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BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST PEOPLE

“And God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

The external material world has been created and formed, the dwelling has been prepared. Earth – the physical world – is no longer chaotic or shapeless, but it is still empty, since it still has no moral value, not being yet morally liable or responsible.

And so, in order to fill the vacuum, in order to give moral meaning to the whole of creation, in order to call into being creatures who would be capable like the angels of the same absolute enjoyment of being that is inherent in God, the creative word of God is heard: “Let us make man.” In order for this new creation to be truly good, it must be like its Creator, and thus the Lord says: “Let us make man in our image.”

Here, in this most important and most solemn moment of creation, in the moment of calling into being a godlike creature who gives moral meaning to the entire material world, we once again see the sacred seal of triunity: “In Our image,” not Mine, says the Lord. Triune Himself, united into a single Divine Being by the absolute Divine love of the Three Persons, He makes His creation as He formerly did the angels, in the same image, not in one person, but in two persons, so that afterwards a multitude of persons would come from them, but all would be a single being.

“And 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.”

In all these verses of the 1st chapter of the Bible which speak of the initial creation of man, the Hebrew word “bara” is used – to create out of nothing. Consequently, paraphrasing the first Biblical account of the creation of man, we could say thusly: God, one in essence but triune in Persons, created man in His image and likeness out of nothing, man and woman simultaneously – two persons in a single being, and blessed them to multiply the number of persons and to have dominion over the visible world.

But the Bible speaks of the creation of man not once, but twice: the first time in the 1st chapter and the second time in the 2nd chapter, in verse 7. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” Both these accounts are diametrically opposite: in the first it says that God “bara,” i.e. created man in His image and likeness out of nothing, and in the second that He “assa,” i.e. created him out of the dust of the ground just like all the animals, of whom it says that “out of the ground the Lord God formed (the same Hebrew verb “assa” is used) every beast of the field and every fowl of the air” (Gen. 2:19). And it says in the 2nd chapter of Genesis about man, just like it does about animals: “and man became a living soul.” Furthermore, in the first account the Lord creates man and woman simultaneously – two persons, potentially many persons like unto the multidinous host of angels, in one being, while the second account speaks only of the creation of man – Adam, and a while later from his rib is created (“assa”) his wife – Eve.

This duality and this great difference in the account of the creation of man was naturally used by enemies of Christianity as proof of the Bible’s inconsistency and the different origin of the Biblical accounts. Meanwhile, if we keep in mind the basic truth about man being a dual spiritual/physical entity, we will clearly see the ecclesiastical understanding of the duality of the Biblical account of man’s creation as an exposition on the different aspects of man’s nature – spirit, soul, and body: the 1st chapter speaks of the creation of man’s spirit, while the 2nd chapter speaks of the creation of his body and his animalistic soul. The word of God created man’s spirit in the image and likeness of God out of nothing, the male and female persons simultaneously, each with its own personal qualities but a single nature, a single essence, just as the Persons of the Divine Trinity have individual unmixable qualities, yet constitute a single Being. Man’s body, however, animated by an animalistic soul, was formed (“assa”) from previously-created material, from the dust of the ground, i.e. out of dust, out of elements, out of earthly atoms and molecules, just as out of the same material the Lord created the animals, whom the Lord also gave a living soul, created out of nothing, but did not make in His image, and they were thus without liability.

In his work “On the formation of man,” St. Gregory of Nyssa points out the duality of the creation and formation of man and says: “God created (i.e. “bara”) the inner man and shaped (i.e. “assa”) the outer one; it was the flesh that was formed and the soul that was created.”

This is why in his bodily nature man is entirely and absolutely a part of the external animal/material world. In his body, just as in the body of animals, there is not a single particle, not a single atom of substance that is not of the surrounding world. Everything that there is in us is also in the world that surrounds us, up to the most remote nebulas and stars, attesting to the Single Creator Who created all these so very different manifestations of the external world and to our physical affinity with the entire universe created by God. We are even closer to the animal world, animate just as we are, with living souls created by God. Therefore, a Christian may very tranquilly agree to the observation that man and the chimpanzee are very close in their physical nature. Speaking of man’s physical nature, we are in no way embarrassed by the possibility of placing man, according to modern classification, in the class of mammals.

But a Christian cannot believe that our place in the gamut of creation is limited only to this. To such an – alas! – widespread notion the psalm-writer replied back in ancient times: “Man was in honor and realized it not; he became like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:12). No, in spirit we are godlike creatures, minimally below the angels, and between us and the rest of the animal world there is an immense abyss; in realizing our likeness to God, we can recognize both the animals of the earth and the farthest worlds in the universe, but no one in the entire immense physical world except us can comprehend us, or himself, or the outer, or the inner world.

St. Anthony the Great says the following about the interrelation between the human and the animal worlds: “With his mind man comes in contact with the indescribable power of Divinity, while with his body he is akin to the animals.”

And again: “Every growing thing may be considered to be living, because it grows and lives, but one cannot say that everything like that has a soul. Plants have a physical life, but do not have souls. Man is called a spiritual (sentient) animal, because he has a spirit (mind) and is capable of acquiring knowledge. All the other animals are animate and have a soul. There are four different kinds of living beings: some are animate and immortal, such as angels; others have a spirit, a soul, and are alive, such as humans; still others are alive and have a soul, such as animals; and the last are only living, such as plants.”

“And God said (to the humans): have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every beast, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

“And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is a fruit yielding seed; to you it shall be for food” (Gen. 1:28-29).

Having filled the earth and having introduced into it the one who was the bearer of moral value, of a godlike spirit, God subordinates to this bearer of the spirit all the material that He had previously created and shaped, thereby realizing and developing his likeness unto God. Being Himself the Master of the universe, the Lord makes man the master of the material and animal world, at the same time making this material and animal world, which in itself has no moral value, a participant in man’s godlike and morally-valuable life: the inanimate world as space for man’s dwelling, the plant world as food for man’s body, the animal world to serve man, and this latter world, as being of the greatest affinity to him, man recognizes, learns, understands, gives a name to (Gen. 2:20).

“And it was so” (Gen. 1:30).

In this world there was not even a trace of evil, everything was wisely set up, everything was absolutely good, in accordance with God’s will, with God’s design.

The creation of the world was completed. Through man’s godlike spirit the Lord joined to Himself the enter material and animal world that He had created, making it a participant in a godlike, bright, joyous, sentient, just, and good life. “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”

“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work” (Gen. 2:2).

This seventh day, in which God rested from all His work, i.e. on which was finished the creative act of bringing forth and establishing new creatures, according to the teaching of the Church continues to this day and will continue until the end of time.

 

The Fall

“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed” (Genesis 2:8).

Summoned to a God-like life equal to the angels and to constant communion with God, to a greater and greater comprehension of God and likeness unto God, man was not supposed to be distracted from this most important goal in the world by any concern for himself in the world that had been created by God. For this reason the plants, extracting liquids from the earth and the air, performed for him the task of converting lifeless inorganic matter into organic matter capable of taking part in living processes; the animals served man, becoming submissively obedient to his will. Man could concentrate on communion with God.

The Lord gave man the commandment: “Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it” (Gen. 2:16-17).

As in each act of God, there are many meanings, many facets in this first commandment of God to man. Man’s freedom is being established in reality: man is free, he can either obey or disobey. There was no guardian, as the later archangel with a fiery sword, standing at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This commandment was intended to educate man, to make him grow in love for God. Like the angels, man was created by God for a life of rapture and joy. A life of rapture is provided by a life of love. Man was created for a life of love for God and for creatures one-in-essence with him, i.e. for other humans above all: Adam for love for the one who in spirit had been created jointly with him, as another person of the same being, and in body was created from his rib, and Eve for her spiritual mate and bodily origin.

But love as a theoretical confession, as a simple statement of fact is fruitless and immobile, it does not develop, even more than that – it dries up. Love requires its manifestation. And the most direct and natural manifestation of love is the fulfillment of the beloved’s will. Thus in fulfilling God’s will: of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat, the love of Adam and Eve for God was to grow and develop, their will was to become stronger, their entire spiritual organization was to be perfected.

The Church rejects the ancient widespread belief that the eating of the forbidden fruit symbolized something else, in particular the physical joining of Adam and Eve. This union came about later, after the Fall, and in itself had no relation to it whatsoever.

The first people, childishly inexperienced, simple and primitive, more inexperienced even than modern children (for children, though lacking personal experience, now have the inherited experience that was lacking in Adam and Eve), these first people who were wise through grace-filled communion with God but absolutely simple personally, were to be given the very simplest commandment. God does give such a commandment: you may eat of all the trees, but do not eat of one of them. In this commandment we very easily recognize one of the simplest and most basic church commandments, ancient as the Church itself, accessible to all people, and yet so arrogantly disregarded today by so many – the commandment on fasting.

Why is the forbidden tree called the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Because man came out of God’s hands as an absolutely good creature without an iota of evil, and consequently could not know about good and evil. Through his eating of the forbidden fruit evil would enter into him, and he would begin to differentiate between it and his own inherent good with which he was invested by God. But God did not wish His most-loved creation to know evil. Just like parents in old-fashioned, good, strong families tried to guard their children as long as possible from knowing the worst and seamiest sides of life, so does God wish the same for His beloved earthly child.

It is absolutely futile to guess at how man’s fate would have turned out, if the originator of evil, the fallen angel, were not already in the world at that time, rejecting God and all His qualities. Motivated by all that was contrary to God and His qualities, i.e. by hate instead of love, ill will instead of goodwill, the devil – Satan – the dragon, “that old serpent, called the devil and Satan” (Rev. 12:9), could not but attempt to incite God’s new creatures – the humans – to the same insurgency against God and disobedience to Him, in which he himself had engaged and had involved the multitude of spirits who had fallen together with him.

St. Basil the Great speaks thusly of this: “The devil, seeing himself ousted from the host of Angels, could not look with indifference upon how the human creation was succeeding in being elevated to angelic honor.”

And the serpent said to the woman: “Yea, hath God truly said: ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?

Having rebelled against the Truth, the father of deceit is unable to speak the truth. The devil is a slanderer; he uses slander in the very first words that man hears from him. He knows that God had allowed the first people to eat of all the trees except one. This commandment concerning the one tree the devil wishes to libelously present as God’s prohibition to eat of all the trees. At the same time, the slander is constructed in such a way that at a superficial glance it does not strike the eye. People who read the Bible inattentively often do not notice right away the slander in these devil’s words. In this ancient technique of Satan’s we likewise easily recognize his modern maligning techniques, both on the wide scale of various contemporary antireligious and anti-Christian forces, as well as in one’s own soul, when grumbling against God or maligning our neighbors in anger. This is just another confirmation of the lack of creative diversity in God’s enemy and of the sameness of his techniques in tempting humans throughout many millennia.

And the woman said to the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, 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.”

By the very fact that she enters into conversation with the serpent despite having heard him malign God, Eve shows that love for God has not been kindled within her, has not developed, has not grown. And in her response she clearly yields to the serpent’s lie: she also slanders God to some degree, exaggerates His demand, describes His commandment inaccurately. God did not say: “neither shall ye touch it.” If Eve had described God’s words with absolute accuracy and truthfulness, the devil would have perhaps run from her, for he not only abhors, but cannot stand the absolute truth of God’s words. But a distorted half-truth, however, he is able to stand and thus continues his slander.

“And the serpent said unto the woman: ye shall not surely die, 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.”

This slander is sophisticated and significant. God created people to be God-like and to gradually become more and more like unto Him through love for Him, as St. Basil the Great teaches: “We are creatures, but are summoned to become gods through grace.”

Afterwards the Son of God would come down to earth in order to deify man, as the church hymns continuously tell us. “God became man so that man would become god.” If the devil did not know this plan of God for man, for he does not know God’s plans, he still could have guessed it, because such was God’s plan for him, too, when he was still an angel of light, since God had created the angels also to become like unto God. Therefore, Satan knew that the temptation “ye shall be as gods” was very real for the human soul, which was created expressly for that purpose. But instead of becoming like unto God in love for God and in union with Him, the devil offers likeness unto himself in rebellion and disobedience to God.

“And 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.”

The devil does not know the depths of the human soul that is still uncorrupted by sin, but he is quite cognizant of all the superficial movements of the soul that are tied to its essentially neutral physical nature, which can be equally directed towards good or evil. And these movements, just as everything else that he has on hand, he mobilizes in this decisive moment of enticement, subsequently repeating this technique of enticement millions and millions of times on all humans through-out the entire centuries-old and sorrowful history of mankind. “Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, worldly vanity,” – so do the Holy Fathers, who know human nature, label this threefold temptation used by the devil upon our foremother at the dawn of time.

“And she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” – A catastrophe of cosmic proportions occurred here, yet how simply and outwardly unnoticeably. Thunders did not roar, the heavens did not tremble, the mountains did not shake – nothing outwardly reacted to this terrible catastrophe that broke up the entire universe, broke up God’s entire design for the world He had created.

 

The Fall

However, the fall into sin of every person is essentially the same kind of catastrophe, the same kind of tragedy, and each one of us knows from his personal experience how outwardly simply and insignificantly such catastrophes occur. If we were to need confirmation of the genuineness of divine truth in each word of the holy Divine Revelation, this simple and outwardly unremarkable description of   the catastrophe of the fall of the first people would be one of the best and most striking testimonies to the fact that we are not dealing with a myth. Human mythology would be unable to describe this event in such a manner.

“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.”

“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden…, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.”

The poison of the fall immediately impacts upon Adam and Eve in many ways. Up to that time, communion with God was the primary joyous content of their life, encompassing everything else. For this they had been created, and this was the source of their greatest bliss, for it comprised within itself all the subsequent pure delights of man: both artistic delights, because God is the fullness of Truth and Justice, and the delights of scientific creation, which is the study of the laws of nature, whose Law-giver is God. But now, when God appears after the fall, for the first time Adam and Eve try their utmost to avoid communion with Him. “And Adam and his wife hid.” For the people who have sinned and who are no longer like unto God, but are like unto His adversary with whom they have just been in contact, communion with God becomes unbearably tormenting.

And they immediately lose the knowledge of God that had been inherent in them. Prior to the fall they knew God with an inner consciousness of their Godlike soul, and with a knowledge stemming from a communion of spirit with Spirit, a knowledge that was not fixed, not formulated, and therefore immediately lost as soon as communion was lost. Sin had interrupted this communion and had destroyed their likeness unto God: in God there is no sin, but in man it has appeared. Therefore, man has ceased to know God. This is straightaway seen in the fact that Adam and Eve have forgotten about God’s omnipresence and omniscience. They naively tried to hide from the All-seeing Eye among the trees. In this erroneous image of God in the very first moments of the fall lies the seed of all subsequent false teachings, idolatry, and heresies, for all of them are essentially the same: attributing non-existent traits to God or taking away those that are inherent to Him.

And the Lord called unto Adam and said unto him: Where art thou?”

The Lord exhibits the greatest paternal forbearance towards the first people’s sinful folly. He does not hurry to censure them. With the most delicate care He wishes to summon them to repentance. He pretends not to uncover the sinners’ childishly naïve hiding-place, but summons them to acknowledge their guilt, calls man by his name.

Adam says: “I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

The first barest sign of a small turn for the better in Adam can be seen in that he responded to God’s summons and did not continue to hide in his place of concealment. But even this scant improvement he immediately spoils by his attempt to deceive God: “I was afraid, because I was naked.”

The Lord waits, but man does not acknowledge his sin, does not confess it, does not repent of it, and yet it would have been so simple and easy. What depth of subtle human drama, known to us from our personal experience, is described to us in the few sparing words of the holy Bible.

“And God said: who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”

Adam does not offer confession, does not express repentance. God’s forbearance goes even further. Like a considerate spiritual confessor dealing with a penitent sinner, God Himself states Adam’s guilt for him, names his sin, leaving for the sinner himself to say only a brief penitent “yes.” The merciful Father goes out all the way towards the prodigal son.

But adding towards the already committed sins of trampling upon God’s love and His commandment, of the attempt to hide from God and deceive Him, Adam commits yet another sin, and this time not only against God, but also against his unfortunate accomplice in crime, his one-in-essence spouse. “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”

Piling crime upon crime, with these words Adam breaks the tie of love – the pledge of unity between himself and Eve, and intensifies his rebellion against God, striving to place upon Him a portion of the blame for his own crime: “the woman whom Thou gavest to be with me…”.

The Lord then leaves Adam, in order to prevent him from increasing his sins, and turns to Eve. Up to now He did not address her, because, bound together in essence, she and Adam represented a unity, and to address one of them was the same as to address both. But in placing the blame upon his wife, Adam broke up this unity and, therefore, the Lord turned to Eve separately, so that perhaps Eve herself would repent.

“And God said unto the woman: What is this that thou hast done?”

But Eve, too, continues the same line of behavior as Adam.

“And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat…”

Expulsion from Paradise

The Lord does not address the serpent – the ancient dragon, called devil, slanderer, deceiver, “which deceiveth the entire universe” (Rev. 12:9) – at all. Not a single action, not a single word does the Lord do or say in vain. And it is useless to speak with a slanderer: there is no hope for his repentance.

Without asking him anything, the Lord places a curse upon him, which ends with a promise that is terrible for the devil and joyously comforting for the people who have sinned heavily, but are not hopeless: “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.”

These words of God, which gave hope immediately after the fall to the people who had sinned, the Church calls the first Gospel, the first glad tidings.

“Therefore the Lord God sent Adam forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken, and He drove out the man.”

God’s expulsion of the sinners, like all of God’s acts, is a multifaceted action. One of the reasons is pointed out by the Bible directly: “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and live forever.” The stay in Eden was tied in with eating from the tree of life, with eternal life. Meanwhile, for the sinful people with their newly-corrupted nature such eternal life in a lasting sinful condition and in the resulting continuous alienation from God would truly have been a hellish existence, a source of interminable anguish and torment. The sinners had to be exiled from Eden for their own good.

The paradisiacal state was tied in with communion with God. Meanwhile, in accordance with the spiritual law which we see especially vividly in children who have committed an offence against their parents, the communion that was previously a source of the greatest and most complete bliss, from the moment of the fall became a source of unbearable suffering. A child who feels his guilt towards his parents will try to never stay in the same room with them. The sinful people had already tried to hide from God among the trees of paradise. Out of pity for them, they had to be expelled from Eden.

Also from the example of children who feel guilty towards their parents and suffer from this guilt, we know how harmful it is for the soul to allow them to overcome this burden without repentance, since then the sinning child falls morally and acquires arrogance, impudence in sin, and shamelessness in regard to the offended parents. From this further fall, which may be prevented by either repentance or expulsion, when the repentance that was in the people’s will did not occur, the Lord delivers them with that which is in His will, i.e. expulsion.

Furthermore, the expulsion was the implementation of God’s original plan for man, whom, in contrast to the immutable angels, the Lord had made as a creature subject to continuous changes. St. Basil the Great remarks on this: “Of all sentient creatures we humans are subject to daily and hourly changes and transformations. We never remain the same, neither in body, nor in inner disposition. On the contrary, our body continuously flows and disperses, is in constant movement and transformation… There is not a single moment in which man is not changing.” The entire man changes, both his physical and inner composition, but this change depends not on man’s soul, which is immutable like the angels’, but on his body, which is closely tied in with time and, therefore, like time flows continuously. And only then the bodily composition, being closely tied to the soul in each human individual, changes the soul. But the greatest impact upon man’s external physical nature is to be had from external changes. Therefore, in order to take man out of his sinful tormenting impasse after the fall, he had to be subjected to a harsh external change, and for this reason, along with those mentioned above, he is expelled from paradise.

Before the expulsion the Lord gives Adam a commandment on work: in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground from which thou wast taken.” This commandment of God, like the majority of God’s acts, is multifaceted. It contains both a punishment for sin and a treatment for it.

In paradise the people were free from all work and cares related to their physical nature, for the earth that was subordinated to them obediently did all the work for them as regards their nourishment and accommodation, seeing in this its own purpose and by this service to man being bound to God. And as long as man remained righteous, he morally required such freedom from work and cares, in order to have the opportunity to be continuously engaged in communion with God.

But from the moment when man transgressed his duty to God, nature rebelled against him. Having transgressed his duty to God, he also transgressed his duty to nature, ceasing to serve as the tie between the external world and God. From that moment the plants and the animals ceased to freely serve man without any care on his part.

And man himself, having earlier needed all his free time for communing with God, from the moment of the cessation of such communion began to need to have his time filled up. Without such filling up of time, his life in alienation from God would be unbearable. When our soul is tormented, the only balsam is work. And for this reason, expelling him from paradise, the Lord gives man the commandment on work.

 

 

(To be continued)

Archbishop Nathaniel (Lvov)

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