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Friday, July 1, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 13 - The Fall Act 3 (3:8-11)

To recap the last couple of lessons, here is what we have happening.  First, Eve had a conversation with a serpent (nachash) which was really Satan concealed in a serpent's body.  Second, Eve gives into the temptation and eats the fruit.  Not that it is important or anything, but let's just talk about the fruit for a minute - what type of fruit was it anyway?  The popular conception is that somehow the fruit was an apple, and that is the image many of us have in our minds.   In reality though, it could have been anything, and I would personally lean toward a pomegranate for a couple of reasons.  The Latin name pomegranate though does mean "apple-seeded," which also could be where the idea comes from.  It is also a symbol in Jewish tradition for knowledge and wisdom, which is significant in that the "forbidden fruit" was taken from the Tree of Knowledge!  Therefore, although the Bible is not specific on the type of fruit, and it really doesn't matter much if one believes it's an apple, banana, or a pomegranate, I would personally lean toward the pomegranate in that it was something many Rabbinical writers believed as well.  Third, after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, Scripture says "their eyes were opened" and they were naked and ashamed, and therefore hastily covered themselves with leaves.  So, this is where we are at, and at this point the interrogatory part of the narrative begins.

As the Garden was God's sanctuary, He visited it often as we read in verse 8.  Due to the heightened sensitivity (as well as a sense of guilt) Adam and Eve had gotten from eating the fruit, they heard His footsteps.  St. Ephrem puts forth the idea in his writings that God was audible in order to benefit Adam and Eve - by hearing Him, maybe they would be compelled to come forward and confess what they had done, and God would have mercy upon them.  In that context, God's "sound" was to prepare Adam and Eve to make supplication before Him.  God, of course, already knew what had happened, because by His very nature He is omiscient and omnipresent.   Therefore, his strolling around the Garden was not so He could get exercise or that He just enjoyed a leisurely walk, but rather it had a deeper purpose - He was inducing within Adam and Eve a state of anguish (conviction) regarding their actions, as they were at the moment hiding their disobedience (note St. Chrysostom here on that one).   St. Jerome then adds to this the idea that God sought out Adam in the evening ("cool of the day") and this gives an allegorical dimension to the whole event that we will now explore further.

Allegorically speaking, when Adam sinned, he entered a "darkness" of sin.  However, despite how we tend to cloak sin in darkness (secret) God still seeks us to deliver us from that sin for our own sake. As St. Augustine notes, Adam's sin was a departure from the light of truth.   They heard God's voice, yet they hid from His sight (or so they thought!).   Also, the fig leaves in which they covered themselves were both a literal fact and they held a spiritual truth - the cloak of a lie conceals one from the truth.  Therefore, as is the case when we sin now, the one who turns and hides from God as a result of his sin becomes in a sense "dark" by reason of the lie.   What we therefore have here is a connection of guilt and shame with sin, and guilt seeks to cover up sin, but God can see all.

In the next part of this passage we have a series of questions from God and responses from Adam, as he was serving essentially as his own defense counsel.  In verse 9, we see God's first question - "where are you?"  Now, obviously this does not imply that God didn't know, but as St. Ambrose points out, God was alluding to Adam's state or circumstance.  Therefore, rather than being an interrogatory, this question was a reproof, as the question really was this - "from what condition of goodness have you fallen into this state of misery?"  Remember, due to the deceit of the serpent, these two gave up eternal life for the fleeting pleasures that end in sin and death.  And, in this case, a spiritual death takes place.   As Dr. Hahn notes in his book First Comes Love (New York:  Doubleday, 2002) Adam chose the natural good to preserve natural life, and in doing so he and Eve rejected a supernatural good (divine sonship) and thus chose to die spiritually - they lacked supernatural wisdom in this test, and had they had that, they could have recognized supernatural death and maybe have avoided it (Hahn, pp. 71-72).  The result of that decision - choosing natural and temporal over supernatural and eternal - was a desertion of the soul, and that resulted in spiritual death according to St. Augustine's writings.  God therefore is in effect scolding Adam by reminding him that there was nowhere he could be once God wasn't within him.  God's "question" was in effect a condemnation of human foolishness.  The foolishness here was that, as St. Ephrem points out, listening to the words of a created being over the divine decree of a holy God.  However, in all this, and despite God's rebuke of Adam by question, in asking the question in the first place - as Novatian observes - God is manifesting for Adam a hope of future salvation, thus foreshadowing what was to happen in Jesus Christ later.  So, the question here is why God asks the question??   St. Chrysostom answers this by stating that God is showing consideration for Adam and Eve's limitations, and is extending an invitation for them to confess and repent of their faults.   He now puts the decision for Adam's fate in Adam's hands, so how will Adam respond?

In verse 10, we have the first part of Adam's response, which is part alibi and also partially a pronouncement of his own sentence.  There are two parts to the response. First, he replies "I heard your voice in the Garden."  So, Adam knew God was out there, and that he would have to "face the music," but he was trying to delay the unpleasantness of the consequence of his actions.  The second part of the response was "and I was afraid because I was naked and hid myself."   This is illogical for a couple of reasons.  As St. Augustine notes, God is not offended by one's naked body because He designed it in the first place!  Secondly, Adam mistakenly thought that what he saw as displeasing would be displeasing to God as well, but he failed to recognize that his naked butt was not really what God was concerned about.  In other words, to reference St. Augustine again, Adam failed to realize the gravity of his transgression, and was more worried about how he would look rather than what he had done, although he knew full well that he had disobeyed.  Adam therefore engaged in a sort of self-deception that maybe eating this fruit was "not so bad," and thus he treated it as a venial offense.  Eve was too just as guilty as Adam, as they both sinned equally.    And, this leads to the dilemma.

What if Adam would have owned up to what he had done instead of engaging in self-justification?  St. Ephrem addresses this by noting that if Adam would have chosen repentance rather than cowardice, the consequential outcome of this whole incident may have been different - there still would have been consequences, but perhaps on a lesser severity than what did happen.  For instance, they never would have been totally restored to what they were before eating the forbidden fruit.  However, they would have possibly been spared the later judgments decreed upon them and upon the created order as a result of their actions.  God also had a great level of patience with these two.   St. Symeon the New Theologian notes that despite Adam's response, God was not angered nor did He immediately turn away from them.  Rather, he gave Adam the opportunity to reply a second time.  Adam however made the stupid mistake of deceiving himself into thinking God would "buy the lie," but what God was really asking him was this - do you really think you can hide from Me?  The bottom line here is that if Adam had responded differently - in humility and taking responsibility for his actions - God's mercy may have allowed for some redemption.   But, Adam did what he did, and his descendants (us) have had to pay the price since - thanks Adam!

God's second question to Adam was "Who told you that you were naked?,"   and it was followed by a third question - "Have you eaten of the tree I told you not to?"   As St. Lawrence of Brindisi notes in his commentary on Genesis (Craig Toth and Victor Warkulwicz, St. Lawrence of Brindisi on the Creation and the Fall - A Verse-by-Verse Commentary on Genesis 1-3.  Mt. Jackson, VA:   The Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009.  pp. 169-170)  the real question being asked was "who stripped you of the good things I have given to you out of my kindness, comparing yourself to lesser beasts?"  Adam failed to correctly understand the sense of the Lord's words, as God was expecting a response of penance and did not need to know Adam's physical location.   God was desiring Adam to own what he had done, as such a confession would have warranted gaining forgiveness, and the humility to accept and undergo God's imposition of penance would have been pleasing to Him.  But, as we see, the consequences of Adam's actual response were grave.

Adam, by an act, openly rebelled against God, and his reasoning for doing so is still a mystery.  Adam knew what he was doing obviously, and perhaps reasoned that maybe if Eve died from the disobedient act, God would supply him another "Eve"  - this is driven by selfish motivation (Henry M. Morris III, The Book of Beginnings, Vol. 1.  Dallas:  Institute for Creation Research, 2012.  p. 183.).  As Dr. Henry Morris also notes, perhaps Adam wanted a "freedom" from what he felt were restrictions.  Or, maybe he thought that by "helping" Lucifer he could be rewarded.  None of these motivations that Dr. Morris proposes are documented by Scripture, but Adam's actions are, and of course the universe has been feeling the effects of those actions since!

As we enter the next part of the study, God begins to pronounce sentence on the three "defendants" of this epic trial, and as we will hopefully see, much of God's harsh sentence would be actually to benefit mankind and drive him back to God.  In the next study, it will be important to also see God's judgment as an act of mercy as well as a dispensation of punishment.

(In this study, the references to the Church Fathers come from Andrew Louth and Thomas Oden, eds.  Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture - Old Testament Vol. I - Genesis 1-11. Downer's Grove, IL:  Intervarsity, 2001.  pp. 82-86).