For example David Carr argues that “the ‘wise’ snake turns out to be more right than God: right about the humans not dying if they disobeyed and right about the knowledge that would come with eating the fruit” (590). John C. Collins, in Genesis 1-4: A Lingustic, Literary, and Theological Commentary wants to avoid the conclusion that serpent was right and explores the semantic range of the Hebrew word for death in order to prove that what God meant was a “spiritual death”, not a physical one. He argued that “the semantic range of ‘death’ that is present here is spiritual death, estrangement from God” (175).
Nevertheless, although he provides sufficient linguistic evidence for such interpretation and the word death could also mean spiritual death; he fails to bring the necessary “literary” evidence from the narrative to prove his point. In other words, the narrative itself does not have literary cues to support this interpretation nor to invalidate it. It also does not make sense to assume that Adam and Eve died spiritually after they ate the fruit and they became soulless creatures like zombies.
In fact, it is not necessary to avoid the claim which implied that the serpent was right, and make superfluous interpretations in order to prove that God was right. If we take the dimension of temporality into the consideration, both the snake and God can be right; which is the very trick of the story and also the serpent. As a matter of fact, it is possible to assume that the serpent makes a trick and omits the word “immediately” when it speaks with Eve.
Of course, Adam and Eve did not die “immediately”, but they are sentenced to “mortality”; which meant that they will “eventually” die, since their access to the tree of life has been cut. This also explains why God placed the cherubim and a flaming sword to the east of garden to guard the tree of life. Thus, it is possible to deduce from the narrative that tree of life was the true source Adam and Eve’s “not dying physically” and by cutting their access God ensured that they will physically die “eventually”.
It is difficult to make an assertion on whether Adam and Eve were made mortal or immortal at the beginning, however as explained above the tree of life can be interpreted as the source of Adam and Eve’s “not dying”. The only thing for sure that can be deduced from the text is that they ceased to be “not dying” after they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge. I say “not dying” instead of immortality, because not dying does not automatically mean that they are immortal and actually they are “dieable” without an access to the tree of life.
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