In order to understand what is truly natural for man, it is important to discern what Adam was like before the Fall. After the Fall, this is easy enough to discern. This because we are all sinful and find ourselves like Saint Paul saying, “I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” (Rom 7:15) In layman’s terms, we have a conscience that desires what is correct but we have this opposing desire to defy the conscience. This propensity is so strong, it is often a struggle to discern what is right or wrong.
Was man like this before the Fall? How did Adam make the wrong choice if he had no desire towards evil? To answer these questions, its important to review the relevant Scriptures.
The Scriptures themselves do not give us a lot of clues as to what man’s mind was like before the Fall, but perhaps the most relevant passages are as follows:
- Gen 3:1-13
- 1 Tim 2:8-15
- Matt 4:1-11 (or its parallel passages in Mark and Luke)
I am open to correction where I am interpreted wrongly. Nevertheless, I find the interpretation given herein the most Biblically consistent as well as compelling due to its reiteration of patristic teachings covered in future articles.
Gen 3:1-13. In Genesis, we have the sole account of the Fall. I will add my own comments as we go:
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
The intent of the Devil’s question is to sow doubt in the obvious interpretation of God’s commandment to Adam, which was as follows:
Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Gen 2:16-17)
By saying, “Has God indeed,” it shows that the Devil sows doubt by asking a rhetorical question. Indeed, God did not say, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden,” because God in fact said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.”
The purpose of asking the rhetorical question is for Eve to think the answer is simply, “No.” Rhetorical questions do not demand serious answers, they presuppose an answer merely by being asked. Hence, they are rhetorical devices that can be used deceivingly to get people to agree with you on an issue they would otherwise not agree about.
For example, let’s use the issue of Universal Healthcare. Which question is deceptive because of its rhetorical nature?
Is Universal Healthcare a human right?
Do you think its right for people without health insurance to be left to die on the streets?
Obviously the latter. So, just like the latter question demands the answer “no,” Satan’s question of, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?,” likewise demands the same automatic answer.
However, if this is truly the case, then the latter part of the commandment (“…but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…”) is not meant to be taken literally, because it contradicts the former part of the commandment (“of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.”) Can we know see the cunning of the serpent in his line of questioning?
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The woman’s response is to emphasize the latter part of God’s commandment in Gen 2:16-17, showing that as far as she understood the commandment, she may eat all the fruit of the trees other than from that tree. Hence, she iterates a literal interpretation of what God said–over against the implications of Satan’s rhetorical question to her.
A lot can be made of “nor shall you touch it,” being that God never actually said that. However, being that the Fall had not occurred yet, it is safe to interpret this gloss in a positive, instead of a negative, light. It shows that Eve was learning and interpreted rightly that to even reach for sin, even if it were not consummated, itself would be catastrophic.
This is crucial, because the Fall occurred because for the first time the free will of man turned against God. The moment that will turned away from where it belonged, towards God, everything was lost. This necessitated restoration through Jesus Christ to repair this wrongful turning of the will.
So, Eve gave the right answer. It would seem like “the gig is up.” However, Satan continue’s his deceit by simply saying death will not occur, but instead one will be made more like God. It’s the promise of “divinization,” something that God promises Christians now. (2 Pet 1:4) However, this would be in fact false divinization as it is obtained through defying God instead of becoming more like Him through obedience.
It is not necessary to infer that Satan was trying to make it appear to Eve that God lied to Adam (i.e., “God told you not to eat that fruit, but that’s because He knows how great it is and is holding out on you.”) Most people interpret the passage this way, but as we can see in the preceding parenthetical statement, there are a lot of inferences one must make to draw the conclusion that “you surely will not die…you will be like God, knowing good and evil” can be interpreted to mean anything close to a statement tantamount to saying God is a deceiver. Such an interpretation, though taken for granted, goes for beyond what is actually stated.
A more simple interpretation is that Satan is casting doubt in the mind of Eve. Either her interpretation of what God said is wrong or perhaps God never really said it. “For God knows…” presupposes that eating fruit would, in fact, be obedient. It appears to encourage Eve to eat, because it is telling her God would bless her through the fruit. Satan is saying that God knows eating the fruit is good, so why would God say not to eat the fruit?
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.
Eve, taking to heart what Satan told her (that God knows eating the fruit is allegedly good) approaches the tree simplistically. The fruit looked like edible fruit. It looked nice. It was called “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17), so it would make one wiser. God would not name it that for no good reason. Never having been lied to before, what Satan told Eve, considering all the preceding data, actually made sense.
Hence, given this data, Eve must have figured she was mistaken in her interpretation or Adam relayed to her wrongly what God said. Due to the fact Eve questioned the Serpent, it is clear that the prelapsarian mind is capable of questioning and assessing probability. Having completed her examination, with no nagging conscience (because this comes only after the Fall), she ate the fruit.
She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Eve gave the fruit to Adam and he ate only after she convinced him. We know this is true, because God told Adam he was cursed, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife.” (Gen 3:17) We can only imagine what was “taught” by Eve to Adam in that this is the prime example as to why women are disallowed from teaching or holding authority over men. (cf 1 Tim 2:8-15)
I think it is reasonable to infer that Eve reiterated to Adam what Satan told her. “Did God really say that, Adam?,” she might have said. “Yes, I am sure of it!,” replied Adam.
“No, you must be mistaken, because I did not die eating this fruit. You must have heard incorrectly or misinterpreted what God, because I did not die. And look, the fruit is good to the eyes, pleasant for food, and desirable to make one like God. You want to be like God, right?”
<insert bite noise>
Then the eyes of both of them were opened…
This is an interesting statement. Only after Adam ate, the eyes of both were opened. How so? Why weren’t Eve’s eyes opened the moment she ate the fruit, leading to period of time when her eyes were opened and Adam’s eyes weren’t before he ate the fruit?
Here’s what I think occurred. Eve had in fact defied God when she ate the fruit, but there is a difference in accountability between those who break an overt command (“sin is not imputed when there is no law,” Rom 5:13) and those who knowingly break a law (“the likeness of the transgression of Adam,” Rom 5:14). However, she was Adam’s “helper” (Gen 2:18) and came from Adam, the significance of this being:
I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God…[H]e is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. (1 Cor 11:3, 7-8)
Eve’s sin is that she overturned the creative order, exercising headship over Adam by teaching him what God said. Hence, her wrong doing was actually contingent upon Adam’s concession. Her actions could have been undone by Adam exercising headship and maintaining God’s teaching, just as a woman’s oath can be undone by her male head (Num 30:3-16). This is because Eve thought she was doing something good, but Adam abrogated his duty by taking heed instead of reiterating to her what God told him. So, Adam’s sin was more strictly one of disobedience while Eve’s sin was that of subversion. Her continued pestering–I mean–convincing of Adam was truly serious, just as holding privately to heresy is not the same as teaching it, which has “stricter judgement.” (James 3:1)
Just as Adam disobeyed God, which was the sole commandment given to him, Eve disobeyed Adam–whom she was supposed to help–by supplanting his headship and teaching against his teaching. I am not going to pretend the preceding is a perfect answer to the question, but I believe it to be consistent.
…and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
Obviously, God knew what had occurred. He merely asked the questions to be instructive so that they may be aware of what they had done. Knowledge of sin is the beginning of repentance.
Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
Adam give his defense to God, which is in fact truthful. Most people read this as Adam simply casting blame (man, what a misogynist!), but I do not think that’s the thrust of this passage. Rather, he is telling God that Eve gave him the fruit so he obliged. He does not say much else. He does not appear to be blaming Eve at all, or he would have accused her of deceiving him. In my interpretation, Adam appears convinced by Eve’s logic (of whatever she “taught” him), but confused as to how his helper turned him wrong.
It is almost as if Adam is saying, “What’s wrong, I thought what I did was good, didn’t my helper You make for me help me?” This is not impenitence, but rather a sobbing child (which Adam was) not understanding what had occurred.
And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
From God’s reply, we may infer that He accepts Adam’s explanation. He’s only a day old or so, what can we expect? He can be deceived by his wife. And so Eve’s reply makes sense in this context and is apparently more defensive:
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
This is Eve’s way of saying, “I did not deceive Adam on purpose, because the serpent deceived me.” God accepts this explanation, which explains why in verse 14 God curses the serpent, “Because you have done this.”
The curses God gives to Eve (childbearing and submission to one’s husband) are obviously meant to correct what caused her to make Adam fall. Adam’s curses, endless labor, appear to teach Adam obedience through endless work. He allowed himself to be convinced by Eve’s shortcut to deification. Well, worse than writing “do not eat the fruit” on the chalkboard a million times, Adam will toil and die–no amount of toiling for the fruit of the earth will allow him to be deified. In this sense, both curses reorient man and woman towards their prelapsarian roles. This opens them to the grace of God to transform them–something that God intended for them before the Fall occurred.
1 Tim 2:8-15. I already know most readers will interpret the preceding to be a stretch. But, if you have read this far, you have at least kept an open mind. Allow me to show that 1 Tim in fact substantiates that both Adam and Eve were deceived in the sense described previously.
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
Saint Paul begins this passage with an admonition to women to have propriety by adorning themselves with humility. They are to be like men who must also show propriety, albeit differently, by “lifting up holy hands.” This is apparently a reference to worshiping without hypocrisy (“wrath and doubt.”)
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
On the topic of propriety, Paul adds that a woman should “learn in silence with all submission” and not “teach or to have authority over a man.” This is to prevent “wrath and doubt” among men as referenced in verse 8. This is a two-way street as men, not objectifying women, would do much to mitigate against female vanity that Paul here forbids.
Why do women have a different sort of propriety? Why cannot women lift holy hands and men be extra careful with how they dress?
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression.
Paul’s justification is the same we see in 1 Cor 11. Adam was first and therefore not to be subjugated by Eve. God curses Eve for desiring to be first: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Gen 3:16) “Transgression” is a single Greek word, a feminine, singular noun. This clearly pertains to Eve alone within the context.
Clearly, Paul is not teaching Adam did not sin, but only Eve did. What he is teaching is obvious. When Eve was deceived by the serpent, she fell into transgression (Gen 3:13). This transgression was consummated when she taught Adam and he ate the fruit.
Therefore, Adam’s transgression was in believing what Eve taught him and eating the fruit as a result. Any other interpretation makes Paul’s application here nonsensical. If the issue was not Adam transgressing due to Eve’s teaching and exercising authority over him, why cite it as an example why women today should not do so within the Church?
Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
Paul then gives a teaching as to what women can do to be saved. It’s not by exercising authority, but actually dealing with the curse in Gen 3:16. Childbearing (“in pain”) and implicitly allowing men to exercise authority (“he shall rule over you.”)
Matt 4:1-11. Jesus’ temptations from Satan are important, because they demonstrate to us what a temptation looks like when posed to someone sinless and thereby prelapsarian. The Biblical passage will be read within the lens of Saint John of Damascus, who makes the following observations about Adam and Jesus:
For the natural and innocent passions are those which are not in our power, but which have entered into the life of man owing to the condemnation by reason of the transgression; such as hunger, thirst, weariness, labour, the tears, the corruption, the shrinking from death, the fear, the agony with the bloody sweat, the succour at the hands of angels because of the weakness of the nature, and other such like passions which belong by nature to every man…
The wicked one , then, made his assault [on Jesus] from without, not by thoughts prompted inwardly, just as it was with Adam. For it was not by inward thoughts, but by the serpent that Adam was assailed. But the Lord repulsed the assault and dispelled it like vapour, in order that the passions which assailed him and were overcome might be easily subdued by us, and that the new Adam should save the old.
Of a truth our natural passions were in harmony with nature and above nature in Christ. For they were stirred in Him after a natural manner when He permitted the flesh to suffer what was proper to it: but they were above nature because that which was natural did not in the Lord assume command over the will. For no compulsion is contemplated in Him but all is voluntary. For it was with His will that He hungered and thirsted and feared and died. (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book III, Chap 20)
The preceding is very important, because in short Adam like Jesus could not be tempted by invoking passions–he did not have them. Temptation was “not by inward thoughts” but “from without.” It is for this reason, Jesus experienced even blameless passions “above nature,” because Jesus did not have to hunger (due to being sinless). He willed to hunger as “all is voluntary.” Hence, Adam likewise did not hunger until the transgression.
In light of the preceding, let’s look into how Jesus was tempted and what that shows us about the prelapsarian mind:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
As we can see, Jesus was inwardly tempted by hunger, because Christ assumed this hunger voluntarily. On top of this temptation, Satan assaults Jesus with the suggestion that in order to prove that He is God, He should turn the stones into bread.
What would the harm be in this? Satiating oneself is not a sin. Jesus satisfied His own thirst on the cross. (John 19:28-29) And sure, proving that He is good (“if you are the Son of God”) is also good, because “the very works I do bear witness of me.” (John 5:36) Jesus wanted to testify of the veracity of His claims as it glorified the Father.
As we can see, Satan did not pose Jesus with anything explicitly bad. This is similar to Eve, who was not tempted with literally disobeying God and death–she was tempted with life and, allegedly, doing what God really wanted. And so, why didn’t Jesus just oblige?
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Now we have our answer. Jesus refused to disobey the ideal of not living by “bread alone.” To obey His hunger, under the guise of demonstrating that He was God to Satan, would have been gluttony. He would have hungered more for food than upholding the ideal of Deut 8:3. Jesus recognized that food, even if it appears “good to the eyes,” is not so if it leads one to break the command of God (“every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”) Hence, this undoes the Fall in the garden, as obedience is chosen instead of disobedience–and true wisdom (fearing the Lord, cf Job 28:28) instead of food.
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
Again, Satan tempts Jesus to show that He is God, which to reiterate is something that is both good and what Jesus intends to do. This time Satan quotes the Scripture, unlike before. In layman’s terms, Satan was saying, “You did not eat because that would have abrogated a command of God, well prove that you are God by permitting the angels to save your Body–because the Scriptures promise that no harm will come to you.”
Why didn’t Jesus oblige? To simply spite Satan? Of course not.
Jesus knew the Scripture was being appropriated wrongly. Because His human nature grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52), Satan confused this with potential ignorance, such as Adam’s. However, even “before the Child shall know good or evil, he refuses evil, to choose the good” (Is 7:15 LXX)–meaning that Jesus’s human will, even before it was fully informed before the “age of reason,” cooperated with the divine will to always choose good. Hence, Jesus’ human ignorance was deified and could not make evil decisions, unlike Adam’s.
Hence, Jesus reflexively knew that the Scripture Satan quoted (Ps 91, 90 LXX) did indeed promise that no harm, ever falls upon the faithful. Even though the Psalm literally says this, to take the promise of the Psalm literally betrays misunderstand the promise. It is meant to be taken figuratively. This is literally the inverse of God’s command in the garden, which was literal. Jesus, with deified human wisdom, rightly identified that listening to Satan’s admonition would in fact break another commandment of the Lord, which was “not [to] tempt the Lord your God.” (Deut 6:16) This is unlike Adam and Eve, who knew God’s command, but were not able to identify whether the literal or figurative interpretation was appropriate.
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Satan’s last temptation is certainly less sly than the previous two, perhaps indicating at this point Satan was just pestering Jesus rather than seriously attempting to get Him to sin at this point. He simply shows Jesus every Kingdom of the world and being the “prince of the world” (John 14:30), he had the capacity to hand them over to Jesus.
The desire to rule justly over the nations would have been good, but to fall down and worship Satan was clearly not. Seemingly insulted by this temptation as insulting to His intelligence, Jesus dismissively responds, “Away with you!”
Conclusion. The reason I finished last with Jesus’ temptations is because it helps us frame what temptations Adam and Eve could face or not face. Jesus could seriously contemplate hunger (the bread) and self-preservation (not throwing Himself off the Temple), because He voluntarily assumed blameless passions. Satan could only try to cunningly slip a temptation to sin within an otherwise benign, if not good (in some respects) suggestion. When Satan poses Jesus with something overtly evil, Jesus dismisses it out of hand.
With Adam and Eve, we see something similar. Eve was posed with something good, being like God. And she was deceived into thinking that God really never forbade eating the fruit. Adam permitted himself to be deceived by his eyes, not seeing Eve dead, and by what she told him. Then he too ate the fruit. Hence, their sin was one of ignorance and not a purposeful disobedience.
There are plenty of speculations already here, but I will make one last one. Eve’s sin was only complete when she unknowingly deceived Adam by what she told him. Eve’s suggestions led to Adam presuming he must have been mistaken. So, the Fall occurred when Eve then knowingly contradicted what Adam reiterated was the command of God–and when Adam, believing His eyes and not God’s words, believED what Eve told him was valid. Upon eating the fruit, the wills of Adam and Eve have turned from obedience, to ignorance, to outright disobedience. Since the Fall, the free will of man is constantly reliving this oscillation and we have inherited the consequences.
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