[[Nota bene: this is an exact copy of what I handed to the large herd of Josephinum seminarians who had signed up for my course on Genesis 2,4--3,24, exactly two years ago on 23 April, 2010, the Feast of Saint George! It was truly written at breakneck speed. It's rather totally intense. No apologies! See the reaction to the actual thesis, from Pope Benedict to Dom Gerard Calvet, from the Pontifical Biblical Institute to... many others, HERE.]]
Gentlemen, since I have been inundated with requests, I’m providing ye all with a super simplified, concise summary, off the top of my head, not necessarily in any good order, written at breakneck speed, written in just minutes, and having none of the exegetical proofs that were so far presented in class, about…
This is very rough, merely an outline of super basic points. Sorry if it is a bit disjointed. If you have questions, bring them up in class!
1. 2,4a, as a superscript to the account, mentioning multiple generations of the heavens and of the earth, prepares us to understand how the heavens and the earth are created in view of Adam, who represents them in his person, not only in his pristine and then fallen condition, but in his redeemed state with the reception of enmity.
2. Adam’s unique formation in 2,7 is threefold, whereby (1) YHWH Elohim’s intention to form Adam is partially fulfilled with the dust being given the form of a body; (2) YHWH Elohim’s intention to form Adam continues to be partially fulfilled by way of the breath of normal air breathed into Adam’s nostrils, though with a concomitant gift of life, as is inescapably implied with the phrase, “the breath of the living ones” (so that wherever that normal breath of the living ones is, that is where one will find a life given by YHWH Elohim); (3) YHWH Elohim’s intention to form Adam is brought to fulfillment, but not by YHWH Elohim, but by Adam, who is now the subject of the verb+preposition, which means “to become”. Adam, created to be a cause, integrates, by the power of his intellect, the formed dust and the breath of the living ones with its concomitant gift of life, becoming a living, breathing nephesh = a “living individual.”
3. That this is wrought by the power of Adam’s intellect is seen when the whole of this is reversed by Adam’s sin, for that is when he is to die, when the breath of the living one’s, with its concomitant gift of life, is no longer integrated with his formed dust. He will no longer have the power to keep matter to spirit. Now he will fall to dust just like the animals. The tree of the living ones and the tree of knowing good and evil together represent his faculty of free will. In choosing the fruit of the tree of the living ones, he is simply choosing to do what any living one would do, which is do the will of YHWH Elohim. He keeps living and rejoices in his living in this way. One is always to eat from the tree of the living ones, not to receive life, which he already has, but to affirm this life, to the greater glory of YHWH Elohim. The tree of knowing good and evil is also good for food and pleasing to the eyes, not to eat of it directly, but to be nourished by noticing how it contrasts with the tree of the living ones. This would be spectacular and exhilarating for those who have clear vision. If the fruit of the tree of good and evil is chosen, there will no longer be clear vision, but everything will be perceived with an edge of egoism, of darkness. Such a clouded intellect does not have the power to integrate the formed dust and the breath of the living ones together as a living individual (with the concomitant gift of life). Instead, death comes.
4. The breath of the living ones is only provided to Adam in the entire history of mankind. The woman is simply built up, as it says in the Hebrew, from his rib (“life” in Babylonian languages) which already has the breath of the living ones contained within it. The children are also built up in an analogous manner. Adam cannot share the concomitant gift of life, for that is, by definition, what he has that makes him a cause to bring his breath and dust together as a living individual. However, when the breath of the living ones is shared by way of living flesh, such as with propagation, the intention of YHWH Elohim in providing this breath comes into play. YHWH Elohim’s intention is known by the phrase “of the living ones”, which describes the breath. It is inescapably implied that YHWH Elohim will provide a concomitant gift of life for the new subject of that shared flesh having that breath of the living ones within it, so that that new subject may also be a cause of bringing formed dust and breath together with concomitant gift of life. Being a cause in this manner, as such, does not necessitate an act of the will, but a condition of not being disobedient to God [if this is to be continuously perfect, so that death does not come].
5. The anthropology is such that if Adam chooses the tree of the living ones for himself, that choice affirms the pristine condition in which his offspring will be conceived. If he chooses the tree of knowing good and evil, he is choosing death for himself, as YHWH Elohim said. The breath he has is now, according to this description of YHWH Elohim, not the breath of the living ones, but the breath of the dead ones. Again, death means no intellectual power to bring formed dust and the breath of the living ones together as a living individual. The formed dust immediately begins to fall away from the individual, from his nephesh. The nepheph continues to be a living individual; it’s just that the ‘living’ bit is a living death. Adam dies both a spiritual death and a physical death. This choice Adam has made for himself. However, since he has chosen to change the breath of the living ones to the breath of the non-living ones, the concomitant gift of life will be provided at the time of the sharing of flesh according to the decision of Adam for himself. The offspring, built up from the flesh having this new intention added to the breath in that flesh, an intention of death, not of life, means that they will receive such consequences of Adam’s sin even though they have not sinned, and all this at conception, at the moment when the flesh is shared, at the moment when the gift of, in this case, non-life is given. The children will live an integrity of formed dust (body) and spirit only inasmuch as Adam chose this for himself, which is only an integrity such as the animals have. The body falls away from the spirit, dust to dust, with no intellectual capacity to keep body to spirit. YHWH Elohim creates the concomitant gift of life in all goodness, but only to the point desired by Adam for himself.
6. The term ‘original sin’, Adam’s personal disobedience to the command of YHWH Elohim, does not make any offspring guilty of his personal sin, but it does make them share in all the consequences of his sin, including being conceived in enmity against YHWH Elohim instead of against Satan. To be in a state of enmity against YHWH Elohim is to be in a state of sin. We are all conceived in a state of sin.
7. The consequences of original sin endure for the length of our days upon this earth, in justice, for the consequences of sin are chosen with the sin. Suffering the just punishment for sin, including a weakened intellect continually tempted to see all others and all other things in an egotistic manner, does not exclude living in the enmity against the fallen spiritual being, the ‘Serpent’/Oracle, an enmity which inescapably implies a new creation, a spiritual renewal, for such a perspective cannot be simply given to someone. He or she must first be changed. It is YHWH Elohim who says he will place such an enmity with Adam and all his offspring. This a divine work, a supernatural intervention, creative and redemptive, an action which once again enables Adam, weak as he now is, to represent the heavens and the earth in his nephesh, with himself being in reverence and obedience before YHWH Elohim. This is the second generation of the heavens and of the earth mentioned in 2,4a. Both generations were known by YHWH Elohim from the beginning.
8. YHWH Elohim says that he himself will place this enmity. Also, it is the Seed of the Woman who will take the initiative to crush the ‘Serpent’/Oracle on the head (something only YHWH Elohim could do), knowing that he will also be crushed upon the heel as he does this, bringing death to both. It is this initiative alone which provides the circumstances of justice for YHWH Elohim to place such an enmity, for neither Adam nor his offspring can ever do something that would be of value on the level of justice, suffering from original sin as they do. The enmity, because it provides a supernatural intervention, a new creation, cannot be placed by anyone except YHWH Elohim. In justice, for YHWH Elohim to place such enmity, he must himself take on the consequences of sin which he himself stated to Adam, namely, death. The consequences of the mortal combat between the Seed of the Woman and the ‘Serpent’/Oracle is death for both combatants. The ‘Serpent’/Oracle is unimaginably frustrated in his intelligence coupled with a lack of wisdom, forever facing absolute frustration by which any of us would be instantly crushed to death. His nourishment, so to speak, will be dust of the corruption of the body of the Adam, which will return to the dust Adam ‘tills’ also in this way. The Seed of the Woman, being crushed on the heel, will die in his body. Death does not mean annihilation. No good deed goes unpunished from the ‘Serpent’/Oracle’s point of view. The ‘Serpent’/Oracle owns Adam and all his offspring unless YHWH Elohim justly usurps the ‘Serpent’/Oracle’s rights over Adam and his offspring. YHWH Elohim is to be the Seed of the Woman. This enables him to place the enmity in conditions of justice, in the conditions of redemption which this new creation must be. Just as the offspring of Adam are very much the members of his corporate body, just so, when YHWH Elohim provides enmity, does he take Adam and his corporate body to himself. But there is more, for the new creation brings with it a grace unknown to Adam previous to the fall, which is that of belonging to the corporate person of YHWH Elohim incarnate. O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem! No one is an individual in an absolute way: one either belongs to the old Adam after the fall, or to the New Adam after the placement of enmity, with such a redemption.
9. The ‘Serpent’/Oracle’s motivation in all of this is to get at Adam, because, in doing so, in having Adam subservient to himself – and don’t forget that Adam represents, in himself, all the heavens and the earth and everything in them and associated with them – then the ‘Serpent’/Oracle will have everything outside of YHWH Elohim under his control. The ‘Serpent’/Oracle will effectively replace YHWH Elohim. He will be like God, which Adam and the woman were like before the fall, certainly not after the fall. Remember that the ‘Serpent’/Oracle, the most intelligent of all creatures, was named a serpent/oracle by Adam, and rightly so. In this manner, the ‘Serpent’/Oracle is depicted as being stretched out along the ground. If he is to give an oracle, it is to be about how Adam is to go about doing his vocation, the tilling of the ground.
10. The Woman in Genesis 3,15 is not the wife of Adam, but the Mother of the Redeemer, who is future, obviously, to the person who wrote this account. That hagiographer knew that no such Redeemer had yet come upon the earth. No one had as yet crushed the head of the ‘Serpent’/Oracle. The Suffering Servant had not yet appeared on the earth. This Woman is singled out to receive enmity from YHWH Elohim for the very reason that she is to be the Mother of the Redeemer, His own Mother, the Mother of God, the Mother of YHWH Elohim. If she is free from Adam’s sin by way of a special intervention – and don’t forget that she is singled out in a special manner in contrast with the ‘Serpent’/Oracle – then this is showing a special intervention on her behalf on the part of YHWH Elohim. Her immaculate conception does come before the redemption, the crushing, by her own Seed, yet, everything in this account, from beginning to end, happens in one day, and is not somehow out of YHWH Elohim’s purview: the creation, formation and fall of Adam, the promise of enmity. That enmity is immediately given long before the future Seed of the Woman coming upon the earth. It is inescapably implied that this is the only way that Adam can bear his punishments fruitfully. Just so can YHWH Elohim provide enmity to the Woman, His Mother, at her conception. YHWH Elohim is specifically her Seed, of all unheard of things, lifting Him out [of reach] of Adam’s original sin, but also her Seed because she herself is free from Adam’s sin: it is her Seed, which says something about her. YHWH Elohim is proud to be her Seed.
11. The crushing, although specifically pointing to the redemption, a particular moment in history, is wrought throughout history, for it is by way of this very crushing that we are made the members of the body of the Redeemer, the Seed of the Woman, and we are with him in this crushing and, indeed, in the being crushed.
12. Adam thinks that his wife is to be the Mother of the Entire Living One (his own corporate person, that is, of his offspring), but his wife is the mother of the Entire Dead One, for all that is conceived by her with his seed is dead in sin and falling into dust upon conception. He didn’t understand the curse given by YHWH Elohim to the ‘Serpent’/Oracle, but then, he didn’t have to understand this, since YHWH Elohim was not speaking to Adam, but to the ‘Serpent’/Oracle. Even though Adam and his wife were provided with punishments of normality – still having to do what they would otherwise have done, but now with weakness and temptation (and frustration if they should fall) – they are nevertheless given a rather abrupt response by YHWH Elohim to Adam naming his wife “Mother of the Entire Living One”, a response which is wonderfully pedagogical, about their redemption. They obviously have no clue about the seriousness of all that has just happened. They still don’t understand the consequences. So, this is the response of YHWH Elohim to inform them somewhat of where they stand: instead of their loin coverings of fig leaves – mere vegetation providing ersatz self-redemption of hiding themselves from each other – they are provided with what symbolizes more accurately how their redemption is to come about. YHWH Elohim provides them with the skins of animals. Because this provision is to symbolize more accurately how such a redemption is to come about, that is, with horrific, mortal violence, with all the crushing going on, it is sure that no extended months of tanning processes were undertaken. YHWH Elohim caused them to be clothed with such skins, still bleeding from their slaughter, which must have been quite traumatic, rightly so, for Adam and his wife. Such skins were not a redemption more efficacious than the fig-leaves, but were symbolic of how the enmity of the redemption was to be provided to them. It is no animal which takes away sin, for they themselves should and will die for their sin, but it is someone who is innocent who brings about this redemption in a violent manner (the crushing and being crushed), one who is the Seed of the Woman. She alone is the Mother of the Entire Living One, of the corporate person of the Seed. The New Adam is head of the members of her Seed, for all corporate persons are not a collection of individuals, but each has a head of the members.
13. Adam is always in the garden, which is everywhere that the earth faces the heavens. He is always to till the ground, always having the rivers available to him as time marches forward in the day of YHWH Elohim. When he is thrown out, he is thrown out of the paradise aspect of the garden, not the garden itself. With enmity he will be able to do the right thing, but not under his own power, but by the power of this enmity, this grace, this new creation of his spiritual being. In this way he can choose to eat of the fruit of the tree of the living ones, to receive this fruit.
14. Just because he dies does not mean that his nephesh dies, that his spirit dies. Instead, it is inescapably implied that life will go on after death, for YHWH Elohim will continue to live, though he will die a bodily death as the head of the Seed of the Woman, and Adam and his offspring, his corporate person, will be usurped from the ‘Serpent’/Oracle (to whom Adam sold himself by sinful obedience), so as to make Adam’s corporate person into the members of the body of the New Adam. YHWH Elohim recapitulates in himself the heavens and the earth by taking the corporate person of Adam to himself. It is in this way that 2,4a comes into play, whereby all was created for the recapitulation in the New Adam, the new creation that was known before the foundation of the first creation: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth in their being created [by the power of YHWH Elohim himself].”
15. Adam’s temptation will be to turn around as soon as he is thrown out of paradise, so as to stretch out his own hand to grab and take and eat from the tree of the living ones so as to live forever. But he cannot appreciate what the tree of the living ones is, nor its fruit, for because of the consequences of his sin, he is knowing good and evil in everything he sees. He sees all things in a corrupt manner, even that which is entirely good, such as obedience to YHWH Elohim which nourishes the living ones. Adam cannot successfully eat from this tree of the living ones, for he will only be eating his own egoism. The cherubim with their sword with fire are there. It is a violent sword which turns whatever is presented to it into its opposite. If Adam arrogantly stretches out his hand to take from the fruit of the tree of the living ones, he will be sundered with purging flames which will have him humbly receive from the fruit of the tree of the living ones, if he so desires. One is to eat from the tree of the living ones always, always choosing by way of enmity to obey by one’s graced free will, the will of YHWH Elohim. But this fruit of the tree of the living ones is to be received, just as the enmity must be received, not taken. The way to the tree is blocked for those on the outside, but this does not prohibit YHWH Elohim, who is in paradise, to give this fruit to Adam. The reception of enmity begs for the like reception of the ability to receive from the tree of the living ones, to choose what is consonant with the living ones, obedience to the will of YHWH Elohim.
16. The spiritual life begins and grows while we suffer the effects of original sin. All suffer from original sin. Little kids with no personal sin die from leukemia, etc. But eternal life as members of the body of the New Adam will witness something different. For then justice will have it that we are in a paradise of a new heavens and a new earth, in which the head representative of all is not the old Adam or the ‘Serpent’/Oracle, but our Redeemer, the Seed, the Son of the Woman. There will be no more effects of original sin, but we will sing: O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem!
Father George David Byers — April 23, 2010