Sorry I am not being all topical and writing about John Lennon. Or 80’s pop group Genesis. (Though I am a big fan of the former and can take or leave the latter.)
I am thinking about one of the Johns in the bible.
John the Baptist called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. I had always thought he must have just been grabbing at a poisonous, disliked animal. But I started thinking about it yesterday.
John and the Pharisees and Saducees certainly knew there bible. Snakes are incredibly significant in the Genesis story. It is a snake (usually assumed to be Satan) that leads Adam and Eve into Sin, bringing death and evil into the world. Even with out the things John (The Baptist) says later, it seems important to get this: they are not only being called the lowest animal they can think; they are not only being called poisonous. They are being linked with the creature who led mankind horribly astray, with the very origins of sadness and despair in the world.
After he calls them a brood of vipers, John asks: “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” This does not make a whole lot of sense with out the curses laid on the snake in Genesis: “Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.’
The offspring of eve who will crush the head of snake is generally regarded as Jesus. In this light, it makes sense for John to ask the question he does. Basically, he says “I do not know why you are bothering to run away from what is coming for you.”
In the next few sentences, John talks about an axe ready to chop down a tree. The bible (And Jesus’ words in particular) are full of fruitfull tree references. But I find myself wondering if this is a Genesis reference to. The Garden of Eden had the tree of Eternal Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When Adam and Eve ate from the second tree, they were prevented from eating from the first. I am still working out if John’s reference is somehow connected to these trees. I would love your thoughts on the matter.