Sunday, February 23, 2020

Genesis 2 and 3: The Tree and The Fruit

Mark Twain (as Pudd'nhead Wilson) had a couple of things to say about the Genesis text about Adam, Eve, the tree and the fruit (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7, Lent 1A)

"Adam was but human--this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake--he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent." From Congregationalist (Boston, Massachusetts, 14 June 1894)

"The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart and not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world's luxuries. King by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it [he] knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took. We know it, because she repented." --Mark Twain in Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar.  From Southern Planter (Richmond, Virginia, April 1894)
Anni Snyman, PC Janse van Rensburg, Andrew van der Merwe & friends. 'Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil III' installation to be set up at the Woordfees 2013 Festival. 
Twain is not the only author who borrows from these early stories of Eden. John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden considers the themes of Genesis, especially the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 3 and 4) to tell the stories of Charles and Adam and Caleb and Aron.

South African artist Anni Snyman has used the elements of the Genesis story in this work: the title, the apple (though that's really Milton's contribution rather than scripture and not Twain's preferred watermelon), a tree. But her work is far from the usual combination of those elements. We are used to seeing two figures - a male and a female - usually on opposite sides of a tree on which there  is fruit - usually an apple. Here the fruit encircles the tree, presumably hanging from branches out of the picture space. And there are many apples, enough for everyone to have a bite. 

What does this interpretation of the story say differently than the traditional composition does? Are these apples all low-hanging fruit? What does the red moat around the base of the tree mean? A circle usually symbolizes wholeness or eternity. Why a circle of apples? Why a circular moat? How do you read this installation?

For thoughts about Jesus' temptation in Matthew 4:1-11, click here or in Luke 4:1-13, click here.
Finding Eden on a map, this week on Art&Faith Matters on Facebook

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