During a recent chat session in Ecatholic, an exchange about the recent bible study of the fall of Adam was discussed. There were a few things I disagreed with as far as what and how Genesis was interpreted in the bible study, and I wish at this point, to clarify my point of view. I chose this venue to try to explain my thoughts, for in chat would have been next to impossible, considering the restrictions in the number of typed words that are allowed in the chat room for each posts.
Caveats: I don’t assume myself to be a theologian, or any great thinker of Catholic thought and philosophy, however, I do have a great interest in scripture and it’s interpretation of it, but! I always try to be guided by the Church’s teaching and interpretation when ever my own ideas come into conflict with the Church.
I will present parts of the bible study in italics and try to respond to those parts in particular that I disagree on, or at the very least, take issue with. If I repeat things that were said in the community during the study, which I was not able to attend, I apologize. So, with that said…
But we need to see what Adam saw. Once we appreciate that the serpent was a lot more than a little garden-variety snake, we begin to understand why Adam failed in his duties to "guard" his wife and Eden (see Genesis 2:15).
C. Scared Unto Death?
To put it bluntly: Adam was scared to death, scared of dying. He saw the serpent as a threat to his life.
We know that Adam understood what death was. How do we know that? Because God warned him that he if he ate the fruit he would die (see Genesis 2:17). If Adam didn’t know what death was, God’s warning wouldn’t have made any sense.
Did Adam understand what death was? He KNEW about it, because he was told by God, but enough to understand what the implications were? I don’t think he did. We, in this country, may have been told about the evil of Communism and Nazism…and we are very wary of it…we are on guard against it, yes, but we never experienced it and because of not having experienced it, we don’t have that extraordinary fear as one would have having lived under it. That is a big difference. Adam knew about death, and also was wary of it, yet not having experienced it, I do not think it would be fair to say he was scared unto death.
Adam WAS put in the Garden to care for it, but I think we cannot say he failed in his duty because he failed to keep out evil. If that were true, then we would have to be consistent in our thinking, since scripture is consistent. In that, I mean, if Adam failed in his duty to protect the Garden from the evil serpent, then can we not also say that God, in allowing Satan to roam the earth seeking to destroy souls after his fall from grace, also failed to protect His creation from evil? Of course God didn’t fail in any duty and I don’t think Adam failed either. Did he fail to protect Eve? We seem to think that Eve had no free will in the matter, that Adam controlled her will. He no more controlled her will than I can control my own wife’s will. She was warned, I’m sure, as to what God had said, but beyond that, what could Adam have done more to protect her?
In order to protect the Garden and his wife from evil, Adam would have to have recognized evil. He knew about the evil of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, that was the evil he knew about, the consequence of death, but did he know that the serpent itself was evil? In order for the serpent to entice and tempt Eve, he had to make himself presentable, friendly, and hide his evil intention from both of them. There seemingly was nothing to fear from the serpent on the outset, for the serpent would not have attracted both Adam and Eve.
Adam was scared that if he didn’t do what the serpent wanted he would be made to suffer and die.
Adam, if he had any fear at all, would have been scared of eating the fruit and dying, as God warned him. The serpent didn’t say to Adam and Eve, that if they didn’t eat it they would die, but that they wouldn’t die if they did eat it. Nothing in what the serpent said to Eve, or Adam for that matter, indicated to Adam, that unless he obeyed the serpent he would suffer and die
He chose to save his life, but wound up losing it. He feared dying more than he feared disobeying the Father who loved him and gave him paradise…
This is convoluted. Adam, if he feared anything, would have feared disobeying the Father and eating the fruit and dying for the Father warned him about that. It wasn’t in fear of death that he disobeyed, for he knew if he did disobey the Father, then he would die! It was completely the opposite of this reason that he disobeyed. The serpent did not threaten him with death, no; he promised him he would not die! So to say Adam feared that in not obeying the serpent he would suffer and die…is just not there in scripture.
Hold on, a minute. Why are we talking about Adam? Why is it his fault? Isn’t the whole story about Eve?
Clearly, it would seem, Genesis wants us to know that it’s the woman’s fault: She did all the work, negotiating with the snake, weighing the pros and cons, and finally taking the fruit. The man just ate the fruit the woman gave to him.
I’ve never read this part of scripture and understood it as placing blame on the woman. Every where in scripture, man is seen as fallen because of the sin of Adam, not the sin of Eve. So no, the blame cannot be solely placed on Eve and I do not think that was the purpose of Genesis. So why was Eve singled out by the serpent? Why was she tempted first? Was she weaker in her resolve to defeat temptation than Adam was? No…I don’t think that was the case at all. The serpent, Satan, at one time enjoyed the presence of God. He knew God until his rejection of God’s love. Satan is no fool and is knowledgeable, for he knows scripture as seen in the temptations of Christ in the desert, and I submit, that he knew also, that if he could convince Eve to eat of the fruit that she would not die…not until she was able to convince Adam to follow suit, and that is exactly what happened.
Now, if there was a time in this whole scene that Adam may have been afraid, it would have to have been when Eve finally succumbed to the serpent and proceeded to eat of the fruit. I can imagine Adam; having warned Eve of the Fathers own warning about the fruit, must have been watching her in horror, expecting her to fall down dead after eating it. What happened? Nothing. Not one thing. After his initial shock of seeing his wife still standing, what could have gone through Adam’s mind? Only one thing I can think of that would entice him to take the fruit from her hand and eat it: He had to have thought that God was wrong, that they would not die and that they would become like God himself. The serpent, through Eve, introduced doubt into Adam’s mind.
When Eve ate the fruit, we are not told their eyes were opened. She did not yet see herself as naked, nor did Adam. They still had no knowledge of good and evil. Adam knew about evil for God told him about it, but he did not yet know evil, even after Eve ate the fruit. So rejecting God’s warning after seeing his Eve safe and sound, he ate the fruit she gave him. It is at this very point that their eyes were now open, and it is at this point they now knew and experienced evil in their lives for the first time. They now saw shame in their nakedness and hid from God. This is what I meant when I say Adam did not KNOW evil, but only knew about it. He saw Eve still alive, but what he did not see nor understand at the time was they both died spiritually.
So Adam was on the scene the whole time. Why didn’t he speak up, why didn’t he take up the serpent’s challenge?
That seems to be the point. In his fear for his own skin, Adam left his wife hanging, left her to fend for herself. He was "her husband," the text emphasizes. Husbands are supposed to stand up for their wives - even lay down their lives for them. That’s what marital love is (see Ephesians 5:25).
Here, there was nothing for Adam to stand up to! He saw no evil in the serpent. He did not recognize the evil in the serpent. How could he? He had no knowledge of good and evil, only about the evil of eating the fruit, and he only knew about that evil, because God pointed it out to him and he had already warned Eve about that. And if he saw no threat to his wife, what reason would he have had to defend her? There was nothing to defend her from as far as he could see. There was no challenge from the serpent; it was an inquiry only of whether they could not eat of any tree. That’s all. Nothing threatening. I maintain, that other than fearing death per God’s warning, Adam did not fear or see the serpent as threatening his wife. Yes, he heard her speaking to the serpent, he heard the serpent saying they would not die, but at the same time, he had already warned Eve about not eating from the tree. He did his job as far as caring for the Garden and warning his wife but failed when it came to his turn to guard himself and subsequently his progeny.
Adam failed to obey God. Eve was only used to get to Adam, for nothing would happen until Adam ate even though Eve did eat first. There was no sin in Eve’s action that would affect all of mankind, but there was in Adam’s. He was the ace in the hole. He’s the one that the serpent needed to get to, and with all subtleness and deception he succeeded, using another creature. If Adam failed in anything, it was in failing to keep his trust in God, that God’s word was true.
God did give himself in a covenant, as did Adam to God. And since Adam had not sinned, then Adam’s sacrifice had to have been perfect in God’s eyes until the fall. That is why all subsequent covenants between God and his people failed, for the weakness that had now entered creation and the creatures within it. Heaven was shut up and nothing the people could do or sacrifice could reopen ‘paradise lost’, not until God made that promise of sending His son to offer the final and pure sacrifice that only God could offer, completely unmerited by the people.