Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Genesis. Lecture 8

1964 - 1966

In the last talk we have discussed the two records of man’s creation in Genesis. The one given in the first chapter, `Let us make man in our image and likeness’ and the second one which resulted in the confrontation of man and woman, of Adam and Eve, of him and her. There is one feature which I have not mentioned, which I have not underlined in the first record. It is that when God has spoken his words `Let us make man in our image and our likeness’ the text says, ‘ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him’, and no mention is made here of the likeness. On the other hand it has been emphasised more than once by commentators that Adam and Eve, man and woman, are a fulfilment of the image: in the first place, of the fact that this creation of man, the total man, the man who possesses as we have seen last time all the potentialities of man and woman, was a creation in the image of God, if we think in terms of nature and not in terms of person. In this first man, possessed of all possibilities yet not unfolded, still unfulfilled, the whole of the human nature was present. The lack of fulfilment corresponds also to a lack of likeness to God. What is true in a way, but only in a way, is that in the second record we are faced with the coming into being as real human persons; it is true in the sense that now Adam and Eve are there, disentangled from one another, become personal. A beginning is made to growing into the likeness of God. Yet is it already a likeness? Is it already a situation which has got a moral connotation complete and fulfilled? Hear what Adam says (II.31): ‘This is now bone or my bone, and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman because she was taken of man’.

But there is not here any affirmation yet of a relationship and certainly not an affirmation or that unique and only relationship which characterises persons, the relationship of `I’ and `Thou’, the standing face to face which was the aim of the creation of Adam and Eve, but which is also called to develop into something greater. The couple which is now there has got all the possibilities of developing into the likeness of God. It is two incipient personalities but it cannot be a fulfilment because this fulfilment is a moral one. It is not within the realm of nature but within the realm of relationships. It is not within a static situation but only within a dynamic becoming, and a dynamic being, that personality can develop and flourish (I was about to use the word `assert itself’, but it has got too many connotations which I do not want to introduce here), so that we are confronted here with two persons, which can become what they are called to be, or else fall below the level of what they are called to be. They are there in a situation which is open to all possibilities.

If it is true that this is a situation called to become a revelation or a par­ticipation in the likeness of God, then the only thing that it is meant to express, the only relationship that can be a fulfilment, will be that relationship which is called God, or if you prefer, which is called love. As St Gregory has put it in ancient times, if you are asked what we Christians believe in, your answer is simple: we believe in love. What we find in these first lines as well as in the subsequent paragraphs is the presence of this couple which has discovered its complete belonging to one another `bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’ according to nature and which is not yet for either an outgrowing of self, because for Adam, Eve is not an outgrowing of self, it is him; and for her it is also her that Adam is. It is what the same Gregory the Theologian calls a closed system, a short circuited system he might have called it some time later, a situation in which the two are face to face, the two are for one another a revelation of self in the greater sense than a simple consideration of each of them by itself. And yet a situation which is shut, which is unfulfilled because this couple is a closed system. There is giving and there is taking, there is mutual contemplation, there is a discovery of self in the one who is the other self, and it is still unfulfilled. To be fulfilled two other elements should have become part of this relationship, become internal to it as a vocation of love. These two other elements, these two other beings if I may use this word because I have no better one, are God on the one hand and the whole of creation on the other hand. It is only by including in this miracle of love the totality of what there is, including God and including the created world, that this dyad could have opened up to a true likeness.

Yet it is not what we find and this is the beginning of the tragedy, this is why certain theologians have expressed the situation of Adam and Eve’s creation in terms of the pre-fall period of mankind, have not seen a fulfilment in which indeed is already the beginning of a fulfilment, but a fulfilment that falls short of its aim that is not achieved and that will have to wait until the New Adam comes, until in the person of Christ (and to this we will have to come later) what is here as a possibility becomes a reality. It is the consideration, the contemplation of the created world to which man belongs generically, completely, dust he is, clay he is, he is perhaps the summing up and the articulation of the consciousness of the world created, but this world created is him and he is it. It is by accepting it, by the consideration of it, that Adam came to discovering his lack of fulfilment and now in his word, in his action, he seems to set himself apart, he re­cognises in Eve himself, but in no explicit way does he turn back to the world to which he belongs to include it in the mystery of the newly discovered incipient life. Let us turn to the 3rd chapter (we shall have to come to certain elements of the 2nd in the course of events) the story of the fall of man.

Man was set into the garden faced with two trees, the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. He has been warned in a way we cannot begin to guess the form of, that death was within the knowledge of things outside the fullness of life. And now we see a first instance of the way in which Adam and Eve continue in their solidarity with one another, as con­trasted with oneness in solidarity with either God or the surrounding world. We have seen last time, speaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that knowledge of good and evil otherwise than within God, from within communion with God, was tantamount to an attempt at seeing things as they are apart from God, as they are outside of Him, as they are when con­nection is severed, when the sovereign word of creation suspends its action and when one can look into the naught which is sealed and yet not yet com­pletely outlived in each of us. And this is what was offered to man by the serpent, whoever the serpent was (and again this is a theme to which we shall have to come back). What we see in the solidarity of these two, as con­trasted, as opposed to the rest of the creation and opposed to God, is that at every step of this fall which is, on the one hand, a rejection of their own position in the created world, they do not remain simply internal by an act of faith and of humility, they want to see it and to outgrow it, as it were, to become external to this world.

Adam and Eve remained together against it, and this I think in a way explains what the serpent says; `Your eyes shall be opened and you shall be as gods.’ To be as gods could mean here to be in the situation of one who is not only within the realm of the created but has by some means peered beyond it, has separated himself from the created enough to see it as an outsider. This indeed, but in another sense, is the position of God, who does not see it only as it is, for what it stands, but sees it also from outside, from what it was when it was not and for what it is called to be when it shall be fulfilled. But this is something that the created cannot achieve, or rather when it attempts it, it loses ground with both its own situation within the created world and its own relatedness with God. And both mean death, because it is only as part of the created world that man can live and be, because, apart from it, it has no roots and it has no vocation. And it is only within the vocation, the calling of God and the relationship there is between Him and man that man can attain to its fulfilment and learn the only thing which makes a person, which is beyond nature, the mystery of love.

So that the sin of Adam is a complex reality that makes him fall away from all there is in which he is rooted in the sovereign command of God to be and to be fulfilled, which he refuses, which he rejects by attempting to be a god apart from God, also from uprooting himself from the created. They eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the first thing that occurs is that their eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked as opposed to `They were both naked the man and his wife and they were not ashamed.’

As I quoted to you last time, Methodius of Olympus insists on this passage to show that as long as sin, as disruption, had not come, they saw in one another themselves fulfilled, there was no one, as it were, to look at the other nakedness, because they were both one person in two personalities. Now in the words of St Methodius of Olympus, those who could say before seeing, the other `This is my other myself, my alter ego’ look at the other and say: `This is the other’ as contrasted with ego, with myself. A first disruption between them – they are no longer one – and something quite unaccountable has happened, it is two unfulfilled persons, two persons who are still to become persons, two virtual persons which, by whatever their sin was, disrupted the very oneness of nature which they possessed in common. They become to one another what St Paul calls an alien flesh, not only the other myself, but the other, alter. And in the same process they break off their oneness with the created world that surrounds them, in which they were rooted, in which indeed they are rooted but now in a tragic way – and with God. 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 among the trees of the garden. And the Lord calls unto Adam and says `Where art thou?’ And he says. `I heard thy voice in the gar­den and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.’

This new situation created between God and man is a return as it were, an attempt to return to the darkness, a refusal to stand in the light, a refusal to grow from one possibility into its fulfilment which in turn becomes the possibility of the next fulfilment. It is an act of evolution if you want to use that kind of words. And God says, `Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree?’ And the man said `The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat.’ Here is the first step towards an unredeem­able situation. Man could have said, `Yes, I have, I now see what has happened, from the fact that I did not trust and love Thee. Can that be undone? Can I by recognising my error, my sin, be restored, can I now remain where I was, being remade whole, yet possessed of the warning experience?’ But the man said nothing of the kind, but turns to God and accuses Him: Thou gavest me this woman, she gave me of the tree. I did eat. He affirms his solidarity with her and he accuses God for having caused their common fall. In that, this secludedness of the couple, incapable of opening up, incapable of fulfilled love, manifests itself; this solidarity is there, but it is a solidarity according to nature, but not a solidarity possessed of love, and they both, directly or indirectly, turn against God as against the one who is responsible for all the evil that occurred; did He not create the serpent? Did He not create the woman? Did He not create the tree in the garden? And the Lord God said unto the woman, `What is it thou hast done?’ And the woman said. `The serpent beguiled me and I did eat.’ Again, it is the serpent. And the Lord said unto the serpent ‘Because thou hast done this thou art accursed above all cattle, and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed, and it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heal..’

And so a situation has arisen which is one of the two possibilities which were presented to man. The moment this complex reality called the total man, which contained germinally `I’ and `thou’, `him’, and `her’, the whole complexity of all that is human according to nature, evolved, became man and woman, things are not yet fulfilled. This is still nature that has made one step for­wards towards fulfilment, it can open up to the real mystery of love or remain on the level of love according to nature, and this we do see, it has. But then the situation becomes what we know it to be, unjust, wrong, falsified. As long as there was no moral problem, the two were together because nothing was there to divide them. The moment a moral problem has arisen the two have remained to­gether but on the lowest possible level of relatedness.

But on that level the relatedness in the new situation cannot be secured by a growing into what would have fulfilled it, into love which is ultimately a situation divine. The relatedness within nature is that which is defined in the 16th verse, chapter 3: `Unto the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception.. and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee. ” And to Adam He said: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall bring forth to thee. And thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” This is a series of ties. What love was to do in freedom and equality, in sovereign liberty, in God, because the two persons yet unfulfilled have failed their vocation, they are bound to one another and they are bound to the earth out of which they are taken and they are called, still called to their own fulfilment. Eve shall cling to Adam because she is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, by desire, and where desire is present there will be rule and there will be suffering and there will be unjustice of the authority of one human being over the others where there should have been equality, harmony and natural fulfilment. And both through Adam are tied to the ground which no longer recognises in them its own fulfilment, its own glory which now grows wild and when it will have lent to man and woman its precarious food in sweat and in toil, it will one day, because it is incapable of maintaining eternal life, it will one day claim its own, `For dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.’

And this is fulfilled again in words which I have quoted last time: `Behold man is become as one of us, to know good and evil, and now, lest he put forth his hand and take of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever, therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken.’ These words cannot be understood as a cruel inhuman joke: – Man wanted to become like us, now look at him, he has become it indeed! – No, in a way this is a caricature of the image, and a caricature, a failure of the likeness which is recognised. Man with all his potentialities in nature, the image of God, has found ex­pression in a nature even more complex, in man and woman, more rich, more ful­filled, to which the possibilities of real personal relationships and life were offered, and yet in his attempt to place himself outside his own realm, outside both realms indeed, of nature and of the divine, man is now a broken image. If he can now put forth his hand and take of the tree of life, this monstrosity of a nature broken up into two individuals will be continued throughout all eter­nity. This monstrosity of nature which has not reached personality and which is already in forms of individuals shall die, not because, only, it is within the necessity of the situation, because apart from in Godness man cannot live, but also because it is an act of providence and of charity. Here we find two more themes which I like to touch upon.

The first began here, and we see it develop not only throughout the Scrip­tures but throughout the life of men from century to century: the woman whom Thou gavest me… the serpent beguiled me.. These words are an accusation of God. Thou hast betrayed us. This is what it means, the theme of the betrayal of man by God begins here and when throughout the centuries even to our days, even in the life of each of us individually, this theme comes back, when we feel that God has betrayed us, that He is ultimately responsible, we must remember on the one hand that it is rooted already there and also what we have had occasion to say of the responsibility of God which is implied and contained in the act of creation. This is not a simple theme as it may appear, it is not simply an error of judgement, it is an error of relationship. And on the other hand, this is not so simple, because in a way it is so true. It is true in the sense that when God acted as a creator. He knew what would happen, and unless we make sense of this act of betrayal we cannot establish with God the right relationship. And this applies not only to God but also to man and also to something which is neither God nor man, which is expressed here by the serpent. The man also accused the woman of having beguiled him, and the woman accused the serpent. There is at the outset of human history a knot which is not yet undone because each of us has got this knot within ourself and has got to undo it with extreme care and wisdom and insight – a knot which is made of a series of accusations of betrayal. And unless we come to terms with this theme of betrayal, we can have no relationship with one another, no relationship with God, no relationship with things. The other thing which is here is the beginning of a long series of iniquities.

`It is not good that man should be alone: I will make him a helpmeet for him.’. The text speaks of one that would stand face to face with him. This implies complete equality. It implies a complete fulfilment if this miracle and law of love is learned. Here for the first time, not only between man and woman, but in the whole situation of the universe, is introduced a hierarchy of power, of submission, of desire and of longing, of overpowering and of ruling, this is the beginning of the world of corruption in which we live and this is something which is still to be overcome. We find in St Paul this passage that in the kingdom there is no Jew and no Gentile, no man and no woman, no slave and no freeman, this is a call to restoring what was in the beginning, a possibility, and yet a possibility never yet experienced and fulfilled, except for the short while when according to nature and to virtual possibilities man and woman were face to face. This end of the second chapter and the third chapter are infinitely more tragic I feel than we ever imagine. It is not only the story of a fall; it is the story of something that could be and never was. It is the story of a fall into death of what might have been, and it is the beginning of a world over which death has power because death is the fulfilment of this chain of relationships which are inequality on the one hand, enslavement and lack of freedoms. All this is there, and the theme that has begun, the betrayal, that the serpent has betrayed, that will come one day later in the Gospel to the betrayal of Christ by Judas, the be­trayal of the Anointed by His own people. And these themes are inseparably connected, as we can discover when we try to see the sequence of this degenera­tion of relationship which I will just mark by a few words.

The 16th and 17th and following verses which I have quoted of God’s sen­tence, of God’s declaration of factual realities concerning Adam and Eve, then later on in the Bible in the Book of Samuel, the claim of the Jews who so far had been led by God, that his leadership is too insecure – they wanted to be like every other people – and God’s remark to Samuel, “Do no grieve, they have not forsaken thee, they have forsaken me. Give them a king.” And then after they have had a king of their race and a kingdom according to nature and to human lower relationship of power and authority, because here again God underlines this element of power and authority when He says: “This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you; He will take your sons and appoint them for himself, for his chariots and to be his horsemen, and some shall run before his chariots,” etc… It is again this theme of authority that is the relationship of the kingdom when it is not God’s. And the last step if not fulfilment is the word of the Jews: `We have no other king but Caesar.’ And here again an acceptance of enslavement, no longer only even to their own, but to those who in their religious outlook and their national outlook stood for the outside, the world which was not God’s own. And this theme is inseparably connected with the betrayal to God and the betrayal of God, because throughout this theme it is a rejection of God Himself, a betrayal of Him into the hands of the outer world that runs.

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