by Anniel 10/27/14
The Ten Commandments Symposium on the Sixth Commandment has led to a welter of thoughts and postings about the Garden of Eden, the fall of Adam and Eve, and the state of Cain as the murderer of his brother, Abel.
I have been stunned and flummoxed by some of the allegations against our first parents, Adam and Eve, and some of the conjecture about Eden and what went on there. In order to gain some better understanding I have been studying again the creation story in three different translations, the *King James Version (KJV), the **TANAKH, and the ***Peshitta from the Aramaic. (See Notes below.)
All three texts set out the days of creation, and say that on the 6th day:
. . . God created man in his OWN image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it . . . (Genesis 1:27-28, KJV)
What exactly does it mean to be created in God’s image? Do we look like Him, or are we meant to be like Him? Or is this mere symbolism?
On the 7th day, God rested from His labors and hallowed it as the sabbath. Then, confusingly, we are told:
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field BEFORE it was in the earth, and every herb of the field BEFORE it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there WAS NOT A MAN to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. (Ibid. 2:4-6, KJV)
This account of creation is essentially the same in all three translations. So we are first told all things were created, and in what order, but they apparently were not yet ON THE EARTH. Adam and Eve were also given instructions to be fruitful, multiply and replenish and subdue the earth BEFORE they were placed on it. To be chronologically and textually accurate, that is what we are told. Yes, there are people who read this ALL symbolically, and there are those who think several stories were mixed together, so the chronology we have in the story may be misunderstood. Nonetheless, this is the story we have from the texts.[pullquote]The Tree of Life is a potent symbol in all civilizations. Even atheists and Darwinian evolutionists have a version of it, if you so choose. They tout it as the “REAL AND SCIENTIFIC TREE OF LIFE,” no God or Intelligent Design needed.[/pullquote]
After His sabbath rest:
. . . the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Ibid. 2:7; KJV)
All three texts are the same as to the order of creation and when man actually became a living soul.
And the lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the TREE OF LIFE also in the midst of the garden, and the TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND
EVIL. (Ibid. 2:8-9; KJV)
We now have TWO named trees, the Tree of Life, and, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil according to the KJV and the Peshitta, only the TANAKH gives the second tree the title Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. There seemed to be some disagreement in the postings on the 6th Commandment as to differences between the terms good and evil. They are essentially the same to me.
And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (TANAKH . . . To till it and tend it). And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayst freely eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Ibid. 2:15-17; KJV)
Adam is alone in the Garden at first, and he could freely eat of everything, including the Tree of Life. Now he is told that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is forbidden and will bring death if he partakes of it. So the trees represent opposite things to Adam, life and death. It seems that Adam truly does now have a choice before him.
Once again, the text is confusing about the creation of woman. The Lord says a mate needs to be made, or found, for the man, but then has Adam name the animals before causing a deep sleep to come upon him while a woman is formed from a rib taken from his side. God refers to Eve as a help meet (KJV), fitting (TANAKH), or equal (Peshitta) to the man. Adam later names the woman Eve “because she is the mother of all living.”
Adam and Eve are referred to as husband and wife, since the Lord is the one who placed them together. The TANAKH is the most poetic of how Adam speaks of Eve:
. . .”This one at last
Is bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh.
This one shall be called Woman,
For from man was she taken.”
Hence a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh. The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, yet they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:23-25, TANAKH)
No time frame is given for how long Adam and Eve lived in innocence in the garden. Adam dresses and tends the garden as instructed, Eve, we assume, helps him in that labor. All their needs are met, and they walk and talk with God. We are told of no children being born, they have food, and the animals are tame. Sounds like a perfect, and perfectly static, existence.
Someone once said that Eden was a polyester garden, always perfectly pressed, and not much exciting happens. But, in the middle of that garden, there were two opposing trees always before the eyes of the man and the woman.
Finally the serpent, the shrewdest (TANAKH), subtil (KJV), or subtle (Peshitta) of all the animals in the garden, entices Eve, with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He tells her one lie, “You are not going to die,” and one truth, as later verified by God Himself, “but God knows that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and bad.” (Genesis 3:4-5; TANAKH)
Eve partakes of the fruit and gives it to Adam, who also partakes of it, and their eyes are opened. They recognize their nakedness, and somehow make aprons of fig leaves. (Had the woman been taught to sew?) When God calls to them they hide themselves from Him in shame. After confronting them, God takes many actions in the wake of the Fall:
First, He curses the serpent to crawl on his belly and lick the dust of the earth. He puts enmity between the serpent and the seed of the woman, saying that the serpent will have power to bruise the heel of her seed, but her seed shall bruise the serpent’s head.
In the Douay-Rheims version of the bible, the cursing of the serpent says the seed of the woman shall have power to crush the serpent’s head. The serpent has been seen as symbolic of Satan, while the seed of the woman is the Savior, Jesus Christ, the only man who has had only one female mortal parent, His mother, Mary.
Second, God tells the woman that He shall greatly multiply her sorrow and her conception. The woman will bring forth children in sorrow, and her desire shall be to her husband, who will rule over her.
Do women bear children in sorrow? Yes, and no. After the pain and work of delivery, sorrow almost immediately turns to joy for most women. Have you ever wondered if Adam knew enough animal husbandry that he could help Eve when that first baby was born?
What about the woman being ruled over by the man? She was said to be created as meet, fitting or equal to him, so in what sense was he to rule over her? Or was he rather to lead or care for and oversee the first human family?
Third, to Adam God says:
“. . . cursed is the ground FOR THY SAKE; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, til thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:17-19; KJV)
The ground is cursed, for Adam’s sake. His life will not be easy. He will have trials and tribulation all the days of his life. How many curses or trials turn out to be the best things that ever happen to men and give them the most strength and growth? We should all know the growth that comes from real work. The Great God always refers to His own creations as His work.
Unto Adam and also his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21; KJV)
The killing of the animals and the shedding of their blood, are the first deaths after the fall, and are also necessary to clothe Adam and Eve. This action is thought by many to be symbolic of the Atonement which will be wrought through the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ. It can also be seen as the actions of a loving God to help teach and prepare His created children as He sends them out into a fallen world.
And the Lord God said, “Now that the man has BECOME LIKE ONE OF US, KNOWING GOOD AND BAD, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever!” So the Lord God banished him from the garden of Eden to till the soil from which he was taken. He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the flaming sword, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-23; TANAKH) The Peshitta says that the flaming sword TURNED EVERY WAY, to guard the path to the tree of life.
Now we reach the heart of the matter. The choice made by Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit and bring about a fallen world. The first death was a separation from God. By partaking of the fruit, Adam and Eve became fully human, and brought choice between good and evil to them and their children. The second death would be physical death, the return of men’s bodies to the dust of the earth.
Eve in particular has been demonized for her sin. But was man meant to remain in Eden? If so, why did God put cherubim and a flaming sword to guard or block the way to the Tree of Life, lest the man and woman eat of that fruit and live forever? Why would it be wrong now to partake of the tree? Was their banishment simply for punishment?
There are theologians who believe that time and humanness did not begin until the Fall, that Adam and Eve realized they could not bring about God’s purposes until they chose to take the burdens of mortality upon themselves and bring about physical death so they could return to God after proving themselves worthy. Some have written that they were our emissaries or representatives in freely bringing about an earth where man could become imperfect and live and die in freedom. Only if we have choice or free will do we have liberty, and they made that choice for mankind.
The anthropologist and philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss has said that all creation myths come down to existing imperfectly or not existing at all. (And yes, I do agree with that thought.)
One matter brought up in the 6th Commandment Symposium is that Cain, the first murderer, was poorly reared by the sinners, Adam and Eve. If, as alluded to above, they were intelligent and noble souls, chosen by the Great God, who knows all things, to be our first parents, should we make such a harsh judgment against them? Were Adam and his “fitting” wife, Eve, sinners? Of course, as are we all, but they may have raised their children lovingly and well. After all, Abel was righteous and made an acceptable sacrifice in the eyes of God. Seth also was righteous. Of those three children Cain alone became a murderer and is responsible for his own choices.
Not having been told why God allowed Cain to live, one can only speculate
about the mind of God concerning him.
THE GARDEN OF EDEN AND THE TWO TREES
The Tree of Life is a potent symbol in all civilizations. Even atheists and Darwinian evolutionists have a version of it, if you so choose. They tout it as the “REAL AND SCIENTIFIC TREE OF LIFE,” no God or Intelligent Design needed.
If you choose the story of Adam and Eve, our first parents, as reality or symbolism, or a mixture of both, what happened to Eden and the trees after Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden? Did they fall to rack and ruin? Were the two trees uprooted and taken to Heaven? Or do the Cherubim and flaming sword still guard the way to the Tree of Life so that we, as the heirs of Adam and Eve, cannot partake of it and live forever, much as we would like to? Is physical death a cursing or a blessing? Did our first parents have a glimpse of what heaven awaited them if they accepted the conditions of mortality, the Atonement and Resurrection?
As for further knowledge of the Tree of Life, the scriptures, all the way to the end, speak only of things that are like a tree of life, i.e., wisdom or kind words are like a tree of life. Then, in the book of Revelation, the last chapter, after a description of the Holy City and its beauties, we are told:
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, gushing out of the throne of God and the Lamb. In the midst of the great street of the city, and on either side of the river WAS THE TREE OF LIFE, which bore twelve kinds of fruits, and each month it yielded one of its fruits; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the people. Revelation 22:1-2; Peshitta.
I am Aleph and Tau, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right TO THE TREE OF LIFE, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:13-14; Peshitta.
Someday we may enter into the Holy city and be healed by having a right to the waters and Tree of Life.
*King James Version (KJV) of the bible. This was the bible I was around most in my youth. Some of my fundamentalist friends consider it to be the only true and inerrant translation they will accept.
** TANAKH as translated from the Hebrew by the Jewish Publication Society of America, contains only what is referred to as the “Old Testament.”
***The Holy Bible From the Ancient Eastern Text, George M. Lamsa’s Translation From the Aramaic of the Peshitta (Peshitta). Mr. Lamsa, a leader in the Eastern Orthodox Church in the U.S., and several other native Aramaic speakers worked on this translation, which their church says is in the same language used at the time of Christ for the Old Testament, and that the Books of the New Testament were originally also written in Aramaic. • (3876 views)