Genesis 1-3 tells of creating the heavens and the earth in all its vast array and all living things. God created humanity: a man and a woman from his rib blessed them and told them to fill the earth and conquer it. He gave them as well as all living things every tree to be their food. Then God planted a garden in the east, in Eden; put men there, and commanded them not to eat the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (1:17). However, the serpent persuaded people to eat this tree’s fruit, arguing that they will be as God himself, knowing good and evil (3:4). The Lord God drove them out of the Garden of Eden. He made the childbirth of a woman difficult and commanded the man to eat food from the earth through painful labor all the days of his life (3:17). There are many different ancient and modern interpretations of Genesis. This essay will describe and compare the readings of Genesis 1-3 by Philo of Alexandria and John in his Apocryphon.
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Philo of Alexandria’s commentary was written at the beginning of the first century in Alexandria. Philo explains Eden as a place of wisdom and a correct understanding of the causes of things. God placed Adam there and told him to cultivate and keep it, whereas Eden did not need it, because otherwise, man would be spoiled by laziness or devastation (2:15). Philo suggests God created animals and cattle not because they were necessary food for man, but his close friends, being tame and domestic by nature (2:18). The fact that God brought animals to Adam to give them names indicates the entirely free will that exists in man, refuting those who claim that everything exists by known necessity (2:18). According to Philo, the snake is spoken of as a cunning snake, the natural tendency of humanity to vice and lust, of which he is a symbol (3:1). God first curses the snake, then the woman, and the man, since the snake is a symbol of desire, the woman is the external feeling, and the man is the intellect (3:14).
The Apocryphon of John is an apocryphal Gnostic manuscript dating from the 4th-5th centuries. John describes that the Archon settled a man in paradise, wishing to deceive him, for his pleasures were bitter, and his beauty was flawed (2:8). As far as the commandment not to eat the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil concerned, it was intended so that Adam would not know about his perfection. Consequently, he would not understand that he was deprived of it (2:17). Archon put the woman in front of him, and Adam immediately awakened from the hangover of darkness, for she, as a reflection of the light, scattered the veil that covered his mind (2:21). John suggests that sitting on a tree in an eagle’s shape, she taught him that he needed to taste knowledge to comprehend his perfection. Archon realized that they had fallen away from him and cursed them (3:14).
Thus, if Philo of Alexandria adheres to the moral way of interpreting Genesis’ text, John reproduces the plots, giving them a completely new, different meaning. According to Philo, who became the founder of the allegorical method, as men consist of a soul and a body, the universe is of ideas and things. Consequently, the text of the Bible has a sensory level adapted for perception. John’s narration and vision of Genesis have a specific psychological effect. Reading the text can be understood that the turning point in men’s life, which comes with discovering the last secrets of being, is revealed as knowledge.
Genesis 1-3. (n.d.). Bible gateway. Web.