“Come on, let’s show it to Doc!” shouted Larkin to two of his fellow students in the 2nd year. They had been laughing over a book they’d found in the Library. Doctor Quinton heard the commotion, and knew he was about to be harangued.
“Doc, look at this,” said Larkin as they all entered the Annexe rather noisily. “How can anyone hope to convince people of the credibility of Christianity when artists paint such ridiculous nonsense?”
He handed the book to Quinton, who adjusted his glasses and looked at the picture of a snake in an apple tree apparently speaking to Adam and Eve. After a minute’s perusal, he handed it back to Larkin whilst retaining a dead-pan expression. The three students waited for a comment.
“What do you think it was really like on that dreadful day?” he asked. They pulled up chairs and sat facing him, not knowing quite how to begin.
“Well, it’s pretty obvious it wasn’t like that, at any rate,” said Baker, with his finger jabbing at the head of the snake. He then realised he was being watched by the others, and required to make some positive input. “Well, . . . I haven’t given it much thought. . . What about you chaps?” he said, passing the buck.
“You can’t expect anyone to believe that a snake actually spoke to Eve, can you now?” asked Jones, with a distinct Welsh lilt. “I mean, it’s bad enough trying to convince people that Adam and Eve existed, let alone this type of nonsense.”
“But you still haven’t answered my question,” said Doc, removing the glasses from his round and ruddy face, somewhat resembling that of Rev. Septimus Harding, played by Donald Pleasance in the film “Barchester Chronicles.”
“Is it possible to know?” asked Larkin. “I mean, all we’re told is that it was a serpent. What didthat look like. I can’t recall ever seeing pictures of anything living that’s referred to as a serpent.”
“What did the Apostle John have to say, in Revelation 12?” asked Doc.
Baker took the Bible from Doc’s hand and found the verse. “The Dragon, that ancient serpent, called the Devil and Satan.”
“Well now, isn’t that something to go on?” asked Doc, pursuing his line of enquiry.
“Yeah, . . . I see what you mean,” said Larkin. “So if it was really the Devil standing there talking to Eve, why was it recorded in terms of a snake?”
“No, I’m not going to answer your questions. I want you to sort this out for yourselves.” Doc’s manner left them in no uncertainty. They began to wish they’d not bothered him at all.
“Come on now,” said Doc, “show me your mettle. You’ve been here for a whole year and half aterm, and you must know how to go about answering theological questions. Tell me first of all, have you enquired about the Hebrew word for serpent?”
“No,” said Jones. “Sorry, sir, we never meant to be rude. . . . Perhaps we’d better have a look in the Hebrew Lexicon.”
“I think you’d better. Try Gesenius first, and then have a look in Hastings Bible Dictionary.”
They arose to go. “I think you’d better replace this,” said Doc, “Like you, I’m not very interested in snakes in apple trees.”
They saw the slight smile on his face, and that unmistakeable twinkle in his eyes as they left the Annexe, and felt more ready for their task.