Pedagogy and Counter-Pedagogy in Genesis

Pedagogy and Counter-Pedagogy in Genesis April 15, 2015

Before Yahweh is an object of worship, He is a teacher, issuing an invitation to Adam to eat from the fruit of the garden but prohibiting the fruit of the tree of knowledge (Genesis 2:16-17). After He forms Eve, though, He disappears from the narrative, leaving Eve and Adam to face the serpent’s test “alone.” (He reappears in 3:8, immediately after the fall.)

This is part of the divine pedagogy. Jesus does it too: Invite, command, teach, give; then leave. It’s the divine equivalent of telling a kid how to move his arms and legs and then throwing him into the deep end. Yahweh is no hovering, hand-holding Father. He wants His son and daughter to grow up, and he forces them to do it quickly.

The pressure is especially in Adam. Yahweh speaks directly to him, and, from the narrative, we are led to surmise that Eve learned of Yahweh’s invitation and prohibition from Adam. Yahweh teaches Adam so Adam can become a teacher.

Both explicitly and implicitly in the narrative of the fall, Adam’s role as teacher includes a role as guardian. He is set in the garden to serve and guard it (2:15), and when Eve is put into the garden, she becomes one of the fruitful vines that needs to be guarded. Yahweh is absent. He won’t guard Eve. And that puts Adam in the double divine role of teacher and guard.

Satan’s temptation is in effect a counter-pedagogy. Yahweh spoke to Adam who spoke to Eve; Satan addresses Eve directly. Yahweh invited and commanded, in speech acts of invitation and command and warning. Satan offers no imperatives. He does invite, but the invitations are founded on interrogatives. He teaches Eve by subverting Yahweh’s instruction with questions: “Has God said?” He offers indicatives that contradict the warnings from Yahweh: “You shall not surely die!” He casts doubt on the purity of God’s intentions, suggesting that Yahweh is more concerned to protect His privileges than to bless His creatures. Though Yahweh has invited Adam and Eve to eat from all the trees of the garden, Satan questions Yahweh’s generosity. Satan’s form of teaching is designed to raise doubts that will lead to disobedience.

Adam’s sin is a failure to act as guard. He is “with her” throughout the temptation (3:6), but is cowed into silence. He has taught Eve, but he fails to follow up teaching  by rejecting and refuting Satan’s contrary teaching. He falls because he fails to counter Satan’s corrosive interrogations with reminders of divine invitations and imperatives.

The contrast between Yahweh’s instruction and Satan’s counter-pedagogy is instructive. And it’s worth contemplating how much today’s pedagogy (outside the military!) is closer to Satan’s than to Yahweh’s.

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