Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh on Adam and Eve's Pride

Arabic original here.

When Will You Become Human, O Gods Whom Humans Have Rejected?

Of old the serpent whispered lies to our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, and they fell into its traps. It still whispers, even now, and we still fall into its traps. The story of Adam and Eve-- which almost all Christians agree is symbolic-- appears as though it is the story of each individual human from the beginning of existence until the present day.

The story says that God, after creating Adam and Eve, commanded them to eat from every fruit of the garden, except for one tree, "lest you die." The serpent seduced them by saying, "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." (Cf. Genesis 3:2-5). The serpent tickled Adam and Eve's pride and they believed that they were capable of becoming gods. And so they fell greatly.

In the story, the serpent symbolizes the devil. However, Church tradition is in agreement that man is responsible for his sin. Had there been no serpent in the story, Adam and Eve would have fallen on account of their own lust and greed. The serpent's role in the story is secondary and the sin springs from the will of man. Adam and Eve desired to become gods. They desired to become like the God who created them and the serpent helped them along by embellishing their desire and making it possible for them to reach their goal. In this context, Saint Ephrem the Syrian (d. 374) says, "Gluttony was the reason for their taking the serpent's counsel and it has hurt them more than the serpent's counsel."

Sin was the fruit of Adam and Eve's free will. Had they repented to God, He would have forgiven their disobedience. However, their pride prevented them from following the path of repentance (here the Christian and Islamic traditions differ on the matter of Adam's repentance). Ephrem himself says, "Had Adam and Eve repented after disobedience, then they would have regained what they possessed before their breaking the commandment." Another proof of our first ancestors' pride is that they both excused themselves from the accusation and laid responsibility on the other and on the serpent. So Ephrem continues his exegesis of the story and says, "When Adam did not want to confess his sin, he questioned God about Eve. And instead of supplicating and shedding tears for her sin, that she and her husband would receive mercy, she said that the serpent had seduced her and so she ate."

Pride has reached a terrible point in man. He commits sin and shamelessly attributes it to God. Blessed Augustine (d. 435) says, "Adam tried, in his deception, to attribute his sin to God Himself. He said to God, blaming, 'The woman that you gave me to be with me is the one who seduced me... All sinners who blame God for the sins that they committed are characterized by this behavior. Its source is pride."

The story of Adam and Eve with God and the serpent has not ended. Adam and Eve are the model of every human who commits disobedience and refuses to admit responsibility for what his hands have done. They believe themselves to be gods and so they justify killing, slaughter, forced displacement and destruction. Their pride prevents them from seeing themselves as anything other than gods who hold in their hands the lives and fates of other human beings. When the serpent seduced Adam and Eve, it said to them, "Your eyes will be opened." They were able to see before they thought, because of the serpent's seduction, that their eyes would be opened. They became blind to knowledge of the truth when they thought that through their action they would see it. When will you become human, O gods who whom humans have rejected?

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