I'm interested in interpretation generally and in what appear to me the bizarre interpretations I've been reading lately about what actually happens in this story.
Jar and others in another thread claim that the traditional interpretation--that God punishes Adam and Eve for eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (we can shorten this to KGE) is incorrect. They say that Adam and Eve are being sent away from Eden so that they won't eat from the Tree of Life, not because they did eat from the KGE, and this being sent away does not consititute punishment.
The problem with this interpretation is that it ignores the passage before the Tree of life is mentioned by God:
And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where [art] thou?
Gen 3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I [was] naked; and I hid myself.
Gen 3:11 And he said, Who told thee that thou [wast] naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
Gen 3:12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
Gen 3:13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
Gen 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Gen 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Gen 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life;
Gen 3:18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
Gen 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return.
At this moment, the punishment for eating from KGE has been declared. It will consist of Eve having her "sorrows multiplied"; it consists of her giving birth in great pain; of her being ruled by her husband.
Adam's punishment consists of his having to "eat of the ground" which is or will soon be cursed; this ground will be infested by thorns and thistles (whereas before it was not); he will sweat to get this inferior food; and he will die.
Apart from whether they remain in Eden or not, the punishment has been declared. The tone of God moreover is that of anger. Any unbiased reader can see this plainly.
I think you've summed things up pretty neatly. I would just point out one thing, namely, that I (nor I dare say, any other "fundamentalist") would not disagree that God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden in part to keep them from the Tree of Life.
Genesis 4:23-24 - So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubin and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
So these verses explain that two reasons God kicked Adam out of the Garden were: to work the ground and to prevent access to the tree of life.
However, to claim this as the only, or the main purpose behind Adam's exulsion from the Garden is to deny the plain reading of the prior text which you posted.
That certainly appears to be one of the stories there, RR. I'm not enough of a Bible fan to know which creation story is which ("priestly" or that other one, I mean), but look at the following bit:
22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side [e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
This bit is not much in sequence with the piece you quoted - particularly v22. Might it be that you get to pick the interpretation you like better?
The problem here is that you're approching Genesis as if it was a historical incident. We know it didn't happen - there was never a time when there were only two homo sapiens on earth - so we have to look at it as literature.
The first question would be: Did the authors believe they were recording a historical incident or were they just trying to explain the status quo?
Let's suppose for a minute that Genesis was a fictional novel written by a writer of fiction - pick whoever you want, Shakespeare, Homer, Mark Twain. How would the genre of writing change how you read the text?
When Mark Twain writes about Huck Finn rafting down the mississippi river, do you think to yourself, hmm.. this is a work of fiction, therefore Mark Twain can't be saying that Huck Finn is actually rafting down the mississippi - It must be an allusion to life. What forces that interpretation, whether the text is fiction or historical?