Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
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.