This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 12 - The Fall, Act 2 (3:6-7)

As mentioned, Chapter 3 of Genesis is set up like a courtroom proceeding, and to recap the previous lesson, we notice three things going on.  First, Satan had fallen from heaven prior to this incident.  Second, in order to carry out his nefarious plan, Satan appears as a serpent (Hebrew nachash) due to the fact that the serpent was intelligent and had a close relationship with the couple.  Third, as Satan proceeded with tempting Eve, her incorrect quote of God's command gave him the opportunity to entice Eve with temptation.  And, as we see in this lesson, Eve begins to give into that temptation, which is a big and very fatal mistake on her part. 

Taking the first fact presented in these two verses (6 and 7), note what is going on.  Eve (called "the woman" in the narrative) began to notice the fruit.  There are three things she notices about it:

1.  She first notes it is good for food.  God declared the fruit off-limits but not inedible, and of course now that this temptation was being presented, all of a sudden Eve looks at this fruit she might otherwise had not paid attention to, and began to desire to eat it.

2.  She saw it was pleasant to the eyes.  Have you ever noticed how when something is "forbidden" at how enticing it becomes?  Again, prior to this, Eve may not have even noticed the fruit, but now she looks at it and is thinking, "Ummm.....that is so pretty!  I cannot get away from its beauty."  

3.  She saw it as "desirable to make one wise."  The more the serpent talked his talk, the more Eve was giving into this temptation, and in addition to looking delicious and beautiful, now the fruit had other things she wanted, and Satan, disguised as this serpentine creature, tells her, "Ahhh, go know you wanta!"  

With all this assaulting her mind and senses at once, Eve could not handle it any longer, and she takes a bite of the fruit and eats it.   But, so anxious was she to share this amazing pleasure, she also persuaded Adam to eat some as well.  And, that is where things started to change!

In verse 7, we see what happens immediately after they eat this forbidden fruit, the same fruit God told them was off-limits.  It says, "the eyes of both of them were open," meaning that there was some truth in what the serpent said to them, but it was a truth buried in deception.  They now had knowledge of what they did as being either right or wrong, but with that knowledge came an accountability.  Of course, Satan was pleased, because now he could distort and manipulate man's thoughts to justify evil and ignore good as well, and it was as if he was standing off somewhere saying to Adam and Eve, "gotcha!"  The first thing they noticed was their nakedness.  If you recall in the earlier study about how they were "naked and not ashamed" because God's glory covered them, by disobeying God they were stripped of that, and a self-awareness of exposure happens.  So, they covered themselves rather hastily by sewing fig leaves together for clothing.  Thus, sin and death now make their debut into the world. 

There are lessons we are to learn from this account, as all human nature is susceptible to the same temptation due to a little thing we inherited now called concupiscence, which simply is the propensity and capacity to sin.  Sin became embedded into the nature of the human race in such a way that it is only through supernatural intervention that it could be overcome.  Many centuries after the Fall, the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," and in Romans 6:23 we are told that the penalty for this sin is death.  Concupiscence is itself a consequence of the Fall, but Satan knows he can use it to make us fall as individuals due to the inherent sin nature we received as a result of Eve's lack of obedience.  And, the strategy Satan uses with Eve here is something he still does with us even today, and this is the outline of that strategy.

1. First, Satan got Eve to doubt the Word - The key phrase he uses to accelerate this is "has God indeed said?"

2.  Second, Satan got Eve to deny the Word - He does this by actually telling Eve the opposite of what God said when He created them, that death follows eating from that particular tree.  The key phrase he utilizes here is "You will not surely die!"

3.  Third, Satan got Eve to denigrate the Word - In essence, Satan sort of egged Eve into calling God - albeit indirectly - a liar.  And, in his new role as an accuser, Satan even convinced Eve that God was "withholding good" from Eve by making the tree off-limits.  So, what does he say then?  In essence, he gives her a lie he has used in many forms over the centuries by telling her that if she eats this fruit, she will "become like God."   Many false religions today even promote "personal godhood" as an objective of following their teachings, and even evolution proposes that man will "evolve" into a god, and the eugenics and transhumanist movements are promoting that lie by using technology and scientific language.  This is why as well there cannot be such a thing as a true atheist, for even the professed atheist is deluded by his own "godhood."  (Henry M. Morris III, The Book of Beginnings, Vol. 1.  Dallas:  ICR, 2009.  pp. 177-180)

Now that we see the strategy of the enemy, we must also know how to overcome those attacks, and Jesus Christ died that we might be liberated from the delusions and schemes of Satan.   In James 4:7, we are admonished to overcome the devil's schemes by doing two things:

1.  Submission to God - Remember the study we did several months back on Romano Guardini's book on the Lord's Prayer?   If so, one thing Guardini makes very clear is that the "gateway petition" of the Lord's Prayer is "Thy will be done."  As Guardini also notes, we are exhorted to ask that God's will be done by Jesus Himself, and the reason for that is that it is something worth asking for, and is something holy and salutary.  Therefore, since we pray this, it is a real possibility that God's will may not be done, and the implication Guardini makes is that it is we who imperil God's will - our submission to God's will must arise from our own free will that He has given us, in other words, and only by a voluntary submission of our own will to God's can He then work within us.  That is why this is important (note Romano Guardini, The Lord's Prayer.  New York:  Random House, 1958.  pp. 6-7).

2.   Resist the devil - Just as submission to God is willful, we must also will to resist the temptations of the devil.  We are given the "weapons" of that warfare in Ephesians 6, which is the whole subject of another study.   But, part of that, which Eve failed, is knowing God's Word and what it says.  That is why we are admonished in Psalm 119:11 that "Thy Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee," and to do so, we are also admonished in II Timothy 2:15 to "study to show ourselves approved," in order to "rightly divide the word of truth."  Jesus also sets the example for us in the Gospels as well, when in his 40 days in the wilderness when He was tempted by Satan, He always responded to Satan by saying "It is written."  If Jesus, who was God Incarnate, had to utilize the weapon of knowing the word to resist Satan, then how much more so should we?  

That being said, we now look at some observations on evil itself, as it relates to this passage. 

There are three things from this passage we know about evil and how it snares us  (Morris, pp. 181-183):

1.  It is attractive physically
2.  It is attractive aesthetically
3.  It is attractive mentally

In dealing with each of these attributes of evil in more detail, let us take the first one.  Eve had a physical attraction to the fruit in that she saw it was "good for food" and "pleasing to the eye."  What is so ironic about this is that Eve had unlimited access to every other tree in the Garden, and there was no real necessity for her to even want to eat this particular fruit.  As a matter of fact, hunger doesn't even appear to be an issue.   That is why this fruit represents a form of lust - not in a sexual context, but rather in a covetous one.  Eve was, in essence, enticed to appease her flesh.

Secondly, as Eve desired to taste the fruit, she also began to notice what a pretty piece of fruit it was. The problem with this is that Eve was already living in the very sanctuary of God, as that was what Eden was, and it was a perfect and very aesthetically beautiful environment.  However, this beauty was "here and now," and what was before all of a sudden appears "irrelevant."  What does that remind you of???   You have seen it on the TV shows and in movies, haven't you?  The prissy, yuppie teenager who complains about "having nothing to wear" while carelessly flipping through what seems like an endless closet wardrobe.  Or, the teenage boy who looks in a refrigerator laden with food and says, "Mom, there's nothing to eat in this house!"   And, as things would happen, the Church too has been infected with this mentality - "contemporary worship," "prosperity gospel," etc.  It is about what appeals to one's flesh, in other words, rather than what is truly nourishing to their spirit.  The true Gospel, as well as the great Fidei Depositum of the Church, is actually beautiful and complete within itself, but for many it is perceived as "too boring," or "not relevant," and therefore such people mess with the truth to promote the latest ecclesial fad.  Like Eve, many of them fail to realize what they are doing, and how it will be detrimental down the road - they are so caught up in the mantra of  "change is good" and what is pleasing to their own lusts that they forget what they have right before them and the riches of centuries of spiritual legacy that is at their fingertips.  The bottom line is that Eve chose to give into sensory lusts instead of appreciating the great riches she had already, and that got her in trouble as well.  

Third, Satan had convinced Eve that the consumption of this forbidden fruit was the "key" to true wisdom, and what he was in effect doing was saying that the "selfish God" was holding it back from them to benefit Himself.  Therefore, the simple action of tasting one little fruit would give Eve access to a "higher knowledge" that God was supposedly "afraid" for her to possess.  There are some problems with that lie however, and they are significant problems.  First, Adam and Eve both already had knowledge of "good."   Secondly, they also already enjoyed daily fellowship on an intimate level with God the Creator Himself - after all, they lived in His sanctuary, did they not?  So, in retrospect, it makes no sense why Eve fell into this, although it has been proposed that God allowed this incident to happen to test them.  A more serious implication is in this lie too - it is the lie that is at the root of occultist belief as well, especially the practice of magic.  Magic tries to manipulate nature to serve the magician, but in fact only God truly controls nature, so this is a big deception on the part of the magician.  Also, the "higher knowledge" lie was at the root of an ancient heresy called Gnosticism, which gave more than one orthodox bishop and presbyter headaches due to this very thing.  That all being said, we now look at some commentary from the Fathers on this passage as review.

Many of the Fathers, while believing the serpent was a literal and real creature, honed in more on its symbolism, from which many insights were drawn as well.  St. Ambrose, for instance, saw the serpent as a symbol of pleasure.  By this symbolism, it means that lust (including coveting things that were "pleasing to the eyes," as  Eve did) creeps into the heart of man with all the stealth of a serpent.  Ambrose also makes another interesting point in saying that there is no record in Scripture that God spoke to the woman directly, and that she knew the "dos and don'ts" of living in Eden because Adam relayed what God shared with Him to her.  Therefore, because something was sort of "lost in translation" in what Eve heard indirectly, it provided Satan his opportunity to corrupt man. 

St. Chrysostom also speaks much about the strategy of the serpent when he posits that Satan had handicapped Eve's reasoning and caused her to set her thoughts on objectives beyond her true capabilities God had endowed her with.  This is why, as St. Augustine notes, the beginning of all sin, both with Lucifer and with Eve, was pride.  The same sin that caused Lucifer's fall and transformation into Satan also gave birth to sin in man.  According to St. Augustine, Satan would have had no reason to tempt man if man hadn't already begun to seek self-satisfaction.  This goes along with something Dr. Scott Hahn says about fear being a factor in pride, in that because they feared their own death (something ironically incomprehensible at this point!) more than fearing offense of God, Adam by his silence aided Eve's complicity to the serpent's seduction - Dr. Hahn said Adam stood in silence as the serpent made evident a real threat to them - fear caused the silence, in other words (Scott Hahn, First Comes Love.  New York:  Doubleday, 2002.pp. 69-70).   As a part of the nature God created them with, they had a natural abhorrence of death although they never seen it, and a natural wisdom to preserve life and avoid death.  But, what they needed was supernatural life to avoid supernatural death, and by the silence of Adam and the complicity of both in committing this act, they forfeited that.  Adam therefore also failed in his royal and priestly task as caretaker of the sanctuary by allowing the evil beast in (Hahn, Reasons to Believe, p. 146).  This leads us to perhaps one of the most important lessons in Scripture - ambition to become more will result in becoming less, a lesson we see repeated in various forms in the Gospels and even Revelation.  This inner drive to self-preservation is why Diadochus of Photia noted that the senses, when catering to this drive, can distract the heart also.  This is why too that humility is a great virtue, in that those who fall through pride can only be restored when humbled, as we'll see in the next lesson.  

(All references to the Church Fathers are taken from Andrew Louth and Thomas Oden, eds. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.  Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2001.  pp.  77-83.)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 11 - the Fall Act One (3:1-5)

To recap where we are at in the study at this point, we are now between the finished Creation and the Fall of humanity.  At this point, Adam and Eve are living the life of perfection in the Garden of Eden, and their home is also a holy sanctuary.  However, because man was given a free will as part of his creation by God Himself, events would soon unfold that would change man's destiny.  In the next several lessons of this series, we are going to discuss the Fall and the events leading up to it, and as we do so it is to remind us of how we can avoid the fatal mistake of Adam when we fall short, and although we are not immune to the effects of the Fall, we can overcome.

Genesis 3 is set up like a courtroom scenario.  You have a premeditated act, an interrogation, an alibi on the part of the accused, and a sentence being pronounced.  As a paralegal by trade myself, I can appreciate that analogy, because it also shows that one of God's offices is as the righteous judge, and this chapter exemplifies that divine office well.  The first thing we want to talk about though is the serpent, and that will take up a good portion of this first lesson.

One major issue that theologians and Biblical scholars have debated over the centuries is this - at what point were Lucifer and the other angels created?  If one maintains that sin and death didn't enter the world until mankind's transgression in the Garden, which is the position of the Church and its teaching, then one is compelled to accept that the angels were created at the same time as the rest of the universe.  This is a position maintained by many Church Fathers, notably Athanagoras, who taught that the angels were created by God with control of matter and had free will.  Also, although Lucifer is named as one of the four original archangels in Scripture, he is also the only one who fell from grace too.  The third of the angels that Scripture records rebelled with him were of lesser rank.  So, then, we now get into the details of how Satan fell.

The account of Satan's fall from grace is not found in Genesis, but is rather in Isaiah 14:12 and in Ezekiel 28:12-15.   Satan was the title that this angelic being assumed when he fell, and the word means "adversary."   Prior to his fall, Satan was given another name by  God, and that was Lucifer, which comes from St. Jerome's Vulgate translation and is a Latin title meaning "bearer of light."  The passage in Ezekiel tells what he was like before his fall, as he was said to have been wise and very beautiful in nature.  He is also called in this passage the "anointed cherub who covers," and until he allowed the inquity that caused his fall, he was perfect in every way.  As Aquinas correctly taught, in his being Lucifer was created good, but in succumbing to the sin of pride it corrupted him.  Using Aquinas as a reference in his Summa, let's take that up for a moment.

If Lucifer was created perfect, and was in the very presence of God, then where did this pride that compelled him to rebel come from?  To answer that, we look at Aquinas' Question 75 in the Summa, which deals with the general causes of sin.  Aquinas puts forth the idea that there are three fundamental facts about sin:

1.  Sin is not just the privation of good, but also that act which is subject of the privation.
2.  Though sin has a cause, it is not a necessary cause - that means that sin is an act of the will and not a result of original nature.
3.  Evil does not necessarily cause sin, but is the lack of good which leads to temptation which births sin.  (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II (i), as published by Middlesex:  Echo Library, 2007. p. 339).

So, evil then exists in the privation of good, and evil provides the environment for base temptations to grow into sinful actions.  Somehow, Satan allowed this to happen to him, and his weakness - pride - led to a mortal fall from grace.  Therefore, rather than losing his initial goodness as God created him, Satan became corrupted in his being to a degree it transformed him into evil itself.  Jesus, Who we as Christians believe to be God the Son, was present from the beginning (John 1:1, Hebrews 13:8), and with authority He says as recorded in Luke 10:18 that He "beheld Satan falling like lightning" from the heavenlies.  So, we know now that Satan fell, and also why he fell (Isaiah 14:13), but with the insights Aquinas gives us, we also understand how pride entered his heart and caused him to fall.  So, when he fell, he fell with the angels who rebelled with him to the earth, and Satan has continued a futile and obsessive mission to dethrone God, and he was about to find a willing tool in God's glorious creation, mankind.  The way he chooses to do it is not to appear as himself, but rather in disguise, which is now what the next part of this discussion deals with.

Ask anyone (especially many women!) what creature they fear the most is, and many would unanimously say a snake.  Why are snakes so fearsome to people?  While it is true that many species of snake are dangerous - some with potent venom, others with sheer bulk of size and muscle, such as the python - it must also be remembered that God created the snake too, and because He created it, the snake is a magnificent creature.  A little over 18 months ago, I came to understand what a magnificent creature a snake is when on a chilly December night I discovered a juvenile red king snake lethargically clinging to our water hose outside the front door.   Feeling sorry for the little guy, I brought him in and he spent the night in a Tupperware bowl I set up as a makeshift shelter for him, until somehow he got out and exited out the drain in the bathtub.  To be honest, he was a docile creature, and was sort of cute in his own way - king snakes actually have a docile nature, and they can be successfully kept as pets by even young children.   And, just keeping him for one cold December night gave me a great appreciation for the little creature.  When the Bible refers to Satan as a "serpent," it is not a condemnation of snakes in general, but as we will see the type of serpent referred to is not anything like the young coral snake I took in for the night or even a venomous cobra - rather, the Fathers of the Church believed it to be a different creature altogether, although related.  The serpent talked about in Scripture is actually called by the Hebrew word nachash, which is the same word used, according to Dr. Scott Hahn, in passages such as Isaiah 27:1 and in Job 26:13, and the word is synonymous in those passages with the word "dragon."  As for this creature as a tool of deception, Dr. Hahn says that because this thing was so imposing and deadly, God permitted Adam to undergo the test with it, and this talking serpent utilized one thing that humans had been created to dread instinctly - death (Scott Hahn, First Comes Love.  New York:  Doubleday, 2002. pp. 68-69).  Although Dr. Hahn is a great scholar whom I have had the blessed privelege of having as an instructor for graduate Theology courses, I would respectfully disagree with him on some aspects of this, as many of the Church Fathers thought of the serpent as being a friend of man, and even like a pet - Severian of Gabala, for instance, actually stated that the serpent was a friend of man, and that its closeness to humanity made it the prime candidate as a tool of deception.  As St. Ephrem also notes, man could understand and communicate with this creature as well.   Based on all of that, here is the scenario I see happening - Satan took the form of a nachash in order to carry out an act of deception, and thus it also harmed the relationship between the man and the serpent to this day, which is why so many people now associate snakes with evil and fear.   Any rate, a Creation Science ministry constructed a model of what a nachash may have looked like, and it does bear resemblance to a species of dinosaur, as you can see here:

One interesting observation of this whole topic too is quite interesting - when people really have the Spirit of God within them, a certain harmony is restored in regard to the relationship of man with serpents and related creatures.  I must admit, that little king snake I rescued endeared itself to me, as he was not only a beautiful creature, but he was also cute in his own way too - I still am amused about watching him play "peek-a-boo" out of the drain, as that was fun to see.  And, Satan is not synonymous with snakes - just because he used one to deceive Adam and Eve doesn't mean the whole species/kind is at fault.  Remember, God created snakes too, and they are a good creation in themselves.  However, the stigma of the serpent still remains with most people, and that is unfortunate. 

Now that we have talked about Satan taking the form of this nachash creature, the next part of this is his conversation with Eve.   As the serpent was naturally intelligent, Satan saw its form as the perfect tool for deception, and as Satan still does today, he did then - he is a master of using just enough truth to either twist himself, or allow us the opportunity to twist, and this foments corruption.  One normal day in the Garden while Eve was out doing her thing, this nachash comes strolling along and asks her an initial question we find in verse 1:

"Has God indeed said.....?"

In her response, Eve says:

"We may eat of the fruit of the Garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the Garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die." 

And, there is Eve's first fundamental mistake - she attributed something to God that He did not say, as His original command in Genesis 2:17 says nothing about touching the fruit!  But, the conversation continues.

Satan's next lie to Eve is this - "You shall not surely die!" which we see in verse 4.  

The interesting thing about this is that Adam and Eve already had what are called preternatural graces, and those were the following:
1.  Immortality
2.  Impassibility (not suffering)
3.  Integrity (holistic unity)
4.  Infused knowledge

Now, Adam and Eve already had immortality, they lived in the most beautiful place on earth, the very sanctuary of God Himself, and Adam had at his disposal any knowledge he wanted, as all he had to do was ask God Himself.  The fundamental mistake here therefore is lusting after something they already had.

Satan's third lie to Eve was this - "Your eyes shall be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The third fundamental mistake Adam and Eve made here with this lie was that they seemed to forget that they were already made in God's image and likeness, and they "eye-opening" partaking of the fruit would give them knowledge, but not in the way the serpent told them!  The knowledge they would get from partaking of the fruit would be accountability for their actions, in that they would have knowledge, via consciousness, of right and wrong and because of that knowledge they would have to give account of their actions to God as well as to their fellow man.   This will prove important later.

Satan is a master liar, and he essentially talked our first ancestors into "trading down" the promises they already had, and thus it would cost them dearly.  Now, if we contrast this with Christ in the Gospels, we see how the "Second Adam" overcame these temptations.

In Matthew 4, we see that Jesus was driven to the wilderness where He subjected Himself to a test that was administered by Satan himself.  Satan tempted Jesus in the same way - promising immortality, twisting what God actually said, etc.  However, the difference was that Jesus used the Word (Logos) to defeat Satan.   Every time Satan tempted Jesus by twisting Scripture, Jesus came back with "It is written," and He quoted exactly what was written rather than "adding to or taking from."  This is also why we are admonished in James 4:7 to submit ("Thy will be done," the "gateway petition" of the whole Our Father Jesus gave us, according to Guardini's text we studied earlier) to God and to resist the devil, and this will send him on his way.  Had Adam and Eve done that, the fate of humanity over the past six thousand years would have sure been different!    But, unlike Jesus, who knew to stand against Satan by the Word, Adam and Eve failed by ignorance of the Word, and it was a willful ignorance (translation - "dumb on purpose") despite being in the very presence of God day and night in the Garden sanctuary.  And, that leads us to some concluding thoughts for this lesson.

First, the Logos is the written Word of God, and as such it has His authority upon it.  Being the devil is a master of deceit, we are admonished in II Timothy 2:15 as Christians to "study to show ourselves approved," and if we do, we will be equipped to resist the temptations of the enemy more soundly - we will fail on occasion, and the concupiscent nature we have inherited from our fallen ancestors does sometime get the better of us, but the more we know, the more we grow, simple as that.  Finally, the lesson we see in Eve's failure is that she allowed Satan to use her ignorance against her, and it reminds us that we can never allow our ignorance of what God has said to be our handicap - rather, we study what He said, and fortify ourselves with it.  In doing so, we may not reverse the consequences of the Fall, but we can more readily understand and work to overcome those things that cause us to stumble.  And, that leads to the second part of this lesson, which is Eve's actual disobedient act.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 10 - The Creation of Woman (Genesis 2:18-25)

In this section, the other important factor in humanity's existence is introduced, and that is the female of the species called woman.  As we will see also, the typology of woman also prefigures the Church - again, God uses a tangible reality to illustrate a greater spiritual truth, and in the creation of woman we as Christians see the union of Christ and His Bride, the Church Catholic.  However, not only is there a typology of the Church, but also there is an affirmation of natural law as well, being God established natural law.  Now, it is not "politically correct" to say this (as if I care anyway!) but God created man to have one mate, and that one mate is a woman only - the sacramental union of one man + one woman is God's law, and anyone who tries to redefine that based on their own agendas and feelings is incorrect in God's eyes, because in doing so it violates personhood and the natural order as God created it.  So, in this study, we will be encountering some basic and familiar, yet now in this day and age of "tolerance" and "political correctness," controversial material.  But, it shows us that the family is the primary sacramental and covenantal union in God's created order, and that all human life starts and is shaped by the family unit as God ordained it.

In the first part of this passage, we see a continuation of the Hebraic concepts of abodah and shamar we talked about in the last lesson, meaning that Adam had been given a priestly duty by God to minister and protect the sanctity of the sanctuary that was Eden, and as part of that endowment God gives Adam the task of naming all the animals in verse 19.  Although it is seemingly out of context with the theme of the rest of this passage, it becomes significant when it comes to verse 20, in that Adam came to a realization that all the animals had mates, yet he did not, so God declares in verse 18 that "It is not good that man should be alone," and therefore God will create a mate for Adam.

Classic painting of God forming Eve from Adam's side

In his writings, the great Church Father Tertullian proclaims that the woman is indeed a blessing, and as such she is called to be a parakleo, a "help-meet," to man, and as such we also see a Trinitarian typology coming together in the marriage relationship, as that Greek term is also one of the terms used in the New Testament to describe the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.  This first created woman is also a prefigurement of the Virgin Mary as well.   Like the original Eve was a "help-meet" to Adam, so Mary as a "New Eve" participates in the redemptive plan of her Son, Jesus, the "New Adam," (Fr. Stephano Manelli, "The Mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Old Testament, in Miravalle, Mark, Mariology: a Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons.  Goleta, CA:  Queenship Publishing, 2007. pp. 8-9) although this is seen more in a negative dimension in Genesis 3 which will be discussed more thoroughly in future lessons of this series.  We will be picking up more of the story of Eve later in this study, but for now let us focus on Adam's naming of the animals.

Adam names the animals

In verses 19 and 20, the account is given of how Adam names the animals, and it is a blow to these evolutionists out there, because the first man had intelligence to name every creature on earth.  He also spoke every language - there was only one!  Although Adam was free to go where he pleased, as God gave him the dominion over the earth, his original home was within the holy sanctuary of Eden, as Adam dwelt literally in God's very presence there.  An ancient Patristic writer, Severian of Gabala, actually ponders this question - were there no habitable places for humans outside of Eden at this point?  I don't think that was the case personally, because as we studied in Genesis 1, God made the whole earth, and He said "it is good!"  It is a more likely scenario that the animals were led by God Himself to Adam so that he could name them, and afterward they returned to their own homes.  As St. Augustine notes, the animals had a created nature given them by God, and therefore they knew His voice and obeyed it.  At this point, prior to the Fall, there is a complete harmony between man and beast, but man is still in charge, as this was God's order.  You will wonder as you read this why naming animals was such a big deal, and more so, why Adam names them?  As Chrysostom notes, the names Adam gave them were authoritative, in that they remain until now.  However, there is also an allegorical dimension to this whole thing as well, being that St. Ambrose proposes that the animals are metaphorical references to human passions. It is a case of flesh vs. spirit, and God called the passions, like he did the animals, to man's attention in order that he may better identify what they are. Therefore, even today animal traits are associated with certain behaviors - ever hear your mother or another relative talk about someone being as "stubborn as a mule," "wise as a fox," or "dirty as a pig?"  Even in Scripture, Jesus uses metaphorical references to animals at the end of Mark's Gospel when He admonishes the disciples to be "wise as serpents yet harmless as doves."   In other places He called the Pharisees and Sadducees a "brood of vipers," in Matthew 23:33, and he refers to the king Herod Agrippa as "a fox" in Luke 13:32.  He even uses animal metaphors to refer to Himself - "Lion of Judah," "Lamb of God," etc.  Whether St. Ambrose was right in the context of Genesis 2 is a matter of debate to leave to more qualified Biblical scholars than myself, but at the same time his reasoning contains much wisdom.  Any rate, the animals receive their names, and now the story switches back in verse 21 to Eve's debut in the narrative.

The picture of the creation of Eve is something that is really a beautiful expression of the marriage covenant, as you can see in the above artwork of Adam and Eve together.   Thinking about this story, especially if the reader is married, should be enough to remind one of their own marriage covenant with their spouse - it is beautiful because again God ordered and ordained it, and it is His will that man and woman be joined together in perfect unity.  God instantly created the beauty that is woman out of the bare bone of Adam's extracted rib (note Ss. Ephrem and Chrysostom) and to be honest, even the ugliest woman by anyone's standard still bears the trait of that beauty in some way.  At this point, I want to take a detour from that discussion because in this is also a Christological picture as well we will briefly discuss.

If we turn to John's Gospel, in the 19th chapter and beginning with verse 34 and going through 35, we have the account of Christ's Passion, and in particular one small detail - at His "giving up the ghost" to use KJV language, Christ was pierced in His right side by a Roman spear, and when this happened blood and water came out.   This is a beautiful picture of Christ as the "Second Adam," for just as Adam birthed Eve from his side, so the "New Adam," Jesus, gave birth to His Bride (the Church) from His side.  Allegorically, the symbolism here is heavily sacramental:

1.  Blood - a symbol of the Eucharist, the crown of the Sacraments
2.  Water - the fount of Baptism, the rite by which one enters the Church. 

Therefore, from the pierced side of Jesus came the initiative Sacraments (Baptism and Eucharist) which birth the Church and its members.  As the Sacraments are one of the "four pillars" of catechesis, it is important to see sacramental typology as well in the Creation account.  

Coming back to the story of Adam and Eve, this too was a sacramental union - God willed that the two (male and female) be established as one.   This very early Scriptural understanding of the marriage covenant affirms the sacramental institution and sacrament of Holy Matrimony as being only between one man and one woman.  And, this is why, despite the recent push for a bastardization of that covenantal union called "same-sex marriage," the Church affirms only this matrimonial union of one man and one woman as being God's plan.  For the same reason, that is why other sexual deviancies such as incest, polygamy, bestiality, and other practices are forbidden for Christians to participate in.  I now want to share with you a quote from the late lay Catholic theologian/philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, who in his 1929 text Marriage: the Mystery of Faithful Love (London, 1929) said on page 5 the following:

"Marriage has been chosen as the image of the perfect union between the soul and Christ because in marriage, likewise, the center and core is love.   No other earthly community is constituted so exclusively in its very substance by mutual love." 

That being said, let's talk about more specifics of Eve's creation.  For one, despite her being fashioned from Adam's rib, Adam in his unfallen state felt no pain, as at this point Adam still possessed what are called the preternatural graces, or the "four I's:"

1.  Immortality - there was no suffering or death at this point.
2.  Impassibility - a holistic unity
3.  Integrity - no sin or even concupiscence.
4.  Infused knowledge - Adam knew everything he needed or wanted to know.

And, as such, Eve was made in essence to help man in good works (as a parakleo) - this means that when alone, Adam was in a state of grace, but Eve brought a glory to Adam to this point he didn't have.  The name Eve in reality means "to give or sustain life" (Cornwall and Smith, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names, p. 74).  So, what we have here is a message in the marriage covenant - the woman gives life to man, and that too is a preamble of the process of childbirth.  So, Eve, as a helper, was called alongside to bring life to humanity in union with her husband Adam.  In this respect as well, we also see a picture of the Trinity in that the Father, who has ultimate dominion, is joined to the Spirit who together make the reality of Jesus the Son possible.  It is also a picture of the co-redemptive role of Mary in salvation history as well.  In her capacity as the perfect mate for Adam, Eve was superior to every animal as she was also created in God's image.  Therefore, when we as Christians marry, we have a model to follow in living out the marriage covenant we enter into as well. 

God's transmission of this account of Eve's creation to Moses was very detailed, and this is something not lost on the Fathers.   St. Ephrem, for instance, proposes that when God caused a deep sleep to come over Adam, Adam actually dreamed about what was happening although he was in a catatonic state.  This was, as Tertullian has proposed, the first instance of man's dreaming.  A few centuries later, the great Doctor of the Church, St. Lawrence of Brindisi, who himself was well-versed in the Judaic rabbinic writings on Genesis, noted that there were a couple of Hebrew words used here in this context - sheynah belithi chazeqah, which literally translates as "sleeping without strength."  St Lawrence communicates this interpretation via his reading of a medieval rabbi named Ibn Ezra, who in turn derives his interpretation from the Septuagint translation of the Greek word extasin, which literally translates as "a retreat of the mind," and is the same Greek root of the English word ecstasy (Craig Toth and Victor Warkulwicz, ed.  St. Lawrence of Brindisi on the Creation and the Fall.  Mount Jackson, VA:  Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009.  pp. 126-127).  In other words, it was a trancelike state in which Adam was overcome with sleep.  This dramatic "birth" of Eve serves to remind us as modern readers that the woman is one with the man in the marriage covenant just as Christ is one with His Church.  You begin to see here that marriage is a commitment that God established and takes seriously.  You may ask though - how were Adam and Eve married when no religious institution existed to sanctify it?  The very easy answer to that was that they were in the sanctuary of the Garden, and God was with them, and with Him blessing their union personally, how much more sanctified can it get??

Verse 25 is of interest, especially in the carnal world we live in today.  People read this verse sometimes with an immature attitude and they snicker and scoff at it because of what it says - "They were naked and not ashamed."  To such immature idiots who would read this so irreverently, I say this - GROW UP!!  Before sin and corruption entered the picture in Genesis 3, man still had a preternatural nature (note the "Four I's" above) and therefore it was not offensive to be naked before one another or before God.  The reason for that, as St. Ephrem proposes, is that they were "clothed" in the glory of God Himself, the Shekinah if you will.  There is a picture here that is a typological image of the sacrament of Baptism in that when this sacrament was dispensed in the early Church, catechumens were baptized naked in order to remind them of their former nakedness in Eden (Paradise) that this verse speaks of - a good illustration of that can be found in Fr. Aidan Kavanaugh's excellent essay entitled "A Rite of Passage," which is readily available as a PDF download that is easily found with a simple Google search online.  However, it also symbolizes another fact - before the Fall, man and woman were not weighed down by bodily needs as they were one together.  There is also an anagogical hope in this as well, for it anticipates our own resurrection (or Rapture, if you will) in glorified bodies as the faithful Remnant Bride of Christ.  This all results not from simplicity but rather from the incorruptible innocence and the gift of what is called original justice (Toth and Warkulwicz, p. 134). 

To just state some concluding thoughts to this study, I want to make a humorous but totally accurate observation for you to comprehend - the first man (Adam) was literally the first human to give birth! So, indeed, at one point in time man gave birth to a woman - think about that!  In this account, which we accept from the point of view of this study as true, there are also a lot of Christological and sacramental dimensions to the creation and existence of our "first parents," Adam and Eve.   Finally, before the Fall, man and woman had a more complete union with one another and with God, and the sacramental system instituted in the Church by Christ and His Apostles reflects this in the new creation as well.  The reason is that this New Covenant was instituted by the "Second Adam" Himself, Jesus Christ.  However, sin and death would corrupt, although not destroy, this sanctity, and as we see in Genesis 3, it carried with it many consequences.  See you next time. 

Quotes from the Church Fathers used in this study and the previous lesson are taken from Andrew Louth, ed. and Thomas Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture - Old Testament I:  Genesis 1-11 (Downer's Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press, 2001), pages 56-66.  


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 9 - Genesis 2:7-17

As we continue in the second chapter of Genesis, we are talking about Adam's creation , and to be more specific, his formation.  There are actually two aspects to Adam's formation, one being physical and the other being supernatural.  The crux of this study will be exploring both of those in more detail.

In Genesis 2:7, the discussion centers on Adam's physical creation, and it says that God "formed him from the dust of the ground."  This is the first indication that there was a two-fold formation of the first man and of Creation in general, and they are as follows:

1.  The formation of the world.
2.  The formation of the resurrection of the dead.

St. Augustine, in one of his writings, affirms in this verse that man was formed from the earth, although Augustine translated the word as mud.  The word adam in Hebrew, as a matter of fact, comes from adamah, which means "dirt" or "clay."  So, what we have here then is that the physical form of Adam, the first man, had its origin in the dirt or mud.   Much of modern physics and biology actually confirms this, in that we are made up as bodies of mostly water, but then of several minerals which somehow generate life (we'll get there in a moment).  So, this recipe of mineral and water that makes up our physical being sort of confirms St. Augustine's statement about being formed from mud!  St. Gregory of Nyssa elaborates more on this by suggesting in his writings that the flesh was fashioned but the soul was created - to an extent, this could be said, but at the same time it means that God breathed the divine life of His spirit, which goes beyond natural life, into Adam at his creation.  Man's origins are humble (the dust) but also supernatural (God's breath of life).  The word here used is the Hebrew word nephesh, which denotes an immortal soul.  Bottom line is that man was made for something more than just living in a natural habitat, and that fact is what the whole legacy of salvation rests upon.  The dichotomy here therefore is that man is nothing (raised out of mud) but man is great.  It is the honor with which God created man that makes him unique among all Creation, and that honor is receiving the very nephesh of God Himself.

When God breathed his life into man's nostrils, man became a living being.  As Tertullian has pointed out, the soul has its origins in the breath (the pneuma) of God Himself, meaning it is immaterial due to supernatural origin.  St. Gregory of Nyssa then expounds on this, saying that the natural body and the supernatural soul both comprise the person, and they are an integrated whole.   St. Basil the Great notes that by this impartation of nephesh, God has placed a share of His grace into man's soul, in order that man might recognize the Imago Dei within himself.  This is a classic Thomistic example of how natural theology works, as in the creation of man, grace presupposes nature in order to perfect, heal, and elevate nature, and in the crown jewel of the created order (man), God exemplifies that well.  St. Gregory notes that man is distinctly created, unlike the animals, and the great detail used to document man's creation in Genesis 2 would suggest that there is an importance placed upon man's creation that no other created being has.   But, caution must be exercised to not misinterpret the soul as being somehow God's nature, as it is not - St. Augustine refuted that misunderstanding as well, as such an interpretation could result in a pantheistic cosmology, which would be heretical.   

From here, we now talk about the Garden of Eden some, as it has an importance to the discussion.  St.Ephrem the Syrian notes that the Garden was created on the third day as an icon of paradise, and as St. Augustine notes, it was made after man's creation to be his home, but as we'll see momentarily it was so much more than just that.  God "planting" the Garden, as St. Chrysostom writes, meant that God commanded its creation to be - like everything else, He spoke a word (Logos) and it was.  As we just have noted, Eden was meant to be more than just man's home.   Rather, it was meant as a sanctuary, a "holy place" where God was found.  It was, as Scott Hahn calls it, a covenantal space.  There are two things that Dr. Hahn pointed out recently in a class lecture that defines such a place, and they are as follows:

1. It is a place God reveals Himself.

2. It is always entered from the east.

The Garden, therefore, was a sanctuary, a precursor to the Temple, and as a covenantal space it had some significance.  We will be revisiting that in subsequent lessons as well, but suffice to say St.Cyprian of Carthage adds this allegorical dimension to Eden, while still affirming it as a literal place - he says that it is a representation (a typology if you will) of the Church, and that the "trees" within it represent the faithful believers.  This correlates with other passages in Scripture such as Romans 7:4 and John 15:5-8.  But, aside from allegory, God had also ordained this sanctuary called Eden as a holy place where He could be approached.  The very name Eden itself means "paradise," or "a place of delight," denoting its goodness and perfection (Judson Cornwall and Stelman Smith, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names.  North Brunswick, NJ:  Bridge-Logos, 1998. p.63).  As such then, it mirrors both the heavenly throne room as well as the future Tabernacle, Temple, and even the Church.  Its location also reveals a lot in regard to this as well.

The location of the Garden of Eden is a discussion that has been taking place since the Patristic writings were first penned, and as a result even in the earliest days of the Church a variety of opinions and speculations emerged as to its actual location.  That it was a literal place was not a matter of debate, as the general consensus up until the Enlightenment era was that Eden existed.  The exact geographical location of Eden is not of any soteriological significance, but to consider its location one must take into account the whole Scriptural narrative, and in looking at where the majority of the setting of the Scriptures take place, one must conclude that Eden must have been located somewhere in the Middle East.  Here are a few theories that the Church Fathers proposed:

1.  Eden's borders stretched from the Danube River to the Euphrates, encompassing at its perimeters Greece, Persia, and Ethiopia (St. Ephrem the Syrian)

2. Eden was located in an area stretching from the Ganges River in India to the southernmost reaches of the Nile in Ethiopia - this view proposes that the Pishon River referred to the Ganges (St. Ambrose)

3. Eden was surrounded by a huge primordial sea, and where it rests is where the Ganges and Nile border today (St. John of Damascus).

4.  A purely allegorical dimension - the four rivers represent the Four Gospels that nourish us, the "fruitful trees" of the Church "garden."  (St. Cyprian of Carthage). 

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, whose commentary has played a big part in this study thus far, actually was unsure of the boundaries and did not speculate as to where they were, but rather did affirm that the land of Israel was part of it, although he also notes that the land of Hevila (modern Arabia) would be where the bulk of Eden was (Craig R. Toth and Victor Warkulwicz, ed.  St. Lawrence of Brindisi on Creation and the Fall.  Mount Jackson, VA:  Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009. pp.117-118).  Piecing together elements from the above speculations, there seems to be a general consensus that the central aspect of Eden was centered upon the ancient Middle East, and at the center of that was Israel.  Please keep in mind here that when we are discussing Eden, it is not the same as your grandmother's tomato patch in the backyard, because we don't use that term "garden" to define this.  That is why I want to propose my own theory as to where Eden was, and I also want to center upon the two trees it talks about in 2:9.

I believe that that Church Fathers had the location pretty much centered upon a vast area extending roughly from where western India is today to the Mediterranean Basin, and then extending south to Ethiopia.  It is within this whole general area that the setting of all of Scripture, from the opening of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, centers upon.  Like any sanctuary though, Eden would have had a "holy of holies," and I believe that this centered upon what is today modern Jerusalem.   In Genesis 2:9, it speaks of two trees in the Garden - one is called the Tree of Life, and the second is called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  We again visit the idea of sanctuary here, as Dr. Hahn in his lectures correctly (I believe) points out that Eden is indeed a garden sanctuary and that he speculates (correctly) that the holiest part of that sanctuary is on a mountain - hmmm!!  The interesting thing about that is when Jerusalem is mentioned in Scripture, there are actually two mountains of significance that play a part in salvation history - one is Mount Zion, where the Temple would stand, and the other is Mount Calvary, where Jesus would die on a Cross for our sins, thus completing the plan of salvation for mankind.  In Genesis 2:15, there are other indications that this is a sacred sanctuary, in that God charges Adam with doing two things.  The NKJV translates these as "tending" and "keeping" the Garden, but by that God is not necessarily talking about planting and weeding it.  Rather, as Dr, Hahn points out in his book First Comes Love (New York: Doubleday, 2002), the two terms for these words from the Hebrew, abodah and shamar, denote much more than that.  They also imply a priestly role that God was endowing to Adam, and these words are covenantal language (Hahn, p. 56) which would imply offering sacrificial service to God and guarding the sanctuary from defilement (Hahn, Reasons to Believe. New York:  Doubleday, 2007. p. 144).  Part of protecting from defilement was to obey God's one command - don't eat from the Tree of Knowledge!  It is here we now pick up discussion of the trees.

I believe the two trees were literal trees in a literal location, but like any symbol they point beyond themselves to a greater truth.   The Tree of Life, I believe, would have been located on what was later known as Mount Calvary, in that life came through Christ.  It is a symbol of grace.  The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, on the other hand, I believe was located on Mt. Zion, where the Temple stood.  The Temple in this case symbolizes the law, and as we'll see in Genesis 3 a knowledge of the law brings a greater accountability to uphold it.  St. Jerome seems to concur with that thesis as well, for he notes in one of his writings that the Tree of Life indeed does prefigure Christ and wisdom.  God specifically commands that man not eat of the Tree of Knowledge, as its consequences would be severe if he did so.  This will have significance later, as we will learn that God placed the tree there as an early test for Adam.   The fact of these two trees are therefore intimately connected to the location of Eden as a whole.

As we continue the next study, we will see how the first woman came to be, and how her creation completes the task of Creation and then the story begins to pick up more.