Francesca Stavrakopoulou's series concluded with an exploration of the real meaning of the Garden of Eden. She suggested that the story refers to the Jerusalem Temple of Solomon's day. That is not at all far-fetched; however, in the first programme of the series she made much of the lack of any archaeological evidence for the existence of such a temple, and suggested that Solomon did not inherit a united nation capable of building such a grand edifice. You can't have it both ways!
The 'Deuteronomic' Biblical writers want their readers to understand that David didn't build a temple, not because he didn't have the power, but because God didn't need him to (2 Sam 7 : 5 - 7). Solomon's version (according to 1 Kings 5 : 3) is that David was not militarily secure enough. Whilst there may not be archæological evidence, there is an enormous amount of written evidence for the existence of Solmon's Temple, with detailed descriptions of it which Stavrakopoulou herself drew on. We even have the contract with Hiram, King of Tyre, for the felling of a vast numbers of cedar trees in Lebanon in 1 Kings 5 using conscript labour (a mass destruction whose legacy remains, and which was lamented by the prophets e.g. Jer 22 : 13 - 16).
As Margaret Barker has clearly described, the Solomonic Temple was a representation in built form of the seven days of creation as described in Genesis 1, and the Adam figure is the figure representative of humankind in the form of the royal high priest, who alone may enter the Most Holy Place. But is there not a 'chicken and egg' situation here? Yes, it is possible that the story of the so-called 'Fall' of Adam and Eve postdates Solomon's Temple and refers to it. It is likely that Solomon's Temple is constructed on the basis of a pre-existing creation story. Yet it also seems likely that the Hebrew creation story was refined during the exile to draw a clear distinction from the bloodthirsty creation myths of the Babylonians. The final editors felt it logical, clearly, to put these two creation stories and the story of the Garden together; but they are stories that refer back to the lost temple in Jerusalem, which itself was constructed on the basis of the creation story. That suggests that the material out of which these stories were constructed predate the Temple, possibly by centuries. It seems far more likely that this part of Genesis is knitting together well-established ancient Hebrew stories and giving them a contemporary twist.
I couldn't help noticing how Stavrakopoulou skirted round the most obvious garden reference : that of Babylon itself, whose royal gardens were one of the wonders of the world. Babylon (just as much as Jerusalem) leaves its fingerprints all over this Genesis text, as it does that other 'priestly' writing we find in Ezekiel (a Hebrew prophet in exile in Babylon). Ezekiel's detailed description of the Jerusalem Temple he dreams of (Ezek 40 &ff) directly echoes architectural descriptions of Marduk's temple in Babylon, the cuneiform tablet of which was exhibited at the British Museum a couple of years ago.
In the BBC programme, a false distinction was made between Adam as a historical royal/priestly figure and as an archetypal/original human. The whole point of the high priestly role is precisely to become the archetypal human for the sake of making effective atonement with God. The kingly high priest/Messiah in the temple is both. The reason she made this false distinction was because of the evident dislike and difficulty she has with the myth of 'original sin' that she thinks the story of the Garden contains. She tries to dispense with it by pinning the meaning of the story to a particular historical figure. This is simply not possible with a story that has gone through such a complex editing process that it has embedded within it multiple references.
She would have done better to ask whether the story of Adam and Eve in Eden is a story of a 'Fall' into 'sin' at all. Is it a 'moral' story? I don't see it has much to do with morality as such. It's the apostle Paul that we have to thank for that reading, which the institutional Church has capitalised on over centuries to keep women in their place and retain its ideological power. But that's only one possible reading of the text. As a description of the human condition it is profound. It asks and seeks to answer 'what is it about Adam (the 'earth creature') that is different from all other creatures?' and the answer is correct : not that humans are 'sinners' but that they are too inquisitive for their own good. (There are many other messages too). The consequences of that ability to question and push boundaries are not a 'punishment for sin' by an angry God but simply an inevitable consequence. 'Pandora has opened her box'. The 'genie is out of the bottle', and cannot be put back in. There's even the suggestion that this development is God's will (God creates the serpent, after all), and there is almost a sorrowful tone in the voice of God as God describes the tension and trouble that being a God invokes! The story of the suffering Messiah flows naturally from this.
The impression I am left with from the series is that Stavrakopoulou knows a lot about archæology, and a lot about the Bible, but does not know enough about the world of biblical theology. At every turn she has gone to people who articulate what she imagines to be the classic, almost cariacature, teachings of Christianity : creationism, original sin, a degraded view of women, strict monotheism etc., - but has not honoured the rich variety of interpretations and continual wrestling with the inherited texts that have always been part of the Christian tradition. Sydney Carter once wrote : "the function of the Bible is to force us to create", and though I found the series stimulating, it didn't really offer a life-enhancing alternative reading. Because, I think, it wasn't looking for one.