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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 ahead...you 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.)