I’ve been thinking a lot about that question. On a literary level it illustrates the subtlety of the serpent–not a direct attack, simply posing an innocent-seeming question, although with a minor distortion already present in the question.
Is there a difference between questioning the clear, direct command of God, and asking historical or literary questions about a narrative text in the Bible?
Jesus asked questions, for example, Who wouldn’t pull a lamb out of a ditch on the Sabbath? Jesus appealed to logic or reason in interpreting the commandments so as to preserve life.
Throughout the Bible people question God in prayer.
In Judaism study is an act of devotion to God. And study of the biblical text often consists of asking questions: Why does the text say this instead of that?
One of the themes in Jeremiah is that God is watching over his word. Surely inspiration must include the whole process of God first speaking to Jeremiah, Jeremiah dictating the words to Baruch, and then others preserving the scrolls. The narrative portions in the book come under God’s guidance, direction, and inspiration as well as the direct speech–but are the narrative passages the word of God in the same sense as the “thus saith the Lord” passages? Do they have the force of commandments?
Should we all be Roman Catholics and never question the authority of the church?
I wrote about this a while back on my personal blog, in a post called “The Critical Spirit in the Bible.”
By the way, have any of you read Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes?