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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.