The Pursuit of Knowledge
Sermon, Girdwood Chapel 08/15/2016
“The Pursuit of Knowledge”
Genesis 2: 15 - 24
Genesis 3: 1-24
Romans 5: 12
I am sure many of you have heard the speech I am about to share. It has been passed down from elder family members to children throughout the ages. It has to do with the family name. It usually begins with the words like, “I have worked hard in my life to give you a good family name.” It can be carried on to say, “When people hear your name they will know the people you come from and the trustworthiness and the honesty that your name carries. That is as long as you maintain those associations we have worked hard over many years to earn. For as long as it took those before you to build it, you can destroy it much more quickly.”
I always picture that talk being conducted after the child, moving from child to adult, has done something out of rebellion or out of impulse. It is a warning from the parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, or guardian to the child, saying the consequences are about to change. Disobedience and dishonesty will come back with stronger ramifications, not just for you, but for all who came before you and all who came after.
Let us pray: <<Meditations Prayer>>
The apple. The red fruit that symbolizes for us the taste of original sin. We heard the story just a few minutes ago, how the bite of the fruit from the tree of knowledge and good and evil led to the banishment of humanity from the Garden and Eden and led to a life of hard work in the soil and pain. The secular appearance of the apple is to be noted in the world around us. What caused Snow White to fall into a deep sleep? What is it that represents the knowledge associated with teaching? What is the symbol that lights up on the back of so many of our computers and tablets (with a bite out of it!)? An apple. Because it is the fruit of knowledge.
However, if we look at the region and the time that the story was written, then we must acknowledge that the fruit was most likely a persimmon or a fig. So, this year, when school begins, take your teacher a persimmon or fig and see if you get a raised eyebrow.
That is the story most of us are familiar with though. The story of the snake tricking Eve into eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and then Eve convincing Adam to take a bite of the apple because it was so good. Their disobedience gets them kicked out of the Garden of Eden and the easy life which they had there. Their disobedience gets them and the snake cursed for life and, as a result, life becomes tedious and difficult. Walking through the Garden with God is no longer something to be done.
This is classically known in the Christian theology as “Original Sin”. It is the first time that humanity disobeyed God and, in that disobedience, the consequences carried through every generation to come. Our good name was ruined.
Did any of you happen to pick up on the difference between the creation story from last week and this week? That is right, there are two narratives of creation in the Bible, and both show a different side of our creator and God’s relationship with humanity. The story from last week, showed a God who ruled the Universe from afar and who created and let things develop on their own following that creation. That is what we call a transcendent God. This week we find a God deeply involved in the affairs of creation. A God who walks through the garden with humanity and is concerned for true companionship of the human that has been created. This God is an immanent God. This God is involved in our daily lives and is active in that personal relationship.
These differences are not to confuse us, but to show us the multiple natures of God. God is truly above all things, yet God is with each one of us individually. God has no limits in how God’s interaction is accomplished in the world. These characteristics come heavily into play as we work through the Old Testament and reveal the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. For now, however, we will just note their existence and move forward in the story.
In the surface level of the writing of this story we can find the answer to some common sense questions that were likely on the authors minds. First, why do we not like snakes? Indiana Jones would love the answer to that question! Second, why do we wear clothes? Third, why is childbirth so painful? And Finally, the age old question, why do we have to die? The nature of these questions is simple, yet finding the answers can be much more difficult.
As we have discussed, we must look at the story of Adam and Eve through the correct lens and further develop our understanding of what is in the divine Word in addition to the simple answers of common sense questions.
To start, let’s take a look at the nature of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eating from this tree provides us with a self consciousness that gives us the ability to make moral choices. Can you conceive of why such a provision would be bad? I am guessing that most of us have had to make a moral decision in our lives. In some cases, to act immorally provides wonderful results for our personal life, although it might cause harm or pain to someone else. Also, who defines what it is to act morally? Sociologists and philosophers claim that morality changes from region to region and culture to culture, because what is accepted and needed in the culture might be different. This is called a conditioned response or relative morality. We could name some issues that these researchers use to show how relative morality is demonstrated, like cannibalism and abuse. But, even in our US culture, there are many nuances in morality, such as issues concerning the right to choose and human sexuality. But, that is it, that is the cause of the understanding that came as a result of eating of the tree of Good and Evil. The establishment and understanding of Morality was no longer present in the single entity of God, but now a part of humans. Opening up the door for disagreement and further disobedience with God. This is why it is called the original sin. It opened the door for other sins.
Now, it is important to realize that there are two very important trees discussed in this passage. The first we have already named. But the second, is the Tree of Life. Nowhere in the passage does it say that Adam and Eve are not to eat from the Tree of Life, but it does say that the tree offers immortality for those who eat from it. The existence of this second tree is really the catalyst for God’s punishment of Adam and Eve in their expulsion from the Garden. For with their gained knowledge, they can no longer eat from the tree for then they will become God-like. No longer just created in the image of God, but truly God-like beings. Immortal and establishing morality. God must remove them from that ability, so they are banished from the Garden, never to return. But, before God kicks them out of the Garden, an act of kindness and love is shown to them and it is a symbol of God’s eternal care. He clothes them.
The story on its own is sufficient to demonstrate the distance that was established between humanity and God through the act of disobedience. But, I would like to take you one level deeper into the reading, because in this level we will truly find our need for salvation and set the foundation that such salvation could only come from God in the form of Jesus Christ.
Here we go. For those of you who have seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” you might get a kick out of this.
Here are some important words to understand in the text. The snake was called “crafty” or “wise” and the Hebrew word for this is “arum”. Adam and Eve are called “naked” or “innocent” and the Hebrew word for that is “arom”. The word play is significant in the Hebrew language because it shows there is very little separation in the meaning. The nakedness is an intellectual nakedness, not a figurative nakedness as it is expressed, in the text. They hid from God, not because they were not clothed, but because they now knew they were unworthy to be in God’s presence. God clothed them before sending them out of the Garden, meaning that God gave them the necessary tools for surviving the more difficult life they were to endure.
Next, the Hebrew term for humanity is “adam”. The hebrew term for soil is “adamah”. The hebrew term for blood is “dam”. Therefore, the word play demonstrates that the blood from humanity came from the soil which God gave life to God’s creation. “Dam” came from “adam” which was born from “adamah”. Furthermore, this reveals that the name Adam is simply “humanity”. Additionally, the Hebrew name Adam gives to his female companion is “chavvah” which is translated as Eve, but which actually means “life” or as the text says, “the mother of all things”. This is the circle of life. God created humanity (adam) from the soil (adamah) and with it the lifeblood (dam, remember the rib!) that gave birth to all future life (chavvah) in the world.
It is because of this deeper understanding of the text and what we are reading, especially in the first three chapters of Genesis, that we can embrace the repetition, inconsistency, and contradiction present in the Bible to understand the deep nature of the Word and reveal its divine inspiration! (Coogan, p.44) There are two creation narratives providing a more complete depiction of God and the story of Original SIn, figuratively and literally establishing the same meaning of the human distancing from God. Sure, we can take the story literally, for there is no real reason not to. But, taken in its deeper theological context it opens doors to the revelation of who are identity is in Christ and the gift of God’s grace and glory.
We have discussed quite a bit and have dug deep into the meaning of the text. So, the basic question is, why is this called Original Sin? There are three ways of looking at that answer:
First, the morality level shows that an understanding of Good and Bad was established by human discernment rather than God’s definition. Second, the knowledge level demonstrates that humanity refused to accept its station in life. Pride caused humanity to want to be God. Lastly, there is a loss of innocence in the discovery of giving into impulses. Once the bridge from innocence has been crossed it is nearly impossible to go back.
All of these define the human condition. All of these contribute to our path away from the creator and not a return to the Garden. What we find though, what the Good Book tells us, is that we were heavily pursued by the creator who clothes us, and just as God clothed Adam and Eve as they left the Garden, God sought to return us to the innocence with which we were created and to the life of walking hand in hand in the Garden.