A popular story from the Bible has become the excuse of lazy thinkers for hundreds of years. This story is the account given in Genesis, where supposedly, a snake talks to a human being in presumably the human’s language and deceives them.
The a priori assumption of the scoffer is that obviously, snakes do not talk. Now, if the Bible said parrot maybe they would concede. The problem with this atheistic objection is that it simply begs the question and doesn’t follow.
“The Bible speaks of talking snakes, therefore Christianity is false.”
This doesn’t follow, an error in a document does not nullify the entire document. Even in the worst-case scenario that the Bible was literally claiming a snake was talking and this was somehow verified to be a false account, the Bible could still be true. But enough about hypothetical conjectures, let’s talk about what’s really going on in the Genesis account.
Some Christians are divided on this issue, of course nuance is never good for the lazy thinker who seeks only to make fun of the person to feel better about themselves.
I will go through two plausible interpretations regarding the Genesis account of the “talking snake” for your reading pleasure.
First Interpretation: This isn’t an ordinary snake
A common way of understanding this passage is to say that the snake is not acting of its own accord, but rather is possessed by Satan. In a worldview where Satan exists and can possess creatures, including humans, it is not illogical to assume that Satan could speak through a creature. Of course, this worldview is debated between theists and atheists, but I will try to explain further.
If you believe in an all-powerful God, the idea of snake talking is not far-fetched. To the Christian, your objection is pointless, because you’re assuming naturalism, something that you most likely do not agree upon.
It would be more fruitful to discuss the existence of God, because if God exists, talking snakes possessed by a demonic entity would be logical in that context. This was Luther and Calvin’s view.[i] Though, this doesn’t mean it necessarily occurred even if God exists. This brings us to our second interpretation.
Second Interpretation: Genesis Uses Metaphorical Language
Even in English today, we use words when we do not mean them literally. For example, if you call someone a rat, you might be referring to their nature as a coward who spills information. In the same way, it would make sense to refer to someone evil as a snake. Now, I do not see a huge difference between this view and the first one, it’s just a bit more nuanced.
So, it is possible that the snake is simply a term used to describe the nature of the deceiver in the garden. He’s smooth, slick, with a forked-tongue flickering, telling lies. This would not be uncommon in that time. For example, in ancient Egypt, the snake was seen as an evil power. It seems plausible that “snake” could just be a reference to an evil power and if you know just a little bit of what Christianity is about, you know Satan is an evil entity.
There seems to be some biblical support for this idea. The Bible refers to Satan as “That ancient serpent” in Revelation 20:2.
These aren’t the only views, these are just the two that I think could make sense of the objection. Dr. Michael Heiser has an interesting hypothesis(Though he is quick to not call his own) regarding the nepesh, what he calls the triple entendre view.[ii]. I hope you can see that the talking snake objection is low-energy and are encouraged to present actual objections instead of ignorant mockery. I don’t believe in talking snakes.