Bible Tuesday for the first Sunday of Lent, 2017
15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but 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 die.”
[Then the Lord God
said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as
his partner.” 19So out of
the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field
and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would
call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its
name. 20The man
gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of
the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.
21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon
the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place
with flesh.22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made
into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the
man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one
shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” 24Therefore
a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become
one flesh. 25And the
man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.]
3Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ 4But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
The bold bracketed verses are not part of this Sunday’s pericope but are necessary to understand the pericope so I included them in this reading.
Note that Eve is not created when God gives the prohibition against eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil but she is certainly aware by the time the serpent approaches her. Eve’s repetition the prohibition is even more severe than God’s original statement, in that Eve tells the serpent that she and Adam may not even touch the fruit of the “tree in the middle of the garden.”
Humans are from the beginning social creatures; the ultimate expression of this being a happy marriage where two people can completely share themselves and each other. Ancient rabbis understood the story of the creation of Eve to mean that a man is not complete without a wife with whom he is totally intimate. The Hebrew word translated here as “helper” or the more traditional “helpmate” does not have any connotation of inferiority. In both creation stories found in Genesis, man and woman, Adam and Eve, are equal partners. This equality is damaged by the fall and the cruses that follow.
Why “Serpent” and not “Snake”? – In common vernacular, “The snake tempted Eve”, but in fact, the Hebrew word here does not translate into snake but instead more like a mythical long bodied, legged creature, like a Chinese or Japanese dragon. Genesis does not ever say that this creature is the devil or an agent of the devil or anything of the sort. A careful reading of the third and fourth chapters of Genesis make clear that the serpent is just a “crafty” or shrewd or wily creature.
Notice how the snake, when disagreeing with Eve, says that God’s prohibition was made out of jealousy. This invokes in Eve a desire to have what will make God jealous. But how can He who Is, creator of all that is, be jealous of anything?
While the English translation above includes the phrase describing Adam, “who was with her”, this is not in most translations and yet it is implied. In medieval Christianity, this story was frequently understood as the hoodwinking of Adam by Eve and gave rise to all sorts of beliefs about women being the sources of evil bent on witchcraft. Only marriage could restrain them. But early and modern scholars, from Clement to Tillich, see this story as illustrating the tragedy brought about by the deliberate disobedience of God.
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
6Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.
7You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah
8I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.
10Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
11Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
Here is a psalm that extols the merits of confessing. While the psalmist tried to keep his sinful act under wraps, perhaps even fighting to justify his bad behavior, “…my body wasted away through groaning…” It takes a tremendous amount of energy, emotional and otherwise, to keep sins secret. “Your hand was heavy upon me” is a euphemism for the force of guilt attributed to God.
“I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the Lord,’ and you forgave me the guilt of my sin.” No penance, no making amends, no punishment. God forgave the guilt of the psalmist’s sin. While the ramifications of sin are still present, the guilt before God is removed.
The remainder of the psalm vacillates between singing God’s praise and admonishing others to open up to God about their secret sins and receives the absolution and peace that the psalmist has found.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—13sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.19For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Jesus tells us in the gospel that his must suffer and die and on the third day rise again, and that through this, he gives life abundantly; even eternal life. Because that is non-sequitur from a purely human perspective, humans, such as the writers of the New Testament, ancient and more modern biblical scholars, try to tie together the threads of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament to make a logical argument for why Jesus’ death and resurrection means life for us and all the baptized believers. Here is one such argument from St. Paul.
Paul starts out by defining sin. Sin is evil which existed before the Law and is pointed out by God’s Law, and is the cause of death. Undergirding this argument is Paul’s belief that humans would live eternally in the presence of God, like of Adam and Eve in the garden before they sinned, if it were not for sin. Humans would not know what is allowed and what is prohibited without God’s Law stating so. Even before God gave the Law to Moses, people sinned.
Paul is setting aside Eve here for a moment and using Adam as a sort of metaphor. Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world. Through one man, Jesus, grace, mercy, and forgiveness enter the world, and all of these are stronger than sin. Adam’s sin is compounded daily by the many acts of sin committed by humans every moment, but Jesus’ grace and forgiveness overpower and defeat the sins multiplying exponentially.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
The main theme of the gospel of Matthew is the conflict between God and evil; whose will is to be done?! Whether Jesus is being opposed by the Jewish authorities, Peter, demons, or Satan himself, Jesus almost always responds by quoting Deuteronomy, which is Moses’ exposition on God’s Law.
The book of Exodus recounts the story of the Israelites being called, by God, out of slavery in Egypt. The gospel is Matthew is the only gospel that recounts the story of Mary and Joseph fleeing with Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod the Great’s jealousy induced slaughter of infants in Bethlehem. God called Israel out of Egypt in the Hebrew Scriptures, and God called Jesus out of Egypt in the New Testament. “Out of Egypt have I called my son!”
Just as the Israelites wandered the wilderness for 40 years, this story tells of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days. The Israelites wandered for 40 years so that the generation of people who lived under slavery in Egypt and rebelled against God with the golden calf would all die off. So, for those Israelites, the wilderness meant death. But these 40 days for Jesus mean an epoch battle against evil which Jesus will win, thus redeeming the wilderness and making it a place of life.