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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 14 - The Fall Act 4: "Passing the Buck" (3:12-13)

The curious part of this portion of the study is the old "pass the buck" game we see going on in the passage.  God has asked his questions, and has now given Adam and the other "defendants" (Eve and the serpent) a chance to defend themselves or at least take some responsibility.  As we see though, Adam blows this opportunity to receive a greater measure of mercy from God.

Now, God's primary question which is addressed primarily to Adam is "What is it you've done?"  In response, Adam blames Eve by saying, "The woman you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." (Genesis 3:12)   When God poses the same question to Eve, she does the same by replying, "The serpent deceived me and I ate." (3:13)  It is at this point we can be grateful that God transcends the limits of human patience, because a fellow person would probably be very ticked off at the runaround that was happening here.  Notice though that all of a sudden the serpent is quiet, and perhaps we will explore that later.

Now for more detail on God's interrogation, and we start with Adam.  In the Hebrew, what Adam said is translated as "the woman, whom you gave with me..."  This also could mean, "whom you placed by my side," which from the Septuagint translation would be a familiar word to us, parakleo.  What Adam is in effect doing is offering an excuse for his actions, and he does so by saying that the woman (Eve), his "helper," caused him to screw up.  In effect likewise, he is saying that had Eve not existed, all would have been well and this temptation would not have been an issue.  And, although he admits he sinned, he still blames Eve for the sin.  However, the reality of the situation was that Adam's excuse was poor, weak, and faulty.  When Adam attempts to excuse himself from his sin, he in effect becomes more involved in sin, and he therefore tries to cover up sins by committing more sins.  Again, Adam was guilty of the classic "pass-the-buck" act.

Eve of course fared no better in her alibi.  However, God doesn't ask Eve if she committed the sin, but why she did it.  Eve makes excuses for her sin as well, and like Adam, she plays the "pass-the-buck" game by blaming the serpent.  Another way to translate Eve's response is like this - "the serpent led me away," or "lifted me up."  Looking at that from the second phrase in particular, what went on was that Eve was accusing the serpent of flattering her, and being carried away by this flattery, she fell prey to his suggestion.  In lieu of all of this, let us read this quote from St. John Chrysostom I found recently, as it addresses the problem well:

"Pay attention carefully, after the sin comes the shame; courage follows repentance.  Did you pay attention to what I said?  Satan upsets the order; he gives courage to sin and shame to repentance."

What St. Chrysostom means by this ties into Eve's response - Satan "gives courage" to sin by appealing to the pride of the one he tempts, and this inflates the ego.  Eve may have been partially correct in that explanation, but at the same time she had the responsibility to resist the temptation and in a Nancy Reaganesque fashion she could have "just said no."   But, of course she didn't.  Hence, the reason why God was questioning her in the first place.

There are some further insights we want to look at now from the Church Fathers, as they addressed this subject a lot in their writings, and a few select references will demonstrate why the reality of sin is something we must address both as a church and as individuals.  St. Augustine, for instance, notes that as Adam didn't yet have experience of "divine severity," he was deceived into believing he committed only a venial offense - he was just guilty of an "oopsie" in his own eyes, in other words.  This would indicate that Adam was deceived, but in a different manner than Eve was. His deception entailed a mistaken understanding of the judgment that would follow his attempt to excuse himself.  As mentioned last lesson, repentance might have softened the judgment while not excusing it, which St. Ephrem also affirms in his writings.   By contrast, let us look at something in the New Testament.  In Luke 7:1-9, Jesus came to Capernaum and was ministering there when a centurion, a Roman, approached Him regarding healing his ill servant.  The centurion, a Gentile, knew that the Jews viewed him as "unclean," and he assumed that Jesus would think so as well and therefore was desperate.  The humility this centurion displayed though moved Jesus, especially in verse 6 of the passage, where the centurion tells Jesus, "Domine, non sum dignus...." ("Lord, I am not worthy....).  Jesus's response was that He marveled, and He remarked "I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel."  This is one of the first events where a Gentile accepts the Gospel, and it is this humility that God honors, not the self- justification that Adam demonstrated in the Garden when confronted with his error.  Adam in essence didn't display true humility, but rather shame - he was ashamed of  his deception and attempted to cloak that deception in self-justification to cover his own sin.  He did so first by trying to "pass the buck" to Eve, but then he gets even bolder by trying to attribute his own sin to God!!  He does this by what he says to God - "the woman YOU gave me..." This is a fruit which has a root of pride, and it is something many of us still are guilty of today.  Had Adam responded like the centurion did to Jesus, we could be certain that the penalty of his actions would not have been near as severe as it ended up being.  

In Eve's case, she is shifting blame to the serpent for a similar reason, and there are two lessons in this.   First, when an opportunity for repentance presents itself, God asks.  However, as St. Ephrem again notes, when a creature such as the serpent is a stranger to repentance, judgment is then fitting. 
Second, self-justification will produce more sinful action, and the hole one is digging for themselves keeps getting deeper.  

Now, about the serpent briefly.  Although we discussed a little bit about this serpent in a previous lesson, in particular the term nachash being utilized in the passage (meaning here originally "shiny upright creature"), it is nonetheless again important to note that the term nachash was not synonymous with either your common garden-variety garter snake or a venomous viper, but rather is more appropriately believed to be a dragon.  What is fascinating is even evolutionists cannot find fossils of snakes that are very old, and the theory I want to put forth here about this is that the nachash may have been a type of intelligent dinosaur that maybe had a special fire-breathing ability.  We do know that this creature was considered close to humanity at this point, and St. Augustine notes that the serpent was created upright originally and could stand eye-to-eye with Adam.  Given St. John also identified this creature as a red dragon, it would also fit with other allegories we see of Satan as a reptilian metaphor in Scripture.  Fable, mythologies, and traditions of diverse cultures around the globe also testify of similar creatures like this as well (this information credited to Fr. Victor Warkulwicz, The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11.  Caryville, TN:   John Paul II Institute of Christian Spirituality, 2007. p 325).  As Bill Cooper also notes in his book, After the Flood (Surrey, UK:  New Wine Press, 1995), in August 1614 an odd creature was also cited near St. Leonard's Forest in Sussex, England, that had the description of a creature that was thick in its middle and narrow at both ends, with scales, black back, red underbelly, large feet, and a long neck (Cooper, p. 134).  Others have theorized that the Loch Ness Monster may be a similar creature, and even in the Psalms there is reference to a huge reptilian creature that played in the sea - that psalm is chanted during the Byzantine Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts, and to quote the passage, it is this: 

Upon it there are ships a-sailing,
and that great beast you made to have fun:
(Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.  West Patterson, NJ:  Eparchy of Passaic, 1998. p. 9)

What is referenced in the Byzantine Liturgy as Psalm 103 is in Scripture found in Psalm 104:26, which in the New King James Version reads "There is that great Leviathon which you have made to play there," and the same passage in the Ignatius Bible reads "There go the ships, and Leviathon which you formed to sport in it."  This word "Leviathon" is a Greek word of Hebrew derivation which translates by the way as "coiled," "folded," or "twisted," and it denotes a massive serpentine sea monster that some translators have tried to say was a giant squid or something, which is not correct.  The term clearly denotes something reptilian, not molluscan, and this needs to be seen in that context.  "Leviathan" is also one of the metaphors used for Satan in Scripture elsewhere as well.  Also, in regard to the squid or octopus theory, we need to give ancient people some credit - I think they could tell the difference between an octopus and a dragon!  Therefore, we now have a clearer picture as to the type of serpent that Satan masqueraded himself as, and it plays into this whole narrative in Genesis 3 as it continues to unfold. 

Now, it is of significance that some of the effects of the Fall were felt immediately, as Adam and Eve both began to conceal their wrongdoing under the false assumption that somehow God would overlook it.  As the ancient Church Father Diadochus of Photice notes, an inordinate inclination to sensuality was one evidence of this, and that sensuality was stimulated by tasting the fruit and also evident in the fact that Adam and Eve all of a sudden were self-aware of their own nakedness. It is this shame of the exposure of one's weaknesses that leads to the rationale behind self-justification, and ultimately the sin of lying.  St. Ambrose likewise would say that Adam lost the image of the heavenly by taking on the image of the terrestrial at his fall.  Self-justification then led to false accusation, blame-shifting, and it generated a form of discord between man and woman that was not there previously, and that discord even continues today between the sexes.  And, as St. Augustine also notes, the lack of repentance for the sin was actually worse than the sin itself, and hence that would be what ultimately brought God's judgment we study in subsequent verses.  This whole issue was not lost on the early Fathers of the Church either, as incorporated into the Liturgies of the Church are many prayers which urge repentance and humility, in particular before reception of the Eucharist.  The Mass is in essence a typology both of heaven as well as the Garden sanctuary, and in order to be in God's presence, one must approach in humility and not in pride.  As an example of this, let us look at the General Confession in our own Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and we see a good example of this;

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, judge of all men:  We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against Thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly Thy wrath and indignation against us.  We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us, the burden of them intolerable.  Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, forgive us of all that is past, and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please Thee in newness of life, to the honor and glory of Thy Name, Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer.   Glendale, CO:   Lancelot Andrewes Press, 2009. pp.494-495). 

This prayer reflects the attitude of the centurion in the Luke passage we looked at, and is the response God would have preferred from Adam in sorrow for his sin.  The lesson for us is that God honors the humble, and if we lower ourselves, He raises us up.  As a matter of fact, that is one thing that this passage traditionally teaches us - God descends to our level to elevate us, and by walking where Adam was, He offered Adam that opportunity to be elevated above his mistake, but Adam chose instead the path of self-justification and pride.  And, it was a mistake that we his descendants have paid for since.  In the next lesson, as God pronounces the judgments on the parties involved in this incident, we see just how serious those consequences would be.  

(All references to the Fathers in this lesson are taken from Andrew Louth and Thomas Oden, eds.  The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture - Old Testament Vol. 1:   Genesis 1-11.  Downers Grove, IL:  Intervarsity, 2001.  pp.  83-87)