Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” –Genesis 3:1
Dear members & friends,
For over a thousand years, Christians almost automatically equated the serpent in Genesis 3 to Satan or Lucifer, the fallen angel. However, Satan appears in only three books in the Old Testament: 1 Chronicles, Job, and Zechariah. In all three places, Satan appears only as the one who accuses, not the one who tempts. And, there is no reference to Satan in the Bible as the one who opposes Creator God. What’s more, Lucifer is never the name of an angel in the Old Testament, but a Latin word meaning morning star, the planet Venus, or light bringing. In fact, during the first century, there were praises attributed to Jesus by early Christians describing him as Lucifer, the bringer of the light. Somehow, the translator of the King James Version of the Bible used the Latin Vulgate version’s “Lucifer” instead of using its meaning or the Hebrew word itself. Therefore, there was no reference either in the Bible or by the early Christian theologians mentioning Lucifer as the Dark Lord until Dante’s Inferno in the 14th century. In other words, using the names of Satan and/or Lucifer as princes in hell were from popular culture rather than the Bible or theological writings.
The serpent in Genesis 3 was a creation of God, and definitely not the Devil or Satan. According to Swedenborg, the serpent symbolizes the desire of humans to affirm all things based on factual knowledge. This means that if anything were to be true, it must be real and comprehensible based on humans’ definition of fact, which is rooted in sensory abilities. Therefore, the serpent symbolizes the desire of humans to take spiritual matters and even the divine power under their control. However, God and life itself can not be defined by human comprehension or limited by human sensory abilities, nor can it come under human control. As a result, instead of becoming gods, the first humans severed their relationship with God deeply.
One lesson from the conversation between the serpent and the woman in Genesis 3 is that dark desires rise whenever we become arrogant or selfish, convincing us that what we desire is good and beneficial to us whether or not it is true.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee