I think the first question ever asked is from the talking serpent to the woman, Eve, in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:1, says, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” Redford says, “The serpent approached her with a question, beginning with the phrase Did God really say? By expressing surprise that God would say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden, the serpent implied that God was unreasonable to say it. We might paraphrase the serpent’s words as, ‘Is it possible that God said this? It sounds so silly.’”[1] But God did not say that. Satan knows it and is not asking the question out of curiosity. He knows very well what God said, his goal is to introduce Eve to doubt. Sproul says, “The serpent, described in Genesis as the most subtle of the beasts of the field, intruded on the idyllic domain of Adam and Eve. His initial assault was not forthright but came by way of innuendo. He raised a simple question, which thinly veiled a blasphemous thought. A gossamer film of doubt was suddenly applied to the integrity of God’s word.”[2]

Yes, but even before “doubt” is introduced, the question carries with it a subtlety that’s more deceptive. Horton explains by quoting from Bonhoeffer, “Did God say?”, that plainly is the godless question. “Did God say,” that he is love, that he wishes to forgive our sins, that we need only believe him, that we need no works, that Christ has died and has been raised for us, that we shall have eternal life in his kingdom, that we are no longer alone but upheld by God’s grace, that one day all sorrow and wailing shall have an end? “Did God say,” thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not bear false witness … did he really say it to me? Perhaps it does not apply in my particular case? … Man is expected to be judge of God’s word instead of simply hearing and doing it.[3]The shift in the thinking is very important to notice. When we ask questions like that we’re looking to man’s reason rather than God’s revelation.  Galeotti asks some good questions himself. “What did Isaiah actually say? Who can ever say? What did God actually say? No one seemingly can be sure anymore. Higher criticism has become its own worst enemy; subjectivity rules the day. Doubt and frustration have increased with the shift of authority from God to man and from faith to reason.”[4]

The current situation of mankind has its origin in Genesis 3:1. Cook explains that well. He writes, “Pain, suffering, and death exist in this world because our first parents sinned against God. That sin began with a question. Satan possessed one of God’s creatures and used it to ask Eve, ‘Did God actually say …? The most important strategy in Satan’s war against God, his Christ, and us is to undermine our confidence in God’s word. He does this by means of worldly wisdom. The wisdom of the age will always conflict with Scripture.” Whether it is early Gnosticism, Greek Philosophy or evolutionary atheism, there has always been something in every age that looks down upon and scorns the simple-minded Christian who accepts the Scriptures as true. But Paul warned the believers in his day and it is fitting as a warning to us as well. In 1 Corinthians 3:18 he writes, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” Cook concludes, “As you encounter arguments that suggest that Scripture is defective, do not be impressed by the credentials of the scoffer. God asks us to choose an ultimate authority. It can be Scripture. It can be the appointed wise men and women of the age. It cannot be both. Unless we decide that we will trust Scripture regardless of Satan’s attempts to undermine it, we will not benefit from it. God hides his truth from the proud and the scoffer. He gives the jewels of his wisdom to those who become fools in the eyes of the world, humble themselves before God, and ask him for wisdom.”[5]

[1] Redford, Douglas. 2008. The Pentateuch. Vol. 1. Standard Reference Library: Old Testament. Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing.

[2] Sproul, R. C. 2009. Who Is Jesus?. Vol. 1. The Crucial Questions Series. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

[3] Horton, Michael. 2011. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Galeotti, Gary A. 1995. “Interpreting the Major Prophets for Preaching: A Renewed Emphasis on the Prophetic Call and the Prophetic Voice.” Faith and Mission 13, no. 1: 43.

[5] Cook, Gregory D. 2016. Severe Compassion: The Gospel according to Nahum. Edited by Iain M. Duguid. The Gospel according to the Old Testament. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.