The End of Innocence

 

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Masaccio, The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying,"From every tree of the   garden thou mayst surely eat but  of the tree of the knowledge of  good and bad, thou shalt not eat of it; for the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.  (2: 16-17)

 

Some thoughts about  the story

The story is not history, nor is it scientific, it is a theological, ontological, ethical prose/poem (parable?) about human nature and the human condition.

Scholars in the first half of the 20th century concluded that the work is a product of the monarchic period, specifically at the court of Solomon, 10th century BC, and the Priestly work in the middle of the 5th century BC, but more recent thinking is that the work is from either just before or during the Babylonian captivity of the 6th century BC, and the Priestly final edition was made late in the Exilic period or soon after. The almost complete absence of all the characters and incidents mentioned in chapters 1–11 from the rest of the Hebrew Bible has led a sizeable minority of scholars to the conclusion that these chapters were composed much later than those that follow, possibly in the 3rd century BC.  -Wikipedia

 

1. If Adam was a simple innocent soul he could not know the meaning of death. One summer day when I was about four my father, assigned to mind me, was sitting on the front porch smoking a cigar. There was a long walkway leading down to a picket fence and the  gate. On both sides of the gate were flowers with buzzing honey bees gathering nectar. I caught a bee in cupped hands and ran back to the porch and released the bee so my father could witness my feat. He said, "You are going to get stung." I ran back to the flowers and proceeded to catch another bee. This time I learned the meaning of the word 'stung'. Adam learned the meaning  of death (of his innocence) via the apple. The innocent child in all of us dies and we move on to adulthood. Puff the Magic Dragon in the land of Honah Lee is no more.

2. Did God know Adam would eat the forbidden fruit? The text hints that he did: "for the day that thou eatest there of thou shalt surely die".*

Additional Thoughts

 1. The first part of the story says that humans are made in the image of God: not a god but an image of one. I take that to mean our higher skills: reason, technology, language, art and our moral and ethical sense. Then the second part says God breathed life into some soil; which is our animal part, resulting in a being destined to be in conflict with itself.

2. Sophocles said man, that strange creature, had made his way to the 'resonance of the word' (to language) and to "wind swift all understanding".   "God said, let there be light." God brings the animals to man to see what he would name them, thus  indicating two kinds of speech: divine and human. Human speech does not bring lifeforms into being but it does create a grammatically ordered realm.  Here we can jump ahead to Philo of Alexandria who announces, centuries later, that Jesus is the Logos, the divine word.


 

* (The Hebrew word for "to die" and "death" are the same. Thus God and Snake might be using the same word with  different meanings.)

3 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.*

4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

 

The man talks to the woman, but the woman and the snake have a conversation, then she ate the fruit and gave some to the man. What are we to make of this?

Snakes in the ancient world are chthonic creatures from dark earth. In Greek mythology Apollo kills Python in its cave, symbolizing the the male sun god's victory over the female chthonic goddess. The Minoan snake goddess makes an unmistakable link between the feminine and the dark powers of the underworld.

snake goddess
Minoan Snake Goddess, the figures are possibly reflective of early Syrian religion which had a brief impact on Minoan Crete.

Though Eve was made from Adam's rib and is like him, she is also on speaking terms with the powers of the underworld. I might add, through the years men have cast women as the temptress and blamed her for the fall from grace, but reading the text, Adam ate of his own volition. It does, however, point to our psychological differences. Moreover, the snake spoke the truth, you will not die (not immediately) and you will become conscious and know good from bad. Moreover, your eyes will be opened, you will have a higher state of consciousness, which includes the knowledge of your own mortality. This fall from grace into consciousness has been called the Magnificent Fall -  we discovered our humanity, our moral and ethical sense.

Those Fig Leaves

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Three centuries after the fresco was painted, Cosimo III de' Medici ordered that fig leaves be added to conceal the genitals of the figures. These were eventually removed in the 1980s when the painting was fully restored and cleaned.

Renaissance artists had rediscovered classical art, which included the nude figure. I think Cosimo was correct in adding the leaves.

The Gustav Dore version (below) is even better (in regards to the story).


dore





7. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

If they sewed they had to invent the needle. Some scholars see in this the  invention of art or technology. The word technology comes from two Greek words, transliterated techne and logos. Techne means art, skill, craft, or the way, manner, or means by which a thing is gained. The fig leaf apron represents the first mark of society and civilization, transforming human lust into love. Shame shows our concern for our short comings and guilt the sense of personal responsibility.

Next comes a bit of comic relief. When God realizes Adam has eaten the forbidden fruit, he shifts the blame, not  only  to Eve, but to God who gave him the woman. When God turns to Eve, "What is this thou has done?", she shifts the blame to Snake.  Then God hands down the sentences for the transgressions, which we all know. The punishment can be summed up in one word: Civilization. The childish world is gone and we must live as best we can as responsible humans.


21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

In verse 22 the Lord is seemingly addressing other heavenly being; for if man eats of the other tree he will "become like us" another deathless being, perhaps an angel.

The coats of skins are the gods' goodbye presents, like sending a pair of six year olds off for the first day of school dressed  in warm coats and boots.  Although we can no longer dwell in the Garden, we are still his children.


Addendum

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

 

The first question of metaphysics is: Why is there anything? Not just trees and birds, but matter itself. Philosophers beat themselves up with an unanswerable question. Does God create the world ex nihilo?  The writer of Genesis seems to sidestep the question. When God creates the world the goop is already there, but without form. There was darkness over the primal deep, God adds light and separates the dross from the gold, then shapes the gold. However, Christian theologians insist the creation was ex nihilo to avoid the problem of Manichaeism.

End