Genesis chapter 2 part 4

Genesis 2

Part 4

As we are continuing through the Book of Genesis I am placing here for you a variety of ancient speakers on each subject. I do very little if any editing of what was written and translated, I will only edit words that are so obsolete that many may not understand or simply add and understanding in parenthesis. I add no further understanding to what the ancient writers taught and wrote.

2:9 And God made to spring up also out of the earth every tree beautiful to the eye and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of learning the knowledge of good and evil.

ALCUIN OF YORK. (Gen. 2:9).WHY WAS IT SAID, “THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL”? — Answer. Not because the tree itself was rational in its own nature or had knowledge of good and evil, but because man through it could experience and know the difference between the good of obedience and the evil of disobedience. (Bed. in Pent., PL 91, col. 207-208. Bed. Hexm. I, PL 91, col. 44.)[Questions and Answers on Genesis, 52]

AMBROSE OF MILAN. There was a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Paradise. This was so because ‘God made to grow a tree pleasant to sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ {Gen 2:9) We shall see later whether this tree, like the others, was pleasant to sight and good for food. The question will be more fittingly discussed at the point where, on tasting the fruit of this tree, we find that man was deceived. Meantime, we should no[t] reproach ourselves for not being able to know precisely the reasons behind these facts. We should not form a hasty judgment in respect to this product of creation, if it presents to our intellect what seems to us–like the creation of serpents and certain poisonous creatures-difficult and incomprehensible. In fact, we are unable, owing to human weakness, yet to know and understand the reason for the creation of each and every object. Let us, therefore, not criticize in Holy Scripture something which we cannot comprehend. There are very many things which must not be subjected to the judgment of our intellect. Rather, these should be surveyed from the lofty heights of Divine Providence and from the intentions of God Himself.

Without prejudice, then, to what we shall say hereafter, set it down as a first principle that the subject of this tree of the knowledge of good and evil is to you a displeasing one. After men had tasted of this tree, they realized that they were naked. [Gen 3:7 ] Nevertheless, I will state for your benefit that as a consummation of God’s creation this tree grew in Paradise and that it was permitted by God, in order that we might be able to know the preeminence of good. How could we learn to know that there was a difference between good and evil, if there existed no knowledge of good and evil? We could not have come to realize that evil was evil, unless there was knowledge of good, and that there could not be knowledge of good, unless there was actual good. Again, we could not have known what in itself was good, unless there was knowledge of evil. Take an example from the nature of the human body. There exists as a matter of fact a certain bitter and poisonous substance which has been discovered to have a general salutary effect on the health of men. Hence, what we regard as evil frequently turns out to be not in every respect evil, but to be advantageous for general use. Just as poison exists in a part of the body but has a beneficial effect on the body as a whole, so God established the knowledge in part of what is good and evil, in order that the whole might be benefitted.

Hence it follows that the serpent in Paradise was certainly not brought into being without the will of God. In the figure of the serpent we see the Devil. That the Devil existed even in Paradise we are informed by the Prophet Ezekiel, who in discussing the Prince of Tyre says: ‘Thou wast in the pleasures of the paradise of God.’ [ Ezek 28:13 ] We maintain that the Prince of Tyre stands for the Devil. Shall we, therefore, accuse God because we cannot comprehend the treasures-with the exception of those which He has deigned to reveal-of His majesty and wisdom which lie hidden and concealed in Christ? Yet He did reveal to us the fact that the wickedness of the Devil is fruitful for man’s salvation. This would not be the Devil’s intention, but the Lord makes the wickedness of him who stands in opposition to us contribute something to our salvation. The wickedness of the Devil has caused the virtue and patience of one holy man to shine in a clearer light. The justice of Job was so disciplined and exercised by the wickedness of his opponent that eventually he gained the crown of victory over his adversary, the Devil. No one is crowned ‘unless he has competed according to the rules.’ [ 2 Tim 2:5 ] Joseph’s chastity, too, would never have been recorded for us, if it did not happen that a woman, the wife of his master and friend, incited and goaded by the Devil’s allurements, had not played with his affections. [ Gen 39:17 ] This woman finally endeavored to bring about his death. This event added more to the fame of a man who by his continence faced death in defense of chastity. Do you desire to know God’s plan? Here is an instance. Through the instrumentality of the Devil there was once an occasion when a just man prepared to perpetrate manslaughter. The situation was one that involved the murder of one’s own son. Yet, for all that, the Lord tempted Abraham in this wise. He demanded that Abraham sacrifice his son to Him. By reason of this temptation he was able to prove himself faithful to the Lord, since compliance to his vow and not pity for his beloved son brought about repeal of the order. [ Gen 22:1 ] There was, therefore, in Paradise a tree of knowledge of good and evil which appeared to the eye to be beautiful and to the taste to be edible. It was not actually good to eat, for its fruit appeared to have a harmful effect on man. What is injurious to individuals may nevertheless have a beneficial effect on men as a whole. The Devil, for example, did harm to Judas, [Luke 22:3] but he bestowed the wreath of victory on all the other Apostles, inasmuch as they were able to face and overcome the force of his temptation.

Accordingly, let it not be a subject of reprehension or doubt that the Devil existed in Paradise. As a matter of fact he was powerless to bar from the saints the way of their ascent. As one who had the right of possession, he did not evict the just from their habitation. It may be that he turned away from the occupancy of that high estate some who were in fact slothful and vicious. There is a recorded event that arouses to a much greater degree our regard and our admiration. This is the fact that the Devil was excluded from the prayers of the saints as the result of an event which was to take place: ‘I was watching Satan fall as lightning from heaven.’ [Luke 10:18] Let us, therefore, not fear one who is so weak that he is destined to fall from heaven. He actually received the power to tempt us but not the competency to subvert us, except when our weak and unassisted will falters because it is powerless to summon aid. For that reason we need to know what was the nature of the deceit inflicted on the first man. We ought to know, too, the method and manner of the Devil’s procedure and what in man he thought was subject to temptation, so that we, in knowing this, may proceed to take precautions.

Many people nevertheless are of the opinion that the Devil was not in Paradise, although we read that he stood with the angels in heaven. [Zech. 3:1 ] These persons interpret the statement of Scripture according to their own fancy. In this way they put aside any objection which they may have to the words of Scripture. We stand by the conviction held by one who preceded us that sin was committed by man because of the pleasure of sense. We maintain that the figure of the serpent stands for enjoyment and the figure of the woman for the emotions of the mind and heart. The latter is called by the Greeks aisthesis. When according to this theory, the senses are aisthesis deceived, the mind, which the Greeks call nous, falls into error. Hence, not without reason the one to whom I refer [Cf. Philo, De opificio mundi 59; Legum allegoriae I 29.] accepts the Greek word nous as a figure of a man and aisthesis as that of a woman. Hence, some have interpreted Adam to mean an earthly nous. In the Gospel the Lord sets forth the parable of the virgins who awaited the coming of the bridegroom with either lighted or extinguished lamps. Thus He exemplifies either the pure emotions of the wise or the impure senses of the unwise. [Matt 25:1] If Eve, that is, the emotions of the first woman, had kept her lamp lighted, she would not have enfolded us in the meshes of her sin. She would not have fallen from the height of immortality which is established as the reward of virtue.

Paradise is, therefore, a land of fertility-that is to say, a soul which is fertile-planted in Eden, that is, in a certain delightful or well-tilled land in which the soul finds pleasure. Adam exists there as nous [mind] and Eve as ‘sense.’ Take note of what this soul of ours has in the nature of defense against natural and weak tendencies or against situations which might be unfavorable to us in our attempts to avoid danger. [On Paradise]

AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO. So “God planted the paradise of Eden (that is, of delights) towards the East and placed there the man whom he had created.” Such is the story of Scripture and such are the facts. The Sacred Writer then resumes his thought to develop it and to show how this work was accomplished, in other words, how God planted this garden and established the man. He adds, “God made the earth produce all kinds of beautiful trees to be seen, and which gave delicious fruits.” Notice that he does not say that God created trees of a new species or the rest of the trees. In fact, the earth had already produced trees or plants of all kinds which presented a charming sight and delicious fruits; this creation took place on the third day, and that is why God said to the sixth, “I gave you all kinds of herbs bearing seed that is on the earth, every fruit tree, bearing seed, to serve you food” (Gen I, 29). Did God give them one thing and then give them another? I cannot believe it. The trees that were created in Paradise, belonging to the species of those that the earth had produced on the third day, also came out of the earth at the appointed time: in fact, the productions of the earth at the third day represented in the writing the virtual cause of these productions created within the earth, in other words, the soil had then received this principle of fertility which is still developing today in all similar productions, at the time that was assigned to them to appear in the day.

Therefore these words of God on the sixth day, “Behold, I have given you every kind of seed-bearing grass, every kind of seed-bearing fruit-tree, that they may serve you food”; neither sounds nor a succession of syllables: they have been pronounced by the creative power as it resides in the Word. But to make man understand what God said without using successive sounds, we had to resort to a series of sounds. It was at a later period that the man, made of the mud of the earth and animated by the divine breath, owed with his posterity the food that the earth would bring out of its bosom, by virtue of the principle of fertility of which it had already been enriched. Thus God, in creating the causes which in principle contained the whole future, spoke to himself as if the future had already existed, in the midst of that inner truth which the eye has not seen, that the ear He has heard and the Holy Spirit has revealed to the inspired writer.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is now coming to our attention. Without a doubt, it was a real tree and visible like all the others. This is not the question: the point to be clarified is why he was so named. However, the more I examine, the more I am led to admit that this tree did not offer harmful align. He who had created only excellent works (Gen. 1, 31), did not put anything bad in Paradise: the evil data for the man of his disobedience to the command. The man being subject to the sovereign empire of God was to be subject to a law, in order to have the merit of conquering the possession of his Lord by obedience. Obedience, I can safely say, is the only virtue of every reasonable creature, acting under it. The suzerainty of God, just as the first of vices and the height of pride is to turn his freedom to his loss, which is properly disobedience. But man could not recognize or feel the sovereignty of God if he had no command to execute. Therefore, the tree had nothing in itself harmful: it was called the tree of the science of good and evil, because if the man came to eat of his fruit after the defense he had received it, he would violate, by the same, the order of God and recognize, to the punishment that would follow this transgression, all the difference between good and evil, submission and revolt. It is therefore a question of a tree and not of a symbol, its name does not come from the fruits it was to produce, but of the very consequence that would lead to the violation of the command of the man to touch. [Literal Commentary on Genesis]

AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO. What many Latin manuscripts have, Et lignum sciendi bonum et malum, ou bien lignum scientiae boni et mali, ou bien lignum sciendi boni et mali (The tree of knowledge of good and evil), or any other similar form, to which other interpreters could have attached themselves, the Greek text expresses it in this way: Et lignum ad sciendum cognoscibile boni et mali (The tree that makes known what can be known about good and evil); I cannot say whether this is a simple phrase; or if there is not rather a particular meaning that the text suggests. [Locutions]

 JOHN CHRYSOSTOM OF CONSTANTINOPLE. (Gen. 2:9) And God, continues the Scripture, brought out from the earth all kinds of beautiful trees to see, and whose fruits were sweet to eat: and in the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the science of the good and bad. (Gen. II, 9) Behold, from the Lord a new blessing which is specially related to man. He destined for him the terrestrial paradise for habitation: so he brought out from the earth all kinds of trees whose appearance was pleasing to the eye, and the sweet fruit to taste. All kinds of trees, says the Scripture expressly, which were beautiful to see, that is to say, which rejoiced the eyes of men, and whose fruits were sweet to eat, that is to say which provided him with delicious food. Add further that the number and variety of these trees produced new charms for man; for you can not name a single species that is not there. But if the house of the man was so graceful, his life was no less admirable. He lived on the earth like an angel, and though clothed in a body he did not suffer the hard necessities. He was the king of creation, wearing the purple and the diadem; and among the abundance of all goods, he flowed in, the terrestrial paradise a sweet and free existence.

And in the middle of the garden were the tree of life, and the tree of the science of good and evil. After having taught us that at the Lord’s command, the earth produced all kinds of beautiful trees in view and whose fruits were sweet to taste, Moses adds: that in the middle of the garden were the tree of life, and the tree of the science of good and evil. It is because the Creator, in his divine prescience, was not unaware that later on man would abuse his freedom and his (74) security. So he placed in the middle of paradise the tree of life, and the tree of the science of good and evil, because he proposed to defend its use to man. And the purpose of this defense was first to remind the man that God gave him by kindness and generosity the use of all the other trees, and then, that he was his Master, no less than that of all creatures. The mention of these two trees naturally leads to the mention of the four rivers which flowed from one and the same source, and which then divided into four branches, watered the various regions of the globe, and marked its separation.

But it is possible that here those who wish to speak only from their own wisdom maintain that these rivers were not true rivers, nor were they waters of real waters. Let them tell these reveries to listeners who listen to them too gullible; and for us, repel such men, and add no faith to their words. For we must firmly believe all that is contained in the divine Scriptures, and by attaching ourselves to their true meaning, we will print in our souls the sound and true doctrine. But we must also regulate our lives by their maxims, so that our morals bear witness to the sanctity of doctrine, and that doctrine is itself the rule of our morals. And indeed it is essential, if we want to avoid hell and win the sky, that we shine the double halo of an orthodox faith and irreproachable conduct. Hey! tell me, can we call useful the slender tree that is covered with leaves, and never crowns fruits? So are these orthodox Christians in their faith, and heretics in their conduct. [Homilies on Genesis]

 JOHN OF DAMASCUS. The tree of knowledge was for trial, and proof, and exercise of man’s obedience and disobedience: and hence it was named the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or else it was because to those who partook of it was given power to know their own nature. Now this is a good thing for those who are mature, but an evil thing for the immature and those whose appetites are too strong, being like solid food to tender babes still in need of milk. For our Creator, God, did not intend us to be burdened with care and troubled about many things, nor to take thought about, or make provision for, our own life… The tree of life, on the other hand, was a tree having the energy that is the cause of life, or to be eaten only by those who deserve to live and are not subject to death. Some, indeed, have pictured Paradise as a realm of sense, and others as a realm of mind. But it seems to me, that, just as man is a creature, in whom we find both sense and mind blended together, in like manner also man’s most holy temple combines the properties of sense and mind, and has this twofold expression: for, as we said, the life in the body is spent in the most divine and lovely region, while the life in the soul is passed in a place far more sublime and of more surpassing beauty, where God makes His home, and where He wraps man about as with a glorious garment, and robes him in His grace, and delights and sustains him like an angel with the sweetest of all fruits, the contemplation of Himself. Verily it has been fitly named the tree of life. [Orth. Faith 2.11 NPNF s.2 v.9]



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