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June 5, 2006

Adam and Eve in the New York Times

The New York Times ran a characteristically lucid article on the Science report that fig trees may have been the first cultivated plant. But, in the second paragraph the Times decides to have some fun:Adam_and_Eve.jpg

Presumably that was well after Adam and Eve tried on the new look in fig leaves...

Fine. We're all for fun. But then the Times seems compelled to treat the Adam and Eve line as if it were more than just fun, as if it needs to be taken seriously, explained:

...in which case the fig must have grown wild in Eden.

A few centuries ago considerable scholarly effort was expended calculating the dimensions of Noah's Ark and the date of Adam's creation (accepted answer: 4004 BC). Is the Times now to look for scientific and historical explanations of Eden? Or was the "grown wild" line added because it was feared the "new look in fig leaves" quip might, in the current climate, offend?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at June 5, 2006 11:59 AM


As I read it, the latter half of that sentence was just continuing the fun of the first half. No need to read anything more sinister in it than that.

But the sentence was a little sloppily written. It would make more sense if it had read something like: "Presumably that was well after Adam and Eve tried on the new look in fig leaves; if that was the first fashion statement, the fig must have grown wild in Eden."

Posted by: sort of buddhist at June 5, 2006 4:22 PM

you may be right. guess I'm still hearing the attack on the Da Vinci Code for being "fiction" and flinching at anything that implies the Bible is some kind of historical truth.
there is, incidentally, an interesting analysis to be made of references to agriculture ("gardens," etc.), and its opposites ("wilderness," etc.) in the Bible. Eden would play a complicated role in such an analysis. In some ways it embodies nostalgia for the less labor-intensive pre-agriculture world of free pickin's. In some ways, maybe, it is the ur-farm.

Posted by: mitch at June 5, 2006 9:25 PM

Gen 2:15: "And the L-RD G-d took the Adam, and put him into the garden of Eden to work it and to keep it."

If it's a wilderness, it's an ecological "climax community" which human labor was to maintain rather than disrupt.

Note too that the refrain of the Priestly genesis ("And G-d saw that it was good") celebrates the instrinsic value of the non-human animal, vegetable, and mineral, good in their own right. The Eden story is told by J, to whom instrumental goods, things good for something else, may matter more:
2:9:"And out of the ground made the L-RD G-d to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food..."
2:12: "...and the gold of that land is good..."

Posted by: Dabodius at June 9, 2006 3:55 AM

Posted by: Jane Malcomb at October 22, 2006 12:30 PM

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