Serpent in the Garden

From our earliest days we were told the story of Adam and Eve’s temptation by the serpent in the garden. In children’s books there is often the quick explanation that the serpent is the devil/satan tempting the first humans. To be clear this earliest of accounts in Genesis 3 does not refer explicitly to Satan (which by the way is never used as a proper name in Scripture). The tempter is simply called a nāḥāš, which is a common Hebrew word for a serpent, used a total of 31 times in the OT. There is perhaps a sinister nuance possible as seen in the Hebrew word for serpent (nāḥāš) if it is to be connected with the verb nāḥaš, “to practice divination, observe signs,” a verb that appears eleven times in the OT. In the ancient Near East such divination formulae frequently involved a serpent. Continue reading

Be made known

This coming Sunday is the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time. In yesterday’s post we considered the expression “Lamb of God.” In today’s post we look at the verses that speak to John the Baptist as witness. One of the distinct features of the Fourth Gospel is the Evangelists’ use of martyreo (“bear witness”). The verb occurs once in Matthew, once in Luke, none in Mark, and 31 times in John including the five use in the first chapter (vv. 7, 8, 15, 32, 34). This should not be surprising as we were already told in the Prologue that “He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.” (1:7) Continue reading