The Wisest of Wild Creatures

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The Wisest of Wild Creatures

Postby Theophile » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:13 am

This is how the serpent of Genesis 3 is described. It is the wisest of wild creatures. But this flies in the face of typical renderings that would put a negative spin on the beast, calling it 'most cunning' or 'craftiest', as if it is the representation of that great manipulator and liar Satan, a rendering for which there is no textual evidence (recall: all we know, from Genesis 1, is that everything is good, which leaves little room for such an entity).

Instead, or for the sake of argument, what if we put a positive spin on the word, which actually coheres with its typical rendering elsewhere in scripture. What would happen then? Why, the serpent would be the most prudent or sensible, i.e., wisest, of wild creatures, and we would need to reconsider the rest of the story in this light...

We would need to ask, above all else for us lovers of wisdom: of what does the wisdom of the serpent consist?

A fascinating wordplay holds an important clue, unfortunately lost in translation. In the preceding pivotal verse, Adam and Eve are pronounced naked and unashamed (a mystery in its own right why such a statement and concept should hold such pride of place...). What tends to go unnoticed is the strong affinity between the 'nudity' of Adam and Eve and the 'wisdom' of the serpent. With the introduction of the serpent following right on the heels of this pronouncement, it is as if we are almost meant to hear, not that the serpent is the wisest of wild creatures, but the nakedest. Or more precisely, that its wisdom is its nudity.

This logical possibility coheres so nicely with what happens next: the serpent comes out to meet Eve, to talk to her, and to share its knowledge with her in an act that can only be described as naked, or as a baring of itself, coming out into the open.

Just picture all the other animals, too afraid to come out (as wild animals tend to be, shying away from humans). And the serpent, that wise creature, coming forth, not yet slinking in the sand but with its head held high, unashamed, and in the process showing just how wise it is.
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