It can be fascinating to learn how a biblical scholar originally became interested in his or her field of study. In his recent 743-page book, The Good and Evil Serpent, James Charlesworth recounts how he first became fascinated with snakes, following a personal encounter with a giant snake.
Charlesworth’s encounter with the giant snake occurred when he was a 13-year-old adolescent. In the Preface to The Good and Evil Serpent, he vividly recollects his snake rising up before his eyes:
Thinking back to 1953, when I was thirteen, I remember a golden-domed figure rising before me.
It soon grew erect:
He swayed before me. I was simultaneously frightened and awestruck at this wonder of creation. He stood erect… He swiftly rose up.
Charlesworth was at first traumatised by the gigantic dimensions of his snake:
For years I dismissed from memory the height of this monster.
And his imagination gets away from him a bit:
I had imagined it was over 20 feet (6 meters) long and well over 300 pounds (100 kilograms). Had I also imagined how high this wondrous creature could ‘stand’?
But while Charlesworth acknowledges that his experience was not normal, reading between the lines, it seems that he found it oddly enjoyable:
My encounter with a gigantic serpent, however, was unusual… it transcends the normal….
I cannot assume that you have ‘enjoyed’ a similar experience.
To read the climax to Charlesworth’s adolescent encounter, see:
James H. Charlesworth, The Good and Evil Serpent: How a Universal Symbol Became Christianized. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010.