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Psychoanalytically Interpreting Genesis Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jan 20th, 2020


Why did God have to create Adam and Eve only to throw them out of the Garden of Eden, their home? Where did hostility and death come from? Does it make sense for God to create life and death? These questions introduce an immense suspense between an individual’s capacities to define God and His ways.

In this perspective, it is also crucial to question the origin and meaning of life. As the bible reveals, “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7 NIV).

Compared to other living things such as trees and animals, the form of life that was given to man is special in terms of how the book of Genesis explains. The question is whether this forms the genesis of the differences between man and other living things. In this paper, it is argued that the account of creation portrayed in the book of Genesis gives a deeper meaning of life than it appears at face value.

This revelation is clear when the book is read from a psychoanalytic approach as opposed to the religious dimension. Interpreting the book of Genesis psychoanalytically often calls for consideration of theory of existentialism, oedipal conflicts, and presentation of Thanatos and Eros as destructive forces, which when evoked, led to the eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge by Adam and Eve and hence the dawn of conflicts in man.

Examination of Adam and Eve

In the book of genesis, Adam and Eve provide good examples of the interaction of Thanatos and Eros. In the context of the story of Adam and Eve, Thanatos refers to the fear that life lacks meaning. On the other hand, Eros refers to the opposite of this: aspirations of hope and meaning of life (Green and Groff 32).

The tree of knowledge provided the means through which Adam and Eve could come to an ample understanding of right and wrong (NIV Genesis 2:9). The serpent deceived Eve to eat the fruits by making her understand that the reasons why God had warned them not to eat them are attributed to some perceived fear that it would reveal to her the knowledge that is desired to make them select the right and the wrong from a variety of alternative possible actions.

Arguably, the evoked desire and the decision to eat the fruits are attributed to the need to struggle and understand the meaning of their existence or life. This means that, something was hidden to them. They wanted to unveil it, a case that is somewhat analogous to the people’s constant struggle to understand ones uniqueness and the degree to which he or she is special.

Consistent with this argument, it is arguable that the serpent evoked the desire for Eve to seek an understanding of why God was more special than they were. It is this understanding that would give them a true meaning of life and why they were different from other animals and living things in general. In fact, after they ate the fruit, when God called out for them, Adam replied, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked” (NIV Genesis 3:10).

With the recognition that Adam was naked, he developed a feeling of meaning. This implies that he was able to come to terms with what he actually was and with the things that are meaningful in life such as clothing. Therefore, without these things, life is meaningless since he would not accept to face God directly because He (God) would see that he lacked something that was part of his life.

The capacity of mind to influence and be exposed to dogmatic reasoning and interpretations comes out conspicuously in the dialogue between the serpent and eve. The serpent asked eve “did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (NIV Genesis3:1). Eve replied that God said, “You must not eat fruit from the tree at the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die” (Genesis3:2).

What did the tree signify? If it was to bear fruits, which were not to be eaten, why did God include it in the garden? Arguably, this question means that the tree was incorporated in the garden to serve some hidden agenda. Indeed, the contextualization of the above two questions create two quite similar but different meanings, all constructed to expose the mind’s capabilities of understanding and decision making to prejudice.

This prejudice led to making decisions that were contradictory to the command given to Adam and Eve with regard to what they should do and what they should not. Eve choose to eat the fruit besides giving some to her husband in the desire to experience what it feels to be like God.

In the context of existentialism theory, these decisions correspond closely to the existentialism arguments that the best way of interpreting people’s actions is by studying their behaviors (Appignanesi and Zarate 36). For Eve and Adam, behaving like God, as the serpent argued, entailed having opened eyes that made it possible to differentiate between the “good and evil” (NIV Genesis 3:5).

Death as the Loss of the Meaning of Life

Considering the psychological argument that the mind is the center for decision-making based on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of action, it is questionable and doubtful whether God having “…created mankind in his own image…male and female…” (NIV Genesis 1:27), could deprive him this noble element of his life.

It is clear from the book of Genesis that God gave information about the repercussions of eating the forbidden fruit. How then could they fear the repercussions if they did not possess knowledge of the repercussions? Back to the Eros and Thanatos, God inculcated obedience by inflicting the fear of death.

As used in the book of genesis, life may be interpreted beyond the face value as entangling the realization of the true nature of both Adam and Eve. To evidence this argument, God cautioned Adam and Eve, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die” (NIV Genesis 3:3). However, they actually ate the fruit.

Death is the only anticipated answer here. Unfortunately, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (NIV Genesis 3:21). Therefore, death implied recognition of ones status and physical situation. In the psychoanalytic interpretation of death, the death discussed here is consistent with Thanatos because it is arguable that, to God, death meant loosing the Garden of Eden.

On the other hand, Thanatos sees death as loss of meaning of life as opposed to not living anymore. Arguably, in the context of Adam and Eve, death implied gaining recognition of the meaning of life. Therefore, Eros and Thanatos were the conflicts between man and God. The degree of correctness of these inferences is based on the understanding of the circumstances that resulted to eviction of Adam and Eve from the garden Eden.

Oedipal Conflict and God

Oedipal conflict comprises the idea and emotions possessed by the mind based on the dynamic repression for the desire to have an attachment with ones father and mother (Klein 12). In the book of Genesis, God serves as both the mother and the father figure. The attachment between mother and father often prompts feelings such as pity and sympathy.

Was this the case for God, Adam, and Eve? No. disobedience meant an end of the relationship between God and man. Can such a situation happen between mother, father, and son or daughter living in a society guided by Freudian Oedipal complex? In the book of Genesis, it is written that God cursed the woman (Eve), telling her, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception…in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (NIV Genesis 3:16).

Surprisingly, this happens to be the explanation of the Judeo-Christian creation theory for the pains encountered by women during childbirth. The worry is that this curse extends punishment to people who never committed never disobeyed or even were aware of the said disobedience (eat the forbidden fruit) in the book of Genesis.

The question that remains is whether this is acceptable and reasonable. Contemplation of this question often leads to doubting the accounts of creation provided in the book of Genesis, something that leads to treating the book and interpreting it as furthering and justifying myths of Judeo-Christian creation theory.

God as the Mother and Father Figure

The book of Genesis writes, “The lord God formed man of the dust of the ground (NIV Genesis 2:7). Articulation of this proposition with the origin of life is in conflict with facts of normal and practical life since a child is a product of two persons, a man and a woman.

However, in the case of the accounts of the origin of life in the book of Genesis, God, the father and the mother figure creates man, the child, from mud. What this implies is that the origin of man is from a non-living thing. This opposes the argument that is anything living can only emanate from something that is living.

Furthermore, what the account of creation means is that the only value of life of the child (man) in the eyes of the master (the Lord) is mud. Consequently, the meaning of life is mud. The book of Genesis continues to inform that God took a rib from the man and created a woman out of it. Arguably, this is a myth of precedence of creation similar to the myth that hen originates from an egg. It gives and justifies man’s superiority over woman, his supremacy, and his capacity of being the property of the earth.

God cursed Adam and kicked him out of the Garden of Eden because of disobedience. From a psychoanalysis perspective point of view, search for obedience impairs human mind’s capabilities. From a psychological point of view, human mind is the tool that controls and gives human beings different traits in comparison to other animals and living things in general. It forms the basis for making decisions (Green and Groff 52).

Does subjecting the minds of Adam and Eve to preconditions give them the freedom to make well-informed decisions that are based on reason? Apparently, it is arguable that Adam and Eve ate the fruits due to the need, though not based on reason but influence, to acquire the freedom of mind.

Significance of the Tree of Life and the Fruits

The book of genesis ties this freedom to a tree, a living thing that is much less endowed with intelligence than man. Man is the most intelligent among all things created by God. Therefore, is it justifiable and reasonable to deny him knowledge and constrain it on a tree?

Knowledge is a property of mind, which is developed from experience. Is it then sound to argue that it is possible for one to acquire it at once as implied by the book of Genesis when it claims that, by merely eating the fruits from the tree at the center of the garden, Adam and eve would acquire knowledge to be equal to God? From a different perspective, after eating the fruits, Adam and eve acquired the capacity to appreciate and recognize the true meaning of life. This meaning made them perceive themselves as incomplete.

The relevance of material possession as the true meaning of life becomes apparent. Upon eating the fruit, they recognized that they were naked and could not feel free to appear before God. By linking the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience with the realization of the freedom of mind, man becomes what he is simply by “what he conceives himself to be” (Appignanesi and Zarate 17).

In this context, the book of Genesis may be interpreted as theorizing and confirming the principles of existentialism. For instance, by arriving at the decision to eat the fruits that were forbidden, the act explains the present day constant sufferings of man in the Judeo creation story. Consequently, “man is nothing else, but what he makes of himself” (Appignanesi and Zarate 23).

Additionally, the willingness of man to be better day after the other becomes apparent in the book of Genesis when Eve contends to the Serpent’s advice that, if they (both) eat the fruit, they would become similar to God. The decision to eat the fruits was thus propelled by the desire and the wish of being like God.

Moral of the Book of Genesis

Under the paradigms of existentialism, the choice of what one wishes to be is influenced by conscious decisions made on having prior perceptions of the right cause of action desired (Appignanesi and Zarate 29).

This argument is implied in the book of Genesis when it informs that Eve ate and even gave some fruits from the forbidden tree to her husband after realizing that they were appealing and imperative of gaining wisdom. Therefore, people’s decisions are guided by reason, which makes them different from all other living things. The consequence of disobedience is represented in the book of Genesis as a means of justifying dominance of men against women.

Does this also provide the reason for denying all women equal freedom of mind with men? The response to this query is provided by the book of Genesis when it informs, “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (NIV Genesis 3:16). Supporting this as the basis for the domineering of men over women and children is a neurotizing and misleading myth, which often depicts women as not having a mind of their own. This creates the wrong impression that their mind has to be excited to work by the man’s mind.


People are always in a constant struggle to define themselves and the meaning of their life. In this paper, the meaning of death has been argued from the context of Judeo-Christian creation theory documented in the book of Genesis.

It is held that the fear that people have for death is articulated to the conception that their life may lose meaning, which is the concept of Thanatos. The conflict between man and God revealed by the Judeo-Christian creation theory is discussed as an attempt for man to struggle to have freedom of mind hence seeking to understand the meaning of everything around him.

The involvements of the serpent in the creation accounts of the book of Genesis is argued as introducing mechanisms of explaining how the human mind is prone to deception if reason fails to act as the guiding principle of decision making. From these discussions, through interpretation of the book of Genesis psychoanalytically, the paper presents the book as a quest for justification of moral disorders such as domineering of one sex against the other and exploitation of children and women by the man figure.

Works Cited

Appignanesi, Richard, and Oscar Zarate. Introducing Existentialism. Cambridge, UK: Icon, 2001. Print.

Green, Douglas, and Richard Groff. Early psychological thought: Ancient accounts of mind and soul. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2003. Print.

Klein, Martins. “The Oedipus Complex in the Light of Early Anxieties.” International Journal Of Psychoanalysis 26.4(1975): 11-33. Print.

NIV (The New International Version). Ed. Susan Jones. New York: Doubleday, 1985. Print.

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