"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Biblical and Talmudic Perspective - I

When my daughter recently was assigned the anaconda snake as a topic for a school assignment, I was enlisted to assist, if only by doing our modern lazy form of research, i.e. Google.

The lowest form of parenting is pointing out the correct book without revisiting it yourself at all. To avoid being tarred that way, I did a quick scan of the basic info.

To my shock, the section (in Encarta, the kid-friendly encyclopedia) on physical characteristics begins thus: "Like boas and pythons, anacondas retain primitive features that indicate ancient lizard ancestors. The snakes have traces of a pelvis and hind limbs."

As a child in Hebrew School, we studied the story of the snake in the Garden of Eden. We were taught the Biblical text along with the Jewish traditional exegesis. The full story is that the snake was an upright animal who stood on legs and was attracted to Eve. His scheme was based on enticing her with this fruit, eventually luring her away from her husband. When he was punished, God tells him (Genesis 3:14): "You will travel on your belly." As a consequence, his legs were taken away.

For some odd reason, I found this image one of the hardest to accept, the idea that the snake had legs and they atrophied in some way over time as an expression of a moral consequence.

Still, my teachers clearly were not aware of this astonishing vestige that can be witnessed in the current structure of the serpentine anatomy.

Nor are the writers of the encyclopedia conscious that they are communicating material that provides support for the very first incident described in the Bible.

This occasioned in me the meditation that an odd disconnect has crept into the modern consciousness. The basic premises of the Bible, whether in physical or theological reality, are simply not in the forefront of our cultural awareness, rendering us poorer as a people.

Hopefully, this can be the first in a series of notes expanding upon this theme. Please let me know if you find this of interest.

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, you know I do. Non-Jews know little of the Talmud; many of us don't even know what it is [which is why you kindly put in an info link for it].