I get the impression that there are many nuances in making hermeneutics across the Old/New Testament. I will limit this to the Garden of Eden symbolism in the interest of keeping the scope of my question within reason. Consider Matthew 10:16. Being "wise as serpents" would invariably evoke an uneasy feeling if to keep the Old Testament connotation. However, as explained in an answer here: Matthew 10:16, is it possible to be wise and simple in the same time?, in the New Testament, the mainstream interpretation is much less esoteric.


Must this case-by-case approach be used for each instance of symbolism overlap between the Old and New Testament? Or might there be consensus on certain Garden of Eden symbolism is robust to context differences, regardless of where it appears in the canon?

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    I don't see how. Surely we can only know that text B is drawing on the symbolism of text A by interpreting text B. We may find shared symbolism across texts, but the individual readings need to come first. Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 8:05

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Case by case is necessary

We only need to find one example of a symbol that has multiple meanings before we can no longer blindly assume consistent symbolic meaning.

I offer: trees. In the OT alone, trees symbolise: A faithful Israelite (Psalm 1), an unrighteous/prideful ruler (Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel), the nation of Israel, Lebanon (cedars), etc.

In Genesis, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life are symbols of human conditions that were wrongfully taken / removed from our reach, which doesn't even map neatly onto the various OT symbolisms, which don't map onto one another anyway, and require case by case study for mapping onto the NT (e.g. the fig tree cursed by Jesus, the tree that bears no fruit in the parable, etc).

Even serpents require case by case study; consider the bronze serpent (and its accompanying real serpents), and Jesus's comparison of himself to it in John 3.

TL;DR: Blind application of symbolism from the Garden of Eden doesn't even work within the OT, let alone the NT; the majority of symbols are used in multiple ways, either subtly or completely different.

  • Excellent points, thank you for helping me understand. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 3:52

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