blog post?)

And here is an extra question for those answering today:

  • What difference do you think it might make studying the story of Adam and Eve in an LGBT group to any other group?

Don’t be shy…


  1. OK, I’ll bite (*sigh*…)

    Gen.2 would make a great Tony Hart / Morph stop-motion animation.
    It’s in the bible, therefore it says more about people’s view of God than the other way around.

    The serpent appears to have rendered red fruit golden. (Quite a lot of other potentially significant features too – an arty conflation of “trees”, a thread of “the first/second Adam” per Romans, the crucified Jesus ideally placed for some heel/head-kicking action…)

  2. Rather interesting that the serpent is represented with a woman’s features and body-shape. I wonder how many other similar representations there are. It looks as if iconography may have played a part in the misogynist conspiracy.

  3. I was struck by the fact that Adam appeared to be taking first bite.

  4. *warily tiptoes to the mic* I’ll try to keep this very short.

    I find it interesting that man was the first “woman” as Eve was taken from Adam. A bit like giving birth. I don’t see the text as suggesting that man is superior to woman for being drawn from man (and therefore indebted to him by subservience). We simply give birth to interdependent equals. 1 Corinthians 15:20b comes to mind: “The firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The fruit of our labour can be quite redemptive, no? Sometimes we might find that fruit deep within us.

    The second thing that strikes me is “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” and “becoming one flesh”. We speak of the “issue of one’s body” to describe one’s offspring, right? Somehow I’m thinking incest. Eeek.

    The last thing that strikes me about the first part of the text is how Sumerian it sounds – the god Enki and waters surging through land from his shoulders. And notice how the Biblical text says that waters “rise from the earth” before it rains. Again, a reversal of assumed gender roles: Mother Earth is usually thought of as receiving seed, giving birth, yielding fruit, etc. Giving water, as later Biblical stories will attest, seems to be highly fraught with masculine imagery. Or is Mother Earth giving the piss? *gasp*

    About the picture: I’ve always imagined Adam and Eve sharing the same fruit. Why two fruit?

  5. Wayne says

    They haven’t eaten the fruit yet, but they are ashamed, perhaps the artist was wanting to avoid painting genitals?

  6. Augur Pearce says

    Has the serpent got a very original hair-do, or very sticky-out ears?

  7. Erika Baker says

    Adam doesn’t appear to be biting, he’s looking at the apple suspiciously, probably waiting for Eve’s confirmation that it’s the right thing to eat.

    I think an lgbt group would work out more quickly than a largely straight group that it Genesis 2 is a creation story that describes how people saw the world in those days, without any understanding of intersex people, for example. We now know that he did not just create them male and female.
    But, of course, that is what we predominantly are, so the story merely describes the writer’s observed reality.

    It shows that companionship is important (the first reason for creating Eve given is that man should not be by himself) but it says nothing about sexuality. I keep pointing out to people who use “male and female he created them” as an argument against same sex relationships that I am fully female, thank you very much, and so is my wife.

    As an aside – I love the original sin story. In the context of Jesus it is a marvel in psychology that says “stop trying to be perfect, you know you will fail and fail again, but that’s ok. You cannot grow and mature otherwise. You can learn from your mistakes, move on in forgiveness and try not to repeat them. Live!”

  8. Erika Baker says

    I like Wayne’s comment that they haven’t eaten the fruit yet but they are wearing fig leaves. It made me think, though, that this is a picture of the whole narrative, the fruit, the serpent, the leaves – and Jesus on the cross. It goes far beyond the mere point in the story where the apple is eaten.

  9. Rosemary Hannah says

    What comes over to me is the failure of the first person to find an equal in the animals. They were all there, and good, and named, but they were not enough. What was needed was another person, the equal of the first, the same thing, stuff, substance. Terrible loneliness, and forging through life without other people was never the will of God.

    I think I would be less worried by tackling this passage in a LGBT group (or LGBT heavy one) because I would be far far less likely to hear misreadings such as ‘I am not sure women are made in the image of God’ (which astonishingly I did hear argued recently). I can cope with such arguments, but they take away from deeper exploration in a most tedious way.

    I rather like the crucifixion in the tree. It beings to my mind Paul’s instance that God’s grace as manifested in Jesus is out of all proportion to anything we can do wrong. We can try, we can mess up, but Love wins hands down, always and everywhere. Takes a lot of believing some days.

  10. That must have been such an interesting group!
    As some people have pointed out the picture tells a different story from the bible. Adam is taking the lead in taking the first bite… and Eve is following after. And they’re wearing their dear little fig leaves, which the story says they’re not supposed to be going till much later on. It’s intriguing.
    And do forgive me if I try to answer some of your other questions by quoting from my play, “God’s New Frock”. I was much more coherent then…
    (And it was also me, very publicly, coming out as transgendered)

    “Anyway, there God was, man should not live alone, sounding magisterial, but actually making it all up as he went along. Because he gathered together all the hundreds and hundreds of creatures he had made and paraded them in front of Adam. And he had to give them all names, must have been exhausting, and also have a good look at them and see if anyone of them would make a suitable companion.
    And the thing is, and I’m really sorry to tell you this, you who identify yourselves as women and so are the heroines of this story, that you were obviously an afterthought, because it was only after Adam had looked at all the animals, and turned them all down: turned down the pet dog and the pet cat and the pet gerbil, the pet tiger and the pet warthog and the pet bunny rabbit, the pet donkey and the pet elephant and the pet dung beetle, only after he had turned down all these beautiful creatures as his companions that God invented anaesthetic, whether gas, or injection, or just a single look from his terrible eye, and Adam was fast asleep.
    And when he woke up there was a woman beside him.
    And also a strange hollow space just underneath his heart.
    Now the first woman was Lilith, though we’ve been told she was Eve. But Lilith, apparently, took one look at Adam, and said: “I don’t want to live with him.” And ran off to the desert. God sent three angels after her to try to force her to return, but she was stronger than all of them, and never came back.
    And so she was consigned to hatred and oblivion.
    But I remember her. I remember her well. And were I the woman I once so desperately wanted to be, I think I might tell her story.
    But I am not that woman, and never will be.
    I am who I am, like the bush that is always burning.
    And isn’t it strange the way this story says that woman came from man, and how often have we believed it. And the whole world’s organised as if it were true. As if men were the centre of things and women really only were an afterthought.
    But when you think about for a moment, women don’t come out of men.
    Men come out of women.
    And so what’s the moral of this. What’s the moral of this holy wise and sacred story?
    That if you’re going to tell a lie make it a big one. Make it a whopper.
    And the bigger the lie, the more people will want to believe it.
    And they’ll never change their minds, cause to change their minds they’ll have to accept what idiots they all were in the first place.”

    Forgive me if I seem irreverent.
    And thank you for your blog.
    I so consistently enjoy it.

  11. Rosemary Hannah says

    I like that, Jo. Only in the ch 2 story we have various threads, and only one emphasises gender, the other is, it seems to me, more interested simply in the humanness of the companion. But I am cheating and looking back at ch 1 where god makes people as male and female form the start – and does not go into the tedious rib business.

Speak Your Mind