|From Robert Crumb's 'Book of Genesis'|
In response Steve wrote: even though the reading is foreign to the text itself ...an apocalyptic reading of this passage is bolstered if not implied within the canon itself (when taken together as an authoritative corpus): in Romans 16.20, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" evokes Genesis 3 imagery, and Revelation refers to Satan as "that ancient serpent".
Which is fair enough, as long as it's clear that any "apocalyptic reading" is an interpretation. Paul in Romans is crafting what seems to be an intertextual reference back to Genesis 3, and the author of Revelation may have the same imagery in mind. Granted; but does that then determine the meaning of the verses in Genesis? There are New Testament passages that clearly refer back to apocryphal literature too (compare the ascension of Raphael in Tobit 12:15-22 with the subsequent reports of Christ's ascension), but few are those who are much bothered with that.
At best we can say that Paul found this meaning in such-and-such a passage, or that the writer of the Apocalypse attributed a particular significance in this-or-that phrase. That's what interpreters do, but it doesn't determine the meaning of the text itself. Steve almost gets it right when he hauls out the qualification "when taken together as an authoritative corpus." He needs to add something about "internally consistent" though. Unfortunately the canon (whether we're talking Jewish, Catholic or Protestant) is anything but consistent. Quoting Revelation 12:9 (as the commenter suffering under the nom de plume "Puritan" does) establishes nothing about the text under discussion, unless you want to argue for - wait for it - "direct rectilinear messianic prophecy." Even then the verse is allusion, not exegesis.
There is a famous example of this problem in Paul's writing, which I'll get to next time, though I suspect Dennis and others are way ahead of me. But to stay with Gen. 3 for the moment, here's what Richard Elliot Friedman has to say in his Commentary on the Torah.
Stories in Genesis frequently develop etiologies - explanations of the origins of names and practices - but none comes close to the number of origins accounted for in Genesis 3. Namely:
1. It is the story of why snakes do not have legs... 2. The story is the etiology of what was perceived to be the natural enmity between humans and snakes... .He then goes on to list another eight examples that follow on in this one chapter. None of which have anything to do with predicting the life or death of the Messiah.
Unless you want to read it back into the text 'rectilinearly', and consider that a legitimate exegetical practice. But why would anyone want to bolster their beliefs with bad arguments?