There are a good many interesting things in the story of the "fall" but the things most interesting to me in the past have been what I mentioned yesterday


1. The nature of the "death" that Adam and Eve suffer as a result of their disobedience?

2. The "fallen" nature of our lives on this earth, and do we continue to live in that fallen world/nature?

3. What Christians and especially early Quakers understood about what you might call God's "Ur-Promise" [original/first promise made] in verse 3:15?

But first, I just want to point out something I think most writers have missed - the fact that there is a whole lot of "irony" and sophistication in the story. First of all, the serpent says to Eve, that the creator God has lied to them. God has told them if they eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they will "die." But the serpent says, "You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (2:4-5). And then when they both eat of the fruit, the text tells us "the eyes of both of them were opened." They see that they are naked and they feel ashamed. But God is not trying to keep them from being like gods; he has created them specifically to be like Him - the one and only God. And when the text tells us that their eyes were "opened" I think we should see this as irony. They have by their disobedience become less like Him and less able to see and less alive. Their fallen condition will be one of spiritual death, spiritual blindness and spiritual debasement. I think early Friends saw that these results of the fall were all internal. They have separated themselves from the divine nature God planted in them. 

 

But then comes the promise (also called by early Latin speaking Christians the "protoevangelium" [original "good news"] - mysterious and embedded in the punishments God imposes - and this needs to be presented in one of the older translations to be appreciated in the Quaker context I am trying to present: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (KJ Version). This promise that someday a descendant of Eve - her "seed" - would defeat the serpent. Early Christians took this to be a prophesy of Christ's victory over sin. Christ was to be the second Adam, and his victory over the seed of the serpent (evil/sin/the fallen condition of man) would permit things to revert to the original intention God had for us - to be His presence on earth, to be faithful in all things to Him. Fox's famous quote -

 

“And when I myself was in the deep, under all shut up, I could not believe that I should ever overcome; my troubles, my sorrows, and my temptations were so great, that I thought many times I should have despaired, I was so tempted. But when Christ opened to me how he was tempted by the same Devil, and had overcome him and bruised his head, and that through him and his power, light, grace and spirit, I should overcome also, I had confidence in him.” (12)

 

It is because of Christ's victory over the serpent that Friends believed spiritual "perfection" could be achieved, the spiritual "death" could become life once more in us and the earth restored to become God's "kingdom" again. The testimonies of Friends are all elements of faithfulness that can only be achieved through overcoming of our fallen condition: the equality of man and woman as it was meant to be (see Genesis 1), the peaceable kingdom, our ability to walk day to day with God as our guide.

 

 

 

 

 

Views: 72

Comment by Tom Smith on 4th mo. 21, 2011 at 10:01am
To me one of the most telling part of the story is the question asked by G-d, "Where are you?" This is another ironic part since it was clear that G-d did know where they were, but the question is posed as it has been posed for the last millenia "Do we know where we stand with respect to G-d?" The opening of their eyes is is accompanied by a "closing" off of themselves from each other and from G-d. If we "pretend"/believe that we KNOW the absolute TRUTH (knowing what is "right" and what is "wrong") then we close ourselves off from others and from learning from and listening to G-d. I equate much of the lessons from this with the statement "Judge not that you be not judged." If we assert that we KNOW where we are with respect to others and with G-d in an absolute sense and thus we KNOW what is right for everyone, then we have cut ourselves off, hidden ourselves, from each other and G-d.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 22, 2011 at 1:40pm

Tom Smith has got a chunk of it... though I generally like to emphasize other lines: "The woman You gave me made me do it." "It was that damned snake." (& then we get that Christian exegesis culminating in "The Devil made me do it." But that snake was just doing what he was supposed to do.

 

Obviously this was an inside job. Who planted that tree, right there, right in the middle of a Garden full of monkeys? Who drew their attention to it? I rest my case.

 

We humans are truly 'Fallen.' (Read history. The news. Look what happens when you get a Good Intention. Look at that Good Intention itself-- Did you Ask about it, or just assume it was your idea, that you could be proud of it, that you could do it on your own? I don't agree that we can't know "what is right and what is wrong;" but the joy of indignation, or of 'self-improvement', even of 'doing a religious practice', readily renders us drunk.)

 

We humans are truly intended to be "Fallen." I think that's inevitable consequence: "When you have humans, they start off pooping their diapers, and go on from there." If You're going to make humans, that's how You make them. It just that the end result is supposed to be qualitatively different.

 

The part about "death" intrigues me. That, and everything else people tend to glory in, is a consequence of this "curse". Which is a bit of an upgrade from the Summerian version of the story: that curse is Intended to be overcome, and with it, death.

 

Now I play go, and when stones are 'killed' they're eventually 'captured' (Yes, I know, a peculiar terminology. "Dead" when there's (probably) no chance of saving them, "captured" when they're officially taken.) Captured, they come off the board and can rest comfortably in the lid of their bowl until the next game. Online, virtual stones just get subtracted from somebody's score-- but all they ever were was an image on a picture of a board. Either way, they don't mind.

 

Talking about "death", people imagine we can go from existing to nonexisting. I don't think so.

 

But when we identify too strongly with the people we imagine we are... That can get scary.

 

I don't know if I can imagine a world without death; I mean it's hard to understand how it works and what the rules are. It sounds like a game where nothing is ever taken... But how many games do you know, where simply being on the board is a pleasure? There must be other objects to this game than monkey dominance!

 

Is it possible to be 'small, embodied God', and to be lastingly happy? We are engaged in a great experiment!

Comment by Irene Lape on 4th mo. 23, 2011 at 8:11am

I am very impressed by the posts in Forrest's blog, "flowers sneezing in the spring" and am about in the middle of the 2006 posts. Believe it or not, I have never heard of William Stringfellow, but his bio on Wikipedia makes him sound like the very incarnation of the times I have lived through (60s shaped mostly). I do think the "powers and principalities" of every generation wear different dress but are similar. I think we need to be careful not to be too critical of everything "worldly" - I think we can be involved in the ideas (ideologies) and culture of our times (Country Music, Hip Hop) without being an unfaithful and "death encumbered" Christian. I don't think God wants to "crush" our wills as the quietists maybe do - I think He wants to win us over the long haul. And while I admire deeply the Woolmans and Mother Teresas of the world, I don't think everyone is called to that level of heroism. I hope not. 

 

As far as "the fall" is concerned, I do wonder if Paul's (and the early church's) "second Adam" idea, means that the creation as a whole was as restored by Christ's presence (his life, death and resurrection) as it was stained by the first Adam's sin. If that is the case, then things are not as fallen as perhaps they were. There are so many ways one may look at the narrative. It's so deep and multi-dimensional.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 24, 2011 at 5:37pm

I've been thinking about that last question; if it comes down to "Is God dealing differently with the world?" I don't think so.

 

That is, it looks like we've always had (a few) people who were resonating to God's efforts to communicate. But also a great many people tuned to other signals, about national gods and priestly perks, and the typical human appetites & fears.

 

It was like that in Jesus' time, and still like that today. But I think what he was saying got more strongly established in humanity's 'collective consciousness' than it had been, that it's been gradually gaining ground via the lives & thoughts of many 'saints' of different persuasions, many of these directly or indirectly inspired by Jesus. Like sitting in a screaming classroom... where a few kids have noticed that the Teacher is waiting to talk, and then others notice them quieting down... [Can we hope that things might settle with unexpected suddenness?]

Comment by Irene Lape on 4th mo. 25, 2011 at 12:24pm

It is challenging trying to keep up with all the good comments that are made by people, and I am having a little bit of a hard time figuring out how to get to the latest comment and negotiating the site, so I am going to put my posts (same ones as I make here) on my own little blog http://catholicquaker.blogspot.com/ so if anyone wants to just go there to follow along, it might be a little simpler there. I was a little surprised that the "Second Adam" part of the Fall story - the first "good news" to be proclaimed in the scripture narrative - did not draw a little more attention. It was such a key part of the scriptures for Fox and early Friends. It is interesting that it is also the only "promise" in the Old Testament part of the Bible that did not get much attention in later books. It was seen by Christians as really important in understanding Christ's role in the unfolding drama of God's "creation" for there is a sense in which the creation God starts here in Genesis is not fully accomplished. His intention with respect to our creation is not fulfilled here.

There were some comments on how important the statement was that we were created in God's image (1:27). A few thought perhaps the word "image" here was meant to be taken with a grain of salt - that images were idols in OT thinking. But some Bibles use the term "likeness" and that's a little less loaded, but it conveys the same idea that we were actually intended to be "like" God. Another thought I've had on it is that in some ways our likeness to God in chapter 1 is similar to Eve's "likeness" to Adam - being taken from his body. In chapter 2, we see Adam, created first this time, but he is lonely and so God creates all the animals that will populate the earth, but none of them is a suitable companion for Adam. So Eve is created, not out of the ground, like all the other animals, but out of Adam's rib or side. And when she is presented to Adam, he recognizes her as part of his own flesh. It is my sense that this creation of woman from Adam is meant to echo the first creation of "man" in chapter 1. But there the lonely one is God. After all He created, He still wanted something in the creation that reflected His image and likeness, to be "bone of His bone" if you will. And His answer was man. As the unity of Adam and Eve finds its pinnacle in the coming together as "one flesh," so the redemption of mankind will take shape as a great eschatological wedding and banquet. But that will come later.

 

Another thing which a few people said or implied was that the "fallen" condition of man was not necessarily an issue, but I don't agree. It was critically important to early Christians and to early Friends that the fall be overcome and to in fact celebrate that it had in fact been overcome by Christ. But it isn't a simple fact. It is a process that happens as we somehow go through, experience personally, the different "ministrations" or parts of the salvation narrative. Fox struggled with it for some years before he felt it born in him:

 

“Again I heard a voice which did say, ‘Thou Serpent, thou dost seek to destroy the life but canst not, for the sword which keepeth the tree of life shall destroy thee.’ So Christ, the Word of God, that bruised the head of the Serpent the destroyer, preserved me, my inward mind being joined to his good Seed, that bruised the head of this Serpent the destroyer. And this inward life did spring up in me, to answer all the opposing professors and priests, and did bring in Scriptures to my memory to refute them with” (13). 

 

 This Second Adam thing is fascinating to me. Very recently I also learned another aspect of it I had never known. Apparently the Ur-promise of Genesis 3:15 is an important part of the "Mary" focus (the Mariology) so prevalent in the Catholic Church. The reason for this is that the translation of Gen. 3:15 the early church "fathers" used translated the Hebrew pronoun (which is not gender or number specific) as "she" (in Greek), so that it read to them that "she" bruised the serpent's head - so interesting. It is seem as a victory for the Seed of the Woman - Mary and her Seed, Jesus. 

 

Anyway, there is more - much more - I could talk about, but enough for now. 

 

 

 

Comment by jp on 4th mo. 25, 2011 at 4:56pm
Dear Irene et al.: I have very much enjoyed all your comments and questions. In re-reading the Genesis text lots of new observations questions have arisen. For example, this is the first time I'd noted that God refers to the "seed" of a woman -- usually it is the men who have their progeny referred to with this word. Also I've been pondering the difference between a curse and a command; in my youth the church leaders told me that one of the main reasons that men where to be leaders and women to be submissive is because of this story. Yes, I don't see farmers letting weeds grow because of this story; in fact, farmers struggle to overcome this curse. The analogy to me is now obvious: dominance (and I will generalize here beyond just the male/female hierarchy of most cultures) is something to resist, not the natural state to accept.

Forrest raises a good question, about how this planet would function if death weren't a natural part of it. C.S. Lewis does a good job imagining an unfallen planet [OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET], but without death there woud be Bo possibility of new life (at least, not for very kong before it would get really crowded). We live on an amazing planet, rich with life and diversity, yet each animal depending on the death of something else for life. I wish it were otherwise, and feel such a longing for the possibility of a "peaceable kingdom" where lions lie down with lambs...

I am challenged by the identification of Jesus as being a second Adam, and of the apostle Paul's statement, "in Adam all died, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." I have no good answers about spiritual death, except as a separation from God. But, as Paul also says, nothing can separate us from [the love of] God.

And I like the bits of irony Irene points out. How can I believe in anything like "total depravity" when humor appears wherever humans write well?
Comment by Irene Lape on 4th mo. 26, 2011 at 8:06am

There is just one more thing I feel I must get out about the Genesis creation chapters before I let it rest, and I've already done it in making reference to the "Second Adam" idea, but I feel I need to expand a little more on some of what the New Testament adds to the narrative. As I've said, it's pretty surprising that the Old Testament books refer very seldom back to these stories that have been so important in Christian thinking. There is much more interest in the stories of Abraham and Moses and David. And the synoptic gospels seem also more concerned with drawing connections between Jesus and his Davidic and later prophetic associations. It is in John that we see the connection made back to Genesis. The prologue of John does this in a very overt way, but there are other references I would like to suggest while we are still here in Genesis. 

 

The prologue delves into the creation story and raises up the metaphor of God's Word - that creative power and presence that brought forth all that is. That Word was both Life and the Light "that enlightens all men" (John 1:9) and that Word became flesh and "lived among us" (1:14) in Jesus. All Quakers know these words. They are central to our faith. But the references to "the woman" (Mary) - the Seed of the woman in the Genesis story - and to the promise made here in Genesis 3:15 are less known. They are more difficult to "see" in the story I admit. Part of what there is to see I don't think I fully saw until just recently. One of the puzzling things in reading John is the way he refers to Jesus' mother as "the woman" - he does this in two important places I am aware of: the first is in the wedding at Cana where she is clearly still authoritative in some way, pushing Jesus to enter into his ministry when he doesn't seem completely ready. Then later at the foot of the cross in chapter 19. Here Jesus is near death and he sees his mother with the "disciple he loved" and he says to her, "'Woman, this is your son', Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother'" (19:27) and then "after this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed" (19:28). . . "'It is accomplished'" (19:30). Is this John's way of getting across that the ur-promise, the bruising of the serpent's head, is fulfilled. I think it is. It explains the mysterious use of the term "woman" to refer to his mother. It stands to reason that a disciple so intent upon connecting Jesus' life and work to the Genesis narrative would feel compelled to address that promise made in 3:15. Paul saw it (see Romans 5:12-20) and Fox saw it. But modern Friends? I don't know. I hear so much talk about the Light, the Word, the Seed, but for many these have just become philosophical notions disconnected from the narrative that gave them birth. 

Comment by Tom Smith on 4th mo. 26, 2011 at 11:48am

To me the "Second Adam" tends to fit with what I understand was Fox's and other early Friends view to the "second coming." It would seem that the "first Adam" was given dominion over the physical world/creation. The "Second Adam" would rule over the spiritual "Kingdom." "Christ HAS come in all his offices." Christ as the "Second Adam" is here and now and "rules over his kingdom." We do not look for a new "creation" for that has already occurred with the "Second Adam" setting up his spiritual kingdom.

In George Fox's words:

And I told them that when Christ was on earth, He said His kingdom was not of this world; if it had been, His servants would have fought; but it was not, therefore His servants did not fight. Therefore all the Fifth-monarchy men that are fighters with carnal weapons are none of Christ's servants, but the beast's and the whore's. Christ said, "All power in heaven and in earth is given to me"; so then His kingdom was set up above sixteen hundred years ago, and He reigns. "And we see Jesus Christ reign," said the Apostle, "and He shall reign till all things be put under His feet"; though all things are not yet put under His feet, nor subdued.

Comment by David Carl on 4th mo. 26, 2011 at 2:08pm

 I don't think God wants to "crush" our wills as the quietists maybe do - I think He wants to win us over the long haul.

Well, that's a dichotomy that would not have occurred to me!  :)  Are there really Christian or Quaker quietists who maintain that God wants to do such a thing?  There is a kind of dualism, which even Jesus perhaps expressed, "not my will, but thine."  And Woolman envisioned his "death" as the death of self-will.  I struggle with such questions, but my provisional take would be 1) that my imagined "separate self" leads to an unrealistic amount of care and concern for the one that I  think of as "me," and 2) God's will doesn't "kill" that self will, but uses it (perhaps, as hinted by comments above, through its "likeness" to God) to bring that little trickle into a much larger stream -- "myself" into "Godself."  Nothing is actually eradicated other than perhaps the illusions of separateness and control. 

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 27, 2011 at 1:48pm

It's one of those things that could tie a logician into loops: "Separateness" is an illusion, but as long as we see things that way (& it's quite difficult, at least for me, to maintain a better state) we remain eligible for "I am a jerk" realisations!

I really don't enjoy those! I intensely fail to enjoy those! But God keeps helping me with them, which is (I conclude) better than maintaining a perfect surface that I might mistake for reality. (One occasion, dreaming that I was lying in bed with my eyes closed, seeing the patterns on the sheets... & trying to get my eyes really open to check what they "really" looked like-- seems analogous.)

 

"God's will doesn't 'kill' that self will" because, for one thing, it's something that God created, and for another, it's only an illusion.

 

To what extent should we appreciate this illusion? & how much should we prefer letting our eyes open? (I dunno; I dunno!!!)

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